Christmas at the Vicarage(72)

By: Rebecca Boxall



A little while later Rosamunde saw Benedict begin to stir.

‘Benedict?’ she said. ‘It’s me, Rosamunde.’ Benedict opened his eyes and she saw two things in those dark pools: love and relief. He smiled and then grimaced.

‘Humphrey,’ he croaked. ‘At the chalet. Hungry,’ he managed and a tear slid down his cheek. Rosamunde understood immediately and her heart ached as she realised how anxious he must have been about Humphrey since the accident and how helpless he’d been to make anyone understand him.

‘I’ll go now,’ she told him. ‘Tell me the address,’ she said, jotting his brief instructions down on a receipt from her bag. ‘I’ll feed Humphrey and let him out. Then I’ll be back.’ She started to gather her things together. ‘One thing, though,’ Rosamunde added, smiling wryly. ‘Is it the same leg you broke last time?’ Benedict shook his head.

‘Well, that’s something, anyway. Now you stay here,’ Rosamunde ordered and Benedict raised his eyebrows in pained amusement. And there, in that moment, Rosamunde knew. She knew, absolutely, that Benedict would be all right.

And she knew, without a doubt, that her heart had finally opened again – fully, completely and entirely. It seemed, after all, that love – real, proper, honest-to-goodness love – could strike more than once in a lifetime.





EPILOGUE

APRIL 2015

It was the day before Bernie’s wedding and unseasonably warm. A day for the beach, even at this time of year. Rosamunde was lying on a towel rubbing her belly, her face tilted to the sun, while Benedict, now fully recovered and clad in a wetsuit, took his body board out to play around in the surf. As soon as he emerged from the sea she was going to tell him the news. She’d already shared it with Humphrey, who’d wagged his tail obligingly. He now lay beside her, his dubious breath a little too close to her nose.

Rosamunde turned from the sun to look out into the ocean beyond and was surprised to see a large black cloud looming on the horizon. She checked to see where Benedict was and grinned as she saw him waving at her, mucking about. Then, as the dark cloud moved closer, she realised he wasn’t waving in jest. He was in trouble.

A moment later she was pounding down to the shore and ripping through the waves to reach him. As the blue sky became smothered entirely in black, Rosamunde reached Benedict. He was by now flailing around in a mad panic, swallowing huge gulps of water before submerging again. For the first time in her life Rosamunde put to use the life-saving qualification she’d received when she was nine.

Minutes later, as they dragged themselves out of the water and, spluttering, made their way up the beach in the pouring rain, Rosamunde turned to Benedict and grabbed him to her in a fierce hug.

‘They say these things happen in threes,’ said Benedict, shaking the water out of his ears. ‘A car crash, a skiing accident and now nearly drowning. I hope that’s it!’ he laughed in shock.

Then, suddenly, realisation dawned. Rosamunde held Benedict back from her and looked into his large, dark eyes. He returned her gaze quizzically.

‘It was you I needed to save,’ she told him in wonder, the puzzle of her recurring dreams finally solved. The dreams that had drawn her home again after so long away. Rosamunde shivered at their power. She pulled Benedict back into her arms.

‘It was you.’


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