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Authors: Elizabeth Hunter

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BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
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She sighed, hating to have another clash of wills with him so soon. “As your wife, I consider I have the right to have some say in whom we invite here,” she burst out, wishing that she could sound

as cool and logical as he did.

“As my wife,” he retorted, “you will do as I think best - or take the consequences!”

“But that’s barbaric!”

“Isn’t it?” he agreed calmly. “Very Greek!” He pulled her hair gently, smiling straight into her eyes. “It won’t do you any harm to have Delia here for a while. She can give you a hand with the children and give you a chance to have some time to yourself.”

“Just because you say so?” she demanded. “Well, I won’t.”

“You haven’t much choice. She’s coming, and that’s that.” He pulled her hair again, rather less gently. “Unless you have a good reason as to why she should stay away?” She shook her head miserably. “She’ll make trouble.” “Then you’ll have to cope with her when she does,” he answered quietly. “If you care enough to put a spoke in her wheel, instead of giving way to her!”

Her eyes widened. “Why can’t you give way to me?” she complained. “Only this once! It can’t mean very much to you whether she comes or not.”

“Ah, but it does!” He pushed her back against the pillows, studying her mouth with an interest that made her catch her lower lip between her teeth and avert her eyes. “Besides,” he added, so softly that she couldn’t be sure he had said it, “I like it when you’re subservient and anxious to please me, and very, very feminine - like now!” His lips took hers with an insolent freedom that made it very clear what was her place in his scheme of things. She tried to twist away, but his hold on her hair made her cry out. Instantly she was free. “Did I hurt you?” he asked. “Morag, you shouldn’t fight me!”

“I don’t!” she snapped. “I’m not bossy like you!” “Bossy?” His concern dissolved into laughter. “Because I won’t let you have your way over Delia?”

“Because you never let me have my own way!”

He leaned on his elbow, putting out a hand to touch her face, tracing the line of her lips with his finger. “I will when you really know what you want,” he promised. “At the moment you still haven’t the courage of your convictions to dare all because only one thing matters to you. So you might as well go my way until you find your tongue, karthia mou, because I know exactly what I want!”

Her lips trembled against his finger and her own hands came up round his neck to bury themselves in the virile black hair at his neck. “Pericles -” She shut her eyes and swallowed convulsively. Didn’t he know how his touch awakened her own need for him?

“Well, go on, then,” he said. “Why don’t you ask me to kiss you?” Her eyes flew open and she turned away from him. “I -1 can’t!” she said.

“Then you haven’t any grievance because it’s I who command you, agapi mou, for I can, and will, take your kisses when I want them! With or without your consent,” he added for good measure. He kissed her ear. “If you were honest you’d admit you were glad to have it that way, because you like my kisses, don’t you?” He turned her face to his. “Don’t you?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” She was almost in tears with frustration and, at that moment, she thought she disliked him more than anyone she knew. Then his mouth came down on hers and she melted into his arms in an agony of love for him. It was an unfair advantage he had, she thought while she could think at all, for he could rouse in her this delicious ecstasy at will, whereas she couldn’t even find the words to beg him to kiss her again.

“There’s a letter for you, Morag.” Dora looked curiously at her daughter-in-law, but she said nothing. “Aren’t you going to open it?” “It’s from Delia!”

“All the more reason to find out what she has to say.” She smiled, revealing all the warm charm of which she was capable. “Do open it! I’ve been sitting here looking at it for nearly an hour, wondering if she’s changed her mind and decided not to come after all. Even the children were up before you this morning!”

“Yes, I’m sorry. I thought they’d sleep late.”

“They did!” Dora rejoined. “Only not so late as you did. I’d have brought you your breakfast in bed, but Pericles said you were to be left to sleep it out.” She raised a sardonic eyebrow. “In my day it was the wife who guarded her husband’s rest, not the other way round. Have you been finding the children too much for you, my dear?” “N-no,” Morag said.

“Wait until you have three or four to cope with! Kimon and Peggy

are of an age when they can mostly look after themselves, but it’s a different matter when they are babies!” Morag gave her a confused

look. “I don’t know what

you’re talking about.”

