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Authors: Elizabeth Hunter

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BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
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“I like you,” he said slyly.

She ignored that. She remembered that David had complained that she had thought him indecisive and how much he had resented her implied criticism of him. She had felt old in his company, older than he, just as she did with Takis. She turned her back on him, trying to still her sudden swift heartbeat as she reflected that Pericles didn’t have that effect on her at all.

“Why do you do that?” Takis demanded. “I like to talk with you!”

“The sun’s too hot and I’m too sleepy,” she answered. “Besides, the children will be home in a minute.”

“All the more reason to make the best use of this minute,” he said with a laugh. He put his hand on her back and stroked her shoulders. “I told you you needed some oil. You are red now. When the sun goes down it will be very painful. Shall I put some oil on for you now?”

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Why not? It will be nice for you. You can shut your eyes and pretend it is this man you once loved who is doing this for you. It will make you happy and then you won’t burn.”

Morag gave him a determined look. “I don’t want,” she began. He smiled the smile that was so like David’s, that touched his lips but never quite reached his cold, grey eyes. It was funny that she had only noticed that about David in the last few weeks she had known him.

“You will have a sore back otherwise,” he reiterated. He put some oil in the palm of his hand and began to smooth it on to her back. “Isn’t that nice?”

“It will probably come up in blisters!”

“No, no, my touch will prevent all such disasters. I have a very nice touch, ne?” He spilt some more oil straight on to her back and drew patterns in it with one finger. “Your hair is in the way. You have pretty hair. I like it.” He pushed it away from her shoulders and, a second later, she felt his lips on the back of her neck and turned indignantly towards him. “Ah, that is much better!” he said at once. “You like it? You like it very much!”

“I won’t have it!” she said hotly. “Go away, Takis, and leave me alone!”

“But you like it! I am handsome and I know very well how to treat a girl! Why should you wish me to leave you alone?”

“Because I don’t like playing at love.”

“Only with Pericles!”

“Not with anyone!” she said. “I look after Pericles’ children, nothing more.”

“That wasn’t how it seemed the first time I saw you. Why do you dislike me? I am more handsome than Pericles. It is known that women prefer me to him!”

Morag jumped to her feet. “You’re more conceited too!” she said.

He grinned up at her. “I say only the truth! Even his wife, Susan, preferred me to him. Oh, she was very much in love with me! But her father said she must marry Pericles.” “I don’t want to hear about it!”

He stood up also. “I think you do. I think you are very curious about the woman Pericles married, the mother of his children. Are you jealous of her?”

“Why should I be?” Morag demanded.

“Because she knew both of us well. Shall I kiss you like I used to kiss her?”

“I don’t believe you did kiss her!” Morag said, but there was no conviction in her words.

“Oh yes, I kissed her - before she was married, I kissed her. Afterwards, she would not be alone with me. Pericles forbade it and Susan was a very dutiful wife. But we both knew that she wanted to be with me, and Pericles knew it too!”

“I suppose you saw to that!” Morag said coldly. “You must

enjoy hurting people to relish a thing like that!”

“But I don’t wish to hurt you!” he claimed. “I want only for you to have fun with me. What’s wrong with that?”

“Go away!”

“When you tell me why I must not kiss you. You see, you

cannot! You will like it very much, my little English girl!” He tried

to suit the action to his words, holding her tight against him and

smothering her face with kisses, but Morag, lent strength by her

own fury, pulled herself free and walked away from him across

the beach towards the house.

Takis ran along behind her. “You have a heart like a stone!” he

accused her. “You look like a pretty woman, but you have no

feelings, or you would show me that you like me a little.”

“I don’t like you at all!” Morag retorted.

“I shall make you like me!”

“Oh no, not that again!” she said desperately. But she was too late. He caught her to him and tried to kiss her again, taking no notice of her efforts to free herself from his restricting hands. “Takis!”

The bruising grip of his fingers relaxed and Morag tore herself away from him only to find herself face to face with Pericles.

“It wasn’t my fault,” she said.

“The children are home,” was all he said. “Go up to the house and see to them.”

