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The New Samurai

Jane Harvey-Berrick

  Jane Harvey-Berrick

  The New Samurai

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick


  Chapter 1 – December

  Chapter 2 – January

  Chapter 3 – February

  Chapter 4 – March

  Chapter 5 – April

  Chapter 6 – May

  Chapter 7 – June

  Chapter 8 – July

  Chapter 9 – August

  Chapter 10 – September

  Chapter 11 – October

  Chapter 12 – November

  Chapter 13 – December


  Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

  First published in Great Britain in 2012

  Harvey Berrick Publishing

  ISBN 97809553150-6-0

  Copyright © Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick 2012

  Cover design by Nicky Stott

  Formatting by Perfectly Publishable


  The Education of Sebastian

  The Education of Caroline

  Dangerous to Know & Love


  At Your Beck & Call

  Playing in the Rain

  Summer of Seventeen



  The New Samurai

  The Dark Detective


  To Prue and Liz, watashi no tomodachi

  The Nakahara-Nye-Knight family

  & Ben Wilford

  Chapter 1 – December

  Sam noticed his girlfriend was wearing the same irritated expression that seemed to have become more frequent in the last few weeks.

  His wide, grey eyes winced as he took in her pursed lips. Things weren’t going well. Perhaps Christmas hadn’t been the best time to meet her family.

  She looked back at him, frowning.

  If only he wasn’t so damned good-looking, she thought crossly. If only he wasn’t so damned nice.

  The last word set her teeth on edge. And Sam was unlikely to stand up for himself either. It had been a mistake to bring him to her family’s Christmas cull.

  Sam watched Eleanor’s expression darken and he groaned inwardly. He had a premonition that this evening wasn’t going to improve any time soon.

  She brushed her long, honey-coloured hair with impatient strokes, every movement expressing annoyance.

  Sam turned away and thought longingly of his sister’s comfortable flat in Tooting and his niece Rosa, two-and-a-half years old – old enough to enjoy Christmas for the first time. He wished he was there with them. It would be a lot more relaxing. It would be a lot more fun.

  Instead he was marooned in the middle of nowhere with Elle and the rest of the Wilkinsons. All he could do was to get it over with as painlessly as possible.

  “Shall we go down and join your family?” he said. His voice sounded doubtful even to his own ears.

  “Aren’t you going to change for dinner?” Elle said, sharply, raking her eyes up and down him.

  Sam stared at her, miserably. “I have. I didn’t think you’d want me to wear my jeans…”

  His words trailed off.

  Elle took in the nearly-new chinos and open-necked shirt. No tie, of course. She sighed impatiently. Mind you, that colour blue really suited him; it brought out the bronze lights in his hair.

  “Oh, well, I suppose it’ll do. But I hope you’ve brought a tie for lunch tomorrow. Or I can borrow one from daddy.”

  She stood up from the dressing table and stepped briskly into a long-sleeved, knitted silk dress that she’d laid out on the bed. Designer, obviously. The dress was the only thing that had been laid out on the bed since they’d arrived at her parents’ house.

  “Zip me up,” she ordered.

  Silently, Sam put one hand on her waist and carefully pulled on the delicate zip. He let his cool fingers drift up her spine as he did so, and was rewarded with a slight shiver under his fingertips. He leaned down to kiss the nape of her neck softly, the warmth of his lips delicious in the chilly room.

  Elle’s eyes closed slightly, her mouth curving up in a smile, and she remembered why she’d brought Sam with her after all. Not only was he -looking, but…

  Sensing the change in her mood, Sam pulled her round so that she faced him. He lowered his face to her cheek, letting his nose drift down to her chin, carefully avoiding her make-up. His lips opened on her throat.

  Elle purred happily. He was just so good at that.

  A knock at the bedroom door interrupted them and Sam began to pull away. He was surprised when Elle clung to him.

  “Yes?” she said, impatiently.

  The door opened. It was Juliet, Eleanor’s older sister. She frowned at the elegantly entangled pair in front of her.

  Sam felt himself begin to redden at the look of calculation that rapidly swept across Juliet’s face.

  “Sorry to interrupt you two lovebirds,” she said, sarcastically, “but mummy said that we’re having sherry in the drawing room.”

  “We’ll be down in a few minutes,” said Elle, pulling Sam even closer to her, and raking her red-painted nails through his light brown hair. “Maybe longer.”

  He felt the heat in his face spread from his cheeks and down his neck. Her closeness was also beginning to make him feel uncomfortably warm in other areas.

  “Don’t be long,” replied Juliet, her voice matching Elle’s for irritation.

  She slammed the door shut behind her.

  “Nosy cow,” said Elle, rather too loudly.

  Sam thought he heard a harrumph outside the door but couldn’t be sure. Besides, he was rather involved in kissing that delicious little hollow just at the base of Elle’s neck.

  “Not now, darling!” giggled Elle, pushing him away.

  Sam felt confused. Hadn’t she just said they’d be down later? He sighed, annoyed that Elle was using him to score points against her sister. Luckily she interpreted his sigh as one of desire and smiled in a superior way.

  “Come on, darling,” she said, taking his hand. “Daddy is just dying to meet you.”

