The Ultimate SurrenderBy: Penny Jordan
As her confidence grew so too did Polly’s cooking skills. She devoured new recipe books as eagerly and avidly as her guests devoured her gourmet meals, and as the Christmas preceding Briony’s fourth birthday approached Polly was forced to admit that she had never been happier.
Gradually, through his contacts, Richard was getting more work, and he still had dreams of one day being asked to exhibit at the Royal Academy, although privately Polly was beginning to sense that he never would. However, his dreams were precious to him, and she loved him far too much to want to damage them or to hurt him.
The murals he had painted in the house were exciting an enormous number of compliments and bringing in fresh work, but whilst his portraits were technically excellent Polly was beginning to see that his work lacked that spark that would have made him great. Still, he was happy, and if Richard was happy then so was she. But she often wondered what Marcus, who collected modern art in a very small but knowledgeable way, really thought of his cousin’s talent. She suspected that, like her, Marcus loved Richard far too much to want to hurt him.
And then disaster struck. On the way home one night from working on a commission several miles away, Richard’s car was involved in an accident and Richard was killed outright. The police brought the news whilst Polly was tucking Briony up in bed. She was on her own in the house for once, Marcus being away on business, and she knew what she was going to be told the moment she opened the door and saw the policeman’s face.
Richard, her beloved, handsome, boyish, loving husband, was dead, and with him too was that special part of her heart that had belonged exclusively to him.
Marcus had to fly back from Australia for Richard’s funeral, arriving grey-faced and haggard, and not just from jet lag, Polly knew—just as she knew that he had never approved of her, and how much he had loved Richard. But now Richard was gone.
At the funeral her aunt, meaning to be kind, no doubt, told her firmly, ‘Polly, I know this seems like the end of the world now, but you’re young—young enough to meet someone else and fall in love again.’
‘Never,’ Polly told her, white-faced and dry-eyed. ‘I shall never, ever love anyone else,’ she told her passionately. ‘That’s impossible. I love Richard far too much for that and I always will.’
Marcus, who had overheard her gave her an unfathomable look—one which haunted her for a long time after Richard’s funeral. Did Marcus, like her aunt, think that she was so shallow, so immature that she would forget Richard? If so she was determined to prove him wrong.
AND that was exactly what Polly did, devoting herself to Briony and to her work. So much so that when Briony was seven years old, following a conversation with one of Marcus’s colleagues and his wife, who had announced that they were so impressed with the standard of Fraser House’s comforts and its cook, they were surprised she didn’t consider opening the house as a small, exclusive private country hotel, Polly had taken this idea to Marcus. And, to her surprise, he had agreed.
And so had begun her unexpected career as co-owner and manageress of Fraser House, a small Georgian country house set in its own grounds where the cognoscenti could enjoy a true feast of all the senses—or so the restaurant critic who had visited them had proclaimed in the article he had written following his visit.
The years hadn’t just brought the addition of an indoor swimming pool and luxury gym area to the hotel’s facilities, but a broadening of Polly’s cooking skills as well.
Now Fraser House was listed as one of the country’s most exclusive small country house hotels, its restaurant ranking with the best of the country’s growing stable of to-be-seen-at eateries.
No one as yet might have approached Polly with an invitation to host her own TV cookery series, nor to write a cookery book, but soon after the hotel had opened one of their first clients had asked if it might be possible for their daughter to hold her wedding reception at the house. Then Polly had felt that they had reached a definite landmark.
As joint owner of the house, Marcus had always remained aloof from its day-to-day running, although, to be fair to him, Polly had to admit that he had always been meticulous about giving her whatever assistance and support she had asked for. He was now on the board of his company, one of its youngest directors, and, much to Briony’s dismay, had spent nearly two and a half years away from them living in Russia, to help with the newly emergent oil industry there.