“Yes, Mr. Holmes.”

“And, Miss Grant -” he added.

She turned towards him. “Yes?”

“I think it was your fault. I told you to stay away from my cousin.”

“But he doesn’t mean any harm, Perry!”

“How do you know that?” He bit out the words, strong angry lines etching themselves on to his face. “How can you possibly know that?”

“He’s like David. He has to show off. His beauty is all he has!” Pericles’ face softened a little. “How like David? Enough for you to fall for his feckless brand of charm?”

She shook her head. “I’ll go and see to the children.” She

wished she had something more to cover herself with than the towel she had brought with her to the beach. Takis had looked at her with an open admiration and she had hardly noticed, but Pericles had only to allow his eyes to drop to the smocked top of her swimming-suit and she felt half-naked and shamed by the fact that she was vulnerable to his slightest change of mood.

He nodded shortly. “I’ll speak to you later. If Takis is annoying you, I’ll do something about it. But I won’t have you encouraging him, Morag, no matter how like David he is! It’s time you faced facts and grew up a little!”

She was determined not to cry. That would have been the final humiliation. But it was hard not to cavil at the injustice of that last remark. How could he think she would encourage Takis when

- yes, it might as well be said - when he was living in the same house and when she couldn’t think about anything or anyone else when he was around? She had faced facts, at least she had faced the only fact that mattered, and that was that she was more than a little in love with Pericles Holmes. The trouble was that she had thought, that first evening, that he had found her a little special too, but he had given no further sign that he liked her.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You'll be more than sorry if I catch you flirting with him again!” he told her grimly.

“It wasn’t my fault!” she declared again. The tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks and she brushed them away with an impatient hand. “I don’t even like him!”

His eyes glinted as they caught the sun. “Remember that!” he advised her. “And stay away from him!”

She climbed the steps that had been cut into the rock leading up to the villa, doing her best to control her tears. She would not cry! She rubbed her face in her towel and tripped over a loose piece of stone, falling heavily against the rough side of the steps. The pain of the graze down the side of her leg put her tears to flight, but she felt that somehow that too was all Pericles’ fault and that it wouldn’t have happened if he had spoken to her more kindly.

“Morag, Morag, are you hurt ?”

She looked up from her leg to smile at Kimon’s anxious face. “I’ll live,” she told him. “It isn’t very bad.”

“You weren’t looking where you were going,” he rebuked her. He took a deep breath. “Did Daddy tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

Kimon frowned. For him, there was only one important matter on foot at the moment. He hugged himself with glee, jumping up and down. “Did he tell you what Grandma has given me? Did he? It’s the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen. Can you guess what it is?”

Morag considered the matter. “A new fishing rod,” she hazarded. She knew that Kimon had wanted one ever since he had come to Greece.

“No! That’s quite ordinary! This is special!”

“I don’t know,” Morag said. “You’ll have to tell me.” “It’s a Spartan coin. You know, one of their iron cartwheels. It’s terrific! All the other Greeks used to laugh at them because they wouldn’t make their coins smaller and easier to handle, like the Athenians did. But the Spartans were the toughest people in the world and they didn’t mind if their money did wear out their clothing. They seldom carried it around anyway. Do you want to see it? It’s just like those you can see in the museum.”

Morag was caught up in his enthusiasm. “I’d love to. I didn’t know you were interested in coins,” she added as Kimon ran ahead of her towards the house.

“Oh yes, I’ve collected them for ages!”

Morag allowed herself to be hauled off into his room. “What about Peggy?” she asked. “What does she collect?” “Girls don’t collect things,” he declared. “She used to like collecting different pebbles and stones, but Grandma said they were rubbish and

made her throw them away.” “I used to collect stamps,” Morag remembered.

“Did you?” He was diverted for an instant from getting his precious coin out of its hiding place at the back of his drawer. “Peggy used to polish her stones. They were quite pretty. But it doesn’t do for a girl to get interested in men’s things - they have to do other things.”

“Can’t they do both?” Morag asked innocently.

