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Summer of the Weeping Rain By Yvonne Whittal



'isa *as spen+ing a fe* months in the pea,e an+ -uiet of the Afri,an vel+. a*ay from it all. *hile she re,overe+ from a serious a,,i+ent/ A*ay from it all0 Har+ly. *hen the tough an+ ruthless A+am $an+eleur *as aroun+ all the time1

Boo2s you *ill en3oy 4y Y$O E WH#TTA'


There *as no *ay (elanie ,oul+ get out of marrying 5ason 6err7not at least *ithout 4itterly hurting her 4elove+ gran+mother/ An+ on,e they *ere marrie+ she ha+ to a+mit that she +i+n8t hate her ne* hus4an+ as mu,h as she ha+ imagine+ she +i+7the reverse. in fa,t/ But it seeme+ she ha+ given her love to a man *ho ha+ no nee+ of it9


8'ove is a fa4ri,ate+ emotion # have no time for in my life.8 +e,lare+ :aniel &rant7an+ his *ife 5oanne ha+ to a,,ept the fa,t/ They ha+. after all. marrie+ only for mutual ,onvenien,e. so she ,oul+ har+ly have e;pe,te+ more/ Was there any ,han,e that :aniel *oul+ ever ,hange his min+0


Olivia ha+ hope+ that life in a small Transvaal to*n *oul+ 4e -uieter an+ more frien+ly after the 4ustle an+ loneliness of her life in 5ohannes4urg/ An+ so it *as7until she foun+ herself more involve+ than she *ante+ to 4e *ith the over*helming Bernar+ 6ing1


Although she ha+ never met him. Toni ha+ al*ays relie+ heavily on the un2no*n man *ho ha+ 4een so 2in+ to her ever sin,e she *as a ten<year<ol+ orphan/ But no* she ha+ met Tar-uin Ra+loff. a man she 2ne* she ,oul+ love7even if he persiste+ in treating her as a ,hil+/ Woul+ this ne* frien+ship mean the en+ of her 4elove+ 4enefa,tor0

!irst pu4lishe+ >?@? Australian ,opyright >?BC Philippine ,opyright >?BC This e+ition >?BC

D Yvonne Whittal >?BC


&ale for,e *in+s rattle+ the lounge *in+o*s of the small. ine;pensive flat 'isa (oreau share+ *ith her mother. an+ in the narro* street 4elo* people *al2e+ *ith their hea+s 4ent an+ their shoul+ers hun,he+ as they fought against the elements of nature/ The s2y loo2e+ 4lea2. an+ Ta4le (ountain *as shrou+e+ in a 4illo*ing mist that loo2e+ every 4it as angry as the sea/ #t ha+ 4een a 4a+ year for tourists visiting Cape To*n. for the *eather ha+ 4een more unpre+i,ta4le than usual/ The *inter rains ha+ starte+ early. an+ the stormy seas ha+ ravage+ the ,oast until this important South Afri,an port ha+ live+ up to the name given to it 4y the early Portuguese navigators. 8The Cape Of Storms8/ o*. *ith August almost at an en+ an+ spring in the offing. there *as still no reprieve from the *eather/ 'isa8s faintly +is,onsolate glan,e turne+ from the +ismal s,ene outsi+e to the t*o *omen seate+ on the ol+. floral ,overe+ sofa. an+ she *on+ere+. not for the first time that afternoon. *hy her mother8s sister ha+ ,hosen to pay them a visit on a +ay li2e this *hen it *oul+ have 4een more sensi4le to remain in+oors/ (olly Anstey *as the hea+mistress at the s,hool *here 'isa ha+ 4een a tea,her for the past t*o an+ a half years. an+ it *as o4vious to 'isa that her aunt ha+ something on her min+J something *hi,h 'isa ha+ guesse+ at from the moment her aunt ha+ steppe+ into their neat little flat. an+ something *hi,h she shran2 from instin,tively/ Sin,e the a,,i+ent *hi,h ha+ +isrupte+ 'isa8s life +uring the se,on+ s,hool term of that year. she ha+ 2no*n that she *oul+ inevita4ly have to fa,e the future again. 4ut no*. three months later. she still la,2e+ the ,ourage an+ the strength to +o so/ 'isa sighe+ in*ar+ly an+. leaning heavily on her *al2ing sti,2. she sat +o*n in a ,hair fa,ing the t*o *omen to o4serve them in silen,e *hile they tal2e+. 4ut she too2 in nothing of *hat *as 4eing sai+/ Her aunt *as still remar2a4ly slen+er for a *oman in her late forties. an+ sho*e+ no sign. as yet. of greying. *hereas 'isa8s mother. t*o years ol+er than (olly. *as greying s*iftly at the temples an+ slightly plumper than her elegantly ,la+ sister/ (olly Anstey loo2e+ up su++enly an+ met 'isa8s +ire,t gaKe/ !or a moment her fa,e *as e;pressionless. then her lips tightene+ in a manner 'isa 2ne* only too *ell. an+ it sent a shiver of apprehension up her spine/ Her aunt pla,e+ her empty tea<,up in the tray *ith great ,are as if it ha+ 4een ma+e of +eli,ate ,hina an+ not 3ust ,heap imitation. then those slen+er. ,apa4le han+s *ere fol+e+ neatly in her lap. an+ 'isa 2ne* that the +rea+e+ moment ha+ ,ome/ 8# *ant to tal2 to you very seriously. 'isa. an+ #8m hoping that you *on8t thin2 that #8m trying to for,e you into something you +on8t *ant to +o. 4ut78 She pause+ signifi,antly an+ e;,hange+ a s*ift glan,e *ith 'isa8s mother 4efore ,ontinuing/ 8You nee+ to get a*ay. my +ear. for a fe* months at least. an+ a stay in the ,ountry shoul+ 4e 3ust the thing for you/8 8Are you. in a very polite *ay. as2ing me to resign my post at the s,hool. Aunt (olly08 'isa *ante+ to 2no*. an+ her usually soft. pleasant voi,e *as tinge+ *ith a sar,asm *hi,h ha+ resulte+ from the re,ent months of pain. suffering an+ +isillusionment/ 8 o. my +ear.8 her aunt ,ontra+i,te+ smoothly/ 8#8m not as2ing you to resign if you +on8t *ant to. 4ut your mother an+ # are 4oth fully a*are of your relu,tan,e to return to the s,hool after7after78 8After the a,,i+ent.8 'isa supplie+ ,almly as her aunt stum4le+ to an un,omforta4le halt/ 8Yes.8 (olly no++e+. re,overing herself s*iftly/ 8Why not go a*ay for a *hile. 'isa0 #t *oul+ give you the opportunity to get over this *hole tragi, 4usiness/8 8# ,an8t affor+ an e;ten+e+ holi+ay. an+ # +rea+ the thought of 4eing i+le.8 'isa sai+ tritely/

8 o one suggeste+ that you shoul+ remain i+le. my +ear.8 (olly proteste+ hastily/ 8Of ,ourse you must fin+ something to o,,upy yourself *ith/8 'isa8s lips ,urve+ into a sem4lan,e of a smile. 4ut there *as also a hint of ,yni,ism in it/ 85o4s are s,ar,e these +ays. even in the ,ountry. an+ #78 8As a matter of fa,t # +o 2no* of something *hi,h might interest you.8 her aunt interrupte+ -ui,2ly. an+ she leane+ for*ar+ in her seat *ith a slight urgen,y to e;plain/ 8An ol+ frien+ of mine. Eri,a $an+eleur. re,ently lost her youngest son an+ his *ife in a plane a,,i+ent. an+ she no* fin+s herself loo2ing after their t*o small ,hil+ren. a 4oy an+ a girl age+ five/8 8T*ins08 'isa -uestione+. instantly on the alert/ 8Yes.8 (olly ,onfirme+J 8Eri,a lives *ith her el+est son. A+am. on his sheep farm in the Beaufort West +istri,t. an+ although she fin+s the ,hil+ren a+ora4le. she hasn8t 4een too *ell lately. an+ she realises she8s in,apa4le of managing them on her o*n at the moment/ #t *as A+am. the ,hil+ren8s un,le an+ guar+ian. *ho +e,i+e+ that they nee+e+ help. an+ *hen # re,eive+ Eri,a8s letter yester+ay. as2ing *hether # ,oul+ re,ommen+ someone suita4le. # thought instantly of you/8 8Oh. no18 'isa e;,laime+ +istastefully/ 8 o. # ,oul+n8t18 8But you8re e;traor+inarily goo+ *ith ,hil+ren. an+ it *oul+ 4e su,h a *on+erful opportunity for you to have a paying holi+ay in the ,ountry.8 her aunt argue+ strongly/ 8#8m a tea,her. Aunt (olly. not a nursemai+/8 8#t *oul+ only 4e for a ,ouple of *ee2s/8 8A ,ouple of *ee2s08 'isa stare+ at her in,re+ulously an+ (olly Anstey shifte+ un,omforta4ly in her ,hair as she ,onfesse+. 8Well. a little more than four months. a,tually. until the ,hil+ren go to 4oar+ing s,hool/8 8#t8s out of the -uestion18 'isa state+ flatly/ 8'isa. my +ear. you shoul+ at least ,onsi+er it.8 her mother interrupte+ ,almly for the first time/ 8You 2no* you8ve 4een +rea+ing the i+ea of going 4a,2 to the s,hool/8 8An+ thin2 of all that lovely fresh 6aroo air.8 (olly a++e+ persuasively/ 8The summers in the 6aroo are hot an+ +usty. an+ the *inters ,ol+ an+ frosty.8 'isa sai+ sharply an+ +ispassionately. re3e,ting the i+ea *ith every fi4re of her 4eing/ 8 o. than2 you. Aunt (olly/ #8m a ,ity girl. 4orn an+ 4re+. an+ living on a primitive farm in the 6aroo 3ust +oesn8t appeal to me one 4it/ # sympathise *ith (rs $an7$an7*hatever her name is. an+ #8m sorry for the ,hil+ren. 4ut78 8'isa18 8#8m. sorry. (other.8 'isa turne+ to the *oman *ho ha+ spo2en her name so reprovingly/ 8# 2no* you8re 4oth trying your 4est to help me. an+ # appre,iate it. 4ut78 8#t *oul+n8t 4e for ever. +ear.8 her mother interrupte+ gently. 4ut 'isa shoo2 her fair hea+ a+amantly/ 8You8ve got the *ee2en+ to thin2 it over. 'isa.8 her aunt remar2e+ after a lengthy. tense silen,e ha+ prevaile+ in the room/ 8'et me 2no* on (on+ay *hat you8ve +e,i+e+/8 'ong after (olly Anstey ha+ left. 'isa remaine+ seate+ in her ,hair. her fingers a4sently fingering the ,arve+ han+le of the *al2ing sti,2 she *ishe+ she ,oul+ +o *ith<out/ She ,oul+ hear her mother in the 2it,hen. rinsing the tea<,ups an+ pa,2ing them a*ay. 4ut 'isa8s thoughts ha+ gone 4a,2 in time to that fateful +ay *hen her o*n ,ar ha+ 4een in for a servi,e an+ she ha+ a,,epte+ a lift to s,hool *ith her ,losest frien+. San+y :un,an/ The traffi, ha+ 4een e;,eptionally heavy that morning. an+ they ha+ 4een +is,ussing their plans for the ,oming *inter holi+ays as *ell as 'isa8s approa,hing marriage to Rory Phillips/ either of them ha+ seen the small +elivery van 3ump the re+ light at a 4usy interse,tion until it

*as on top of them. an+ then it ha+ 4een too late to avoi+ a ,ollision/ 'isa ,oul+ still hear the horrifying ,run,h of metal an+ splintering glass on impa,t. an+ then she ha+ mer,ifully 2no*n nothing more until she ha+ *o2en up in hospital several hours later/ She ha+ urgently -uestione+ the hospital staff for ne*s of her frien+. 4ut they ha+ remaine+ evasive. an+ it *as her mother *ho ha+ eventually 4ro2en it to her that San+y :un,an ha+ 4een 2ille+ instantly/ The sho,2 of San+y8s +eath ha+ minimise+ 'isa8s o*n in3uries to unimportan,e. 4ut they ha+ 4een 4rought sharply into fo,us *hen Rory. her fian,L. *as finally allo*e+ to see her in hospital/ With her arm in plaster. her fra,ture+ ri4s ma2ing 4reathing +iffi,ult. an+ her hip in tra,tion. 'isa ha+ 2no*n that she +i+ not loo2 her 4est. 4ut *hen Rory stoo+ rigi+ly at the foot of her 4e+. she 2ne* that the in3uries to her fa,e ha+ 4een far *orse than they ha+ le+ her to 4elieve/ She ,oul+ have ta2en his sympathy. his ,ompassion. an+ even his pity. 4ut the loo2 of horror an+ revulsion on his lean. han+some features ha+ stru,2 the final 4lo*/ She ha+ someho* *ren,he+ his ring from her s*ollen finger. an+ he ha+ a,,epte+ it from her *ithout protest 4efore he *al2e+ out of the *ar+. an+ out of her life/ There ha+ 4een no tears after his +eparture. only a +ea+ly num4<ness that left her +evoi+ of feelings. 4ut it *as after that in,i+ent that she ha+ insiste+ on having a mirror pla,e+ at her +isposal. an+ the fa,e that ha+ ,onfronte+ her ha+ fille+ her *ith self<+isgust/ Her hair ha+ 4een ,ut a*ay 3ust a4ove the left temple *here a light gauKe +ressing ,overe+ the stit,hes she ha+ re,eive+ there. 4ut it *as the long. ugly gash running along the si+e of her 3a*<that ha+ upset her most. an+ her fa,e. puffe+ an+ 4ruise+ *ith the minor la,erations she ha+ re,eive+. ma+e the sight of her o*n refle,tion even more hi+eous/ That *as *hen she ha+ 4egun to un+erstan+ the reason for Rory8s revulsion. 4ut it +i+ not prevent the 4itterness an+ the ,ontempt she ha+ 4egun to feel to*ar+s the man *ho ha+ professe+ to love her so +eeply/ 8'isa/8 A ,omforting han+ tou,he+ her shoul+er lightly. 3er2ing her 4a,2 to the present. to +is,over that she *as sha2ing un,ontrolla4ly. an+ her entire 4o+y felt ,ol+ an+ ,lammy *ith perspiration/ 8Why +on8t you have a rest 4efore +inner08 her mother suggeste+ *ith sympatheti, un+erstan+ing/ 8#8ll give you a ,all *hen it8s rea+y/8 8Than2 you. (other.8 'isa smile+ up at her *earily an+. leaning heavily on her *al2ing sti,2 for moral as *ell as physi,al support. she limpe+ a,ross the room an+ +o*n the short passage to her 4e+room/ Reliving the a,,i+ent. an+ the events +ire,tly follo*ing it. ha+ e;hauste+ 'isa. an+ *hen her hea+ tou,he+ the pillo* she slippe+ into a +eep an+ +reamless sleep from *hi,h her mother ha+ +iffi,ulty in *a2ing her some t*o hours later/ 8You ha+ me *orrie+ for a moment.8 ,onfesse+ Celia (oreau as her +aughter sat up an+ pushe+ a heavy *ave of ,orn<,oloure+ hair out of her eyes/ 8There8s time for you to 4ath an+ ,hange 4efore +inner. 4ut only if you8re -ui,2 a4out it.8 she a++e+ *arningly 4efore she left the room/ Ta2ing her a+vi,e. 'isa 4athe+ -ui,2ly an+ ru44e+ herself vigorously *ith the to*el after*ar+s. pausing only momentarily to finger the s,ar on her hip *here they ha+ ha+ to ,ut into the flesh in or+er to reset the 4a+ly ,rushe+ 4ones/ So many s,ars. she thought 4itterly/ So many remin+ers/ Then. thrusting asi+e her thoughts. she rea,he+ for the tal,um po*+er an+ sprin2le+ her 4o+y li4erally 4efore +ressing. an+ 3oining her mother at the +inner ta4le/ 'isa foun+ it virtually impossi4le to sleep that night/ Her aunt8s suggestion that she shoul+ ta2e on the 3o4 of loo2ing after those t*o orphane+ ,hil+ren 2ept thrusting its *ay into her min+ an+. +espite her efforts. she ,oul+ thin2 of nothing else/ #t *as a ri+i,ulous suggestion. she tol+ herself/ 'iving in the 6aroo on a remote sheep farm +i+ not appeal to her at all. an+ loo2ing after t*o small ,hil+ren *as a far ,ry from +ealing su,,essfully *ith intelligent t*elve<year<ol+s/ #t *as preposterous to imagine that she *oul+ 4e a4le to ,ope. an+ ho* *oul+ the ,hil+ren rea,t to someone *ith a s,arre+ fa,e an+ an e-ually +isfiguring limp0 she *on+ere+ su++enly as 4itterness *elle+ up in her 4reast/

Rory8s appalle+ features flashe+ through her min+. an+ she shran2 in*ar+ly from the *hole i+ea as she s*it,he+ on the 4e+si+e light an+ thrust asi+e the 4lan2ets to lo*er her feet on to the floor in sear,h of her soft mules/ A glass of *arm ,o,oa might in+u,e sleep. she +e,i+e+ as she pulle+ on her go*n. 4ut on her *ay to the +oor she pause+ in front of the full<length mirror an+. almost against her *ill. she stu+ie+ her refle,tion ,riti,ally. an+ a trifle ,yni,ally/ She ha+ al*ays 4een small an+ slen+er. 4ut she *as no* almost painfully thin. an+ her ,hee24ones stoo+ out prominently in her pale fa,e to thro* +eep sha+o*s 4eneath *i+e<set 4lue eyes fringe+ heavily *ith pale gol+ lashes/ Her hair *as the ,olour of ripe ,orn. an+ it *ave+ naturally +o*n on to her shoul+ers. 4ut sin,e the a,,i+ent she +eli4erately ,om4e+ it for*ar+ to hi+e the s,ar against her left temple. 4ut there *as no *ay she ,oul+ hi+e the raise+. sometimes livi+ s,ar along the si+e of her 3a*/ #t stoo+ out against her pale s2in li2e a 4ea,on. she thought. taunting her ruthlessly an+ ma2ing her 4elieve everything Rory8s ,ruel. horrifie+ glan,e ha+ implie+/ 'isa8s vision ,lou+e+ at this point an+. as al*ays. the sensitive ,urves of her generous mouth *ent unnoti,e+. as +i+ the ten+erness an+ passion it implie+/ The small. straight nose an+ the firmly roun+e+ ,hin suggeste+ an inner strength. an+ the ,olour of her eyes ,hange+ to an arresting violet 4lue *hen she 4e,ame emotionally +istur4e+/ The minor la,erations on her fa,e ha+ heale+ to leave her +eli,ately 4one+ features un+istur4e+. 4ut 'isa ha+ progresse+ 4eyon+ the stage of fin+ing anything pleasing in the fa,e that stare+ 4a,2 at her so stea+ily/ Her han+ a4sently massage+ her left hip an+ thigh as if in anti,ipation of the nagging pain *hi,h still gna*e+ at her after lengthy perio+s of remaining on her feet. an+ she sighe+ heavily as she turne+ from her refle,te+ image an+ ma+e her *ay along the +ar2ene+ passage to*ar+s the 2it,hen/ Her mother8s 4e+room ha+ 4een in +ar2ness *hen she ha+ passe+ it. 4ut no sooner ha+ she put the sau,epan of mil2 on the stove *hen her mother *al2e+ into the 2it,hen. her slippere+ feet ma2ing no soun+ on the tile+ floor/ 8Coul+ you +o *ith some more ,ompany08 Celia (oreau as2e+ -uietly an+. *hen 'isa no++e+ silently. she a++e+ more mil2 to that *hi,h *as alrea+y in the sau,epan an+ too2 upon herself the tas2 of ma2ing them ea,h a mug of ,o,oa/ 'isa hoo2e+ her ,ane over the 4a,2 of the 2it,hen ,hair an+ lo*ere+ herself into it. leaning her el4o*s on the ta4le as she enviously *at,he+ her mother move a4out the 2it,hen/ Her movements *ere flui+ an+ *ithout the 3arring limp 'isa struggle+ so vainly to ,on-uer/ 8Your hip *ill ta2e some time to heal.8 the +o,tor ha+ *arne+ her/ 8:on8t e;pe,t mira,les. 4ut *ithin less than a year you shoul+ 4e free of all +is,omfort an+ *ell on the *ay to *al2ing normally/8 'isa ha+ listene+ ,almly at the time. 4ut her patien,e *as severely trie+ at times *hen she foun+ herself in,apa4le of +oing the simple little things *hi,h ha+ on,e 4een se,on+ nature. an+ she hate+ having to ,ling to the rails for support *henever she ,lim4e+ the t*o flights of steps up to their flat/ She *as only 3ust 4eginning to +rive her ,ar again. an+ this. at least. affor+e+ her a ,ertain amount of pleasure an+ free+om. 4ut she avoi+e+ meeting people as mu,h as possi4le/ 8You must try to forget the past. 'isa.8 her mother remar2e+ ,asually 4ut shre*+ly/ 8#t isn8t goo+ for you to 4roo+ over *hat happene+. an+ you 2no* it only leaves you restless an+ +epresse+/8 'isa8s fingers tightene+ on the mug of ,o,oa her mother ha+ pla,e+ 4efore her/ 8# ,an8t help remem4ering. an+ *hen # loo2 in the mirror # sometimes *ish #8+ +ie+ as *ell/8 8'isa18 Celia (oreau8s fa,e pale+ as she stare+ at her +aughter in horror/ 8 ever say that again18 8But my fa,e78 8#s s,arre+. yes.8 her mother interrupte+ her for,efully/ 8But the s,ars are mer,ifully not as

+isfiguring as you li2e to imagine. an+ you must he grateful for that/8 8Oh. (other.8 'isa sighe+ unstea+ily. a fli,2er of pain in the eyes she raise+ to her mother8s/ 8#8ve seen the *ay people stare at me. an+78 8:on8t. my +ear.8 her mother silen,e+ her hastily. an+ 'isa 4egan to +espise herself for the film of tears in her mother8s eyes/ 8With time an+ ,are you8ll 4e *al2ing normally again. an+ the +o,tor promise+ that the s,ars *oul+ heal until they *ere 4arely noti,ea4le/8 8An+ if they +on8t08 'isa -uestione+ in a frightene+ *hisper/ 8Then you ,oul+ al*ays ,onsi+er the possi4ility of further surgery/8 Tears stung 'isa8s eyeli+s an+ she 4lin2e+ them a*ay rapi+ly/ 8# suppose you thin2 #8m a fool/8 8 o. my +ear/8 The han+ that tou,he+ 'isa8s arm *as gentle an+ ,ompassionate/ 8You8ve ha+ a very unfortunate e;perien,e. an+ you8re very sensitive a4out it. that8s all. 4ut you8ll get over it in time/8 'isa shrugge+ tire+ly/ 8Yes. # suppose so/8 8:rin2 up. +ear.8 her mother suggeste+ at length/ 8#t8s time *e *ent to 4e+/8 They sai+ goo+night a fe* minutes later an+ *ent to their respe,tive rooms. 4ut it *as some time 4efore 'isa *as a4le to she+ her +epression/ The *in+ ha+ su4si+e+ earlier in the evening. 4ut not 4efore it ha+ 4rought the rain. an+. as she lay listening to the patter of rain+rops against her *in+o*. she *ishe+ she 2ne* *hat the future ha+ in store for her/ The offer her aunt ha+ ma+e to her that afternoon *as su++enly enti,ing. 4ut a part of her still re3e,te+ the i+ea most for,i4ly/ She trie+ to 4anish the su43e,t from her min+. 4ut foun+ herself mentally ,ompiling a list for an+ against the i+ea until she finally fell asleep from sheer e;haustion/

The sun *as shining the ne;t +ay for the first time in almost a *ee2. an+ the s2y *as an in,re+i4le 4lue. 'isa noti,e+ *hile she helpe+ her mother pa,2 a*ay the Sun+ay lun,h +ishes. 4ut a tense little silen,e. 4y no means the first that +ay. hovere+ 4et*een them as they move+ a4out the small 2it,hen *ith its neat ,up4oar+s an+ re+ ,he,2ere+ ,urtains/ 'isa 2ne* the reason for the tense atmosphere. 4ut ,oul+ not 4ring herself to spea2 of it. an+ it *as her mother *ho finally 4roa,he+ the su43e,t *hen they sat +o*n to their tea in the lounge/ 8'isa. have you thought any more a4out that 3o4 (olly offere+ you08 8Yes. # have thought a4out it. 4ut # ,an assure you # +i+n8t +o so intentionally.8 'isa a+mitte+ *ryly/ 8An+08 'isa avoi+e+ her mother8s +ire,t 4lue gaKe an+ shrugge+ her shoul+ers listlessly/ 8# +on8t 2no*/8 8#f # *ere you. #8+ 3ump at the ,han,e/8 8Are you trying to get ri+ of me. (other08 'isa -uestione+. a hint of half<forgotten humour lur2ing in her voi,e/ 8Of ,ourse not. my +ear.8 her mother replie+ in+ignantly. 84ut # 2no* ho* +epresse+ you8ve 4e,ome sin,e the a,,i+ent. an+ then there8s Rory78 8We *on8t +is,uss Rory. (other. if you +on8t min+.8 'isa interrupte+ ,ol+ly *ith a glitter of i,e in the +epths of her eyes that ha+ never 4een there 4efore/ 8#8m sorry.8 Celia (oreau apologise+ ,ontritely/ 8 o. #8m sorry.8 'isa ,ontra+i,te+ a little ruefully. regretting her harshness *ith the one person *ho ha+ stoo+ 4y her so *on+erfully +uring the past three months/ 8You8re right. though. (other.8 she a++e+ -uietly/ 8#8ve 4e,ome +epresse+ an+ irrita4le. an+ # ,an8t seem to snap out of it/8

8You8ll get over it in time. 4ut not if you stay here *here there8s so mu,h to remin+ you of the a,,i+ent an+ everything that ha+ happene+ after*ar+s.8 her mother tol+ her *isely/ 8# ,oul+ 4e at the other en+ of the *orl+. (other. an+ #8+ still 4e remin+e+ of it.8 'isa state+ a little impatiently/ 8All # have to +o is loo2 in the mirror/8 8# tol+ you. 'isa. you8re unne,essarily tou,hy a4out those s,ars/ They ,oul+ have 4een mu,h *orse/8 8They *ere 4a+ enough to ma2e Rory78 'isa 4it her lip/ 'i2e her mother. she *as trespassing on the very su43e,t she ha+ *ante+ to avoi+/ 8!orget a4out it. 'isa.8 *as her mother8s *hispere+ ,omment/ 8#f he ha+ truly love+ you. then your appearan,e *oul+ have ma+e no +ifferen,e to him. 4ut as it is. he8s not *orth 4rea2ing your heart over/8 8Yes. # 2no* that.8 'isa a,2no*le+ge+ rea+ily. 4ut +eep +o*n his re3e,tion of her still hurt so mu,h at times that it *as almost impossi4le to 4ear/ 8What *oul+ you +o if # a,,epte+ this 3o4 Aunt (olly has offere+ me08 8# *oul+ stay on here in the flat. of ,ourse/ # have my *or2 at the ,lothing store an+ #8m -uite ,apa4le of loo2ing after myself. you 2no*/8 Celia (oreau pla,e+ her empty tea<,up in the tray an+ eye+ her8 +aughter spe,ulatively/ 8Are you going to ta2e the 3o408 'isa raise+ her han+ almost *ithout thin2ing an+ her fingers tra,e+ the s,ar on her fa,e from ear to ,hin/ 8# might/8 8#t *oul+ 4e su,h a ,hange from tea,hing/8 8Yes. it *oul+/8 8The fresh. ,lean ,ountry air *oul+ 4e the 4est toni, anyone ,oul+ possi4ly pres,ri4e for you.8 Celia (oreau ,ontinue+ persuasively/ 8(other98 8:on8t hesitate. my +ear.8 her mother persiste+. ta2ing the telephone off the ta4le 4esi+e the sofa an+ pla,ing it on the pa++e+ armrest of 'isa8s ,hair/ 8&ive (olly a ring an+ tell her you8ll ta2e the 3o4 4efore you ,hange your min+ again/8 8But # haven8t +e,i+e+ finally.8 'isa proteste+ +esperately as she shran2 from the mere i+ea/ 8:on8t 4e silly. +ear. of ,ourse you8ve +e,i+e+/8 8Oh. (other98 8Ta2e this.8 her mother smile+ as she pla,e+ the re,eiver in 'isa8s trem4ling han+/ 8 o* +ial (olly8s num4er/8 'isa someho* foun+ herself ,arrying out her mother8s instru,tions. an+ she ,oul+ never -uite re,all after*ar+s *hat she ha+ sai+. 4ut +uring the *ee2 that follo*e+ she 4e,ame only too a*are of having agree+ to something *hi,h she still ha+ severe +ou4ts a4out/ #t *as as if she ha+ ta2en her fate into her o*n han+s. an+ no* there *as no turning 4a,2/ (olly Anstey ha+ ,onta,te+ Eri,a $an+eleur on the telephone that same evening. an+ the *heels *ere set in motion/ Eri,a $an+eleur ha+ mentione+ a tentative figure as salary *hi,h *as suffi,iently alluring. an+ it *as finally +e,i+e+ that 'isa *oul+ +rive herself up to Beaufort West on the (on+ay of the follo*ing *ee2/ Celia (oreau ha+ not 4een too happy a4out this arrangement. 4ut eventually agree+ to it *hen 'isa promise+ faithfully that she *oul+ ta2e the 3ourney in easy stages/ The +ays seeme+ to fly past *ith an in,re+i4le s*iftness. an+ it *as on a misty (on+ay morning that 'isa foun+ herself 4i++ing her mother fare*ell an+ +riving in an easterly +ire,tion to*ar+s Beaufort West/ There *as a lump in her throat *hen she left Cape To*n 4ehin+ her. 4ut her interest in her surroun+ings -ui,2ene+ *hen she negotiate+ the 4en+s in the roa+ through the fruit an+ *ine<pro+u,ing valleys/ #t *as a ne* e;perien,e for her. travelling along this route. an+ *hen the sun +isperse+ *ith

the mist ,lou+s she stoppe+ often to ease her a,hing hip. or to a+mire the spe,ta,ular s,enery/ At Paarl she glimpse+ the 6W$ *ine ,ellars. repute+ to 4e the largest in the *orl+. an+ then the s,eni, +rive 4egan along the :u Toits2loof Pass to Wor,ester an+ 4eyon+/ The mountains to*ere+ to the left an+ right of her as her small re+ !iat finally gathere+ spee+ +o*n into the pi,tures-ue He; River $alley *here the Barlin2a vines *ere sprouting ne* young leaves an+ shoots in preparation for the ,oming season/ 'isa stoppe+ at a vantage point to a+mire the vineyar+s an+ the homestea+s 4uilt in the ol+ Cape :ut,h style/ Her han+ a4sently massage+ her hip an+ thigh. 4ut the 4reathta2ing vie* ma+e up in every *ay for the pain she *as suffering at that moment/ #t *as too soon. perhaps. to have attempte+ su,h a long 3ourney. she realise+. 4ut she 4rushe+ asi+e the thought as she leane+ against her ,ar an+ ease+ her *eight off her leg/ She raise+ her han+ to sha+e her eyes from the sun. an+ her glan,e +*elle+ on the 4eauty of the lush green valley sprea+ out 4efore her *here spring ha+ alrea+y inva+e+ the vineyar+s/ She ha+ almost three hun+re+ 2ilometres still to travel 4efore she rea,he+ her +estination. 4ut she 2ne* that the s,enery *oul+ ,hange almost +rasti,ally the moment she left the valley. so she lingere+ for almost half an hour 4efore easing herself relu,tantly into the ,ar an+ +riving further/ The 6aroo *as as hot an+ +usty as she ha+ visualise+ it. *ith its sparse vegetation an+ s,anty soil an+. +espite the +is,omfort of her a,hing hip. she +rove through (at3iesfontein *ithout stopping. glimpsing only 4riefly the $i,torian houses *ith the original lamp<posts still lining the streets/ !lags *ere flying from the masts of the elegantly restore+ hotel. 4ut 'isa put her foot +o*n on the a,,elerator an+ +rove on to 'ains4urg 4efore stopping to fill up *ith petrol. an+ to snat,h a light lun,h at a ,afe/ #t *as hot an+ +ry in this semi<+esert ,ountry. an+ she 4egan to long for a ,ool. refreshing 4ath an+ a ,hange of ,lothing/ Her 4louse *as ,linging to her 4a,2. an+ her ,ot<ton s2irt no longer loo2e+ as fresh as it ha+ *hen she left Cape To*n after 4rea2fast that morning/ She ha+ at least another t*o hours8 travelling ahea+ of her. an+ the ,loser she ,ame to her +estination. the more apprehensive she 4e,ame/ Woul+ the ,hil+ren a,,ept her0 Woul+ she 4e a4le to ,ope0 A tri,2le of perspiration ran +o*n her spine. an+ she shu++ere+ as she ,lim4e+ 4a,2 into her ,ar an+ resume+ her 3ourney into the heart of the sheep farming ,ountry/ The sun 4eat +o*n mer,ilessly on to the +ry earth. an+ the roa+ lay ahea+ of her. shimmering in the heat. an+ seemingly en+less/

A pe,uliar *hiteness ha+ settle+ a4out 'isa8s mouth *hen Beaufort West loome+ up ahea+ of her t*o hours later/ With its streets line+ *ith pear trees an+ its green gar+ens an+ playing fiel+s. it seeme+ li2e an oasis in this +esert<li2e area. 4ut pain marre+ her appre,iation an+. ,len,hing her teeth. she par2e+ her ,ar 4eneath a sha+y pear tree at the si+e of the roa+/ Bea+s of perspiration stoo+ out on her forehea+ as she s*allo*e+ +o*n a ,apsule for the pain *ith the remain+er of the *ater she ha+ in her flas2 an+. easing herself gingerly out of the +river8s seat. she leane+ *ea2ly against the ,ar for a fe* se,on+s 4efore stu+ying the +ire,tions she ha+ s,ri44le+ +o*n so hastily/ #t all seeme+ perfe,tly simple. she +e,i+e+ eventually an+. +ropping the small s,rap of paper into her han+4ag. she ,lim4e+ 4a,2 into her ,ar an+ +rove a little further to the servi,e station/ While the petrol pump atten+ant sa* to the nee+s of her ,ar. 'isa sponge+ her fa,e in the ,loa2room an+ trie+ to restore some or+er to her appearan,e/ The ,apsule *as ta2ing effe,t. an+ the pain *as easing in her hip. 4ut the *hiteness a4out her mouth. an+ the faint sha+o*s 4eneath her eyes lingere+ as a remin+er/ With the ,areful use of a po*+er 4ase she manage+ to ,on,eal most of the +amage. 4ut the tightness a4out her usually soft mouth remaine+ an+. sighing tire+ly. she snappe+ her 4ag shut an+ *ent out into the hot afternoon sunshine/ !rom a pu4li, telephone at the lo,al post offi,e. 'isa telephone+ her mother to assure her of her safety an+. promising to *rite as soon as she ,oul+. she ,ontinue+ on the last lap of her 3ourney/ Ten minutes later. ho*ever. she *as totally ,onfuse+. an+ on,e again stu+ying the +ire,tions her aunt ha+ given her/ She ha+ ta2en the *rong turning someho*. an+ ha+ gone in a ,omplete ,ir,le to fin+ herself 4a,2 *here she ha+ starte+ originally on the outs2irts of the to*n/ 8Where on earth +i+ # go *rong08 she as2e+ herself lou+ly. 4ut her voi,e *as +ro*ne+ 4y the soun+ of a small tru,2 ,run,hing to an a4rupt halt on the opposite si+e of the roa+. an+ out of the ,lou+ of +ust a man appeare+ at her si+e/ He *as a farmer. 3u+ging 4y the +usty grey pants an+ 2ha2i shirt he *ore. an+ the *eather4eaten fa,e *as lo*ere+ in line *ith her ,ar *in+o*/ 8Having trou4le08 he as2e+. pushing his sha44y hat further 4a,2 on to his grey hea+ as he peere+ into her fa,e intently an+ sear,hingly/ 'isa *as in the pro,ess of shrin2ing from him *hen she realise+ that the s,arre+ si+e of her fa,e *as turne+ a*ay from him/ 8#8m afrai+ #8m a little lost.8 she e;plaine+. +eri+ing herself no* for her sensitivity ,on,erning her appearan,e/ 8Coul+ you +ire,t me to the $an+eleur farm. please08 8$an+eleur08 &rey eyes *i+ene+ per,epti4ly/ 8You mean A+am $an+eleur08 8That8s his name. # 4elieve.8 'isa remar2e+ a little +ryly. hol+ing the glan,e of the el+erly man. *ho seeme+ to re,over his astonishment s*iftly/ 8You must 4e the young la+y *ho8s ,ome to loo2 after 5a,-ues $an+eleur8s ,hil+ren/8 8That8s right/8 8Well. # never18 the man e;,laime+ softly. lifting his hat to s,rat,h his grey hea+ thoughtfully/ 8The $an+eleur farm.8 'isa pro++e+ gently. impatient no* to rea,h the en+ of her agonising 3ourney/ 8Coul+ you +ire,t me. please08 8Oh. sure.8 he sai+ apologeti,ally. thrusting his hat 4a,2 on to his hea+ to sha+e his eyes against the sun/ 8Carry on *ith this roa+ until it for2s into t*o/ Ta2e the roa+ to the left. an+ a4out t*elve 2ilometres further you8ll see the signpost *ith A+am8s name printe+ on it/ #t8ll 4e on your left/ !airvie* is the name of the farm. an+ you ,an8t miss it/8

8Than2 you very mu,h.8 'isa smile+ up at him. starting the ,ar an+ pushing the gear lever into position/ 8#t *as a pleasure. miss/8 He raise+ his hat politely/ 8An+ goo+ lu,2/8 'isa fro*ne+ as she negotiate+ the uneven roa+. an+ a ne* uneasiness too2 possession of her as she re,alle+ the man8s parting *or+s/ &oo+ lu,2/ Woul+ she 4e nee+ing lu,2 as an employee of A+am $an+eleur an+ his mother. or ha+ the remar2 merely 4een a figure of spee,h0 At the for2 in the roa+ *here she ha+ originally ta2en the *rong turning. 'isa shrugge+ off her apprehensiveness. an+ t*elve 2ilometres further. as the helpful farmer ha+ informe+ her. she en,ountere+ the signpost in+i,ating the turn<off to !airvie*/ 8This is it18 she tol+ herself an+. turning the nose of her +usty !iat to*ar+s the +ire,tion in+i,ate+. she +rove as ,arefully as possi4le along the 4umpy farm tra,2 to*ar+s the house *hi,h *as 4arely visi4le 4eyon+ the ro* of poplar an+ gum trees/ The t*o<storie+ homestea+ *ith its trellise+ veran+ah *as far remove+ from the primitive farmhouse 'isa ha+ e;pe,te+. an+ the *oman *ho ,ame out of the house to *el,ome her *as not at all as 'isa ha+ visualise+ Eri,a $an+eleur/ Tall an+ frail<loo2ing. she *as a *oman *hose age 'isa 3u+ge+ to 4e *ell into the si;ties. 4ut there *as a ,ertain elegan,e a4out her *hi,h 'isa ha+ not e;pe,te+ from a *oman *ho ha+ live+ nearly all her life on a farm/ Eri,a $an+eleur ,ame s*iftly +o*n the steps as 'isa steppe+ ,arefully out of the ,ar. an+ she *in,e+ in*ar+ly *hen she transferre+ her *eight on to her left foot an+ felt that familiar sharp pain shoot from her hip into her thigh/ &rey<green eyes s*ept 'isa from hea+ to foot. ta2ing in the greyness of her pallor an+ the *ay her 2nu,2les *hitene+ on the ,arve+ han+le of her *al2ing<sti,2. then the ol+er *oman 4anishe+ 'isa8s initial nervousness 4y ta2ing ,omplete ,harge of the situation/ 8&oo+ heavens. ,hil+. you must 4e e;hauste+/ :aisy18 She ,lappe+ her han+s an+ a Coloure+ *oman appeare+ as if she ha+ 4een *aiting e;pli,itly for that ,all/ 8Ta2e (iss (oreau8s suit,ases up to her room. an+ tell Petrus to par2 her ,ar in one of the va,ant garages/8 She turne+ then an+ grippe+ 'isa8s free arm. giving her a++e+ support as if it *as the most natural thing on earth/ 8Come in out of this heat. an+9 Oh. +ear1 #8m afrai+ in all the e;,itement # forgot to intro+u,e myself/8 A *arm. frien+ly smile flashe+ a,ross the thin. *rin2le+ fa,e/ 8#8m Eri,a $an+eleur/8 Without *aiting for her intro+u,tion to 4e a,2no*le+ge+. she ushere+ 'isa into the large. ,ool entran,e hall *ith its gleaming yello*<*oo+ floors. stin2*oo+ ,hests. an+ mirrore+ hat< stan+/ 8# suppose you8+ *el,ome a *ash an+ a ,hange *hile # or+er a fresh pot of tea08 8That *oul+ 4e lovely. than2 you.8 'isa a+mitte+ a little 4reathlessly. glan,ing ruefully at her +usty ,rumple+ appearan,e/ 8:aisy. sho* (iss (oreau up to her room.8 Eri,a $an+eleur instru,te+ the Coloure+ *oman *hen she entere+ the house *ith 'isa8s luggage. then she glan,e+ almost apologeti,ally at 'isa/ 8#8ve put you in a room upstairs/ # hope the stairs *on8t 4e too in,onvenient for you08 8#8ll manage perfe,tly. than2 you.8 'isa assure+ her a little stiffly. not -uite sure *hether she approve+ of the *oman8s pointe+ referen,e to her +isa4ility. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur *as alrea+y ma2ing her *ay a,ross the hall to the 4a,2 of the house/ 8Come +o*n to the living<room as soon as you8re rea+y. my +ear.8 she sai+ over her shoul+er/ 'isa no++e+ an+ follo*e+ :aisy upstairs. ma2ing use of the ,arve+. ol+<fashione+ 4alustra+e an+ her *al2ing<sti,2 for the ne,essary support. an+ than2ful that Eri,a $an+eleur ha+ not remaine+ in the hall to *itness her ungainly as,ension to the upper floor/ The 4e+room *hi,h ha+ 4een prepare+ for 'isa *as large an+ sunny/ She ha+ her o*n private 4athroom *hi,h *as tile+ an+ reasona4ly mo+ern. an+ the fringe+ 4e+si+e lamps on either si+e of the 4ig +ou4le 4e+ *ith its 4rass ,anopy ma+e her realise that the $an+eleurs o4viously generate+ their o*n ele,tri,ity/