  Having met Elle’s mother earlier in the afternoon, Sam really doubted that was true. When they’d arrived the mother had raised a politely surprised pair of tweezered eyebrows, scanning him quickly and evidently finding him wanting; and Juliet had measured him with her eyes as if he were a prize bull.

  Mrs Wilkinson was a ship in full sail, her substantial bosom heaving with displeasure.

  “So you’re Samuel. Eleanor has told us so little about you. I believe you’re a teacher?”

  She said the words as if teaching were a faintly unpleasant habit, one not to be spoken of in polite company.

  Juliet, on the other hand, had been even more disturbing. She looked like an older version of Eleanor with the same lemon-sucking pucker that was going to make Elle look bitter and bad-tempered if she wasn’t careful. He loved it when he could smooth away that air of dissatisfaction and replace it with a very satisfied look instead.

  “Oh, Ellie, he’s adorable!” Juliet had laughed, her words slightly slurred even at four o’clock in the afternoon.

  Sam didn’t miss th
e fact that she hadn’t actually spoken to him – just about him. Elle’s family certainly weren’t going out of their way to make him feel welcome.

  He took a deep breath. Yep, meeting the father would be as bad as meeting a class of year nine teenage girls for the first time. Sam gritted his teeth. For the zillionth time he wondered why Elle had brought him here. She was so different when it was just the two of them – much warmer, less snide, much sweeter.

  The Old Vicarage was just as Sam had imagined it to be as they’d driven up from London to the small Cotswold village. The private drive swept up from a set of rather heavy wrought-iron gates, gravel crunching beneath the car’s tyres. The buttery-yellow Cotswold stone had been formed to make a spacious, elegant Georgian parsonage; elegant until the Victorians had arrived with their uglifying renovations a century later.

  But the house was formidable and larger than anywhere Sam had stayed before, with the obvious exception of hotels. The place screamed money: something of which Sam had too little experience, had he thought about it.

  Inside, the rooms were large and tastefully furnished, if a little dark, with expensive wallpaper and heavy furniture. It wasn’t Sam’s taste – it was too… country: a little cluttered, a little too enthusiastic for shabby-chic. Her family, however, were worse than he’d expected. And he didn’t much like this manipulative streak that Elle was displaying either.

  But, to be fair, he thought, there was something about being near family at Christmas that brought out the worst in most people.

  Sam let her pull him down the stairs and steer him into another large, panelled room with an enormous, bristling Christmas tree stationed in the bay window.

  “Hello, Daddy, this is Sam,” trilled Elle.

  She kissed a large man who had a scattering of white hair, holding forth by the fire, a glass of sherry already in his fist.

  Sam eyed him warily but held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr Wilkinson.”

  For the briefest of moments Sam thought the man was going to refuse his hand, but then Elle’s father put his glass on the mantelpiece and shook hands quickly.

  “Good journey, Sam? Traffic not too bad? Hope the M40 wasn’t as ghastly as usual.”

  Sam gave a slight smile.

  “No, it was fine thanks. Besides, Elle drove.”

  For some reason Sam’s answer annoyed Eleanor’s father. It seemed to be a family trait.

  “Hmm,” said Mr Wilkinson, frowning.

  Sam wondered if it would be safe to retreat to the wide and comfortable looking sofa, but the interview wasn’t over yet.

  “Don’t you drive?” said Mr Wilkinson, flashing a perplexed glance at his youngest daughter, although the question was clearly directed at Sam.

  “Yes, I’ve been driving since I was 17,” said Sam, his light tenor voice carefully neutral. “I just wasn’t sure my car was up to the journey. It gets nervous leaving London.”

  The joke fell flat.

  “What sort of a car is it?” persisted Mr Wilkinson, frowning.

  “Just an old Nissan,” said Sam, shrugging.

  Elle had begged him not to mention his car, but Sam really didn’t see how he could avoid it now her father had asked a direct question, or that it mattered. Much. Then with a sinking sensation, he remembered that Elle had said her brother-in-law drove an Aston Martin. A new one.

  But what did she expect when Sam had only been a qualified teacher for two years and was still paying off his student loan? What did any of them expect? From the look on her father’s face, the answer was not Sam, obviously.

  In the corner, he heard Juliet give a quiet chuckle and he could feel Elle’s angry glances bouncing off his back.

  “Glass of sherry, Sam?” said Mr Wilkinson. “Or perhaps you’d prefer… a beer?”

  The question was clearly a test.

  “Sherry would be great,” he said, softly. Right now a pint of vodka might have done more good. Maybe not.

  Elle quietly poured him a sherry. She hadn’t asked him if he preferred sweet or dry. He took a sip and tried not to wrinkle his nose as the cloying sweetness hit the back of his throat.

  Just then Juliet’s husband marched into the room, a Blackberry clamped in his hand. He was verging on corpulence and Sam couldn’t help noticing he was wearing jeans, slung recklessly low beneath his stomach. Perhaps it was okay to wear jeans if you drove an Aston Martin.

  “Sorry about that, everyone. New York office. You know how it is.”

  Juliet looked bored and didn’t offer to introduce her husband to Sam.

