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Authors: Elizabeth Hunter

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BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
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“Daddy says he can’t bring her up on his own,” he said moodily. “She has to have a woman around. Only she wouldn’t ask Grandma anything anyway, because no one would.” He broke off abruptly with a meaning look at Peggy. “Daddy’s bought the tickets, so hush up. He doesn’t like it when we go on about not wanting to live with Grandma. He can’t think of anything else to do with us.” Morag’s sympathy was caught. She knew only too well what it was like to have to live with relations who put up with one rather than love one, and who plainly wished you somewhere else. She was touched too by Pericles Holmes’ concern for his daughter. It showed, she thought, an unusual sensitivity to her needs to want to have a woman take a hand in her upbringing. Her own father had remarried for quite different reasons and had ended by preferring his stepdaughter to his own prickly child - but no doubt he was not wholly to blame for that!

He touched her on her arm and she pulled away from him as if his touch had burned her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I was thinking.” “You think too much,” he observed. “In Greece you have to feel, not think all the time. Particularly not sad thoughts. Here’s your ticket. Come with us and I’ll explain what you have to do to gain the favour of Nemesis.”

He brought his hand from behind his back and grasped her arm firmly with the other one. With a seriousness that intrigued her, he put a shell necklace over her head and arranged it against the opening of her shirt. “The boy who sells the tickets was making them for sale.” he told her. “I have one for Peggy too. The beads of Nemesis. The plastic ones are a bit modern to appeal, I imagine, but the shells should catch her eye. What are you going to ask of her, Morag Grant?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. She felt uncomfortable about accepting the necklace, but he had made it very difficult for her to refuse it. “I hadn’t really realised that it was her temple here. I just came.”

“I expect she’ll forgive you.” There was no hint of a smile, so she couldn’t be sure if he meant what he said or not.

“Are you sure she doesn’t follow you around like - like fate catching up with you?” She wasn’t convinced she wanted to gain Nemesis’ attention. She didn’t trust her, no matter what Pericles said about her.

“The head of her statue that used to be in her temple here is in the British Museum,” he smiled. “I got rather fond of her.” He flicked the shells on her throat with one finger. “I believe you’re scared, Morag. That’ll never do! The Holmes family are here to protect you, you know. You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

She walked behind him up the short path, revelling in the cool wind that blew against her skin. “What makes you think I’m afraid?” she asked.

“It shows in your eyes. What happened, Morag?”

“I was fined for dangerous driving,” she heard herself say. She hadn’t meant to tell him. She hadn’t meant to tell anyone! She had been so sure that she could put it behind her and never refer to it again. Why couldn’t she? Why did she have to go blabbing

about her troubles to any stranger she came across? She could have bitten out her tongue. She had wanted Pericles Holmes to think well of her. It had been important to her, though why she wasn’t prepared to think about. “I pleaded guilty.”

Pericles sent the children running ahead of them with a single gesture of one hand. He might have an English surname, she thought, but his Greek name suited him far better!

“You’ve told me too much, or not enough,” he said quietly. “If you were guilty, why are you kicking so hard against what happened to you?”

She was dismayed to feel the tears pouring down her cheeks and hated herself for showing such weakness. “My fiance died in the crash,” she said simply.

Pericles looked surprised. “I’m sorry. What kind of man was he?”

“Does it matter?”

“I think it does,” he said bluntly.

“Why? Why should it matter to you?” she demanded. “You won’t like it if I tell you,” he said with a slight smile. “I suppose he was much older than you.”

“Wrong! He was two years older, if you must know. He was a splendid person!”

Pericles looked doubtful. “I don’t believe you would have married him in the end. He may have been the most wonderful individual on earth, but he didn’t know how to awaken you!” He swung round to face her, looking straight into her eyes, his own alight with a brilliance that made her shake inwardly. “Did he?”

“I loved him.”

“I don’t believe you!”

“You don’t have to!” she retorted. Her eyes fell before his. “We were both in love with him, only it was me he asked to marry him!”

“What a triumph for you!” His sarcasm made her flush with anger. It hadn’t been like that! “Well?” he shouted at her.

“He went out with us both,” she said.

