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Authors: Rosemary Carter

No Greater Joy

BOOK: No Greater Joy
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NO
GREATER JOY

 

Rosemary Carter

 

 

She would not let him love her
Alison Lenox loved working at Bushveld Camp. Giving children riding lessons and trail rides through the African countryside helped her to escape the bitter memories of Raymond's betrayal.
But before she knew what was happening, her heart had betrayed her again. Alison just could ignore Clint Demaine, the devastating owner of the camp.
Somehow, in spite of all her fears, Clint broke through her resistance. He wasn't the kind of man to take no for an answer.

 

CHAPTER ONE

A
LISON
had no idea how long the man had been watching her.

She was grooming her horse when something made her straighten and turn her head. Some sense that she was not alone in the stable-yard, and that someone was looking at her.

It was one of those glorious mornings when the sun stood high in the sky, and the long grasses of the African bushveld rippled in the wind. Girl and horse had had such a wonderful time galloping over
kopjes
and beside
vleis
that Alison had even been able to forget that anything existed beyond the harmony with the horse that had been her joy since her fifteenth birthday.

It was the sense that she was not alone which had pulled her back to reality.

The man was leaning against the white-railed fence of the paddock, a jacket slung across his shoulder, one leg crossed casually over the other. A stranger. The sun was behind him, so that Alison could not see his face but she didn't have to see his face to know that he would be attractive. There was a kind of animal sinuousness in that long, lean body which in itself was attractive.

A lithe movement brought him upright, and then he was coming towards her—a superbly built man, his gait long and loose and somehow uncompromising. Instinctively, Alison took a step backwards, momentarily stunned by a maleness which she sensed rather than understood. And then she remembered who she was, and that this was her territory, and she stood her ground.

He had to be a customer, interested in boarding a horse, or something equally innocuous. But she was in no mood these days to talk to men, attractive ones in particular. She cast a quick look around the stables; let Dad do the talking. But her father was nowhere to be seen.

The man
was
attractive, she saw as he came closer— six feet two at least, with broad shoulders, narrow hips and long legs encased in faultlessly tailored trousers. He had the ruggedly tanned appearance of an outdoors person. His hair was thick and dark, his face all chiselled lines, and beneath winging brows his eyes were appraising. Tough, she decided, and very confident, as if he took life pretty much in his stride.

'Nice place you have here.' His voice was low and vital.

It so happened that Alison was in no mood for pleasantries, so she just said coolly, 'Can I help you?'

Something flickered briefly in his eyes, but his voice did not change. 'That depends. I'm looking for Miss Alison Lenox.'

'I am Alison Lenox.'

'I thought you might be.' He put out his right hand. 'Clint Demaine.'

Clint Demaine—the name was familiar.

Alisdrt made herself take his hand. His grip was cool and firm, nothing in it to account for the quiver that shot unexpectedly up her arm. The sensation caused something to harden inside her, because with any sort of feeling came vulnerability, and she had made herself a promise that she would never be vulnerable again.

She frowned up at him. 'Mr Demaine...?' 'It's obvious you've forgotten.' He smiled down at her, an attractive, devil-may-care smile that warmed his eyes and deepened the laughter-lines which ran from nose to mouth. 'I wrote to you a few months ago, offering you a job.'

She remembered then. 'Of course—the children's adventure camp! You wanted me to take care of the horses and to lead the children on trail-rides through the mountains.'

'Right.'

'But I declined the offer, Mr Demaine.'

'To my regret. I don't mean to be personal, Miss Lenox, but...I gathered your refusal concerned a man?'

She hesitated only a moment. 'Yes.'

'Someone special in your life?'

She certainly owed him no explanation, this too attractive man who was unlikely to have any more compunction than Raymond about hurting a woman.

So she only said, 'In a way. Although I don't see what concern that is of yours, Mr Demaine.'

'It isn't.' A thoughtful look. 'Except that I was hoping you might reconsider my offer.'

'I don't think so—I'm sorry.'

'Because of your boyfriend?'

'Yes.' The lie was convenient.

There was an expression she could not read in the eyes that held hers. 'I'm sorry, too.'

When he made no move to go, she said, 'I don't understand, Mr Demaine. Surely you must have found someone else for the job by now?'

'There was someone, yes, but she hurt herself when her horse came to grief on a hurdle.'Alison looked at him disbelievingly. 'And you came - all this way on the offchance that I might change my mind?'

'I could have written or phoned,' he conceded, with that attractive smile. 'But since I had some business in the area, and have to spend a night in the village anyway, it seemed like a good idea to come and see you.'

'Well, I'm glad you didn't go out of your way,' she said politely. 'And I hope you still manage to find the right person.'

'1 hope so too, Miss Lenox.'

There was an odd look in his eyes as he walked away.

'Something on your mind?' asked a voice at her side.

Alison turned to her sister, who had come up beside her at the paddock gate. 'I think I may just be the world's biggest idiot, Lynn.'

'Anything to do with the man who just drove off in that very expensive car?'

'That was Clint Demaine, the fellow who owns Bushveld Camp—the children's adventure camp.'

'Right! 1 remember the name. He offered you a job, didn't he?'

'Out of the blue, yes. Seems he'd heard that I'd worked at Morley's Camp two years running, doing pretty much the same things he'd have wanted me to do at his own camp, I suppose—working with children and horses. And when Morley's decided not to run the camp again this year, Jeff Morley gave Mr Demaine my name.'

'But you turned the offer down because...' Lynn's words died away.

'Because I thought Raymond and I were going to be married,' Alison said drily. 'It's OK, Lynn, don't feel so bad about it, you can't keep watching every word you say to me. And the same goes for Mom and Dad. All the family sympathy is well-meant...'

'But it's driving you up the wall?'

