Constance walked purposefully up the steps of the art school, trying to push aside the memories of happier days that suddenly flooded into her mind. She tried to focus on what she would say to her art teacher, Peregrine Scoular, about her plans for the future . . . plans she had formed in those sleepless nights she had endured since Aunt Letty’s wedding. Sleepless nights following on from days of tension, when she tried to avoid her mother as much as possible. Constance sighed at the memory. She and Louisa had planned to stay with her aunt and uncle for a few days after the wedding. These were supposed to have been days of relaxation and pleasant diversion but, although they had kept to their original plans, the tension in the West End mansion had been almost unbearable. Louisa Tarrant-Smyth had remained furious at the news of Josh and Kirsty’s engagement and had let her displeasure be known to anyone willing to listen. Outings to the Botanic Gardens, the Willow Tearooms and Kelvingrove had all failed to pacify her, and the most Constance could do was to keep out of her way as much as possible.“How many chances must you squander, you silly girl?” she had railed. “Josh Glenavon has fallen into the clutches of a, a servant . . . while you stand by and do nothing!”****“Constance, are you going to stand there all day? I have a class in fifteen minutes!” Peregrine boomed, trying to sound severe as he swept towards her. “I’ll find a quiet place where we can talk,” he added, making off at speed along the corridor, a trail of pipe smoke in his wake.“We’re more than halfway through the academic year,” he said when, at last, they sat down to talk. “But, with a chance to exhibit your Four Seasons panels in London, and several valuable commissions waiting for you, you’d be a very foolish girl to throw away these opportunities. In fact, if you do, you’ll damage any prospect of a successful career for ever!” he ended dramatically, treating her to a penetrating glance. She hesitated.“I’ll find you somewhere where you can work on your own, since you’ve decided to stay with your aunt and uncle. And, of course, I’ll require your attendance at classes which I will select,” he finished.Constance managed a smile. The die was cast.“Thank you. I promise I’ll work hard and try to make up for lost time.”Peregrine snorted.“I should hope so. All my promising students seem to be scattered to the four winds that young fellow Gray racketing all over the Continent, as I understand it, and you, young Miss Tarrant-Smyth, disappearing for rather a long time to do goodness knows what!”Constance smiled at his bluster, glad that her decision was safely made and that Peregrine, despite his gruffness, was making her welcome.Louisa received her daughter’s news that she was returning to art school with some indifference.“Quite honestly, I’m past caring,” she said stiffly. “However, I’m relieved that you intend to stay with William and Emmeline. That’s one less worry for me . . . and heaven knows I haven’t been short of worries of late.”At the time of speaking she was packing, making ready to return to the Grange.“I shall no doubt feel a little better when I am back in familiar surroundings.” She glanced at her daughter.“I’ll write, Mama. I promise.”Louisa cleared her throat before speaking.“Despite my disappointment at . . . recent events . . .” There was a long pause. “I see in you a stubbornness which reminds me of your dear father. You are very like him.” She looked into Constance’s face, and her daughter could see the brightness of unshed tears.“Oh, Mama,” she said quietly, before putting her arms round her mother and hugging her tight.Two days later Constance returned to the art school. She took care to arrive just after classes had begun, and busied herself bringing her work out of storage in Peregrine’s cavernous storeroom, then arranging her materials in an organised fashion. Removing her jacket and hat, she unwrapped her artist’s smock and shrugged into it, feeling lighter of heart than she had done for a very long time. Dust motes danced in the shaft of sunlight that streamed through the window, catching her in its warmth and making her pause for a moment, taking in the surroundings of this large room with its canvas-cluttered corners and its model plinth complete with a chipped Grecian urn. There was something familiar about this place! Constance shivered slightly as she remembered. An indoor picnic, a laughing young man with blond hair that kept falling into his eyes, eyes that had studied her face with a disturbing intensity.“I will not cry!” she said aloud, startling herself. Then, straight-backed and determined, Constance Tarrant-Smyth set to work once more.