Authors: Elizabeth Hunter
654-CHERRY BLOSSOM CLINIC 1071 — SPICED WITH CLOVES 1758—THE CRESCENT MOON 1780—THE TOWER OF THE WINDS 1807—THE TREE OF IDLENESS
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Original hard cover edition published in 1974 by Mills & Boon Limited.
© Elizabeth Hunter 1974
SBN 373-01844-4 Harlequin edition published January 1975
All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the Author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the Author and all the incidents are pure invention
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Printed in Canada For Mrs. Meryl Farrington, and for her family who kndly loaned me her company for eight days in Greece.
Nemesis was the compensating goddess, measuring out happiness and misery. She took especial care of the presumptuous, punishing hubris, the crime of considering oneself master of one’s own destiny. She was known also by the surnames of Adrastia (inescapable) and of Rhamnousia, from her sanctuary at Rhamnous. Associated with the worship of Nemesis was Themis, the goddess who personified law, equity and custom.
Blue Guide on Greece, page 216 Published by Ernest Berm Ltd.
The little village of Marathon wilted under the hot sun. Even the breeze, such as it was, did no more than disturb the dust at the corners of the narrow streets, blowing its hot breath on the few plants that struggled in the heat, scorching the dry leaves into a uniform brown. Morag Grant stepped off the pavement and narrowly missed being run over by an army truck that came hurtling round the comer. It was the only sign of life she had seen.
Once more she consulted the guide-book in her knapsack, easing her shoulders from the strain of carrying the heavy bag. It would take her three hours to walk to Rhamous, she thought. Three hours in this blazing heat and on an empty stomach. She made a face at the printed word which had not changed at all from when she had last looked at it. Would it be worth going all that way? She had thought so that morning in Athens, when she had thought that anything would be better than staying in the sultry atmosphere of the city. Now, she was not so sure. These things were fun when one had company to complain to, and to laugh with at the shared complaints; on her own, she found she was lonely and dispirited even by the prospect of enjoying herself.
Morag picked up her knapsack again with her left hand and wandered into the relative coolness of one of the shops.
“Kalimera” she murmured to the black-clad woman who sat behind the counter in the dim light.
“Kalimera sas” the woman answered.
Morag pointed to a bottle of fizzy lemonade. “Please,” she said, and then again: “Parakalo”
The woman picked out one of the bottles and opened it with a practised movement of her wrist, pushing the lemonade across the counter together with a wrapped straw for Morag to drink from. Deutsch?” she asked.
Morag shook her head. ‘‘English,” she answered. She wondered if she looked German, or if it was because by far the greatest number of tourists in Greece were from Germany, but the enquiry about her nationality seemed to have followed her
around ever since she had arrived.
The woman favoured her with a slow smile. “Kald.” She blew out her cheeks and shook the front of her black blouse, signifying that it was hot. Morag nodded eagerly, putting off the moment when she would have to go back outside into the blinding heat for as long as possible.
But in the end she had no further excuse for delay and she stepped out into the shimmering whiteness of the street, blinking at the sudden excess of light. It was not very far down the Athens road where she had to turn off on to the smaller road to Rhamous, but by the time she had reached it she was already hot and sticky and the straps of her knapsack had rubbed her shoulders raw. With determination, she gritted her teeth and set herself the next measure of the walk before she would allow herself to rest again.
So set she was on completing the distance she had decided upon that she barely noticed the car as it drew up beside her.
“Want a lift?” a masculine voice asked her.
She started, pausing to wipe the sweat out of her eyes. Of course she wanted a lift! But she wasn’t sure if it would be wise to accept, all the same, and stood in an agony of indecision by the side of the road, trying to make up her mind. The two children in the back were a decided plus, and the right-hand drive telling its own story that this was a British car was another one. But the man didn’t look English. Far from it. His black, curly hair gave him an exotic look that was further accentuated by the width of his shoulders and the cut of his shirt that was only done up by the last button revealing an expanse of tanned chest set off by a golden crucifix of the Greek type, with Christ regnant and vested on the front. He was a minus factor, she decided, though a
mightily attractive one.
“Get in!” he said.
“But - ” she began, then hesitated. “Are you going to Rhamous?”
“Get in!” he said again with increasing impatience.
She looked down at her knapsack, a little put out when the man merely grinned and, getting slowly out of the car, lifted it
with an ease that made her own struggles with the thing seem pointless. “Do you want it with you, or shall I put it up on the roof-rack?” he asked her.
She found herself saying something about putting it wherever it would be more convenient to him and hurried into the front passenger seat. “Hullo,” she said to the children. They were very alike to look at, with practically the same hair-style, though one was clearly a boy and the other a girl.
“Hullo,” they responded. The girl broke into a wide smile. “Were you afraid of Daddy?” she demanded, her eyes twinkling. “I told him he ought to cut his hair before we get to Grandma’s house.”
“Several times,” the girl’s father put in wryly, getting back into
the car. “All right, I’m convinced, I look like Barbarossa himself -”
“Not Barbarossa!” Morag said. “He must have had a red beard!”
“And mine, if I had one, is black,” the man agreed. He smiled
at Morag in a strangely intimate way, as if he knew her well, and
she was surprised to discover a little fountain of excitement
within her that responded to his look in a way she had not
known for a long, long time. “Will you cut it for me in exchange
for transporting you to Rhamous ?” he suggested.
