The Ultimate Surrender

By: Penny Jordan

‘Anyway, what I was going to say to you is…’ Briony reached to the bowl on the table for an apple—one of their own, which had come from the trees in the small orchard behind the kitchen garden, an old-fashioned English variety which it was almost impossible to buy anywhere now but which Polly particularly cherished for its unique sweet-tart flavour. You could have a dinner party and invite Suzi to come and then she could get to meet Uncle Marcus and—’

‘A dinner party!’ Polly interrupted her daughter a little explosively. ‘Briony, this is a hotel and…’

‘And it’s half term, and you are never busy then,’ Briony reminded her. ‘And Suzi could recommend you to some of the people she knows and that way you would get more business,’ she pointed out craftily. ‘After all, when Uncle Marcus goes you’re going to have two more rooms to let…’

Polly gave a small sigh. Organising a formal dinner party at short notice was the last thing she felt like doing right now, but, knowing her determined daughter, she suspected that it might be easier to give in now and thus save the time she might otherwise have wasted in trying to reason with her.

Quite where Briony got her determination, her stubbornness from, she wasn’t really sure. Richard had had the sweetest nature imaginable and, as Briony and Marcus repeatedly pointed out to her, she had no backbone at all when it came to confrontations.

‘I’m not sure that Marcus is going to like this,’ she warned Briony. ‘You know how he hates being manipulated.’

‘Well, yes,’ Briony agreed, ‘but if I told him that it’s a special dinner for me, and that Chris is going to be there…’ She made a small face. ‘You know how fussy he’s always been about the boys I go out with, and he hasn’t really had much of a chance to meet Chris yet, since he was away on business when Chris and I first met and both of us have been away at college ever since…’

There was a good deal of truth in what her daughter was saying, Polly had to acknowledge. Whilst Marcus couldn’t exactly be accused of playing the heavy father with Briony, he certainly was very protective of her.

‘So, who exactly am I supposed to be inviting to this dinner party?’ Polly gave in.

Giving her a beaming smile, Briony responded, ticking the names off on her fingers.

‘Well, Uncle Marcus of course, and Suzi and her parents. Well, they are Chris’s godparents,’ she reminded her. ‘And Chris is staying with them whilst his own parents are away on business. That’s four. Oh, and you and me of course…’ She paused and gnawed at her bottom lip. ‘Oh, and I suppose we should really invite Suzi’s boss, otherwise he’s going to be left on his own, and—’

‘Suzi’s boss? Polly interrupted in bemusement. ‘But I thought you said she worked in the Caribbean…’

‘Well, yes, she does, but her boss has business interests over here as well, apparently. Anyway it’s okay; you’ll like him,’ Briony assured her mother sunnily. ‘He’s younger than you—thirty, Suzi told me—and single. He and Suzi were a bit of an item at one time, but that’s all over now.’

Polly gave her daughter a wry look.

‘So that makes eight of us, unless of course there’s anyone else you want me to entertain…’

Briony’s forehead pleated consideringly.

‘No, I don’t think so…’ she began.

‘No? Not perhaps Chris’s great-aunt and uncle, or his cousin four times removed and her husband?’ Polly suggested sweetly.

Briony looked perplexed.

‘Chris doesn’t have a great-aunt or uncle…’ she began earnestly, and then stopped, a rueful smile curling her mouth. ‘Okay, so perhaps I am being a bit managing,’ she agreed. ‘But it’s in a good cause, Ma,’ she wheedled. ‘Uncle Marcus needs a wife. You know that…’

‘Do I?’ Polly asked her dubiously, adding, ‘I don’t suppose that it’s occurred to you that he might just…just be perfectly capable of remedying his lack of one all by himself? After all, it isn’t as though he hasn’t had a stream of possible candidates through his life already,’ she added a little tartly.

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