The wonderful new romance from Dana James, is a tale of betrayal, infidelity and learning to rebuild.
When Beth married glaciologist Allan Bryce she believed nothing would ever come between them. But something did – another wife. Without waiting for explanations Beth fled, burying herself in work and determined to replace her shattered memories of their love with award-winning photographs. Two years on, meeting unexpectedly on an expedition in Iceland, Beth can't understand why his eyes are as cold as the landscape and his fury so bitter – for she had done nothing wrong.
Learn what it means to love to hard, miss to much and need to bad. Stunning, engrossing, romantic.
Beth grasped the aluminium case containing her precious camera equipment in one hand and picked up her suitcase in the other.
Pausing a moment as the Icelandair shuttle took off again from Akureyri for Reykjavik, she looked up at the western slopes of the snow-capped mountain ridge rising majestically behind the town which jutted like a stubby finger into the fjord.
The snow glittered like sugar frosting on an enormous cake, pale gold in the evening sun. It would still be shining at midnight. Should she take just one more shot?
Resisting the impulse, Beth curbed a smile. She could already hear Oliver’s weary complaint. ‘Not another sunset, Beth.’
Oliver was a marvellous agent who had obtained some terrific assignments for her. But they frequently clashed over the kind of images clients wanted for their travel brochures, press releases, guidebooks, and nature calendars.
Oliver favoured what he called practical pictures of familiar subjects. “Play it safe” was his motto: use close-ups of flowers and animals, scenes of fishing boats in harbours, modern hotels, and be sure to show the swimming pool.
But Beth preferred trying to capture the mood of a place: morning mist over a mirror-smooth lake, the curve of a wave crashing onto shingle, cloud effects, sand shapes at ebb tide, smooth or jagged rocks, sun and shadows.
Though discussions were often heated, both recognised the need for compromise. So Oliver was able to keep Beth supplied with work, while she restricted her more atmospheric shots to her private portfolio. She never travelled anywhere without the battered brown zip-up case containing what she considered her best work; photographs she had taken in her own time and at her own expense.
For some she had waited many hours to get exactly the right light. Others had necessitated lying or crouching, stiff and cramped, until a particular bird or animal had lost its shyness and ignored her.
These shots, she knew, revealed far more artistry and talent than anything she had ever done for Oliver and his clients. One day she would prove her true worth as a photographer. She was young yet, only 25. In the meantime she would do her best within the limits she had been set.
No one had it all. She thought of Hofi and Gunnar, the friends she was going to stay with. Their marriage was rock-solid. Gunnar’s knowledge of this 40,000 square mile island and his ability as a mechanic had made him much sought after by specialist tour operators and expedition planners. With Hofi’s organisational skills and gift of being able to conjure up a hot, nourishing meal within minutes at any time of day or night, they made a formidable team. Their business was thriving. Yet what they longed for most, a child, had so far eluded them.
As for herself, she had an absorbing and satisfying career, and a growing reputation. She ate, drank, and slept work. There wasn’t a moment to spare. No time even to contemplate marriage or children. She made quite sure of that.
Beth squared her shoulders and took a firmer grip on her case. Deliberately turning her thoughts outward, she marvelled at the sharp clarity of the air. Almost all the heat for industry and domestic use was obtained from hot springs and superheated steam venting from the volcanoes that dotted the country. So there was no smoke from coal or peat fires to pollute the pristine atmosphere.
However, though it was the beginning of July, this northern capital of Iceland lay just below the Arctic Circle and the rising wind had a keen edge to it. Beth was glad of her peach-coloured padded jacket.
She had just spent a week in the south and each day this strange land of contrasts and surprises had offered something new and unexpected for her to capture on camera. So much so that, despite bringing twice as much film as she had intended to use, it had nearly all gone.
She walked briskly out of the little airport and looked round for a taxi. A noisy little Fiat squealed to a halt a few yards away. The door flew open and statuesque woman wearing a thick woollen sweater with the traditional design of grey, black, and cream, unfolded long legs in red trousers and hurried towards Beth, arms outstretched as she beamed a welcome. Her yellow-gold hair swung in a heavy braid over one shoulder.
‘Hofi!’ Beth exclaimed in surprise and delight. ‘I didn’t expect you to come and pick me up. I told you on the phone I’d get a taxi.’
‘Now there is no need,’ Hofi replied in her gentle, sing-song voice. Taking Beth’s suitcase, she heaved it into the back of the car. ‘Did you use up all your memory cards?’
Beth didn’t reply, pulling a wry face.
‘I knew it.’ Hofi chuckled. ‘Did I not warn you? We will stop and get more.’
Beth climbed in beside her. ‘There can’t be anything left I haven’t photographed,’ she protested. ‘Anyway, they are hideously expensive here. Besides, from now I’m supposed to be on holiday so I really don’t think –’
‘Believe me,’ Hofi promised as she started the car, ‘you will need more.’
The noisy engine made conversation almost impossible, so after ascertaining that Gunnar was well and business was fine, Beth was content to look out of the window at the flat pasture land, the outer fields dotted with cattle, sheep, and hardy little Icelandic horses, a vivid contrast to the bare brown rock and scree slopes of the mountains behind.
After a detour to pick up the cards and an additional cleaning kit, the combined cost of which had her doing frantic mental calculations as she handed over what seemed to be an awful lot of krona, they eventually arrived at the cream-painted house with its bright red roof.
Alongside, a Land Rover was parked in front of a building that served as workshop, garage, and store. Hofi switched off the engine. But as Beth started to get out, Hofi placed a restraining hand on her arm.
‘When must you return to London?’
Beth shrugged. ‘I was going at the end of the week. Three days with you will give me a chance to unwind and catch up on all your news. I know this is your busy season and I don’t want to be in the way or outstay my welcome.’
‘That is not possible.’ Hofi smiled at her. ‘You were with us only a few days last time. And this trip you have already been in Iceland a week before you come to see us. I know –’ Hofi cut her off, pressing her arm as Beth started to explain. ‘But we love to have you here. I do not ask because I want you to go. If there is no work waiting for you, I think you will wish to stay. But if you do stay there will be no time for relaxing, or holiday.’
Beth stared at her friend, noting the gleam of excitement in her eyes. ‘Hofi, what are you talking about?’
‘An expedition.’ Hofi’s attempt to be casual didn’t quite come off. ‘Across the lava fields and desert of the interior.’ She paused, knowing she had Beth’s complete attention. ‘To the hot springs and ice caves beneath the Vatnajokull glacier,’ she finished in quiet triumph.
‘What?’ Beth gasped. ‘But I didn’t think tourists were allowed –’
‘This is not a trip for tourists,’ Hofi explained. ‘It is a scientific expedition. All the permits are arranged. We are taking geologists out to join the main party already on Vatnajokull.’
‘What’s happening on the glacier?’ Beth could hardly contain all the questions clamouring to be asked. ‘What are they doing up there?’
‘They are waiting for a glacier burst. It is five years since the last bad one, and it seems they have much equipment on the icecap which tells them that the pressure of water melted by the Grimsvoten volcano is now so high that a burst could occur very soon.’
Beth stared blindly ahead.