8Shall # unpa,2 for the ma+am08 :aisy offere+ politely. her *at,hful 4ro*n eyes o4serving 'isa sympatheti,ally as she limpe+ to*ar+s the *in+o*/ 'isa. una*are of the sympathy she ha+ evo2e+. turne+ from her hasty surveillan,e of the *ell<2ept gar+en *ith its ,ir,ular +rive*ay. an+ smile+ at the Coloure+ *oman hovering respe,tfully at the foot of the 4e+ *here she ha+ +eposite+ 'isa8s suit,ases/ 8That *on8t 4e ne,essary. than2 you/8 :aisy no++e+ an+ flashe+ a smile at 'isa/ 8Any time the ma+am may nee+ anything. the ma+am may 3ust ,all me/8 'isa than2e+ her. impatient no* to have a fe* moments alone in the room she *as to o,,upy for the ne;t fe* months. an+. as the +oor ,lose+ 4ehin+ :aisy. she glan,e+ a4out her appre,iatively. ta2ing in the 6iaat +ressing<ta4le *ith the mat,hing *ar+ro4e. the small *riting +es2 *ith an upright *oo+en ,hair pushe+ neatly un+erneath it. an+ the large pa++e+ arm,hair in the ,orner 4esi+e the 4e+/ An olive<green ,arpet ,overe+ the entire floor spa,e. an+ the lemon< ,oloure+ ,urtains mat,he+ the -uilte+ 4e+sprea+/ #t *as a pleasing room. 'isa +e,i+e+ as she lifte+ one of her suit,ases on to the 4e+ an+ sear,he+ for a ,lean 4louse an+ s2irt/ #f (rs $an+eleur *as e;pe,ting her +o*nstairs for tea. then there *oul+ not 4e time for more than a -ui,2 *ash an+ a ,hange of ,lothing. she realise+ ruefully/ The 4ath she longe+ for *oul+ 3ust have to *ait/ When she venture+ +o*nstairs some minutes later. she felt reasona4ly refreshe+ an+. after glan,ing a4out her a little un,ertainly. she *al2e+ slo*ly to*ar+s the +oor that stoo+ invitingly open a,ross the hall/ Eri,a $an+eleur *as seate+ on a stin2*oo+ 4en,h *ith pa++e+ ,ushions of *ine<re+ velvet. an+ on the lo* ta4le in front of her a tray of tea stoo+ *aiting/ She in+i,ate+ that 'isa shoul+ sit +o*n 4esi+e her. an+ poure+ the tea at on,e/ 8You must 4e e;tremely tire+ after your long 3ourney.8 she remar2e+. offering 'isa the plate of small. fla2y 3am tarts/ 8#8m a little stiff. yes.8 'isa a+mitte+. yiel+ing to the temptation an+ helping herself to one of the tarts/ 8# stoppe+ several times along the *ay. an+ also for tea an+ lun,h. *hi,h gave me a fe* minutes to stret,h my legs 4efore going on/8 8Tell me. ho* is +ear (olly08 (rs $an+eleur -uestione+ in her *arm. ,ulture+ voi,e/ 8Still trying to manipulate the lives of others in the ni,est. 2in+est *ay.8 'isa smile+ faintly/ 8She sen+s her love/8 8# ,an remem4er so *ell *hen she *as still at university *ith my nie,e Peggy.8 (rs $an+eleur 4egan reminis,ently/ 8(olly an+ Peggy spent a num4er of their holi+ays on the farm *ith us. an+ (olly *as su,h a viva,ious ,reature. # remem4er/ After gra+uating she marrie+ 'u2e Anstey *ho *as ,hief pilot for a ,hartere+ airline ,ompany in the Cape. an+ he +ie+ so tragi,ally a fe* years later/8 Eri,a $an+eleur8s grey<green eyes ,lou+e+. possi4ly *ith the memory of her o*n. an+ very re,ent grief/ 8#8m surprise+ (olly never marrie+ again/8 8Aunt (olly maintains that those five years of marriage *ere the most i+ylli, any *oman ,oul+ have *ishe+ for. an+ no one else ,oul+ ever ta2e the pla,e of the man *ho8+ ma+e them so/8 8#t8s su,h a pity/8 Eri,a $an+eleur seeme+ to 4e spea2ing to herself/ 8:eath is al*ays so +rea+fully final. an+ for those *ho remain 4ehin+ life never seems to 4e the same again/8 8#8m sorry.8 'isa murmure+ ina+e-uately. her o*n thoughts returning to that +rea+ful morning *hen her frien+ San+y ha+ 4een laughing an+ tal2ing e;,ite+ly a4out the ,oming holi+ays. only to have the life ,rushe+ out of her a fe* minutes later/ The perspiration stoo+ out on 'isa8s forehea+ at the memory of it. an+ she shoo2 herself free of her thoughts *ith a visi4le effort/ 8Where are the ,hil+ren08 she as2e+/ 85osh an+ 6ate08 The ol+er *oman ,ame out of her reverie an+ gesture+ vaguely/ 8Oh. goo+ heavens. they must 4e some*here a4out the pla,e/ #8m afrai+ they8ve 4e,ome a little *il+ over

the past months/ # fin+ it impossi4le trying to 2eep up *ith them. an+ A+am7that8s my son7has never ha+ mu,h patien,e *ith ,hil+ren/ At thirty<eight he8s still a 4a,helor. an+ 4a,helors +on8t al*ays ta2e 2in+ly to having their *ell<or+ere+ e;isten,e +isrupte+ 4y t*o ro*+y. energeti, ,hil+ren. 4ut. in his o*n *ay. # have no +ou4t that he is fon+ of them/8 They finishe+ their tea in silen,e an+ 'isa ha+ the opportunity to loo2 a4out her/ The furnishings *ere ol+. 4ut soli+. an+ the ,ream<,oloure+ ,arpet a++e+ a tou,h of 4rightness to the living<room *ith its *ine<re+ ,urtains an+ upholstere+ ,hairs/ 'an+s,ape paintings a+orne+ the *alls. an+ a4ove the stone firepla,e hung t*o lethal<loo2ing sa4res. their han+les intri,ately ,arve+. an+ their ,urve+ 4la+es ,rosse+ an+ pointing to*ar+s the ,eiling/ 8(y late hus4an+ travelle+ e;tensively 4efore our marriage.8 (rs $an+eleur e;plaine+ *hen she follo*e+ the +ire,tion of 'isa8s intereste+ glan,e/ 8Those s*or+s *ere 4rought from #n+ia many years ago/8 'isa met the ol+er *oman8s +ire,t s,rutiny. an+ stiffene+. her fingers going self<,ons,iously an+ prote,tively to*ar+s the s,ar on the si+e of her 3a*. 4ut there *as no sign of revulsion in those grey<green eyes/ 8# 2no* a4out your unfortunate a,,i+ent.8 Eri,a $an+eleur e;plaine+ *ith a *armth an+ gentleness that tou,he+ 'isa +eeply an+ set her at her ease/ 8# haven8t tol+ anyone. not even A+am. an+ the su43e,t shan8t 4e mentione+ unless you *ish to +o so/ We nee+ your help. 'isa.8 she a++e+. using 'isa8s name *ith natural ease. 8an+ # *oul+ li2e to thin2 *e ,an help to restore you in some *ay to your former self/8 'isa8s eyes fille+ *ith tears an+ she loo2e+ a*ay hastily/ 8You8re very 2in+. (rs $an+eleur/8 The soun+ of raise+ ,hil+ren8s voi,es shattere+ the ensuing silen,e. an+ t*o +ishevelle+. mu++y little figures stampe+e+ their *ay into the living<room. only to ,ome to an a4rupt halt *hen they noti,e+ 'isa/ Eri,a $an+eleur stifle+ an e;,lamation of horror/ 8:on8t ,ome any ,loser18 she *arne+ -ui,2ly/ 8You8ll leave footprints on the ,arpet1 # suggest you 4oth go upstairs an+ ,lean yourselves up a 4it 4efore you ,ome +o*n again so # ,an intro+u,e you properly to (iss (oreau/8 8Oh. &ran. *hy ,an8t you in7in7*hy ,an8t *e meet her no*08 grum4le+ one of the +irty< fa,e+ imps/ 8Be,ause you8re so +irty at the moment it8s +iffi,ult to see *ho8s *ho.8 their gran+mother state+ firmly/ 8&o upstairs at on,e an+ +o as # say/8 The t*o ,hil+ren o4eye+ relu,tantly. 4ut they ,oul+ 4e hear+ ,omplaining 4itterly as they ma+e their *ay up to their room. an+ 'isa stifle+ a smile as the ol+er *oman glan,e+ at her e;asperate+ly/ 8# +on8t envy you your tas2.8 she state+ 4lan+ly/ 8#f you8re ever in nee+ of assistan,e. you ,oul+ al*ays ,all in A+am8s help/ They have a healthy respe,t for him. if nothing else/8 The ,hil+ren returne+ to the living<room some minutes later *ith their fa,es an+ han+s s,ru44e+ reasona4ly ,lean. an+ although their ,lothes still +isplaye+ the ravages of their mu++y game. they ha+ ta2en the trou4le to e;,hange their +irty 4oots for ,lean san+als/ :ar2<haire+ an+ +ar2<eye+. the t*ins *aite+ 3ust insi+e the living<room +oor for their gran+mother8s no+ of approval 4efore they< venture+ further into the room. an+ 'isa 2ne* herself to 4e stare+ at *ith avi+ interest/ 8'isa. # *oul+ li2e you to meet my gran+,hil+ren.8 Eri,a $an+eleur smile+/ 85osh an+ 6ate. this is (iss (oreau. the young la+y # tol+ you a4out/8 Tanne+ an+ stur+ily 4uilt. they fa,e+ 'isa. an+ she felt herself gro* tense as their eyes sear,he+ the hollo*s an+ planes of her fa,e *ith its livi+ s,ar/ She *aite+ for *hat she ha+ feare+ most. 4ut their ,hil+ish little fa,es never registere+ anything other than ,uriosity. an+ her relief *as su++enly so great that she felt ,ho2e+ an+ sha2y/

8Are you going to loo2 after us08 5osh +eman+e+ *hile his sister loo2e+ on shyly/ 8#f you8ll let me. yes/8 8Can you play mar4les08 #t *as a -uestion of some importan,e. 'isa realise+. an+ meeting the little 4oy8s unfaltering gaKe she replie+. 8Yes. # thin2 so/8 8That8s all right. then.8 he sai+. an+ the matter *as o4viously settle+ as far as 5osh *as ,on,erne+/ #gnoring 'isa no*. he turne+ to his gran+mother/ 8Can *e go an+ play again08 8#f you play in your room. yes.8 their gran+mother replie+ firmly/ 8#t8s nearly time for your 4ath. an+ then it8s supper an+ 4e+ for you t*o/8 8Oh. &ran18 they ,horusse+ +isappointe+ly. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur remaine+ a+amant/ 8 o arguments. please/ You 4oth 2no* the rules lai+ +o*n 4y your "n,le A+am/8 8But "n,le A+am *on8t 4e home until late this evening.8 5osh proteste+ lou+ly/ 8That ma2es no +ifferen,e/8 5osh s,o*le+ +ar2ly/ 8Oh. +ash it18 85oshua18 8Sorry. &ran.8 he muttere+ hastily. tugging at the s2irt of his sister8s +ress/ 8Come along. 6ate/8 8#f you *oul+ li2e to go up to your room to settle yourself in. then please feel free.8 (rs $an+eleur suggeste+ the moment they *ere alone/ 8The ,hil+ren are in the room ne;t to yours. an+ #8+ 4e grateful if you8+ see to it that they 4ath at five o8,lo,2 an+ put on their py3amas 4efore ,oming +o*n to the 2it,hen for their supper/ They have all their other meals *ith us in the +ining<room. 4ut A+am sel+om *ants to eat 4efore seven in the evenings. an+ 4y that time the ,hil+ren are restless an+ tire+/8 She pause+ for a moment 4efore a++ingM 8You *ill. of ,ourse. have all your meals *ith us in the +ining<room/8 8# *oul+n8t min+ eating *ith the ,hil+ren in the evenings.8 'isa sai+ hastily. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur *oul+ not hear of it/ 8A+am *ill naturally *ant to spea2 to you personally. 4ut as he isn8t here this evening he8ll most pro4a4ly see you first thing tomorro* morning/8 8Than2 you.8 'isa murmure+. rising to her feet/ 8An+ 'isa.8 the ol+er *oman smile+ up at her. 8+inner in the evenings is informal/ A+am prefers it that *ay/8 "pstairs in her room a fe* minutes later. 'isa unpa,2e+ her suit,ases an+ trie+ to -uell the nervousness that *as *elling up insi+e her/ !or some ine;pli,a4le reason the thought of meeting A+am $an+eleur +istur4e+ her/ :espite the *arm *el,ome Eri,a $an+eleur ha+ given her. it *as A+am *ho *oul+ 4e her employer. an+ she someho* ha+ the feeling that he *as not going to 4e so easy to please/ 5osh an+ 6ate share+ a room similar to her o*n. 'isa +is,overe+ later. e;,ept that it *as furnishe+ entirely in *hite. *ith a 4lue ,arpet on the floor. an+ 4lue floral ,urtains at the *in+o*/ A se,tion of the large room ha+ 4een partitione+ off as a play area. an+ neither of the ,hil+ren loo2e+ too happy *hen 'isa interrupte+ their pillo* fight to announ,e that it *as time for their 4ath/ 6ate *as the first to relent an+. in the a+3oining 4athroom. she allo*e+ 'isa to help her 4ath/ When 'isa eventually *rappe+ a to*el aroun+ her pin2. glo*ing little 4o+y. she +is,overe+ that 5osh *as an entirely +ifferent proposition *hen it ,ame to having her assist him in any *ay/ He strippe+ off his ,lothes an+ ,lim4e+ into the 4ath. 4ut *hen 'isa approa,he+ him. he announ,e+ *ith a ,ertain haughtinessM 8# ,an 4ath myself/8 8Of ,ourse.8 'isa replie+ ta,tfully. turning to*ar+s the +oor. 4ut as her han+ tou,he+ the han+le. he +emurre+/

8You ,an *ash my 4a,2. if you li2e.8 he suggeste+. an+ 'isa hastily hi+ her smile of amusement as she sat +o*n on the e+ge of the 4ath an+ soape+ his 4a,2 thoroughly/ This *as 5osh8s *ay of in+i,ating that he a,,epte+ her. an+ 'isa a,2no*le+ge+ this *ith the solemnity it +eserve+/ 'ater. as she sear,he+ for their ,lean py3amas an+ helpe+ them +ress. 5osh -uestione+ her in that +ire,t manner of his/ 8Have you al*ays *al2e+ li2e that08 he +eman+e+ as she limpe+ to*ar+s him an+ han+e+ him his py3ama 3a,2et/ She met his ,an+i+ +ar2 gaKe. an+. fin+ing nothing there 4ut the ,asual interest of a ,hil+. her nervousness an+ relu,tan,e to +is,uss herself evaporate+/ 8 o9 not al*ays.8 she a+mitte+. seating herself on the 4e+ an+ assisting him *ith the 4uttons/ 8:i+ you have an a,,i+ent08 5osh persiste+/ 8Yes/8 There *as a straine+ little silen,e as if 4oth ,hil+ren *ere re,alling the a,,i+ent *hi,h ha+ ro44e+ them of 4oth their parents. then 6ate sat +o*n 4esi+e 'isa an+ shyly tou,he+ her ,hee2. her small fingers e;ploring the long s,ar/ 'isa felt herself gro* tense as she stare+ +o*n at the ,hil+. 4ut she +i+ not repulse her/ 8You8re very pretty.8 6ate sai+ eventually. an+ the une;pe,te+ ,ompliment from a ,hil+ she har+ly 2ne* seeme+ to *ash a*ay some of the ,ol+ness an+ 4itterness of the past months/ 8Than2 you. 6ate.8 'isa sai+ unstea+ily. hugging the ,hil+ impulsively/ 8:i+ it hurt mu,h08 5osh *ante+ to 2no*. gesturing to*ar+s the s,ar/ 8Yes/ Physi,ally as *ell as mentally.8 she ,oul+ have replie+. 4ut 5osh *oul+ not have un+erstoo+. so she sai+ instea+ M 8#t +i+ hurt -uite a 4it. yes/8 8Are you a tea,her08 5osh ,hange+ the su43e,t as if her appearan,e no longer ,on,erne+ him/ 8Yes. # am/8 8We8re going to s,hool ne;t term.8 6ate state+ importantly/ 8So # 4elieve.8 'isa smile+ at her/ 8Are tea,hers very ,ross al*ays08 6ate -uestione+ her *ith a fli,2er of an;iety in her eyes/ 8 ot al*ays/8 8Are you08 8Only *hen the ,hil+ren give me reason to 4e.8 'isa smile+. pi,2ing up the 4rush an+ 4rushing 6ate8s +ar2 hair until it ,urle+ softly into her ne,2/ 8"n,le A+am8s al*ays ,ross. an+ he isn8t even a tea,her.8 5osh announ,e+ *ith a s,o*l. an+ 'isa su++enly re,alle+ Eri,a $an+eleur8s statement that the ,hil+ren ha+ a healthy respe,t for their un,le. if nothing else/ #f nothing else/ Surely the fa,t that 5osh an+ 6ate *ere his late 4rother8s ,hil+ren *oul+ have forge+ a 4on+ 4et*een them0 Certainly it *as a goo+ thing for the ,hil+ren to respe,t their un,le an+ guar+ian. 4ut that *as not enough/ Chil+ren nee+e+ to love an+ 4e love+. 4ut 5osh8s remar2 ma+e 'isa *on+er *hether they *ere re,eiving the love an+ ,are they nee+e+ from the man *ho ha+ ta2en the pla,e of their father/ 8Perhaps it8s 3ust that your un,le is 4usy an+ has other things on his min+.8 'isa foun+ herself ma2ing e;,uses for a man she ha+ never met. an+ *ho *as 4eginning to assume a formi+a4le an+ frightening shape/ 8:o you thin2 so08 5osh *ante+ to 2no* *ith +is4elief an+ eager a,,eptan,e fighting for suprema,y on his small features/ 8#8m only guessing.8 'isa prevari,ate+ hastily/ 8# haven8t met your un,le yet/8 8You8ll meet him tomorro*.8 5osh sai+ +ully. the light of hope +ying in his eyes/

8Yes.8 'isa murmure+ *ith a feeling of trepi+ation/ 8Tomorro*/8 #n the spa,ious an+ mo+ernise+ 2it,hen. un+er the ,urious surveillan,e of the servants. 'isa sa* to it that the ,hil+ren ate their supper an+ +ran2 their mil2 4efore she too2 them up to their room an+ tu,2e+ them in for the night/ On the small ,up4oar+ 4et*een their 4e+s stoo+ a frame+ photograph of a man an+ a *oman. an+ 'isa 2ne* at on,e that it *as a photograph of the ,hil+ren8s parents/ 5osh an+ 6ate ha+ inherite+ their ,olouring from 4oth their mother an+ their father. 'isa realise+. 4ut it *as 5a,-ues $an+eleur8s fa,e that intereste+ her the most/ #t *as a frien+ly. laughing fa,e. rugge+ly han+some an+ youthful/ #f the ,hil+ren8s un,le *as anything li2e his younger 4rother. then she ha+ nothing to fear. she thought. 4ut she *as perhaps hoping for too mu,h/ Suppressing a sigh. she s*it,he+ off the light an+ left the ,hil+ren8s room/ With more than a half hour to spare 4efore she *as to 3oin Eri,a $an+eleur in the +ining<room for +inner. 'isa soa2e+ her *eary 4o+y in a hot. s,ente+ 4ath an+ haule+ out a 4lue sil2 +ress *hi,h *as ,ool an+ not too +e,orative/ After hurrie+ly applying her ma2e<up an+ 4rushing her hair to a gol+en sheen. she *ent +o*nstairs. 4ut. as there *as no sign as yet of (rs $an+eleur. she *ent out on to the long veran+ah/ She ha+ hear+ of the spe,ta,ular sunsets in the 6aroo. 4ut the sight that met her eyes surpasse+ her *il+est imagination. an+ she ,oul+ not prevent the e;,lamation of +elight that passe+ her lips/ The sun. a re+ 4all of fire in the *est. ,ast a gol+en hue over the earth. 4ringing this partially 4arren ,ountry to life in a 4reathta2ing *ay. an+ transforming it into a mysterious an+ magi,al para+ise/ The +ry. +usty earth no* loo2e+ fertile an+ ri,h. an+ a silen,e +es,en+e+ on the vel+ *hi,h *as +istur4e+ only 4y the o,,asional 4leating of the sheep/ There *as an un+enia4le aura of pea,e an+ tran-uillity in the air. an+ as she ,lut,he+ at the *oo+en rail an+ +re* the fresh. spi,y air +eep into her lungs. she felt the tensions of the +ay falling a*ay from her/ She *as su++enly in,re+i4ly gla+ that she ha+ allo*e+ herself to 4e persua+e+ into ,oming to this seemingly +esolate part of the ,ountry/

'isa a*o2e the follo*ing morning to the +istin,t soun+ of a +og 4ar2ing 4eneath her *in+o*. an+ for a moment she stare+ a4out her ,onfuse+ly 4efore she realise+ *here she *as/ #t *as an unusual e;perien,e for her to 4e a*a2ene+ 4y the 4ar2ing of a +og an+ the 4leating of sheep instea+ of the roar of the ,ity traffi,. an+ she lay for a moment. a,-uainting herself *ith her surroun+ings. until the thought of her impen+ing meeting *ith A+am $an+eleur sent her s,ram4ling out of 4e+/ She opene+ her *in+o* *i+e to let in the freshness of the tangy early morning air. pausing for a moment to a+mire the +e*<+ren,he+ gar+en spar2ling in the slanting rays of the rising sun. 4ut there *as no time to linger in front of the *in+o* as she *oul+ have li2e+ to +o. an+ she hurrie+ through to the 4athroom/ 'isa +resse+ herself *ith a++e+ ,are that morning. an+ too2 even greater ,are *ith her ma2e< up in an effort to ,amouflage slightly the livi+ s,ar on her fa,e/ Her neat ,ream s2irt *as of a non<,rusha4le material. an+ her ,risp *hite 4louse ha+ *ithstoo+ the 3ourney *ell in the overfull suit,ase/ Her hair ha+ a healthy sheen to it after a vigorous 4rushing. an+ it *ave+ softly on to her shoul+ers/ There *as still a faintly 4ruise+ loo2 4eneath her eyes. 4ut she ha+ suffere+ no ill< effe,ts after the tiring 3ourney the +ay 4efore. an+ felt surprisingly refreshe+/ 5osh an+ 6ate *ere +resse+ an+ rea+y to a,,ompany her +o*nstairs *hen she loo2e+ in on them a fe* minutes later an+. as they ma+e their *ay +o*n to the +ining<room. 'isa steele+ herself for her meeting *ith their un,le. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur *as alone in the +ining<room/ 8A+am *ent out early this morning.8 she e;plaine+. -ui,2 to sum up 'isa8s nervous glan,e a4out the room *ith its long oa2 ta4le an+ tall +resser/ 8He8ll see you as soon as he returns/8 A feeling of momentary relief s*ept through 'isa. 4ut she 2ne* that the inevita4le *as only 4eing postpone+ as she helpe+ herself to a sli,e of home<ma+e 4rea+ an+ poure+ herself a ,up of aromati,ally 4re*e+ ,offee/ The ,hil+ren 4ehave+ e;,eptionally *ell at the ta4le. an+. 3u+ging 4y the *ay they ,onsume+ their porri+ge an+ eggs. they 4oth possesse+ healthy appetites/ Eri,a $an+eleur. +espite her firmness. o4viously a+ore+ her gran+,hil+ren/ #t *as there in the *ay she loo2e+ at them. an+ laughe+ *ith them over some amusing in,i+ent. an+ 'isa o4serve+ the eagerness to please in the t*o little fa,es that *ere so ali2e e;,ept for a su4tle +ifferen,e in the shape of their mouths an+ eyes/ After 4rea2fast 'isa too2 the ,hil+ren up to their room an+ 2ept them o,,upie+ *ith plasti,ine *hile she +re* up some sort of +aily roster. 4ut she ha+ not progresse+ very far *hen :aisy 2no,2e+ on the +oor an+ entere+ the room/ 8(aster A+am *oul+ li2e to see the ma+am in his stu+y.8 she announ,e+. an+ the loo2 that passe+ 4et*een the t*ins +i+ not e;a,tly +ispel 'isa8s an;iety/ #nstru,ting the ,hil+ren to ,ontinue *ith *hat they *ere +oing. 'isa follo*e+ :aisy from the room an+ +o*n the stairs into the hall/ :aisy8s 4u;om figure le+ the *ay +o*n a short passage lea+ing off the hall. an+ into a room *ith 4oo2s lining the shelves against the *alls. an+ silver trophies ,arelessly +isplaye+ a4ove the firepla,e/ The room *as empty. ho*ever. an+ 'isa glan,e+ -uestioningly at :aisy/ 'isa no++e+ an+ s*allo*e+ +o*n her nervousness *hen she finally foun+ herself alone/ She stare+ +o*n at the *i+e oa2 +es2 an+ felt li2e a young first year stu+ent *ho ha+ 4een ,alle+ to the :ean8s offi,e. instea+ of an a+ult *oman of t*enty<four *ith more than t*o years of tea,hing 4ehin+ her/ #t *as ri+i,ulous to feel so nervous. she tol+ herself. 4ut her eyes +arte+

apprehensively from the pile of farming magaKines on the ,orner of the +es2 to the pipe an+ to4a,,o pou,h lying on the green 4lotter/ They tol+ her nothing. e;,ept that her employer *as an avi+ rea+er an+ a pipe smo2er an+. raising her glan,e to the 4oo2s in the shelves. she sought her ans*er there. 4ut the soun+ of a step in the passage ma+e her turn s*iftly to*ar+s the +oor/ A 4ul2 of a man fille+ the +oor*ay. an+ 'isa8s startle+ glan,e *as ,apture+ 4y +ar2. penetrating eyes that ha+ a shattering effe,t on her nervous system/ There *as a *il+ fluttering in her throat li2e a ,age+ 4ir+ see2ing franti,ally for es,ape. an+ her 4reathing felt o++ly restri,te+ as she stare+ 4a,2 helplessly for *hat seeme+ li2e intermina4le se,on+s 4efore his eyes release+ her an+ allo*e+ her to 4reathe easier/ (assive<shoul+ere+ an+ slim<hippe+. A+am $an+eleur *as *ell over t*o metres tall. 4ut. +espite his enormous physi-ue. his movements *ere lithe. she noti,e+ as he *al2e+ roun+ to the other si+e of his +es2/ 8# apologise for 2eeping you *aiting. (iss (oreau.8 he sai+ in a voi,e that *as +eep. li2e the rum4le of +istant thun+er/ 8Please sit +o*n/8 'isa o4eye+. hoo2ing her *al2ing<sti,2 uno4trusively over the arm of her ,hair. an+ realising for the/ first time that her leg *as sha2ing/ She *aite+ in +iffi+ent silen,e *hile he seate+ himself in the pa++e+ s*ivel ,hair 4ehin+ his +es2 an+ pi,2e+ up a ,igarette ,ase/ 8:o you min+ if # smo2e08 he as2e+. an+ 'isa shoo2 her hea+. ta2ing the opportunity to o4serve him more ,losely *hile he too2 a ,igarette an+ lit it/ His short. ,risp 4la,2 hair *as greying at the temples. an+ the sun ha+ tanne+ his s2in to a +eep o,hre/ "nli2e his 4rother 5a,-ues. A+am *as rugge+ an+ not at all han+some. 'isa +e,i+e+ as her nervous glan,e sli+ over the 4roa+ forehea+. the high<4ri+ge+ nose that sho*e+ signs of having 4een 4ro2en at some stage. an+ the s-uare. resolute 3a* *ith the slight ,left in the ,hin/ There *as strength of ,hara,ter in the harsh lines of his fa,e. 4ut her pulses 4ehave+ errati,ally *hen her glan,e lingere+ 4riefly on the har+ mouth *ith the hint of sensuality in the *i+e lo*er lip/ A+am $an+eleur. ruthless an+ tough. *as a man of the vel+. she ,on,lu+e+ her o4servations. lo*ering her glan,e guiltily *hen she realise+ that she ha+ 4een ,aught staring/ 8You8re a tea,her. # 4elieve.8 he remar2e+. his +ar2 eyes narro*e+ as he o4serve+ her through a s,reen of smo2e/ 8# am a tea,her. yes/8 8What ma+e you resign your post to ta2e on a 3o4 of this nature08 he -uestione+. his eyes intent upon her fa,e an+ unnerving her so ,ompletely that she stammere+ foolishly/ 8# +<+i+n8t a,tually resign/ #7# o4taine+ leave of a4sen,e for a fe* months/8 8Why08 he rappe+ out the *or+ li2e a ,omman+/ 8#7# *as involve+ in an a,,i+ent/8 'isa felt. more than sa*. his eyes sli+ing over the prominent s,ar along the si+e of her 3a*. an+ she stiffene+ automati,ally. 4ut after that 4rief. ,ursory glan,e his e;pressionless eyes met hers again/ 8Was it a ,ar a,,i+ent08 8Yes/8 8You8ve o4viously re,overe+ suffi,iently from this9 a,,i+ent.8 he ,ontinue+. the slight pause in his voi,e pla,ing her instantly on her guar+/ 8# fail to see *hy you ,oul+n8t return to the *or2 you *ere traine+ for/8 8There7there *ere other reasons.8 'isa stammere+. raising her ,hin in a faint gesture of +efian,e. 4ut *hen he ,ontinue+ to stare at her as if e;pe,ting a +etaile+ e;planation. she a++e+ a4ruptlyM 8Personal reasons/8 A+am $an+eleur8s 4la,2 eye4ro*s rose fra,tionally as if her relu,tan,e to e;plain annoye+ him. then he stu44e+ out his ,igarette an+ rose to his feet. thrusting his thum4s into the 4roa+

leather 4elt that hugge+ his slim hips as he *al2e+ roun+ the +es2 to*ar+s her/ 8# gather my mother gave you some i+ea of *hat8s e;pe,te+ of you. 4ut there are a fe* things # *oul+ li2e to a++.8 he sai+ harshly as he *al2e+ a,ross to the *in+o* an+ stare+ out into the gar+en. giving 'isa an e;,ellent vie* of his 4roa+. formi+a4le 4a,2 an+ the long mus,ular legs ,la+ in tight<fitting 2ha2i pants/ 86eep the ,hil+ren out of the graKing ,amps. an+ +on8t allo* them to mess aroun+ *ith the farm ma,hinery/ The shearing she+ an+ the sta4les are for4i++en to them. an+ most of all98 He pause+. turning to fa,e her. an+ his +ar2 4ro*n eyes pinne+ her ruthlessly to her ,hair/ 86eep them out from un+er my feet/ #s that un+erstoo+08 8Yes. (r $an+eleur.8 'isa manage+ nervously/ 8 o*. a4out your salary/8 He mentione+ a sum that almost +ou4le+ the figure his mother ha+ -uote+ an+. misinterpreting her gasp of surprise. he as2e+ stonily. 8#s the amount not suffi,ient08 8 o. no1 #t8s far more than #8+ e;pe,te+.8 she hastene+ to ,orre,t him. shrin2ing in*ar+ly 4eneath those rapier sharp eyes that misse+ a4solutely nothing/ 8#8m -uite prepare+ to pay that amount. an+ more. to restore some of the original or+er to my home. (iss (oreau.8 that +eep voi,e rum4le+ on harshly. an+ a mo,2ing e;pression flashe+ a,ross his rugge+ fa,e as he o4serve+ her raise+ eye4ro*s/ 8:oes that sho,2 you08 8They8re your late 4rother8s ,hil+ren/8 8E;a,tly.8 he snappe+. ,oming to*ar+s her an+ for,ing her to ,rane her ne,2 to loo2 up at him/ 8!ate has thrust them into my ,are. an+ # shall 3ust have to ma2e the 4est of the situation/8 8You ,are a4out their happiness. +on8t you08 she -uestione+ him +aringly. 4ut her han+s ,len,he+ the arms of her ,hair so tightly that her fingers a,he+/ 8 aturally.8 he smile+ 4riefly. 4ut the smile never rea,he+ those har+ eyes/ 8They8ll get *hatever they might nee+. 3ust as long as they +on8t interfere in the or+erly e;isten,e #8ve ,reate+ for myself/8 8# see.8 'isa sai+ *ea2ly. an+ a +eep<seate+ fury un,urle+ itself *ithin her at the selfishness an+ ,allousness of this man/ There *as not an oun,e of sympathy an+ ,ompassion in A+am $an+eleur8s po*erful 4o+y for the t*o young ,hil+ren *ho ha+ 4een pla,e+ in his ,are. an+ she un+erstoo+ su++enly the *istful e;pression on 5osh an+ 6ate8s fa,es *hen they spo2e of their un,le an+ guar+ian/ 8# +on8t thin2 *e have anything further to +is,uss.8 A+am $an+eleur +ismisse+ her ,urtly. an+ 'isa rose from her ,hair. in a hurry no* to es,ape from this +istur4ing man/ 85ust a moment18 His voi,e. li2e a ,lap of thun+er. stoppe+ her as her han+ tou,he+ the 4rass +oorhan+le. an+ her nerves seeme+ to 3ar un,omforta4ly as she turne+ to fa,e him. realising at on,e the/ reason for her +etention *hen she sa* his eyes on the *al2ing<sti,2 she leane+ on/ 8Have you in3ure+ your an2le08 'isa *ent ,ol+ 4eneath his s,rutiny/ 8 o. it8s7it8s a hip in3ury # got in the a,,i+ent/8 Those +ar2 eyes ra2e+ her mer,ilessly no* from hea+ to foot/ 8This alters the position entirely/8. 8You7you mean as far as the 3o4 is ,on,erne+08 8# +o mean that. yes/8 'isa ,oul+ not remem4er ever 4eing stirre+ to su,h anger. an+ her eyes glittere+ ,ol+ly as they met his/ 8Be,ause # have a slight physi,al +isa4ility it +oesn8t mean that #8m mentally +efi,ient. (r $an+eleur/8 His mouth tightene+ per,epti4ly/ 8#8m not -uestioning your mental ,apa4ilities. (iss (oreau. 4ut # +ou4t *hether you8re physi,ally ,apa4le of han+ling the t*ins/ They are very lively for their age/8 8#8ll manage.8 she sai+ a4ruptly/ 8# very mu,h +ou4t it/8

8You ,oul+ at least give me the opportunity to prove myself.8 'isa sai+ a,,usingly. an+ the 4itterness an+ +isillusionment of the past months *as ,learly visi4le in the +eep 4lue eyes that met his so stea+ily. an+ in the tightness a4out her normally soft mouth/ 8# inten+ to give you that opportunity.8 A+am $an+eleur sai+ at length. his 4i,eps 4ulging an+ straining against the short sleeves of his shirt as he move+ the ,hair she ha+ va,ate+ out of his *ay an+ *al2e+ to*ar+s her/ 8You have a month/ (iss (oreau.8 he *arne+. to*ering a4ove her smallness so mena,ingly that she shran2 against the +oor/ 8#f. at the en+ of that month. you fin+ the physi,al strain too mu,h. or if #8m not satisfie+ *ith the *ay you8ve manage+. the t*ins. # shall have no ,ompun,tion in repla,ing you/8 8Than2 you.8 'isa murmure+. a tremor of fear rippling through her slight 4o+y/ 8:on8t than2 me. (iss (oreau.8 he mo,2e+ her/ 8After a month you may *ish you ha+n8t 4een so eager to prove yourself/8 He no++e+ a4ruptly/ 8You may go/8 Tears of 4itterness an+ anger fille+ her eyes an+. groping 4lin+ly for the 4rass +oor han+le. she turne+ it an+ *al2e+ as -ui,2ly as she ,oul+ from the stu+y/ A+am $an+eleur *as the most o43e,tiona4le man she ha+ ever met1 He ha+ shattere+ her sa+ly floun+ering ,onfi+en,e *ith a ,allousness that ha+ 4or+ere+ on ,ruelty. 4ut. as she pause+ for 4reath on the lan+ing 4et*een the t*o floors. a ne* an+ almost frightening anger ,ame to her res,ue/ She *oul+ sho* A+am $an+eleur1 She *oul+ sho* him. even if it 2ille+ her. that she *as ,apa4le of loo2ing after the t*ins as *ell as anyone else ,oul+/ She manage+ to regain her ,omposure 4efore entering the ,hil+ren8s8 room. an+ t*o pairs of 4ro*n eyes *ere raise+ at on,e to stare at her *ith intense ,uriosity/ A +og 4ar2e+ e;,ite+ly in the gar+en 4elo* their *in+o*. an+ 'isa loo2e+ out 3ust in time to see A+am $an+eleur +isappearing roun+ the ,orner of the house *ith a magnifi,ent<loo2ing Alsatian at his si+e. an+ she shivere+ involuntarily at the thought of having to ,onfront this man every +ay for the ne;t four months/ 5osh ,oul+ no longer ,ontain his ,uriosity an+. as 'isa turne+ a*ay from the *in+o*. he as2e+M 8:i+ you see "n,le A+am08 8Yes. # +i+.8 'isa replie+ evenly. seating herself on a small *oo+en ,hair to ease the *eight off her leg/ !orgetting entirely a4out the me,hani,al ,rane he ha+ 4een so a4sor4e+ in. 5osh +eman+e+M 8What +i+ "n,le A+am say08 8He sai+ plenty.8 'isa thought 4itterly. 4ut as she stare+ into the t*o an;ious fa,es staring up at her.. she smile+/ 8He sai+ # must see to it that the t*o of you +on8t get up to mis,hief/8 8What8s mis,hief08 6ate *ante+ to 2no*/ 8Well. it means that you shoul+n8t +o anything you8re not suppose+ to +o.8 'isa e;plaine+ patiently/ 5osh fro*ne+ an+ loo2e+ vaguely suspi,ious/ 8What aren8t *e suppose+ to +o08 8You8re not to go any*here near the graKing ,amps. the sta4les. or the shearing she+.8 she ti,2e+ their un,le8s instru,tions off on her fingers/ 8An+ you8re to stay a*ay from the farm ma,hinery/8 8We 2no* that.8 5osh s,o*le+. pi,2ing up his temporarily forgotten ,rane/ 8But # +i+n8t.8 'isa e;plaine+. 8an+ as this is the first time #8ve ever 4een on a farm. # suppose your un,le thought it 4est that he shoul+ ma2e me a*are of these things/8 6ate stare+ at 'isa over the +roopy hea+ of the rag +oll she ,lut,he+ against her/ 8Have you never 4een on a farm 4efore08 'isa shoo2 her hea+/ 8 o. never/8 8Where +o you stay08 8#8ve live+ in Cape To*n all my life/8

5osh loo2e+ up from his manipulations of the toy ,rane an+ stare+ at 'isa thoughtfully/ 8We *ent to Cape To*n on,e *ith our mummy an+ +a++y. an+ *e *ent up the mountain in a7in a78 8Ca4le ,ar.8 'isa supplemente+ helpfully/ 8Yes.8 he no++e+. his eyes lighting up *ith e;,itement as he re,alle+ the memory/ 8&osh. it *as e;,iting. 4ut 6ate ,rie+ 8,ause she *as s,are+/8 8# +i+n8t ,ry. an+ # *asn8t s,are+.8 6ate proteste+. a mutinous e;pression on her small. roun+e+ fa,e/ 8You *ere s,are+.8 5osh insiste+/ 8# *asn8t18 8Stop it. 4oth of you18 'isa or+ere+ sharply as 6ate hurle+ herself at her 4rother. 4ut neither of them hear+ her an+. gripping their flailing arms in mi+<air. she *as for,e+ to +rag them apart/ They stoo+ 4reathing heavily an+ glaring at ea,h other for a fe* moments. 4ut then their anger su4si+e+ as -ui,2ly. as it ha+ flare+. an+ they lo*ere+ their eyes guiltily 4eneath 'isa8s reproving glan,e/ 8There8s nothing *rong *ith 4eing a little s,are+ of the things you +on8t 2no*.8 'isa sai+ -uietly. pla,ing an arm a4out ea,h of them/ 8# *as s,are+ too the first time # *ent up the mountain in the ,a4le ,ar/8 8Were you really08 5osh -uestione+ +is4elievingly/ 8Yes. # *as.8 'isa ,onfesse+/ 8 ot everyone is as 4rave as you are. 5osh/8 His ,hest seeme+ to s*ell *ith pri+e/ 8#s it goo+ to 4e 4rave08 8$ery goo+.8 'isa replie+. 4ut as she felt 6ate *riggling un,omforta4ly in the ,ir,le of her arm. she a++e+ hastily. 8But it8s also goo+ to 4e a little s,are+ at times/ #f you8re s,are+. then you8ll 4e ,areful. an+ in that *ay you *on8t +o anything that is harmful. or +angerous/8 6ate8s *riggling stille+ instantly. an+ out of the ,orner of her eye 'isa glimpse+ a satisfie+ e;pression on the little girl8s fa,e/ 8:o you thin2 our mummy an+ +a++y ,rashe+ their plane 4e,ause they *eren8t ,areful08 8Oh. no.8 'isa hastene+ to assure 5osh/ 8# thin2 they must. have 4een very ,areful. 4ut a,,i+ents +o happen. an+98 she pause+. the soun+ of ,run,hing metal an+ shattering glass inva+ing her min+ as she hear+ herself a++ unstea+ily. 8We +on8t al*ays un+erstan+ *hy things happen. 4ut *e must learn to a,,ept them as the *ill of &o+/8 A lengthy silen,e prevaile+J a silen,e fille+ *ith the haunting memory of a girl8s happy. ,arefree laughter moments 4efore +eath s*oope+ +o*n to ,laim her. an+ then. as the agony of *hat ha+ follo*e+ seare+ through her. 'isa 4e,ame a*are of 5osh an+ 6ate o4serving her strangely/ 8You loo2 sa+. an+ you8re ,rying.8 6ate o4serve+ ,uriously. an+ 'isa8s han+s fle* to her ,hee2s to fin+ them hot an+ +amp/ 8#8m 4eing silly.8 she laughe+ a little sha2ily. 4rushing a*ay the evi+en,e of her tears *ith her fingertips an+ pulling herself together/ 8We +on8t ,ry any more 8,ause &ran tol+ us our mummy an+ +a++y are in heaven *ith the angels. an+ one +ay *e8ll see them again/8 8That8s very true.8 'isa replie+ to 5osh8s remar2 *ith a mat,hing sin,erity an+. thrusting asi+e her unhappy thoughts. she smile+ at them an+ too2 their han+s in hers/ 8Come on. let8s go outsi+e so you ,an sho* me the gar+en/8 The t*ins *ere +elighte+ at the prospe,t of a,ting as her gui+e. 4ut. for ,hil+ren so young. they *ere surprisingly thoughtful a4out +ampening their enthusiasm an+ e;u4eran,e. an+ 2eeping in min+ the fa,t that 'isa might have +iffi,ulty in 2eeping pa,e *ith them as they intro+u,e+ her to all their se,ret pla,es in the gar+en *ith its smooth la*ns an+ vast assortment

of shru4s/ #t seeme+ impossi4le to 'isa that su,h a lush green para+ise ,oul+ e;ist in the heart of this +ry. a,ri+ semi<+esert. 4ut. as she gently fingere+ the heavily veine+ petals of a pin2 ,amellia. she silently mo,2e+ her o*n ignoran,e/ This *as a *orl+ she ha+ not 2no*n 4eforeJ a *orl+ far remove+ from the ,ity *ith its hustle an+ 4ustle. its petrol fumes. an+ lifeless ,on,rete 4uil+ings/ Her ears. a,-uainte+ only *ith the ,easeless roar of traffi,. +elighte+ no* in the soun+s of nature all a4out her. an+ she rela;e+. a smile of tran-uillity softening the rigi+ ,ontours of her fa,e an+ 4ringing a half<forgotten spar2le to eyes *here sha+o*s ha+ lur2e+ moments 4efore/ The t*ins laughe+ e;,ite+ly as they *ent in pursuit of a 4utterfly. an+ the smile lingere+ on 'isa8s lips as she *al2e+ slo*ly a,ross the la*n to 3oin them/ They *ere lively for their age. as A+am $an+eleur ha+ pointe+ out. an+ they involve+ 'isa in their games until that familiar sharp pain in her hip for,e+ her to ,ease her parti,ipation/ 5osh an+ 6ate8s +isappointment *as evi+ent. 4ut they over,ame it -ui,2ly an+ ,ontinue+ *ith their 4oisterous game *hile 'isa sat on a *oo+en 4en,h 4eneath a sha+y tree to 2eep a *at,hful eye on them/ Eri,a $an+eleur serve+ tea on the veran+ah that morning. an+ the ,hil+ren helpe+ themselves to several freshly<4a2e+ s,ones 4efore they *an+ere+ off again to play in the gar+en/ 'isa stoo+ up hastily to follo* them. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur gesture+ her 4a,2 into her ,hair/ 8They *on8t go too far7not *hile there are still s,ones left on the plate.8 she smile+ reassuringly. an+ 'isa rela;e+ only to fin+ those grey<green eyes o4serving her -uestioningly/ 8:i+ A+am see you earlier this morning08 'isa shifte+ un,omforta4ly in her ,hair as she re,alle+ her intervie* *ith this *oman8s son/ 8(r $an+eleur +i+ spea2 to me this morning. yes/8 8He8s 4een so 4usy sin,e my son 5a,-ues +ie+ that he sel+om has time to rela;/ #t8s nothing unusual these +ays to see him for the first time at +inner in the evenings/8 Eri,a $an+eleur sighe+ an+ shoo2 her grey hea+ sa+ly/ 8Heaven 2no*s. this farm is 4ig enough for t*o men. 4ut *ith the a++e+ responsi4ility of 5a,-ues8 farm it8s 4e,ome a near impossi4le tas2/8 8Woul+n8t the 4est solution 4e to employ a manager for the other farm08 'isa -uestione+ a little hesitantly/ 8Suita4le managers aren8t that easy to fin+ these +ays.8 the ol+er *oman e;plaine+. 84ut A+am has mentione+ the possi4ility of employing someone at the en+ of this month. an+ # ,an8t tell you *hat a relief it *oul+ 4e to me/8 8:o the t*o farms 3oin ea,h other08 8"nfortunately not.8 Eri,a $an+eleur shoo2 her hea+/ 8The 5a,2sons8 farm lies 4et*een !airvie* an+ Waverley/ (r 5a,2son an+ his +aughter. Willa. have helpe+ A+am a great +eal. 4ut things ,an8t ,ontinue li2e this in+efinitely/ A+am is a strong healthy man. 4ut there8s a limit to everyone8s en+uran,e an+. *ith Willa assisting him so a+mira4ly. #8m afrai+98 She pause+. a fro*n settling 4et*een her 4ro*s. then. as 'isa stare+ at her ,uriously. she uttere+ a +isparaging soun+/ 8#t +oesn8t matter/ #8m 3ust 4eing foolish. # suppose/8 A pe,uliar little silen,e settle+ 4et*een themJ a silen,e +uring *hi,h 'isa *on+ere+ *hat e;a,tly Eri,a $an+eleur *as afrai+ of/ Was she perhaps afrai+ that. *ith Willa 5a,2son assisting him *ith the *or2 on Waverley. he might eventually ,onsi+er marrying the girl0 Surely a girl *ith the e;perien,e an+ 2no*le+ge of farming *oul+ ma2e an a+mira4le *ife for a man li2e A+am $an+eleur0 Or *as it something else that Eri,a $an+eleur feare+J something *hi,h 'isa *as not a*are of perhaps0 The silen,e *as 4ro2en *hen 5osh an+ 6ate 4oun+e+ up the steps on to the veran+ah to help themselves to the remain+er of the s,ones an+. +ismissing her thoughts *ith a ,areless shrug. 'isa e;,use+ herself an+ a,,epte+ the ,hil+ren8s offer to sho* her more of the farm/ The sun *as *arm against her pale s2in as she follo*e+ 5osh an+ 6ate through the gar+en

an+. not for the first time sin,e her arrival on !airvie*. she +re* the air +eep into her lungs an+ marvelle+ at the ,lean freshness of it/ #t must 4e marvellous. she thought. to live in this environment every +ay of one8s life. to 4reathe in the tangy air of the vel+. an+ to live so ,lose to nature that you eventually 4e,ome an insepara4le part of it/ She re,alle+ her +isparaging remar2s ,on,erning the 6aroo *hen her aunt ha+ first suggeste+ her ,oming here. an+. although her opinion ha+ not altere+ entirely. there *as something a4out this +esolate lan+ that appeale+ to her. ma2ing her feel ashame+ of the things she ha+ sai+/ They *ere some +istan,e from the house *hen a flash of light ,aught 'isa8s eye an+. fo,ussing her attention on it. she *as surprise+ to +is,over a mo+ern s*imming pool nestling among tall. sha+y trees/ The *ater shimmere+ in the sunlight. almost 4lin+ing her. an+ then a fli,2er of an;iety stirre+ *ithin her *hen she noti,e+ the a4sen,e of any sort of prote,tive fen,ing/ 8Can you 4oth s*im08 she as2e+ the ,hil+ren at on,e/ 8Yes.8 they no++e+ vigorously. 84ut "n,le A+am says the *ater is still too ,ol+ no* for us to s*im/8 8# shoul+ imagine so.8 'isa no++e+ thoughtfully/ 8The +ays are alrea+y getting *armer. 4ut you *on8t 4e a4le to s*im for another month or t*o/8 8Oh. loo218 5osh an+ 6ate ,rie+ e;,ite+ly in unison as they pointe+ to a graKing ,amp 4eyon+ the pool/ 8There are the lam4s18 86eep the ,hil+ren a*ay from the graKing ,amps.8 A+am $an+eleur8s thun+ering ,omman+ e,hoe+ in her ears as the ,hil+ren rushe+ to*ar+s the fen,e to *at,h the *oolly merino lam4s froli,2ing in the sun *hile the e*es ,ontinue+ to graKe ,almly on *hat *as left of the 4ushy vegetation/ 'isa hesitate+ *ith momentary in+e,ision 4efore follo*ing the ,hil+ren/ Their un,le *oul+ surely not o43e,t to their presen,e if they remaine+ on this si+e of the fen,e. she +e,i+e+ firmly. an+ as she stoo+ there 4esi+e them. listening to their e;,lamations of +elight. a ne*ly 4orn lam4 venture+ in-uisitively to*ar+s them on unstea+y legs/ 5osh an+ 6ate *riggle+ their han+s through the 3a,2al fen,ing. en,ouraging it to ,ome ,loser. 4ut the lam4 retreate+ nervously. 4leating softly as it returne+ to its an;ious mother8s si+e/ 6ate tugge+ at 'isa8s s2irt/ 8#sn8t it 4eautiful. (iss7 (iss78 85ust ,all me 'isa.8 she suggeste+ helpfully/ 8#sn8t the lam4 4eautiful. 'isa08 6ate repeate+ her -uestion. using 'isa8s name a little shyly/ 8Beautiful.8 'isa agree+ rea+ily/ 8#t loo2s so soft an+ sil2y/8 8There ,omes "n,le A+am.8 5osh e;,laime+ a little an;iously. an+ 'isa loo2e+ up sharply to see A+am $an+eleur ri+ing a,ross the vel+ to*ar+s them. his 4o+y moving in perfe,t rhythm *ith the magnifi,ent<loo2ing 4la,2 stallion 4eneath him/ The animal. li2e its master. *as in perfe,t physi,al ,on+ition. 'isa thought as she sa* the po*erful mus,les rippling 4eneath the shiny 4la,2 ,oat. 4ut it *as the man himself *ho finally ,aught an+ hel+ her rapt attention/ Seate+ astri+e that fero,ious<loo2ing animal. A+am $an+eleur pro3e,te+ an image of po*er an+ ruthless strength an+. even at a +istan,e. 'isa ,oul+ feel the impa,t of his personality/ !or some reason she ,oul+ not e;plain. this man frightene+ her. an+ her 4o+y tense+ involuntarily *hen he reine+ in his horse 3ust 4eyon+ the fen,e/ His +ar2 eyes. sha+e+ 4y the 4roa+ rim of his felt hat. gave 'isa no more than a ,ursory glan,e. 4ut she felt ,ertain that every +etail of her appearan,e. from the gol+en sheen of her hair +o*n to her ,omforta4le. lo*<heele+ shoes. ha+ 4een note+/ There *as a straine+ silen,e as they *aite+ for him to spea2. an+ *hen he +i+. it *as 'isa he a++resse+ in that +eep. rum4ling voi,e of his/ 8The graKing ,amps are out of 4oun+s. as you very *ell 2no*. (iss (oreau. so # ta2e it the ,hil+ren are sho*ing you aroun+ the farm08

