Practically Perfect

Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde

Book: Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katie Fforde
papers and then up at her. ‘Obviously, I’ve seen your house. I know what desecrations— Sorry?’
    ‘I thought for a minute you’d said decorations,’ said Anna, thinking she should open her mouth before it welded itself shut for ever.
    ‘I’m aware you didn’t eviscerate—’
    A stifled whimper emerged from between Anna’s tightly closed lips.
    ‘I beg your pardon? Did I forget to put my teeth in this morning?’
    Anna refused to allow the laugh to escape. ‘No,’ she said solemnly. ‘I just don’t know what you mean.’
    ‘Eviscerate? I mean rip the guts and heart and lungs out of your house.’
    ‘Oh. Nothing too emotional then.’
    He regarded her quizzically and a little sadly. ‘I’m afraid it’s all going to have to go back.’
    ‘Well, obviously, I’ve put the floorboards back now.’
    ‘And the staircase?’
    ‘Well, hardly! I only got the floor done last week! And have you any idea how difficult—’
    ‘Staircases are to make? Well, you’ll have to get your cabinetmaker to copy the one in the house next door.’
    ‘I’ve got my drawings. Of the staircase I planned. It’s very tasteful, and won’t look out of place.’
    He shook his head. ‘It’s got to be as near to the one that was taken out as possible. You’ll have to use new timber, I suppose.’
    Now she felt a small buzz of superority. ‘Possibly not,’ she said, hiding her new smugness. ‘I’m hoping to use reclaimed timber.’
    ‘It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get boards wide enough. Those treads are very wide at the end.’
    Anna nodded non-committally.
    ‘And I’m afraid any ideas you might have had about having patio doors into the garden are a non-starter, too.’
    ‘I was going to have French doors. Much more tasteful.’
    ‘I’m sorry, Anna, that’s just a matter of semantics. That’s a study of the meaning of words …’ he explained, inviting her to share the joke. When she didn’t, he went on, ‘We just want the house restored to how it should be. That’s a very special row of houses and it’s vital we keep them as near to how they originally were as possible.’
    Anna inhaled and exhaled, slowly, to give herself thinking time. It was a shame that she’d got off on the wrong foot with this man, then got back on the right one, and then wrong again. Nor could she respond to his attempts at humour, even if they were quite funny. She was too nervous; he had too much power. She made an attempt at a smile.
    ‘So what do you want me to have, then?’ She tried not to sound petulant, but feared she’d failed.
    ‘A plain window out to the backyard, so you can keep an eye on the children playing in the smuts from the ash-pit.’
    He’d made another joke, but only his eyes were smiling. It was very unnerving. ‘I haven’t got children,’ she said.
    ‘But you have got a dog.’
    ‘I know.’
    ‘You should take her to the vet to have her checked over. It could prevent any problems she might have getting worse.’
    ‘I know that, too.’
    He sighed, as if despairing of her ever relaxing. ‘What about that indoor kennel? They are a very good idea. Especially if Chloe’s boys ever visit.’
    ‘They do visit. They’re very good with Caroline—’
    ‘I’ve got a kennel I can lend you. I’ll drop it round some time.’
    ‘And will you take the opportunity to check what’s going on in my house?’ The words were spoken before she’d thought properly and Anna realised she’d been terribly rude. ‘I’m so sorry. I should never have said that. You’re only doing your job. I’m just so anxious …’
    ‘There’s no need to be anxious. On the whole we’re reasonable people who want the best result for everyone.’ He paused, apparently relieved that she’d softened a little. ‘What those other people did to your house really was dreadful.’
    ‘And how do you know it wasn’t me who ripped everything out?’ She smiled, making an attempt at light-heartedness.
    His smile was wider and

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