Emma's lips parted in an O of surprise from which she appeared to quickly recover. "Captain Collinson! You must forgive me for not immediately recognising you! But when one begins to grow old, you know; one's memory fails! How many years is it since we last met? Oh, dear, best not to think of it, don't you agree? " She might have been greeting a distant acquaintance.
He'd dreamed of this moment for so long, wondering how she would react if they should ever meet again. Now he was baffled. In her look he saw no trace of embarrassment or regret. Neither did he see the least trace of affection. Her pale eyes betrayed no more than a fleeting interest.
"I would hardly describe you as old, Lady Greenway," he said, putting great emphasis on her title as he spoke. " And as I recall it is ten years since I last had the pleasure of your company."
A small frown appeared on her forehead. Then her face cleared.
"Is it as long ago as that? My Goodness! You are too kind in remembering, Captain," she said, giving him a cheerful smile. "Well! I certainly didn't think to see you here! What a pleasure it is to meet you again," she said before turning again to Diana. "Captain Collinson and I met in Italy long ago."
Max nodded and flushed. He stared at her. His heart was pounding at the sight of his lost love. Love indeed! This sophisticated, self-possessed young woman bore no resemblance to the loving, and passionate girl he once knew.
It all seemed so long ago, and it was clear the years of separation had killed her love once and for all. He could not blame her. True, she had changed, but he knew that he, too, had changed. At thirty-two he was no longer a carefree youth prepared to conquer the world for his lady's pleasure. The years of struggle had taken their toll and things had changed. Emma was married now to an old man and even if old Greenway should die - and surely he could not go on forever - what then? Emma was made for love and one day she would be free. When that happened, would he be able to win back her affections? There was nothing in her greeting to suggest she still held any affection for him.
Yet, behind the elegance and the casual politeness of a woman of the world he sensed that there was still the same indomitable spirit. Her smile, the turn of her head, and graceful carriage reminded him so vividly of the night when he held her to his heart, murmuring endearments and secure in the knowledge that she returned his love.
But what was the use of reminiscing? The past was the past. Better to put it out of his mind and pray that when she did remarry he wouldn't be around to witness it.
Captain Collinson has returned to England and is staying with his friend, Frederick March, and his wife, Diana. For Collinson, a much needed rest is the order of the day and he looks forward to catching up with all the news and hospitality that Frederick and Diana can provide. But the tranquillity ends with the arrival of Diana's young sister, Lynette. Barely out of the nursery, Lynette is keen to find herself a husband, and who better than Collinson, even given the thought that he's almost old enough to be her father. Shamelessly she pursues him, despite Collinson rejecting her open advances, until, unable to withstand the unwelcome onslaught, Collinson takes off for Clifton, seeking a respite from the persistent young woman. Here he meets a woman he once knew, and loved, Emma Greenway, a woman in her late twenty's who is now a widow and running a gaming house in The Mall. He is again attracted to her, but she is indifferent to him, treating him as no more than a casual acquaintance. She has many admirers, not least Lord Brooke ,who has his own agenda where Emma is concerned, and means to force her into becoming his mistress. She, having knowledge of his intention and the hold he has over her which could force her to comply, proposes marriage to Collinson. After having overcome his shock at her proposal, he is further mystified when she explains it will be a marriage of convenience and should, at the most only last one year, after which he can divorce her and be free to continue his life. Intrigued, and visualising a year of enjoyment as Emma's husband and lover, Collinson agrees. Emma's troubles begin when Brooke learns of the marriage. Bent on revenge he is determined Emma shall be his and plots to abduct her. Held captive she seeks to break free of her prison knowing what her future will hold if Brooke plan succeeds. Only Max Collinson can come to her rescue.