Temple of the Moon
Former journalist SARA CRAVEN published her first novel ‘Garden of Dreams’ for Mills & Boon in 1975. Apart from her writing (naturally!) her passions include reading, bridge, Italian cities, Greek islands, the French language and countryside, and her rescue Jack Russell/cross Button. She has appeared on several TV quiz shows and in 1997 became UK TV Mastermind champion. She lives near her family in Warwickshire – Shakespeare country.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
IT had been raining for several hours, a monotonous, relentless downpour that turned the gutters into miniature torrents and transformed the once sun-baked streets into shallow canals, swirling with red dust and debris.
Gabrielle sat alone in the foyer of the Hotel Belen, her eyes fixed bleakly on the huge glass swing doors which gave on to the street. Her fingers drummed restlessly on the small carved table in front of her, keeping time with the raindrops. She felt totally alien to the laughing, chattering groups of tourists sitting around her, exclaiming over this unseasonable break in the weather pattern in what was officially the dry season in the Yucatan peninsula. Once or twice she glanced down at the camera case lying at her feet as if seeking reassurance.
She was here, she told herself, where she had every right to be, so it was ridiculous to think that this sudden rainstorm was some kind of ill-omen. Even if James was not prepared to welcome her to Merida, she still had her commission from Vision magazine to fulfil. She was a working woman now, whether he liked it or not. And there could be all sorts of explanations as to why he had never answered the slightly defiant letter she had sent him, telling him that Vision had bought some of the work she had sent them in a fit of bravado and wanted more. Perhaps he had never received the letter. After all, this was hardly the most accessible place in the world, and if James was in the depths of the Mayan forests somewhere, he would hardly be in a position to conduct a correspondence.
But the more she tried to bolster up her self-confidence, the more frankly depressed she became. Other archaeologists managed to keep in touch with their wives and families, she knew, and long silences had invariably been James’ way of manifesting his displeasure with her during their brief married life. And in the past, she had always been the first to ask forgiveness, daunted by this forbidding chill, but not now, she thought. Not any more. This time, there was nothing for James to forgive. He had deliberately, almost cold-bloodedly shut her out of his career. He could not prevent her seeking one of her own, although he had made it icily clear before he had left for Mexico that he did not want a working wife.
Gabrielle sighed, and ran her fingers round the neck of her dress, lifting the collar away slightly from her throat. In spite of the air conditioning in the hotel, she found the humidity trying and she knew that in the forest regions she would have tropical conditions to contend with. But even the prospect of more discomfort could not prevent a mercurial change in her spirits at the thought of the trip ahead.
To think that she was actually going to see them—these strange ancient pyramids rising out of the jungle, evocative memorials of an advanced civilisation that had been wiped out by the Spanish conquest. For as long as she could remember, the conquest of Mexico had fascinated her, and she had read every book on the subject she could lay her hands on. Her father, who had taught at a northern university, had always encouraged her interest, although he had not shared it particularly. His own researches were based nearer home into Roman and Celtic remains, and father and daughter had amicably agreed to differ. They’d had a warm, happy relationship, made even closer by her mother’s death quite unexpectedly during a minor operation. Dr Christow had aged visibly under this blow, but he had been determined not to allow it to affect Gabrielle’s growing-up, and his older sister Molly, herself a widow, had come to live with them, becoming a more than adequate substitute mother as Gabrielle advanced into her teens.
Her father’s death had occurred when she was halfway through a photographic course at art college, and she had immediately offered to abandon the course and get a job to help out financially, but Aunt Molly had been adamant in her refusal. Gabrielle might well be glad of some qualifications one day, she had insisted, although she had no means of knowing how right she would be.
Gabrielle had been at the end of her course when she met James. She had seen his lecture on ancient Aztec civilisations advertised at the local adult education centre and had recognised in the Dr James Warner with the impressive string of letters after his name the Jimmy Warner who had been at university with her father and worked with him on digs in their younger days.
When the lecture was over, she nerved herself to approach him and explain who she was. James Warner was a slightly built man, with severely cut greying hair and a trim beard, and in her wildest dreams Gabrielle could not envisage anyone, even her extrovert father, calling him ‘Jimmy’, but he had greeted her with every appearance of delight and asked her to stay on and have coffee with him.
Her initial reservations had soon been swept away by his evident affection for her father and distress at the news of his death.
‘I was abroad, of course, when it happened,’ he told her. ‘By the time I heard about it, I felt it was too late even to write and offer my condolences. I had no idea Charles had a daughter, either.’
He drove her back to her digs after the lecture and said they must keep in touch, but it was a vague remark and Gabrielle did not really expect to hear from him again, although she thought regretfully that she would have liked more time with him to give her a chance to ask more things about ancient Mexico that did not come within the normal scope of a lecture.
But to her surprise, she did hear from him again, and quickly. He wrote to her, and followed this up with a telephone call and flowers. He had several speaking engagements in the neighbourhood and invited Gabrielle to go to these as his guest. It was useless to pretend she was not flattered by his attentions and in many ways she felt as safe with James as she had with her father, although the two men were not a bit alike and she knew it.
At first she told herself that James’ kindness to her was prompted solely by the fact that she was her father’s daughter, but as time went by, she began to realise this was not the whole truth. His wooing might have begun cautiously, but soon there was no doubt of his intentions. James wanted to marry her. He told her so one evening when they were dining together