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of the fortnight.'
'You're telling me to go?'
'It's plain that I am. You and I could have been friends, but from the
first you haven't liked me. We've nothing in common, so it's best that
you keep to the original plan and have just the two weeks.'
'I might,' said her cousin with a sort of amused malice, 'try for a job
here ... and stay indefinitely on Coral Cay.'
Alida stared disbelievingly.
'You've got an excellent job at home!'
'The idea of my staying here doesn't appeal, eh? You might have
competition with Darius and that wouldn't fit in with your ambition
which, naturally, is to marry a man at least as wealthy as your
stepfather.'
'I'm not thinking of marrying anyone,' Alida said, quietly, glancing at
the clock and realising that she should have met Darius five minutes
ago in the lane
outside the villa gates. 'I've no time to talk any more.' Putting down the
brush, she took up a perfume spray to use on her wrists. Marcelle
watched, dark malevolence in her eyes,
'If it hadn't been for you,' she spat out, 'David would have asked me to
marry him!'
'Me? But he was interested only in his boat and '
'And you, you know it! He'd no time for me after you appeared on the
scene!'
'I soon disappeared from the scene,' Alida reminded her, picking up a
velvet cape and flinging it carelessly over one shoulder. She picked up
her evening bag and moved towards her cousin. 'If you'll excuse me,
Marcelle, I'm already late.'
It seemed at first that Marcelle would not let her pass, but she
evidently thought better of it and stepped aside. Alida was about to
leave the room, but turned. 'After you, Marcelle,' she said curtly.
'You don't trust me,' sneered her cousin, moving towards the door
which was wide open.
'As a matter of fact,' returned Alida frankly, 'I don't. You've proved, by
your deliberate eavesdropping, that you're not to be trusted.'
'I wonder,' drawled Marcelle as she followed Alida from the room,
'what Darius will say when he knows you've had a child--'
'Are you going to tell him?' Alida marvelled at the unemotional
serenity of her voice, for although there was something amusing in the
idea of Marcelle's trying to turn Darius against her by telling him she
had had a child, there was a much more serious aspect to it in that
Alida was determined that Darius should never learn that he had
fathered a freak. It would do something to his ego, she felt sure,
because despite the change that had occurred in his character, he still
maintained a certain pride that must assuredly suffer if he should ever
discover the truth.
1 might ... just depends, Alida.' Smooth the tone and carrying a subtle,
cryptic inflection that was, in this moment of haste, almost lost on
Alida almost, but not quite. However, there was no time for
questions and answers, so Alida slid past her cousin as they - reached
the hall and the next moment she was through the front door and
hurrying along the drive towards the high wrought-iron gates at the
end.
Alida's thoughts, though, were still on what had just happened,
Marcelle was jealous, that was plain enough. She obviously hated the
idea of Alida's going out to dine with Darius; Alida remembered that
she had said he was terrific! Was she falling in love with him!
According to Aunt Lucie he would be exactly the type preferred by
Marcelle tall, dark and foreign-looking. ...
It was a balmy tropical evening with silver moonlight kissing the
lagoon and the reef and the dark sea beyond. Alida and Darius had
dined on the terrace, eating delicious lobster and filet mignon with a
Bahamian salad and then an exotic Italian dessert. They had watched
limbo and fire dancers, had listened to calypso music and they had
chatted too, and been happy. Darius seemed to have undergone yet
another change, becoming Jess reserved and stern, and he had laughed
more than usual. They were now wandering along the shore where
palms waved against a deep purple sky, and was talking about his
house. He wanted Alida to look at it in the morning, to give her
opinion about the gardens he was having planned, and the position of
the tennis court in the palm grove; he wanted her to say if the felling of
a few trees would be an improvement to the view, or whether she
thought they ought to stay. They were pines and coconut-palms, he
said.
Alida's happiness suddenly evaporated. She had promised her mother
that she would not go out with Darius again, and although visiting his
house at Clearwater Cove was not exactly going out with him, it was in
effect breaking the promise she had made. She tried to sound light and
casual as she said,
'I'm rather busy tomorrow morning, Darius, so I won't be able to come.
I'm sorry.'
'Later in the day, then?' He was almost like an eager schoolboy, she
thought, glancing up into his face and seeing the smile that hovered on
his lips, the expectation in his eyes. How could she refuse him? The
pain of doing so was excruciating because she knew instinctively that
he would be hurt. She hesitated a long while but eventually heard
herself say,
'Yes, later in the day, Darius after lunch.'
'Good. You see, my dear,' he went on gently; 'it's very important that
you like what's being done there, at your favourite place.' He had
stopped; she put a hand to her heart as if to stop its wild uncontrolled
beating. That she could feel like this about the man she had hated for
so long! That she could be in this state of ecstasy owing to those last
few words he had uttered.
Ecstasy--Yes, it was there, filling her heart and mind.
And yet despair mingled paradoxically; and the invincible barrier of
her parents' total disapproval of this man.
He bent his head and kissed her gently on the lips, then his arms came
about her and she was drawn towards his hard body. She strained
against him! wanting him, desiring his kisses and caresses even while
the picture crossed her mental vision, fleetingly, of that morning so
long ago when she had fled from him in terror and disgust.
'Alida dear,' he murmured, his lips close to her cheek, I've decided not
to go ahead with the building of the hotel complex.'
'You've---!' She drew away, her eyes agleam. 'I had an idea that you
were reconsidering! Oh, but it's wonderful news! Everyone will be so
grateful!'
'I know it.'
'You'll lose a lot of money,' she reminded him, a shade of concern in
her voice.
'No matter. There are far more important things in life.' He drew her to
him and kissed her unresisting lips. 'Dear Alida, I hope you know what
I mean by those words?'
A question which could have been a proposal of marriage. She made
no answer, thinking of her parents, her promise to her mother. Darius
made no attempt to hurry her and together they began to walk on,
treading the powdered pink sand under a tropical sky caressed by
starlight. The lagoon slumbered, invitingly still, and one or two people [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]