8Yes. "n,le A+am.8 5osh sai+ 4efore 'isa ,oul+ reply. an+ then. after a moment of ,areful +eli4eration. he as2e+M 8"n,le A+am. may *e hol+ that 4a4y lam4 3ust for a little *hile08 'isa *ent ,ol+ at 5osh8s re-uest an+ stole a -ui,2 glan,e at A+am $an+eleur/ #t loo2e+ for a moment as if he *as a4out to utter a harsh refusal. 4ut then. to her relief. he +ismounte+. an+ the lam4 *as ,aught s*iftly an+ *ith a pra,tise+ ease to 4e pla,e+ gently into 5osh8s eager little han+s/ While the +elighte+ t*ins too2 turns to ,u++le the lam4. 'isa foun+ herself staring uno4trusively at A+am $an+eleur8s han+s *here they reste+ ,omforta4ly on the *ire fen,e/ They *ere large han+s. 4roa+. strong. an+ *ell<shape+. *ith surprisingly ,lean fingernails/ They *ere han+s that ,oul+ ,rush *ithout the slightest effort. she thought. an+ a little shiver of fear ma+e its *ay up her spine/ She loo2e+ a*ay then. trying to ,on,entrate on 5osh an+ 6ate. 4ut she *as no* intensely a*are of that tall. imposing figure stan+ing a little more than a metre a*ay from her. an+ *hen the ,hil+ren eventually pla,e+ the *riggling *oolly 4o+y in her arms. she felt those +ar2. pier,ing eyes s,or,hing an+ +isse,ting her until her slight 4o+y felt heate+ an+ +e,i+e+ly un,omforta4le/ !or 'isa it *as a uni-ue e;perien,e hol+ing a ne*ly 4orn lam4 in her arms. 4ut. although her fingers automati,ally stro2e+ the soft. flee,y 4o+y. A+am $an+eleur8s presen,e ma+e it impossi4le for her to savour the moment as she *oul+ have li2e+ to/ She han+e+ the lam4 4a,2 to him a,ross the fen,e so that it ,oul+ 4e returne+ to the e*e *ho stoo+ nu+ging his thigh impatiently an+. avoi+ing the su++en gleam of mo,2ery in his eyes. 'isa hurrie+ly steppe+ 4a,2 a fe* pa,es from the fen,e/ The 4la,2 stallion tosse+ its hea+ prou+ly an+ pa*e+ the groun+ restlessly as A+am $an+eleur s*ung himself into the sa++le/ 8:on8t stay out in the sun too long/ You haven8t got your hats on.8 A+am *arne+ the ,hil+ren. his han+s tightening on the reins as the animal -uivere+ *ith impatien,e 4eneath him/ 8# suggest you *ear one as *ell. (iss (oreau. an+ if you +on8t possess a hat. then # suggest you 4uy one/ The sun in these parts has a +ea+ly sting to it. an+ the ,onse-uen,es ,oul+ 4e unpleasant/8 He tou,he+ his hat 4riefly. an+ then horse an+ ri+er *ent thun+ering a,ross the vel+/ 'isa stare+ after him until he +isappeare+ 4eyon+ a small hill. an+ then the silen,e *as 4ro2en only 4y the shrill soun+ of the ,i,a+as/ 8We8+ 4etter get 4a,2 to the house.8 she sighe+ ine;pli,a4ly. gesturing the ,hil+ren a*ay from the fen,e *ith her *al2ing<sti,2/ 8#t8s almost lun,h time/8

8#t8s our ,ustom. here on the farm. to rest for at least an hour after lun,h.8 Eri,a $an+eleur e;plaine+ to 'isa *hen they got up from the lun,heon ta4le/ 8#n the summer. *hen the +ays are long an+ hot. you8ll appre,iate the ha4it/8 'isa +i+ not argue *ith her. an+ too2 the t*ins up to their room/ When she ,lose+ her o*n 4e+room +oor 4ehin+ her some minutes later she foun+ that she *as a,tually than2ful for the opportunity to lie +o*n an+ ta2e the *eight off her leg/ With the ,urtains +ra*n against the afternoon sun. 'isa lay staring up at the 4rass ,anopy of the 4e+/ Ho* -uiet it *as. she thought as a restful silen,e settle+ in an+ aroun+ the house. an+ then. surprisingly. she 2ne* nothing more until 5osh an+ 6ate 4urst into her room an hour later/ 8:i+ you sleep08 they +eman+e+ as they ,lam4ere+ on to her 4e+ an+ sat there staring at her *ith those *i+e. -uestioning eyes/ 'isa smile+ an+ stifle+ a ya*n/ 8# must have +one/ # remem4er thin2ing ho* -uiet it *as. an+ then9 pooff18 They giggle+ at her e;planation. an+ then the final remnants of their reserve seeme+ to vanish/ They *ere all over her no*. tal2ing e;,ite+ly an+ simultaneously as they grippe+ her han+s an+ trie+ to +rag her off the 4e+. giving her a ,lear in+i,ation that they *ere in nee+ of a release for their pent<up energy/ !or the rest of the afternoon. until it *as time for their 4ath. they sho*e+ 'isa no mer,y. an+ although their *il+. 4oisterous games ,ause+ 'isa ,onsi+era4le +is,omfort. she love+ every minute of it/ !or the first time in months she foun+ that she ,oul+ laugh naturally at her o*n ina+e-ua,y *hen it ,ame to playing 8Hi+e an+ See28/ She *as no mat,h for 5osh an+ 6ate. *ho ,oul+ run li2e *il+ hares *hen she ,ame upon their hi+ing pla,es. an+. ,onse-uently. she +i+ most of the see2ing *hile they hi+ a*ay in the area they ha+ mar2e+ off for the game/ When the ,hil+ren *ere eventually put to 4e+ that night. 'isa soa2e+ her *eary 4o+y in a hot 4ath until she felt the tire+ness +rain from her lim4s/ #t ha+. perhaps. 4een a little presumptuous of her to thin2 she ,oul+ ,ope *ith t*o lively ,hil+ren. an+ A+am $an+eleur ha+ 4een perfe,tly right to +ou4t her physi,al ,apa4ilities. she a+mitte+ to herself relu,tantly *hile she soape+ her 4o+y. 4ut she ha+ en3oye+ every minute of the +ay *ith 5osh an+ 6ate. an+ she loo2e+ for*ar+ to the follo*ing +ay/ The pain an+ +is,omfort *oul+ +iminish in time. an+ then91 The soapy sponge halte+ its progress a,ross her shoul+er an+ her fingers a4sently tra,e+ the s,ar along her 3a*/ Surgery *oul+ eventually eliminate the s,ars. an+ time might erase her unsightly limp. 4ut nothing *oul+ ever erase the s,ars +eep +o*n in her soul/ #n her *ea2ene+ state of sho,2. after learning of San+y :un,an8s +eath. Rory8s horror<fille+ eyes ha+ sli,e+ +eeply an+ ,ruelly. an+ his silent a,,eptan,e *hen she ha+ returne+ her ring ha+ 2ille+ her frail hope that his rea,tion ha+ merely 4een prompte+ 4y ,on,ern/ He ha+ 4een only too an;ious to leave that star2 *hite hospital *ar+ *ith the smell of antisepti,s hovering in the air. an+ she ha+ *at,he+ him go. +ry< eye+. an+ ,uriously +raine+ of emotion/ The soap sli+ off the si+e of the 4ath an+ 3er2e+ her 4a,2 to the present as it splashe+ into the *ater/ She ha+ to forget/ She must forget1 she tol+ herself fier,ely. an+ *hen she finally *ent +o*nstairs to +inner there *as only the slightest tra,e of 4itterness a4out her sensitive mouth/ A+am $an+eleur *as not in for +inner that evening either/ #t ha+ something to +o *ith the ino,ulation of the sheep *hi,h *oul+ start the follo*ing +ay. 'isa gathere+ from his mother/ There *as also something a4out three es,ape+ ,onvi,ts. 4ut 'isa *as too relieve+ at not having to fa,e him a,ross the ta4le to pay mu,h attention to the reason for his a4sen,e/

They too2 their ,offee out on to the veran+ah after*ar+s. 4ut Eri,a $an+eleur e;,use+ herself an+ *ent up to her room *hen :aisy ,ame out to ,olle,t their empty ,ups/ 'isa sat there for a moment longer. +rin2ing in the silent +ar2ness a4out her. an+ then a strange restlessness ma+e her *an+er out into the gar+en/ #t *as a 4eautiful night. an+ it *as goo+ to 4e alone for a *hile/ With the moon lighting her *ay. she 2ne* no fear as she *al2e+ slo*ly an+ aimlessly from the house. relishing the ,ool 4reeKe that tou,he+ her fa,e an+ arms *ith a gentleness that *as soothing/ Half *ay a,ross the la*n she pause+ an+ raise+ her eyes to the s2y/ #t *as o++ ho* 4right the stars *ere in the 6aroo. an+ on this *arm. pea,eful evening they seeme+ to 4e ,lose enough to tou,h as they glittere+ in the +ar2 4lue velvety s2y/ #t *as a night for lovers. she thought ironi,ally. 4ut love *as something she no longer 4elieve+ in9 an+ no man *oul+ *ant to 4e the lover of a girl *ith91 8Pull yourself together. 'isa18 she s,ol+e+ herself lou+ly as she ,ontinue+ her *al2/ 8You +on8t nee+ a man at your si+e to en3oy the magi, of the moonlight/8 :etermine+ to sha2e off her restlessness. an+ to ri+ herself of the +ull a,he +eep +o*n insi+e of her for *hi,h there *as8 no ,ure. she *al2e+ on a little 4lin+ly. 4ut. *hen she rea,he+ the trees a fe* minutes later. she realise+ that she ha+ *al2e+ too far. too fast. an+ *ithout her *al2ing<sti,2/ Her hip *as thro44ing. sen+ing sta4s of pain into her thigh. an+. leaning *earily against the 4roa+ stem of the gum tree nearest to her. she ease+ the *eight off her leg an+ massage+ herself gently in an effort to +iminish the pain/ Ho* utterly pea,eful it *as. she thought. ,losing her eyes an+ resting heavily against the tree *hile her han+ automati,ally ,ontinue+ its healing. soothing me+i,ation. 4ut the ne;t moment the silen,e *as shattere+ 4y the terrifying snarl of an angry animal/ 'isa8s heart lur,he+ *ith si,2ening fear. an+ her eyes fle* open to stare in a43e,t terror at the *olf<li2e ,anine storming at her *ith fangs 4are+ *here she stoo+ partially hi++en 4eneath the sha+o*s of the trees/ A s,ream rose to her lips. 4ut it *as strangle+ in her throat. an+. ,losing her eyes tightly. she *aite+ for the moment *hen the animal8s teeth *oul+ tear at her flesh/ 8Rolf18 The +og rea,te+ instantly to the soun+ of that imperious voi,e. an+ ,ame to an a4rupt halt less than a metre a*ay from 'isa. 4ut even in the +ar2ness she ,oul+ still see the hair stan+ing ere,t on its 4a,2 *hile it *at,he+ her intently an+ suspi,iously/ The num4ness of relief surge+ through her as A+am $an+eleur8s tall. +ar2 figure ,ame into her line of vision. 4ut she felt too *ea2 to move. an+ too perilously ,lose to tears/ The 4eam of a tor,h pier,e+ the moonlit +ar2ness an+ s*ept over her 4riefly. then it *as e;tinguishe+ *ith a muttere+ oath that sent a rene*e+ ,hill of fear through her/ 8You8re fortunate. (iss (oreau. that # happene+ to 4e in the vi,inity/ Rolf is never very gentle *ith un*el,ome intru+ers. an+ that8s pre,isely the reason *hy # leave him to roam free at night.8 that +eep. gravelly voi,e informe+ her harshly/ 8#8m grateful that78 8:on8t move18 His voi,e. li2e the soun+ of a *hiplash. ma+e her freeKe in the a,t of stepping a*ay from the tree/ 8The slightest movement an+ Rolf might again ,onsi+er you a threat.8 he *arne+. moving ,loser to her *here she stoo+ pinne+ helplessly to the gumtree. her mus,les taut. an+ har+ly +aring to 4reathe. 4ut he ma+e no attempt. as yet. to ,all off the animal/ 8What *ere you +oing out here in the +ar208 The -uestion *as shot at her *ith a su++enness that ma+e her flin,h an+. +is,on,erte+ 4y the height an+ 4rea+th of this man to*ering over her in the +ar2ness. she hear+ herself stammer foolishly. 8#7# *ent for a *<*al2/8 8:i+n8t my mother *arn you this evening not to stray too far from the house 4e,ause some es,ape+ ,onvi,ts are rumoure+ to 4e in the neigh4ourhoo+08 'isa *ent ,ol+ *ith fright an+ ,oul+ have 2i,2e+ herself for not paying more attention to *hat Eri,a $an+eleur ha+ sai+ at the +inner ta4le/

8Your mother +i+ *arn me.8 she a+mitte+ *ith ,omplete honesty. 84ut #8m afrai+ #7# *as thin2ing of something else at the time. an+ must have misse+ that 4it a4out not going too far from the house/8 8You pla,e+ yourself in a ,onsi+era4le amount of +anger 4y not hee+ing my mother8s *arnings.8 his voi,e lashe+ her mer,ilessly in the +ar2ness/ 8# re,eive+ a report. not ten minutes ago. that there8s every li2elihoo+ that those three arme+ men are here on my lan+/8 8#7#8m sorry.8 she *hispere+ hoarsely. her eyes *i+e an+ frightene+ at the thought of *hat might have happene+ if A+am $an+eleur an+ his +og ha+ not foun+ her/ A tense silen,e settle+ 4et*een them. a silen,e 4ro2en only 4y the heavy panting of the +og. an+ then the sta44ing pain in her hip for,e+ her to spea2/ 8Are7are you going to ,all off your +og. (r $an+eleur. or am # to spen+ the night stan+ing motionless against this tree08 8#t might tea,h you a lesson you *on8t soon forget.8 he replie+ ,uttingly. *ith an e+ge of mo,2ery in his voi,e/ 8#t *oul+ also 4e interesting to see ho* long you ,oul+ 2eep it up/8 8 o +ou4t you7fin+ the situation amusing. 4ut #7+on8t/ #78 She gaspe+. shutting her eyes against the 4lin+ing 4eam of the tor,h/ 8(ust you shine that thing +ire,tly into my fa,e08 !or a moment the light +i+ not *aver from her *hite. straine+ fa,e. then it *as +ire,te+ to the groun+ at her feet. an+ the +og *as instantly ,alle+ to his si+e/ 8(iss (oreau is a frien+. Rolf.8 he sai+. s*it,hing off the tor,h as he spo2e. an+ for a moment 'isa ,oul+ not see a thing. then her eyes 4e,ame a,,ustome+ to the +ar2ness an+ she sa* the +og sha2e off his mena,ing stan,e only to eye her no* *ith a *ary ,uriosity/ 8#t +oesn8t loo2 very mu,h as though he 4elieves you.8 she sai+ sha2ily. not +aring to move a mus,le until she *as ,ertain it *as safe for her to +o so/ 8Stret,h out your han+ to him. 4ut +o it slo*ly.8 her employer instru,te+ her ,almly. an+ she +i+ as she *as tol+ *hile he repeate+. 8!rien+. Rolf/8 The Alsatian sniffe+ at her fingers a little *arily. then 4urie+ his *et nose in the palm of her han+/ 8#s it all right for me to stro2e him no*08 8That8s *hat he8s hoping for.8 ,ame the a4rupt reply from the man *ho *as nothing 4ut a +ar2 outline in the sha+o*s/ 8You8re a 4eautiful +og. Rolf.8 'isa spo2e soothingly. 4ut *ith sin,erity as she stro2e+ the smooth hea+ gently/ 8Beautiful 4ut +angerous.8 A+am $an+eleur *arne+/ 8You nee+n8t fear him again. though/8 Rolf nuKKle+ her han+ in a +o,ile fashion as if to stress his master8s statement. 4ut 'isa *as har+ly a*are of him no* as she sense+ A+am $an+eleur8s eyes on her. an+ it ma+e her feel +e,i+e+ly un,omforta4le as the silen,e lengthene+ 4et*een them/ She sear,he+ her min+ franti,ally for something to say. 4ut foun+ nothing. an+ then. as the mournful ho*l of a 3a,2al pier,e+ the silen,e. A+am $an+eleur move+ a4ruptly/ 8#8ll see you safely 4a,2 to the house/8 'isa a,,epte+ his offer in silen,e an+ *al2e+ 4esi+e him *ith Rolf follo*ing ,lose at their heels/ A+am $an+eleur +i+ not tou,h her. an+ neither +i+ he offer her any assistan,e. 4ut he shortene+ his long stri+es to mat,h her slo*. limping gait. an+ she *as than2ful to him for this une;pe,te+ gesture of ,onsi+eration/ At the foot of the steps lea+ing up on to the veran+ah. 'isa turne+ to than2 him. 4ut the *or+s +rie+ up in her mouth *hen her eyes fastene+ themselves on to those harsh. rugge+ features et,he+ so ,learly in the moonlight/ What *as it a4out this man that he ,oul+ ro4 her of *hat little ,onfi+en,e she still ha+ left to re+u,e her to an insignifi,ant an+ stammering i+iot0 she *on+ere+ gravely as she stare+ a long *ay up into those har+ eyes glittering so strangely in the pale light of the moon/ There *as a po*erful aura of mas,ulinity a4out him that ma+e her feel ri+i,ulously *ea2 an+ ina+e-uate/ She ha+ e;perien,e+ this feeling on the t*o o,,asions they ha+ met that morning. an+ she *as e;perien,ing it again no*/

8# suggest you go insi+e. (iss (oreau.8 his harsh voi,e interrupte+ her tur4ulent thoughts/ 8Our nights here in the 6aroo ,an still 4e,ome ,hilly at this time of the year/8 #t *as then. as he turne+ a*ay from her. that she sa* the lethal<loo2ing *eapon slung a,ross his shoul+er. an+ her eyes *i+ene+ in +ismay/ 8You8re ,arrying a rifle.8 she state+ almost a,,usingly. an ine;pli,a4le fli,2er of an;iety loosening her tongue/ 8You8re not going to try an+ ,at,h those ,onvi,ts on your o*n. are you08 8 ot on my o*n. no/8 There *as mo,2ery in every har+ line of his fa,e as he turne+ 4a,2 to her. 4ut there *as also a hint of something else she ,oul+ not +efine/ 8That 3a,2al you hear+ ho*ling a fe* minutes ago *as a signal from one of my la4ourers to let me 2no* they thin2 they8ve spotte+ something/8 8:o7+o you thin2 they8re arme+0 The ,onvi,ts. # mean08 8# 2no* they8re arme+.8 he state+ -uietly an+ +e,isively. then he gesture+ impatiently *ith the han+ that hel+ the tor,h/ 8&o insi+e. (iss (oreau. an+ lo,2 the front +oor 4ehin+ you/8 'isa felt as though she *as 4eing strangle+ slo*ly 4ut surely. an+ she as2e+ stupi+ly. 8Ho*7ho* *ill you get in08 8# have the 2ey to the 4a,2 +oor.8 he sai+. an+ then mo,2ery ,urve+ that har+ mouth into the suggestion of a smile *hen she still hesitate+/ 8There8s no nee+ for you to fear anything. (iss (oreau/ The house *ill 4e patrolle+ all night. or until the +anger has passe+/8 8#t8s not myself #8m afrai+ for. 4ut #8m afrai+ for you18 the *or+s seeme+ to leap from the hi++en an+ mysterious +epths of her soul. 4ut they never passe+ her lips. for she 4it them 4a,2 *ith a horrifie+ gasp/ 8&oo+night. (r $an+eleur.8 she manage+ someho* an+. *ithout loo2ing 4a,2. she entere+ the house an+ lo,2e+ the +oor 4ehin+ her as he ha+ instru,te+/ She *as sha2ing so mu,h that she ,oul+ har+ly ,lim4 the stairs. 4ut she stu44ornly refuse+ to analyse the reason for her startling thoughts/ She 4anishe+ the entire in,i+ent from her min+ an+ *ent to 4e+. 4ut she *as still a*a2e *hen she hear+ the/ lo* murmur of voi,es 4eneath her *in+o* *ell after mi+night/ She *as out of 4e+ in a flash an+. although the veran+ah roof o4s,ure+ her vision. she ,oul+ not +eny her relief *hen she re,ognise+ A+am $an+eleur8s voi,e ami+st those of his la4ourers/ 5u+ging 4y the animate+ tone of their lo*ere+ voi,es. their efforts ha+ 4een su,,essful. an+ only then +i+ 'isa go to sleep. to have Eri,a $an+eleur ,onfirm. at the 4rea2fast ta4le the follo*ing morning. that A+am an+ his men ha+ ,aught the ,onvi,ts *ithout suffering any ,asualties/

As the *ee2s passe+ an+ lengthene+ into a month. 'isa ma+e every effort to stay out of A+am $an+eleur8s *ay as mu,h as possi4le/ He *as far too +istur4ing. an+ mu,h too aggressively mas,uline for her to ever feel at ease in his ,ompany. an+ 4et*een them there *as also the 2no*le+ge that he ha+ ,onsi+ere+ her in,apa4le of loo2ing after the t*ins/ :espite all her initial misgivings. 'isa ha+ settle+ +o*n -ui,2ly to this ne* *ay of life/ The fresh air an+ the long +aily *al2s *ith the t*ins ha+ strengthene+ her hip to the e;tent that she no longer nee+e+ her *al2ing<sti,2. an+. as she rela;e+ on her 4e+ one afternoon to*ar+s the en+ of that first month on the farm. her thoughts turne+ involuntarily to 5osh an+ 6ate resting in the room ne;t to her o*n/ They ha+ a,,epte+ their ne* routine *ithout a murmur of protest. an+ their 4ehaviour ha+ 4een almost impe,,a4le. *hile at the same time they ha+ atta,he+ themselves to 'isa *ith a fier,e fon+ness *hi,h she ha+ foun+ a little frightening at times/ #t *as almost as if they ha+ foun+ in 'isa the mother they ha+ lost. an+ this pertur4e+ her very mu,h/ Eri,a $an+eleur fre-uently entertaine+ visitors from the neigh4ouring farms. 4ut the most fre-uent visitor *as Willa 5a,2son. *ho ,ame an+ *ent more or less as if she 2ne* the pla,e *oul+ one +ay 4elong to her/ Tall an+ slen+er. *ith thi,2 au4urn hair hanging straight +o*n on

to her shoul+ers. she *on 'isa8s a+miration for her un<+enia4le 2no*le+ge of sheep farming/ Willa *as un+ou4te+ly e;tremely ,apa4le. 4ut this in no *ay +etra,te+ from her femininity/ She *as 4eautiful. 4ut ,ol+. 'isa +is,overe+ on ,loser a,-uaintan,e. ho*ever. 4ut she also +e,i+e+ that Willa *as e;a,tly the right 2in+ of *ife for a har+<4itten farmer li2e A+am $an+eleur7if he shoul+ ,hoose to marry her/ On,e. *hen Willa ha+ 3oine+ them for afternoon tea in the gar+en. 'isa ha+ seen A+am8s eyes +*elling on the 4eautiful. uns,arre+ fa,e of the girl lounging in the ,hair 4esi+e his o*n. an+ it ha+ fille+ 'isa *ith the most pe,uliar feeling of +espon+en,y/ Thin2ing of it no*. she ,oul+ still not e;plain to herself *hy she shoul+ have felt that *ay. an+. turning over on to her si+e. she allo*e+ herself to 4e lulle+ 4y the restful silen,e in the house/ 'isa slept for almost an hour 4efore she a*o2e *ith the feeling that something *as *rong/ 5osh an+ 6ate *ere not in their room. she +is,overe+ a fe* moments later. an+. after a fruitless sear,h of the house an+ the gar+en. 'isa *as for,e+ to see2 the assistan,e of Eri,a $an+eleur8s most truste+ servant/ 8Have you seen the ,hil+ren any*here08 'isa -uestione+ :aisy *hen she foun+ her in the 2it,hen giving her usual ,are an+ attention to the evening meal/ 8 o. (iss 'isa/8 :aisy ,lose+ the oven +oor an+ straightene+. a fro*n on her fa,e as she turne+ to 'isa/ 8They8re not in their room08 8 o/8 'isa felt her stoma,h mus,les tightening *ith an;iety/ With only a fe* +ays to go 4efore her pro4ationary perio+ e;pire+. she ,oul+ imagine A+am $an+eleur8s ,utting remar2s if anything unto*ar+ happene+. an+ she ,oul+ no longer re3e,t the suspi,ion that *as thrusting its *ay to the surfa,e of her min+/ She ha+ overhear+ the t*ins +is,ussing an ol+ *ell on the farm an+. pre,ipitating their natural ten+en,y to e;plore. she ha+ *arne+ them severely to stay a*ay. 4ut their su++en +isappearan,e *as 4eginning to imply that they ha+ ignore+ her *arning/ 8:aisy. if the ,hil+ren *ante+ to get hol+ of some rope. *here *oul+ they fin+ it08 8Rope. (iss 'isa08 :aisy8s eyes *ere *i+e an+ -uestioning. 4ut at the loo2 of impatien,e on 'isa8s fa,e. she sai+ -ui,2ly. 8There8s a rope hanging up against the *all on the 4a,2 stoep/8 A hasty inspe,tion reveale+ nothing 4ut a leather thong +rape+ ,arelessly over the hoo2 an+. ,utting a,ross the Coloure+ *oman8s e;,lamation of surprise. 'isa sai+ hurrie+ly. 8There8s a +isuse+ *ell some*here on this farm/ :o you 2no* *here it is08 8Yes. (iss 'isa/ #t8s 3ust othersi+e that hill you see there.8 :aisy replie+. pointing to the 4rush< ,overe+ hill 4eyon+ the shearing she+/ 8#t8s not very far/8 8Than2 you/8 8(iss 'isa08 :aisy8s voi,e sli,e+ an;iously through the afternoon silen,e/ 8:o you thin2 the ,hil+ren have gone there08 8# thin2 they may have. 4ut78 'isa raise+ her finger to her lips in a silen,ing gesture. 8not a *or+ to anyone until #8ve ma+e sure/8 :aisy no++e+ mutely. an+ 'isa shot up a silent prayer as she set off in sear,h of the t*ins/ #t seeme+ to ta2e an eternity 4efore she rea,he+ that parti,ular hill. 4ut it ha+. in fa,t. ta2en her less than ten minutes to get there/ Her 4reath *as rasping in her throat. ho*ever. an+ her heart *as thu++ing painfully against her ri4s *hen she pause+ for a moment on the ,rest of the hill. 4ut something re+ ,aught her attention. an+ her heart leapt into her throat as she re,ognise+ 6ate8s ,rou,hing figure 4esi+e *hat *as o4viously a gaping hole in the groun+/ With a total +isregar+ for the sta44ing pain in her hip. 'isa almost ran +o*n the other si+e of the hill/ 8'isa. 'isa. ,ome -ui,2ly18 6ate8s an;ious little voi,e spurre+ her on. an+ a fe* se,on+s later 'isa *as on her 2nees 4esi+e the ,hil+. ,lut,hing her tightly in her arms/ 8Where8s 5osh08 'isa as2e+ unne,essarily. for a rope *as tie+ ine;pertly 4ut firmly to the stem of an ol+ thorn tree/ Her horrifie+ glan,e follo*e+ it +o*n the hole. an+ from +eep *ithin the 4o*els of the *ell a *himpering soun+ ,onfirme+ her *orst fears/

8His h<han+s slippe+ on the rope. an+ he f<fell.8 6ate e;plaine+ so44ingly. 4ut 'isa *as alrea+y lying flat on her stoma,h an+ peering +o*n into the +ar2ness/ 85osh. ,an you hear me08 'isa -uestione+ sharply. her eyes see2ing out the little 4o+y hu++le+ more than five metres +o*n on the floor of the *ell/ 8Yes. 'isa9 # ,an hear you.8 5osh8s voi,e floate+ up to*ar+s her/ 8Have you hurt yourself08 8# 4ashe+ my hea+ a little. an+ my han+ is s,rat,he+. an+ # ,an8t stan+ on my foot/8 A stifle+ so4 rea,he+ her ears an+ tore at her heart/ 8'isa. get me out9 please18 8Can you rea,h the rope08 8 o. it8s too high.8 Close to +espair. an+ mu,h as 'isa +isli2e+ the i+ea. there *as only one thing left to +o an+. getting to her feet. she too2 6ate firmly 4y the shoul+ers an+ praye+ that the ,hil+ *oul+ +o as she *as tol+/ 8# *ant you to listen very ,arefully. 6ate/ &o 4a,2 to the house an+ tell :aisy e;a,tly *hat happene+/ As2 her to sen+ for your un,le. an+ she8s to tell him to 4ring a longer rope *ith him/ When you8ve +one that. you8re to stay at the house. +o you un+erstan+08 6ate no++e+ tearfully/ 8Yes. 'isa/8 8Off you go. then.8 'isa smile+ at her *ith as mu,h reassuran,e as she ,oul+ manage. giving her a gentle push in the +ire,tion of the homestea+/ 8'isa. *here are you08 5osh +eman+e+ an;iously the moment 6ate ha+ gone/ 8#8m here. 5osh.8 she ,alle+ to him reassuringly *hile she retie+ the rope aroun+ the tree<trun2. then. testing it to ma2e sure that it *oul+ ta2e her *eight. she s*ung her legs over the e+ge of the *ell/ 8#8m ,oming +o*n to you/8 8You8ll fall18 8 o. # *on8t.8 'isa insiste+. thin2ing that #t *as 3ust as *ell that she *as *earing her ol+ +enims an+ sensi4le shoes/ She *as grateful. too. for the e;perien,e she ha+ gaine+ *hen. as a stu+ent. she ha+ gone on several e;pe+itions up into the mountains. an+ using her feet as leverage against the rough si+es of the *ell. she ,lim4e+ +o*n ,arefully. 4ut the musty sten,h almost su,,ee+e+ in ta2ing her 4reath a*ay 4efore her feet tou,he+ the 4ottom/ 5osh. trem4ling an+ *himpering softly. *as in her arms the ne;t instant. an+ 'isa pa,ifie+ him. *aiting until his tears ,ease+ 4efore she hel+ him a little a*ay from her/ 8'et8s have a loo2 at you/8 The late afternoon sun sent a slante+ shaft of light into the opening of the *ell. 4ut it *as suffi,ient for her to see the 4ump on his forehea+. an+ the strea2s of +irt on his fa,e an+ ,lothes/ His han+ *as fortunately only graKe+. 4ut his 4a+ly spraine+ an2le *as o4viously ,ausing him ,onsi+era4le +is,omfort. for he *in,e+ *hen her fingers gently e;plore+ the s*ollen areas/ #t *as +iffi,ult *or2ing in su,h a ,onfine+ spa,e. 4ut as she set a4out tearing a strip off the 4ottom of her ol+ ,otton 4louse in or+er to utilise it as a 4an+age. she hear+ 5osh say tearfully. 8#8m sorry. 'isa/8 8Yes. # 2no*/8 8Are you very ,ross *ith me for not listening to you08 8# shoul+ 4e very ,ross *ith you.8 'isa a+mitte+. 84ut there8ll 4e time enough for that later/8 'eaving his shoe on for a++e+ support. she strappe+ up his an2le *ith the improvise+ 4an+age. an+ 5osh *at,he+ her in silen,e for a *hile 4efore he as2e+M 8Ho* are *e going to get out of here08 8# ,an8t get you out on my o*n. so *e8re 3ust going to sit here -uietly an+ *ait for your un,le to ,ome an+ help us/8 8"n,le A+am8s going to 4e very ,ross/8

8# shoul+ imagine so.8 'isa replie+ *ith an out*ar+ ,almness. 4ut as she tie+ off the 4an+age she felt her insi+es -ua2ing at the thought of A+am $an+eleur8s anger/ 8:oes that feel any 4etter08 5osh no++e+ silently an+. slipping her arm a4out him. she hel+ him against her *ith his hea+ resting on her shoul+er *hile they *aite+ for help to arrive/ #t *as an agonising *ait. *ith plenty of time to ,ome to terms *ith the ,ertain 2no*le+ge that A+am $an+eleur *oul+ not pass up this opportunity to +ismiss her from his servi,e/ 'isa ha+ gro*n fon+ of the ,hil+ren. an+ leaving them *oul+ 4e more painful than she ha+ imagine+. 4ut. *hen the earth finally vi4rate+ *ith the soun+ of approa,hing horses. she ha+ prepare+ herself for the inevita4le/ 5osh glan,e+ up at 'isa an;iously *hen the poun+ing hooves ,ease+ to sha2e the earth aroun+ them. an+ she summone+ a reassuring smile *hi,h she hope+ *oul+ loo2 ,onvin,ing/ A horse snorte+ impatiently some*here a4ove them. an+ then A+am $an+eleur8s +eep. thun+ering voi,e e,hoe+ +o*n the *ell/ 8(iss (oreau0 Are you +o*n there08

8Are you +o*n there. (iss (oreau08 'isa s*allo*e+ har+ 4efore shouting 4a,2. 8Yes. # am/8 A+am muttere+ something she *as than2ful she ,oul+ not hear from +o*n there. an+ then those rugge+ly ,hiselle+ features ,ame into her line of vision/ 8Are you all right08 8Yes. #8m all right/8 8An+ 5osh08 8A 4it 4attere+. 4ut he8s o2ay/8 8&oo+/8 A+am +isappeare+ from vie*. an+ a soft *hining noise ma+e her realise that Rolf *as up there *ith his master. an+ pro4a4ly 3ust as an;ious a4out *hat ha+ happene+/ 8'oo2. #8m lo*ering a longer rope.8 A+am sai+ *hen He returne+ to the opening a4ove them/ 8There8s a noose at the en+ of it/ Slip it roun+ 5osh8s *aist. *ill you08 The rope *as lo*ere+. 4ut 'isa *as una4le to thin2 or feel. as she helpe+ 5osh to his feet an+ fastene+ the noose firmly a4out his *aist/ 'ater. perhaps. the nightmare -uality of the situation *oul+ affe,t her. 4ut right no* 5osh. *i+e<eye+ an+ frightene+. nee+e+ her love an+ reassuran,e. an+ she gave it to him unstintingly an+ ,almly/ 8Have you got the rope aroun+ him08 A+am +eman+e+ of 'isa/ 8Yes/8 8Can you hang on to the rope. 5osh. so it +oesn8t tighten too mu,h aroun+ your *aist08 8#7#8ll try. "n,le A+am.8 the ,hil+ sai+ unstea+ily. ,lut,hing at the rope/ 8Right18 A+am issue+ an a4rupt ,omman+ to someone stan+ing 4esi+e him. an+ then his tall figure appeare+ at the opening of the *ell on,e more/ 8#8m going to pull you up no*. 5osh/8 'isa stoo+ *ith 4ate+ 4reath an+ *at,he+ the ,hil+ 4eing raise+ slo*ly to the surfa,e/ He *as almost out. her heart re3oi,e+. an+ then he pani,2e+ su++enly/ 8The rope8s slipping. "n,le A+am18 he ,rie+/ 85ust hang on as tight as you ,an/ #8ve nearly got you.8 A+am or+ere+ sharply. an+ a fe* se,on+s later 5osh +isappeare+ over the e+ge to the a,,ompaniment of Rolf8s e;,ite+ 4ar2ing. an+ then 'isa hear+ A+am sayM 8Ta2e ,are of 5osh. Petrus/8 o* it *as her turn. 'isa realise+ nervously/ Clim4ing +o*n into the *ell ha+ 4een reasona4ly easy. 4ut going up *oul+ 4e a little more +iffi,ult. an+ she only hope+ her leg *oul+ not ,ave in un+er her *eight/ 8#8m lo*ering the rope for you. (iss (oreau/ !asten it aroun+ your *aist/8 He *aite+ a fe* moments. then +eman+e+. 8Have you +one that08 'isa li,2e+ her +ry lips/ 8Yes/8 8"se your feet as leverage against the si+e of the *ell. if you ,an.8 he instru,te+ her unne,essarily. an+ then she felt the rope gro* taut 4eneath her han+s/ 8Rea+y08 8Rea+y18 she ,alle+ 4a,2/ The rope 4it into her *aist 3ust a4ove the 4elt of her +enims *here her s2in ha+ 4een 4are+ after tearing a strip off her 4louse. an+. in her attempt to ease the pressure. she lost her foothol+ against the si+e of the *ell/ Her 4o+y s*ung for*ar+. an+. as her left hip ma+e ,onta,t *ith a 3utting stone. a sharp. agonising pain shot from her hip +o*n into her thigh/ She ,oul+ not prevent herself from ,rying out. an+ the pro,ess of pulling her up *as instantly halte+/ 8What8s *rong0 What8s happene+08 A+am +eman+e+/

8 othing.8 she gaspe+. momentarily 4lin+e+ 4y the pain an+ gritting her teeth against the flo* of tears/ 85ust pull me up/8 A fe* se,on+s. or *as it hours later. she hear+ Rolf 4ar2ing on,e more. 4ut he *as silen,e+ sharply as strong han+s lifte+ her ,lear. an+ then the smell of the sun. the vel+. an+ to4a,,o mingle+. -uivering in her nostrils an+ atta,2ing her senses as she foun+ herself re,lining *ea2ly against a 4roa+. mus,ular ,hest/ Her han+s en,ountere+ the roughness of soft. springy hair *here the top 4uttons of his shirt ha+ ,ome un+one. an+ her heart felt as though it *as poun+ing in her mouth *hen she stare+ up into that granite<li2e fa,e 3ust a4ove her o*n/ #t *as not the first time A+am ha+ tou,he+ her. 4ut no*. lying in his arms li2e this. it felt as though she ha+ 4een *ire+ up to several volts of ele,tri,ity. an+ the ,urrent that surge+ through her 4o+y *as unli2e anything she ha+ ever e;perien,e+ 4efore/ 8:i+ you hurt yourself08 his voi,e vi4rate+ along her sensitive nerves/ 8(y7my foot slippe+. an+ #7# 3arre+ my hip. 4ut #7 #8m all right no*/8 8Are you sure08 8Yes7yes. #8m sure.8 she assure+ him in 4reathless haste *hen she felt the +istur4ing tou,h of one large. strong han+ e;ploring her hip an+ thigh/ 8#t8s 5osh you shoul+ loo2 at/8 A+am8s lips t*iste+ *ith faint +erision. then he release+ her an+ turne+ to 5osh *ho sat silently an+ misera4ly 4esi+e Petrus. A+am8s Coloure+ foreman/ A+am e;amine+ the ,hil+8s in3uries thoroughly 4efore sitting 4a,2 on his heels an+ fastening his stern glan,e on the 4oy/ 8Well. 5osh0 # thin2 you have some e;plaining to +o/8 8#7# +i+n8t thin2 anything *oul+ happen. an+ *e 3ust *ante+ to see *hat *as in the *ell.8 5osh e;plaine+. his 4ottom lip -uivering faintly/ 8#8m sorry. "n,le A+am/8 A+am s*ung roun+ an+ 'isa e;perien,e+ the for,e of those +ar2 eyes pinning her to the +ry. +usty earth/ 8Was this your i+ea of an afternoon e;,ursion. (iss (oreau08 'isa gre* hot un+er his +isparaging glan,e an+ stammere+. 8#7*ell. #78 8#t *asn8t 'isa8s fault. "n,le A+am.8 5osh interrupte+. surprising 'isa into silen,e/ 8Who gave you permission to ,all (iss (oreau 4y her name08 8# gave the ,hil+ren permission.8 'isa intervene+ *ea2ly. an+ on,e again his +istur4ing attention *as fo,usse+ on her/ 8#t isn8t her fault. "n,le A+am.8 5osh +efen+e+ 'isa *ith ,hil+ish +etermination/ 8She7she tol+ us not to ,lim4 +o*n the *ell. 4ut78 8But you +eli4erately +iso4eye+ her.8 A+am fille+ in for the ,hil+ *ith a harsh note in his voi,e that ma+e 5osh flin,h visi4ly/ 8Yes.8 5osh a+mitte+ 4ravely. his lips -uivering as he raise+ an;ious eyes to his un,le8s/ 8Are you going to7to sma,2 me. "n,le A+am08 The shrill soun+ of the ,i,a+as 4e,ame almost +eafening +uring the tense silen,e that follo*e+. an+ then A+am rose to his feet an+ shoo2 his +ar2 hea+ slo*ly/ 8# thin2 you8ve 4een punishe+ enough. an+ you8re very lu,2y you haven8t 4ro2en any 4ones/8 'isa e;pelle+ the air slo*ly from her lungs an+ got to her feet unstea+ily. her han+ stro2ing the Alsatian8s smooth hea+ a4sently *hen he 4rushe+ up against her/ 5osh ha+ got off lightly. she thought as she *at,he+ A+am lifting the ,hil+ on to Petrus8s horse. 4ut she *as ,ertain he *oul+ not sho* the same lenien,y to*ar+s her for allo*ing this in,i+ent to o,,ur/ With 5osh safely in Petrus8s ,are. A+am too2 hol+ of the reins of his horse an+ turne+ to*ar+s 'isa/ When those +ar2. penetrating eyes met hers. she 2ne* e;a,tly *hat he *as a4out to suggest. an+ she shran2 in*ar+ly from the i+ea/ 8#7#8ll *al2.8 she forestalle+ him/ 8With a hip that8s giving you hell08 A+am +eman+e+ harshly/

8(y hip isn8t giving me7hell7as you put it/8 8Then *hy are you massaging it li2e that08 To her utter +ismay 'isa +is,overe+ that she *as +oing e;a,tly that. an+ she remove+ her han+ instantly. avoi+ing the mo,2ery in his eyes/ 8#t8s9 ha4it. # suppose/8 8Really08 he remar2e+ sar,asti,ally. s*inging himself up into the sa++le. 4ut 'isa +i+ not stay to argue *ith him. an+ starte+ limping up the hill in the +ire,tion of the homestea+/ She shoul+ have realise+ that A+am *as not the 2in+ to 4e easily th*arte+. for he s*erve+ his horse to*ar+s her. an+ her horrifie+ gasp *as ru+ely stifle+ *hen his har+ arm *as lat,he+ a4out her *aist. almost s-ueeKing the 4reath from her lungs as he lifte+ her up in front of him on to the horse8s 4a,2/ 8This *asn8t ne,essary.8 she proteste+ *ea2ly/ 8#8m not78 8Shut up18 he gro*le+ in her ear/ 8An+ rela;. *ill you. or it8s going to 4e an un,omforta4le ri+e for 4oth of us/8 'isa +i+ as she *as tol+ *hile A+am gesture+ Petrus on ahea+ *ith the ,hil+. an+ then. as A+am +ug his heels into the horse8s flan2s. 'isa e;perien,e+ for the first time the thrill of 4eing seate+ on the 4a,2 of su,h a po*erful animal/ #t *oul+ have 4een a most en3oya4le ri+e e;,ept for her intense a*areness of the man seate+ 4ehin+ her/ His har+ ,hest *as against her shoul+er. an+ his 4reath *as *arm against her ,hee2. 4ut *hat +istur4e+ her most *as the tou,h of that *arm. *or2<roughene+ han+ against her 4are flesh *here she ha+ rippe+ her 4louse a*ay/ His tou,h seeme+ to s,or,h her. an+ *hile her 4loo+ 4egan to flo* more s*iftly through her veins. her nerves *ere sen+ing franti, little messages to her 4rainJ messages that ma+e no sense at that moment e;,ept to fill her *ith alarm/ either of them spo2e +uring the short ri+e to the homestea+. 4ut pan+emonium 4ro2e loose *hen they finally arrive+ at the house/ Eri,a $an+eleur. :aisy an+ 6ate seeme+ to 4un+le out of the 2it,hen +oor simultaneously. 4ut it *as the ,hil+ren8s gran+mother *ho spo2e first/ 8What happene+08 she +eman+e+. her an;ious glan,e ta2ing in 'isa8s +ishevelle+ appearan,e an+ 5osh8s +irty ,ountenan,e as they *ere lifte+ off the horses/ 8&et the ,hil+ren upstairs an+ into a 4ath *hile # +o the e;plaining.8 A+am or+ere+ 'isa 4luntly/ 8#8ll 4e up later to strap up that an2le of 5osh8s/8 With :aisy8s help. 'isa manage+ to get the t*ins upstairs an+ into the 4ath/ They *ere unnaturally su4+ue+ *hile 'isa an+ :aisy s,ru44e+ them ,lean an+ put on their py3amas. 4ut *hen A+am *al2e+ into their room a half hour later. the t*ins *ent a +efinite sha+e paler/ #t *as o4vious that they e;pe,te+ some 2in+ of retri4ution for their +iso4e+ien,e. 4ut *hen none seeme+ to 4e forth,oming. 'isa suspe,te+ that 5osh an+ 6ate foun+ A+am8s silen,e 3ust as frightening as she +i+/ A+am pla,e+ the first<ai+ 4o; on the floor 4esi+e the 4e+ an+. after re<e;amining 5osh8s an2le very ,arefully. he applie+ an ointment to the affe,te+ area. an+ strappe+ it up e;pertly *ith a ,lean ,repe 4an+age/ All this *as +one *ith surprising gentleness. an+ *hen he finally straightene+. his eyes travelle+ *ith +eli4erate slo*ness over 'isa/ #t *as then that she realise+ *hat a 4e<+raggle+ mess she herself must 4e. an+ em4arrassment sent a *ave of ,olour surging up into her ,hee2s/ His ruthless mouth t*iste+ a little ,yni,ally an+ humorously as if he en3oye+ her +is,omfiture. an+ then he *as gone. leaving 4ehin+ only the for,e of his personality *hi,h *as frightening enough even in his a4sen,e/ :aisy. than2fully. too2 ,harge of the t*ins. an+. alone in her 4e+room a fe* moments later. 'isa too2 a ,apsule for the nagging pain in her hip. an+ stare+ at herself in the mirror *ith something a2in to horror/ There *as +ust in her hair an+ a strea2 of +irt a,ross her nose/ Her +enims *ere soile+ an+ her 4louse. or *hat *as left of it. only 3ust su,,ee+e+ in ,overing her 4reasts/ She loo2e+ a sight.

