Authors: Anne Hampson
It had affected her so greatly that she had almost reciprocated!
‘Leave go of me!’ she blazed, having the greatest difficulty in not kicking his shin. ‘You—you—scoun
drel!’ She could think of a stronger word, but to her intense relief she managed not to utter it. ‘What’s the idea, molesting me—a stranger!’
He released her but continued to block her path.
‘Stranger or old acquaintance—women are all the same.’ His voice and eyes held contempt. ‘Your sister’s rather more of a bore than the rest, though. She’s determined to keep trying.’
‘My sister?’ echoed Emma, for the moment diverted. ‘You mean—she—she runs—’ Abruptly she stopped, but her companion finished the sentence for her.
‘. . . after me? All the time,’ he added through his teeth. And then as if the idea had just occurred to him, ‘Perhaps you can do something—give her some advice—’
‘What kind of advice?’ cut in Emma, recalling her impression that something subtle underlay the words of Louise’s letters. She was attracted to this man . . . and despite her unhappiness she could not bear to leave his house.
‘You have me there,’ was his surprising admission, and now he appeared to be amused. ‘The girl’s mad for a man—’
‘What a thing to say!’ Emma’s fists were tight; he glanced down at them and for a long, tense moment the very air around them seemed to be electrically charged.
‘Anger . . . I find you attractive when you’re like this—’
‘Shut up!’ she fumed, glowering at him. ‘What an opinion you have of yourself—believing every woman you meet is running after you!’ Her dark
eyes raked his entire length in contempt. ‘For me—I’d not have you if you were the last man on earth!’
He laughed in sheer amusement. Looking up at him, Emma caught her breath. The man was too darned attractive by far! No man should possess this kind of superlative good looks!
‘If I were the last man on earth,’ he said, laughter still in his eyes, ‘you wouldn’t stand a chance.’
She gasped at his audacity, not realising that he was finding her diverting, and he was thoroughly enjoying this little sparring match with her.
‘Your ego certainly needs deflating!’ she snapped. Then added for good measure, ‘I’d love to be the one to do it.’
The dark eyes were dancing as they looked down into hers. And once again she was taken by surprise, jerked to his hard body and kissed with almost brutal passion. His mouth was warm and moist, possessive, masterful, demanding reciprocation. Emma fought valiantly, but the man’s powerful attraction had already made itself felt, affecting her from the very moment she had set eyes on him. She felt the deliberate thrust of his tongue and opened her mouth, shuddering with near rapture at the roughness against her flesh. His hands were not idle, either; he stroked her cheek, gently letting his long, brown fingers slide downwards to caress her shoulder beneath the open neckline of her blouse. And only when his warm, strong hand enclosed her breast did she cast off the languour of submission and try to push him away. He was expecting such a move, he’d learned from experience, she thought with a sort of growing bitterness. And she was held in a hawser-
strong grip while he again took his fill of her lips. The hand on her breast hurt a little, by its strength, but the quiver that passed through her was one of pleasure. Again he knew what to expect. A low laugh escaped him, triumphant and contemptuous. He held her away at last and, looking into her dreamy eyes, said with mocking satire, ‘Yes, you’re all the same, following the pattern.’ He released her and was suddenly suppressing a yawn, an action that ignited a fury so strong that she did no more than lift a hand to slap his face. But before that satisfaction could be achieved her wrist was caught, and she uttered a little cry of pain.
‘You—brute!’ she blazed, struggling like a wildcat to gain her freedom. ‘I hate you—and I’m not staying here another moment! I’ll go to an hotel!’ She looked down at the wrist he had at last released; the bruise made her see red, and again she lifted her hand. But this time she dropped it swiftly because of the expression on his face.
‘Yes,’ he said slowly as he watched the action, ‘you are very wise. I’d have given you something to remember if you’d made your target.’
She knew just what he meant and turned away. This time he allowed her to pass, and she moved quickly, his low laugh like the sound of a rasp in her ears.
Emma very naturally refrained from telling Louise what had happened, and this meant that she, Emma, could not go out and find an hotel. Fury mingled with humiliation, for she was sure she could have struggled and escaped before he managed to excite her, arouse her emotions to the point where she was submitting. Obviously he was aware of his power over women; they were all the same, he said. They followed a pattern.
