* * *
As Piers heard the bedroom door closing behind Georgia he closed his eyes and thumped his fist against the bedroom wall in self-recrimination. Why on earth had he done that? Why hadn’t he just left things as they were instead of trying to force on her emotions that she just didn’t want? It was obvious how uncomfortable she felt every time he started to talk about his feelings. He knew enough about women to know that her reaction to him physically wasn’t something she was at all familiar with, and he sensed that in the aftermath of their lovemaking she was even a little uncomfortable about the intimacy they had shared.
He wasn’t a vain man, but he couldn’t deny how much he had enjoyed knowing, seeing, feeling how completely she was giving herself to him, how totally aroused she was, and how fulfilled their lovemaking had left her. But it still made him ache inside with loss and loneliness to know that she didn’t reciprocate his feelings.
Reminding himself that he had only himself to blame for her rejection of him just now, he shaved and dressed quickly. Had Mrs Bowles not interrupted them when she had with the news about Ben, no doubt right this minute he would be lying in bed with Georgia, her body relaxed and love-sated as she lay next to him. Grimly he closed his eyes, reminding himself of the folly of such thoughts.
GEORGIA looked a little uncertainly at Piers as they pulled up in the car park adjacent to the police station. He had barely spoken to her throughout the drive, and when he had done so his voice had been clipped and curt.
Because he had begun to suspect that her reaction to him in bed might have been caused by something more than mere physical need and he wanted to make it totally plain to her that her love for him was not something he wanted?
Did he think she was so lacking in intelligence, in awareness, that she didn’t know that already?
Ignoring the helping hand he was offering her, she got out of the car, thanking him stiffly for opening the door for her.
Side by side and in total silence they walked into the police station, but as Georgia saw Ben lying happily at the side of a large police dog her promise to herself to keep Piers at arm’s length was forgotten. Beaming with relief she turned to him and exclaimed, ‘It’s him! It’s Ben!’
As he saw them and recognised them Ben bounded over to them both, his tail wagging as he greeted them.
‘Oh, Ben...’ Georgia said tearfully, burying her face in his coat to hide her emotional tears.
‘No need to ask if this is the missing dog,’ the desk sergeant chuckled to Piers, who had also, unfathomably, had to reach into his pocket for a handkerchief so that he could blow his nose.
‘No,’ he agreed huskily, allowing Georgia to finish fussing over Ben before he too bent down to stroke the dog.
‘Hello, boy,’ he greeted him, and a little to Georgia’s chagrin Ben immediately ignored her to make a fuss of Piers, almost as though Piers were actually his master.
‘I have to tell you that he’s going to be something of a hero,’ the sergeant told them both once the formalities had been completed. ‘The Cub troop have decided that if they are to be allowed to claim the reward you were offering for the dog’s return they intend to donate it to local charities, but they also want to nominate Ben for an award for what he did. The parents of the boy he saved have specifically asked us to pass on their thanks to both of you. Without Ben’s intervention they feel sure that their son would have been in danger of drowning.
‘He’s a bit of a character, though, isn’t he?’ The sergeant laughed. ‘We were keeping him in the restroom, but he picked up one of the lad’s sandwiches and made off with another’s trainer, so Titus here has been set to watch over him.’
At the mention of his name the police dog pricked up his ears but remained solidly where he was—on duty!
Georgia gave a faint sigh. She doubted that, no matter how much she tried, Ben could ever be trained to that pitch of immaculate obedience.
‘Come on, boy, time to go home,’ Piers instructed Ben.
Before they could return, though, they had to call at the farm to thank the Bowleses for their hospitality, and Georgia was amazed when Piers, who had insisted on stopping at a new bookshop on the way back, produced the latest copy of a novel by a well-known writer which he gave to Mrs Bowles as a thank-you.
‘Oh, she’s one of my favourites, and I haven’t got this one!’ The farmer’s wife beamed as she looked at the cover.
‘Yes, I noticed you were a fan of hers,’ Piers said, whilst Georgia marvelled both at his powers of observation and his sensitivity. She had been going to suggest that they send Mrs Bowles some flowers.