Piers gave an exclamation of irritation as Ben’s leap for freedom caught him off guard and slightly off balance, and, instinctively knowing the dog’s strength, Georgia reached out to grab hold of Piers’s arm to help steady him.
Afterwards, Piers told himself that it was the feel of Georgia’s soft breast pressing against him, the scent of her clean perfume in his nostrils and the softness of her hair brushing against his bare arm that had caused him momentarily to slacken his grip on Ben’s lead. After all, Georgia was a stunningly attractive woman, and the sight of those soft, oh so well rounded breasts jiggling around inside her tee shirt whilst she had been running up and down the room with the dogs had left a lasting impression on his brain—and his body!
As Ben tore after the cat both Georgia and Piers shouted commands to him to stop, but it was Philip who was actually responsible for him coming to an abrupt halt as Ben turned the corner and ran full tilt into him.
Rushing across to take hold of Ben’s lead, Georgia apologised to her boss.
‘How is the mare?’ she asked him anxiously.
‘Fine. Both she and the foal are doing very well, although it was touch-and-go for a while.’ Philip frowned as he turned from Georgia to Piers and asked, ‘Isn’t it Piers Hathersage?’ He explained, when Piers acknowledged his recognition of him, ‘I thought I remembered you from school. What are you doing these days?’
Discreetly Georgia left them to renew old acquaintanceships, at the same time making a mental note to ask Philip to have a word with Piers and hopefully persuade him to see Ben in a much better light than he currently did.
‘He’s not a bad dog,’ she told Helen later, when she was relating to her what had happened.
‘Not bad, no,’ Helen replied, ‘but you’ve got to admit that he is too much for Mrs Latham.’
‘Mmm,’ Georgia agreed. ‘It’s such a shame, though, because she’s devoted to him and Ben thinks the world of her.’
‘Oh, he’s told you that, has he?’ Helen teased her, adding, ‘I think you’re quite smitten with him yourself. Or is it someone else who has aroused your interest?’
Refusing to rise to Helen’s bait, Georgia shook her head and exclaimed, ‘Is that the time? I must go otherwise I shall be late for this afternoon’s clinic.’
BY THE time he had driven Ben back to his godmother’s, Piers had made up his mind. The dog had to go. However, when he let himself into the house he found Emily Latham in a state of some agitation. Her sister, it transpired, had telephoned her in Piers’s absence asking her if she would like to take the place of her friend who had had to drop out of a three-week cruise of the Mediterranean at the last minute.
‘Everything’s paid for,’ she told Piers. ‘All I would have to do is pack and take the train to Mary’s...’
‘So what’s stopping you?’ Piers asked her with a smile.
Poignantly she looked at Ben.
‘I just can’t leave him,’ she told Piers solemnly.
‘You could put him in kennels,’ Piers suggested.
Immediately his godmother shook her head.
‘Oh, no, he’d hate that,’ she told him, adding simply, ‘Who would give him his chocolate at night and make sure he has everything he wants? No, he wouldn’t be comfortable in kennels. He sleeps upstairs in my room at night and...’
Piers closed his eyes. It was getting worse and worse. No wonder the dog thought he was the boss.
‘It’s no good. I’ll have to ring Mary and tell her I can’t go,’ Emily said dispiritedly.
Piers frowned and came to a quick decision. He had planned to spend only a few days with his godmother, looking at local properties, but, in reality, there was nothing to stop him from staying longer, nor from working from her house whilst he did so, and besides... He looked at the dog lying sprawled out on the rug in front of the fireplace, a whole array of semi-chewed toys spread around him.
With his godmother safely out of the way he could look around for another home for Ben.
‘Yes, you can,’ he told his godmother firmly. ‘I’ll stay here with Ben.’
‘For three weeks? Oh, I couldn’t ask you to do that,’ Emily Latham demurred, but Piers could see the gleam of hope in her eyes.
‘You aren’t asking me,’ he told her prosaically, ‘I’m volunteering. And besides, it will give me more time to look around for somewhere to live and work.’
‘Well, if you’re sure...’