And because of it, he was bored with them. . . .
But one day he would find one who did not bore him and then, she surmised, he would marry. And surprisingly, as she thought about it, she found herself believing that he would be faithful! Incredi
ble as it seemed—yes—when he had found
one, it would be the end of philandering for him.
‘You’re very quiet,’ observed her sister, and Emma glanced up from her plate. It was dinnertime and they were eating in the little sitting-room which had been allocated to Louise. Jeremy had had his tea and been put to bed. Noticing Louise’s impatience with the child, Emma, feeling sorry for the little boy who was only five and a half, went into his bedroom and read him a story. A bright, intelligent child, he listened attentively, eyes sparkling and hands sometimes clutching the bedcover.
‘That was great!’ he said when at length she closed the book after promising to read him another story tomorrow night. ‘I like stories about pirates!’
Louise had gone to her room, and when she emerged and joined Emma she looked as glamorous as if she were dining out and going to a show afterwards. Emma opened her mouth to express her surprise but closed it again.
It was plain that Louise was looking her best just in case she should come into contact with Paul Fanchette.
Emma had decided on a cotton dress, flowered on a background of pale blue. The neck was low—in fact the bodice was held up only by shoulder straps—since the dress was really designed as a sundress. Emma had washed her hair and it glowed—softly brown and deep auburn tinted.
‘Quiet?’ she repeated, looking at Louise across the table. ‘I was thinking of your boss, as a matter of fact.’
‘Don’t refer to him as my boss!’ flashed Louise sharply. ‘The Winnicks are my employers!’
‘Sorry.’ Emma counted ten. ‘There’s no need to be so shirty with me, though.’
‘You don’t understand. . . .’ Louise choked on her food, and her lower lip quivered. ‘You don’t understand anything.’
‘Then help me to understand,’ invited Emma encouragingly. ‘You know how troubled Mother is, and she’ll be expecting some kind of reassurance when I get back home.’
‘He hates me!’ was all Louise vouchsafed in answer to that, and Emma drew an exasperated breath.
‘What has caused this—well—rift between you and Monsieur Fanchette?’
There was a long pause before her sister spoke.
‘He disliked me from the very first—’
‘You haven’t answered my question,’ persisted Emma, half-inclined to reveal what she knew.
But the next moment, and after a further period of hesitation, Louise said quiveringly, ‘I’ve fallen madly in love with him, Emma, and I’m being crucified by his treatment of me.’
Emma swallowed to moisten the dryness in her throat. She had not supposed it was as bad as this. She had suspected no more than a crush, an emotional experience resulting from the superlative attractions of the Mauritian. But as she stared at Louise, noting the despairing droop to the lovely mouth, the dark misery in the blue eyes, Emma was left in no doubt at all that her sister was genuinely in love with the man who treated her with contempt, believing she was running after him . . . which she had been doing, thought Emma with a heavy frown.
‘The best thing you can do is leave here,’ decided Emma at length. ‘This situation can’t possibly continue. Besides, when Jeremy’s parents come back you wouldn’t be seeing Monsieur Fanchette anyway—at least, not very often.’
Louise stared mistily at her, having pushed her plate away.
‘I just keep on hoping he’ll change,’ she admitted, a sob in her voice. ‘Miracles do happen, and you hear of men disliking women and later falling wildly in love with them.’
‘It doesn’t happen very often. In any case, this man’s an experienced womaniser who seems always to have had women running after him; it’s made him regard himself as something very special—’
‘He is something special.’ Louise made the interruption, because she couldn’t help it, but she coloured up immediately the words were spoken.
‘I suppose I have to agree,’ returned Emma, but grudgingly. ‘Nevertheless, he’s a nasty piece of work, with a head the size of a balloon and an inflated opinion of himself in general. He’s plainly of the opinion that every woman he meets wants him to make love to her—craves his caresses, in fact. Well, Louise, he just isn’t worth a thought, so you’ll be wise to write him off and come back home with me.’ Already Louise was shaking her head.
‘What about Jeremy?’ she said.