  Sam hid an irritated frown and introduced himself.

  “Hi. You must be Alex. I’m Sam,” and he held out his hand for the second time.

  “Sam? Oh, right: always a pleasure meeting one of Ellie’s new chaps.”

  They shook hands damply. Alex winked conspiratorially at Elle, who looked as if she wanted to rip his head off. At least she felt the same way as he did now, Sam thought, a slow anger beginning to build.

  He gave himself a mental shake: this was Elle’s family after all. Seeing them like this, well, it explained a few things. He felt a new compassion for her. She looked so small and fragile, perched on the edge of the sofa – it made him feel protective of her, even though he knew the image was an illusion. Eleanor was as fragile as a Rottweiler with toothache, with a not dissimilar temperament. She hadn’t got to be Creative Director of a West End ad agency at 30 by being overly concerned with how people felt.

  Even though he hadn’t been invited, Sam went and sat next to her. He let his hand touch her thigh briefly, just to show he was on her side. She didn’t look at him, but moved slightly closer so their elbows were touching.

  “So, Sammy-boy,” said Alex, broadly, “what is it you do? You don’t look like one of those slick advertising types that Ellie usually brings back.”

  Sam smiled tightly.

  “No, I’m a teacher.”

  Alex looked taken aback. “A teacher? In a school?”

  Sam managed to stop himself from rolling his eyes.

  “Yes. I teach English in a secondary school. In Kidbrooke. South east London,” he added for the benefit of his largely baffled audience.

  “Good Heavens!” laughed Mrs Wilkinson, entering the room with impeccable timing. “I imagine they probably do need an English teacher in that part of London! Do any of the children actually speak the language?”

  Sam didn’t respond. It was true that his school had a large percentage of kids whose first language wasn’t English, but most of them had better manners than this family so far. Better, just a bit rougher. He smiled, thinking of what Ayesha in his tutor group would have said to Mrs Wilkinson.

  “Can’t imagine that pays very well,” said Alex, “although you do get all those long holidays…”

  Sam felt the smile slip away. As if he hadn’t heard comments like that before! But it still grated. Every teacher he knew worked 13 hours a day just to keep up with the marking and paperwork – and that included most weekends. Holidays were spent planning the next term’s work; the PPA allowance hadn’t made much difference to that.

  He realised that Alex was waiting for a reply.

  “The pay isn’t too bad,” he lied. “Or at least it won’t be once I’ve paid off my student loan.”

  Juliet’s eyes were wide with enjoyment. “A student loan? How recently were you a student, Sam?”

  Sam was slightly puzzled by her question but he answered anyway.

  “I qualified as a teacher two years ago,” he said.

  “So that would make you… what… 24, 25?” said Juliet, pretending to be thoughtful.

  Eleanor interrupted suddenly.

  “Pour me another sherry, would you, darling?” she said in a bored tone to Sam, waving her now empty glass at him.

  Without comment, he stood up and refilled her sherry from the decanter. He knew very well that her diversion was to cut off his reply that he was 24. She was rather sensitive of the fact that she was six yea
rs older than him.

  Sam gazed at the clock on the mantelpiece and was staggered to see that it was still only 6.30 pm. He felt as if he’d been here for days, maybe even weeks.

  Elle snatched the glass of sherry from him too quickly and the dark, ruby liquid sloshed dangerously near the rim.

  He felt sorry for her. It occurred to him that this was nearly as tortuous for her as it was for him. He wondered again why she’d been so insistent that he spend Christmas with her family; she didn’t seem to like any of them very much.

  After the initial exchange, Alex and Mr Wilkinson ignored Sam and chatted loudly about stocks and shares and the state of city trading, and whether or not banking business would end up moving to Hong Kong or Shanghai, and which city they’d prefer to live in if that were the case.

  He felt relieved when they went in to supper, as they called it, but was then immediately disappointed because Elle was seated at the opposite end of the table from him. Instead, he was sandwiched between Juliet and Mrs Wilkinson.

  It soon became clear that Juliet had been imbibing even more before she came down.

  “So, tell me, Sam,” she said, leaning on her elbow and staring into his eyes. He tried subtly to lean away from her whisky breath. “What’s it like being a teacher these days?” she whispered loudly. “Any naughty schoolgirls after you? Notes under the desk… an apple for the teacher? I bet English is their favourite subject!”

  Sam frowned.

  “Oh, come on!” smirked Juliet. “I’m intrigued: a good-looking boy like you in a school full of girls. You must have some wonderful stories to tell!”

  “Actually,” said Sam, dodging the question, “it’s a mixed comprehensive: I teach boys and girls. Although I think boys are easier in some ways.”

  “Ooh! That sounds intriguing! And why is that?” said Juliet, moving closer, her hand resting on Sam’s knee.

  Across the table, Elle’s looks were murderous.

  Sam tried to move away, but he was already as close to Mrs Wilkinson as he could go without sitting on her lap.

  “I just think boys are a bit more straightforward,” said Sam, awkwardly. “I can tell a boy off in a lesson but he’ll have forgotten all about it by the time the lesson ends; with a girl, she’ll hold it against me for at least a term.”