The spectacular Dana James brings you an engrossing story of doctors, danger and undeniable chemistry.
Working on a vaccine to prevent malaria, Dr Maren Harvey is looking forward to a field trip into the highlands of Papua New Guinea, until she arrives and meets her guide, Dr Nicholas Calder. Though the antagonism between them is undeniable, Maren refuses to be deterred. She may be in unknown and dangerous territory – in more ways than one – but she's not a quitter, and Nicholas Calder has met his match.
Power, trust and passion will blossom, in the highlands of New Guinea.
Dr Maren Harvey kicked off her sandals, walked barefoot across the wooden floor to the window and looked out on to the exotic flowering shrubs and tall palms surrounding the small, single-storey hotel.
Her sleeveless cotton dress clung damply as she lifted the curtain of dark glossy hair off her neck and revelled in the deliriously cool air whispering across her skin.
The mountain ranges of the Eastern Highlands, swathed in lush tropical forest, rose into the blue sky only a few hundred yards away. Even as she watched, puffs of white cloud, like cotton wool balls, tumbled over the mountain peaks, heralding the inevitable rain which fell late every afternoon.
This was Papua New Guinea, the world’s largest tropical island, three-quarters of it untouched by civilisation.
Maren’s skin tightened with a small shiver of excitement. Soon she would be setting off into those mountains.
During the past four years spent in malaria research at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, she had never dreamed that one day she would have the opportunity to get out of the laboratory and actually see for herself the conditions which produced the disease. This, her first field trip, had been Russell’s idea. It was going to be the adventure of a lifetime.
Maren breathed in deeply. Though the air here in the mountains was as warm as high summer in England, it tasted like nectar compared with the stifling humidity of the island’s capital, Port Moresby, where she had landed that morning.
Reluctantly, Maren turned away from the window. She wanted to freshen up and change her creased and travel-weary dress before meeting Russell to make the final arrangements. She felt as excited as a schoolgirl, which at 26 was nothing short of ridiculous.
As she lifted her suitcase onto the bed, Maren recalled the brown-skinned porter’s smiling but definite refusal of her proffered tip. A small card on the back of the door, unnoticed when she had entered, caught her eye, and she paused to read it.
FRIENDLY AND COURTEOUS SERVICE IS A PAPUA NEW GUINEA TRADITION AND GRATUITIES FOR WHAT COMES NATURALLY ARE NOT EXPECTED
This was an unusual country in more ways than she had expected.
The telephone buzzed softly, its gleaming white plastic completely out of place among the natural wood, muted earthy colours and traditional designs on the rugs and bedcover. Maren pushed her suitcase aside and sat down on the bed, drawing her long legs under her as she picked up the receiver.
‘Hello, this is Dr Harvey.’
‘Maren, my dear, it’s me.’ The rich tones of Professor Russell Brent’s voice echoed clearly down the line.
A fond smile curved Maren’s full lips as a vivid picture of the short, rotund figure she had known since childhood sprang into her mind.
‘Oh, Russell, I can hardly believe I’m actually here.’ She could barely contain her excitement. ‘And I know if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be. Did you have to pull many strings on my behalf?’
‘Not a single one,’ he laughed. ‘Your research results were recommendation enough. Did you have a good journey?’
Once more Maren freed the damp hair clinging to her neck. ‘I seem to have been travelling for ever. I’ve lost track of the days.’
‘It’s Monday,’ Brent put in helpfully.
‘Well, I left London on Saturday evening, arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday evening, just had time to change planes, and we got to Port Moresby at six-thirty this morning.’
‘I suppose you had a bit of a wait in the capital?’
She appreciated the sympathy. ‘Eight hours.’
‘You will have found it rather hot.’
‘A little,’ she agreed drily. ‘It was like breathing treacle. I was glad to reach Goroka. Russell, about the trip –’
‘How are your parents?’ he cut in, appearing not to have heard her.
‘They’re fine. Father’s in Zurich at the moment. Business will keep him there for several weeks so Mother went with him.’ Maren hitched herself higher up the bed and leaned against the headboard. ‘Then they’re going on to New York. They expect to be back in England to spend Christmas with Lucy and George and the children.’
‘How is life treating our tame aristocrat?’
‘Russell,’ Maren scolded, ‘you make him sound like some rare animal.’
‘My dear girl, a marquis who can run a stately home and estate at a profit in these stringent times is indeed a rare creature, believe me,’ Brent replied. ‘Are Lucy and the brats well?’
The reference to her sister and children made Maren smile again. ‘They’re fine. Christopher starts at Eton next year and the two girls are already terrorising the local Pony Club. As for Lucy –’ Maren’s voice softened ‘– I’ve never seen anyone so utterly content. Despite all the demands on them both, she and George seem to be on a permanent honeymoon.’
‘Do I detect a note of envy?’ Brent’s tone was light.
‘No, you don’t. I’m a dedicated career girl,’ Maren retorted a little too quickly.
‘No one could doubt it. But I have wondered in recent months whether your dedication to your research hasn’t removed you a little too far from the rest of the human race.’
‘Russell, I’ve already got one mother. I don’t need another.’ Maren knew her laugh was too bright, too brittle. ‘I adore my job. Working on a malaria vaccine is not only fascinating, it’s vital. I’m simply too busy for distractions.’ Becoming aware of the ache in her knuckles she release tight grip on the phone and flexed her fingers.
In some respects she was closer to Brent than to her parents. But she could not reveal, even to him, the fear that fluttered inside her like the wings of a dark bird.
‘Besides,’ she went on quickly, swallowing the dryness in her throat. ‘If I hadn’t been so dedicated this trip would not have come about. And there’s no other place on earth I’d rather be at this moment.’ The crisis had passed. She was firmly in control again. ‘Please don’t keep me in suspense. When do we leave and where exactly are we going?’
There was a silence.