Sally stumbled out of the house and walked aimlessly until she reached the lake. How was it still morning? So much had happened in such a short space of time. Her brain was whirling with emotions, sorrow and happiness, desolation and hope.
Had Ben meant it? Did he really see a future for them? Or had his mother’s malice backed him into a corner and he was determined to protect her no matter what the cost?
And if he did mean it, then how did she feel about it? Her life was small but it was hers. Could she really leave Cornwall, her family, the café, the flat she’d first brought Alice to as a baby? Once her dreams had been limitless, of travelling the world and making new discoveries. Now the thought of leaving Polhallow terrified her.
What kind of lesson was that to teach Alice?
More importantly, how did she feel about Ben? Did she believe he loved her? He’d not said it after all.
There was only one thing to do. Luckily Clem answered the call straight away and listened without interrupting as Sally told her the whole saga, from their lovemaking the night before to the melodrama at the breakfast table.
‘Do you love him?’ Clem asked at last. ‘That’s the most important question. Everything else stems from that.’
‘We’re not teenagers, Clem. It’s not that simple.’
‘Sally, sometimes you have to listen to your instincts not your doubts. That’s a lesson I learned over the summer and I have never been happier. What are your doubts telling you?’
Sally bit her lip. She didn’t have to think; they were loud and clear. ‘That Ben is an earl and being with him properly comes with a myriad responsibilities I’m not equipped to deal with. That things are great for Alice right now and I don’t want to risk that.’
‘And your instincts?’
She felt her cheeks heat. ‘That I didn’t ever get over Ben. That we’re good together. But…’
‘Forget the but,’ Clem said firmly. ‘Concentrate on your instincts and look at ways to overcome your doubts. Have you discussed them with Ben?’
‘After one night? It’s way too soon.’
‘Sally, it’s been seven years and one child. It’s way overdue. And for the record, I think you would make an amazing countess, and I should know—my father is a king after all. And as for Alice, as someone brought up hidden away from half her family, all I can say is be honest with her.’
‘When did you get so wise?’
‘I’ve always been wise. And you didn’t answer my question. Do you love him?’
‘Yes,’ she confessed. ‘I do.’
‘Then go and tell him. The rest will work out.’
Sally laughed as she ended the call, but as she walked back to the house, she could feel every muscle tense. Following her instincts sounded so easy in theory, but with her daughter’s—and her—happiness at stake, would she have the courage to find out if Ben felt the same way?
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