Remembering Louise’s near impatience with the child at bedtime—for clearly she was glad to be rid of him—Emma said quietly, ‘I don’t think you are really concerned with that aspect, are you, Louise?’ and before she could answer, Emma was adding in
the same quiet tone of voice, ‘Once you’ve given the man a fortnight’s notice he’ll begin looking for a replacement—’
‘I can’t leave!’ cried her sister unhappily. ‘I’ve already told you I’m hoping for a change in Paul’s attitude towards me.’
‘Throwing yourself at him won’t bring about a change.’ Emma felt inclined to be callous, for she desperately wanted Louise to come home with her in a fortnight’s time. ‘He’s the kind of man who’ll naturally treat with utter contempt any woman who tries to gain his attention.’
‘You’re so knowledgeable!’ snapped Louise, and Emma did think just how she had changed. Was this what unrequited love did for you?
I’ll take darned good care it never happens to me, declared Emma but to herself . . . and yet as she silently formed the sentence there arose before her the image of Paul Fanchette . . . debonair and handsome, confident, egotistical. . . .
She set her teeth on remembering the scene of just a couple of hours ago, temper rising as she recalled her own reaction, the arousal of emotions she would rather not think about.
Undoubtedly the man was a menace to women, and she was determined to keep him at a distance during her stay here in his home.
Emma and Louise talked for some time without any headway being made as regards Emma’s practical solution to the problem. Louise was not giving up; she was in the depths of despair and yet, conversely, cherishing the optimistic hope that Paul Fanchette’s attitude towards her would change.
‘If you don’t mind, I’ll go to bed now,’ said Louise
when they had drunk their coffee on the verandah of Louise’s sitting-room. ‘I feel awful at leaving you alone, but. . . . She tailed off on noticing her sister’s perceptive expression. ‘I really mean it,’ she insisted with an almost belligerent look.
Emma shook her head, a gesture of impatience.
‘You’re going somewhere—I don’t know where—hoping that detestable man will see you—’
‘No, I am not!’
‘Why the glamorous getup?’ she wanted to know, again feeling a callous approach might just shake Louise back to her senses.
‘Don’t be crude, Emma! I always like to look nice for dinner! In fact, it was in your honour!’
‘An explanation but not a truthful one.’ Emma rose from her chair. ‘Obviously you don’t want me with you so I’ll say good night and go to my room—’
‘You make me feel rotten,’ complained Louise on the edge of tears. ‘You’ve come all this way to see me and—and this is how I treat you—’ She choked suddenly and bit her lip hard to hold back the tears. ‘I’m sorry, Emma, do please believe me!’
Emma was standing, and she looked down at the unhappy girl. Something had to be done . . . and Emma had now made a firm decision. . . . To her surprise Emma saw her sister go into her bedroom and although she waited on the verandah for fully ten minutes the girl did not come out.
Too upset so she had changed her mind, decided Emma and, herself, went in search of the man who was causing all the trouble. He was nowhere in the house, so she surmised he was in the garden, as his car was on the forecourt.
The night was balmy, the sky, spangled with stars.
The lagoon, lazy in the moonlight, shimmered away to where the reef rose like a miniature waterfall, making music, creating light and shade that lent an air of romance even without the swaying palms that lined the backshore. The swimming must be glorious, she mused as she wandered along one winding path and another, the dry wind rustling through a belt of tamarind trees and the spidery fronds of the palms. Her eyes searched; she was determined to talk with Paul Fanchette, and yet the thought of the encounter was causing her nerves to tense, her heart to beat a little overrate. As she continued to wander and search, she thought of the wealth and splendour of the chateau with its French furniture, its exquisite decor, its Persian carpets and rugs. Gold-plated fittings even in the guest bathroom, and she wondered what
was like. She had asked Louise about his line of business, learnt that he owned tea and sugarcane factories—was in fact the largest exporter on the island. Wealth as well as the supreme beneficence of Nature! And all it had done to him was inflate his ego and self-esteem, create vanity out of all proportion, unbelievable conceit and arrogance.
How on earth Louise could have fallen in love with him Emma would never understand!—for a more detestable man she had never met.
And as Emma decided this, the man under review came strolling along on the other side of a low hedge of hibiscus vines. His footsteps had been light; she was angered at being taken by surprise but managed to keep her voice steady as she said without hesitation, ‘Ah, Monsieur Fanchette—I’d like a few words with you.’