“My dear girl, what do you think? Oh, don’t bother to tell me that it’s none of my business, because Perry has already done that! He actually said he wanted to have you to himself for a while! I think that’s a very good sign, don’t you? He looked so happy this morning! Just what I’d always hoped for him!”

But that wasn’t because he loved her! Morag protested silently. It was because he didn’t love her! He didn’t want children while there were no solid foundations to their marriage. Who would? He might find someone he liked better than herself and he wouldn’t want to feel guilty about leaving her and starting again with someone else. He was bound to prefer somebody else sooner or later. Someone like Delia, for instance. Someone who was gay and beautiful and very, very sure of her own attractions!

Morag turned her stepsister’s letter over in her hand, trying to focus on the bright, purple ink in which the address was written. Mrs. Pericles Holmes. Her heart turned right over within her. Was that her? Pericles had called her Mrs. Holmes, but somehow that was quite different from Mrs. Pericles Holmes! That made her seem a part of him, such as she longed to be.

She tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. It was seldom that Delia bothered to put pen to paper. She far preferred the telephone as a means of communication, and Morag could imagine that it must have been her father who had put his foot down this time or she would surely have rung through to Greece with as little thought as she rang up the people next door.

“Dear Morag,” she read. “I don’t suppose it makes any difference to you when I arrive, so I shall turn up when I’m ready. Everyone has been very cross ever since you left, and were crosser still when I said I intended visiting you. But I liked Pericles, and why should you mind if I come and look him up? You’re safely married to him! Anyway, I’m coming whether you want me to or not, because your father has been very odd lately and I don’t want him to think we’re less than good friends. Have you been telling him anything? Ma thinks you

may have had a heart-to-heart when you were here getting married. It wouldn’t be wise if you were to turn him against me, you know. Just thought I’d warn you! See you soon, Delia.”

“May I read it?” Dora asked.

Morag coloured. “I’d rather you didn’t,” she murmured. “Delia says lots of things she doesn’t mean.” Dora held out an imperious hand. “If you want me for an ally while she’s here, I may as well know the worst.”

“All right,” Morag said reluctantly. “It doesn’t say anything anyway. I mean, it doesn’t say anything much. It worries me about my father, though. He’s always adored Delia and she could never do any wrong in his eyes.”

“What about her mother?”

“She preferred Delia too. Delia was her own daughter and they’re very - very alike!”

Dora came to the end of the letter and flung it down on to the table in front of her. “What could you have told your father about her?” she demanded.

“Nothing very terrible. It was always I who got into scrapes and had to be rescued from them. Delia never did anything wrong. Anything I could tell my father would have been my fault, far more than hers!”

Dora’s eyes met hers. “Have you told Pericles?”

“He knows,” Morag admitted.

“Then we needn’t worry! Let her come and do her worst!” Dora wrinkled her nose fastidiously. “I don’t think I’m going to like her. You can congratulate yourself, Morag Grant, in having a united family behind you! I thought you rather negligible when you first arrived, yet you have all of us eating out your hand: me, Kimon, Peggy - even Pericles! I wonder how you do it?”

Morag was absurdly pleased by her mother-in-law’s praise. “I like you all,” she said, “and I want you to like me.”

Dora chuckled. “Especially Pericles! No, don’t bother to deny it. Even Kimon recognises that Pericles is the sun, the moon, and the stars to you. Quite different from Susan!” she added on a note of satisfaction. She looked back at Delia’s letter. “I think we’ll put her in your old room. It’s nicer than the other spare room, which is smaller

and rather hot at this time of year.”

Was it her “old room” already? Morag supposed it was, although most of her things were still there, in the wardrobe and in the chest of drawers. It would be a good excuse to move in properly to the room she now shared with Pericles, she thought, knowing that she would never have found the courage to do so without such an excuse. It would also mean that there would be no going back there herself, and that, too, might have its advantages.