she thought *ith a grima,e. an+ *hile running her 4ath *ater. she strippe+ +o*n to the s2in an+ +ispose+ of her +irty ,lothes/ The hot 4ath +i+ *on+ers for her a,hing hip. 4ut it +i+ nothing for her nervousness at the ,onfrontation *hi,h *as yet to ,ome 4et*een A+am $an+eleur an+ herself. an+. as she *rappe+ a to*el aroun+ her *et hair. she ,oul+ almost hear that harsh voi,e of his +ismissing her/ :resse+. later. in an ol+ t*ee+ s2irt *ith a green. long<sleeve+ 4louse. 'isa too2 a little time *ith her ma2e<up 4efore she 4rushe+ her fine. sil2y hair until it shone li2e gol+/ She loo2e+ ,ool an+ ,onfi+ent. she +e,i+e+ as she stare+ at her image in the mirror. 4ut +eep +o*n insi+e she *as afrai+J afrai+ of fa,ing A+am an+ afrai+ of *hat he *oul+ say/ A -ui,2 glan,e at her *rist*at,h tol+ her that she ,oul+ no longer prolong the inevita4le an+. s-uaring her slim shoul+ers. she *ent +o*nstairs to fin+ Eri,a $an+eleur alrea+y seate+ at the one en+ of the long oa2 ta4le/ She smile+ *armly at 'isa. 4anishing a little of the ,hilliness a4out her heart. 4ut heavy footsteps approa,hing the +ining<room ma+e 'isa8s ans*ering smile freeKe on her lips/ As al*ays. A+am8s presen,e ha+ a startling effe,t on her nervous system. 4ut on this o,,asion her pulse rate -ui,2ene+ alarmingly *hen he *al2e+ into the room/ She re,alle+ the *ay she ha+ lain *ea2ly against his ,hest. an+ felt again the har+ pressure of that tanne+. mus,ular arm a4out her *aist as she ha+ felt it +uring that un,omforta4le ri+e 4a,2 to the homestea+. an+ her ,hee2s flare+ hotly at the memory/ A+am. ho*ever. gave her nothing 4ut a ,ursory glan,e as he pulle+ out his ,hair an+ sat +o*n. an+ his silent. almost morose attitu+e +uring +inner shattere+ the remaining fragments of hope she ha+ ,lung to so +esperately/ 'isa trie+ to ,on,entrate on her foo+. 4ut she har+ly 2ne* *hat she *as eating. so intensely a*are *as she of every movement A+am ma+e. an+ of the mus,les rippling 4eneath his ,lean *hite ,otton shirt/ His po*erful 4o+y suggeste+ a limitless strength an+ stamina that *as a*e< inspiring. an+ also a little frightening. 4ut it *as the unrelenting line of his 3a* that trou4le+ her most/ A+am $an+eleur *oul+ not overloo2 this in,i+ent. an+ she *as ,onvin,e+ that he too2 a ,ruel +elight in stret,hing out the inevita4le/ She *oul+ 4e +ismisse+ *ithout a fli,2er of regret. an+ she *as 4e,oming more ,ertain of this *ith every se,on+ that passe+/ When A+am retire+ to his stu+y after +inner. 'isa e;,use+ herself from the ta4le an+ *ent up to her room/ She pa,e+ the floor restlessly. e;pe,ting at any moment to 4e summone+ to his stu+y. 4ut. as the hours passe+. nothing happene+. an+ she *ent to 4e+ eventually. still nursing her an;iety/ Sleep eva+e+ her. an+ the silent +ar2ness ma+e her in,reasingly a*are of an ine;pli,a4le *eight in her ,hest/ Her 4reathing 4e,ame la4oure+. her palms +amp *ith perspiration as she live+ again through the frightening e;perien,e of fin+ing 5osh at the 4ottom of the +isuse+ *ell. an+ su++enly she ,oul+ not stan+ 4eing ,oope+ up in the ,onfines of her room a minute longer/ She nee+e+ a 4reath of fresh air. 4ut more than that. she nee+e+ pea,e of min+/ The latter *oul+ 4e a little +iffi,ult to o4tain. 4ut fresh air *as no pro4lem. an+. slipping out of 4e+. she put on her go*n an+ *ent +o*nstairs. the soft mules on her feet ma2ing no soun+ as she ,rosse+ the spa,ious entran,e hall *ith its anti-ue furniture/ The ol+ gran+father ,lo,2 ti,2e+ a*ay the se,on+s as she fum4le+ in the +ar2ness to unlo,2 the front +oor. an+ moments later she steppe+ out on to the veran+ah to +ra* the ,ool. fresh night air +eep into her torture+ lungs/ The 4rillian,e of the stars never ,ease+ to fas,inate her. an+ she trie+. foolishly. to ,ount them as she leane+ against the *oo+en rails/ The night *as no longer silent. for the inse,ts in the un+ergro*th lou+ly ,horuse+ their o*n parti,ular 4ran+ of noise. 4ut to 'isa. at that moment. it *as li2e musi,. primitive an+ e;,iting/ Shutting her min+ to the turmoil of her thoughts. she lost herself in the s,ente+ +ar2ness of her surroun+ings. at pea,e. for a time. until something alerte+ her to the realisation that she *as not alone/ Rolf. the Alsatian. 4oun+e+ up the steps an+ pa++e+ softly to*ar+s her to nu+ge her thigh

fon+ly/ They *ere no longer strangers to ea,h other an+. as 'isa8s han+ fon+le+ the smooth hea+. she 2ne* that A+am *oul+ not 4e far 4ehin+/ Her 4o+y tense+ *hen she pi,2e+ up the faint aroma of ,igarette smo2e an+. ,ons,ious su++enly of 4eing +resse+ only in her night attire. she fle+ to*ar+s the +oor. 4ut A+am emerge+ from the sha+o*s at that pre,ise moment to 4ar her *ay/ Tall an+ 4roa+. he to*ere+ over her frighteningly. an+ she shran2 from him instin,tively until she felt the roughness of the *all +igging into her 4a,2/ She ,oul+ not see his fa,e. only the outline of his arrogant. prou+ly hel+ hea+. 4ut she felt his +ar2. penetrating gaKe ma2ing use of the moonlight to ta2e in every part of her no* trem4ling 4o+y as she ,o*ere+ against the *all/ 8What the +evil are you +oing out here at this time of night08 The +eep. resonant tim4re of his voi,e sent a pe,uliar little shiver along her nervous system. an+ she stammere+ li2e a ,hil+ ,aught in the a,t of +oing something unforgiva4le/ 8#7# ,oul+n8t sleep. so #7# ,ame out for a 4reath of7of fresh air/8 8#s your hip giving you trou4le08 8 o/8 He *as so ,lose to her no* that she ,oul+ +ete,t the ,lean. fresh smell of the vel+ as it ,lung to him. an+ all at on,e her *ary heart *as 4eating in her throat/ This *as the moment she ha+ +rea+e+. 4ut. una4le to stan+ the un,ertainty a moment longer. she stum4lingly 4rought matters to a hea+/ 8# suppose that7that after *hat happene+ this afternoon you7you *ant me to leave !airvie*/8 8Why shoul+ # *ant that08 Was he mo,2ing her0 she *on+ere+ ,onfuse+ly as she sai+M 8# shoul+ have guesse+ *hat the t*ins *ere planning. espe,ially after hearing them +is,uss the *ell. an+ # shoul+ have 4een a little more o4servant. 4ut instea+ #9 *as asleep/8 8#t8s impossi4le for anyone to 2eep a t*enty<four<hour *at,h on the ,hil+ren. an+ you +i+ *arn them not to go near the *ell/8 'isa8s heart s2ippe+ a 4eat as she as2e+ *ith 4reathless in,re+ulity. 8:o you mean you7you +on8t 4lame me08 A lo* rum4le of une;pe,te+ laughter seeme+ to ,ome from +eep *ithin his throat/ 8You soun+ un,onvin,e+/8 8Well. #7you *eren8t too 2een to ta2e me on in the first pla,e.8 she e;plaine+ haltingly. totally ,onfuse+ an+ 4e*il+ere+ 4y his attitu+e/ 8That8s *hy #7# thought78 8You thought # *as *aiting for an opportunity. li2e this one for instan,e. to sen+ you pa,2ing08 he finishe+ for her -uietly/ 8Something li2e that9 yes.8 she a+mitte+. her ,hee2s gro*ing hot/ He move+ su++enly in the +ar2ness. an+ then his han+ *as *arm an+ rough against her ,hee2/ The une;pe,te+ness of it startle+ her into immo4ility an+ left her spee,hless as she felt his fingers against the s,ar a4ove her left temple. then he +eli4erately e;plore+ the s,ar running from ear to ,hin/ His tou,h on the raise+. sensitive s2in *as ele,trifying. an+ there *as a su++en ,lamouring in her 4o+y *hi,h she ,oul+ not un+erstan+/ She hel+ her 4reath. too afrai+ to move. an+ then she *as over*helme+ 4y the 2no*le+ge that here *as one man *ho *as o4viously not repulse+ 4y her s,ars in the least/ 8#s that *hy you ,oul+n8t sleep0 Be,ause you thought # *as going to sen+ you a*ay08 He lo*ere+ his han+ to his si+e as he spo2e. 4ut she *as still un+er the spell of his tou,h/ She stare+ up at him in a +aKe+ fashion for several moments 4efore she un+erstoo+ *hat he *as referring to. an+. ,olouring s*iftly. she sai+ lamely. 8#8ve gro*n very fon+ of the t*ins/8 8 ot many *omen *oul+ have ,lim4e+ +o*n into the sten,h of an ol+ *ell to sit *ith an in3ure+ ,hil+ until help arrive+. so forget *hat # sai+ a4out 4eing on pro4ation/8 There *as 3ust the slightest hint of praise in his voi,e. 4ut it sent the 4loo+ flo*ing *armly through her veins as he a++e+ for,efullyM 8You8re staying/8

8Than2 you.8 she *hispere+ unstea+ily. ma2ing an effort to pull herself together/ 8A4out that *ell98 8The *ell *ill 4e seale+ off properly this time.8 he tol+ her *ith his usual a4ruptness. an+ turne+ a*ay from her. his attitu+e ,onveying his +ismissal of her even 4efore he spo2e/ 8&oo+night. 'isa/8 8&oo+night. (r $an+eleur/8 Her voi,e ha+ soun+e+ prim. almost +eta,he+. 4ut all she ,oul+ thin2 of as she ar+uously ,lim4e+ the stairs up to her room *as the soun+ of her name on A+am $an+eleur8s lips/ He ha+ ,alle+ her 'isa. pro4a4ly *ithout even realising it. 4ut it ha+ given her the strangest thrill of pleasure to hear him +o so/ She *as 4eing ri+i,ulous. she tol+ herself sternly/ #t *as relief at the +is,overy that she *as not to 4e +ismisse+ from his servi,e that ma+e her feel this *ay. 4ut she felt again the rough *armth of his han+ against her ,ool ,hee2. an+ it *as the memory of that tou,h that finally ma+e her go to sleep *ith a smile on her lips/

5osh8s resilien,e *as remar2a4le/ Within less than a *ee2 after falling +o*n that ol+ Well. he *as running a4out *ith as mu,h enthusiasm as his sister/ The nightmare in,i+ent *as forgotten. an+ 'isa on,e again ha+ her han+s full trying to 2eep the t*ins in or+er/ 8:on8t let them tire you too mu,h.8 Eri,a $an+eleur *arne+ *hen 'isa 3oine+ her for tea on the veran+ah one morning after one of those ma+ 4all games on the la*n *ith 5osh an+ 6ate/ 8# +on8t min+.8 'isa sighe+. flushe+ an+ happy as she leane+ 4a,2 in the ,ane ,hair an+ sippe+ her tea/ 8# en3oy the e;er,ise. an+ it8s +one *on+ers for me +espite 4eing a little painful at times/8 8#8ve noti,e+ you seem to 4e *al2ing 4etter.8 the ol+er *oman o4serve+. her *arm glan,e ta2ing in the small slen+erness of the girl in the ,hair opposite her/ 8Are you happy here *ith us. 'isa08 8Oh. yes. very happy.8 'isa replie+ *ithout hesitation/ 8#t8s not as primitive. then. as you imagine+ it *oul+ 4e08 'isa almost ,ho2e+ on a mouthful of tea. an+ her ,hee2s re++ene+ as she met Eri,a $an+eleur8s humorous glan,e/ 8# suppose you8ve hear+ from my Aunt (olly.8 she o4serve+ *ea2ly. an+ (rs $an+eleur no++e+ laughingly/ 8# ha+ a letter from her a fe* +ays ago. an+ she *as very ,on,erne+ a4out you/ She mentione+ your +ou4ts a4out living un+er su,h98 that teasing smile flashe+ again. 89 primitive ,on+itions/8 'isa ,oloure+ again. 4ut as she pla,e+ her empty ,up in the tray she trie+ to e;plain// 8# ha+ no i+ea *hat it *oul+ 4e li2e to live on a sheep farm. an+ as #8+ never +one anything other than tea,h 4efore. # very mu,h +ou4te+ that # *as ,apa4le of loo2ing after t*o small ,hil+ren/ # ha+ very little ,onfi+en,e in myself at the time. an+ A+am7(r $an+eleur.8 she ,orre,te+ herself hastily. 8ha+ very little ,onfi+en,e in my suita4ility as *ell/8 Eri,a $an+eleur fro*ne+/ 8A+am no longer feels that *ay. #8m sure/ Why. 3ust the other +ay he sai+ the ,hil+ren have never 4een as *ell<4ehave+ as they have 4een sin,e your arrival/8 The sun *as su++enly 4righter on that *arm O,to4er morning. an+ a strange ne* happiness surge+ through herJ a happiness that +i+ o++ things to her pulse rate an+ then left her *on+ering at the reason for it/ Why shoul+ the slightest ,ompliment from A+am ma2e her feel as though she *as *al2ing on air0 (ost of the time he treate+ her as if she +i+ not e;ist. *hile she91 'isa +re* her 4reath in sharply. o4livious of the ol+er *oman8s spe,ulative glan,e/ #t *as ri+i,ulous an+ -uite out of the -uestion/ She +i+ not even li2e her employer/ He *as al*ays so +istur4ingly frightening. an+ yet9

8You8ve gone -uite pale. 'isa/ Are you all right08 At the soun+ of Eri,a $an+eleur8s voi,e 'isa ,ame to her senses. an+. a+monishing herself silently for her *il+ flight of fan,y. she sai+M 8#8m -uite all right. than2 you. 4ut # thin2 # shoul+ go an+ see *hat the ,hil+ren are up to/8 Eri,a $an+eleur no++e+ silently. 4ut 'isa ,oul+ feel her an;ious eyes follo*ing her as she *ent in sear,h of 5osh an+ 6ate/ #t too2 'isa a ,onsi+era4le time to ri+ herself of the alarming thoughts *hi,h ha+ ta2en shape in her min+ that morning. an+ she ha+ almost su,,ee+e+ in forgetting the in,i+ent *hen a small flat par,el *as 4rought up to her room 4efore +inner that evening/ The lila, *rapping gave her no in+i,ation as to the origin an+ ,ontents of the par,el. 4ut her han+s *ere trem4ling *hen she finally lifte+ the li+ of the flat 4o; to fin+ her name *ritten 4ol+ly on a small envelope insi+e/ She 2ne* that han+*ritingJ she ha+ seen it on the ,he-ue A+am ha+ given her at the en+ of the previous month. an+ her heart 4egan to thu+ un,omforta4ly as she e;tra,te+ the ,ar+/ A,,ept this as a repla,ement for the one you *ere for,e+ to +is,ar+/ A/$/ 'isa 2ne* at on,e *hat it *as an+. lifting the tissue paper. she en,ountere+ a 4louse ma+e of the finest. most e;-uisite sil2. *ith its *i+e ,ollar em4roi+ere+ in satin. an+ its long sleeves gathere+ in at the ,uffs/ Tou,he+ 4y this gesture from a man *hom she 2ne* ,oul+ 4e gentle. as *ell as a har+. unfeeling 4rute. she allo*e+ herself the lu;ury of hol+ing the 4louse up against her *hile she a+mire+ herself in the mirror/ #t *as the most 4eautiful thing she ha+ ever seen. an+ the +esire to try it on *as very strong. 4ut she ,oul+ not a,,ept it. she realise+ a little sa+ly as she returne+ it ,arefully to its 4o;/ Her fingers ,aresse+ the material lovingly. almost longingly. 4ut her soft mouth 4e,ame set *ith +etermination as she *ent +o*nstairs to 3oin A+am an+ his mother at the +inner ta4le/

'isa *as a little nervous at the +inner ta4le that evening. 4ut the meal progresse+ in the usual manner *ith A+am saying very little. e;,ept to ans*er his mother8s o,,asional -ueries. an+ 'isa 4egan to *on+er 3ust *hy she ha+ imagine+ he *oul+ 4ehave +ifferently/ #n no *ay +i+ he give any in+i,ation that he ha+ ha+ anything to +o *ith that 4eautiful gift *hi,h she ha+ left on her 4e+ in rea+iness to return to him. an+. if it *as not for the note a++resse+ to her in his o*n han+*riting. she *oul+ seriously have +ou4te+ his involvement/ A+am +i+ not stay to have ,offee on the veran+ah *ith 'isa an+ his mother. 4ut e;,use+ himself an+ *ent through to his stu+y an+. *hen (rs $an+eleur finally *ent up to her room. 'isa +e,i+e+ to ris2 A+am8s *rath/ His stu+y *as for4i++en territory *hen he *as there. she ha+ learnt. 4ut 'isa felt ,ertain that the ,ir,umstan,es *arrante+ this interruption/ With her nerves tightening into a 2not at the pit of her stoma,h. she 2no,2e+ on the stu+y +oor a fe* se,on+s later an+. at his a4rupt ,omman+. she *ent in an+ ,lose+ the +oor softly 4ehin+ her/ A+am8s pen halte+ its progress a,ross the sheet of paper in front of him. an+ there *as a faint loo2 of surprise on his fa,e *hen he loo2e+ up. 4ut then his eyes seeme+ to 4urn right through her *ith an intensity that ma+e her flin,h in*ar+ly/ She e;pe,te+ a ruthless repriman+. 4ut *hen he merely ,ontinue+ to stare at her in that silent. 4roo+ing fashion. she as2e+ hesitantly. 8(ay #7spea2 to7to you for a moment. please08 8#s it important08 he 4ar2e+. his heavy eye4ro*s +ra*ing together in a fro*n/ 8#t is to me. yes/8 He +i+ not invite her to sit +o*n. an+ she stoo+ *ith her han+s ,lut,he+ tightly 4ehin+ her 4a,2. shifting her *eight un,omforta4ly from one foot to the other as he snappe+. 8&o ahea+. then/8 Completely +is,on,erte+ 4y his manner. her min+ *ent frighteningly 4lan2 for a fe* se,on+s. 4ut the har+ening of his rugge+ features a,te+ as a spur an+ she hastily pulle+ herself together/ 8#7# *oul+ li2e to than2 you for the 4louse you8ve given me. 4ut98 8But08 he prompte+ harshly *hen her voi,e fa+e+ on her/ 8As a repla,ement it8s7it8s far too e;pensive for me to a,,ept/8 There *as a +eathly silen,e in the stu+y. an+ then she flin,he+ nervously as he +roppe+ his pen on to the 4lotter an+ rose to his feet/ With his han+s pushe+ +eep into the po,2ets of his ,or+uroy pants. he *al2e+ roun+ his +es2 to stan+ fa,ing her. an+ the height an+ 4rea+th of him +*arfe+ her so ,ompletely that. not for the first time. she *ishe+ herself a ,ouple of ,entimetres taller/ 8# +on8t usually have my gifts thro*n 4a,2 in my fa,e.8 he announ,e+ *ith +ispleasure in every sylla4le he uttere+/ 8Oh. please7#8m not7it8s 3ust that78 8#s it the *rong siKe08 he pro4e+ harshly/ 8Oh. no/8 8:oes the style not appeal to you08 8 o. no1 #t8s 4eautiful. 4ut78 'isa 4it her lip. a*are that she not only felt li2e an i+iot 4ut that she *as 4ehaving li2e one too/ A+am *as ma2ing it e;tremely +iffi,ult for her to e;plain her reasons for not a,,epting his gift. an+ to have him to*ering over her li2e this ma+e matters *orse/ He *as mu,h too ,lose for

,omfort an+. *ith her eyes on a level *ith the har+ *all of his ,hest. she ,oul+ not help remem4ering the feel of him. an+ the *arm male smell of him *hen she ha+ lain *ea2ly against him after 4eing +ragge+ from the *ell/ Her heart4eats -ui,2ene+ errati,ally at the memory. an+ she too2 an involuntary pa,e a*ay from him in an effort to stea+y herself. 4ut her a,tion merely evo2e+ his mo,2ery. as if he *as *ell a*are of the effe,t he *as 4eginning to have on her/ 8Are you afrai+ # might +eman+ some sort of payment for my9 generosity08 A shiver of sho,2 *ent through 'isa. an+ her eyes *i+ene+ *ith alarm as she raise+ them to his/ 8Oh. no1 # never thought that at all/ Besi+es. you8re not7not78 8Yes08 he prompte+. his mouth t*isting +erisively *hen she ,ame to an em4arrasse+ stop. an+ her ,hee2s *ere su++enly on fire/ 8You8re not the 2in+ of man *ho *oul+ 4argain *ith gifts in or+er to7to get *hat you *ant.8 she manage+ finally. 4ut she ,oul+ not loo2 him in the eyes. an+ fastene+ her glan,e instea+ on the silver 4u,2le atta,he+ to the 4roa+ leather 4elt at his slim *aist/ Their ,onversation ha+ all at on,e 4e,ome too +angerous. an+ mu,h too personal/ #t ha+ a*a2ene+ her to a sensual a*areness of him as a man. an+ she +are+ not thin2 of him as anything else 4ut her employer/ 8You8re -uite right.8 his voi,e vi4rate+ along her re,eptive nerves. 4ut there *as an element of +anger in the air that pla,e+ her instantly on the alert as he a++e+ +ar2lyM 8What # *ant9 # ta2e/ 'i2e this. for instan,e/8 'isa ha+ 4een prepare+ for a ver4al 4attle *ith A+am $an+eleur. 4ut she *as totally unprepare+ for the for,e *ith *hi,h her 4o+y ma+e ,onta,t *ith his/ His arms *ere lo,2e+ a4out her smallness li2e a painful vi,e. an+ her startle+ gasp *as smothere+ 4eneath the ruthless +eman+ of lips that sho*e+ no mer,y in the violation of her mouth/ She *as release+ again after a fe* se,on+s *ith an e-ually staggering s*iftness. an+ the room spun ,raKily a4out her as she ,lut,he+ *il+ly at the +es2 for support *hile A+am returne+ to his ,hair as if nothing ha+ happene+/ 8You may +o *hat you li2e *ith my gift.8 he announ,e+ in a tone of +ismissal as he pi,2e+ up his pen/ 8# have no further interest in the matter/8 Cons,ious of the fa,t that she *as sha2ing in every lim4. an+ of a soaring in her ears that ma+e her feel as though she *as on the verge of fainting. 'isa someho* rea,he+ the +oor an+ *ren,he+ it open/ She ,oul+ not re,all after*ar+s *hether she ha+ ,lose+ it 4ehin+ her or not. for the only ,ons,ious thought in her min+ at that time *as to get a*ay from A+am $an+eleur. an+ as -ui,2ly as possi4le 4efore she humiliate+ herself utterly an+ ,ompletely 4y 4ursting into tears/ 'ater. *hen the sho,2 of *hat ha+ o,,urre+ no longer ha+ su,h a +evastating effe,t on her. she trie+ to fin+ an ans*er for A+am8s unpre+i,ta4le 4ehaviour. 4ut ,oul+ not/ She ,oul+ still feel the har+ impa,t of his mouth on her 4ruise+ lips. an+ a tremor shoo2 through her as she re,alle+ her -ui,2. involuntary response/ #t ha+ 4een a ruthless 2iss. 4ut it ha+ sha2en her to the very +epths of her 4eing as no other man8s 2isses ha+ ever +one 4efore/ Rory ha+ 2isse+ her many times an+. thin2ing herself in love *ith him at that time. she ha+ en3oye+ his 2isses7she ha+. in fa,t. yearne+ for them74ut never ha+ his 2isses affe,te+ her as mu,h as that one. passionless 2iss from A+am $an+eleur ha+ +one/ #t frightene+ her no* to thin2 of it. 4ut her min+ ,lung relentlessly to those startling moments in the arms of a man *ho ha+ fille+ her *ith an ine;pli,a4le *ariness from the moment they ha+ met/ She ha+ sense+ the +anger then. an+ she *as even more strongly a*are of it no*/ He ,oul+ 4e gentle7she ha+ +is,overe+ that *hen he ha+ atten+e+ to 5osh8s an2le74ut he ,oul+ also 4e ,ruelly harsh. an+ frighteningly 4rutal if he *ishe+. an+ it *as this si+e of her employer8s ,hara,ter that she feare+ most/ 'isa pi,2e+ up the 4o; *ith its lila, *rapping an+ thrust it into the furthest ,orner of her *ar+ro4e/ She *ante+ to forget a4out A+am8s une;pe,te+. an+ una,,epta4le gift. 4ut the memory of *hat ha+ transpire+ in his stu+y *oul+ not 4e erase+ that easily/

8What # *ant9 # ta2e.8 he ha+ sai+. an+ he ha+ ta2en her lips to +ra* from them a startling response that even no* ,onfuse+ her. ma2ing her realise that she *oul+ have to 4e infinitely more ,areful in future not to let it happen again/

#t *as impossi4le to avoi+ someone *hen you live+ un+er the same roof *ith them. 'isa +is,overe+ +uring the ne;t fe* +ays. an+. *ith the arrival of the manager A+am ha+ employe+ for Waverley. his late 4rother8s farm. 'isa foun+ it even more +iffi,ult to give her employer a *i+e 4erth/ He 4egan to spen+ in,reasingly more time on his o*n property an+. to 'isa8s +ismay. she seeme+ to en,ounter A+am *herever she *ent *ith the t*ins/ He *as sel+om alone. ho*ever. for Willa 5a,2son *as al*ays ,lose at han+. an+ her possessiveness *as 4eginning to ma2e it o4vious to 'isa that this *oman inten+e+ 4e,oming the mistress of A+am8s 2ing+om/ She sel+om ma+e an effort to spea2 to 'isa. for it *as as if she ,onsi+ere+ it 4eneath her +ignity to +o more than a,2no*le+ge the presen,e of a mere employee. 4ut her green eyes ,ontinually flashe+ a *arning at 'isa to 2eep her +istan,e from A+am/ #t *as a sour,e of se,ret amusement to 'isa that Willa shoul+ ,onsi+er her a threat. for A+am $an+eleur *as not at all the 2in+ of man *ho *oul+ interest her in that *ay. 4ut Willa *as o4viously not ta2ing any ,han,es/ 6enneth Ru+man. the ne* manager. ,ame to +inner one evening at Eri,a $an+eleur8s invitation/ He *as a lean young man *ith unruly 4ro*n hair an+ hungry eyes. 4ut his 2no*le+ge an+ effi,ien,y in farming *as un-uestiona4le. an+ on the other o,,asions 'isa ha+ met him. she ha+ foun+ him a ,harming +iversion. +espite his ten+en,y to 4e,ome amorous in his 4oyishly enthusiasti, manner/ His flattering attentions at first startle+ an+ +ismaye+ 'isa. 4ut *hen she 4e,ame a*are of A+am o4serving them at times *ith sar+oni, amusement. she surren+ere+ to the +evilish +esire to en,ourage 6enneth8s 4ehaviour/ Why she +i+ this. she ,oul+ not e;plain to herself. 4ut it *as something she regrette+ very +eeply *hen she en,ountere+ 6enneth in the gar+en one evening *hile she *as ta2ing her usual. after<+inner stroll/ 8Are you loo2ing for (r $an+eleur08 'isa -uestione+ him as he ,ame a,ross the la*n to*ar+s her *ith that long<legge+. s*inging stri+e of his/ 8 o.8 he laughe+ lightly. ta2ing her arm an+ falling into step 4esi+e her/ 8# *as hoping to see you. 'isa. an+ here you are/ #t8s almost as if you *ere *aiting for me/8 'isa stoppe+ a4ruptly in her stri+e an+ stare+ ,uriously up into his lean. ,lean<shaven fa,e/ 8You *ere hoping to see me08 8!rom the first moment # sa* you # 2ne* you *oul+ loo2 4eautiful in the moonlight.8 he murmure+ *ith an une;pe,te+ note of passion in his voi,e that ma+e her stare at him in spee,hless surprise/ 8Your hair is li2e silver sheen. an+ in that *hite +ress you loo2 li2e a prin,ess *ho has 3ust steppe+ out of one of Hans An+ersen8s fairy tales/8 86enneth08 'isa trie+ to e;tri,ate her han+s from his. 4ut faile+/ 8Are you feeling all right08 8# feel *on+erful.8 he laughe+ again. a++ing *ith a hint of sensuality in his voi,e. 8 o* that #8ve seen you/8 86enneth. # +on8t thin278 8You8re the most *on+erful girl #8ve ever met.8 he interrupte+. his hungry grey eyes +evouring her fa,e/ 8Every time # see you # feel a little lighthea+e+/8 Cursing herself for foolishly giving him the impression that she *as attra,te+ to him. 'isa sai+ a little sharply. 8# thin2 you shoul+ go home an+ ta2e an aspirin/8 8# +on8t nee+ an aspirin. 'isa/ #t8s you # nee+/ # love you.8 he +e,lare+ hotly. lunging at her ,lumsily an+ sho*ering her fa,e *ith 2isses/ 86enneth. have you gone ma+08 she +eman+e+. trying to *ar+ off his hungry. see2ing mouth/ 8'et me go1 At on,e. +o you hear18 Her voi,e. sharp *ith anger. finally penetrate+. an+ 6enneth release+ her a4ruptly as *ell as a

little shamefa,e+ly/ 8#8m sorry. 'isa/8 !ille+ *ith instant remorse an+ guilt. she shoo2 her hea+ an+ sai+ gently. 8#8m the one *ho shoul+ 4e apologising/8 8'isa78 8:on8t say anything.8 she interrupte+. tou,hing his arm lightly/ 8#t8s all my/ fault/ # li2e you. 6en. 4ut # realise no* that #8ve misle+ you from the start/8 8You mean you +on8t feel the same *ay a4out me as # +o a4out you08 8We8ve only 2no*n ea,h other for a fe* +ays.8 she eva+e+ having to spea2 the truth/ 'ean<fingere+ han+s grippe+ hers painfully/ 8:o you mean there8s hope for me yet08 8 o.8 she *hispere+. lo*ering her eyes/ 8#8m sorry/8 8Ho* a4out frien+ship. then08 6enneth persiste+/ 8Are *e still frien+s08 'isa8s smile *as tinge+ *ith sa+ness/ 8!rien+ship is 3ust a4out all # ,an offer you/8 8Shall *e seal our frien+ship *ith a 2iss08 6enneth as2e+ eagerly. an+ 4efore 'isa ,oul+ refuse. his soft lips ha+ 4rushe+ against hers/ 8&oo+night. 'isa/8 'isa *at,he+ him *al2 -ui,2ly a,ross the la*n to *here he ha+ par2e+ his small *hite (& an+. as the ,ar roare+ +o*n the +rive. 'isa sighe+ heavily/ She ha+ 4een a fool to allo* matters to go this far. 4ut A+am8s attitu+e ha+. for some ,urious reason. a,te+ as a spur. an+ she ha+ 4een in+is,reet enough to permit 6enneth to flirt *ith her outrageously/ There *as perhaps another reason for her 4ehaviour. she finally a+mitte+ to herself *ith some relu,tan,e/ 6enneth8s flattering attentions ha+ given her sagging morale a 4oost. an+ it ha+ +one *on+ers as far as restoring her ,onfi+en,e in herself as a *oman/ 8That *as very tou,hing. # must say. 4ut not very satisfying/8 8What718 'isa s*ung roun+ sharply. her eyes sear,hing the sha+o*s 4eneath the trees a little *il+ly 4efore they fastene+ on to A+am8s large frame leaning ,asually against the gnarle+ stem of the ol+ oa2 tree/ Her heart s2ippe+ an un,omforta4le 4eat as she +eman+e+ a little *ea2ly. 8Ho* long have you 4een stan+ing there08 8'ong enough.8 ,ame the a4rupt reply/ 'isa +re* a ,areful 4reath/ 8You mean you7you hear+08 8# hear+7an+ sa*7everything/8 8That *as +espi,a4le of you18 8Perhaps.8 A+am agree+. ,oming out of the sha+o*s *ith Rolf at his heels. an+. as her frightene+ glan,e too2 in his 4la,2 pants an+ s*eater. she realise+ *hy he ha+ manage+ to ma2e himself so in,onspi,uous/ 8#8ve *at,he+ you lea+ing Ru+man on *henever he ,ame to !airvie*.8 that +eep. thun+ering voi,e of his 4erate+ her. 8an+ # *as fortunate enough to *itness the results/8 Em4arrassment an+ anger stung her ,hee2s/ 8#7# hope you foun+ it e-ually amusing08 8# +i+/8 There *as something in his -uiet a+mission that frightene+ her. an+ she turne+ from him. 4ent on es,ape. 4ut a heavy han+ ,ame +o*n on to her shoul+er. gripping it so firmly that she feare+ it *oul+ 4e +islo,ate+ if she struggle+ for release/ 8Where are you going08 8#7#8m going insi+e/8 8 o. you8re not/8 With 4oth her shoul+ers no* in the po*erful grip of those large han+s. she *as s*ung roun+ to fa,e him. an+ *hat she sa* in that +ar2 fa,e sent a shiver of apprehension up her spine as he gro*le+. 8There shoul+ 4e a more satisfa,tory en+ing to this evening for you/8 A thro44ing silen,e follo*e+ his remar2. an+ then she *hispere+ hoarsely. 8What7*hat +o you mean08 8#8m not a man for flo*ery spee,hes. an+ to repeat 6en Ru+man8s fairytale +es,ription of you is -uite unne,essary. 4ut this time you8re going to 2no* *hat it8s li2e to 4e 2isse+ 4y a man *ith e;perien,e instea+ of a young fle+gling 4lun+ering into his first amorous a+venture/8

8Oh. no18 she gaspe+ as a *ave of fear *ashe+ over her. an+ then she *as fighting. *ith every oun,e of strength she possesse+. against the relentless pressure of his arms. until +espair ma+e her 4eat against his ,hest *ith ,len,he+ fists/ 8'et me go9 please18 8!or a little thing. you put up -uite a fight. 'isa. 4ut you 2no* it8s useless. +on8t you08 he laughe+ shortly. ,at,hing hol+ of her *rists an+ t*isting them 4ehin+ her 4a,2 *here he hel+ them *ith one han+ *hile the other en,ir,le+ her throat an+ for,e+ her fa,e out into the open/ 8:on8t you08 he +eman+e+/ 'isa ,oul+ not ans*er him/ She *as too utterly at his mer,y. an+ too a*are of the har+. ele,trifying *armth of his 4o+y against her o*n. 4ut. *hen his fingers ,aressingly pro4e+ the hollo* at the 4ase of her throat *here a pulse thro44e+ a,hingly. helpless tears fille+ her *i+e. frightene+ eyes/ 8Please. (r $an+eleur. +on8t +o this.8 she 4egge+ unstea+ily/ 8#t *ill 4e painless. # assure you.8 he replie+ mo,2ingly. lo*ering his hea+ until she ,oul+ feel his *arm 4reath against her mouth/ 86issing ,an 4e -uite an en3oya4le pastime *hen it8s +one ,orre,tly/8 8# +on8t +ou4t your e;pertise. 4ut # +on8t fan,y 4eing the re,ipient un+er the ,ir,umstan,es.8 she argue+. 4ut alrea+y a frightening *ea2ness *as assailing her lim4s as his lips tease+ the ,orner of her mouth/ 8You sai+ that very prettily.8 he laughe+ softly an+ +angerously. 84ut the time for tal2ing is over/8 His mouth too2 possession of hers no* *ith a +eli4erate sensuality that s*ept asi+e her fragile resistan,e *ith +evastating results/ Her lips *ere parte+ 4eneath the e;pertise of his. an+. as he ,ontinue+ to 2iss her *ith a ne* intima,y. she felt the final shre+ of her resistan,e 4eing torn from her grasp/ Rory8s 2isses ha+ on,e e;,ite+ her. 4ut A+am8s lips spar2e+ off a flame that seare+ through her 4o+y. a*a2ening her to a +epth of emotion she ha+ not imagine+ she possesse+/ She *as +ro*ning in a maelstrom of sensations. an+ then. as she felt the *arm. ,aressing pressure of his han+ through the sil2 at her 4reast. she 2ne* the first stirrings of +esire/ #t *as impossi4le. an+ more than a little frightening. 4ut every nerve in her 4o+y ha+ ,ome alive to his tou,h. an+ *hen he finally release+ her she s*aye+ slightly *ith the intensity of her emotions/ 8# sai+ it *oul+ 4e painless. +i+n8t #08 he taunte+ her mo,2ingly. an+ her sanity returne+ painfully *hen she realise+ that. unli2e herself. A+am ha+ remaine+ emotionally un+istur4e+/ 8You8ve ha+ your fun at7at my e;pense.8 she sai+ unevenly. her throat *or2ing as she fought for ,ontrol/ 8(ay # go no*08 8#n a moment/8 The moon ha+ +ippe+ 4ehin+ the ,lou+s. shrou+ing them in a +ar2ness that ma+e her shiver involuntarily as she *aite+ for him to spea2. an+ *hen he +i+. she felt the ,olour ,ome an+ go in her ,hee2s/ 8# employe+ Ru+man to manage Waverley for me. an+ not for your o*n personal amusement/ #f you *ant entertainment in future. then # suggest you see2 it else*here/8 8Entertainment08 she -uestione+. her ,haoti, min+ not -uite rea+y to un+erstan+ him fully/ 8Yes. entertainment.8 he repeate+ *ith harsh impatien,e/ 8An affair. if you li2e/8 'isa felt the ,olour +rain from her fa,e. an+ some*here +eep insi+e of her there *as a pain she ,oul+ fin+ no ans*er for/ 8#s that *hat you thin2 of me0 That #8m +esperate enough to start an affair *ith the first man *ho might 4e *illing enough08 8Aren8t you08 8 o. # ,ertainly am not18 she ,ho2e+ out the *or+s/ 8:o you +eny that you en,ourage+ Ru+man08 he +eman+e+ *ith a note of savagery in his

voi,e that ,hille+ her even more/ 8 o. # +on8t +eny it. 4ut78 She stoppe+ a4ruptly/ Ho* ,oul+ she e;plain the reason for her 4ehaviour *hen she +i+ not un+erstan+ herself *hat ha+ spurre+ her on to en,ourage 6en0 8#t *asn8t Ru+man you *ante+ in the first pla,e. *as it08 A+am pla,e+ his o*n interpretation on her silen,e. an+ she stare+ up at him stupi+ly as the moon reappeare+ in the s2y to a,,entuate every line of his harsh features/ 8#7# +on8t 2no* *hat you mean/8 8#t *as me you *ante+.8 he state+ 4luntly. an+ she re,oile+ from him as if he ha+ stru,2 her/ 8You8re insane18 she gaspe+. the *il+ 4eat of her heart +ro*ning out the soun+ of her voi,e/ Han+s of steel 3er2e+ her against him *ith a violen,e that ro44e+ her momentarily of her 4reath. an+ his +ar2 eyes glittere+ +angerously as they ra2e+ her pale features an+ settle+ +eli4erately on her soft. -uivering mouth/ 8You may ,all me *hat you li2e.8 he sai+ through his teeth. 84ut you en3oye+ my 2isses more than you *oul+ ,are to a+mit. an+ #8m *illing to 4et that if # 2isse+ you no* you8+ en3oy it 3ust as mu,h. if not more/8 8That8s not true18 she argue+ hoarsely. 4ut her trea,herous 4o+y *as alrea+y respon+ing to his tou,h. an+ on,e again a flame *as ignite+ *ithin her. sen+ing a sensuous fire ra,ing through her veins/ 8'et me go18 she plea+e+ franti,ally. more afrai+ of herself no* than of him/ 8Oh. please let me go18 8 ot yet. 'isa.8 his voi,e raspe+ in her ear. an+ a thousan+ little shivers of un*ante+ +elight ra,e+ along her re,eptive 4loo+stream/ 8The finale is yet to ,ome/8 She trie+ to *ar+ him off. 4ut as her han+s en,ountere+ the har+ *all of his ,hest. she 2ne* the futility of her puny efforts/ He *as immova4le. li2e a soli+ sla4 of ,on,rete. ,rushing her softness against him *hile his lips +evoure+ hers *ith a ruthless an+ +eman+ing intensity that left no room for ,oherent thought/ She felt li2e a leaf ,aught up in one of those miniature *hirl*in+s she ha+ seen ra,ing a,ross the +ry. +usty vel+. an+ it s*ept her along until she neither 2ne* nor ,are+ *here it *as ta2ing her/ An eternity seeme+ to pass 4efore A+am finally release+ her. an+. surfa,ing slo*ly from the storm of passion he ha+ su,,ee+e+ in arousing in her. she leane+ *ea2ly against him. trem4ling as his han+s sli+ ,aressingly +o*n to her hips an+ up again to ,up the soft s*ell of her 4reasts/ 8#8ve prove+ my point. haven8t #08 Those *or+s *ere li2e a +ou,he of i,e+ *ater in the fa,e. ma2ing her realise *ith stinging ,larity 3ust *here she *as. an+ *hat she *as +oing/ With humiliation 4urning through her li2e a slo* fire. she 3er2e+ herself a*ay from him an+ sought refuge in the un,ontrolla4le anger that *as rising *ithin her/ 8The only thing you8ve prove+ is that. 4y ma2ing use of your superior strength. you8re ,apa4le of for,ing any *oman into su4mission18 That harsh mouth. *hi,h ha+ ,reate+ su,h havo, *ith her emotions. t*iste+ ,yni,ally/ 8Was it my superior strength that ma+e you respon+ so passionately an+ *illingly to my 2isses08 'isa *ishe+ the earth *oul+ ,ave in 4eneath her. 4ut nothing happene+/ A+am *as there. *itnessing her humiliation. an+ en3oying it. no +ou4t. *hile she *oul+ have given anything at that moment to 4e a4le to +eny the truth/ 8# thin2 you8re the most hateful man #8ve ever met. an+ if it *ere not for the t*ins78 8#f it *ere not for the t*ins. # *oul+n8t tolerate you in my< home.8 he interrupte+ ,ol+ly/ 8Remem4er that/8 'isa flin,he+ in*ar+ly/ o one ,oul+ have put her more firmly in her pla,e. an+ *ith su,h ,ruel pre,ision that she *as left in no +ou4t as to *hat he thought of her/ A+am +espise+ her.

