A riveting story of trust and love, set in the tranquil Caribbean islands.
Zanthi normally enjoys her diplomatic work as Assistant Secretary at Jumelle's Government House. But strange events on the Caribbean island are troubling her. The unexpected arrival of land surveyor Garran Crossley only adds to the puzzle. Zanthi's hard-won calm is shattered when he announces she will be traveling with him to the jungle interior. Despite his blunt outspoken manner she senses there is much he isn't telling her. Can she trust the deepening attraction between them? Trust him?
Dana James manages to grip the reader and hold them to this story. The trials of building a romance out of attraction, a relationship out of romance.
Zanthi turned from the computer screen and smiled as her PA set a tea-tray down on one corner of the vast, crowded desk. ‘Margaret, you read my mind.’ Leaning back in the swivel chair she stretched, bare brown legs out in front of her and her arms high above her head, to ease the stiffness in her shoulders.
Tropical sun streamed in through the long windows filling the high-ceilinged room with the golden light of late afternoon.
‘It’s almost four-thirty,’ Margaret Blaine reminded her. With thirty years’ experience in the workings of Government House, a memory like an elephant, and a mouth as tight as a clam, she was invaluable to Zanthi.
‘What?’ Dismayed, Zanthi bolted upright in her chair and stared at her watch. ‘It can’t be.’ She pulled her short-sleeved top of black and white striped cotton away from sweat-dewed skin. ‘When will the air-conditioning be working again?’
Margaret glanced at her watch. ‘By six this evening, according to Dennis. But he didn’t look all that confident.’
Zanthi made a wry face. ‘Terrific.’ She stared at the files and papers covering her desk. ‘I’ll never get all this finished today. I can’t work on tonight because of the dinner. This is my third official function this week.’
Margaret set the fine bone-china cup and saucer down within Zanthi’s reach. ‘Couldn’t you get out of it just this once?’
‘I wish.’ Zanthi pushed her slim hands through honey-brown hair cut close on her neck and gilded by the sunlight. She shook her head. ‘But it’s not possible. Tonight’s dinner is to launch the new mountain road scheme, and His Excellency has assigned me to look after this visiting surveyor. Apparently the entire project depends on him approving it.’
Lifting the cup, she cradled it in both hands and rested her elbows on the desk. ‘I’m to introduce him to the Ministers of Finance and Public Works and their ladies then hang about while they all make polite conversation. I also need to have read up enough background to be able to show an intelligent interest in his work. Then, making sure he circulates, I must provide him with anything he asks for in the way of introductions and information.’
With a sympathetic smile Margaret gathered up the files and newly typed letters from Zanthi’s “out” tray. ‘I’ll take these up to Sir James for signing.’
Zanthi nodded. ‘Would you? I’d really appreciate it. Most of them are official: from the Assembly to the Home Office. But some are personalised. Perhaps, if you could – a tactful reminder of which is which?’
Margaret nodded. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll make sure he knows.’ Glancing over her shoulder at the door, she leaned towards Zanthi, lowering her voice. ‘I know it’s not my business but I’m going to say it anyway. Lieutenant Benham isn’t being fair. Not that you aren’t capable of doing the work. Of course you are. But the way he’s piling all this extra onto you is never right.’
Although Zanthi and her immediate superior were on first-name terms, she had never heard Margaret refer to the ADC by anything other than his rank and surname, a sure sign of her disapproval.
Draining the last of her tea Zanthi replaced the cup on the saucer and handed it to her PA. ‘Margaret, that was a life-saver. Paul’s been tied up with errands for the Governor. He even apologised.’ With a shrug and a patronising smile, but that was Paul. She knew he was using her commitment to her job for his own convenience. And they both knew there was nothing she could do about it.
Margaret snorted, her short, plump figure clad in neat navy skirt and cream silk blouse puffing up like a pigeon. She patted the regimented silver waves of her stiff perm. ‘Making up to her ladyship is the truth of it,’ she muttered.
‘Margaret!’ Zanthi was startled, not by what Margaret had said, but the fact that she had said it. It was a standing joke among everyone connected with Government House that it was easier to squeeze blood from a stone than worm a secret out of Margaret Blaine. For this soul of discretion to drop such a remark revealed deep concern that resonated in Zanthi.
There were always rumours buzzing around Government House. But, rushed off her feet, Zanthi had not had time, let alone the inclination, to take much notice.
Earlier that week, she had unexpectedly come upon the ADC and the Governor’s wife in a corridor. The rosy flush on Lady Fiona’s plain features and the misty luminosity in her eyes had surprised her, then caused a twinge of concern. Her first thought was how different Lady Fiona looked. Her second was, what is Paul up to? But both had been pushed aside by her arrival at the Governor’s door.
The fact that Paul had come to her office a short while later, full of his usual banter, and once again asked her out, had helped dispel her brief uncertainty. As always she had turned him down.
‘If His Excellency gave as much time and attention to his wife as he does to that blessed garden,’ Margaret muttered, worry deepening the creases between her brows, ‘Lady Fiona wouldn’t be running the risk of making a fool of herself.’
‘But surely Paul would never –’ Zanthi looked up at her PA. ‘I don’t believe it. He’s a by-the-book man. He would never do anything that might jeopardise his career.’ She shook her head. ‘Honestly, Margaret, can you imagine him taking such a risk?’
‘You’re right. He wouldn’t. So he must be pretty sure of his ground.’ Indignation tightened Margaret’s mouth. ‘I’m telling you, Zanthi, he knows exactly what he’s doing. And he’s making the time and opportunity for it by dumping most of his work on you.’
Zanthi felt guilt bubble up. She hadn’t realised how potentially serious the situation had become. Still hoping that Margaret had somehow misread it, she sought another explanation.
‘Look, Paul is a charmer. It’s as natural to him as breathing. Perhaps her ladyship feels flattered. Maybe she’s playing up to him as a joke.’
‘Lady Fiona? I don’t think so.’ Margaret’s expression was that of someone who had walked in something unpleasant. ‘Lieutenant Benham can turn on the charm all right. He’d put a tap to shame. I’m not worth his notice. But I know his type, and I’ve been watching. He only bothers if there’s something in it for him.’
Zanthi studied her. ‘All right, Margaret, what do you know that I don’t?’
As the PA leaned closer, Zanthi caught a faint whiff of Devon Violets. The simple, old-fashioned scent Margaret bought over the internet was such a stark contrast to her air of conspiracy that Zanthi almost smiled. But she was too fond of her assistant to risk hurting her feelings. And the potential consequences should Margaret be right meant this was no laughing matter.
‘The Governor’s term of office finishes at the end of this year.’ Margaret spoke softly, urgently. ‘The new Governor will appoint his own ADC. Lieutenant Benham is an ambitious young man who intends to move on from here with excellent references and a promotion, and he’s not leaving anything to chance.’ She finished with a knowing look.
Zanthi gazed at her in disbelief. ‘You’re joking.’