Dora had told the maid to get the room ready for Delia, but Morag was there before her, making sure that all her own things were gone before her stepsister arrived. She had not said anything to Pericles and she wilted inwardly when she thought of how he would tease her for taking such a liberty, but he didn’t seem to notice at all. In fact he had obviously taken it for granted that she would move into his room as a matter of course. He had said he expected her to sleep in his bed and apparently he thought that was the end of the matter and that she would obey him without any further argument. And she had, though not without a great deal of inner conflict. If he thought it had been easy for her, it hadn’t, and one day she would tell him exactly how difficult it had been! Perhaps, one day, she would find the words for that at least!

When the room was ready, she went down to the beach with the children. Kimon could swim quite well, but Peggy was still at the nervous stage when she alternated between wild boasts as to her prowess and shrieks of fear if the water happened to go over her head by accident.

“Will you come in too?” she asked Morag, looking longingly at the bright blue that lapped amiably at her feet.

“Yes. Shall we swim out to that rock?” Morag suggested. “I can’t!” Peggy yelped. “I can’t swim as far as that!” “You said you could yesterday,” Kimon reminded her. “Daddy said you couldn’t, and you said you could easily!” “So I can, if Morag comes too!” Peggy claimed, casting a nervous look at the rock in the distance. “She can

help me if I get tired.”

Kimon squinted a look at Morag. “What are you going to do if Morag needs help too?” he asked, and was off down the beach, feet flying, with Morag in hot pursuit. “You can’t catch me!” he jeered

over his shoulder.

Morag increased her pace, determined not to be beaten. In doing so, she failed to see Pericles coming towards her, and ran full tilt into him.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she gasped.

His arms caught her up and swung her round in the air. “Don’t be! Shall I catch that young devil for you? What do you want him for?”

“He implied that I couldn’t swim out to that rock and back without getting into trouble.”

Pericles looked amused. “Can you? Let’s see you do it, then!”

“I’m going to swim there and back too,” Peggy said a trifle uncertainly. “Will you watch me too ?”

“Okay,” said Pericles. “Kimon and I will sit on the beach and laze while you two prove yourselves!” He lowered himself on to the sand and lay back with a self-satisfied air. “Get to it, girls, I shall enjoy watching you!”

Feeling rather foolish, Morag pulled her cap on over her hair and began to walk out the first few feet until she had enough water to swim in. She was very conscious of Pericles making the most of looking her up and down as she took a header into the blue depths

and struck out for the black shape of the rock in front of her.

“Wait for me, Morag!” Peggy cried after her.

Morag turned, swimming a few strokes on her back. “Come on, then!”

“I can’t go so quickly!” Peggy pushed herself off and began to swim a pedestrian, stately breast-stroke towards Morag. “I’m coming!” she announced triumphantly.

Morag looked over her shoulder at the rock. It served her right, she thought, for wanting to show off to Pericles. She had always been able to swim well and she had wanted to make him admire her for that at least, by flashing through the water out to the rock and back again. But with Peggy slowly coming towards her she had no choice but to slow her strokes to match those of the little girl and to encourage her to do a few more strokes, and then a few more, until at last they reached the rock.

“Do you want to wait a while before we go back?” she asked

Peggy.

Peggy nodded, gasping and spluttering as a small wave caught the side of her head. “I don’t think I can swim back!”

“Of course you can!”

Peggy clutched at Morag’s shoulder, pulling herself closer to the

rock. “Daddy will give me a piggy-back if we ask him. He won’t

mind! He often does it!”

But Morag was determined that they shouldn’t have to call upon

Pericles. There was no reason, she thought, why she shouldn’t give

Peggy a lift back to the beach herself. She was strong enough and

she could swim as well as anyone she knew.

“You’d better hop on my back,” she told Peggy.

The child looked dubiously at her. “You’re too small, Morag,” she

said at last “I’ll push you under. I want Daddy!”

“Of course I’m big enough!” Morag assured her. “I won’t let

anything happen to you!”

Peggy obediently put her arms round Morag’s neck and sat astride

her back, clinging on for dear life. Morag struck out for the shore,

using her favourite Australian crawl. But Peggy was far from happy

on her precarious perch and tightened her grasp round Morag’s neck

until she was practically throttling her. Morag put up a hand to

BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
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