'It's beginning to get to me,' Alison admitted, blinking back a sudden rush of tears. She had done with crying! She didn't intend to shed another tear over Raymond Whitney, nor over any other man.

Lynn pretended not to notice her distress. 'What about this Clint Demaine? And what makes you the world's biggest idiot?'

'He came here to see if I might have had second thoughts about taking the job.'

'Oh?'

'I said no. I wasn't thinking too clearly.' Alison's expression was thoughtful.

'You mean you're sorry now?'

'When it's probably too late... yes.'

'You'd like to get away?' suggested Lynn.

'I'm impatient to start making a new life for myself. I can't wait to get out and begin my career.' Alison frowned. 'There's Raymond's wedding too, of course— I'd be less than honest if I said I'd be sorry to miss it, as well as all the fanfare leading up to it. Edna's dad is so well off, and she's an only child, they're going to make this an event people around here will talk about for ages.'

'I suppose so...' Lynn looked troubled.

'You must all go, of course,' insisted Alison. 'You and Mom and Dad.'

'You know we'll hate every moment.'

'Oh, I know that, but you can't stay away. The Lenoxes and the Whitneys have known each other since before you and I were born.'

'But
you
wouldn't have to subject yourself to it, Allie. Nobody could expect you to, nobody would be so cruel.'

'But my absence would be noted—and talked about. And so yes, if I'm here, I fully intend to go to Raymond's wedding, if only to show that I'm still alive and kicking.'

Alison was silent a moment. When she went on, she looked grim. 'I love this place—the village, the stables, the country life. But I get so impatient with the small- mindedness that goes along with it. Everyone knowing everyone else's business—the gossip, the stares every time I walk down the main street.'

'People will forget in time,' said Lynn comfortingly.

'Yes, I know. It's been a month since Raymond and I stopped seeing each other, so perhaps they're starting to forget already. Anyway, I can live with the gossip- even if I don't like it particularly.'

Lynn smiled. 'You always were the spunky one of us two.'

Alison grinned back at her. 'You're not too bad yourself, Sis!' And then her face grew serious. 'I'm restless, Lynn. I can't wait to get on with my life.'

'You still want stables of your own, then?'

'More than ever.'

'And that's why you're sorry you didn't take Clint Demaine up on his offer?'

'It would have been a first step, don't you see?' Alison explained. 'I've been thinking, Lynn, making plans. I still have all the money Gran left me, and I know Mom and Dad won't mind giving me a loan. I'll do the things we do here—board horses for other people, give lessons.

I know how to run a stable, and I think I could make a success of it.'

'I know you could.'

'Trouble is, I'm not yet quite ready for it. That's why I should have taken the job at Bushveld Camp. The salary is fantastic—I remember that from Clint Demaine's letter—and I'd be working with children and horses, the two things I adore.'

'You've convinced me.' Lynn, who hadn't seen her sister so excited about anything in too long a time, despite her brave words, was smiling. 'The thing I don't understand is why you refused Mr Demaine.'

'Put it down to my stupid habit of not reflecting before I react. I didn't give myself time to think.'

'I still don't understand.'

Alison looked at her sister, then away. 'He was just too much of everything. Too good-looking, too con- 'fident, probably too rich.'

'How do you know he's too rich?'

'You saw that glitzy piece of metal he calls a car.'

'I have a feeling you left out too sexy,' put in her sister, a little mischievously.

'That, too,' Alison said crossly.

'Did he make a pass at you?'

'Heavens, no, he was politeness itself. On the surface. But there was something in his eyes...' Alison stopped. 'Why are you smiling?'

'I'm glad that Raymond didn't spoil you for other men.'

'That's just it! The reason I said no to Mr Demaine. Raymond
did
spoil me.'

'Allie...' Lynn put out a tentative hand. 'It would be good for you to meet other men. You're not going towant to be alone for ever just because Raymond Whitney behaved like a swine.'

'Forget it!' Alison shot back fiercely. 'Raymond opened my eyes. I mean, Raymond, of all people! Sweet, gentle Raymond. Now that I know what men are capable of doing, I'll give no man the chance to hurt me again.'

Lynn was silent a moment before asking, 'Are you really telling me that all these thoughts went through your mind when you refused Clint Demaine's offer?'

Alison grinned at her. 'In condensed form. Stupid, wasn't it? It's not even as if I'd have anything to do with the man.'

Lynn was relieved to see a lightening of her sister's mood. 'Besides which, Mr Demaine might be married. Perhaps his wife will be at the camp, too.'

'Could be;' Alison shrugged. But Clint Demaine had not had the look of a married man.

'Are you going to take the job, Allie?'

'I'd like very much to give it a try. If I haven't ruined my chances, that is. Mr Demaine said something about spending the night in the village.'

'He'd have to be at the Flame Tree, then. The only other place is a dump. Will you phone him, Allie?'

'Might be better if I went to see him. Keep your fingers crossed for me, Lynn.'

 

It was impossible to miss seeing the sleek, silver-grey Porsche parked in the shade of the flame trees. But Clint Demaine did not answer his phone when the desk clerk rang through to his room. Alison glanced around the lounge, where several people were chatting over drinks, then she went outside and walked in the direction of the swimming-pool.

There was only one person in the water, and Alison knew at once that it was Clint. Shading her eyes against the glare, she watched him a few minutes. Clint Demaine was a strong swimmer and a joy to watch—style fluid and beautiful, arms and legs pushing a strong yet effortless path through the water, neat somersault turn when he came to the end of a length and began another.

He had done several lengths when he raised his head and saw her. White teeth glinted in a flash of recognition.

Something quivered inside Alison as he swam to the side and grinned wickedly up at her from the water. It was the oddest sensation.

BOOK: No Greater Joy
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