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Authors: Anne Saunders

Dancing in the Shadows

BOOK: Dancing in the Shadows
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DANCING IN THE SHADOWS

DANCING IN THE SHADOWS

Anne Saunders

British
Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available

This eBook published by AudioGO Ltd, Bath, 2012.

Published by arrangement with the Author

Epub ISBN 9781445829456

Copyright © Anne Saunders 1978

All rights reserved

Jacket illustration ©
iStockphoto.com

CHAPTER ONE

When her hired car broke down, Dorcas admitted to herself that it had been foolish of her not to stick to the beaten track. The hot Spanish sun dried her throat, and she was glad to find a patch of shade as she prepared for a lonely wait. This proved to be even longer than anticipated and despair was beginning to set in when a car came into sight.

It stopped in response to her frantic hand wave, and a man climbed stiffly from behind the wheel. Rotund figure, bright flower decorated shirt, his perspiring face wide in a smile. He—and his round-faced female companion—just had to be English!

How sweetly his straight-to-the-point: ‘Help needed?' fell on her ears.

‘That's the understatement of the year,' she admitted. ‘I'm Dorcas West. My car has broken down. Do you know of a garage near here?'

‘Passed one not too far back, my dear.
Garage Inglés.
They say it's run by an Englishman by the name of Tom Bennett. My name is Henry Brookes, and this is Martha, my wife.'

It was Martha Brookes who said: ‘Let Henry have a look first. He knows quite a bit about cars.' As Henry obligingly delved beneath the
bonnet,
her eyes whisked over Dorcas. Dorcas writhed under an expression that clearly deplored her lack of prudence in travelling alone.

The car defeated Henry. After a short consultation between husband and wife, Dorcas gratefully accepted the offer of a lift back to the garage. She hated troubling these nice people, especially as Henry Brookes kept glancing furtively at his watch, as if time was a vital factor.

She was relieved on their account, as well as her own, when Tom Bennett turned out to be a fair haired giant, with a wholesome manner that motherly Martha Brookes took to on sight.

Giving a small involuntary sigh, Martha Brookes said: ‘I think we can safely leave you in Mr Bennett's dependable care. Goodbye, dear. Good luck.'

A salutary parting wish that was to look the other way. Dorcas was mercifully unaware of this as she turned to match Tom Bennett's friendly grin.

Tom took a note of the abandoned car's whereabouts, and nonchalantly left Dorcas in charge of his garage while he went to have a look at it. He returned with the car on the end of a tow rope.

‘Not good?' she said, reading his expression.

‘Rented job, you said?'

‘Yes.'

‘Some
firms are quite reputable. Some wouldn't allow this heap of rubbish on the road.'

‘As bad as that?' Dorcas questioned in dismay.

‘Let's put it this way. Shall I phone the car hire firm and give them a few blistering comments, or will you?'

‘You please, if you don't mind. I don't know any blistering comments. The language class I attended didn't teach us any.'

‘It wouldn't. Want me to tell them to send a replacement car? Might be some delay. The recent rain, after that long dry spell, has caused a landslip and the main road is temporarily closed.'

‘I wouldn't know about that. I haven't been sticking to the main road. Are the trains getting through?'

‘At the moment, yes.'

‘That would seem my safest bet. Don't bother about a replacement car. Just ask them to collect their property. I'll catch the train.'

‘Wise girl,' he approved. He told her how to get to the station. Then added in friendly speculation: ‘Not that I'm trying to hurry you away.'

‘I really must go. How much do I owe you?'

‘Forget it.'

‘I paid the hire car fee in advance. There should be a refund. If there is, please keep it for your trouble,' she said punctiliously. He
reminded
Dorcas of her brother, Michael. Which was odd because they weren't really alike.

Memory of her brother put a bar between her eyes, and Tom took this as a sign of rejection to his friendly overture. As his heart was already spoken for he thought that perhaps it was as well, and when Dorcas asked if there was anywhere she could get a cup of English tea, he directed her to Mama's Hacienda, assuring her that Mama made an excellent brew. He watched her walk bravely up the road, her suitcase bumping against her bare legs.

Tom had said Mama's Hacienda was the third villa past the monastery. She must have been mistaken because here it was and the monastery was beyond, on the rise of the hill. The foliage-laced, sparkling white villa was exactly as Tom had described it.

Voices drifted to her on a gentle breeze the moment before she spied the tables and chairs set in the chequered light and shade beneath a canopy of trees. She walked through the imposing wrought-iron gates, a presentiment of loneliness clutching at her throat, a feeling that her presence was an intrusion.

It will pass in a moment, she thought, brushing it off as her usual awkwardness when having to face strangers. And so many of them. It must be a very popular place. To her growing consternation, she saw there wasn't a
vacant
seat.

She stood, feeling lost and irresolute, not knowing whether to go or stay. Already she was collecting a fair share of attention. Her own glance chanced upon the regal-looking English lady presiding over a large silver teapot. Mama? Having a preconceived picture of a fat, homely señora firmly established in her mind, she felt slightly cross with Tom Bennett for not warning her that Mama was a compatriot.

This very unlikely-looking Mama enquired in highly cultured English: ‘Yes? Did you want something?'