4ut. as she stare+ +esolately after his tall. re<treating figure *ith Rolf ,lose at heel. she 2ne* that she ha+ only herself to 4lame/

The *eather ,hange+ to*ar+s the en+ of ovem4er. an+ the heat 4e,ame un4eara4le/ The vel+ lay shimmering an+ par,he+ 4eneath the mer,iless rays of the sun. an+ 'isa felt herself *ilting li2e the vegetation/ 8Hot an+ +usty.8 she re,alle+ her +isparaging reply to her aunt8s remar2s. 4ut there *as also a ,ertain 4eauty a4out the 6aroo at this time of the year. Eri,a $an+eleur informe+ 'isa +uring a trip into to*n one morning *ith the t*ins in or+er to 4uy their s,hool uniforms/ 8After the first goo+ rains.8 (rs $an+eleur e;plaine+. 8the vel+ ,omes alive *ith an amaKing an+ ,olourful variety of *il+ flo*ers. an+ if you8re not ,areful. you8ll fin+ yourself 4e,oming en,hante+ *ith this part of the ,ountry 3ust as # +i+ so many years ago/8 'isa ,oul+ not argue *ith her. for alrea+y the 6aroo ha+ her in its ,lut,hes an+. hot an+ +usty as it might have 4een at that moment. she *as 4eginning to +rea+ returning to the ,ity/ o*here ,oul+ the sunsets 4e more spe,ta,ular. nor the stars more 4rilliant at night. an+ if. in a moment of *ea2ness. she *ere as2e+ to ,hoose. she *oul+ ,hoose to remain *here the +e* lay heavy on the earth in the early morning *hile the s*eet. pungent smell of the 6aroo 4ush permeate+ the air/ (rs $an+eleur *as right. she +e,i+e+ *ryly/ She *oul+ have to ta2e ,are. or the en,hantment of the 6aroo *oul+ ma2e the parting so mu,h more painful. an+ having to part from the ,hil+ren *as something she +i+ not even *ant to ,ontemplate as yet/ Her thoughts *ere ,ut short as Beaufort West lay 4efore them. an+ the shopping e;pe+ition eventually turne+ out to 4e far less la4orious than she ha+ imagine+ it *oul+ 4e/ She ha+ +riven to to*n -uite often +uring her stay at !airvie*. an+ she ha+ mostly ta2en the ,hil+ren *ith her in her little !iat/ After 4ro*sing through the shops in a leisurely fashion in sear,h of the things she re-uire+. she usually treate+ the t*ins to an i,e<,ream in a tea<room. 4ut shopping *ith Eri,a $an+eleur *as -uite a +ifferent matter/ She 2ne* e;a,tly *here to go. an+. 3u+ging 4y the treatment they re,eive+. A+am an+ his mother *ere *ell<2no*n. respe,te+. an+ o4viously of some importan,e in the to*n an+ +istri,t/ A little over,ome *ith a*e. 'isa move+ into the 4a,2groun+. 4ut there *as no +elay in pur,hasing *hat they re-uire+. an+ 4efore the t*ins ,oul+ 4e,ome fi+gety *ith 4ore+om. they *ere on their *ay 4a,2 to !airvie* *ith the 4oot of A+am8s grey (er,e+es loa+e+ *ith par,els/ 8&osh. # ,an8t *ait to go to s,hool18 5osh +e,lare+ e;,ite+ly *hen they finally rea,he+ the homestea+ an+ *ere opening up the par,els ,ontaining their ne* ,lothes an+ s,hool uniforms. 4ut 6ate remaine+ a little apprehensive/ 8# *ish *e +i+n8t have to go to 4oar+ing s,hool.8 she sai+. her lips -uivering slightly/ 8You8ll soon get use+ to it. an+ you8ll en3oy it.8 'isa assure+ her as she lo*ere+ herself on to the 4e+ an+ +re* 6ate ,lose against her/ 8You8ll have so many ne* frien+s to play *ith. an+ then there8s al*ays the *ee2en+s to loo2 for*ar+ to *hen you8ll 4e allo*e+ to ,ome home/8 8Will you fet,h us in your ,ar. 'isa08 8 o. 5osh.8 'isa smile+ at him. 4ut her smile *as tinge+ *ith sa+ness/ 8# shan8t 4e here any more. remem4er08 8Why not08 6ate +eman+e+. her eyes as *i+e an+ -uestioning as her 4rother8s. an+ 'isa s*allo*e+ +o*n the lump that rose in her throat/ 8# shan8t 4e here 4e,ause # shall 4e going 4a,2 to Cape To*n *hen you start s,hool/8 8But *e8ll miss you.8 they ,horuse+ an;iously. an+ 'isa8s heart s*elle+ *ith love for them as she hugge+ them ,lose in an attempt to hi+e the film of tears in her eyes/ 8#8ll miss you too.8 she a+mitte+. 2issing them ten+erly on the ,hee2s/ There *as a 2no,2 at the +oor an+ 'isa loo2e+ up to see :aisy entering the ,hil+ren8s room/

8(aster A+am sent me to tell you that there8s a gentleman to see you/ (iss 'isa/8 'isa fro*ne+/ 8A gentleman to see me. :aisy08 8Yes. (iss 'isa/8 8#8ll 4e +o*n in a minute.8 'isa +ismisse+ her after a thoughtful pause. an+ as the +oor ,lose+ 4ehin+ :aisy8s plump. neatly ,la+ figure. she issue+ a *arning to the t*ins/ 8:on8t get up to any mis,hief *hile #8m a*ay/ # *on8t 4e long/8 After a hasty ,he,2 on her appearan,e. 'isa *ent +o*nstairs/ Who *oul+ *ant to see her0 An+ *hy0 There *as a nervous flutter at the pit of her stoma,h as she pause+ on the threshol+ of the living<room. 4ut. as she re,ognise+ the fair. lean young man stan+ing *ith his 4a,2 to the +oor *hile he spo2e to A+am. she +re* her 4reath in sharply an+ felt the 4loo+ +rain from her fa,e/ 8Rory18

'isa *as har+ly a*are that she ha+ spo2en as she venture+ a fe* pa,es further into the room. 4ut as Rory Phillips s*ung roun+ to fa,e her. her eyes involuntarily sought A+am8s to fin+ his e;pression ,uriously shuttere+/ 8'isa +arling18 Rory seeme+ to leap at her from a,ross the room an+. 4efore she ,oul+ prevent it. he ha+ s*ung her up in his arms an+ *as 2issing her har+ an+ passionately on the mouth/ A+am ha+ gone *hen she finally manage+ to e;tri,ate herself from Rory8s arms an+. *hen she stare+ at the +oor he ha+ ,lose+ so silently 4ehin+ him. 'isa felt si,2 *ith em4arrassment. an+ something else she ,oul+ not +efine/ 8Was it ne,essary for you to 4ehave li2e that in front of (r $an+eleur08 she 4erate+ Rory ,ol+ly/ 8Oh. ,ome no*. 'isa.8 he laughe+ off her remar2. his grey eyes moving appre,iatively from her ,orn<,oloure+ hair. *hi,h *as no* long enough to 4e ,oile+ loosely into her ne,2. +o*n to her slen+er. san+alle+ feet/ 8#t8s not li2e you to 4e so stan+offish. my +arling/8 'isa suppresse+ her rising irritation/ 8Who tol+ you # *as *or2ing here08 8# met your mother in to*n a fe* +ays ago an+ she gave me your a++ress.8 he e;plaine+. an+ then a rueful e;pression flashe+ a,ross his lean. han+some fa,e/ 8'isa. #8ve 4een an a4solute ,a+ to you/8 She stiffene+/ 8What happene+ is 4est 2ept in the past. Rory. an+ there8s no nee+ for you to feel 4a+ a4out anything/8 8You have forgiven me. then08 he +eman+e+ eagerly/ 8Of ,ourse/8 That engaging smile she remem4ere+ so *ell lit up his fa,e. 4ut it no longer ha+ the po*er to stir her/ 8(y +arling. # ,an8t tell you ho* relieve+ # am to hear you say you8ve forgiven me/8 'isa *as instantly on her guar+. an+ she 2ne* the reason for this *hen she sa* his han+ +ip into his 3a,2et po,2et to emerge a se,on+ later *ith a small velvet<line+ 4o; 4et*een his fingers/ 8Rory78 8# have your ring here. 'isa/ #t shoul+ never have ,ome off your finger in the first pla,e/ &ive me your han+/8 'isa steppe+ 4a,2 hastily *ith a feeling of +istaste/ 8 o. Rory/8 8'isa08 There *as un,ertainty an+ an almost ,hil+li2e ,onfusion on every line of his features an+. as 'isa stare+ up at him. she *on+ere+ ho* she ,oul+ ever have imagine+ herself in love *ith him/ He *as han+some. she ha+ to a+mit. 4ut he ha+ al*ays 4een arrogantly a*are of the fa,t that his appearan,e *oul+ get him *hat he *ante+. an+ no*. fa,e+ *ith her refusal. he o4viously foun+ it impossi4le to a,,ept that his loo2s *oul+ not *or2 the same ol+ magi,/ 8#8m sorry. Rory.8 she sai+ *ith a4solute ,onvi,tion. 84ut # +on8t *ant to 4e,ome engage+ to you again/8 8# 2no* # treate+ you 4a+ly. 'isa. 4ut +on8t 4e so har+ on me.8 he sai+ persuasively. his ,onfi+en,e returning *ith remar2a4le s*iftness/ 8# apologise if you thin2 #8m 4eing har+ on you. 4ut # +on8t *ant to *ear your ring again.8 she persiste+. trying a little uno4trusively to in,rease the +istan,e 4et*een them. 4ut Rory follo*e+

her laughingly/ 8Come no*. 'isa. you 2no* you love me/8 8# 2no* nothing of the 2in+18 she flare+ hotly. the s,ar on her fa,e 4e,oming livi+/ 8:on8t +eny it. my s*eet.8 he ,ontinue+. ,almly removing a ,hair she ha+ pla,e+ 4et*een them/ 8You love me. 4ut # presume you feel you have to punish me in some *ay/8 8#8m not trying to punish you at all.8 she argue+. 4ut her statement en+e+ in a gasp as Rory. *ith une;pe,te+ spee+. stro+e a,ross the spa,e +ivi+ing them an+ ,aught her in his arms/ 8'et me go. Rory18 she insiste+ furiously/ 8#8ll prove to you that you still love me.8 he murmure+ thi,2ly. an+ she sa* his eyes. +ar2 *ith a remem4ere+ passion. 4efore he lo*ere+ his hea+ an+ sought her lips *ith his/ 'isa fought against him *il+ly. t*isting her hea+ from si+e to si+e to es,ape his mouth. 4ut his hot. passionate lips foun+ her slen+er throat. an+ a shu++er of revulsion shoo2 through her/ #f she ha+ har4oure+ any +ou4ts as to her feelings for this man. then she ,ertainly ha+ none no*/ Her love for Rory *as +ea+J so +ea+. it might never even have e;iste+/ 8'et me go18 she ,rie+. an+. summoning every oun,e of strength she possesse+. she thrust him from her *ith a loo2 of +isgust on her fa,e/ 8'isa98 he 4egan in,re+ulously. staggering slightly an+ 4reathing heavily as he stoo+ fa,ing her/ 8# +on8t 2no* you li2e this/8 'isa ,ontrolle+ the shu++ers that ra,e+ through her *ith +iffi,ulty/ 8# +on8t *ant your 2isses. Rory/8 8(y &o+. there *as a time *hen you ,oul+n8t get enough of them18 he e;plo+e+. ta2ing out his han+2er,hief an+ *iping the perspiration from his forehea+ an+ upper lip/ 8Yes. # 2no*.8 she a+mitte+. lo*ering her glan,e ashame+ly/ 8But that *as 4efore the a,,i+ent/8 8:arling78 8Please. Rory.8 she interrupte+ hastily/ 8# +on8t *ant to hurt you unne,essarily. 4ut # +on8t love you. an+ # 2no* no* that # never really love+ you/8 8Ho* ,an you say that18 8#t8s the truth. Rory/8 She gesture+ e;pressively *ith her han+s/ 8Our marriage *oul+ have 4een a mista2eJ a +rea+ful mista2e/8 8Ho* ,an you 4e so sure of that08 8# am sure. Rory/ Believe me. # am/8 His eyes narro*e+ spe,ulatively/ 8#s there someone else08 She shoo2 her hea+/ 8There8s no one/8 8This $an+eleur ,hap.8 he 4egan su++enly/ 8You haven8t fallen for him. have you08 8:on8t 4e ri+i,ulous18 she gaspe+ in+ignantly. ignoring the o++ 4ehaviour of her heart at his suggestion/ 8(r $an+eleur is my employer. an+ nothing more/8 8Are you ,ertain of that08 he persiste+ a little ,yni,ally/ 8#t *oul+n8t 4e the first time a girl fell in love *ith her 4oss. you 2no*08 8Rory98 !or some o4s,ure reason she ,oul+ not loo2 him in the eyes 3ust then/ 8Please 3ust a,,ept the fa,t that # +on8t love you any more/ #8m sorry you ha+ to ,ome all this *ay for nothing. 4ut a telephone ,all *oul+ have save+ you the trou4le/8 8# *on8t a,,ept that you no longer love me.8 he 4it out the *or+s a little an;iously/ 8You8re still 3ust a little ,onfuse+. an+ your mother e;plaine+ that you *ere still having pro4lems *ith your hip/ When you8re ,ompletely *ell you8ll feel +ifferently. you8ll see/8 8# *on8t feel +ifferent. an+ # +on8t nee+ time to re,onsi+er. Rory.8 she replie+ ,uttingly. angry no* that he shoul+ 4e so persistent/ 8# ha+ plenty of time to ,onsi+er my feelings for you +uring those long *ee2s in hospital. an+ *hile # *as ,onvales,ing at home/8

He sprea+ out his han+s in an appealing gesture/ 8But *hy. 'isa08 She stare+ at him in +eta,he+ silen,e for a moment/ She ha+ no +esire to ra2e up the past. 4ut it seeme+ as though she *oul+ have to. or Rory *oul+ remain un,onvin,e+. an+ as she starte+ to spea2. she felt again the 4itterness an+ the pain of +isillusionment/ 8The e;pression on your fa,e *hen you ,ame to see me in hospital *as enough to ma2e me realise that you never really love+ me. Rory/ #f you8+ love+ me as mu,h as you8+ sai+ you +i+. then it *oul+n8t have mattere+ to you *hat # loo2e+ li2e/ # a+mit # *asn8t e;a,tly a pretty sight then. 4ut un+erneath it all # *as still the same person. only that +i+n8t interest you/ # returne+ your ring to you. an+ you *al2e+ out of my life/ Oh. yes98 the hint of ,yni,ism in her smile prevente+ him from interrupting her. 8# ,an a,,ept the fa,t that sho,2 may have ma+e you rea,t in the *ay you ha+. 4ut if it ha+ 4een only sho,2. then you *oul+ have 4een 4a,2 long 4efore to+ay/8 Her +eep 4lue eyes flashe+ *ith +erisive mo,2ery/ 8What +i+ my mother tell you. Rory0 :i+ she tell you that my s,ars *ere not as repulsive as you imagine+ they *oul+ 4e08 A +ull re+ ,olour staine+ his ,hee2s an+. pro4a4ly for the first time in his life. he loo2e+ em4arrasse+ an+ un,omforta4le. 4ut he ha+ the gra,e not to +eny her allegations/ 8#8m only human. 'isa. an+ # have my faults/8 8#8m only human too. Rory. an+ #. too. have my faults. 4ut if #8ve +is,overe+ anything a4out myself over these past months. then it8s the ,ertainty that # never love+ you/ What # felt for you *as infatuation/ # foun+ you attra,tive. an+ you *ere fun to 4e *ith. 4ut marriage is a lifetime of living together. an+ it +eman+s more than 3ust a superfi,ial attra,tion to survive/8 8Are you ,ertain you haven8t fallen in love *ith someone else08 8 o. # haven8t.8 she shoo2 her hea+ a+amantly. 84ut *hen # +o. it *on8t 4e 4e,ause of the man8s out*ar+ appearan,e/ #t8s *hat8s insi+e that matters most/8 8'isa78 8&o 4a,2 to Cape To*n. Rory.8 she interrupte+ tire+ly. turning a*ay from him to stare out into the gar+en an+ 4eyon+. to *here the sheep flo,2e+ together 4eneath a thorn tree in sear,h of prote,tion from the stinging rays of the mi++ay sun/ 8!in+ someone else to *ear your ring. an+9 4e happy. Rory/8 8:o you really mean that08 8# really mean it.8 she sai+ -uietly. turning to fa,e him again. an+ something in her ,alm. un*avering glan,e must have finally ,onvin,e+ him that his pleas *ere fruitless/ 8Then # suppose there8s nothing else to +o e;,ept to *ish you happiness as *ell.8 he sai+ at last *ith -uiet a,,eptan,e. ta2ing her han+ in his an+ loo2ing +o*n at it a little forlornly/ 8&oo+4ye. 'isa/8 He hesitate+ 4riefly. almost as if he still hope+ she might ,hange her min+. an+ then he *as stri+ing from the room an+ out of the house to *here he ha+ par2e+ his ,ar in the +rive*ay/

'isa sought refuge from the heat in a ,ool. refreshing s*im after lun,h *hile the ,hil+ren *ere resting/ The *eather *as too oppressive for her to remain in+oors. an+ Rory8s visit that morning ha+ upset her more than she ha+ imagine+ at first/ He ha+ ma+e her a*are again of the *ay she limpe+. an+ of the s,ars *hi,h ha+ gra+ually ,ease+ to matter in the ,ompany of people li2e A+am $an+eleur an+ his mother/ As long as she live+ she *oul+ never 4e a4le to forget the loo2 in Rory8s eyes that +ay he ha+ ,ome to see her in hospital. an+ the 4itterness *elle+ up insi+e her again to gna* a*ay at her soul/ #n an effort to ri+ herself of her thoughts she s*am several lengths energeti,ally 4efore she simply floate+ on her 4a,2 *ith her eyes ,lose+ against the sun/ She staye+ li2e that for -uite some time. for,ing herself to thin2 of nothing 4ut the ,oolness of the *ater. an+ the ,i,a+as shrilling lou+ly in the heat of the +ay/

8#f only it *oul+ rain18 she thought. re,alling su++enly a ,onversation 4et*een A+am an+ 6en Ru+man *hen they ha+ +is,usse+ the ,rippling effe,t *hi,h another season of +rought ,oul+ have on many of the farmers in the +istri,t/ She ha+ never given the matter mu,h thought 4efore. 4ut *hen she hear+ A+am e;pressing his ,on,ern for those less fortunate than he. she listene+ *ith -uiet interest/ The numerous *in+mills she ha+ seen on the farm provi+e+ the soil *ith su4terranean *ater. ma2ing irrigation possi4le in this area *here the rainfall *as generally lo*. 4ut ignoran,e an+ insuffi,ient planning often resulte+ in severe losses/ Water *as a vital ne,essity. 'isa +is,overe+. an+ she felt ashame+ to thin2 of the nee+less *aste she ha+ often *itnesse+ in the ,ity/ Bir+s fluttere+ from their per,h on the overhanging 4ran+ies of the *illo* tree. interrupting the flo* of her thoughts. an+ then some si;th sense *arne+ her that she *as not alone/ She opene+ her eyes slo*ly. an+ her heart leapt into her throat *hen she sa* A+am stan+ing on the e+ge of the pool/ His tall. mus,ular 4o+y *as ,la+ in s*imming 4riefs. an+ his s2in ha+ 4een evenly tanne+ to a +eep o,hre/ He o4viously s*am often. she realise+ a4sently. 4ut it *as not his physi,al appearan,e that trou4le+ her at that momentJ it *as something in that narro*<eye+ o4servation that ma+e her turn an+ stri2e out franti,ally to*ar+s the opposite si+e of the pool/ When her han+s tou,he+ the si+e. ho*ever. A+am surfa,e+ 4esi+e her. an+ the violent thu++ing of her heart almost ,ho2e+ her *hen one har+ arm en,ir,le+ her *aist. preventing her from raising herself out of the *ater/ 8What8s the rush08 he +eman+e+ ,lose to her ear/ 8#8ve 4een here long enough alrea+y.8 she replie+. 2eeping her 4a,2 turne+ resolutely to*ar+s him *hile she 4rushe+ the *et stran+s of hair out of her eyes/ 8Another fe* minutes *oul+n8t matter. surely08 8The ,hil+ren78 8Are resting up in their room. as you shoul+ have 4een +oing at this moment.8 he finishe+ for her sternly/ 8# *as too restless/8 8You8re still restless.8 he o4serve+. ta2ing in her futile attempts to es,ape him/ 8Stop fi+geting/8 8# *ant to get out of the pool.8 she gaspe+. too a*are of his nearness an+ the -ui,2ening of her pulse rate/ 8What you8re a,tually trying to say is that you *ant to get a*ay from me.8 he mo,2e+ her. an+ he *as so ,lose no* that she ,oul+ feel the length of his har+ 4o+y against her o*n/ 8What are you afrai+ of08 8#8m not afrai+ of anything.8 she lie+. an+ to her horror his han+ against her *aist shifte+ its position slightly/ 8:o you mean to tell me your heart normally 4eats this fast08 A ti+e of ,olour s*ept up from her throat into her ,hee2s. an+ there *as a hint of +esperation in her voi,e *hen she 4egge+. 8'et me go18 8#8ll release you if you promise to stay *here you are so *e ,an tal2.8 A+am insiste+ ,almly/ 8We have nothing to tal2 a4out.8 'isa snappe+/ 8# ,an thin2 of plenty/8 His arm tightene+ a4out her. e;erting a threatening pressure a4out her ri4s/ 8:o # have your promise that you *on8t try to es,ape08 His 4reath *as *arm against her ,hee2. an+ she *as franti, enough to promise him anything at that moment in or+er to put some +istan,e 4et*een them/ 8You have my promise.8 she *hispere+ hus2ily. an+ su++enly she *as freeJ free of his arm. 4ut not entirely free of him/ A+am *as ta2ing no ,han,es. an+ he remaine+ ,lose enough to prevent any effort she might ma2e to es,ape/ 8Your 4oy<frien+ left in rather a hurry. +i+n8t he08

His une;pe,te+ referen,e to Rory ma+e her stiffen/ 8Rory is not my 4oy<frien+18 8 o08 The mo,2ery in his voi,e *as -uite au+i4le *ithout her having to loo2 at him/ 8A,,or+ing to *hat he tol+ me. an+ 3u+ging 4y the *ay he greete+ you. # *oul+ say he *as that. an+ mu,h more/8 'isa turne+ then. an+ her eyes ,lashe+ angrily *ith his. 4ut her anger su4si+e+ the ne;t instant 3ust as s*iftly as it ha+ risen/ A+am loo2e+ +ifferent. someho*. *ith his +ar2 hair *et an+ plastere+ to his 4roa+ forehea+/ 'ess austere. she +e,i+e+ vaguely. 4ut still infinitely +angerous/ 8# +on8t ,are *hat Rory tol+ you. or *hat you sa*.8 she sai+ at last/ 8You8re mista2en a4out him 4eing my 4oyfrien+/8 A+am8s lips t*iste+ ,yni,ally/ 8Am #08 8#f you must 2no*.8 she 4egan. turning a*ay from the intense s,rutiny of his eyes. 8Rory Phillips an+ # *ere engage+9 on,e/8 8# see/8 8 o. you +on8t see at all18 she ,rie+ +esperately at the ,yni,ism in his voi,e/ 8Then e;plain it to me/8 8#t8s none of your 4usiness/8 8#8m ma2ing it my 4usiness.8 he sai+ a4ruptly. an+ his han+s *ere ,ruelly punishing a4out her narro* *aist as he turne+ her in the *ater to fa,e him/ 8This engagement of yours7+i+ it en+ some*here aroun+ the time of your a,,i+ent08 His shre*+ guess startle+ her. 4ut she 2ept her eyes pinne+ to his 4roa+ ,hest *here the short +ar2 hair ,lung +amply to his s2in/ 8Yes/8 8Was it 4e,ause of the a,,i+ent08 he pro4e+ relentlessly/ 8Yes/8 8You mean he *al2e+ out on you at a time *hen you most pro4a4ly nee+e+ him most08 8He *al2e+ out on me. yes/8 She thre* 4a,2 her hea+ then *ith a gesture of +efian,e to meet the for,e of his +ar2 eyes un*averingly as she a++e+M 8After # 4ro2e off the engagement/8 8You 4ro2e off the engagement08 An in,re+ulous e;pression flashe+ a,ross his fa,e/ 8Why0 Were you 3ust tire+ of him. or +i+ he say something that le+ you to 4elieve he no longer *ante+ to marry you08 8He +i+n8t have to say anything18 she ,rie+ in a ,ho2e+ voi,e. t*isting herself free of his han+s an+. resting her arms on the tile+ e+ge of the pool. she 4urie+ her fa,e in them as she e;plaine+ haltingly. 8#t7it *as all there in his eyes7the horror. the +isgust7an+ the revulsion/ So #7# gave him 4a,2 his ring an+ tol+ him it *as over 4et*een us/8 8# see/8 That +eep. rum4ling voi,e soun+e+ ,uriously +ifferent *ithout the usual tra,e of mo,2ery as he ,ontinue+ to -uestion her/ 8What ma+e him ,ome all this *ay spe,ially to see you to+ay08 A+am ha+ no right to pro4e into her private affairs in this manner. 4ut she nevertheless hear+ herself reply *ith una,,ustome+ ,yni,ism. 8Apparently he met my mother in to*n a fe* +ays ago. an+ # ,an only presume that he +is,overe+ #8m not as gruesome<loo2ing as he8+ imagine+ # *oul+ 4e. so he7he ha+ some ,raKy i+ea of pi,2ing up *here *e left off *ith our engagement/8 8An+08 8An+ nothing.8 she snappe+. raising her hea+ an+ glan,ing at him +efiantly over her shoul+er/ 8You sent him a*ay08 8# tol+ him it *oul+ 4e 4est if he returne+ to Cape To*n an+ forgot a4out me/8 That har+ mouth tightene+ fra,tionally/ 8:o you fin+ it so +iffi,ult8 to forgive08 8#t8s not a -uestion of forgiving/ #8ve forgiven him long ago. 4ut98 She faltere+. lo*ering her gaKe on,e more to his tanne+. mus,ular ,hest/ 8Our marriage *oul+ have 4een a mista2e/ # 2no*

it no*/8 8Ho* ,an you 4e so ,ertain of that08 There ha+ 4een no +iffi,ulty in e;plaining to Rory. 4ut A+am *as an entirely +ifferent proposition/ What *oul+ he 2no*. or un+erstan+. a4out affairs of the heart. *hen he himself ha+ remaine+ immune to it for thirty<eight years0 8# +on8t suppose one ,an 4e sure of anything in this life.8 she manage+ eventually. 84ut # only 2no* that there8s no future for me *ith Rory/8 8With *hom +oes your future lie. then08 Her pulses leapt nervously/ 8With7*ith no one/8 8Oh. ,ome no*.8 he s,offe+ ruthlessly/ 8You8re an attra,tive girl *ith plenty to offer a man. an+ you shoul+n8t let a fe* s,ars an+ a slight limp stan+ in your *ay/8 He ha+ tou,he+ a sore point *ith a ,ruel finger. an+ she *in,e+ in*ar+ly/ 8(ost men loo2 for perfe,tion. an+ #8m7 #8m no longer as perfe,t as # *oul+ li2e to 4e/8 A+am8s eyes har+ene+/ 8So you8re going to ,ra*l into that little shell of yours an+ e;,lu+e men from your life08 8#f you li2e to put it that *ay9 yes/8 Strong *hite teeth flashe+ in a smile of +erision/ 8Be ,areful self<pity +oesn8t turn you into a sour ol+ spinster/8 8Ho* +are you18 she gaspe+. her 4lue eyes spar2ling *ith anger/ 8# +on8t pity myself18 8:on8t you08 His eyes narro*e+ +angerously/ 8You8re giving a pretty goo+ +emonstration of feeling sorry for yourself/8 'isa8s han+ *as it,hing to slap that smug loo2 off his fa,e. 4ut she 2ne* instin,tively that she *oul+ 4e ma+e to suffer for it after*ar+s/ 8# *ish you8+ leave me alone1 Your opinions are of no interest to me/8 8Where are you going08 he +eman+e+. follo*ing her out of the pool to *here she ha+ left her things/ . 8Ba,2 to the house.8 she snappe+ *ithout turning/ 8To ,ra*l into your shell *here you ,an li,2 your *oun+s in private08 His stinging remar2 ma+e her s*ing roun+ a4ruptly to fa,e him. an+ her eyes 4laKe+ *ith helpless fury up into his/ 8You8re insuffera4le1 You8re78 8Calm +o*n. 'isa/8 His han+s grippe+ her shoul+ers. sen+ing a ,harge of ele,tri,ity through her that merely infuriate+ her more as he sai+ through his teeth. 8&o+ 2no*s. # ,an +o *ithout the ,ompany of a spitfire this afternoon/8 8#f you8ll let go of me. then #8ll relieve you of my ,ompany. (r $an+eleur.8 she retorte+ ,ol+ly/ 8You may 4e a little spitfire at times. 'isa. 4ut #8m also *ell a*are of your 4lesse+ ,almness an+ serenity/8 Her startle+ glan,e seeme+ to amuse him. 4ut his eyes la,2e+ their usual lustre. an+ she *as no* ,uriously a*are of the signs of tire+ness a4out his mouth an+ eyes/ 8# nee+ your serenity this afternoon.8 he a++e+ simply/ Anger ma+e *ay for an instant rush of ,ompassion. an+ she rela;e+ in his hol+. allo*ing him to8 +ra* her +o*n unresistingly on to the soft grass at their feet/ They +i+ not spea2 as they lay on their 4a,2s. soa2ing up the sun. an+ listening to the 4ir+s fluttering an+ fighting lou+ly in the trees aroun+ them/ There *as. for the first time. a strange ne* affinity 4et*een them. 4ut 'isa +are+ not pro4e too +eeply for a suita4le e;planation/ #t *as 4e*il+ering enough to 2no* that he nee+e+ her at that moment. even though he so o4viously +espise+ her/ A+am stirre+ 4esi+e her eventually. an+ she opene+ her eyes nervously to fin+ that he ha+ raise+ himself up on to one el4o* to lie staring +o*n at her/ His eyes. +ar2 an+ pier,ing. hel+

hers effortlessly for several suffo,ating se,on+s 4efore he raise+ his han+ to lightly ,aress the raise+. faintly livi+ s,ar on her fa,e/ An o++ little pulse -uivere+ in her throat at his tou,h. an+ then she *as su++enly too afrai+ to move/ 8You +on8t nee+ 6en Ru+man8s flattery an+ 4oyish innuen+oes to ,onvin,e you that you8re still infinitely +esira4le.8 he sai+ une;pe,te+ly. an+ at her s*ift in+ra*n 4reath he smile+ faintly/ 8That8s the reason you en,ourage+ him. isn8t it08 Too surprise+ to thin2 up a ,lever reply. she stammere+. 8Yes. #7# suppose so/8 8# 2ne* it.8 he muttere+ softly *ith a self<satisfie+ e;pression on his fa,e. an+ she s-uirme+ in*ar+ly *ith remem4ere+ humiliation/ 8#f you 2ne*. then *hy708 The *or+s stu,2 in her throat/ #t *as impossi4le to spea2 of those moments in his arms. an+ she -uestione+ instea+ his a,,usations/ 8You7 you +i+n8t really thin2 # *as han2ering after an affair. +i+ you08 8 o/8 He sat up a4ruptly to stare out a,ross the pool. an+ she ha+ the a4sur+ +esire to sli+e her han+ a,ross his 4roa+ 4a,2 to feel the mus,les rippling 4eneath her fingertips. 4ut she ,he,2e+ herself for,i4ly *hen he spo2e/ 8# sai+ a lot of things that night to hurt you. 4ut # *as angry *ith you for having so little faith in yourself as a *oman/8 8Why shoul+ my la,2 of faith in myself trou4le you08 she as2e+ in,re+ulously/ 8Heaven only 2no*s. 4ut it +oes/8 He turne+ then. an+ she *as su++enly intensely ,ons,ious of the fa,t that her s*imsuit a,,entuate+ every line an+ ,urve of her slim 4o+y for his 4ol+ an+ -uite +eli4erate inspe,tion. 4ut there *as also a +istur4ing hint of +evilment in the eyes that o4serve+ her so ,losely/ 8Perhaps it8s 4e,ause you8re su,h a little thing that # feel the nee+ to prote,t you. even from yourself/8 8# ,an loo2 after myself/8 She sat up agitate+ly as she spo2e. her fingers groping for the sleeveless to*elling ro4e. 4ut A+am leane+ over her su++enly. an+ a large 4ro*n han+ grippe+ her *rist. halting her a,tion an+ sen+ing a spar2 of a*areness tingling along her nerves/ 8Can you08 he +eman+e+ in a +angerous un+ertone. an+ he *as no* so ,lose that she ,oul+ see the tiny fle,2s of gol+ in his +ar2 4ro*n eyes as they 4urne+ +eeply into hers/ 8Can you loo2 after yourself. 'isa08 His han+ sli+ up her arm to grip her shoul+er even as franti, little plans to es,ape assume+ formation in her min+. an+ then it *as too late/ He *as 4en+ing over her. for,ing her 4a,2 on to the soft grass. an+ the *i+th of his shoul+ers 4lotte+ out the sun as his lips 4rushe+ a,ross her eyeli+s. for,ing her lashes +o*n over her *i+e. frightene+ eyes 4efore he too2 possession of her tremulous mouth/ 'isa 2ne* the futility of fighting against those imprisoning arms. an+ hel+ herself rigi+ an+ unresponsive. 4ut the gentle. persistent pressure of his mouth finally 4ro2e through her 4arrier of reserve an+ parte+ her lips/ She e;perien,e+ again that *il+. leaping response *ithin her. an+ then nothing seeme+ to matter 4eyon+ the fa,t that A+am *as 2issing her *ith a hungry. almost ten+er passion. so +ifferent from the *ay he ha+ 2isse+ her 4efore/ When his mouth finally left hers. it *as to e;plore her slen+er throat. an+ the smoothness of her ,reamy shoul+er *here his impatient fingers ha+ pave+ the *ay 4y 4rushing asi+e the narro* strap of her s*imsuit/ His lips against her s2in sent the 4loo+ poun+ing li2e molten fire through her veins. 4ut the persisten,e of a *arning little voi,e ma+e her ,ling +esperately to the final shre+ of her sanity/ 8A+am/8 Her voi,e soun+e+ strangle+ an+ -uite unli2e her o*n/ 8#7# must get 4a,2 to the ,hil+ren/8 8'ater.8 he muttere+ against her throat/ 8A+am9 this is ma+ness18 she gaspe+. 4ut he *as +eaf to her pleas as his mouth traile+ a 4laKing path +o*n to the fullness of her 4reast/

#nhi4ite+ as she *as. allo*ing A+am this ne* an+ +evastating intima,y seeme+ su++enly so *on+erfully right. an+. as a sensual *armth flo*e+ into her lim4s. she 4egan to 2no* the full meaning of +esire an+ the a,hing nee+ for fulfilment/ She ,oul+ no longer thin2 ,oherently. an+ neither ha+ she the +esire to try as her untutore+ 4o+y respon+e+ *ith a *ill of its o*n to A+am8s tempestuous ,aresses/ Her han+s move+ of their o*n volition to 4e,ome entangle+ in the thi,2 ,rispness of his hair. an+ then a lo* moan es,ape+ past her lips as she surren+ere+ herself to the *il+ ne* e,stasy pulsating through her/ 'isa often *on+ere+ after*ar+s *hat *oul+ have happene+ ha+ Willa 5a,2son8s 8Hello there18 not shattere+ the intima,y 4et*een A+am an+ herself at that moment/ While sanity returne+ to her in *ave after *ave of paralysing shame. A+am seeme+ to 4e in ,omplete ,ontrol of himself. an+ strangely unpertur4e+ at the thought of Willa *itnessing their passionate em4ra,e/ 8&oo+ afternoon. Willa.8 he sai+ ,almly. getting to his feet an+ +ra*ing 'isa up *ith him. an+ then. *hether 4y a,,i+ent or +esign. his 4o+y shiel+e+ 'isa8s. giving her that mu,h<nee+e+ opportunity to restore some respe,ta4le or+er to her appearan,e as A+am as2e+M 8What 4rings you here at this time of the +ay08 Willa steppe+ a,ross the spa,e +ivi+ing them. an+ 'isa felt a fli,2er of envy sta4 her heart/ Willa *as 4eautiful. ,ompetent. elegant. an+ faintly se+u,tive even in her usual ri+ing ,lothes. 4ut there *as a glittering har+ness in her eyes that +i+ not mat,h the smile on her ,oral<pin2 lips as she tilte+ her hea+ up at A+am/ 8:a++y8s having pro4lems *ith the ele,tro<generator an+ he *on+ere+ if you *oul+ have time to ta2e a loo2 at it for him this afternoon/8 A+am pi,2e+ up his to*el an+ +rape+ it ,arelessly a,ross one 4roa+ shoul+er an+. as he +i+ so. his eyes met 'isa8s 4riefly/ #t seeme+ to her. in her ,haoti, state of min+. that he *as a4out to say something. then he shrugge+ his shoul+ers an+ turne+ to fa,e Willa/ 8&ive me a fe* minutes to get +resse+. *ill you08 he sai+. pushing his feet into his ,anvas shoes. an+ then he *as stri+ing to*ar+s the house/ 8Oh. (iss (oreau.8 Willa interrupte+ 'isa8s hasty preparation to ta2e flight. 82eep me ,ompany. *on8t you08

86eep me ,ompany.8 Willa ha+ sai+. 4ut one -ui,2 glan,e into those ,ol+ green eyes tol+ 'isa that it *as not ,ompany Willa *ante+J it *as a ,onfrontation. an+ 'isa +i+ not nee+ ,lairvoyan,y to guess the su43e,t/ 8#f you +on8t min+. (iss 5a,2son. # must get 4a,2 to the ,hil+ren/8 8What # have to say *on8t ta2e more than a fe* minutes/8 8$ery *ell. then.8 'isa agree+ relu,tantly an+. striving for an out*ar+ ,almness. she turne+ to fa,e Willa/ 8What is it you have to say to me08 8#8+ li2e to give you some a+vi,e. my +ear.8 Willa smile+ faintly. 4ut her eyes remaine+ ,ol+ as they s*ept +is+ainfully over 'isa/ 8:on8t ma2e a fool of yourself over A+am/ 'i2e most men he8ll ta2e *hat he ,an get if the girl is *illing enough. 4ut +on8t pla,e too mu,h signifi,an,e on his 4ehaviour/ He8s alrea+y ,ommitte+ himself else*here/8 There *as a soaring sensation in 'isa8s ears. an+ a poun+ing against her temples that ma+e her s*ay slightly on her feet/ #f Willa ha+ stru,2 her physi,ally *ith that ri+ing ,rop she 2ept t*isting 4et*een her 4eautiful han+s. 'isa ,oul+ not have felt more stunne+/ A+am *as ,ommitte+. an+ to Willa. 3u+ging 4y the loo2 of intense satisfa,tion on those ,lassi,ally ,arve+ features. an+ 'isa felt a ,ol+ness surging through the mist of ine;pli,a4le painJ a ,ol+ness that left her pe,uliarly *ithout feeling at that moment. an+ she shivere+ +espite the heat/ 8You8re ma2ing it soun+ as though A+am8s a ra2e. ,ommitting himself to one *oman *hile still ta2ing a+vantage of others.8 she hear+ herself spea2 in a voi,e that *as o++ly +eta,he+/ 8Oh. no1 :on8t misun+erstan+ me18 Willa ,orre,te+ her hastily/ 8A+am is a very respe,te+ man in this ,ommunity. an+ he8s also a very *ealthy man. as you must have guesse+/ This has 4een suffi,ient reason for some *omen to go a little silly over him. only to 4e +is,ar+e+ the moment they 4egan to 4ore him. an+ #8m telling you all this 4e,ause # *oul+n8t *ant to see you hurt unne,essarily/8 'isa felt herself go rigi+ *ith +istaste/ 8Are you suggesting that #8ve thro*n myself at him 4e,ause of his *ealth an+ position in this +istri,t08 Willa smile+ s*eetly/ 8#8m not suggesting that at all. 4ut living un+er the same roof *ith him must surely ma2e it +iffi,ult to 2eep your relationship on a 4usinessli2e footing all the time. an+ it8s only natural that a ,ertain intima,y might +evelop 4et*een you. only98 she pause+ signifi,antly. 8+on8t ta2e it seriously/ To A+am it8s merely a flirtation. an+ you8re the one *ho8ll 4e hurt in the en+/8 'isa *as not foole+ 4y Willa8s +isplay of ,on,ern/ This girl *as ,on,erne+ for herself. an+ for no one else. an+ 'isa ,oul+ almost feel sorry for her if *hat she ha+ sai+ *as the truth/ 8#f A+am has ,ommitte+ himself. as you say. +oesn8t it trou4le you to 2no* a4out these9 lapses08 8We8re t*o of a 2in+. my +ear.8 Willa smile+. +ra*ing herself up to her full height an+ loo2ing +o*n at 'isa *ith a loo2 of triumph on her fa,e as she a++e+ *ith a hint of intima,y in her voi,e. 8A+am an+ # un+erstan+ ea,h other perfe,tly/8 'isa stare+ at her 4lan2ly for a moment. not sure *hether to ,ongratulate her or to ,ommiserate *ith her. 4ut she finally +e,i+e+ against 4oth/ 8You must e;,use me. (iss 5a,2son.8 she sai+ *ith a ,almness an+ +ignity that *as 4eginning to ,rum4le/ 8The ,hil+ren *ill 4e *on+ering *hat8s happene+ to me/8 8You *ill remem4er *hat # tol+ you08

Ho* ,an # forget1 'isa thought in anguish as she no++e+ silently an+ follo*e+ the path A+am ha+ ta2en up to the house some minutes ago/ 'isa *al2e+ as if her life +epen+e+ on it/ She +are+ not stop to thin2. 4ut *ith ea,h step she too2 her min+ seeme+ to shout 8A+am an+ Willa1 A+am an+ Willa18 She ha+ suspe,te+ it from the startJ she ha+ even ,onsi+ere+ it a perfe,t mat,h/ Why then shoul+ it hurt so mu,h0 8:on8t thin21 :on8t feel1 5ust *al218 she tol+ herself fier,ely. 4ut later. in the priva,y of her room. her rigi+ ,ontrol snappe+. an+ shame an+ humiliation s*ept through her *ith the +evastation of a hurri,ane that tore at her until she felt totally +isem4o+ie+/ She ha+ surren+ere+ herself to A+am8s lovema2ing as she ha+ never +one *ith any other man 4efore. 4ut for him it ha+ 4een only a 4rief interlu+e. *hile to her91 She/ ,oul+ still feel the tou,h of his lips an+ han+s on her 4o+y an+. shu++ering violently. she sagge+ on to the 4e+ an+ 4urie+ her -uivering fa,e in her han+s/ Ho* he must 4e laughing no* at the easy vi,tory he ha+ s,ore+ over her. an+ ho* he must +espise her for her *ea2ness on,e again1 She ha+ 4een ta2en in 4y his apparent un+erstan+ingJ 4y his surprising an+ seemingly genuine ,on,ern for herJ an+ finally 4y his sheer mas,ulinity. 4ut he ha+ merely 4een playing *ith her/ He ha+ le+ her on +eli4erately until she ha+ ma+e a humiliating spe,ta,le of herself/ She ha+ ,re+ite+ him *ith sin,erity. an+ he ha+ shattere+ her trust/ 8A+am an+ Willa1 A+am an+ Willa18 Their names *ent *ell together. she thought +ully. lo*ering her han+s to stare at the ,arpet *ith unseeing eyes/ Willa *oul+. of ,ourse. 4e the perfe,t *ife for him/ She ,oul+ see that no*. 4ut91 Oh. &o+1 Why +i+ it hurt so mu,h0 Why. *hy. *hy1 The ans*er ,ame *ith a shattering for,e that ma+e her reel mentally 4eneath the impa,t. 4ut she fought against itJ +enie+ it passionatelyJ an+ finally *as for,e+ to su,,um4 to the ine;ora4le truth/ She *as in love *ith A+am/ #t *as lu+i,rous. impossi4le. an+ for4i++en1 She shoul+ hate him for *hat he ha+ +one to her. 4ut she love+ him instea+/ There *as no 3oy in this 2no*le+ge. an+ no +elirious upsurge of e;,itement/ There *as only that 4lin+ing pain *hi,h *as *orse than anything she ha+ ever 2no*n 4efore/ A+am 4elonge+ to Willa an+7pray &o+7she *oul+ 4e gone 4efore their marriage/ A shout of ,hil+ish laughter from the room ne;t to hers ma+e 'isa start nervously. an+ a -ui,2 glan,e at the time sent her hurrying into the 4athroom to sho*er an+ ,hange into a ,ool. ,otton fro,2/ She +rie+ her hair vigorously *ith a to*el. 4rushing it thoroughly 4efore she t*iste+ it into a 2not in her ne,2. an+ applie+ a tou,h of ma2e<up to her fa,e/ She *as pale 4eneath her ne*ly a,-uire+ tan. 4ut. *ith lu,2. no one *oul+ noti,e. an+ *ith A+am a*ay *or2ing on Ho*ar+ 5a,2son8s ele,tro<generator. 'isa ha+ the rest of the afternoon in *hi,h to fin+ the ,ourage to fa,e him again/ An a4sor4ing game of mar4les *ith the t*ins temporarily too2 her min+ off things. 4ut. *hen the game ,ame to an en+. 'isa san2 into a fit of +epression from *hi,h there seeme+ to 4e no es,ape/ 5osh an+ 6ate *ere fortunately too involve+ *ith +iverting the path of a hairy *orm to noti,e any ,hange in 'isa. 4ut/ Eri,a $an+eleur8s shre*+ glan,e misse+ nothing *hen she ,alle+ 'isa to 3oin her on the veran+ah for a long. ,ool orange +rin2/ 8You8re loo2ing rather pale. ,hil+.8 she remar2e+ *ith ,on,ern as the silen,e lengthene+ 4et*een them/ 8Aren8t you feeling *ell08 8#t8s this heat.8 'isa e;plaine+. an+ it *as not altogether a lie. for her 4o+y felt ,lammy an+ un,omforta4le *ith perspiration +espite her re,ent sho*er/ 8Yes. it +oes sap one8s energy at tunes.8 (rs $an+eleur replie+ a4sently. her grey<green eyes sear,hingly intent upon 'isa/ 8You are happy here *ith us. 'isa. aren8t you08 'isa stare+ out a,ross the ,olourful gar+en. 4ut her glan,e lingere+ *ith ten+erness on the tousle+<haire+ t*ins *here they playe+ on the la*n/ 8#8m not unhappy here. (rs $an+eleur/8 8You8re not missing the ,ity life08

8Oh. no.8 'isa sai+ -ui,2ly. glan,ing at the ol+er *oman 3ust in time to *itness a fli,2er of humour flash a,ross her line+ fa,e/ 8Am # right in thin2ing you8ll 4e sorry to leave here08 8Yes/8 'isa loo2e+ a*ay/ There *as too mu,h pain insi+e her at that moment/ There *as the pain of loving un*isely. an+ the pain of 2no*ing she *oul+ have to leave eventually. 4ut she *oul+ not 4e a4le to 4ear the pain of having to stay an+ *itness A+am marrying Willa 5a,2son/ There *as pain. too. at having to leave this slightly 4arren 4ut 4eautiful part of the ,ountry *here the sunsets hel+ you spell4oun+. an+ the stars ,lustere+ li2e +iamon+s in the night s2y/ 8The 6aroo has ,ast its spell on you.8 Eri,a $an+eleur o4serve+ -uietly as if she ha+ ,aught the +rift of 'isa8s thoughts/ 8Yes. #8m afrai+ it has.8 'isa laughe+ shortly. 4ut she loo2e+ a*ay hastily *hen her throat tightene+ an+ her eyes fille+ *ith tears/ The ringing of the telephone save+ the situation for her an+. as Eri,a $an+eleur *ent to ans*er it. 'isa pulle+ herself together an+ +ashe+ a*ay her tears/ #t *as ri+i,ulous an+ foolish to *eep over something *hi,h ,oul+ never 4e hers. an+ the sooner she a,,epte+ this fa,t the sooner she *oul+ get over it/ 8That *as A+am.8 Eri,a $an+eleur e;plaine+ *hen she ,ame out on to the veran+ah a fe* minutes later/ 8The 5a,2sons have invite+ him to +inner/ He8s *or2ing on their generator. an+ it may ta2e some time yet to repair it/ #t8s a nuisan,e really. 4ut they8ve +one so mu,h to help him in the past sin,e 5a,-ues78 Her voi,e 4ro2e slightly. then she sighe+ resigne+ly/ 8Oh. *ell. #8+ 4etter go an+ see *hat8s going on in the 2it,hen9 an+ you8+ 4etter ,he,2 up on those t*o little horrors of ours.8 she a++e+ laughingly as shrie2s of e;,itement rea,he+ their ears/ 'isa hurrie+ +o*n into the gar+en an+ *as 3ust in time to save a ,hameleon from 4eing su4merge+ in the fish pon+/ 8Oh. 'isa18 5osh an+ 6ate ,omplaine+ almost simultaneously as she set the ,reature free/ 8We *oul+n8t have let it +ro*n.8 8Perhaps not.8 'isa agree+. 84ut it *oul+ have 4een ,ruel/8 8Can *e go for a s*im08 5osh +eman+e+. ,asting asi+e the in,i+ent *ith the spee+ of an energeti, ,hil+ an+. as 'isa agree+. he gra44e+ 6ate8s han+/ 8'et8s go an+ put on our ,ostumes/ Nui,218 'isa +i+ not 3oin the ,hil+ren in the pool on this o,,asion. 4ut sat -uietly on the grass *hile she 2ept an eye on them/ The memory of *hat ha+ happene+ there earlier that afternoon *as still too vivi+ in her min+. an+. as her pulse -ui,2ene+. she ,on,entrate+ fier,ely on the t*ins *hile they splashe+ a4out in the *ater/ They *ere 4oth goo+ s*immers for their age. 'isa realise+ on,e again as she *at,he+ their +eeply tanne+ little 4o+ies moving a4out lithely in the *ater. 4ut she agree+ *ith A+am8s ruling that the pool *as for4i++en to them unless they *ere a,,ompanie+ 4y an a+ult/ A +ragonfly hovere+ a4ove the spar2ling *ater an+ they shrie2e+ *ith laughter as their efforts to splash it faile+/ 'isa smile+ in+ulgently at their anti,s. 4ut. as their 4ath<time +re* near. she or+ere+ them out an+ too2 them 4a,2 to the house/ 8Can8t *e stay up a 4it later this evening08 5osh plea+e+ *hen it *as eventually time to put out the light/ 8 o. you ,an8t.8 'isa replie+ firmly as she tu,2e+ them up in 4e+/ 8But "n,le A+am isn8t here/ You sai+ so.8 5osh persiste+/ 8That ma2es no +ifferen,e/ Rules are rules. an+ you8re going to sleep right no*/8 8Oh. no18 8Oh. yes18 'isa insiste+/

