By Alison Fraser

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Kate flinched at the cruel jibe but its target showed little reaction apart from taking a couple of steps nearer, as if to draw attention to his limp. ‘Perhaps you’d like to find out, Howard,’ he countered coolly. ’ The gap was closed some more. And suddenly Kate recognised that he was, in fact, deadly serious. His hands were clenched in fists by his sides, those blue eyes measuring the distance between Howard and himself. She wasn’t quite sure why he was ready to fight—for his pride or hers—but either way it seemed madness.

She stopped thinking him different, and started thinking him a little crazy. Then asked herself why she was still sitting here, listening to him, when she should be inside, keeping in Howard’s good books. And with that in mind, she rose abruptly to her feet, hoping he would take the hint. But he followed immediately, broader and taller than she remembered. ’ he enquired blandly. ‘I am,’ she stressed, waiting for him to get out of her way. ’ It was to have been a parting shot but Kate spent a second too long savouring the slip in his smile.

Ready in less than half an hour, she smiled as she made a final check in the mirror. Once she’d have spent as long selecting which dress to wear. Life had certainly changed. ‘Très chic,’ Johnny announced on her return. ‘Merci,’ she acknowledged, wincing at his appalling pronunciation. ’ Grinning broadly, after a moment’s consideration he offered, ‘La plume de ma tante a lique sur mon écris,’ as doubtful proof he had done some studying in the holidays. ‘Brilliant ... for a first former,’ Kate said in a dry tone for her brother was about to enter his ‘O’ level year.

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