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AT last she was on her way, her legs seeming too short for the bicycle she had hired in Inverness for this holiday of hers. Cycling in Scotland, mainly along the side of the Caledonian Canal, a series of lochs that went from one side of Scotland to the other, had seemed a good idea when she was in London. Now she wasn’t so sure.
It was years since she had ridden a bicycle, as she had proved to the man she had hired it from as she wobbled precariously down the road after paying for her two weeks’ hire. A couple of her friends had spent their holidays this way last year, at first for a laugh, and then because they were enjoying themselves.
Sabina’s father had been horrified when she had told him of her plans to go away for a few days, claiming she couldn’t possibly leave London now, not when the wedding was only eight weeks away. Her wedding. To Nicholas Freed, her father’s partner in the running of one of the major daily newspapers.
But she had known she had to get away, had to go somewhere where she could collect her thoughts together, decide whether marrying Nicholas was the right thing for her.
She had only hired the bicycle an hour ago and already she was thinking clearer, something she had found impossible to do when in close proximity with her father. He had dominated her all of her nineteen years, made all her decisions for her, including the one that she marry Nicholas.
But Nicholas was of her father’s generation, forty-five years of age, with two marriages already behind him. That she had let things get this far, to a four-month engagement and the actual wedding a matter of weeks away, was a source of wonder to Sabina. Not that she didn’t like Nicholas, she did, but she wasn’t sure she wanted him for a husband. He was attractive enough, tall, slim, dark, with deep blue eyes, and yet she couldn’t help wondering what he had done to his second wife to give her grounds for divorcing him. Her father had dismissed her nervousness, saying she wasn’t to worry about such things. But then he wasn’t the one marrying Nicholas!
Sabina took time out from these depressing thoughts to admire the beautiful scenery all around her. She had left Inverness behind her now, was riding along beside the River Ness, and soon she would see the wonder of the legendary Loch Ness. Her friends had taken this same route last year, and their enthusiasm about the beauty here had made her want to experience it for herself. Crazy, her father had called her yesterday morning when she had left their home with her packed rucksack, and crazy she might be, but she was enjoying herself, was enjoying her first freedom in years.
The sight of a public telephone box, and these thoughts of her father, reminded her that she ought to call him and put his mind at rest about her safety. They only had each other since her mother had died five years ago, and consequently he tended to be more possessive about her than was usual in a father/daughter relationship.
The telephone only rang once before it was snatched up, almost as if he had been sitting next to it waiting for her call. It appeared that he had. ‘Where the hell in Scotland are you?’ he demanded angrily.
‘I’m not silly enough to tell you that,’ Sabina said with a smile. ‘If you knew you’d come up here and take me back.’
‘Too damned right I would,’ he snapped. ‘Nicholas is none too happy about your behaviour either.’
‘You’ve told him?’
‘I could hardly keep it a secret, you are engaged to the man.’
His sarcasm wasn’t lost on her. She sighed. ‘You know my reasons for being here, Daddy.’
‘Because you need to think! A fine time to start having second thoughts, eight weeks before the wedding. I—– What the hell was that?’ he demanded. ‘Sabina, are you still there?’
She had put some more money in the box, waiting for the noise of the pips to stop before speaking again. ‘Don’t panic, Daddy,’ she smiled. ‘It was just the telephone wanting more money.’
He sighed his impatience. ‘Why didn’t you reverse the charges? I don’t want to be interrupted by that row every couple of minutes.’
‘You won’t be, because I don’t intend putting any more money in. I only called to let you know I haven’t been carried away by a rapist or mass murderer.’
‘There is no need to mock, Sabina,’ he cautioned sternly. ‘They do have those sort of things in Scotland too, you know.’
‘I’m sure they do,’ she agreed dryly. ‘But I—– There go the pips again, Daddy. I won’t be calling again.’
‘See you in two weeks’ time,’ she had time to say before the line was cut off.
She got back on her bicycle, the long length of her legs still golden from the weeks she had spent in Monte Carlo earlier in the summer. Her denim shorts fitted her like a glove, the deep pink tee-shirt moulded to her bare breasts. She made an attractive picture as she cycled down the road that edged Loch Ness, the light breeze lifting her long straight blonde hair off her nape, her green eyes glowing in anticipation of this holiday.
She wasn’t surprised at her father’s horror at her location, never having been to Scotland himself he couldn’t even begin to appreciate the beauty here. It was everything her friends had said it was, peaceful, exhilarating, but most of all breathtakingly beautiful.
For one thing Loch Ness was so large, like a miniature ocean, and she could see one or two motor-cruisers on its length, probably holidaymakers like herself. The banks of the Loch rose steeply either side, a smattering of sheep just visible to her on the luxurious green grass on the other side, the road cut into her side of the Loch before it too rose steeply, one or two cottages just visible in the denseness of the trees.