8"n,le A+am *on8t 2no* if *e stay up 3ust a teeny 4it longer.8 5osh poute+. a++ing persuasively. 8an+ &ran *on8t min+/8 'isa straightene+ 4et*een the t*o 4e+s an+ loo2e+ +o*n at them *ith as mu,h sternness as she ,oul+ muster/ 8Your un,le gave me very stri,t instru,tions. 5osh. an+ # +aren8t +iso4ey him/8 8But. 'isa98 8 o. 5oshua/8 There *as a startle+ silen,e. an+ their usually +irty fa,es loo2e+ almost angeli, *ith ,leanliness as they stare+ up at her in *i+e<eye+ +ismay/ 8You only ,all me 5oshua *hen you8re angry.8 5osh sai+ at last. an+ the hurt loo2 in his eyes very nearly su,,ee+e+ in shattering her resolve. 4ut the thought of A+am8s anger save+ the situation/ 8#8m not angry *ith you. 4ut you must go to sleep no*.8 she sai+ a little more gently as she pi,2e+ up a fe* s,attere+ toys an+ put them *here they 4elonge+/ A *hispere+ ,onversation too2 pla,e 4et*een the t*ins. 4ut 'isa preten+e+ not to noti,e. an+ *hen she finally turne+ to fa,e them. t*o very serious<loo2ing ,hil+ren *ere staring up at her from 4eneath the sheets/ 8'isa.8 6ate 4egan hesitantly. 8+on8t you love us any more08 'isa8s heart t*iste+ painfully. an+ she *as on her 2nees 4et*een their 4e+s almost instantly. hugging ea,h one of them in turn/ 8# love you 4oth to 4its.8 she e;plaine+ *ith a lump in her throat. 84ut # ,an8t allo* you to stay up later than usual/ Your un,le *ill 4e very angry *ith me. an+ you *oul+n8t *ant that. *oul+ you08 8 o.8 they 4oth agree+ solemnly/ 8All right. then.8 'isa smile+. smoothing +o*n their +ar2 ,urls *ith gentle. loving han+s/ 8Why +oesn8t "n,le A+am love us too08 8But of ,ourse he loves you.8 'isa replie+ instantly to 5osh8s une;pe,te+ -uestion. 4ut he *as far from satisfie+/ 8He never ever plays *ith us.8 he sai+ truthfully. an+ 6ate a++e+M 8He 3ust al*ays s,o*ls at us/8 8Your un,le is a very 4usy man.8 'isa prevari,ate+. fin+ing it +iffi,ult to argue against the truth. 4ut she ha+ to +efen+ A+am someho*/ 8There8s so mu,h to +o on the farm. an+78 8But he8s al*ays ri+ing aroun+ *ith that la+y from ne;t +oor.8 5osh interrupte+ fro*ningly/ 8Well. #78 'isa faltere+ an+ 4it her lip/ What *as there she ,oul+ say to that0 she *on+ere+ helplessly/ 8#s she going to 4e our aunty08 6ate as2e+. an+ her an;iety foun+ an e,ho in 'isa8s heart/ 8#9 +on8t 2no*.8 she replie+ ,arefully/ 8Perhaps/8 8# thin2 #8+ hate that.8 5osh e;plo+e+. his thun+erous e;pression 4earing an un,anny resem4lan,e to his un,le8s/ 8Oh. no. you mustn8t say that.8 'isa *hispere+ an;iously/ 8But it8s true.8 5osh insiste+. 8an+ you sai+ *e must al*ays tell the truth/8 8Yes. 4ut78 'isa faltere+. at a loss for *or+s. then she resolutely trie+ to 4ring an en+ to the ,onversation/ 8#t8s time # put the light out/8 8She +oesn8t li2e us either.8 6ate8s remar2 stoppe+ her in the a,t of rea,hing for the light s*it,h 4et*een their 4e+s. an+ 'isa nee+e+ no e;planation as to *hom 6ate *as referring to/ 8(iss 5a,2son hasn8t ha+ mu,h to +o *ith you. so ho* ,an you say that08 'isa re4u2e+ her gently/ 8We 3ust 2no*.8 5osh e;plaine+ a little +efiantly/ 8Why ,an8t you marry "n,le A+am08 6ate *ante+ to 2no*/ 8Then you8ll 4e our aunty/8

'isa8s han+s trem4le+ as she straightene+ the sheets on,e more/ 8# ,oul+n8t +o that/8 8Why not08 the t*ins +eman+e+ *ith ,hil+ish arrogan,e/ 8Be,ause78 'isa too2 a stea+ying 4reath/ 8Be,ause your un,le an+ #9 *e +on8t feel that *ay a4out ea,h other/8 8What *ay08 5osh fro*ne+/ 8Well. *e +on8t7love7ea,h other/8 8But ,an8t you708 8 o. # ,an8t. an+ your un,le ,ertainly *on8t.8 'isa ,ut in a4ruptly. rising to her feet as an in+i,ation that the ,onversation ha+ gone far enough/ 8 o*. shut your eyes an+ go to sleep so # ,an put out the light/8 8Aren8t you going to 2iss us goo+night08 6ate +eman+e+ tremulously. an+ 'isa8s heart melte+/ 8Yes. of ,ourse # am.8 she smile+ *armly as she 4ent over them an+ 2isse+ them lightly on their forehea+s/ 8&oo+night/8 8&oo+night. 'isa.8 they ,horuse+. snuggling +o*n 4eneath the sheets. an+ 'isa stoo+ loo2ing +o*n at them for a moment *ith a lump in her throat 4efore she s*it,he+ off the light an+ left the room/ The ,onversation she ha+ ha+ *ith the t*ins +istur4e+ 'isa more than she ,are+ to a+mit even to herself. an+ her attention *an+ere+ On several o,,asions at the +inner ta4le. resulting in the em4arrassing situation of having to as2 Eri,a $an+eleur to repeat herself/ #t *as a +ar2 night. 'isa noti,e+ *hen they *ent out on to the veran+ah after +inner in sear,h of a 4reath of fresh air/ Clou+s ha+ appeare+ from some*here to gather s*iftly in the s2y. an+ the stars *ere o4literate+ from vie*. 4ut the heat remaine+ oppressive an+ slightly ominous/ 8The *eather loo2s promising. 4ut then one never ,an tell.8 (rs $an+eleur remar2e+. an+. *hen 'isa +i+ not reply. she glan,e+ at her sharply/ 8You8ve 4een very -uiet this evening. 'isa/ Have the ,hil+ren 4een parti,ularly trying to+ay08 8 o. not really.8 'isa smile+ faintly into the +ar2ness/ 8They *ante+ to stay up later this evening. 4ut #8m afrai+ # ,oul+n8t allo* it/8 8 o. of ,ourse not.8 the ol+er *oman agree+. an+ they lapse+ into silen,e on,e more/ 8(rs $an+eleur98 'isa 4egan eventually. the ,ane ,hair ,rea2ing 4eneath her *eight as she altere+ her position nervously. 8ho* +oes A+am feel a4out the t*ins08 8What +o you mean. my +ear08 8# mean9 is he fon+ of them08 8 aturally he is. an+ he8s very ,on,erne+ that they shoul+ have the 2in+ of up4ringing 5a,-ues *oul+ have *ishe+ them to have/8 She pause+ 4riefly an+ 'isa ,oul+ feel those eyes sear,hing her fa,e in the +ar2ness/ 8Why +o you as208 8#t8s something 5osh an+ 6ate mentione+ *hen # put them to 4e+.8 'isa e;plaine+. pushing her hair a*ay from her forehea+ an+ grima,ing *hen her han+ ,ame a*ay +amp/ 8A+am never ta2es mu,h noti,e of them. an+ they seem to thin2 that he7that he +oesn8t li2e them very mu,h/8 8What nonsense18 (rs $an+eleur e;plo+e+/ 8# hope you tol+ them they8re mista2en08 8# trie+. 4ut78 'isa passe+ the tip of her tongue over her +ry lips nervously. 8# +on8t thin2 # ,onvin,e+ them someho*/8 8The guar+ianship of the t*ins is a tremen+ous responsi4ility. an+ A+am98 Eri,a $an+eleur pause+. o4viously realising that there *as some truth in the ,hil+ren8s suppositions. an+ then. li2e 'isa. she trie+ to e;,use his 4ehaviour/ 8He hasn8t mu,h time lately for himself an+ for his family/8 8# 2no*/8 8Perhaps # shoul+ spea2 to him. 4ut7Oh. +ear.8 she sighe+ heavily/ 8He8s 4een so 4oorish

lately. an+ *hen he8s li2e that. it8s 4est to leave him 4e/8 8# suppose so.8 'isa agree+ *ith her. 4ut the pro4lem still remaine+ unsolve+/ The ,hil+ren felt unlove+. an+ A+am *as su4limely o4livious of the fa,t that his ,allous 4ehaviour *as the ,ause of it/ 8What he really nee+s is a *ife.8 Eri,a $an+eleur sai+ at length/ 8#t8s time he settle+ +o*n *ith a family of his o*n/8 8#t8s time *ho settle+ +o*n. (other08 a +eep voi,e en-uire+ out of the sha+o*s. an+ 'isa8s heart leapt into her throat as a +ar2 shape loome+ up in front of them/ A+am ha+ approa,he+ the house so -uietly that neither of them ha+ hear+ him. an+. as he leane+ 4a,2 against the *oo+en rails surroun+ing the veran+ah. 'isa ,oul+ almost sense a ,ertain anger vi4rating through him as he ,rosse+ his arms over his ,hest/ 8&oo+ heavens. A+am1 You startle+ me.8 his mother e;,laime+. 4ut A+am ha+ no intention of 4eing +iverte+/ 8Whose life are you trying to organise this time. (other08 8Yours. A+am.8 ,ame the un+aunte+ reply. an+ 'isa ,oul+ not help 4ut a+mire her fearlessness/ 8#t8s time you foun+ yourself a *ife/ Someone gentle. loving. an+ *armhearte+ enough to smooth off the rough e+ges. an+ someone *ho *oul+ mello* you slightly/8 8That soun+s +elightful.8 A+am mo,2e+ his mother/ 8Have you someone li2e that in min+08 8 o. 4ut78 Eri,a $an+eleur pause+. an+ then sai+ -uite +istin,tly. 8#t *ill have to 4e someone li2e 'isa. # thin2/8 'isa felt as if she ha+ 4een flung into a 4ath of i,e ,u4es. an+ then. painfully. the 4loo+ surge+ 4a,2 into her 4o+y *hile she *ishe+ franti,ally that she ,oul+ shrin2 -uietly into o4livion/ 8Why someone li2e 'isa08 A+am *as +eman+ing in that harsh. mo,2ing voi,e of his/ 8Why not suggest 'isa herself08 8 othing *oul+ please me more.8 his mother state+ a+amantly an+. having set the ,at among the pigeons. she rose to her feet/ 8 o*. if you8ll e;,use me. #8m going to have an early night/8 'isa ha+ no intention of remaining out there alone *ith A+am. an+ she hastily follo*e+ (rs $an+eleur. muttering apologeti,ally. 8# have a fe* letters to *rite/8 85ust a minute/8 o matter ho* mu,h she ha+ *ante+ to es,ape. the imperious ,omman+ in that thun+ering voi,e ,oul+ not 4e ignore+. an+ 'isa turne+ 4a,2 slo*ly to fa,e the man she feare+9 yet love+ a4ove all else/ 8Was there something you *ante+ to +is,uss *ith me08 she as2e+ in a voi,e that soun+e+ +e,eptively ,alm/ A+am pushe+ himself a*ay from the rails an+ move+ a little into the light emitting from the living<room *in+o*. 4ut the sar+oni, amusement et,he+ so ,learly on his features ma+e her *ish he ha+ remaine+ in the sha+o*s/ 8What +o you thin2 of my mother8s suggestion08 he +eman+e+ su++enly. an+ 'isa felt the tension spiral through her 4o+y/ 8# *oul+ prefer not to thin2 a4out it at all/8 8# +on8t appeal to you as a hus4an+. then08 8# +i+n8t ,ome to !airvie* to loo2 for a hus4an+. an+ your mother *as merely spe,ulating.8 she si+e<steppe+ the -uestion/ 8She *oul+ li2e to see you marrie+ an+7an+ settle+. that8s all74ut not ne,essarily *ith me/8 8Who *oul+ you suggest. then. as a suita4le *ife for me08 'isa loo2e+ a*ay from those eyes that sa* so mu,h of *hat she hope+ to hi+e. an+ her voi,e *as ,ol+ly +eta,he+ as she sai+M 8# *oul+n8t presume to ma2e any suggestions/8

8A pity.8 he murmure+ mo,2ingly/ 8#t might have 4een interesting to hear your vie*s on the su43e,t/8 His han+ ,ame +o*n on her shoul+er une;pe,te+ly/ 8A4out this afternoon/8 'isa flin,he+ a*ay from his tou,h as if she ha+ ,ome into ,onta,t *ith a re+<hot 4ran+ing iron/ 8#f you +on8t min+. (r $an+eleur. # *oul+ rather not +is,uss it/8 A+am pushe+ his han+s into the po,2ets of his pants an+ smile+ a little ,yni,ally/ 8# thought *e8+ progresse+ 4eyon+ the O(r $an+eleurO stage/8 'isa8s ,olour rose sharply at the thought of the intima,y they ha+ share+. an+ she silently 4lesse+ the +ar2ness for its prote,tion as she sai+ tritely. 8# +on8t *ant to tal2 a4out it18 8All right. *e *on8t tal2 a4out it.8 A+am snappe+. his voi,e harsh *ith impatien,e/ 8'et8s 3ust forget the entire in,i+ent. if that *ill ma2e you happy. 4ut *ill you e;plain to me. please. *hy you felt it ne,essary to run li2e a s,are+ ra44it the moment my mother *ent into the house08 8# +i+n8t run. #78 8Oh. yes. you +i+.8 he interrupte+ for,efully. 8an+ you8ve 4een poise+ for flight from the moment *e *ere left alone/8 8# haven8t1 # *as78 His han+ *as at her throat. momentarily ,ho2ing off her voi,e as he for,e+ her 4a,2 against the rails. then the pressure of his fingers rela;e+ an+ move+ in a slo*. ,aressing motion roun+ to the nape of her ne,2/ 8:on8t +o that18 she gaspe+ in a strangle+ voi,e/ 8What are you afrai+ of 'isa0 (e0 Or yourself08 8# +on8t 2no* *hat you8re tal2ing a4out.8 she sai+ i,ily. at a +isa+vantage no* *ith the living< room light playing a,ross her taut features/ 8#8m not afrai+ of anyone9 or anything/8 8# thin2 you are. an+ # also thin2 # 2no* *hat it is/8 The sensuality flo*ing from his fingers *as 4eginning to penetrate the 4arrier of ,ool +eta,hment she ha+ ere,te+ a4out herself. an+ she sai+ sharply. 8:on8t tou,h me18 A+am remove+ his han+. 4ut he 4rought it +o*n on to the rail 4esi+e her to imprison her se,urely *ithout a,tually tou,hing her/ 8When you *ere engage+ to Rory. +i+n8t he o,,asionally ma2e love to you a little08 8Certainly not18 she ,rie+ in+ignantly/ 8# thought so.8 A+am smile+ faintly as he o4serve+ her heightene+ ,olour/ 8There8s a ,ertain inno,en,e a4out you. 'isa. that ma+e me suspe,t that Rory *hat8s<his<name *as never permitte+ the intima,ies you allo*e+ me this afternoon. an+ that8s *hat8s trou4ling you. isn8t it08 8Oh. please.8 she groane+. her ,hee2s 4urning *ith the fire of her shame an+ humiliation/ 8We agree+ *e *oul+n8t +is,uss it/8 8So *e +i+.8 he murmure+ thoughtfully. 84ut you intrigue me. 'isa/ You8re a +istur4ing little ,reature at the 4est of times. an+ your eyes ,ontain se,rets that in,ite my ,uriosity/ Your mouth suggests a hi++en passion not yet e;plore+. an+ it ma2es me *on+er98 He pause+ signifi,antly. an+ her senses *ere su++enly alert to the aura of sensuality that ,lung to him/ 8#t ma2es me *on+er *hat you8ll 4e li2e *hen you8re totally arouse+.8 he ,on,lu+e+ his tantalising statement softly/ 8You7you have no right to7to tal2 to me li2e this.8 she re4u2e+ him unstea+ily. her 4o+y tingling as if he ha+ a,tually tou,he+ her/ 8 o. # haven8t the right. have #.8 he agree+. so ,lose to her no* that she ,oul+ almost feel the heat of his 4o+y against her o*n/ 8# must a+mit. though. that the temptation is very strong to ,ontinue *here *e left off this afternoon/8 8Oh. no1 Please18 she 4egge+ in alarm. her heart 4eating so fast that it. felt as though it *oul+ leap out of her throat/ 8Stop your trem4ling. 'isa.8 he instru,te+ harshly/ 8# have no +esire to for,e my un*ante+ attentions on you/ &o up to your room an+ *rite your letters li2e a goo+ little girl. if that8s *hat you *ant. an+98 He move+ a*ay from her then. an+ a++e+M 8Pleasant +reams/8

#n the se,lusion an+ safety of her room 'isa pause+ to ta2e sto,2 of herself. an+ she *as surprise+ to +is,over that A+am ha+ 4een right/ She *as trem4ling. an+ she ha+ <trem4le+ so mu,h +o*n there on the veran+ah that. for one terrifying moment. she ha+ 4een afrai+ that she might ,ollapse at his feet. 4ut. *ith her hea+ hel+ high. she ha+ for,e+ her un*illing lim4s into a,tion an+ ha+ *al2e+ a*ay from him/ She ha+ move+ a*2*ar+ly. a*are of his eyes follo*ing her limping progress. an+ she ha+ 4een ,lose to tears *hen she finally ,rosse+ the spa,ious hall an+ ,lim4e+ the stairs up to her room/ 8Pleasant +reams.8 A+am ha+ *ishe+ her. 4ut her +reams *ere anything 4ut pleasant that night/ The nightmares she ha+ suffere+ after the a,,i+ent returne+. an+ A+am steppe+ into them *ith the stealthiness of a panther to stal2 her ruthlessly an+ mena,ingly/ She fle+ from him as if he *ere the +evil himself. 4ut her movements *ere slo* an+ retar+e+/ Her 4reath *as rasping in her throat *ith the effort to es,ape those grasping han+s. 4ut she *as ,apture+ 3ust as the s2y *as rent *ith a terrifying flash of fire/ She s,reame+ an+ fought li2e a *il+ thing. 4ut his han+s *ere 4ruising her shoul+ers as he hel+ her +o*n/ 8'isa18 his voi,e shattere+ her semi<,ons,ious state. an+ her +ream ha+ su++enly 4e,ome reality/ A+am *as 4en+ing over her. his harsh features a,-uiring terrifying proportions in the +ull light of the 4e+si+e lamp as he shoo2 her an+ ,alle+ her name again/ The s2y an+ the earth seeme+ to ,ome together in a 4lin+ing flash an+ a frightening ,rash of thun+er. an+ his han+ against her mouth stifle+ the involuntary s,ream that rose from her ra*. a,hing throat/ She *ent limp *ith fear in his grasp. her eyes *i+e an+ almost purple as she stare+ up into that rugge+ly ,hiselle+ fa,e/ There *as a violent storm raging outsi+e. she realise+ at last. 4ut the horror of her nightmare *as still upon her as A+am remove+ his han+ from her mouth. an+ the -ui,2 rise an+ fall of her 4reasts 4eneath the frothy la,e still ,onveye+ her agitation/ 8What7*hat are you7you +oing in m<my 4e+room08 she *hispere+ hoarsely. her fingers against her a,hing throat as she ,ontinue+ to stare up at him *ith fear still lur2ing in her eyes. 4ut su4,ons,iously she assimilate+ the fa,t that it must 4e some*here ,lose to mi+night. an+ that A+am *as still fully ,lothe+/ 8# *as ,he,2ing the *in+o*s +o*n this en+ of the passage *hen # hear+ you s,ream.8 he e;plaine+ -uietly. pouring *ater into a glass an+ seating himself on the si+e of the 4e+ as she sat up to ta2e it from him than2fully. 4ut her han+s shoo2 so mu,h that he ha+ to hol+ the glass for her *hile she +ran2 thirstily/ 8Was it the storm. or a nightmare08 he *ante+ to 2no* *hen she in+i,ate+ that she ha+ ha+ enough/ 8# +on8t9 2no*.8 she lie+ unstea+ily/ 8A little 4it of 4oth. perhaps08 he suggeste+. his eyes fli,2ing over her *ith interest. an+ ma2ing her a*are su++enly of the transparen,y of her nightgo*n/ With her ,hee2s flaming. she 3er2e+ the sheets up to 4eneath her ,hin. an+ the storm outsi+e seeme+ to 4e raging *ithin her as *ell/ The rain lashe+ against the *in+o* mer,ilessly. an+ she flin,he+ in*ar+ly as a flash of lightning tore a,ross the s2y *ith earth shattering results. 4ut the storm *as no longer only outsi+eJ it *as in the room all aroun+ her. an+ the air seeme+ to 4e ,ra,2ling *ith ele,tri,ity/ 8#8m all right no*.8 she ,roa2e+ 3er2ily. +esperate no* that he shoul+ leave her alone/ 8Are you sure08

8Yes9 than2 you/8 His 2een glan,e too2 in the *hiteness of her thin ,hee2s. the +isarray of her ,orn<gol+ hair. an+ the eyes +ar2 an+ *i+e *ith some inner stress. 4ut it *as on the soft. -uivering mouth that she fought so valiantly to ,ontrol that his glan,e lingere+/ 8(y &o+. you8re not all right.8 he sai+ thi,2ly. an+ then she *as gathere+ into his arms/ He hel+ her firmly 4ut gently. ,ra+ling her against him as if she *ere a ,hil+ in nee+ of ,omfort an+. su++enly. she *as 3ust that/ Tremors shoo2 through her *ith a terri4le for,e in the aftermath of her nightmare. an+ then. as the *ell<remem4ere+ tension un,oile+ very slo*ly *ithin her. she sagge+ against him *ea2ly/ Emotionally +raine+ an+ spent. she 4urie+ her fa,e against him an+ *as perfe,tly still/ Ho* long he sat li2e that *ith her she ,oul+ not re,all. 4ut she *as -uite ,ontent to remain *here she *as *hen she eventually felt his lips moving against her temple. her *arm ,hee2. an+ finally her faintly feverish lips/ To resist never o,,urre+ to her at that moment. 4ut his lips lingere+. an+ the 2iss +eepene+ until a fire *as 2in+le+ insi+e her/ His han+s *ere no longer merely ,omforting her. 4ut ,aressing her until their *armth through the thinness of her nightgo*n ma+e her s2in tingle in response/ Everything re,e+e+ into the 4a,2groun+J the storm. her nightmares. an+ also Willa8s *arnings/ The only thing that ma+e any sense at all at that moment *as the san,tuary of his strong arms a4out her. an+ the heaven of his lips on hers. 4ut heaven. too. ha+ to en+ some*here. she +is,overe+ *hen his arms fell a*ay from her pulsating. responsive 4o+y/ Confuse+ an+ 4e*il+ere+. she stare+ up into his +ar2. unfathoma4le eyes. an+ then his lips ,urve+ into that ,yni,al smile she *as 4eginning to 2no* so *ell/ 8# +i+n8t inten+ to +o that. 4ut # +on8t regret it either.8 he sai+ harshly. an+ reality *as thrust upon her ru+ely. an+ shatteringly/ She ha+ nee+e+ ,omfort. an+ he ha+ given it/ What happene+ after*ar+s she ha+ only herself to 4lame for/ She ha+ offere+ her lips *illingly. an+ A+am ha+ rea,te+ a,,or+ingly/ 8#7# thin2 you8+ 4etter go.8 she *hispere+ unstea+ily. veiling her pain<fille+ eyes *ith her lashes/ 8# thin2 so too. or # might 4e tempte+ to ta2e an en,ore.8 he agree+ mo,2ingly. getting to his feet an+ +ra*ing himself up to his full height/ 8&oo+night again. 'isa/8 She stare+ at the +oor for a long time after he ha+ ,lose+ it softly 4ehin+ him/ He ha+ use+ the *or+ 8tempte+8/ 8# might 4e tempte+ to ta2e an en,ore/8 Ha+ she really tempte+ him0 A -uivering sigh es,ape+ her as she leane+ 4a,2 against the pillo*s an+ s*it,he+ off the light/ The violen,e of the storm ha+ passe+. 4ut the rain ,ontinue+ to 4eat against the *in+o* panes/ 'isa *at,he+ it running +o*n in rivulets against the glass. an+. as she sighe+ again. the *or+s of a half<forgotten poem struggle+ to the surfa,e of her min+/

Alas. ho* easily things go *rong1 A sigh too mu,h. or a 2iss too long. An+ there follo*s a mist an+ a *eeping rain. An+ life is never the same again/

The rest of it *as tantalisingly vague. 4ut it ,oul+ almost have 4een *ritten entirely for her/ She ha+ sighe+ too mu,h. an+ 2isse+ too long. an+ life *oul+ never 4e the same again/

8'ove. true an+ en+uring. is a on,e<in<a<lifetime emotion. an+ the rest are 4ut poor su4stitutes.8 her Aunt (olly ha+ on,e tol+ her/ 8That8s *hy marriage to someone else is unthin2a4le/ o one ,oul+ ever ,ompare *ith 'u2e. no matter ho* har+ they trie+. an+ *e *oul+ have en+e+ up ma2ing ea,h other8s lives a misery/8 Aunt (olly ha+ 4een right. 'isa thought unhappily/ Her love for A+am *as that 8on,e<in<a< lifetime8 thing for her. an+ no one ,oul+ ever hope to ,ompare favoura4ly *ith him/

The storm ha+ laste+ all night. *ashing a*ay fen,es an+ uprooting trees *hi,h ha+ stoo+ in the path of the +eluge/ 'ightning ha+ stru,2 the grass roof of a la4ourer8s hut. setting it alight. 4ut fortunately no one ha+ 4een hurt. an+ for t*o +ays after*ar+s A+am an+ his men *or2e+ almost roun+ the ,lo,2 to repair the +amage/ Team*or2 *as of the utmost importan,e if A+am +i+ not *ant to lose more of his livesto,2 than he alrea+y ha+ +one. an+ 'isa foun+ herself len+ing a voluntary han+ in the 2it,hen to prepare foo+ an+ +rin2 for the men as they ,ame in in relays/ #t *as her first taste of *hat life on a farm *as all a4out *hen emergen,ies su,h as this arose. an+ +espite the long. tiring hours on her feet. she love+ every moment of it/ The situation *as no 4etter an+ no *orse for 6en Ru+man at Waverley. an+ *hen he finally arrive+ to ma2e a full report to A+am he loo2e+ as tire+ an+ haggar+ as everyone else/ His ,ar ,ame up the +rive 3ust as 'isa *as returning to the house *ith the t*ins after a promise+ s*im. an+ she sent them insi+e to ,hange as 6en ,lim4e+ out of his ,ar an+ approa,he+ her/ 8Hello. 'isa.8 he smile+ a little *earily. 3er2ing his thum4 in the +ire,tion of the house/ 8#s the 4oss in08 8# +on8t 2no*/ He *ent out early this morning on an inspe,tion tour. an+ # haven8t seen him return/8 8You8re not still angry *ith me. are you08 8# *as never angry *ith you. 6en.8 she assure+ him hastily/ 8Have you forgiven me. then08 8There8s nothing to forgive.8 she smile+ at him. 4ut he ,aught hol+ of her arm as she steppe+ past him to ,ontinue on her *ay up to the house/ 8:on8t go yet/ Sit here *ith me for a moment/8 He +re* her +o*n on to the rough *oo+en 4en,h 4eneath the eu,alyptus tree. an+ loo2e+ at her ,losely for a fe* se,on+s 4efore he sai+M 8You8re very lovely. 'isa. an+ this isn8t 3ust flattery/8 'isa loo2e+ a*ay un,omforta4ly. an+ murmure+ something appropriate. 4ut 6en pla,e+ his fingers 4eneath her ,hin an+ for,e+ her to loo2 at him again/ 8#8ve never +evelope+ su,h an instant ,rush on any girl 4efore. an+ it isn8t going to 4e easy 3ust 4eing your frien+. you 2no*.8 he tol+ her *ith a seriousness she ha+ not attri4ute+ to him. an+ she 2ne* that someho* she ha+ to ma2e him un+erstan+ that there ,oul+ never 4e anything 4et*een them/ 86en. #8m sorry. 4ut78 8# 2no*.8 he interrupte+. releasing her/ 8#t8s eyes on an+ han+s off. 4ut #8+ li2e to 2no* *ho8s the lu,2y guy/ # mean #8+ li2e to 2no* *ho 4eat me to it/8 8You8re mista2en/ There8s no one/8 8(y ol+ +a+ al*ays says that *hen a girl 4lushes you 2no* she8s lying.8 6en tol+ her *ith a tou,h of humour in his glan,e. an+ her han+s fle* instantly to her hot ,hee2s/ 8Your ol+ +a+ must 2no* a lot a4out *omen. an+ their *ays.8 she laughe+ off her em4arrassment/

8You ,oul+ say so. yes.8 he no++e+ thoughtfully/ 8He *as marrie+ t*i,e after my mother +ie+. 4ut 4oth marriages en+e+ in +ivor,e/ o* he 3ust lives *ith *hi,hever *oman ta2es his fan,y/ #t8s less ,ompli,ate+ that *ay/8 8# suppose so.8 'isa agree+ relu,tantly. 84ut it +oesn8t offer the *oman mu,h se,urity/8 8(ost *omen ,oul+n8t ,are less a4out se,urity these +ays.8 6en replie+ airily/ 8They8ve steppe+ up into responsi4le positions on,e hel+ only 4y men. an+ they8ve 4uilt up a se,ure future for themselves *hi,h +oesn8t ne,essitate se,urity in marriage/ To 4e tie+ to a man is an en,um4ran,e. an+ a hus4an+ *ill inevita4ly +isplay his ,hauvinisti, ten+en,ies one +ay 4y o43e,ting to his *ife going out to *or2/8 An involuntary smile plu,2e+ at her lips/ 8Are you a ,hauvinist08 8# +on8t thin2 so.8 he laughe+. pushing a han+ through his unruly hair. 84ut # still li2e the i+ea of ,oming home at night to a *ife *ho8ll soothe me 4y +is,ussing the little things that ma2e life *orth*hile. instea+ of a *oman *ho8s intent upon thro*ing fa,ts an+ figures at me to impress me *ith her 2no*le+ge/8 8You are a 4it of a ,hauvinist. then.8 she tease+ lightly/ 8# thin2 most men are. although some are 4ighearte+ enough to preten+ they8re not.8 he ,onfesse+ *ith a 4oyish grin. an+ then he *as serious again/ 8You still haven8t tol+ me *ho the lu,2y man in your life is/8 'isa plu,2e+ a leaf off the eu,alyptus tree an+ ,rushe+ it 4et*een her fingers to inhale the fragran,e/ 8:on8t as2 me. 6en/8 8#s it su,h a terri4le se,ret08 8There8s no one. an+ # +on8t78 Her voi,e faltere+ at the soun+ of familiar footsteps ,run,hing on the gravel. an+ she loo2e+ up -ui,2ly to see A+am *al2ing to*ar+s them/ Tire+ness *as et,he+ +eeply a4out his mouth an+ eyes. an+ the strea2s of grey at his temples seeme+ to 4e more prominent than 4efore. 4ut as those +ar2 eyes met hers. she lo*ere+ her lashes s*iftly to hi+e the ten+er ,on,ern that lay in their +epths/ 8:i+ you *ant to see me. Ru+man08 he +eman+e+ a4ruptly. an+ 6en rose instantly to his feet/ 8Yes. sir/8 8#8ll 4e in my stu+y/ (a2e it snappy. *ill you08 8Yes. sir/8 They *at,he+ in silen,e as A+am8s tall. 2ha2i<,la+ figure stro+e to*ar+s the house. then. as he +isappeare+ 4ehin+ the honeysu,2le he+ge. 6en turne+ to 'isa an+ stare+ at her intently/ 8#t8s him. isn8t it08 'isa rose to her feet a4ruptly/ 8You8+ 4etter not 2eep him *aiting/ He hasn8t 4een in a very goo+ moo+ these past t*o +ays/8 8He isn8t the marrying 2in+. 'isa.8 6en persiste+ urgently/ 8When a man rea,hes his age *ithout ta2ing the plunge. then you ,an 4e sure he never *ill/8 8(ore a+vi,e from your ol+ +a+08 she mo,2e+ him a little tritely. 4ut 6en merely shoo2 his hea+/ 8You8re *asting your time. 'isa/8 8An+ you8re *asting (r $an+eleur8s.8 she retorte+ sharply. +etermine+ no* to en+ this ,onversation/ 85ust remem4er *hat # sai+.8 he *arne+ her. then raise+ his han+ in salute/ 8See you/8 :istur4e+ that 6en shoul+ have guesse+ her ,losely guar+e+ se,ret so easily. 'isa remaine+ *here she *as for a fe* minutes longer to ,ontrol the rapi+. un,omforta4le 4eat of her heart/ #f her feelings ha+ 4een that o4vious to 6en. then ho* o4vious *ere they not to A+am. an+ anyone else *ho ,are+ to noti,e0 Her ,olour ,ame an+ *ent as she *restle+ *ith this 4urning -uestion/ There *as nothing she

,oul+ +o no* a4out 6en 2no*ing. 4ut she *oul+ ,ertainly have to 4e more ,areful in future unless she *ante+ everyone to 2no* e;a,tly ho* foolish she ha+ 4een/ 'isa groane+ in*ar+ly an+ hurrie+ insi+e to sho*er an+ ,hange 4efore lun,h. an+ a half hour in 5osh an+ 6ate8s ,ompany prove+ to 4e an e;,ellent +iversion for her thoughts. 4ut their su4+ue+ 4ehaviour at the lun,heon ta4le ma+e her realise on,e again that something ha+ to 4e +one a4out the relationship *hi,h e;iste+ 4et*een the t*ins an+ their un,le/ They stole furtive glan,es at him from time to time. an+ the fear an+ longing in their eyes *as almost un4eara4le to *itness/ Eri,a $an+eleur *as *at,hing her gran+,hil+ren as *ell. as she ha+ 4een +oing sin,e 'isa ha+ 4rought the situation to her noti,e. 4ut. *hen she met 'isa8s 4esee,hing glan,e a,ross the ta4le. she shoo2 her grey hea+ slightly. in+i,ating ,learly that this *as not the right moment to 4roa,h the su43e,t/ A+am loo2e+ up then. an+ his mother hastily han+e+ roun+ the 4o*l of sala+/ 8What a4out you. 5osh9 an+ you. 6ate.8 she sai+ *hen 4oth A+am an+ 'isa ha+ +e,line+/ 8(ore sala+08 The t*ins merely shoo2 their ,urly hea+s as ,hil+ren often +o. an+ 4efore 'isa ,oul+ ,orre,t them A+am +eman+e+ harshly. 8Where are your manners08 They literally shran2 in their ,hairs as they ,horusse+ hastily. 8 o. than2 you. &ran/8 A+am8s ,urt no+ in+i,ate+ that the matter *as settle+ as far as he *as ,on,erne+. 4ut their flushe+ ,hee2s an+ -uivering lips ma+e 'isa8s mouth set in a +etermine+ line/ She *oul+ spea2 to A+am. an+ soon. she +e,i+e+. 4ut right no* she ha+ to get the t*ins upstairs to their room for their afternoon nap/ That evening. after +inner. 'isa *ent for her usual *al2/ Her hip ha+ improve+ ,onsi+era4ly sin,e her arrival on the farm. 4ut it *as not her hip she *as thin2ing of at that moment/ She *as thin2ing of the t*ins. an+ *hat to +o a4out the tense situation 4et*een them an+ their un,le/ Woul+ he ta2e 2in+ly to any a+vi,e she might ,are to offer0 she *on+ere+ +istra,te+ly. 4ut Rolf 4oun+e+ up to her out of the sha+o*s at that moment an+. as she stro2e+ an+ patte+ him fon+ly. the o43e,t of her thoughts materialise+ 4efore her eyes/ 8A girl shoul+ never 4e allo*e+ to +ream alone in the moonlight/8 8# *asn8t +reaming.8 she ,ontra+i,te+ A+am8s mo,2ing statement as he fell into step 4esi+e her. 4ut the unfortunate ,hoi,e of a *or+ too2 her 4a,2 instantly to the night of the storm *hen he ha+ a*a2ene+ her from her terrifying nightmare. an+ the ,olour surge+ painfully into her ,hee2s as she re,alle+ the *ay she ha+ sought ,omfort in his arms/ 8# interrupte+ a very serious +is,ussion 4et*een Ru+man an+ yourself this morning/ Were you thin2ing of him. perhaps08 'isa re,overe+ herself s*iftly at the harsh mo,2ery in his voi,e/ 86en an+ # *eren8t +is,ussing anything of importan,e/ #t *as 5osh an+ 6ate # *as thin2ing of/8 8Really08 His sar,asm spar2e+ off her anger. 4ut. as she stoppe+ an+ turne+ to fa,e him. she 2ne* that she *oul+ have to trea+ ,autiously if she hope+ to have any su,,ess/ Shoul+ she spea2 to him no*. or shoul+ she *ait0 she *on+ere+ nervously as she sa* him ,len,h his pipe 4et*een his teeth an+ thrust his han+s into the po,2ets of his ,or+e+ pants/ He loo2e+ so formi+a4leJ so unapproa,ha4ly austere at that moment/ :i+ she +are spea2 to him a4out something *hi,h *as really no ,on,ern of hers0 8You8ve su++enly gone very -uiet. 'isa/ # *on+er *hy.8 he remar2e+ thoughtfully. an+ 'isa s,rape+ her flagging ,ourage together an+ plunge+ into spee,h/ 8A+am. # 2no* that7that you8ve 4een e;tremely 4usy for some time no*. 4ut78 8But08

She s*allo*e+ nervously/ 8# thin2 you ought to 2no* that the t*ins feel you +on8t ,are for them/8 8That8s utter nonsense18 he thun+ere+. 2no,2ing out his pipe against the stem of a tree *ith su,h violen,e that she e;pe,te+ it to snap in t*o at any moment/ 8# a+mit that initially # +i+n8t fan,y the i+ea of having my househol+ +isrupte+. 4ut they8re my 4rother8s ,hil+ren. an+ #8m their guar+ian/8 8They a,,ept you as their un,le an+ guar+ian. 4ut they nee+ a little more than that.8 she returne+ -uietly/ 8They nee+ to 2no* that they8re love+ as *ell/8 8:o they08 he +eman+e+ sar,asti,ally/ 8An+ *hat +o you suggest # +o a4out it0 Wear a pla,ar+ aroun+ my ne,2. or ma2e a pu4li, +e,laration08 8# *oul+n8t suggest anything as +rasti, as that/8 'isa hesitate+. not sure *hether she shoul+ ,ontinue un+er the ,ir,umstan,es. 4ut his gesture of impatien,e ma+e her press on/ 8Spen+ a little more time *ith them so that they may get to 2no* you. not only as their authoritative un,le an+ guar+ian. 4ut also as their frien+. an+ someone *ho ,ares/ When you8ve +one that. the rest *ill ,ome naturally/8 8You thin2 so08 8#8m ,ertain of it/8 A+am8s e;pression 4e,ame slightly ,yni,al in the moonlight/ 8:o you ma2e a ha4it of trying to solve people8s pro4lems for them08 8:on8t mo,2 my efforts. A+am.8 she re4u2e+ him. ,ur4ing her anger *ith +iffi,ulty/ 8#8m fon+ of the ,hil+ren. an+ #9 #8+ li2e to help/8 A+am *as silent for a moment. an+ there *as all at on,e an element of +anger in the *arm. sultry night air *hen he as2e+. 8Are you fon+ of me too08 'isa stiffene+ an+ *ith+re* from him mentally as far as she ,oul+/ 8You8re my employer/8 8An+ that puts me in a ,ategory out of rea,h08 8# *asn8t a*are that # *as trying to rea,h you.8 she state+ ,ol+ly an+. rea,ting upon the *arnings that flashe+ through her min+. she turne+ an+ *al2e+ a*ay from him. 4ut A+am seeme+ to anti,ipate her movements. an+ his han+s grippe+ her shoul+ers. +ra*ing her relentlessly to*ar+s him until her 4a,2 reste+ against his ,hest/ 8:i+ it ever o,,ur to you that # might 4e trying to rea,h you08 he as2e+ *ith his lips ,lose to her ear/ She ,oul+ not spea2 for a moment as that familiar ,urrent of a*areness flo*e+ from his han+s throughout her entire 4o+y. 4ut *hen his lips 4egan to e;plore the sensitive ,or+ of her ne,2. she ,oul+ no longer remain passive 4eneath his tou,h an+ she struggle+ for release/ 8Please9 +on8t.8 she 4egge+ unstea+ily. 4ut his arms en,ir,le+ her from 4ehin+. trapping her against his har+. mus,ular 4o+y/ 8# li2e your perfume.8 he murmure+. nuKKling her ne,2 an+ sen+ing a shiver of un*ante+ +elight through her/ 8# +on8t use perfume/8 8Whatever it is. then. it smells goo+.8 he insiste+. -uite unpertur4e+ 4y her struggles as he ,ontinue+ the +eli4erate e;ploration of her ne,2 an+ shoul+er *here the narro* strap of her +ress ha+ alrea+y 4een 4rushe+ asi+e 4y the persisten,e of his lips/ 'isa shut her eyes an+ fought against the ,lamouring emotions he arouse+ in her. 4ut her resistan,e *as e44ing s*iftly as she ma+e one last. +esperate effort to free herself/ 8Please. A+am.8 she gaspe+. pushing at those arms hol+ing her so effortlessly/ 8'eave me alone18 8You8re as2ing the impossi4le.8 he seeme+ to gro*l in her ear. an+ then she *as s*ung roun+ to fa,e him/

8'et me go18 she ,rie+ franti,ally as his lips +es,en+e+ on hers. an+ then her pleas *ere silen,e+ effe,tively 4y the sensual pressure of his *arm mouth/ Her senses *ere reeling. an+ the +esire to respon+ *as very nearly overpo*ering. 4ut she ha+ to fight against it/ She +are+ not let him see ho* ,ompletely he ha+ her *ithin his po*er. an+ she *oul+ not 4e his plaything *hen Willa *as not aroun+ to amuse him/ The thought of Willa su++enly thre* a 4lan2et over the fire of her emotions an+. *ith an une;pe,te+ 4urst of strength. she thrust him from her/ 8Ho* +are you18 she ,rie+ in anguish. an+ 4efore she ,oul+ stop herself she ha+ stru,2 him a sharp 4lo* a,ross the ,hee2 that left the palm of her han+ tingling/ The soun+ e,hoe+ li2e a pistol shot in the velvety +ar2ness of the gar+en an+. horrifie+ at *hat she ha+ +one. she trie+ to ma2e amen+s. 4ut a paralysing num4ness ha+ ta2en possession of her vo,al ,hor+s. an+ she ,oul+ only stan+ an+ stare up at him helplessly *hile the loo2 on his fa,e. as he to*ere+ over her. sent a shiver of ,ol+ fear up her spine/ 8 o one slaps my fa,e an+ gets a*ay *ith it.8 he sai+ in a +angerously ,alm voi,e/ 8 ot even you. 'isa/8 She trie+ again to spea2. to *ar+ off the terrifying results of her unforgiva4le a,tion. 4ut her voi,e faile+ her at the most ,riti,al moment. an+ his anger. *hen he finally release+ it. *as something she hope+ never to e;perien,e again/ With her arms pinne+ firmly at her si+es. his mouth too2 hers *ith a savage 4rutality that ,oul+ not have 4een more painful ha+ he retaliate+ 4y stri2ing her. an+. as she sagge+ against him limply. he a++e+ insult to in3ury 4y running his han+s over her 4o+y in a *ay that tol+ her e;a,tly *hat he thought of her/ The punishment en+e+ at last *hen she taste+ the salt of her tears in her mouth. an+ for a moment she stoo+ s*aying 4efore him *ith a ra*ness in her heart that ,oul+ not 4e assuage+/ 8 o* you have reason to stri2e me.8 A+am state+ harshly. his voi,e 3arring against her 3angle+ nerves an+. turning from him *ith a ,ho2e+ ,ry. she fle+ a,ross the gar+en an+ stum4le+ up the steps into the house/ She rea,he+ her room someho*. than2ing heaven that Eri,a $an+eleur *as not a4out. an+ then the +eluge of tears ,oul+ no longer 4e ,he,2e+/ 'ying a,ross the 4e+. she stifle+ her so4s in the pillo* an+ *ept li2e a ,hil+/ She ha+ +eserve+ to 4e punishe+. 4ut she ha+ not +eserve+ those insults ,onveye+ through his han+s on her 4o+y. an+ the entire in,i+ent left her feeling +egra+e+. humiliate+. an+ terri4ly empty/