‘Tea, please,' said Dorcas meekly and was unprepared for, and a little hurt by, the ripple of laughter her request brought. Hating to be so very much in the limelight, she darted the gallant Spaniard who offered her his seat a look of undying gratitude. She dare not look at him properly, not yet, until her embarrassment had evaporated a little.

‘Tea for the señorita,' she heard him say. And shortly afterwards a welcome cup of tea was handed to her.

Her Spanish gallant procured an extra chair from somewhere and asked permission to join her. Dorcas nodded. In the circumstances she could hardly do otherwise.

He spoke excellent English and as she raised her eyes for the first time, she began to doubt her original hurried assessment of his
nationality.
He was tall, even by English standards, and his skin wasn't as dark as a Spaniard's, although he had a Spaniard's arrogant features. It was a bold, challenging face; a face with the medieval quality one finds in the well-preserved portraits that hang in art galleries. But the well-defined mouth was that of a modern-day buccaneer. And the eyes, unexpectedly the blue of a midnight sky, contained a most indecorous twinkle.

She sipped her tea, feeling more disconcerted by his gaze than the collective gazes of everybody else around her. She wondered, inconsequently, where he'd got his dark blue eyes from.

‘I did not expect to see so many people,' she said conversationally.

‘These are my parents' friends. They are here to celebrate my parents' thirtieth wedding anniversary.'

Dorcas's cheeks flushed a brighter red than the blood-red roses on the table.

‘Wedding anniversary!'

She should have suspected something like this. For one thing, everybody was dressed for an occasion. No way did they resemble the usual oddly garbed collection of tourists. And, of course, this explained the stares and amused glances.

She drew in an agonized breath. ‘I'd no idea I'd gatecrashed a private party. I didn't know Mama's Hacienda wasn't open for normal
trade.'

Worse was to follow.

‘Mama's Hacienda?' His surprise turned to amusement. ‘I see!'

And quite suddenly Dorcas saw too.

‘This isn't Mama's Hacienda?'

‘No. This is the residence of the Señores Ruiz. The distinguished looking bearded gentleman is Enrique Ruiz, my papa. My mother is Rose Ruiz. She is English, as you are probably aware. I am Carlos Ruiz, although I answer just as happily to Charles, the English equivalent of my name.'

Dorcas realized he wanted some return for all that information. She reasoned this out very slowly because her mind was still in shock. ‘Oh . . . yes . . . please forgive me. I'm still reeling. What a dreadful mistake to make. I'm Dorcas West. And I must go.'

‘I offend you by laughing.' He sobered instantly. ‘I am not laughing at you.'

‘That's very nice to hear, but I'm still . . .'

‘I am smiling at the benevolence of the kindly fate that directed your steps. Please stay.'

In her struggle for composure, she was clumsily honest. ‘This isn't fate-planned. This is the hand of human error. Mine.'

‘Don't you believe in fate?' he said with dry audacity. The impression being that he was challenging her to believe in something he regarded with scepticism.

‘No,
I don't.' Yet . . . absurdly . . . it was as if an unknown force had brought her here, and that a step taken today could never be retraced.

The dark blue sorcerer's eyes teased her gullibility. It hardly seemed fair, not when these same eyes were guiding her into this area of thought. It was weak of her to allow her mind to be manipulated in this way. She should break free and run; yet she sat motionless, hardly daring to breathe for fear of breaking this—yes!—enchanted spell her common-sense was frantically denying.

She must have moved, must have obeyed the feeble spark of rebellion and made some effort to escape, because his hands were easing her back into her chair.

‘You can't go until you have told me all about yourself. There is something about you I find intriguing.'

Her hands fidgeted on her lap.

‘You are . . .' His brow creased as his mind plundered his brain for the word . . . ‘an enigma. A sealed book whose pages would make a fascinating perusal. I do not embarrass you?'

‘No,' she lied, choking on his effrontery. Who wouldn't be embarrassed!

‘You are so English,' he said. ‘As English as the rose, and tea in delicate china cups.'

‘Yes.'

‘I am half English,' he said, with a
Spaniard's
pomposity that widened her smile into a laugh.

Her gaze escaped past his to the
ama de casa,
Rose Luiz, this disturbing man's English mother. ‘You've got your mother's eyes.'

‘And whose eyes have you got, Dorcas?' He used her name naturally, without familiarity. ‘Sherry-gold eyes.' He reached up as if to touch them, but his fingertips drew circles round them in the air. ‘And the smallness and grace of a gazelle. You are well-named. Who have you to thank for such foresight?'

‘My father chose my name. In Greek, Dorcas means gazelle, as you obviously know.'

She turned her chin from the penetration of his gaze. His hand lightly touched her cheek, flooding it with colour. ‘I wonder if you know how beautiful you are.'

She made herself remember that all Spaniards flattered to the point of exaggeration. Very probably he was saying what he thought was expected of him. It did not cross her mind that he could be flirting with her—showing unwarranted interest in her personal background—out of kindness. Certainly, if his intention was to take her mind off her
faux pas
, he was one hundred per cent successful. Her embarrassment in his interest made her forget she was an interloper.

‘I am not beautiful,' she declaimed. ‘My brother is beautiful. I am insignificant beside him.'

‘Is
your brother travelling with you?'

‘No. He is touring France. I chose to holiday in Spain. I am alone.' Should she have said that? Was it wise to advertise her vulnerability?

BOOK: Dancing in the Shadows
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