The choice between slavery to a madman, or confronting him.
The furnishings were very plain and minimal. There was something very calming and tranquil about the place. She wondered what it would be like in daylight.
She was drawn towards the easel standing in the corner of the room. She released Richard's hand so she could drift over to get a better look at it. Behind it there were canvases of various shapes and sizes that leaned forlornly against the walls. Some of the paintings looked finished, some were only half complete. As she studied them he spoke and his voice came from just behind her.
"This was my mums studio, she used come here to paint." Even though she was facing away from him she could hear the smile in his voice as he added. "And to get away from all of us I think."
She turned to face him and found he was staring at the painting, a faraway look in his eyes.
"I haven't been in here very much in the last few years." He said, almost to himself.
She wasn't sure what to say. She had an urge to wrap her arms around him and press herself against him and hug him as hard as she could in the hope that it would somehow ease the pain he must be feeling, but she didn't. Instead she reached forward, took one of his hands in hers and squeezed. He turned to face her.
"I'm sorry," she said meeting his gaze, "About your mum I mean." The words felt pathetic, and wholly inadequate for the enormity of the situation but she wasn't sure what else to say.
He nodded. "Thank you, I still miss her."
They stood in silence for a while until Ivy spoke again.
"We should go back, the fireworks will be starting soon."
He smiled. "We wouldn't want to miss them."
They left the summer-house again still hand in hand, there was electrical current flowing between them.
They reached the ballroom. So much had changed in the short time since she had been in this room, and yet everything was as it had been before they left; couples dancing or standing in small groups chatting, the string quartet still played on their low stage in the corner, uniformed waiting staff hovered around collecting glasses that had been abandoned. She cast around, searching for Sally or Ruth but she couldn't see them instead she spotted Caroline in the corner talking to Terrence. He had his back to her, but Caroline caught her eye and grinned, and Ivy smiled back, wondering if she looked as embarrassed as she felt.
They grabbed their coats and hurried back outside. A crowd was starting to gather by the lake. Ruth and Sally were already there. Ivy was finally starting to feel the cold; she pulled her jacket on and drew it closed across her chest. They wandered in the general direction of her friends. As Ruth saw them approach her face lit up.
"Hey you two, we wondered where you'd got to."
Ivy tried to ignore the inquisitive look Ruth was giving her. Sally was watching them too, the scrutiny of her gaze hard to bear. Ivy was pleased when the fireworks started.
Richard stepped behind her and pulled her against him. Wrapping his hands around her waist he pressed his face up against the skin where neck met her shoulder and inhaled. The move was possessive and very public; there could be no doubt to any onlookers about the nature of their relationship now. As his lips tickled her throat she released an involuntary whimper. His answering chuckle reverberated through her, arousal unfurled inside her.
Still holding her close with one arm he raised the other to her neck and brushed tendrils of hair aside. He trailed his lips against the skin on her neck travelling tantalisingly upwards towards her ear. He wasn't kissing her exactly, or licking, he was using his lips to explore her skin. She wrapped her fingers around the arm that was holding her waist and clung on as the fireworks exploded around them filling her vision with light, mirroring her internal response to his touch.
What was this man doing to her?
The firework display finished and people began drifting away.