Innocent Invader. Anne Mather

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Название Innocent Invader
Автор произведения Anne Mather
Жанр Контркультура
Серия Mills & Boon Modern
Издательство Контркультура
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781472099686

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him the previous evening, when he had presented her with the fait accompli. “Bringing some strange woman into my house. Isn't it enough that I have to live in the same house as that witch and her brood?”


      “Well! Do you want a stranger in the house? Is there no end to your generosity towards these people …?”

      Jason had shrugged expressively. “No, Irena, I do not want a stranger in my home, but those children are turning into savages before my eyes. It's for them I'm prepared to have this woman here.”

      “They're savages!” Irena had clenched her fists in fury. Her temper at times was quite uncontrollable, and Jason had tried to pacify her.

      “Irena, please! This will be someone for you to talk to. She's been brought up in a convent – surely that's recommendation enough?”

      “She's a Catholic?” Irena was curious. “You're sure of this?”

      Jason spread wide his hands. “That I can't say. But what else can she be? After all, convents are not run by Protestants.”

      “That's true. Nevertheless, Jason, I will not have it. She must go back. You must give her her return fare. You say she's coming from England? She can go back there.”

      “No.” Jason was adamant. “In this I refuse to be countermanded. This woman will come and take charge of the children, and you will accept her. Goodness knows, her situation here will be far more difficult than she has any idea it will be.”

      Irena had argued for a long time and finally, in weariness, Jason had left her screaming and maligning the fates that had brought her to live in this house.

      As he remembered, Jason's fingers sought the scar on his right cheek. A livid thing, it stretched from high on his cheekbone, almost to his jawline. Whenever he was emotionally disturbed, the scar throbbed painfully, and with a muffled oath he got to his feet, determinedly putting all thoughts of Irena out of his mind. There was no more time for soul-searching; it was time to go down to the distillery.

      The island's main exports were sugar cane and the rum distilled from the molasses, and Jason himself kept an expert eye on the day's work. It was not always necessary; his staff were reliable and efficient, but it kept him out of the house most days until lunch time and saved him the trouble of trying to find excuses for Irena's ill-temper.

      He rode back to the house, and leaving the stallion for Jacob to groom, he went and retrieved the Land Rover from the garage. He drove smoothly down the drive, between the neatly laid-out lawns and flower gardens that Irena found so pleasing, and which the children avoided meticulously. The artificiality of it all did not appeal to Jason; he preferred the rather flamboyant confusion to be found in abundance on the island; bougainvillea rioting gloriously with hibiscus and wisteria; the scarlet beauty of immortelles, the oleanders.

      An arched gateway in the high stucco wall which surrounded the villa bore witness to the Moorish influence on all the larger dwellings. Balconies, courtyards, fountains, wrought ironwork; all reflected the Moorish artistry predominant in Spain itself.

      The hard track wound down towards the town, its surface throwing a film of dust over the Land Rover. As Jason neared the town, stray animals ran heedlessly across his path, and the colourful African women in there floral cotton dresses became more numerous. Dozens of children swarmed about their legs, and waved excitedly as Jason drove by; they all knew Jason.

      Before driving to the Cordova distillery, he drove down to the harbour. This was the only part of the island accessible by sea. A coral reef surrounded the island with only a narrow channel that gave access to the small port of El Tesoro. Here a weekly steamer brought mail and supplies, and the occasional passenger, and in return took the export trade of the island. Besides the sugar cane and run, there was a small bottling and canning plant, which was owned by another of the Spanish families. This was only a small concern, as most of the fruit grown was used by the islanders themselves.

      To reach the quay Jason had to leave the Land Rover and walk the remaining distance. Adjoining the quayside was a busy open market, where all the commerce of the island was executed, and he had to press his way through the crowds of early traders and shoppers. The scents of the market, always aromatic and sometimes overpowering, were none the less exciting, and the throng of people and the noise gave him an exhilarated feeling. Everywhere was the feeling of suppressed vitality, a steel band practising for the coming fiesta adding their sound to the din. Sometimes the sound of drums reverberated round the shallow hills above the harbour and the pulsating rhythm fired the blood and stirred the primitive emotions of the body. The African ancestry, superstitious and tribal, brought its own kind of mystery, and Jason knew that many of the practices in the villages owed their origin to the dark gods of Africa. But this was something the white population had to accept, and Jason knew there were few who would go against the voodoo. Its power was absolute.

      The harbourmaster's office which was his destination was a low wooden building, occupied by Abe Smith, a massive Negro, with ebony skin and a thick moustache. He and Jason were the best of friends; and Jason usually found time to have coffee with him at this hour of the morning.

      He entered the wooden office, stretching as he came through the door. Abe was sprawled in a chair, smoking a cheroot, and he grinned amiably as Jason came in and seated himself on the side of his desk. “Morning,” he said, wrinkling his huge nose. “Coffee?”

      Jason nodded and helped himself. “Thanks. I could use some.” After pouring a blue striped beaker full of the black liquid, he turned back to his friend and re-seated himself, idly stirring the brew.

      “How goes it?” Abe straightened up, and poured himself another mug of coffee. “Have you told her?”

      Jason raised his dark eyebrows. “Yes, I've told her.”

      “I can guess what she said!” Abe grimaced, and raised his eyes heavenward.

      Jason shrugged. “What I expected I got.” He took a long drink of his coffee, savouring it.

      Abe smote one fist into the palm of his other hand. “Madre mia,” he exclaimed, “that woman is not human!”

      Jason lit a cigarette. “The governess arrives on the steamer tomorrow,” he remarked, changing the subject.

      Abe sighed heavily. “She does, eh? Another woman to cause trouble?”

      “Let's hope not.” Jason rose to his feet. “I'll meet her.”

      Abe grinned suddenly. “And how will you recognise her? If she's not the only woman to arrive tomorrow?”

      Jason bit his lip thoughtfully, and his fingers sought the line of his scar. “She's a governess. My only criterion is the other governesses on the island. She'll be like them.”

      Abe chuckled. “Ah, I see! A little grey and long in the tooth!”

      “I didn't say that,” replied Jason mildly, his eyes smiling. “But yes, that will suit us very well.”

      Abe walked to the door of the office, and leaning against it, his bulk blocking out the light from the room, he said harshly:

      “How long is this to go on, Jason? How long are you going to exist in this manner? No one could call it living!”

      “Enough,” said Jason, abruptly, but Abe was not to be denied.

      “Enough is what you've had,” he exclaimed. “You forget I've known you since you were knee-high! I've seen you change these last fifteen years from a man who laughed and enjoyed life, lived it to the full, to a stranger who interests himself only in his work, in business – must you sacrifice yourself in this way? You need a woman in your bed –”

      “Abe!” Jason's face was like carved granite, the scar like a pale slash against the dark tan of his face.

      Abe moved away from the door, shaking his head. He was genuinely disturbed for his friend, but Jason could not allow him to say such things. He was married to Irena; she was his wife; if anyone was to blame