Morag swallowed. “If you like,” she said.
“I think I might like it very much,” he answered imperturbably. “My name is Pericles Holmes. Most people call me Perry. The two in the back are Kimon and Peggy.” “How do you do?” said Morag, still a little uncertain. Surely it hadn’t been as long as all that since she had last sat beside an attractive man and talked nonsense with him? Surely she wasn’t going to be shy? She took a determined hold on herself. “I’m Morag Grant.” She waited for him to recognise the name, but he showed no sign of having done so and she took a quick breath of relief. “Pretty name,” was all he said.
“It isn’t English, but then I’m really a Scot,” she explained. “Only I’ve always lived in England.”
“We’re a bit Scottish too,” Kimon informed her. “But we’re more Greek. Grandma is Greek and Mummy was half Greek too.” “Was?” Morag said before she could stop herself. “She’s dead,”
Peggy said in carefully matter-of-fact tones. “I don’t suppose one keeps one’s nationality when one is dead, do you think? That’s why Kimon said she was half-Greek. She was half British too.” Morag thought she heard a faintly wistful note in the last few words and smiled at the little girl, turning her head to see her the better. “My mother is dead too,” she said. “I can’t remember her at all. My father married again and my stepmother had a little girl too. We were brought up together.”
“Kimon and I are twins,” Peggy volunteered.
“That must be why you look alike,” said Morag.
Peggy’s eyes flashed. “We’re not identical twins. If we were, we’d both be girls —”
“Or boys!” Kimon interrupted. “It would be better if we were both boys. Then we wouldn’t have to live with Grandma!”
“That’s enough, Kimon,” their father interposed. “Morag was telling us about her family. Go on, Morag.” “There isn’t anything much to say,” she answered. “My stepsister and I are the same age, so I suppose we might as well have been twins too.” “Only you didn't like her much, did you?” Pericles Holmes observed. “Why not? Did she tell tales to her mother? Or was it something worse than that?”
The children giggled. Evidently that was considered the most heinous crime that either of them could commit.
“I didn’t dislike her,” Morag compromised. “I suppose we didn’t have much in common.”
Pericles lifted his eyebrows, giving his face a knowing look that disturbed her strangely. “No?”
She cast him a swift look from beneath her lashes. “You can’t dislike someone you live with for years. You have to come to some arrangement so that you don’t,” she confided. “It’s very wearing disliking people and it doesn’t do any good.”
Pericles’ smile mocked her. “That sounds a very profound thought. You have us all disliking her now on your behalf,” he added with a laugh. “Tell us more about her. I like to know my enemy! Is she a blonde like you?” “No.” Morag looked embarrassed. “Her looks are more definite than mine, if you know what I mean. She’s much better looking than I am.”
Pericles laughed. “I prefer a pretty blonde myself, being dark.” Black and beautiful she would have called him, Morag thought. She struggled hastily back into speech before he could guess at her inner turmoil and wonder, as she was already doing, at the reason for it. “I’m not really blonde either! I’m nothing in particular!”
His eyes swept over her. “Perhaps in an English winter. But the sun has bleached your hair nicely since you’ve been out here. Perhaps you haven’t noticed?”
She ran a hand over her hair as if it offended her. “I’ve been camping. Does it look awful?”
His eyes twinkled. “I’d call that a leading question,” he teased her. “I suppose you have a tent in that knapsack of yours?” He frowned as she nodded in agreement “Where are your companions?”
“I haven’t any,” she said.
“Greece is no place for a young woman on her own—”
“Perhaps not. But it really isn’t any of your business, is it?” she retorted.
“I’m making it my business,” he drawled, ignoring her angry face. “What happened to your friends?”
She bit her lip. “I was - held up. The others had all gone by the time I was ready, so I came on my own. I like my own company!” “Like hell you do!”
Morag glared at him, holding on to her temper with a conscious effort. Was it so obvious that she had hated being on her own? She pursed up her lips and studied her fingers carefully, noticing that they were brown from the sun and that she had torn one of her nails.
“There’s Rhamous just round the corner. I’d say you’ve come to the right place, Morag Grant. Play your cards right and Nemesis will make it up to you for all you’ve had to suffer in the past.” Morag was startled out of her anger. “Nemesis? I thought she went in for retribution?”
She considered rebuking him for his use of her first name, but something told her that she would probably regret it if she did. “I know what it is to be unhappy,” she said, “most of us do.”
“Unfortunately,” he agreed. “But most of us are older than you are when we make that discovery. You don’t look much older than Kimon and Peggy!”
But she was older - aeons older than they! She smiled briefly, opting out of the conversation. “I think I’ll read it up before I go on to the site,” she said instead. “I like to know what I’m looking at.”
“You don’t have to do that with Daddy,” Kimon informed her. “He tells us all about the places we visit. He knows them all without having to look at any book!”
Morag didn’t look up. “How come?” she asked.
“It’s my job,” Pericles said simply. “I start work this autumn with the local archaeological society. Before that I had a job with the British Museum.”
“But now we have to live here ,” Peggy sighed. “We have to live with Grandma, and it’s perfectly horrid.”
“Oh dear,” said Morag.
“It’s worse even than that,” Kimon finished for his sister. “We wouldn’t have to if Peggy wasn’t a girl!”
“Why should that make any difference?” Morag asked, genuinely bewildered.