The boy shrugged. “Grandma doesn’t think so,” he answered. “When she was young, she wanted to paint more than anything. She used to do the most marvellous pictures, but my grandfather painted too and his paintings had to be better. He made Grandma destroy all hers when she married him. She says it’s much better not to get to like doing things if you can’t go on with them.”

“Your grandfather sounds like a bigoted old man to me!” Morag observed dryly.

Kimon grinned. “That’s what Daddy says to Grandma when she

goes on about Peggy. Look, don’t you think it’s the nicest coin

you’ve ever seen?”

Morag did. She put the wheel-shaped coin on the palm of her

hand and twisted it this way and that, marvelling at the age of

such a piece and the workmanship that allowed the spokes-like

pattern to be seen so many hundreds of years later.

“What did Peggy get?” she asked.

Kimon had the grace to look a bit guilty. “Grandma didn’t give her anything,” he admitted. “Peggy doesn’t mind!”

“I’m afraid she does,” Morag said, returning the coin. “I think she minds very much.”

Kimon thought for a moment. “Peggy will get a dowry when she marries,” he pointed out. “She’ll have a house and all sorts of things!” He put his precious coin back in his drawer. “She won’t get married if she doesn’t. Well, I suppose she might, to someone in Athens or one of the big cities, but not to an islander or someone more old-fashioned. Have you got a dowry?”

“No,” said Morag.

“Mummy had one. Grandma says she brought a great deal into the family.”

Morag pursed her lips together thoughtfully. “I think I’ll give Peggy something. What do you think she’d like?” Kimon went pink. “Have you still got your stamps?” he asked. “She’d like that.

I thought I’d give her my scout-knife, but Grandma would only take it away from her. But she needn’t know about the stamps!” “They’re in England,” Morag said, feeling rather guilty that she should encourage the children to have secrets from their

grandmother. “I could ask my stepmother to send them, I suppose.”

“And meanwhile you could tell Peggy about them!

Have you got many?”

“Not very many. But I’ve got some very nice ones. A few pretty

ones from Africa, and a few quite valuable ones from all over the


“You could tell her about those,” Kimon enthused. “Peggy likes

to know what they’re worth.”

Like her grandmother! But it wasn’t fair that Kimon should

receive so many valuable gifts and Peggy none at all. “You can tell

her about the stamps, if you want to, Kimon,” she said aloud.

“May I ? She’ll be thrilled to bits!”

He pushed past her with a whoop of joy, shouting for his sister as he went. Morag smiled after him. If everyone were so easy to please, how simple life would be!

Kyria Holmes barely looked up as Morag came into the room. “What is all the noise about?” she asked in her heavily accented English.

“Kimon was showing me his coin.”

Kyria Holmes sniffed. “I fail to see why it should involve so much noise. You have little control over the children, although that is supposed to be the reason why you are here. I have told Pericles that I think it would be a mistake to allow them to become too fond of you. Children should be kept at a distance, Miss Grant, not made the centre of things.”

Morag stiffened. “I don’t agree, kyria.”

“Why not?”

Morag was astonished by the question. She had thought the older woman would merely have snubbed her for giving her unasked opinion, but then Pericles’ mother seldom did the thing which was expected of her.

“I think children should be encouraged to be confident and sure of themselves,” she answered. “No one should think less of themselves than the best.”

“That is a very Greek sentiment,” the Kyria said mildly. “It is all

right for men, but it’s harder when one is a woman. I would like to have been born a man! I would have shown the world-” She broke off, biting her lip. “I’m told you prefer being a woman, Miss Grant. Peggy says that you claim you have more fun as a girl. I find it unbelievable, but perhaps you have never wanted to do anything very much and then found you can’t?”

“No, I haven’t,” Morag admitted.

“Then you don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I suppose not, but if I wanted to do something very much, I’d do it!” She licked her lips, a little afraid of what she was about to say.“Kyria, why don’t you start painting again?”

The silence stretched interminably between them, then the Kyria said: “Pericles would not permit it!”

“What’s it got to do with him?” The words were out before she could stop them, but Morag could not bring herself to regret them.

BOOK: The Beads of Nemesis
12.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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