Torn between wild-cat oil operator Will Evans and current lover yaughtsman John Dunesne, cellist Kim Chalmers puts her future happiness on the line. Coming soon to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at:
Cellist Kim Chalmers is in Paris preparing for a world tour when her fiancé, yaughtsman John Dunesne, is caught in a storm and reported missing. Haunted by John's loss and a failed childhood love for which she still feels responsible, Kim gets deeply depressed and ready to give up a promising career.
Agent and friend Anne Willink discovers the whereabouts of Kim's childhood love, Will Evans, now a wild-cat oil operator in the Sahara, and tries to rekindle the fire between Kim and Will. Just then John Dunesne is found alive on the Irish coast. Kim's heart is in a turmoil. She is faced with a terrible choice. Will she make the right decision?
Word Count: 59400
Pages to Print: 211
“You didn’t bring any bedding?” Will Evans sounded almost sympathetic in his perplexity. “What did you expect to find here? A hotel?”
A smile briefly lit up his face, and Anne could once again feel the powerful attraction exuded by this man. But he didn’t explain the reason for his smile and it was gone in an instant, leaving the same handsome mask as before. He had probably been laughing at her.
“I’ll give you my tent for the night.”
Anne didn’t argue. She was a modern woman who valued her gender equality, but she was far too scared of what was happening to protest that she could sleep under the stars as well as any man. She had never camped out in her life and she had already come to the conclusion that she would never ever do so again. Something was rustling somewhere, and something else was calling to the moon. Away to the right she could make out the silhouettes of the men talking quietly among themselves. Meekly she followed Will Evans to her quarters, a triangular tent so low you had to crouch to get in.
“No extra blankets, I’m afraid. You better keep your clothes on. The tent is insulated, but it’s a lot colder out here than at Fort Khaldun.”
He took out his bedroll, which he dumped right in front of the shelter.
“This is where I’ll be sleeping. If you need to go to the bathroom, it’s back there.” He pointed beyond a hillock and looked at her with an amused air. “Just don’t expect a bathroom.”
“It’s a good thing your parents don’t know I’m here.” The girl laughed breathlessly.
The boy and the girl were running through the orchard by Hardwood River. Ahead rose the old boathouse, derelict and abandoned since the construction of the new shed near the manor.
It was raining heavily. Both adolescents were drenched. The boy’s heart ached at the sight of the running girl in her bedraggled summer dress, clinging wet to her skin as though it never wanted to let go. It was the way he wanted to hold onto her.
When they reached the door, she turned and smiled through the wet strands of hair plastered against her cheeks and forehead. She took the boy’s face in her hands and kissed him.
“You look so serious,” she whispered. “I want you to tell me your problems. But first I want you to make love to me. That’s all I want from life. Happiness. You.”
“No!” The boy tore himself away, staring wide-eyed at her. “No,” he said again. He was crying soundlessly. “Laetitia knows and is threatening to tell Mom.”
The girl sagged to the ground against the building. “Aunt Mary will kill you,” she said, “if she finds out.”
He shrugged, unable to express himself. How could he explain that he wouldn’t mind whatever punishment his mother had in store for him as long as he could have her?
“I’m leaving home,” he said softly.
The girl looked up sharply. After a moment she laid a hand on his knee. “And me?”
He shook his head in silence. She scrambled to her feet.
“I’m coming with you.”
“You can’t stop me.”
No, but society can, he thought sadly. “You’re seventeen, without a passport, and you’re my cousin. If we ran off together, Laetitia would be sure to tell Mom what was going on between us and the police would haul us back in no time. Your life would no longer be worth living. And if I stayed, we’d try to continue what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves.”
He stood looking at her for a long time, unable to tear his eyes away from her face.
“I love you, Kim,” he said at last. “I’ve loved you forever, it seems.”
She took his face again in her hands and whispered, “Make love to me.”
He closed his eyes against her searching look. She was scanning his face as if she wanted to reach inside his mind for an argument that would convince him to stay. She bit his ear and put one of his hands on her breast. “Make love to me,” she said again.
He took her hand in his and kissed it long and desperately.
“I’ve signed up on an oil rig for the season. I’m flying out tonight. I’ll be stationed in Greenland. I’ll write.”
The girl began to cry, burying her face in his chest.
The neighborhood had that old-world charm you find in so many European cities, with deep courtyards, alleys at odd angles, old and rather dusty shops, bars and restaurants everywhere, and far too much traffic for the narrow streets.
