THE INHERITANCE

Chapter One: Chance Encounter

Running after the bus, soaking wet and out of breath, Jenna Kendall collided smack into a much older man carrying an umbrella.

"Goodness!" Though obviously startled, the bulky, red-faced gentleman in the old-fashioned suit and bowler hat looked more concerned than angry. "Are you all right, my dear?"

"I'm so sorry!" Jenna felt the rain pelting her face, plastering her shoulder-length, dark-brown hair to her forehead and her wet clothes to her skinny body. "My job interview ran late, and I missed the bus, and I don't have enough money for a taxi cab, and living in London is so expensive . . ."

"And on top of that, it's raining, and you're cold and wet. Feel like getting out of the rain for a quiet chat over a cup of tea?"

"Well, I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble." Jenna's instincts told her that she could trust the kindly, silver-haired man, but she was a young woman all alone in a strange city.

"Dear girl, I'm a retired banker. I'm almost never in London, and no-one ever comes up to my tiny flat. Meeting you is the most exciting thing that's happened to me in years!"

Jenna wouldn't have accepted his invitation, but he looked so much like a respectable, retired banker that she couldn't imagine him doing her any harm. While she was walking to her new friend's flat, clinging to his arm and huddling under his umbrella, Sir Holland Dozier-Holland told her all about himself.

"And of course, being a game warden in Africa, I collected more than my share of souvenirs," the old man rumbled, putting on the lights as they stepped into his flat together.

"It's like a museum!" Jenna was so astonished by the wild beauty of the African tribal masks, and the spears and shields that she nearly tripped over the thick lion-skin rug.

"Easy, old girl," Sir Holland said, leading her over to a pair of easy chairs drawn up before an old-fashioned fireplace. "Just let me build up the fire a bit, and then I'll make you a nice hot cup of tea. And then we can have a proper chat."

". . . and after that, my grant money ran out and I wasn't allowed to reapply. So then, since I really wanted to stay in England, to discover the truth about my ancestors, I had to look for work. But it's been no luck so far!" Jenna set down her empty tea cup and stretched her arms high over her head. She felt very warm and a little sleepy sitting by the fire.

"What an extraordinary story! Clearly the necklace your grandmother left you must be very valuable," Sir Holland remarked, eyeing the simple gold chain around Jenna's neck. "Why not sell it?"

"Oh, no, I could never do that!" Jenna's dark-brown eyes flew open wide, and she sat up straight in her chair at once. "I want to know if grandmother's story is true. That's all I care about, not money or a title or anything like that."

"I see." The old man's twinkling blue eyes looked Jenna up and down, as though she'd passed some kind of test. "Well, in that case, my dear, I know someone you ought to meet."