“I’ll bet!”

She sighed. Nothing could stop the flood of words that she knew was about to break out of her. She had kept silent for so long, but she couldn’t resist the look in this man’s eyes. If he had been one of the men who had questioned her and questioned her as to what had happened on that awful night, she would have been quite unable to keep silent.

“I did it for David. I knew he was regretting that he had asked me to marry him.”

“Just as you were regretting having accepted him?” Pericles put in dryly.

“I don’t know! I never thought of it like that. All I knew was that he was unhappy and that he didn’t love me. If we went on as we were, he wouldn’t even like me, and I didn’t want that. I knew he wanted Delia. That was the hard part because Delia will never love anyone very much. But he wanted her, so I made up my mind that he should have her.”

Pericles shook his head at her. “Now that Nemesis could not approve. That, my dear, is the sin of hubris, of thinking that you can manage your own life and other people’s without any help from anyone else.” He paused to allow her to take in the glorious view from the fallen stones of the temple, pointing out a handy piece of masonry in the shade of a pine-tree where they could sit and stare to their hearts’ content at the deep blue of the sea, enclosed by harsh, barren mountains slashed by purple shadows and, in the foreground, the ruined walls of the ancient town that had once had its own fort to defend it, and the dark green of the pine-trees the scent of which vied with the thyme at their feet to give flavour to the refreshing breeze.

“Were you driving the car?” he asked when the silence had begun to bother her.

Morag gave him a quick glance. “How did you know?” He shrugged. “I could say you don’t look capable of driving dangerously, but I think you are,” he said slowly, “But then your sense of justice wouldn’t be outraged. I think you might be silly enough to shield someone else, and feminine enough to resent it when you are believed.”

“I’m not a complete fool!” she protested.

“Are you not?”

She was silent for a long moment. “I suppose I am,” she

admitted. “But if David loved her, the least I could do was to protect her - or so I thought. Delia was going to say David had been driving anyway and he had been drinking - they both had! Imagine how his parents would have felt if they’d blamed their dead son for the crash. I think I was right to spare them that.”

“No matter what the cost to yourself?”

She blinked. “I thought the price would be worth it.”

He pulled down the corner of his mouth. “My dear girl, you haven’t begun to pay it. You’d better hurry up and pay your curtsey to Nemesis before you succeed in ruining your whole life! Come on and I’ll introduce you.”

He made no attempt to help her as she clambered on to the floor of the larger of the two temples, the one nearer to the sea, which was whiter and looked as if it had been built at a later date than the smaller ruin that clung to its side. She had expected some word of sympathy from him, a pat on the back because she had chosen such a hard path and had suffered because of it. But he merely thought her a fool, and that hurt more than it should.

“Mr. Holmes, I don’t know what it has to do with you, but I’d do the same again. I heard them crash. It was just below our garden - and it was so easy to change places with Delia. Nothing mattered very much to me just then, with David dead. There didn’t seem to be any future for me anyway.”

“And what about your parents. Miss Grant? Didn’t it matter that they would suffer on your behalf?”

She shook her head. “It would have been worse if they’d known it was Delia. It was all that they expected of me.” “That sounds as though you’re feeling sorry for yourself,” he observed, bending down to take a closer look at one of the fallen Doric columns.

“I suppose I am,” she admitted. “I thought coming to Greece would solve all my problems. That I’d feel differently about things - about being me! But I don’t. My father doesn’t want me home and I don’t know where else to go.” “Then that’s one problem solved,” Pericles told her. “You can tag along with us for a while “But you don’t know anything about me!” she said. “What

do you want me to know?”

She tried to marshal her thoughts into some sort of order. “I’m good with children,” she said finally. “But I can’t give you any references. And how will you explain me to your mother? And supposing the children don’t want to have me tagging along? You’d do far better to let me go on by myself.”

“Camping on your own in Greece? My dear girl, try and have a little sense! I meant to take you back to Athens with us anyway. It’ll suit me very well to have you along.” “You mean the children might settle better if someone else was there?”

He looked up, smiling. “Something like that.”