#t raine+ in,essantly +uring the ne;t fe* +ays. *hi,h *as -uite e;traor+inary *eather for the 6aroo. an+ the seemingly 4arren vel+ ,ame alive *ith a ,olourful assortment of flo*ers that not only amaKe+ 'isa. 4ut *on her over ,ompletely to 4e,ome as en,hante+ as Eri,a $an+eleur ha+ *arne+ she *oul+/ one of this ma+e any +ifferen,e. ho*ever. to the fa,t that she *oul+ eventually have to leave !airvie* to return to the ,ity/ #t *as an unpleasant thought. 4ut *hat hurt her most *as the ,hilly politeness A+am ha+ su43e,te+ her to sin,e that night she ha+ so unforgiva4ly slappe+ his fa,e/ She ha+ faile+ in her plight for the t*ins8 sa2e. she ha+ tol+ herself then. 4ut +espite her initial misgivings there appeare+ to 4e a slight ,hange in A+am8s attitu+e to*ar+s them. an+ this affor+e+ her one small spar2 of 3oy in her no* +ismal e;isten,e/ The ,hil+ren *ere *ary of him at first. an+ A+am8s tight<lippe+ e;pression at times *as neither promising. nor en,ouraging. 4ut *ith Christmas less than a month a*ay. the su43e,t of suita4le gifts *as +is,usse+ over afternoon tea in the gar+en one Sun+ay/ 6ate an+ 5osh ,oul+ not ma2e up their min+s *hat they *ante+ for Christmas *hen their gran+mother -uestione+ them tentatively. an+ the +is,ussion almost en+e+ in an argument 4et*een the t*ins/ #t *as at this point that A+am +e,i+e+ to ta2e part in the ,onversation/ 8What a4out a pony08 he suggeste+ ,asually. an+ t*o pairs of 4ro*n eyes *ere turne+ on him instantlyJ eyes fille+ *ith *ary un,ertainty/ 8A pony08 5osh as2e+ hesitantly/ 8A real pony08 8A real pony.8 A+am insiste+. stret,hing his long legs out 4efore him an+ su,2ing thoughtfully on his pipe/ 8One for yourself. an+ one for 6ate. then you ,oul+ 4oth learn to ri+e/8 There *as a frightful little pause. an+ 'isa hel+ her 4reath/ A+am ha+ ta2en a giganti, step in the right +ire,tion. 4ut the out,ome +epen+e+ entirely on the ,hil+ren8s response/ 8:o you really mean that. "n,le A+am08 6ate 4ro2e the silen,e 4y -uestioning his sin,erity/ 8:o # usually say things that # +on8t mean08 8 o9 # +on8t thin2 so.8 6ate replie+ hesitantly. lapsing into silen,e. an+ it *as 5osh *ho finally as2e+. 8Will you tea,h us to ri+e. "n,le A+am08 There *as again that tense little silen,e. 4ut a fli,2er of a smile *as softening A+am8s stern features as he sai+M 8#f you8re goo+. yes/8 8Yippee18 the t*ins shoute+ e;,ite+ly. *hile 'isa slo*ly e;pelle+ the air from her lungs/ The i,e *as 4ro2en an+. as the t*ins ,lam4ere+ ,onfi+ently on to his lap to per,h themselves on his 2nees. 'isa an+ Eri,a $an+eleur e;,hange+ a< smile of relief/ #t seeme+ to 'isa as if the impossi4le ha+ 4een a,hieve+. an+ the sun *as su++enly a little 4righter on that *arm summer8s +ay 4eneath the sha+y oa2/ #t too2 a little time a+3usting to the sight of A+am *ith the t*ins in his arms. smiling *ith tolerant amusement at their e;u4erant +isplay of affe,tion. 4ut it also loo2e+ so perfe,tly right/ There *as. surprisingly. no a*2*ar+ness in his manner to*ar+s them. an+ 'isa ,oul+ -uite easily imagine him sitting there *ith his o*n ,hil+ren on his lapJ ,hil+ren *ith +ar2 hair li2e A+am8s an+ green eyes li2e Willa8s/ A re+ mist of pain flashe+ 4efore her eyes. an+ 3ealousy. as she ha+ never 2no*n it 4efore. seare+ through her agonisingly. 4ut she ma+e a supreme effort to ,ontrol herself 4y ,on,entrating on the ,onversation ta2ing pla,e/ 8"n,le A+am. you8re the 4est un,le in the *hole *orl+.8 6ate announ,e+ shyly. 2issing him

on the ,hee2. an+ his heavy eye4ro*s rose in surprise an+ amusement/ 8Well. # +on8t 2no* so mu,h a4out 4eing the 4est un,le in the *orl+. 4e,ause it too2 some very straight tal2ing from a ,ertain someone to ma2e me realise that # haven8t 4een mu,h of an un,le lately/8 His eyes met 'isa8s. an+ she 2ne* instin,tively that this *as his *ay of than2ing her. 4ut there *as also something else in those +ar2. ,ompelling eyesJ something she trie+ vainly to grasp even after he ha+ lo*ere+ his gaKe to the t*ins on,e more/ 8What a4out going for a s*im08 8Oh. yes1 Please18 they ,rie+ e;,ite+ly as they 3umpe+ off his lap/ 8'et8s go an+ ,hange/8 8# thought Willa *as e;pe,ting you over at their pla,e this afternoon.8 Eri,a $an+eleur *ante+ to 2no* as he rose from his ,hair to follo* the ,hil+ren insi+e/ 8#8ll give her a ring an+ tell her that # ,an8t ma2e it.8 he shrugge+ it off. an+ then he *as stri+ing out a,ross the la*n to*ar+s the house/ 8That *on8t please Willa very mu,h.8 (rs $an+eleur remar2e+ ,austi,ally *hen he *as out of earshot/ 8We8ve 2no*n her sin,e she *as a ,hil+. 4ut lately she seems to thin2 A+am 4elongs to her. an+ she *on8t ta2e 2in+ly to 4eing stoo+ up for the t*ins/8 'isa sai+ nothing. 4ut she *on+ere+ ho* long Eri,a $an+eleur *oul+ still have to *ait 4efore she *as tol+ of the +eepening relationship 4et*een her son an+ Willa 5a,2son/ 8Perhaps they8re *aiting for Christmas to ma2e the announ,ement. an+9 Oh. &o+18 she thought +espairingly/ 8# *ish # *ere +ea+18

T*o *ee2s 4efore Christmas 'isa *as ,alle+ to A+am8s stu+y one evening after +inner an+. as she sat fa,ing him a,ross the *i+e e;panse of his +es2. she *on+ere+ nervously *hat she ,oul+ have +one that it shoul+ *arrant a private ,onfrontation in his stu+y. 4ut A+am appeare+ to 4e in no hurry to enlighten her. an+ she *as for,e+ to *ait *ith 4arely ,on,eale+ patien,e *hile he too2 his time lighting his pipe to his satisfa,tion/ 8#8ve invite+ your mother an+ your aunt to spen+ a fe* *ee2s over Christmas an+ the e* Year *ith us.8 he sai+ at last. 4lo*ing a ,lou+ of smo2e into the air an+ filling the room *ith the pungent aroma of his 4ran+ of to4a,,o/ 8You8ve *hat08 she as2e+ in,re+ulously. leaning for*ar+ an+ gripping the arms of her ,hair/ 8You hear+ me/8 8Why08 she +eman+e+. ma2ing no effe,t to hi+e the fa,t that his statement ha+ startle+ her/ 8Why have you invite+ them08 8We inten+ to have a very -uiet Christmas. 4ut my mother *oul+ very mu,h li2e to see your aunt again. so # suggeste+ inviting her to spen+ the festive season *ith us/ # also +e,i+e+ that you might li2e to have your mother here *ith you/8 8Oh.8 she sai+ foolishly. still fin+ing it a little +iffi,ult to grasp the situation/ 8Have they9 have they a,,epte+08 8# re,eive+ a letter from your mother an+ your aunt this morning/ They8ll 4e +elighte+ to ,ome. an+ they8ll 4e arriving ne;t *ee2 as suggeste+/8 8Oh/8 8You +on8t soun+ too happy a4out it.8 he o4serve+ -uietly. his eyes narro*e+ an+ intent upon her through a haKe of smo2e/ 8# +on8t 2no* *hat # feel at the moment/ #78 She 4it her lip an+ ,laspe+ her han+s tightly in her lap/ She +i+ 2no* su++enly ho* she felt/ She +i+ not *ant her mother an+ her aunt there on the farm *ith her/ They *ere the t*o people ,losest to her. an+ they 2ne* her too *ell/ They *oul+ guess her se,ret. an+ *oul+ 2no* of her utter misery/ She +i+ not *ant that. 4ut it *as too late to +o anything a4out it/ 8#t *as 2in+ of you to invite them.8 she sai+ at last. 2eeping her eyes

lo*ere+/ 8# +o things for a purpose. an+ never out of 2in+ness.8 A+am retorte+ harshly. rising to his feet an+ 2i,2ing his ,hair 4a,2 *ith su,h violen,e that she 3umpe+ nervously/ 8What *as the purpose of your invitation. then08 A+am stoo+ *ith his 4a,2 to her. staring out of the *in+o* *ith one han+ ,len,he+. *hile the other *as thrust into the po,2et of his imma,ulate grey sla,2s. an+ he too2 so long to ans*er her that she *as 4eginning to thin2 that he ha+ not hear+ her. 4ut he turne+ to fa,e her at last an+ sai+ *ith a shrug. 8(ost people en3oy 4eing *ith their families at Christmas time. an+ # have no reason to 4elieve that you8re any +ifferent from the others/8 8You +i+ it for me. then08 His lips t*iste+ into a sem4lan,e of a smile/ 8 ot entirely/8 8You8re ,onfusing me.8 she a+mitte+. a han+ fluttering to her 4ro* as she trie+ to fathom his reasoning/ 8All you have to +o is a,,ept the fa,t that your mother an+ your aunt *ill 4e spen+ing Christmas here *ith you. an+ leave it at that.8 he sai+ *ith a hint of familiar impatien,e. an+ as she stare+ at him silently she realise+ that his 2in+ness. or *hatever he *ante+ to ,all it. ha+ pave+ the *ay for her to +isperse *ith something *hi,h ha+ lain heavily on her ,ons,ien,e for some time/ 8Are you7are you in a hurry to get 4a,2 to *hatever you *ere +oing08 she as2e+ haltingly as she stare+ at the papers stre*n a,ross his +es2/ 8 ot if there8s something you *ant to +is,uss *ith me.8 he replie+. *al2ing roun+ to her si+e of the +es2 an+ seating himself on the ,orner of it/ He *aite+. 4ut as 'isa sear,he+ franti,ally for the right *or+s. he sai+ impatientlyM 8Well0 #s it so +iffi,ult to say *hat8s on your min+08 8#7#8m not fin+ing it7it +iffi,ult to say *hat8s on my min+.8 she 4egan haltingly. ,ons,ious of his eyes on her fa,e. an+ of the nervous flutter at the pit of her stoma,h/ 8#t8s not *hat # have to say that8s so +iffi,ult. 4ut # haven8t ha+ the7the opportunity to spea2 to you alone sin,e7 sin,e the other night. an+7an+ *hen there8s a +elay in7in +oing *hat you have to +o. it8s al*ays a little +iffi,ult fin+ing the right *or+s. 4ut78 She ,len,he+ her han+s tightly in her lap an+ raise+ her trou4le+ glan,e to his/ 8# o*e you an apology. A+am/ #7# +on8t usually ma2e a ha4it of7of slapping people8s fa,es/8 Horrifyingly ,lose to tears. she lo*ere+ her eyes again hastily as she murmure+. 8#8m sorry/8 A long. un,omforta4le silen,e follo*e+. then A+am sai+ -uietly. 8A girl usually slaps a man8s fa,e *hen she feels he8s insulte+ her. an+. initially. it ha+n8t 4een my intention to +o that/8 8#7# 2no*.8 she *hispere+. 2eeping her hea+ lo*ere+ as she 4lin2e+ a*ay the moisture in her eyes/ 8What happene+ after*ar+s is regretta4le.8 he ,ontinue+. 84ut #8+ li2e to 2no* *hat ha+ prompte+ you to su,h violen,e/8 'isa8s heart lur,he+ un,omforta4ly/ To e;plain *oul+ mean revealing ho* she felt a4out him. an+ that *as something she ha+ to avoi+. so she shoo2 her hea+ an+ muttere+. 8# ,an8t e;plain/8 8Be,ause you +on8t *ant to0 Or 4e,ause there really *as no reason for your 4ehaviour08 8Be,ause # ,an8t e;plain1 # 3ust ,an8t18 she e;,laime+. 3umping to her feet in a pani, an+ +arting roun+ the ,hair to get a*ay from him/ The -ui,2 rise an+ fall of her small 4reasts 4eneath her ,ashmere s*eater ,onveye+ the e;tent of her agitation. an+ as the silen,e lengthene+ 4et*een them her eyes *ere relentlessly +ra*n to his/ #n the su4+ue+ light of the +es2 lamp his eyes *ere almost 4la,2 as they 4urne+ into hers/ She trie+ to loo2 a*ay. 4ut she ,oul+ not. an+ she stoo+ there helpless. li2e a 4ir+ ,aught in the hypnoti, glan,e of a sna2e/ 8Your eyes fas,inate me.8 his +eep voi,e vi4rate+ along her nerves. 4ringing her out of her

tran,e<li2e state/ 8:i+ you 2no* that they 4e,ome a +eep violet 4lue *hen you8re emotionally +istur4e+08 She trem4le+. almost as if he ha+ tou,he+ her/ 8Please. A+am. stop it18 His eye4ro*s rose mo,2ingly/ 8Has no one ever tol+ you that 4efore08 8 o.8 she a+mitte+. ta2ing several +eep 4reaths to stea+y herself/ 8Ho* uno4servant of Rory *hat8s<his<name.8 A+am remar2e+ a little +ryly an+. inter,epting her -ui,2 glan,e at the +oor. he steppe+ a,ross the room an+ opene+ it/ 8You8re free to go if you *ant to.8 he sai+. leaning against the +oorframe *ith his thum4s hoo2e+ into the narro* 4elt hugging his hips/ She *as free to go. yes. 4ut to +o so she *oul+ have to 4rush past him/ She too2 a fe* hesitant steps to*ar+s the +oor. an+ then stoppe+. her pulses +rumming out a nervous tattoo. an+ an un,ons,ious plea in her eyes/ 8(y &o+18 he e;,laime+ harshly. 2i,2ing the +oor shut/ 8# s*ore #8+ never tou,h you again. 4ut *hen you loo2 at me li2e that718 He 4ro2e off sharply. his eyes a mas2 of unfathoma4le anger. an+ then *hat she ha+ feare+ happene+/ He s*ept her into his arms an+ his mouth ,ame +o*n on hers *ith the pre,ision of an eagle s*ooping +o*n on its +efen,eless prey/ 'i2e the ,apture+ animal. she 2ne* that it *as useless to struggle. an+ she remaine+ passive in his arms. fighting a +esperate 4attle *ith herself as she en+eavoure+ to 2eep her lips unresponsive 4eneath the relentless. +eman+ing pressure of his/ #t *as virtually an impossi4le tas2. *hen all she really *ante+ to +o *as to surren+er herself to the e,stasy of his lips an+ arms. 4ut she +are+ not/ She ha+ to remem4er that he *as merely amusing himself *ith her. an+. even though the temptation to respon+ *as in,reasing alarmingly. she ha+ to thin2 of Willa/ A+am raise+ his hea+ su++enly/ 86iss me 4a,2. +amn you18 8 o18 She raise+ protesting han+s to *ar+ off his +es,en+ing lips/ 8You have no right to ma2e su,h +eman+s upon me/ 8You 2no* it. an+ # 2no* it/8 8What the +evil are you tal2ing a4out08 he thun+ere+ at her. releasing her so su++enly that she almost fell/ 8You +on8t nee+ me to e;plain the situation to you/ You 2no* *hat #8m tal2ing a4out/8 8#8m +amne+ if # +o.8 he almost shoute+ at her. 84ut *e8ll let the matter pass for the moment/ #8m not in the moo+ to try an+ fathom the *or2ings of a *oman8s min+/8 He 3er2e+ open the +oor an+ steppe+ a*ay from it this time/ 8You may go. 'isa/ # +on8t thin2 *e have anything further to say to ea,h other at present/8 Something *as terri4ly *rong. she realise+ su++enly/ But *hat0 She too2 a hesitant step to*ar+s him/ 8A+am98 8&o. 'isa18 he or+ere+ harshly. *aving his arm to*ar+s the +oor/ 8&o 4efore # +o. or say something that # might regret later/ Heaven 2no*s. #8ve ta2en 3ust a4out as mu,h as a man ,an stan+. an+ at this moment #8+ li2e nothing 4etter than to sha2e some sense into you/8 'isa8s eyes *i+ene+ at the +ar2 fury on his rugge+ features. then she turne+ an+ *al2e+ out of his stu+y. ,losing the +oor softly 4ehin+ her/ #n the passage she pause+ for a moment. ,onfuse+ an+ 4e*il+ere+ 4y something she +i+ not un+erstan+. 4ut. as she hear+ something that soun+e+ li2e A+am8s fist ,oming +o*n heavily on to his +es2. she *al2e+ -ui,2ly +o*n the passage an+ ,rosse+ the +ar2ene+ hall to*ar+s the stairs/ Tomorro*. perhaps. she *oul+ un+erstan+ the reason for his +eli4erate o4tusenessJ tomorro*. *hen her 4o+y *as not still tingling from the pressure of his arms. she *oul+ 4e a4le to sort out the mu++le+ thoughts ,as,a+ing through her min+/ But tonight there *as only the pain an+ ,onfusion. an+ the longing for something she ,oul+ not have/

Celia (oreau an+ (olly Anstey arrive+ one afternoon the follo*ing *ee2 an+. *hen her aunt8s +usty ol+ Peugeot ,ame up the +rive. 'isa. the t*ins. an+ Eri,a $an+eleur *ere there to *el,ome them to !airvie*/ A+am. too. ,ame *al2ing roun+ the ,orner of the house at that moment. an+ he stoo+ asi+e patiently *hile 'isa *as hugge+ an+ 2isse+ effusively 4y her mother an+ her aunt/ Celia (oreau opene+ up her motherly arms to 5osh an+ 6ate. an+ they *ent into them *ith a surprising la,2 of shyness. 4ut A+am8s geniality in *el,oming her family surprise+ 'isa most of all/ The servants *ere ,alle+ to ta2e ,are of their suit,ases an+ the ,ar. an+. flan2e+ 4y A+am an+ Eri,a $an+eleur. the t*o *omen *ere ushere+ out of the s,or,hing sun an+ into the ,oolness of the house/ 'isa an+ the t*ins follo*e+ more slo*ly. 4ut there *as a puKKle+ fro*n on her usually smooth 4ro* *hen she later sa* her mother ,hatting softly to A+am over tea/ Their +is,ussion appeare+ to 4e of a serious nature. 4ut 'isa noti,e+ that A+am o4viously ha+ +iffi,ulty in hi+ing his amusement at times/ There seeme+ to 4e an easy familiarity 4et*een them. as if they ha+ 2no*n ea,h other for some time. an+ 'isa su++enly envie+ her mother her selfassuran,e/ 8Oh. it8s *on+erful to 4e here again. Eri,a.8 (olly Anstey sighe+. +ra*ing 'isa8s attention a*ay from her mother an+ A+am for a *hile/ 8#t8s 4een so many years. an+ yet it seems li2e yester+ay to me.8 her aunt ,ontinue+. leaning 4a,2 in her ,hair an+ loo2ing a4out her *ith interest/ 8Your nie,e an+ # use+ to fight over *hose turn it *as to eat the *arm ,rust of the freshly<4a2e+ 4rea+. an+ then *e use+ to plaster it *ith fresh farm 4utter. 4ut # remem4er 4est of all ho* *e use+ to go haring a,ross the vel+ on horse4a,2/8 (olly laughe+ reminis,ently/ 8# *on+er sometimes ho* *e manage+ not to get ourselves seriously in3ure+18 Eri,a $an+eleur smile+ *ith a tou,h of *ry humour on her fa,e/ 8You an+ Peggy *ere 4oth rather *il+ in those +ays/8 8Tell me a4out Peggy.8 sai+ (olly. turning to the ol+er *oman seate+ in the upright stin2*oo+ ,hair 4esi+e her o*n/ 8We lost ,onta,t someho* *hen she marrie+ that Austrian of hers an+ *ent overseas/8 The t*ins 4e,ame restless at this stage an+. unnoti,e+. 'isa too2 them outsi+e/ 8#s your mother also a tea,her08 they *ante+ to 2no* as 'isa *al2e+ *ith them +o*n the +rive an+ out a,ross the vel+ to the nearest ,amp *here they ,oul+ *at,h the sheep 4eing her+e+ into a 2raal for the night/ 8(y mother isn8t a tea,her. 4ut my aunt is.8 'isa tol+ them. pla,ing her arms prote,tively a4out them *hen they ,lim4e+ up on to the gate an+ per,he+ there pre,ariously/ 8# li2e your mother.8 6ate announ,e+/ 8She8s so pretty. an+ she smells ni,e too/8 85ust li2e you. 'isa.8 5osh a++e+. 2issing 'isa une;pe,te+ly on the ,hee2/ 8Why. than2 you.8 she laughe+ happily. tightening her arms a4out them affe,tionately/ 8#t *ill ma2e my mother very happy to 2no* that you li2e her/8 8There8s "n,le A+am.8 5osh e;,laime+ su++enly. an+ the t*ins *ave+ e;,ite+ly/ A+am. *ith his 4roa+<4rimme+ hat pulle+ ,hara,teristi,ally over his eyes. raise+ his han+ an+ *ave+ 4a,2. then the 4la,2 stallion gathere+ spee+ an+ gallope+ off in the +ire,tion of the small hill 4ehin+ the out4uil+ings/ There *as a large graKing pa++o,2 4eyon+ that hill. 4ut the 5a,2sons8 farm also lay in that +ire,tion. an+ the tantalising -uestion *as9 to *hi,h *oul+ he 4e going in su,h a hurry0 8# *ish it *as Christmas alrea+y. then *e ,oul+ go *ith "n,le A+am on our ponies *hen he ri+es into the vel+.8 5osh sighe+ impatiently/ 8You *on8t have to *ait mu,h longer.8 'isa pa,ifie+ him. her *istful eyes follo*ing A+am8s imposing figure on that magnifi,ent horse until he *as out of sight/ 8Christmas is 3ust a fe* +ays a*ay. 4ut then you8ll first have to learn to ri+e 4efore you *ill 4e allo*e+ to ri+e *ith your un,le/8 8We8ll learn very -ui,2ly.8 6ate sai+ seriously. an+ 'isa laughe+ as she helpe+ them off the

gate an+ too2 them 4a,2 to the house/ 'isa8s laughter *as a little hollo*. ho*ever. for the time *as ,oming nearer for her to leave. an+ she *oul+ have to 4e,ome a,,ustome+ to the empty vessel her life *oul+ 4e,ome on,e she *as 4a,2 in the ,ity/ She *oul+ miss the t*ins. the late afternoon *al2s. the fiery sunsets. an+ the *arm. star<stu++e+ nights. 4ut most of all she *oul+ miss A+am/ The longing for him. an+ for *hat ,oul+ never 4e. *oul+ eat a*ay at her relentlessly. 4ut it ha+ to 4e fa,e+// She *oul+ 4ury herself in her *or2. li2e her aunt ha+ +one. an+ 3ust pray that she gre* too ol+ to ,are/ 5osh an+ 6ate ran ahea+. 4ut 'isa follo*e+ more slo*ly. her limp 4arely noti,ea4le no* at that pa,e. 4ut 'isa ha+ 4een too preo,,upie+ lately to realise that she no longer *al2e+ *ith the ol+ pronoun,e+ limp/ Her s,ars. too. *ere 4arely noti,ea4le in the gol+en hue of the setting sun as it settle+ in her hair to form a glorious halo a4out the soft ,ontours of her fa,e. 4ut it *as not herself or her appearan,e she *as thin2ing of at that moment/ She *as thin2ing of A+amJ of his mo,2ery. his ,yni,ism. his fro*ns. his t*iste+ little smiles. an+ the for4i++en *on+er of his lips an+ arms/ o. no1 She must not thin2 of him li2e that. she tol+ herself fier,ely. -ui,2ening her pa,e to ,at,h up to the t*ins/ She must thin2 of him only as her employer. an+ the man *ho ha+ foun+ her an amusing plaything *hen the *oman he ha+ ,hosen to marry *as not a4out/ Yes. she must thin2 of him li2e thatJ as the man *ho thought nothing of 4eing unfaithful to the *oman *hom he ha+ as2e+ to share his life/ He *as a ,a+1 A ra2e1 A ,a+ an+ a ra2e he might 4e. 4ut9 +ear heaven1 What +i+ it matter *hat name she atta,he+ to him0 she thought in +espair/ He ,oul+ 4e the +evil in,arnate. an+ she *oul+ still love him an+ *ant him *ith that a,hing longing that *as eating a*ay at her li2e a ,orrosive ,an2er/ 8'isa. you8re not listening18 the ,hil+ren8s agitate+ voi,es finally got through to her. an+ she loo2e+ +o*n at them *ith a guilty start/ 8#8m sorry/ What *ere you saying08 8:o *e have to 4ath tonight08 5osh +eman+e+/ 8We +i+n8t +irty ourselves to+ay/8 8Oh. yes. you have to 4ath.8 'isa insiste+ firmly. giving them a gentle shove into the house/ 8"pstairs. 4oth of you. an+ into that 4ath. or your un,le might thin2 t*i,e a4out letting you have a pony for Christmas/8 Their sul2y e;pressions vanishe+ mira,ulously. an+ they ran a,ross the hall an+ ,lam4ere+ up the stairs *ithout further argument/ 'isa glan,e+ into the living<room as she follo*e+ them. 4ut there *as no one there an+. glimpsing the time. she realise+ that it *as later than usual/ Her mother an+ her aunt *ere most pro4a4ly up in their rooms ,hanging for +inner. 4ut there *as no time for her no* to +rop in on them/ The t*ins ha+ to 4e 4athe+ an+ fe+. an+ then she *oul+ have to rush through a 4ath herself if she *ante+ to 4e on time for +inner/ When 'isa finally *ent +o*nstairs. she foun+ everyone in the living<room. an+ A+am gesture+ her into a ,hair 4esi+e his o*n *hile he poure+ her a glass of sherry/ Their eyes met 4riefly. then she loo2e+ a*ay an+ trie+ to still the -ui,2ening of her heart4eats as she raise+ her glass to her lips to sip the fiery /li-ui+/ 8'isa. my +ear. # 3ust ,an8t get over it.8 her mother remar2e+ *hen there *as a lull in the ,onversation/ 8You8re loo2ing *on+erful/ You8re still a little on the thin si+e. 4ut you8re so 4eautifully tanne+/8 8:i+n8t # say that the 6aroo air *oul+ +o *on+ers for you08 her aunt a++e+ mis,hievously. an+ the ,olour rose faintly in 'isa8s ,hee2s/ 8You +i+. Aunt (olly/8 8When # first suggeste+ her ,oming here to !airvie*. she *oul+n8t hear of it.8 her aunt ela4orate+ to an intereste+ A+am. an+ 'isa felt her ,hee2s gro* *armer as her aunt ,ontinue+/ 8'isa sai+ that the 6aroo *as hot an+ +usty. an+ far too primitive for a ,ity girl li2e herself/8 'isa +raine+ her glass an+. a*are that everyone8s eyes *ere on her at that moment. she trie+

to hi+e her em4arrassment 4y saying tritely. 8:on8t remin+ me of my ignoran,e. please. Aunt (olly/8 The *omen laughe+. 4ut 'isa ,oul+ feel A+am8s eyes 4urning into her li2e t*o ,oals of fire/ 8Have you ,hange+ your min+ a4out the 6aroo. then08 She +re* the shutters on her soul an+ loo2e+ at him then/ 8# +on8t thin2 anyone ,oul+ live here for a time an+ not ,hange their min+/8 A+am8s eyes *ere unfathoma4le +ar2 pools as he sai+M 8#f you *ere offere+ the opportunity. *oul+ you ,onsi+er remaining here permanently08 8# +on8t thin2 so.8 she replie+ instantly. shrin2ing from the i+ea of 4eing on han+ to *itness his eventual marriage. an+ vaguely a*are of the other three *omen in the room e;,hanging -ui,2 glan,es as she a++e+M 8#t8s time # *ent 4a,2 to tea,hing/8 8An+ to ,ivilisation. in fa,t/8 8# never sai+ that18 she rea,te+ sharply to the hint of +erisive mo,2ery in his voi,e. 4ut 4efore either of them ,oul+ say more. Eri,a $an+eleur rose to her feet/ 8Shall *e go in to +inner08 8&oo+ i+ea.8 A+am agree+ instantly. setting asi+e his empty glass an+ getting to his feet/ 8After you. la+ies/8 Eri,a $an+eleur le+ the *ay. an+ 'isa ma+e up the rear *ith A+am +ire,tly 4ehin+ her/ She felt his eyes on her. an+ she tense+ in*ar+ly. fighting off the familiar sensations that -uivere+ along her nerves/ What ha+ he meant 4y as2ing her if she *oul+ ,onsi+er remaining here permanently if she *ere offere+ the opportunity0 she *on+ere+ throughout +inner/ Was he thin2ing of fin+ing her *or2 some*here in the +istri,t0 Some*here ,lose enough. perhaps. so that she *oul+ ,ontinually run into him an+ Willa0 'isa shivere+ an+ thrust asi+e the +istasteful thought/ She +i+ not *ant to 4e *ithin a hun+re+<2ilometre ra+ius of him after his marriage to Willa. so there *as only one *ay she ,oul+ go/ Ba,2 to Cape To*n1

'isa ha+ the opportunity to 4e alone *ith her mother for the first time the follo*ing morning after tea ha+ 4een serve+ on the veran+ah/ (rs $an+eleur an+ Aunt (olly ha+ e;,use+ themselves to go in sear,h of an ol+ family al4um. 4ut an o++ little silen,e ha+ hovere+ in the air sin,e their +eparture/ 8(ore tea. (other08 'isa offere+ eventually. trying to sha2e off her uneasinessM 8 ot at the moment. than2 you. +ear.8 Celia (oreau +e,line+. shifting a little un,omforta4ly in her ,hair. an+ then the reason for her +is,omfiture *as e;plaine+/ 8# sa* Rory in to*n a fe* *ee2s ago/ He as2e+ for your a++ress. an+ # +i+n8t *ant to appear ru+e. so # gave it to him/8 She glan,e+ -ui,2ly at her +aughter/ 8:i+ he *rite to you08 8 o. (other.8 'isa smile+ *ryly/ 8He ,ame here to see me instea+. 4ut #8m afrai+ he ha+ a *aste+ 3ourney/8 8You sent him a*ay08 8Yes/8 8Perhaps it *as for the 4est.8 her mother agree+ seriously. an+ on,e again there *as that o++ little silen,e 4et*een them that puKKle+ 'isa/ She stare+ at her mother ,uriously. 4ut she appeare+ to 4e perfe,tly rela;e+. an+ *hen their glan,es met. Celia smile+/ 8A+am is su,h a ni,e man. +on8t you thin208 'isa +i+ not 2no* *hat she ha+ e;pe,te+. 4ut this su++en referen,e to A+am startle+ her. an+ she stiffene+ automati,ally/ 8# suppose so. yes/8 8#t *as very 2in+ of him to *rite an+ invite me here as *ell. +on8t you thin208 8Yes9 very 2in+.8 'isa smile+ a little ,yni,ally. re,alling A+am8s assertion that he never +i+ anything out of 2in+ness. 4ut for a purposeJ a purpose she ha+ yet to +is,over/ 8:o you get on *ell *ith him08 8Well enough.8 'isa replie+ a4ruptly. realising at on,e that she *oul+ have to 4e on her guar+ against remar2s su,h as these/ 8He seems to 4e su,h a relia4le an+ +epen+a4le man. an+ not at all the 2in+ *ho *oul+ ever let anyone +o*n in a moment of ,risis/8 'isa 2ne* her mother too *ell not to 4e a*are of the intense ,uriosity hi++en 4ehin+ that suppose+ly ,asual remar2. an+ she +e,i+e+ to laugh it off. as she ha+ +one so often in the past 4efore Rory Phillips ha+ *al2e+ in an+ out of her life/ 8(other. you8re as transparent as ,ellophane18 8Am #08 Celia (oreau as2e+. attempting to loo2 4lan2. 4ut 'isa *as not foole+ for one moment/ 8You8re trying. very su4tly. to fin+ out *hat my feelings are for A+am $an+eleur. 4ut you8re *asting your time.8 'isa a,,use+ +ire,tly. an+ she *as surprise+ to see her mother go a little pin2 in the fa,e/ 8# *as merely *on+ering78 8:on8t. (other.8 'isa interrupte+. hi+ing the pain in her heart *ith a ,onvin,ing +isplay of +isinterest/ 8A+am $an+eleur is my employer. an+ 4eyon+ that *e have nothing in ,ommon. so +on8t imagine that # have +evelope+ an un+ying passion for him/8 8# haven8t imagine+ anything of the 2in+.8 her mother proteste+. 84ut. as your mother. #8m naturally ,on,erne+ a4out your future. an+ # *oul+ li2e to see you settle+ happily *ith someone

ni,e an+ +epen+a4le/8 'isa smile+ faintly/ 8#8m sure you +o. (other. 4ut that Osomeone ni,e an+ +epen+a4leO *on8t 4e A+am $an+eleur/8 8:on8t you li2e him. then08 8Whether # li2e him or not ma2es no +ifferen,e to the situation.8 'isa replie+. meeting her mother8s +ire,t gaKe *ith eyes that *ere ,arefully hoo+e+/ 8He8s my employer an+. as su,h. # respe,t him/8 Celia (oreau stare+ har+ at her +aughter for a moment. her +isappointment o4vious. 4ut as the ,hil+ren ,ame ,harging roun+ the ,orner of the house to rai+ the ,a2e tin yet again. she gesture+ a little helplessly *ith her han+s/ 8# thin2 another ,up of tea *oul+ +o ni,ely no*. if you +on8t min+/8 The su43e,t *as not mentione+ again +uring the last t*o +ays 4efore Christmas. 4ut 'isa *as -uite a*are of 4eing o4serve+ ,losely *henever A+am *as a4out/ She 4e,ame aloof. an+ +eli4erately arrange+ that she *oul+ 4e o,,upie+ else*here as mu,h as possi4le *hen A+am *as in the house/ #t *as unavoi+a4le that they shoul+ spen+ time together over the Christmas *ee2en+. 4ut 'isa *as on her guar+. an+ purposely su4merge+ herself in 5osh an+ 6ate8s e;,itement as they helpe+ to +e,orate the tree in the living<room/ 'isa ha+ not ha+ mu,h time to +o her Christmas shopping. so her gifts ha+ ha+ to 4e ,arefully thought out 4eforehan+/ !or her aunt there *as a 4ottle of her favourite perfume. an+ for her mother the pearl earrings she ha+ al*ays *ante+. 4ut someho* never ha+ the money to 4uy/ !or (rs $an+eleur 'isa ,hose the genuine sil2 s,arf she ha+ a+mire+ in a shop *in+o* one +ay. an+ for the t*ins ea,h a 4oo2 on animals *hi,h she 2ne* they *oul+ en3oy/ A+am ha+ presente+ a pro4lem. though/ He *as her employer an+ pro4a4ly +i+ not e;pe,t anything from her. 4ut she finally shoo2 off her misgivings an+ +e,i+e+ on fine linen han+2er,hiefs *ith his initial em4roi+ere+ in the one ,orner/ The presents *ere han+e+ out on Christmas Eve. 4ut 4eneath the laughter an+ the gaiety 'isa sense+ a hint of sa+ness/ The $an+eleur family ha+ 4een tragi,ally +eprive+ of t*o of its mem4ers. an+ their thoughts must have gone repeate+ly to the previous Christmas *hen they ha+ all still 4een together/ 'isa8s eyes fille+ *ith tears as she loo2e+ +o*n at the t*ins playing -uite happily on the ,arpet at her feet. 4ut she 4lin2e+ a*ay the mistiness uno4trusively/ 5osh an+ 6ate ha+ 4een thrille+ at the ,on,ession their un,le ha+ ma+e *hi,h ha+ allo*e+ them to stay up later than usual. 4ut *hen the ,lo,2 on the mantelshelf stru,2 nine A+am ,leare+ his throat signifi,antly/ 8Can8t *e stay up 3ust a little longer. "n,le A+am08 5osh 4egge+. +espite the +roopiness of his eyeli+s. 4ut A+am *as a+amant/ 8#f you +on8t go to 4e+ no*. you8ll 4e too sleepy to ri+e your ponies *hen they arrive tomorro*/8 The t*ins nee+e+ no further en,ouragement an+ they hastily gathere+ up their presents an+ sai+ goo+night/ 'isa follo*e+ them upstairs. 4ut she lingere+ longer than ne,essary after tu,2ing them up in 4e+. an+ remaine+ until they *ere asleep/ She *as relu,tant to go +o*nstairs. an+ it *as no use +enying it to herself/ #t *as *on+erful having her mother an+ her aunt there *ith her. 4ut they 2ne* her too *ell not to have guesse+ that something *as *rong/ She ha+ al*ays +is,usse+ things *ith them -uite openly. 4ut her feeling for A+am *as something she ,oul+ not 4ring herself to tal2 a4out7not even to her mother/ 'isa sighe+ an+ s*it,he+ off the light 4efore leaving the ,hil+ren8s room. 4ut in the +ar2ene+ passage she ,olli+e+ *ith someone. an+ her heart leapt into her throat as her han+s en,ountere+ the soli+. immova4le *all of A+am8s ,hest/ 8# ,ame up to see *hat *as 2eeping you so long.8 he sai+. an+ she ,oul+ feel the heat of his

stea+ying han+s at her *aist through the ,hiffon of her +ress/ 8# sat *ith the ,hil+ren until they *ere asleep.8 she e;plaine+ a little sha2ily. the familiar aroma of to4a,,o an+ after<shave lotion atta,2ing her senses an+ ma2ing her trem4le in*ar+ly/ 8#7# +i+n8t thin2 it *oul+ matter to anyone/8 8#t mattere+ to me.8 he state+ ,almly/ 8# haven8t ha+ the opportunity yet to than2 you for the present you gave me/8 'isa stiffene+ 4eneath his han+s. shying a*ay from the su++en intima,y that sprang up 4et*een them in the +ar2ness. 4ut 4efore she ,oul+ say anything. A+am *as 2issing her -uite thoroughly on her trem4ling lips/ 8That *as 3ust to say than2 you.8 he sai+ in that infuriatingly ,alm manner *hen he release+ her/ 8 o* *e8+ 4etter go +o*nstairs or everyone *ill thin2 #8m lost as *ell/8 'isa sai+ nothing. +e,i+ing to ignore the in,i+ent. 4ut her legs *ere sha2ing 4eneath her as they +es,en+e+ the stairs. an+ she *oul+ have trippe+ on the 4ottom step ha+ A+am8s han+ not grippe+ her el4o* so firmly/ She ha+ a vague suspi,ion that her ,hee2s *ere flushe+ *hen they entere+ the living<room. 4ut. for on,e. the three *omen *ere too engrosse+ in ,onversation to spare her more than a ,ursory glan,e/ 8(ore *ine. la+ies08 A+am offere+. an+ the glasses *ere -ui,2ly refille+/ 'isa +ran2 hers slo*ly. allo*ing the faintly into;i,ating +rin2 to stea+y her nerves *hile she *at,he+ her mother8s animate+ fa,e as the three *omen e;,hange+ memories/ She loo2e+ happy an+ ,ontente+. 'isa thought. 4ut the past five years ha+ not 4een easy for her mother sin,e her father8s +eath/ There ha+ not 4een mu,h in the *ay of insuran,e. an+ 'isa ha+ still ha+ t*o years at university to get through 4efore she ,oul+ earn a living for herself. so her mother ha+ ha+ to go out to *or2/ Her typing ha+ 4e,ome rusty after years of 4eing nothing 4ut a mother an+ house*ife. 4ut she ha+ foun+ a 3o4 as a typistP,ler2 in a ,lothing store. an+ *hen the house *as sol+ they at least ha+ something to fall 4a,2 on in times of trou4le/ There *as no* no ne,essity for her mother to *or2. 4ut she ha+ staye+ on at the store. an+ she *as no* -uite happy in her position as the manager8s private se,retary/ 8#t8s hot insi+e.8 A+am interrupte+ her thoughts/ 8Shall *e go out on to the veran+ah08 'isa hesitate+. 4ut A+am rose to his feet an+ leane+ over her slightly/ 8Come on. +on8t loo2 so seare+/8 8#8m not s,are+/8 8Then prove it.8 he ,hallenge+. straightening an+ hol+ing out his han+. palm up*ar+s/ She stare+ at that strong. 4eautifully<shape+ han+ for a moment. her nerves tightening at the pit of her stoma,h. then she pla,e+ her han+ in his an+ allo*e+ him to +ra* her to her feet/ 85ust 4reathe that air.8 he sai+. ta2ing a +eep 4reath as he +re* her out on to the veran+ah an+ to*ar+s the ,ane ,hairs/ 8Will you miss all this *hen you have to return to the ,ity08 8# shall miss it very mu,h.8 she a+mitte+. trying to rela; in her ,hair *hile her glan,e *ent involuntarily to the stars glittering so 4rightly in the +ar2. velvety s2y/ 8You ,oul+ stay. you 2no*/8 8As *hat08 she +eman+e+ a little ,yni,ally/ 8As an e;tra farm<han+. perhaps08 8Perhaps.8 he laughe+ shortly. 84ut # ha+ something far more satisfying an+ re*ar+ing in min+/8 'isa stiffene+ at the o++ infle,tion in his voi,e. an+ she glan,e+ at him -ui,2ly/ Seate+ in the moonlight 4esi+e her. he appeare+ to 4e ,alm an+ rela;e+. 4ut she 2ne* that every mus,le in that large frame *as geare+ for a,tion at the slightest provo,ation/ 8# +on8t thin2 # *ant to 2no*. than2 you.8 she sai+ a4ruptly/ 8You8re not even a little 4it ,urious08 8 o. #8m not/8 8A pity.8 he murmure+. stret,hing himself out in his ,hair an+ turning so that he ,oul+ see her more ,learly/ 8# *as so ,ertain you *oul+ 4e intereste+/8

'isa stare+ +o*n at her han+s lo,2e+ so tightly in her lap/ 8# have the feeling that you8re mo,2ing me for some reason. A+am/8 8Teasing. little one/ ot mo,2ing.8 he ,orre,te+ her softly. an+ she raise+ her un,ertain glan,e to his/ 8Why shoul+ you *ant to +o that08 8To enti,e you out of that shell of yours.8 he announ,e+ a little harshly/ 8You8ve ,ra*le+ so +eep into it lately that #8m 4eginning to +espair for you/8 8There8s no nee+ for you to ,on,ern yourself a4out me/ #t8s ,omforta4le in that shell of mine. an+ #8m -uite happy. than2 you.8 she tol+ him ,ol+ly/ 8Are you happy. 'isa08 The -uestion *as as2e+ softly. an+ *ith a ,ertain sin,erity that ma+e her *ant to ,ry out. 8 o. no. #8m not happy.8 4ut instea+ she sai+ stifflyM 8#8m as happy as anyone ,an e;pe,t to 4e/8 8That soun+s li2e the lament of an em4ittere+ ol+ mai+/8 Her laughter 4u44le+ une;pe,te+ly past her lips/ 8# suppose it +oes/8 8You8ll never 4e an ol+ mai+. 'isa.8 he sai+. leaning for<*ar+ in his ,hair as he hel+ her nervous glan,e/ 8An+ 4itterness +oesn8t suit a mouth li2e yours that *as ma+e e;,lusively for 2issing/8 She shran2 from him mentally an+ physi,ally/ 8# *ish you *oul+n8t say things li2e that/8 8(y. &o+. #8+ li2e to +o more than 3ust say things li2e that to you18 he e;plo+e+/ 8#8+ li2e to 2iss you out of that shell of yours until you 4e,ame a living. vi4rating *oman again/8 8A+am18 she e;,laime+ in a sho,2e+ voi,e as she 3umpe+ to her feet. the suggeste+ intima,y of his statement ma2ing her trea,herous 4o+y tingle responsi4ly/ 8Sit +o*n.8 he sai+ -uietly. 4ut 'isa mu,h preferre+ to see2 the safety of the living<room *here their ,onversation *oul+ have to 4e limite+ to impersonal su43e,ts/ 8# thin278 8Sit +o*n18 he repeate+ in a harsh. +ea+ly voi,e. an+ 'isa foun+ herself o4eying. al4eit relu,tantly/ 8# *ish # 2ne* *hy you8re al*ays so -ui,2 to ta2e offen,e.8 he ,ontinue+ a little more gently/ 8You have no right to spea2 to me the *ay you +o.8 she replie+ unstea+ily. 2eeping her eyes lo*ere+ to her han+s/ 8You8ve sai+ that 4efore. an+ #8+ li2e to 2no* *hy you feel # have no right to spea2 to you in the *ay # +o/8 8Be,ause you8re engage+ to Willa.8 the *or+s sprang to her lips. 4ut she 4it them 4a,2 for,i4ly. an+ sai+ instea+M 8Be,ause you8re my employer/8 8#s that the only reason08 'isa8s heart leapt *il+ly. an+ fear of her feelings 4eing +is,overe+ ma+e her resort to anger/ 8(ust *e pursue this su43e,t08 8:on8t ans*er my -uestion *ith another/8 8Why are you so persistent08 she +eman+e+ e;asperate+ly/ 8Be,ause #8m trying to fin+ out *hy you shy a*ay from me *henever # ,ome ,lose to +is,ussing something personal. *hile # 2no* +amn *ell that you en3oy my 2isses/8 She su,2e+ her 4reath in sharply. 4ut she regaine+ ,ontrol of herself an+ as2e+ ,asually. 8#s it a ,rime to en3oy a man8s 2isses *ithout *anting it to go further than that08 8You +amn little liar18 His voi,e *as li2e thun+er. lo* an+ threatening 4efore the storm. an+ her nerves rea,te+ violently as he grippe+ the arms of her ,hair an+ 4rought his harsh fa,e *ithin ,entimetres of her o*n/ 8#8ve a goo+ min+ to prove to you 3ust ho* mu,h of a liar you are. 4ut it *oul+ most pro4a4ly sho,2 your prim little soul to su,h an e;tent that you8+ never re,over/8

The moonlight playe+ a,ross his fa,e a little ,ruelly. a,,entuating the greyness at his temples. the +eep grooves running from nose to mouth. an+ the sha+o*y ,left in the s-uare. resolute 3a*. 4ut it *as the har+. angry glitter in his eyes. an+ the tightness a4out that often sensual mouth that frightene+ her most/ Woul+ he ,arry out his threat an+ prove. 4eyon+ +ou4t. 3ust ho* sus,epti4le she *as to his lovema2ing. or *as it merely a threat he ha+ no intention of ,arrying out0 'isa *as not too sure. 4ut she 2ne* she ha+ to 4rea2 the angry silen,e 4et*een them an+. *ith her heart +rumming lou+er than the soun+ of the ,ri,2ets in the un+ergro*th. she sai+ softly. almost plea+ingly. 8:on8t you thin2 this ,onversation has gone far enough08 8Yes. you8re right.8 he snappe+. moving a*ay from her almost as if he ,oul+ not 4ear her near him/ 8Nuite far enough/8 The atmosphere *as straine+ 4et*een them *hen they returne+ to the living<room. an+ *hen the ,lo,2 ,ra*le+ ,loser to mi+night *ithout anyone sho*ing any sign of going to 4e+. 'isa plea+e+ a hea+a,he an+ *ent up to her room/ "pset. hurt an+ 4e*il+ere+. she trie+ not to thin2 of her ,onversation *ith A+am. 4ut it *as useless/ Her min+ *as in an unhappy turmoil/ Why +i+ he +eli4erately go out of his *ay to hurt her0 Why ,oul+ he not leave her alone0 Why +i+ he persist in see2ing her out *hen he 2ne* that he *as pra,ti,ally engage+ to Willa0 Was he su,h a ra2e that a ,ommitment of su,h a serious nature meant nothing to him0 Nuestion after -uestion s*ivelle+ through her min+. 4ut to none of them ,oul+ she fin+ an ans*er. an+ she finally groane+ into her pillo*. 8Oh. &o+. # *ish # ,oul+ un+erstan+18 She trie+ to analyse A+am8s 4ehaviour. 4ut the more she trie+. the more 4e*il+ere+ she 4e,ame until at last she *as for,e+ to relin-uish the effort. an+ slippe+ into a trou4le+ sleep/

'isa *as a*a2ene+ early on Christmas morning *ith the t*ins 4arging noisily into her room/ 8'et8s get +resse+/ Nui,218 they 4egge+. 4oun,ing e;,ite+ly on her 4e+ an+ pulling at the sheets/ 8We *ant to go an+ see if the ponies have ,ome/8 8Then you8+ 4etter get out of here so # ,an get +resse+ first.8 'isa announ,e+ sleepily. stifling a ya*n. an+ the t*ins hurrie+ out again. slamming the +oor 4ehin+ them in their e;,itement/ #n a pa++o,2 ,lose to the homestea+. they later ,ame a,ross t*o Shetlan+ ponies stan+ing si+e 4y si+e as they ni44le+ at the grass. an+ raise+ their hea+s to toss their manes prou+ly as 'isa approa,he+ *ith the ,hil+ren/ 8Oooh9 they8re 4eautiful18 the t*ins ,ooe+ e;,ite+ly as the ponies move+ a*ay a little *arily. their 4ro*n ,oats smooth an+ shiny in the sunshine/ 8Can *e ri+e them no*08 'isa shoo2 her hea+ firmly/ 8You8ll have to *ait for your un,le/8 8#8m here.8 a +eep voi,e announ,e+. an+ she s*ung roun+ to see A+am ,oming to*ar+s them *ith Petrus follo*ing 4ehin+ him. ,arrying t*o small sa++les/ Hatless. an+ in 4ro*n pants an+ 4eige s*eater instea+ of his usual 2ha2i. A+am loo2e+ stri2ingly +ifferent. an+ her heart s2ippe+ an involuntary 4eat at the sight of him. 4ut he affor+e+ her no more than a 4rief glan,e/ 8Are you 4oth rea+y for your first lesson08 8Yes. yes.8 the t*ins ,horuse+/ 8Can *e help Petrus sa++le the ponies08 8Yes. if you li2e.8 A+am agree+ rea+ily. 84ut 4e ,areful/8 The ,hil+ren ,lim4e+ through the *oo+en railings *ith the +ar2<s2inne+ man *ho *as A+am8s most truste+ *or2er on the farm. an+ 'isa ,oul+ not prevent herself from smiling at their eagerness/ 8#t8s Christmas :ay.8 A+am announ,e+ -uietly 4esi+e her an+. as she glan,e+ up at him -ui,2ly. she sa* his han+ e;ten+e+ to*ar+s her/ 8:o *e ,all a tru,e08 8Yes. of ,ourse.8 she replie+ *ithout hesitation. an+ her han+ almost +isappeare+ in his 4rief.