It was a beautiful day in Paris, and Kim Chalmers stood lazily watching a couple of teenagers from her second-floor apartment window, enjoying the heat of the late summer sun on her face and upper body. The two kids in the street below were flirting heavily, laughing and showing each other pictures on their cell phones, with just enough body distance to suggest that they might not yet be together. It wouldn’t be long before they found each other, she thought. They would make a cute item. If John were here, he would have concluded cynically that they were negotiating a temporary truce between the sexes. But that was John, and she loved him for what he was, macho warts and all. For all his outward display of cynicism, she knew him for a softy who could not get enough of her and who would stand by her come hell or high water. Literally. John had seen enough rough weather and human misery while sailing around the world on his yacht to be ready to fight for the true things in life, and for reasons she could only marvel at, he thought she was the truest thing in his life.
She thought they would soon be married, if his parents had anything to do with it. His people were the type to keep pushing and arranging until everything was boxed tidily and prettily where it belonged, with the lid on and a neat label, ready for sailing on the great ship of life. Kim and John definitely belonged in the box labeled marriage. John’s mother kept saying so, and Kim had to admit they made a handsome couple. If she had qualms about the freckles on the bridge of her nose and a constant fear of growing fat, she had no doubts at all about John’s physique. He was easily one of the best-looking men she had ever seen, with the sort of carefree walk that made him stand out from the crowd wherever he went; dark, with untamed eyes that made any woman’s heart race faster, and a smile that opened all doors for him.
The sun had dipped behind the buildings across the street, and the kids below her window had moved on, absorbed by the shadows and their own private world. She turned toward the room, wondering what life was all about anyway. All day long she had been feeling strangely nostalgic and rebellious. She loathed anything smacking of self-pity and nostalgia, and yet she was feeling homesick for a past that was utterly irrelevant to her life and future. Perhaps it was the two kids with their cell phones or the burnished copper of the setting sun, reminding her of an Indian summer just like this when she had passionately loved and lost. More likely, the growing pressure on the part of John’s mother highlighted her own doubt that marriage was what she wanted right now with her career taking off. But wherever she looked, things seemed to be throwing up memories of years gone by.
She sighed and looked at her reflection in the mirror and at the comfortable room behind, with its pleasant clutter and spacious dimensions. Even if she did not share John’s unbridled admiration for her looks, the mirror told her she was good-looking by any standard, while her apartment spoke of a life without financial worries. In the words of the magazines, she had it all—talent, beauty and, if not wealth, enough money to lead an independent life. She had no reason to feel sorry for herself. She was twenty-seven and engaged to a dashing adventurer, a once-in-a-lifetime man who was also a gentleman in this graceless day and age, with a circle of friends that was equally glamorous and wild. A man who paid the daily compliment of telling her she was the most beautiful woman in the world and who backed it up with endless gifts. She had no right to indulge in that sort of nonsense.
Resolutely, she turned on the light, took her cello from its stand and placed it between her knees. With just three months to go before a series of concerts that would take her to major concert halls around the world, on the verge of an international breakthrough, this was not the moment to pretend a mid-life crisis. Besides, it was extremely unfair to John. The past was over and done with. She had cried enough to fill a bathtub after Will’s departure and it hadn’t brought him back. For years she had thought she would never forget him and now, when she had finally forgotten, a red sunset and a few rose-colored memories were going to bring him back and spoil the party? Teenage love. Never again, thank you very much. Look at the puppy love of those kids passing below her window. Think of the tears they would shed, only to go off and make an entirely different life with someone else, all promises forgotten.
Angrily she tightened the bow of her instrument, snapping several horsehairs.
“Stupid girl,” she muttered, anxiously eying the wood for cracks. Her bow was a beautiful example from a 19th-century maker, a gift from her teacher when she graduated with honors from the conservatory, and she’d never forgive herself if she damaged it. “No man is worth your ruination, you hear?” she crooned as she loosened the screw. “Not John, not Will, not any man.”
She played old folk tunes of the kind that wailed about broken promises and impossible loves, until the professional in her took over and she settled down to playing scales. She had been at it for over an hour, almost satisfied with the blur of her fingers as they slid, stopped and vibrated across the fingerboard, when the doorbell rang. She wondered who it could be. She did not encourage unannounced callers when practicing.