She sat down on a base of a column, made uncertain by the swift turn of events. Her heart hammered within her, the fountain of excitement within her exploding into a new delight. “I’ll try to act as a buffer between them and their grandmother,” she found herself saying. “I’ll do everything I can.”

“I’m sure you will!” he cut her off. He stood up straight, standing over her in a way that made her look hastily away from him. “You don’t have to be grateful,” he drawled, sounding amused. “As far as I’m concerned you’re the answer to a prayer and I mean to take advantage of you and the situation your crazy stupidity has landed you in to make use of you entirely for my own ends. I can’t offer you any references either, you know.”

“Oh, but you have the children!” she protested.

“And that’s enough for you to trust me to look after you as well?”

She bit her lip aware that he was teasing her. Then she nodded her head. “Yes,” she said.

“God help you!” he grinned. “Someone ought to!” He held out his hand to her. “All right, Morag Grant, welcome to the Holmes family.”

She put her hand in his and was immediately aware of the strength of his fingers and the smooth warmth of his skin. “Thank you,” she said.

He bent his head and kissed her lightly on the lips. “That’s to seal the bargain,” he told her.

Her colour came and went and she swallowed hard, trying to control her trembling mouth. But he had already turned away, striding across the marble floor of the temple to take a closer look at the smaller one that stood by its side. There was no doubt, she thought, that she was mad to go with him, but how lovely it was to be totally mad for once and to follow her own inclinations, without a thought for anyone else! David she had loved, but David hadn’t scared her, nor had he made her feel as though she had run a long race and had finally come home. This one could hurt her as she had not been hurt before. The knowledge came to her as if someone outside herself had spoken the words. A warning from Nemesis? She smiled at the fancy. Hadn’t David hurt her by preferring someone else, by preferring Delia whom she had never been able to bring herself to like? Why then should she be afraid of Pericles Holmes?

The boy who had let them into the site whistled to his goats to follow him across the rough ground to where his family kept their hives, weighted down with rocks on the top against the wind. The bells round the goats’ necks set off a carillon of sound, deep and melodious, and the cicadas set up their shrill love-song from the other side of a clump of bushes. It was very peaceful there, like an unexpected benison after the turbulent events of the last few months. It was a new beginning and she was glad. She was even more glad that she had taken it into her head to visit Rhamous.

Kimon and Pericles went down to the headland to look at the fort. Peggy refused point blank to go with them.

“I want to stay with Morag,” she muttered defiantly to her father. “I like Morag.”

“I like Morag too,” Kimon chimed in. “But I’d like to see the fort. The view from down there must be terrific!” “Do you want to go?” Peggy demanded, tugging at Morag’s jeans. “Wouldn’t you rather

sit here quietly with me?”

Morag abandoned the strong desire that she felt to run as fast as she could to the headland - to get there before Pericles and to have him show her the ruins of the ancient town that had once made such an impact on the local life round about. “I’d love to stay with you!” she claimed warmly, smiling at Peggy. “Where

shall we sit?”

Pericles cast a quizzical look. “Peggy misses Susan every now and then,” he said.

Peggy frowned at him. “I don’t. Not really. But I don’t like looking at forts. People were killed there - and I don’t like that.”

“Animals were killed outside the temples as sacrifices,” Kimon put in. “I like that even less!”

“But not nowadays,” his sister retorted. “Nowadays we get things. If Morag’s and my necklaces were a gift from Nemesis—”

“Daddy paid for them!” Kimon pointed out.

“He did not!” Peggy tore the shells loose and scattered them over the ground. “If he did, it’s a cheat, and I don’t want them!”

Pericles took a long, level look at his daughter and, without a word, strode away from her towards the fort with a rather hesitant Kimon at his heels.

“Now I’ve made him cross again,” Peggy sighed. “He thinks it’s because I can’t get used to Mummy being dead, but it isn’t that. Did you know your mother?” she asked, picking up one of the shells and playing With it between her fingers. “Did you, Morag?” Morag shook her head. “Sometimes I think I can remember her, but sometimes I know I can’t. There was a photograph of her once, but my stepmother got rid of it.” She saw that Peggy’s eyes were wet. “Did your father love your stepmother more than your

BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
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