*arm ,lasp/ Amusement lur2e+ in his eyes su++enly as he as2e+ *ryly. 8:o you thin2 *e8ll manage to 2eep it up for one *hole +ay08 8# shall ,ertainly try.8 she smile+ humorously. her eyes spar2ling li2e ,lear pools of fathomless *aterM 8An+ you08 He tou,he+ her ,hee2 lightly *ith his fingers/ 8# ,oul+ manage anything. little one. *hen you loo2 at me li2e that. an+ smile/8 'isa felt her ,hee2s gro* *arm an+ she loo2e+ 4eyon+ him/ 8# thin2 the ,hil+ren are 4e,oming impatient/8 8So am #. 'isa.8 he smile+ a little ,roo2e+ly as he s*ung himself over the rail into the pa++o,2/ 8So am #/8 With her eyes narro*e+ against the sun. she stare+ after him as he *al2e+ *ith those long. familiar stri+es to*ar+s the ,hil+ren. an+ helpe+ them to mount/ What ha+ he meant0 she *on+ere+ fro*ningly as 5osh an+ 6ate8s ri+ing lesson 4egan in earnest/ Ha+ he perhaps 4een referring to his o*n impatien,e to set a +ate for his marriage to Willa0 'isa hastily ,lampe+ +o*n on her thoughts as pain sta44e+ at her heart/ She *oul+ never un+erstan+ A+am. an+ it *as futile to try/ His o++ an+ senseless remar2s lately merely serve+ to mystify her. so she ,on,entrate+ instea+ on the t*ins *hile they re,eive+ their first ri+ing lesson un+er the e;pert gui+an,e of their un,le/ A+am +isplaye+ remar2a4le patien,e *ith the ,hil+ren. 4ut they prove+ to 4e apt pupils. respon+ing -ui,2ly to his ,alm instru,tions. an+ glo*ing *ith happiness *henever he praise+ them/ The early morning sun *as stinging 'isa8s arms an+ legs. an+ she *as 4eginning to feel re+un+ant *hen her aunt. returning from an early morning stroll. 3oine+ her at the fen,e to *at,h the pro,ee+ings in the pa++o,2/ The sun *as too hot for (olly8s +eli,ate s2in. ho*ever. an+ 'isa suggeste+ that they see2 shelter in the sha+y gar+en/ 8# thin2 *e8+ 4etter sit +o*n some*here.8 her aunt groane+ after a *hile/ 8# feel as though #8ve 4een tru+ging a,ross the vel+ for hours18 8There8s a 4en,h 3ust un+er those trees.8 'isa sai+ ,on,erne+ly. ta2ing her aunt8s arm an+ gui+ing her in the right +ire,tion/ 8Oh. that8s 4etter.8 (olly sighe+ a fe* moments later as she lo*ere+ herself on to the *oo+en 4en,h an+ 2i,2e+ off her shoes/ 8(y feet are 2illing me18 'isa sat +o*n 4esi+e her/ 8#s (other still asleep08 8Yes. poor +ear.8 (olly laughe+ mis,hievously/ 8# +resse+ -uietly an+ snea2e+ out *ithout *a2ing her/ #t8s su,h a gorgeous morning. an+ smell that fresh ,ountry air18 She ,lose+ her eyes an+ too2 several +eep 4reaths/ 8# 3ust ,an8t get enough of it/8 8#t8s going to 4e another long. hot +ay. an+ *e8ll 4egin to +roop 4efore the sun is mu,h higher/8 8:on8t remin+ me.8 her aunt groane+. removing her s,arf from her hea+ an+ fastening it loosely a4out her throat/ 8You li2e it here. +on8t you/8 #t *as a statement. not a -uestion. an+ so typi,al of (olly Anstey that 'isa smile+ at her humorously/ 8Yes. it8s hot an+ +usty as # on,e sai+. 4ut # li2e it here very mu,h/8 8You 2no*. 'isa.8 her aunt sai+ after a thoughtful pause. 8A+am remin+s me very mu,h of my late hus4an+ 'u2e/8 The smile froKe on 'isa8s lips. an+ she tense+ automati,ally/ 8:oes he08 8'u2e *as 3ust as tall an+ 4roa+ in the shoul+ers. an+ *henever he hel+ me in those strong arms of his. it use+ to ma2e me feel as though nothing in the *orl+ ,oul+ harm me/ # felt love+ an+ prote,te+ at the same time. an+ 'u2e *as the only man *ho ever su,,ee+e+ in ma2ing me ,ompletely an+ utterly a*are of my femininity. *hi,h *as -uite *on+erful/8 She pause+ an+

glan,e+ ,uriously at 'isa/ 8:oesn8t A+am ma2e you feel that *ay0 A: feminine an+ helpless *hen he loo2s at you08 'isa shrugge+ *ith affe,te+ ,asualness/ 8# ,an8t say #8ve noti,e+/8 8Oh. 'isa. my +ear18 (olly laughe+ +is4elievingly/ 8You *oul+ have to 4e 4lin+ not to have noti,e+ A+am $an+eleur8s *on+erful physi-ue. an+ he simply ooKes a virile mas,ulinity that *oul+ ma2e any *oman8s heart 4ehave li2e a *il+ thing/ # 2no* mine +oes *henever # see him/8 8Aunt (olly18 'isa e;,laime+ in a sho,2e+ voi,e/ 8#t8s true.8 her aunt state+ a+amantly. her mis,hievous glan,e meeting 'isa8s/ 8#f # *ere t*enty years younger. my girl. you *oul+n8t stan+ a ,han,e/8 'isa smile+ stiffly an+ figure+ the pleats of her s2irt/ 8What ma2es you thin2 #8m intereste+ enough to *ant a ,han,e08 8#8ve seen that ,ertain loo2 in your eyes *henever he is a4out/8 8Oh08 :espite her efforts to appear ,ool an+ +isintereste+. her ,hee2s *ent pin2. an+ (olly Anstey smile+ triumphantly *hen her 2een glan,e noti,e+ 'isa8s heightene+ ,olour/ 8You8re in love *ith him. aren8t you.8 she state+ *ith that shre*+ness 'isa ha+ +rea+e+ so mu,h/ 8He8s my employer. Aunt (olly.8 she sai+ *ith a hint of hostility in her voi,e as she 3umpe+ to her feet an+ move+ a4out agitate+ly/ 8So *hat18 her aunt e;plo+e+ in+ignantly. patting the seat 4esi+e her *ith an impatient han+/ 8Oh. ,ome an+ sit +o*n again. an+ stop 4eing so fi+gety an+ uppity/8 8# must go an+ see ho* the ,hil+ren8s ri+ing lesson is going on/8 8A+am is managing them super4ly. an+ he8s -uite ,apa4le of loo2ing after them for a *hile/8 &rey eyes regar+e+ 'isa intently *hen she resume+ her seat/ 8You +o love him. +on8t you08 8# a+mire an+ respe,t him.8 'isa eva+e+ the -uestion/ 8You shoul+ a+mire an+ respe,t the man you love.8 her aunt a,2no*le+ge+ *ith a loo2 of satisfa,tion on her +eli,ately<4one+ fa,e. an+ 'isa sought refuge in anger as she ha+ +one so often lately/ 8Aunt (olly. # *ish you an+ (other *oul+ stop prying. an+ trying to rea+ something signifi,ant into my asso,iation *ith A+am $an+eleur.8 she a,,use+ ,ol+ly/ 8He8s my employer. an+ that8s all18 (olly Anstey smile+ that infuriatingly 2no*le+gea4le smile of hers/ 8:o you really e;pe,t me to 4elieve that08 8Yes. # +o.8 'isa sighe+ e;asperate+ly/ 8#n less than a month # shall 4e leaving here/ # shall go 4a,2 to tea,hing. an+ A+am an+ # *on8t ever see ea,h other again/8 8An+ it +oesn8t upset you0 The thought of leaving. # mean08 8# shall miss the ,hil+ren very mu,h.8 'isa ans*ere+ -uietly. o4serving her aunt8s in,re+ulous e;pression *ith a fli,2er of self<satisfa,tion/ 8An+ no* you must e;,use me/8 8But 'isa98 (olly Anstey 4egan *hen 'isa *as a fe* pa,es a*ay from her/ 8# +on8t *ish to +is,uss the su43e,t further.8 'isa s*ung roun+ to interrupt her ,ol+ly/ The ol+er *oman *as no* totally ,onfuse+/ 8But # *as so sure78 8You *ere mista2en.8 'isa ,ut in +e,isively/ 8You an+ (other are 4oth mista2en/ A+am $an+eleur is not the man for me/ See you later. Aunt (olly/8 'isa *al2e+ 4lin+ly up to the house/ !rom the +ire,tion of the pa++o,2 ,ame the soun+ of the ,hil+ren8s happy laughter. an+ -uite su++enly she felt in,re+i4ly lonely/ There *as no pla,e for her here at !airvie*. an+ soon not even the t*ins *oul+ nee+ her/ At the 4rea2fast ta4le 5osh an+ 6ate *ere 4u44ling over *ith enthusiasm as they relate+ their

a,hievements to everyone/ They *ere perhaps a little over<,onfi+ent. 4ut A+am *as for,e+ to a+mit that they *ere +oing splen+i+ly/ A ne* 4on+ *as 4eing forge+ 4et*een himself an+ the ,hil+ren. an+ they respon+e+ hungrily to every *or+ of praise he 4esto*e+ on them/ He *as their hero. an+ they *oul+ 4e his *illing slaves. 3ust as she *oul+ 4e for one glimmer of true *armth in those +ar2 eyes of his/ When the 4rea2fast *as over. the Coloure+ farm<han+s ,ame to the homestea+ *ith their *ives an+ ,hil+ren. an+ A+am gave ea,h one a present in+ivi+ually/ When this *as +one. the men an+ *omen regroupe+ themselves an+. *ith Petrus an+ :aisy ta2ing the lea+. the singing 4egan/ They sang songs of Christmas. their voi,es 4len+ing an+ harmonising in 3oyful. happy songs. an+ for 'isa. stan+ing on the 4a,2 stoep 4et*een her mother an+ her aunt. it *as a moment she 2ne* she *oul+ remem4er for the rest of her life/ 'isa8s throat tightene+. an+ hot tears *elle+ up into her eyes/ When the time ,ame for her to leave. she thought. she *oul+ at least 4e ta2ing memories *ith her that no one an+ nothing ,oul+ erase/

A+am arrange+ a 4raai for the Satur+ay evening 4efore 'isa8s mother an+ aunt *ere +ue to return to Cape To*n. an+ Willa. her parents. 6en Ru+man. an+ several other families from neigh4ouring farms *ere invite+/ On the morning of the 4raai the fires *ere pa,2e+. rea+y to 4e lit. an+ ta4les an+ ,hairs *ere ,arrie+ out into the gar+en *here A+am ha+ ere,te+ an e;tension to give suffi,ient lighting aroun+ the fires an+ the ta4les/ 'isa helpe+ in the 2it,hen *ith the sala+s for most of the +ay. 4ut she felt si,2 at the thought that soon it *oul+ 4e her turn to leave. an+ :aisy *as o4viously thin2ing the same thoughts/ Half*ay through ,utting up a tomato she loo2e+ up su++enly an+ sai+M 8(iss 'isa. this ol+ house *on8t 4e the same again *ithout you/8 #t *as the ni,est ,ompliment anyone ,oul+ have pai+ 'isa. 4ut it also stirre+ up the pain. an+ the hopeless longing that *as 4eginning to over*helm her/ 8Than2 you. :aisy.8 she smile+ a little *anly/ 8#8ve love+ it here. 4ut everything must en+ some*here/8 :aisy shoo2 her hea+ an+ fro*ne+ as she resume+ her tas2 of sli,ing tomatoes/ She muttere+ something a4out ,ertain people not 2no*ing the *orth of something until they8+ lost it. 4ut 'isa +i+ not +are as2 for an e;planation/ 'ater that afternoon. *hile 'isa *as trying to +e,i+e on *hat to *ear for the o,,asion. there *as a 2no,2 on her +oor an+ her mother entere+ her room/ 8You8+ 4etter hurry.8 she sai+. ta2ing in 'isa8s state of un+ress/ 8(r an+ (rs 5a,2son an+ their +aughter arrive+ a fe* minutes ago. an+ so has that8 ni,e (r Ru+man *ho ,ame over for +inner on Christmas :ay/8 8# ,an8t ma2e up my min+ *hat to *ear/8 8What a4out that 4ro*n pleate+ s2irt of yours. an+98 Celia (oreau pushe+ asi+e a fe* +resses in the *ar+ro4e an+ 4rought out a s-uare. flat 4o; lying half forgotten in the furthest ,orner/ 8What8s this08 8(other. +on8t78 'isa 4egan an;iously. 4ut her mother ha+ alrea+y opene+ the 4o; an+ *as inspe,ting the ,ontents/ 8Oh. 4ut ho* lovely18 Celia (oreau e;,laime+. running the sil2 4louse through her fingers/ 8You must *ear this *ith your s2irt/8 8 o9 # ,an8t/8 8Why not. for goo+ness8 sa2e08 her mother *ante+ to 2no*. turning the 4louse this *ay an+ that as she e;amine+ it ,arefully/ 8#s there something *rong *ith it08 8 o. there8s nothing *rong *ith it. 4ut98 'isa s*allo*e+ har+. 8# ,an8t *ear it/8 Celia lo*ere+ the 4louse an+ stare+ at her +aughter in a perple;e+ fashion/ 8But *hy +i+ you 4uy it if you ,an8t *ear it08 8# +i+n8t 4uy it.8 sai+ 'isa 4efore she ,oul+ prevent herself. an+ her mother instantly graspe+ the situation/ 8#t *as a gift. then08 8Oh. (other.8 'isa sighe+ e;asperate+ly/ 8Was it a gift from Rory08 Celia persiste+. 4ut something in 'isa8s e;pression must have given her the ans*er/ 8#t *as from A+am. *asn8t it08 8#8+ rippe+ an ol+ ,otton 4louse of mine one +ay. an+ A+am +e,i+e+ to repla,e it *ith this.8

'isa foun+ herself e;plaining patiently/ 8# tol+ him it *as too e;pensive for me to a,,ept. an+ *e ha+ -uite a +isagreement/8 8So you shove+ it into the 4ottom of your *ar+ro4e an+ s*ore never to *ear it.8 her mother ,on,lu+e+ 2no*ingly/ 8Something li2e that. yes.8 'isa a+mitte+ gru+gingly/ 8:on8t you thin2 it8s time you stoppe+ 4eing silly08 her mother re4u2e+ her gently/ 8#f A+am *as 2in+ enough to give you this 4eautiful 4louse as a gift. then the least you ,an +o is *ear it/ He most pro4a4ly *on8t even noti,e *hat you8re *earing. if he8s at all li2e other men/8 8Oh. he8ll noti,e all right. an+ he8ll gloat triumphantly.8 'isa snorte+ angrily/ 8&loat08 Celia fro*ne+ ,onfuse+ly/ 8# +on8t see *hy he shoul+ gloat. 4ut +oes it really matter08 'isa stare+ at her mother for a moment. fighting against the +esire to ,onfi+e in her as she ha+ al*ays +one. an+ then she shoo2 her hea+/ 8 o. it +oesn8t matter/ &ive me that 4louse/8 8#8ll see you +o*nstairs in a fe* minutes.8 Celia (oreau smile+ reassuringly. an+ then 'isa *as alone/ She steppe+ into her s2irt. fastening it a4out her narro* *aist. then she slippe+ her arms into the sleeves of the 4louse. her fingers fum4ling *ith the tiny pearl 4uttons +o*n the front an+ at the ,uffs/ She hate+ the i+ea of *earing it *hen she thought of the unhappy en,ounter she ha+ ha+ *ith A+am 4e,ause of it. 4ut the sil2. a+mitte+ly. felt goo+ against her s2in/ 'isa 3oine+ everyone in the gar+en some minutes later. an+ her mother smile+ approvingly *hen 'isa sat +o*n in the va,ant ,hair 4esi+e her/ She ha+ met only a fe* of the people present. 4ut those she ha+ not met intro+u,e+ themselves in the frien+ly. 3ovial manner of the 6aroo people/ Their ,hil+ren 2ept 5osh an+ 6ate o,,upie+ *ith *il+ games on the spa,ious la*n until their laughter e,hoe+ a,ross the gar+en. an+ 'isa felt free for a *hile from her +uties/ Willa an+ 'isa a,2no*le+ge+ ea,h other *ith a ,ool no+. 4ut 'isa *as stru,2 almost physi,ally 4y the other girl8s 4eauty/ She sel+om *ore anything other than sla,2s or ri+ing ,lothes. 4ut for this o,,asion Willa ha+ ,hosen an emeral+ green sil2 ,reation that mat,he+ her eyes super4ly/ Her lustrous. re++ish<4ro*n hair *as ,om4e+ up on to her hea+. e;posing her slen+er ne,2 an+ 4eautiful tanne+ shoul+ers. 4ut it *as her air of ,alm ,onfi+en,e that +rove those painful 4ar4s into 'isa8s heart/ This *as *here Willa 4elonge+9 on !airvie*. as A+am8s *ife/ The fires *ere lit. an+ the men stoo+ aroun+ it +rin2ing their 4eer. *hile the *omen sippe+ sherry an+ +is,usse+ the latest 4it of gossip +oing the roun+s in to*n/ #t *as a *arm night. an+ 'isa. feeling restless an+ uneasy. *ent into the house to see if she ,oul+ help :aisy *ith the last< minute preparations in the 2it,hen. an+ it *as there that A+am foun+ her. 4en+ing over a plate of sna,2s she *as preparing/ He fingere+ the sleeve of her 4louse an+ smile+ *ith more *armth than she ha+ ever ,re+ite+ him *ith/ 8# thought you *ere never going to *ear it/8 8# ,hange+ my min+/8 8#8m gla+ you +i+.8 he sai+ a4ruptly. an+ then he *in2e+ at her -uite +eli4erately an+ un,hara,teristi,ally as he *al2e+ out of the 2it,hen *ith the large +ish of meat in his han+s/ 'isa stare+ after him a little 4e*il+ere+ly. not -uite sure *hat to ma2e of his 4ehaviour. then she shrugge+ it off to ,ontinue *ith her tas2/ The smell of *oo+smo2e *as soon repla,e+ 4y that of meat grilling on an open fire an+. +espite her +*in+ling appetite. 'isa e;perien,e+ a fe* pangs of hunger/ 8Can # help *ith anything08 6en Ru+man *ante+ to 2no* *hen he *an+ere+ into the 2it,hen some time later/ 8#s the meat rea+y08 8As rea+y as it *ill ever 4e.8 he sai+. his hungry glan,e roaming over the sala+s. an+ 'isa

promptly pla,e+ one of the loa+e+ trays into his han+s/ 8Ta2e that outsi+e for me. *ill you. 6en08 8Sure thing.8 he grinne+/ 'isa an+ :aisy follo*e+ him *ith the rest of the trays. an+ *hen everything *as set out on the ta4les. A+am invite+ their guests to help themselves/ Willa ma+e sure. someho*. that she foun+ a seat 4esi+e A+am. an+ 'isa envie+ the easy familiarity that e;iste+ 4et*een them. 4ut she ha+ also learnt to a,,ept it/ #t *as Willa8s +isplay of possessiveness that eventually +re* *hispere+ ,omments from the t*o *omen seate+ on either si+e of 'isa/ 8She ,an8t 2eep her han+s off him. 4ut # +on8t 4lame her either.8 (olly Anstey remar2e+ a little ,yni,ally. nu+ging 'isa *ith her el4o*/ 8:on8t ta2e any noti,e of that girl8s 4ehaviour. my +ear.8 'isa8s mother a+vise+. patting 'isa8s arm in a ,onsoling manner/ 8#t8s none of our 4usiness. (other.8 'isa *hispere+ 4a,2 fier,ely. 8an+ it +oesn8t interest me in the least/8 8Yes. of ,ourse. +ear.8 Celia (oreau agree+ pla,i+ly. applying herself to her foo+ on,e more. 4ut 'isa ha+ the feeling that her mother remaine+ un,onvin,e+ on this o,,asion/ A,ross the ta4les la+en *ith foo+. 'isa sa* Willa sli+e a possessive han+ up A+am8s arm an+. as he loo2e+ +o*n at her an+ smile+. 'isa8s stoma,h lur,he+ si,2eningly/ 5ealousy. as she *as 4eginning to 2no* it. ,onsume+ her li2e a fire. an+ she lo*ere+ her eyes 4lin+ly. fighting +esperately to ,ontrol the tremors that shoo2 through her 4o+y/ 8You8re not eating. +ear.8 Celia (oreau remar2e+ *ith ,on,ern. an+ 'isa set asi+e her plate *ith a loo2 of +istaste on her fine features/ 8#8m not hungry/8 Celia loo2e+ slightly ta2en a4a,2. 4ut 'isa ha+ the +istin,t impression that her mother *as hi+ing a smile 4ehin+ that fluttering han+2er,hief/ The 4raai seeme+ to last an eternity. 4ut *hen the t*ins am4le+ sleepily a,ross to 'isa8s ,hair. she too2 them up to 4e+. an+ re3oi,e+ silently at this temporary es,ape from the pain of seeing Willa sta2e her ,laim so openly/ 'aughter an+ musi, greete+ 'isa *hen she eventually 3oine+ everyone /in the gar+en again. an+ she *as faintly surprise+ *hen Willa +eli4erately sought out her ,ompany/ 8You *ill 4e leaving us soon.8 Willa 4egan. +ra*ing 'isa a little a*ay from the ro*+y ,ir,le of people/ 8#8ll 4e leaving in 3ust over t*o *ee2s. to 4e e;a,t.8 'isa replie+ stiffly/ 8Are you loo2ing for*ar+ to returning to the ,ity08 &reen eyes surveye+ 'isa intently. pla,ing her instantly on her guar+/ 8#8m loo2ing for*ar+ to going 4a,2 to tea,hing. yes/8 8Yes. of ,ourse.8 Willa smile+ *ith +e,eptive s*eetness/ 8#8+ forgotten you8re a tea,her. an+ that remin+s me that the t*ins *ill soon 4e atten+ing 4oar+ing s,hool/ The moment they8re off A+am8s han+s98 She pause+ signifi,antly an+ glan,e+ at 'isa/ 8Well. you 2no* *hat # mean/8 8Yes9 # 2no*.8 'isa spo2e *ith +iffi,ulty an+. to her +ismay. the faint -uiver of her lips +i+ not go unnoti,e+/ 8# +i+ *arn you not to go silly over him.8 Willa thrust the 2nife home *ith an a,,ura,y that ma+e 'isa *in,e in*ar+ly. 4ut she re,overe+ herself s*iftly an+ met Willa8s mo,2ing glan,e *ith a ,almness she ha+ thought ha+ +eserte+ her/ 8You +i+ *arn me. Willa. an+ please 4elieve me *hen # say that7that # hope you8ll 4oth 4e very happy/8 #n,re+ulity flashe+ a,ross the other girl8s fa,e/ 8# 4elieve you really mean that/8

'isa no++e+. her throat too tight to spea2 at that moment/ 8You ,are for him so mu,h you ,an *ish him happiness *ith someone else08 Willa persiste+. her perfe,tly ar,he+ eye4ro*s rising a fra,tion higher/ 8# must a+mit # never thought mu,h of you 4efore. 4ut you ,ertainly have my a+miration for your unselfish attitu+e/8 8Thin2 nothing of it.8 'isa replie+ through ,len,he+ teeth an+. turning on her heel. she *al2e+ 4lin+ly to*ar+s the house/ #t no longer mattere+ that Willa 2ne* of her feelings for A+am. an+ her only thought at that moment *as to get a*ay/ She ha+ to 4e alone for a fe* minutes to ri+ herself of this +ea+ly ,ol+ness that ha+ ta2en su,h ,omplete possession of her/ 85ust a minute.8 a harsh voi,e ,omman+e+. an+ strong fingers lat,he+ on to her arm. 4ringing her to an a4rupt stop in the hall/ 8Where are you going08 8#7# *as going up to my7my room for a fe* minutes.8 she e;plaine+ haltingly. trying to free herself. 4ut A+am8s 2een glan,e ra2e+ her *hite fa,e. an+ his han+ tightene+ on her arm/ 8#s something *rong0 Has anyone upset you08 8 o9 oh. no1 Everything8s fine. an+78 8You8re sha2ing.8 he interrupte+. ta2ing her 4y the shoul+ers a little roughly/ 8Are you ill08 8 <no.8 she assure+ him hastily. 4ut she ,oul+ not stop her teeth from ,hattering/ 8Come *ith me.8 A+am instru,te+ a4ruptly an+. not *aiting for her to follo* him. he steere+ her firmly +o*n the passage to*ar+s his stu+y. s*it,hing on the +es2 lamp an+ ,losing the +oor 4ehin+ them/ He regar+e+ her ,losely for a moment. then he too2 her sha2ing han+s in his an+ hel+ them against his ,hest/ 8Your han+s are li2e i,e/8 His tou,h *as un4eara4ly s*eet. 4ut she +are+ not linger there alone *ith himJ not *hile she *as in this totally vulnera4le state of min+ an+ 4o+y/ 8#7# must go.8 she stammere+. 4ut as she loo2e+ up into his ,ompelling eyes. something stille+ insi+e of her/ She ha+ never seen him loo2 so straine+ 4efore. nor so strangely *hite a4out the mouth/ 8'isa. 'isa.8 he muttere+ thi,2ly. an+ then those po*erful arms *ere ,rushing her against him. an+ his lips sought hers in a 2iss that left her pe,uliarly +raine+/ 8(y &o+. the more # have of you. the more # *ant.8 he gro*le+ eventually against her lips. an+ then he *as 2issing her again until her 4ones seeme+ to melt against him/ 8# ,an8t let you go. 'isa/ (y life *oul+ never 4e the same again *ithout you to a++ that o++ an+ mysterious +ash of spi,e to it/8 Her heart rea,te+ +eliriously to *hat he *as saying. an+ a ne* *armth flo*e+ through her. 4ut her *ary. torture+ min+ *arne+ her to ta2e ,are/ 8A+am. you +on8t 2no* *hat you8re saying/8 8# 2no* +amn *ell *hat #8m saying. you little *it,h.8 he grunte+. the leaping flames in his eyes +evouring her/ 8# +on8t 2no* ho* you +i+ it. 4ut it8s a +arne+ un,omforta4le feeling for a man li2e myself *hen a *oman gets un+er his s2in/ # haven8t 2no*n myself lately. an+ the +esire to hol+ you in my arms li2e this 4e,ame un4eara4le at times/ # even foun+ myself trying to ,reate situations *hi,h *oul+ inevita4ly lea+ to this/8 8A+am98 she interrupte+ *ea2ly. 4ut he *oul+ not 4e ,he,2e+/ 8# 2no* you8re not totally in+ifferent to me. 4ut. &o+ help me. #8ll ma2e you ,are someho*/8 8A+am98 His lips silen,e+ hers. 4ut she ,lung resolutely to her sanity. an+ *hen he finally raise+ his hea+. she gaspe+. 8A+am. you8re not yourself/ You8re78 8You8re -uite right. #8m not myself.8 he thun+ere+ at her angrily/ 8# haven8t 4een -uite myself sin,e you *al2e+ into my life an+ shoo2 my ,arefully ere,te+ foun+ations/8 #t all soun+e+ e,stati,ally *on+erful. 4ut she ha+ to thin2 of Willa an+. leaning 4a,2 in his arms as far as she ,oul+. she loo2e+ a long *ay up into his angry fa,e/ 8You +on8t really mean *hat you8re saying/ You8ve forgotten. perhaps. that you on,e tol+ me you tolerate+ me in your

home only for the sa2e of the t*ins/8 His arms tightene+ a4out her painfully/ 8Have you forgotten *hat prompte+ that remar208 'isa shoo2 her hea+/ 8# 2no* # *as angry an+ hurt at the time/8 8You sai+ # *as the most hateful man you8+ ever met.8 he refreshe+ her memory. an+ 'isa *in,e+/ 8# +i+n8t really mean that/8 8 either +i+ # mean. *hat # sai+/8 His lips 4rushe+ against her ,hee2/ 8(arry me. 'isa/8 8 o18 she ,rie+ in anguish. straining a*ay from him/ 8 o. # ,an8t18 8Why not08 8#7#8m not the right sort of *ife for you. an+7an+ you8re not really serious.8 she argue+ haltingly. trying to *ar+ him off. 4ut the sensual e;ploration of his lips against her ne,2 *as rapi+ly *earing +o*n her fragile resistan,e/ 8(y patien,e is *earing thin. 'isa.8 he *arne+ thi,2ly. 8an+ # *on8t ta2e OnoO for an ans*er/8 She felt the *armth of his han+s through the thin sil2 of her 4louse as they move+ a,ross her 4a,2. pressing her more firmly against the har+ length of his 4o+y. 4ut she +are+ not give in to the emotions that ,lamoure+ for an outlet. an+ out of sheer +esperation she as2e+M 8What a4out Willa08 8Willa08 His heavy eye4ro*s ,ame together in a fro*n/ 8What has Willa got to +o *ith us08 8But she7she78 'isa faltere+ nervously/ The loo2 on his fa,e fille+ /her on,e again *ith that vague suspi,ion that something *as *rong. an+ she shoo2 her hea+ slightly in an effort to see2 ,larity/ 8# +on8t un+erstan+/8 8 either +o #. so *oul+ you min+ e;plaining08 He release+ her su++enly. an+ she stoo+ s*aying for a moment 4efore her han+s en,ountere+ the +es2 4ehin+ her/ Was it possi4le that she ha+ mis3u+ge+ A+am0 she *on+ere+. s*allo*ing ,onvulsively as she too2 in his formi+a4le e;pression *hile he *aite+ for her to spea2/ 8Willa tol+ me that7that you *ere planning to 4e7 marrie+ as soon as the t*ins *ent to s,hool/8 A+am8s eyes narro*e+ to angry slits/ 8:i+ she a,tually mention the *or+ marriage08 8Well. #78 'isa fro*ne+ su++enly. sear,hing her min+ franti,ally in an effort to re,all Willa8s e;a,t *or+s/ 8 o.8 she sai+ at last/ 8 o* that # ,ome to thin2 of it. she +i+n8t/ She sai+7she first of all tol+ me that you ha+7ha+ ,ommitte+ yourself/8 His lips tightene+ per,epti4ly/ 8An+ you un+erstoo+ this to mean marriage08 8What else ,oul+ it have meant08 she argue+ misera4ly. the ,olour ,oining an+ going in her ,hee2s/ 8An+ then. this evening. she78 8Yes08 A+am prompte+ harshly. ma2ing her flin,h/ 8What +i+ she say this evening08 8She sai+ you *ere 3ust *aiting for the t*ins to go to 4oar+ing s,hool so they *oul+ 4e off your han+s.8 'isa re<plie+ truthfully/ 8She +i+n8t a++ anything to that. 4ut she +i+n8t have to/8 8An+ you 4elieve+ her ,lever insinuations. of ,ourse.8 A+am a,,use+ -uietly. his eyes fli,2ering strangely/ 8There *as no reason for me not to 4elieve her. A+am/ #8ve al*ays ,onsi+ere+ she *oul+ 4e the perfe,t *ife for you/ She 2no*s all there is to 2no* a4out sheep farming. *hi,h is a tremen+ous asset for any man li2e yourself. an+7an+ she8s strong an+ healthy/ ot li2e78 She faltere+. her throat *or2ing as her fingers *ent automati,ally to her s,arre+ ,hee2/ 8!orget a4out that18 A+am or+ere+ sharply. removing her han+ an+ 4rushing his lips against the long s,ar 4efore he raise+ his hea+ an+ loo2e+ +eep into her eyes/ 8# love you. 'isa. an+ that8s something #8ve never sai+ to any other *oman 4efore/8 Her heart *as 4eating so fast that she ,oul+ not spea2 as his arms en,ir,le+ her *aist/ 8(arry me. 'isa/ # 2no* #8m e;pe,ting rather a

lot of you to ta2e on those t*o s,amps *ho8ve 4een pla,e+ in my ,are as *ell. 4ut you ,an8t refuse me/8 The most in,re+i4le happiness surge+ through her. 4ut after the *ee2s of hopeless +espair. she *as *ary of it/ 8# love 5osh an+ 6ate. 4ut *hat *ill Willa say08 8To the +evil *ith Willa18 he e;plo+e+ *ith harsh impatien,e/ 8Put me out of my misery. 'isa. an+ say you8ll marry me/8 8Oh. A+am.8 she *hispere+ tremulously. 4urying her fa,e against him. an+ then her silent tears of ,apitulation +ampene+ the front of his imma,ulate 4lue shirt *here the smell of *oo+smo2e still ,lung to him/ 8Tears. my 4elove+08 he +eman+e+ *ith a ten+erness *hi,h she 2ne* *as only for her. an+ then his fingers *ere 4eneath her ,hin. 4ringing her tear<+ampene+ fa,e out into the open so that he ,oul+ rea+ the truth in her luminous. +eep 4lue eyes/ 8:oes that mean the ans*er is OyesO08 8Oh. yes9 yes. A+am9 please.8 she sighe+ e,stati,ally. an+ then everything seeme+ to fa+e into the +istan,e. leaving only A+am an+ herself. an+ the un4elieva4le 3oy of 2no*ing she 4elonge+/ She remem4ere+ only vaguely after*ar+s that he ha+ ,arrie+ her a,ross the room to ,ra+le her on his lap in the ol+ pa++e+ arm,hair. an+ then he *as 2issing her gently. ten+erly. 4ut *ith a gro*ing passion that +eman+e+ an+ foun+ a *illing response in her/ The 4ruising strength of his arms *as a pleasura4le agony she en+ure+ in silen,e until the +eli4erate sensuality of his han+s on her 4o+y ma+e her trem4le *ith the storm of emotions that he arouse+ in her/ She felt his heart thu++ing against her o*n. an+ *hen his lips finally sought the sensitive hollo* of her throat she pushe+ her fingers through his hair an+ presse+ her lips against the greyness at his temples as she ha+ longe+ to +o so often/ They *ere 4oth in the grip of that s*eet ma+ness they ha+ 2no*n on,e 4efore. 4ut neither of them ma+e any effort no* to hi+e *hat *as in their hearts/ She sa* the leaping flames of +esire in his eyes as his fingers fum4le+ *ith the tiny 4uttons of her 4louse. an+ she felt her o*n +esire mounting to mat,h his *hen his han+ gently ,laspe+ the soft fullness of her 4reast. then. *ith the ,onfi+en,e his love ha+ given her. she +re* his hea+ +o*n to hers on,e more an+ sought his mouth hungrily *ith her o*n/ 8(y &o+. # *ant you.8 he groane+ after a time. an+ then. *ith a supreme effort she ha+ to a+mire. he ,ontrolle+ himself. an+ simply hel+ her against him as if he never *ante+ to let her go/ 8A+am98 she sai+ after a time *hen sanity ha+ returne+ an+ she *as a4le to thin2 ,oherently again/ 8A4out Willa/8 8Willa has al*ays 4een a goo+ frien+ an+ neigh4our. an+ nothing more.8 he replie+. fingering a sil2y ,url that *as tinte+ gol+ in the light of the +es2 lamp/ 8#8ve ,ertainly never ,ommitte+ myself to her in any *ay. 4y *or+ or +ee+/8 He raise+ her fa,e from its hi+ing pla,e against his shoul+er so that he ,oul+ loo2 into her eyes/ 8:o you 4elieve me08 8# 4elieve you/8 He 2isse+ her *arm lips until they -uivere+ responsively 4eneath his. then he lifte+ her on to her feet an+ stoo+ up/ 8'isa my +arling. # hate the thought of sharing you *ith everyone else 3ust yet. 4ut *e8+ 4etter put in an appearan,e an+ inform our guests that this is no longer 3ust a fare*ell 4raai for your mother an+ your aunt. 4ut also an engagement ,ele4ration/8 8A+am. *ait18 she plea+e+. es,aping from his arms to restore a little or+er to her appearan,e/ 8You8re going mu,h too fast for me. an+ # *oul+ li2e to prepare my mother for this 4efore you ma2e su,h an announ,ement/8 8Your mother has 4een prepare+ for this sin,e 4efore her arrival/8 8What +o you mean08 He smile+ +o*n into her 4e*il+ere+ eyes *ith tolerant amusement as he too2 her han+s in his

an+ +re* her relentlessly to*ar+s him/ 8# mean. my little one. that # not only *rote an+ as2e+ her to spen+ Christmas *ith us. 4ut # also ma+e my intentions -uite ,lear/8 'isa8s e;pression 4e,ame in,re+ulous/ 8You mean she8s 2no*n all this time08 8Yes.8 A+am a+mitte+/ 8She gave me her 4lessing soon after her arrival here on the farm. an+ promise+ to try an+ fin+ out if there *as any hope for me. 4ut 4oth your mother an+ your aunt tol+ me that you either 4e,ame evasive. or shut up li2e a ,lam *henever they mentione+ my name/8 His eyes ,lou+e+. an+ his arms *ent aroun+ her almost ,onvulsively/ 8#8ve ha+ some pretty an;ious moments 4e,ause of you. my +arling. 4ut # realise no*. of ,ourse. *hy # ,oul+ never get through to you 4efore/8 8# thought you *ere 3ust amusing yourself *ith me.8 she *hispere+. an impish smile ,urving her lips as she leane+ against him/ 8# ,onsi+ere+ you an a4solute ra2e/8 8A ra2e. am #08 he +eman+e+ *ith a harshness that no longer frightene+ her. then his lips too2 possession of hers in a punishing yet o++ly sensual *ay that raise+ havo, *ith her emotions/ 8When *ill you marry me08 he +eman+e+ after a ,onsi+era4le time ha+ elapse+. an+ that s-uare. resolute ,hin 3utte+ out firmly/ 8# might as *ell *arn you. 'isa. that # have no intention of *aiting several months/ # *ant us to 4e marrie+ as soon as possi4le/8 8But A+am78 8 o arguments18 he silen,e+ her. then his glan,e gre* a little *ary/ 8# suppose you *ant a *hite *e++ing *ith all the paraphernalia that goes *ith it08 8 ot parti,ularly. A+am/ ot if you +on8t *ant that.8 she assure+ him gently. fingering the ,left in his ,hin an+ tentatively tra,ing the outline of the mouth she ha+ on,e thought so harsh an+ unrelenting/ 8# *oul+ li2e to *ear *hite. though.8 she a++e+. 84ut nothing ela4orate. an+ # *oul+ prefer it to 4e a -uiet *e++ing/8 8That suits me.8 he sighe+ *ith o4vious relief as he ,aught her han+ an+ presse+ his *arm lips into her palm/ 8When08 The 4an2e+<+o*n fire in the eyes that regar+e+ her so stea+ily sent a no* familiar *ea2ness surging into her lim4s. an+ there *as a tremor in her voi,e *hen she sai+M 8#8m 4eginning to realise it *ill have to 4e soon/8 8A *ee2 from to+ay08 8As soon as that08 she as2e+. a little ta2en a4a,2/ 8#f you *ant to *ear *hite. yes.8 he *arne+. his *arm glan,e sli+ing over her/ 8Oh. A+am.8 she laughe+ unstea+ily. hi+ing her hot fa,e against him. 4ut A+am *oul+ have none of that/ 8You loo2 a+ora4le *hen you 4lush.8 he tease+ her softly. for,ing her fa,e out into the open an+. forgetting her em4arrassment momentarily. she marvelle+ at the ,hange in his harshly ,hiselle+ features/ There *as ten+erness in every line an+ angle of his fa,e. an+ the *on+er *as that she ha+ put it there/ 8# love you. A+am.8 she *hispere+ impulsively 4ut truthfully. her eyes +ar2ening *ith the emotions that *ere pulsing through her/ 8# love you so very mu,h/8 His ,hest heave+ 4eneath her han+s. an+ then she *as ,rushe+ against him *ith a fier,eness that *as 4oth an agony an+ a pleasure/ 8You8re going to have to put up *ith a lot of loving from me.8 he *arne+. his voi,e vi4rating *ith emotion/ 8:o you thin2 you8ll 4e a4le to ta2e it08 8#8ll manage. # thin2.8 she smile+ +reamily. +ra*ing his hea+ +o*n to hers until their lips met in a long. satisfying 2iss/ 'isa felt as if she *as *al2ing on air *hen they finally left the stu+y. 4ut as they *al2e+ out on to the veran+ah she +re* 4a,2 nervously/ 8A+am98 She 4it her lip as she glan,e+ up at him/ 8(ust you ma2e the announ,ement no*08

8The sooner the 4etter.8 he sai+ a+amantly. pla,ing a prote,tive arm a4out her an+ +ra*ing her to*ar+s the ,ir,le of people seate+ a4out the fire/ 8(ay # have your attention. please08 he 4egan. an+ the ,onversation ,ease+ a4ruptly/ 'isa *as una*are of the ,urious glan,es +ire,te+ at them as she glimpse+ the ,ol+. har+ suspi,ion that 4egan to glimmer in the green +epths of Willa8s eyes moments 4efore A+am sai+M 8#8+ li2e you all to 2no* that 'isa has 3ust ,onsente+ to 4e,ome my *ife/8 Pan+emonium seeme+ to 4rea2 loose after A+am8s announ,ement. an+ Willa *as o4s,ure+ from 'isa8s vision as she an+ A+am 4e,ame separate+ 4y the e;u4eran,e of the *ell<*ishers/ Her mother *as tearful 4ut happy. Aunt (olly *as positively gloating that her suspi,ions ha+ 4een ,onfirme+. an+ Eri,a $an+eleur gathere+ 'isa into her arms an+ +e,lare+ openly that she ,oul+ not have ,hosen a 4etter *ife for her impossi4le son/ Willa an+ 'isa finally ,ame fa,e to fa,e. 4ut. to 'isa8s relief. there *as no sign of mali,e on the other girl8s ,ontrolle+ features as she gra,iously a+mitte+ +efeat/ 8You8ve *on. 'isa.8 she smile+ faintly/ 8 o har+ feelings. # hope08 8Of ,ourse not.8 'isa assure+ her hastily an+. +espite the hearta,he Willa ha+ ,ause+ her. she ,oul+ not help feeling sorry for her. 4ut there *as no time to say more as 6en Ru+man +re* her asi+e/ 8# *as *rong a4out the 4oss. 4ut # guesse+ right a4out you. +i+n8t #08 he tease+ lightly. an+ *hen she no++e+ silently. he grima,e+ slightly through his 4oyish smile/ 8# ,an8t help *ishing it *as me. 4ut ,ongratulations all the same/8 He leane+ for*ar+ an+ plante+ a 2iss firmly on her lips 3ust as A+am ,ame up 4ehin+ them/ 8That *ill +o. Ru+man/8 There *as no sign of anger in A+am8s ,omman+. 4ut the arm he pla,e+ a4out 'isa *as faintly possessive. an+ 6en grinne+ a little ,roo2e+ly as he shoo2 han+s *ith A+am/ A+am +i+ not 4elieve in *asting time. an+ it too2 him 4arely a fe* se,on+s to persua+e 'isa8s mother an+ her aunt to postpone their +eparture for a *ee2 until after the *e++ing/ Then he 4rought out several 4ottles of ,hampagne from some*here an+. *ith everyone8s glasses fille+. Eri,a $an+eleur suggeste+ prou+ly that they +rin2 a toast to A+am an+ 'isa8s future happiness/ When the glasses ha+ 4een fille+ a se,on+ time. A+am ,ame to 'isa8s si+e *here she stoo+ 4ehin+ her mother8s ,hair an+. *hen no one *as loo2ing. he slippe+ his arm a4out her *aist/ 8Come this *ay.8 he *hispere+ in her ear. +ra*ing her a*ay from the others/ 8A+am98 she *hispere+ 4a,2 urgently *hen they rea,he+ the trees. 8*here are you ta2ing me08 8Hush18 he or+ere+ softly. then she *as lifte+ in his arms an+ ,arrie+ s*iftly an+ effortlessly +eeper into the sha+o*s 4efore she *as pla,e+ on her feet again/ 8#8ve got something for you/ # inten+e+ it to 4e your Christmas present. 4ut you *ere so ,ol+ an+ aloof at the time that it ha+ to *ait/8 8What is it08 she as2e+ ,uriously as he e;tra,te+ something from the po,2et of his pants/ 8An engagement ring/8 8Oh. A+am.8 she e;,laime+ softly as he too2 her han+ in his an+ slippe+ the ring on to her finger/ 8# *ish it *asn8t so +ar2 here 4eneath the trees/8 8You ,an loo2 at it later.8 he or+ere+. ,overing the ring *ith his han+ an+ +ra*ing her into his arms/ 8Right no* there are more urgent matters to atten+ to/8 8Su,h as08 she tease+. 4ut alrea+y her senses *ere respon+ing *il+ly to his nearness an+ his tou,h/ 8Su,h as you ,onvin,ing me that #8m not 3ust +reaming.8 he announ,e+ hoarsely. his fa,e a +ar2 4lur in the sha+o*s/ 8A+am9 +arling.8 she murmure+ unstea+ily. an+ the stars settle+ in her eyes as she raise+ her

lips to his/ The night *ent silent a4out them as they 2isse+. an+ 2isse+ again *ith a hunger that ,oul+ not 4e assuage+/ There *as so mu,h still to +is,uss. an+ so mu,h she still *ante+ to say. 4ut for no* there *as only the in,re+i4le *on+er that A+am love+ her an+ nee+e+ her/ Her loneliness an+ +espair *as something of the past. an+ her ,up of happiness *as fille+ to the 4rim/

An+ things ,an never go 4a+ly *rong #f the heart 4e true an+ the love 4e strong. !or the mist. if it ,omes. an+ the *eeping rain Will 4e ,hange+ 4y the love into sunshine again/