By Marriage Divided


THE property was called Lidcombe Peace, two hundred acres on the Razorback Range only about an hour’s drive south of Sydney city towards the Southern Highlands.

The house, built on a hilltop with stunning views, had been designed with wide, stone-flagged verandas at ground level all around, cream walls and a shingled roof. On this perfect blue and gold summer day, it drowsed stylishly in the sunlight.

The girl standing on the veranda waiting for him was also stylish and looked to Angus Keir as if she belonged to this beautifully established and prestigious property, which, of course, she did—or had. For she was, he guessed, Domenica Harris, whose parents had built the present house although the property had been in the family for a lot longer.

Daughter of noted academic and historian, Walter Harris, and his well-connected wife Barbara, Domenica had had a privileged upbringing and been to all the right schools, his research of the family had turned up. And the only reason she was waiting for Angus Keir, who had clawed his way from beyond the black stump so to speak, to hand over the keys of the property to him, was because on her father’s recent death the Harris family fortunes had been discovered to be in turmoil, necessitating the sale of Lidcombe Peace.

So he had fully expected to be greeted by a daughter nursing a sense of grievance, not by a girl as serene-looking and lovely as this, he thought wryly as he got out of his car and approached the veranda; lovelier, indeed, than just about any girl he’d seen.

She was tall and dark-haired with pale, smooth skin, a beautifully defined jaw line with just the hint of a dimple in her chin. She also had deep blue eyes with impossibly long lashes and her thick hair was parted one side and ran in a river of rough silk to below her shoulders.

She carried a straw hat and a manila folder in her hand and wore a three-quarter length, button-through dress in some soft camellia-pink fabric. But the softness of what he didn’t know was voile highlighted instead of hid a near-perfect figure and sensationally long, thoroughbred legs. Her flat kid shoes matched the dress exactly.

And for a moment Angus Keir found himself meditating upon the shape of her breasts and the satiny softness of that smooth skin in secret places upon her delectable body.

Then she walked towards him and held out her hand. ‘Mr Keir? I’m Domenica Harris. How do you do? I was going to send my solicitor to perform this little rite, then I thought I ought to do it myself. Welcome to Lidcombe Peace and may you spend many happy years here!’

Angus Keir narrowed his eyes slightly. All this had been said in a cultured, musical voice and he’d expected no less. But there’d been no trace of grievance or even regret, and he wondered why the lack of it, in some mysterious way, niggled him.

‘How do you do, Miss Harris?’ he responded and shook her hand, finding her clasp firm, brief and businesslike. ‘It’s very kind of you to take the trouble. I hope this is not too painful for you.’

Domenica Harris studied him thoughtfully. Via a real estate agent, she and this man had conducted something close to a war over the exchange of Lidcombe Peace. And it had only been the fact that she’d had to sell some part of the family estate, and sell it quickly or see her mother face bankruptcy, that had finally induced her to accept his offer, which was a lot less than what she’d been asking, although still not an insignificant sum.

Accordingly, she’d tagged this Angus Keir in her mind as a tough customer, and pictured him as a lot older. But he was in his mid-thirties at the most, she judged, tall, with thick dark hair cut short and wearing an expertly tailored light grey suit with a midnight-blue shirt and navy tie. He also possessed the kind of stature that would make him stand out in a crowd, that broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped kind of man who moved with a sort of powerful ease.

But perhaps the most stunning feature about him was a pair of smoky-grey eyes set in a narrow, clever face. Eyes that missed nothing, she suspected, and not the least her own figure.

She said coolly, at last, ‘I guess I’m a realist, Mr Keir. Something had to go and this property was an expensive kind of holiday home we can no