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THE HAND OF FATE

HAND
 

Why was it Joss thought, feeling Sam’s calming presence at his side? Why was it that some people travelled through life with never a moment’s grief and others like him …? Why him? Why, when he was happy and life was worth living, did something always manage to pull him back down into another nightmare?
 

Unable to deal any longer with the ruinous mess he had made of his life in the UK through excessive pride and the unrelenting pursuit of fame and fortune, Joss Walker came to Australia hoping to find a new beginning. To put all that behind him, to start anew somewhere else, with Australia the first and most logical and promising destination…It had been the right choice to make. Australia made good her promise tenfold. After a long and very interesting and inspiring trip around Australia – meeting new people, doing new things, seeing new horizons – Joss Walker began to understand that he couldn’t go endlessly on and on blaming himself for that which couldn’t be changed, and finally plucked up the courage to go back to being a vet. A decision, that changed Joss’ life for the better, and made him eventually, dare to start singing again – which led him to Michelle.
Michelle Davidson, who became the very essence of his existence, the very core of his happiness, until Fate – that travels with us all – reached out its hand once more, and, powerless to ignore the invitation, Joss Walker had to fight for his life all over again.

Changing direction away from her usual thriller type stories, Joyce Berendes’ The Hand of Fate is a compelling, deeply emotional, real life journey. It traces Joss Walker’s continuing struggles against Fate and the damaging consequences it carried to Joss’ ultimate destiny.

 

In Store Price: $AU32.95 
Online Price:   $AU31.95

ISBN:   978-1-921919-68-8  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 395
Genre: Fiction

Books by the same author  
The Fourteenth Day
 
And Then Came the Rain
 
Matters of Choice
  

Children’s story 
Nulla and the Purple Poison Plant

Author: Joyce Berendes
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English

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Joyce Berendes

 Former Actress, Dancer and Playwright Joyce Berendes came to Australia as a skilled and seasoned performer. In Australia, after studying a further two years Speech and Drama she performed as the main character in a number of popular plays and won Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre’s best actress award, for her performance as a concentration camp survivor in the Australian play A Game of Numbers. She has written several one act plays for children and started a Children’s Operetta Group when living in Brisbane for which she wrote the book and lyrics of two children’s musical plays that were later performed by school and amateur theatres. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that she turned her back on theatre to start writing novels. Set in Cairns, Far North Queensland, her first published novel The Fourteenth Day – a fast-paced psychological thriller/love story that explores the darker corner of the human mind – was nominated for the Sisters in Crime, Davitt Crime Writers’ award. The’ first print of her second novel And then came the Rain – another thriller/love story set in Karumba at the Gulf of Carpentaria – sold out within four weeks of the book’s launch. Joyce – who is increasingly becoming one of our better known and popular writers – wrote her third novel Matters of Choice as contemporary women’s fiction this time from a male’s point of view. At one stage in her life, Joyce travelled with her husband throughout Australia for four years with Landcruiser, caravan and motorcycle experiencing many adventures, some of which have been incorporated into her writing.

The Hand of Fate is her fourth adult novel published by Zeus Publications.

More about Joyce www.bookcreatorscircle.com.au

Chapter One - part sample 

Joss Walker sauntered leisurely over to his motorcycle. Relieved to have escaped his clinging admirers only halfway through interval, he took a deep breath in the still air of the mellow evening, which was scented by some flowering tree he failed to recognise. For once he was well pleased with himself and the enthusiastic accolades he had received. It had felt good. His performance had been a success, but then, they usually were. It was he who was never satisfied, who had to, even now after all these years, get away from the people and their questions. Their opinions about his singing, their raving on about what a gift he had, what a great voice. Why wasn’t he doing this professionally? He should be down in Sydney or Melbourne, where he’d surely get a place in the Australian Opera Company.

The bike was parked under a tree with low-hanging branches, well away from the harsh overhead lights of the parking area. Even though there was almost a full moon, it created a dark private corner where one could not easily be noticed, which suited him fine. After removing his dinner jacket and bow tie, which he stuffed into the pocket of his jacket, he made himself comfortable on the seat of his bike. Propping his elbows on his knees he lit a thin joint and prepared to enjoy a quiet smoke while he waited for the pressure and strain these appearances still caused him to diminish.

It wasn’t the singing. In the last couple of years he had learned again to thoroughly enjoy that part of appearing in a show like this. He was once again able to lose himself in the music and give it all he had to give; that part of performing was okay. It was afterwards. People all meant well and he shouldn’t complain about being appreciated, but it just wasn’t in him. It had never been in his character to talk a lot of hyperbole even then. It was now getting to the stage where he was tired of not being able to tell people – especially females, who would aim for him like the bees to honey – that no, he didn’t have a great voice. Sure, he had a good voice, but obviously not good enough. Otherwise wouldn’t he be in Sydney or Melbourne or London? People had no idea how very stressful an occupation a professional singing career was. The studying and practising such a career required, unless you were one of the chosen lucky ones, you never became master of it, but you just endlessly hoped to get better at it. Been there and done that – it had ruined his life.

The tensions slowly draining out of his system, Joss gave the bike an affectionate pat and made up his mind to take the BMW for a spin as soon as he’d finished the smoke.

Knowing how much his mother enjoyed these fund-raising gala dinner shows and to see him perform again with a full orchestra, he had invited his parents to be his guests for the evening. The two of them were staying with him on a six-week holiday from England and had just returned from an exhausting tour through Papua New Guinea, which had left his mother not feeling at all well, so they had decided it would be better if she had a quiet night.

He’d actually felt quite disappointed after having worked so hard on his program. Especially the Toreador’s aria out of Carmen, which he knew would have pleased his mother no end. Somewhat annoyed and not inclined to find another partner at such short notice he had decided to go to the show on his motorcycle and was glad now he had taken the bike instead of his car. He would take the machine for a nice hard ride for half an hour or so and by the time he came back he’d be ready to grin and face his admirers again at the after-show party.

It was as he straightened up ready to hop off his bike and exchange his dinner jacket for a short leather coat that he saw someone walking his way. With a jolt he recognised the slim figure striding across the car park.

He had caught sight of Michelle Davidson within the first few seconds after he had passed through the automatic doors and stepped into the hotel foyer where the before dinner nibbles and drinks were being served. A leggy, exuberant creature, at least half a head taller than the people around her, she’d stood out like a beacon of joy with her sparkling, laughing eyes and thick dark hair, which she had gathered into a neat long horse tail at one side of her neck, while a few elongated corkscrew curls floated flimsily around the other side of her face. He thought she looked rather lovely in her dazzling evening dress and noticed how very slim she was, which made her appear even taller.

Above the heads of her friends their eyes had met and held, and within a few seconds communicated all that needed to be said. He had been quite stunned. Passionate feelings like that had been foreign to him for such a long time he hadn’t immediately known how to react. There had been an extraordinarily keen urge within him to go up to her and make her acquaintance, yet he had made no attempt to meet her, aware instantly of their difference in age. When he learned later that she was at the show with one of the guys from the Barber Quartet he’d realised she was even less attainable and had pushed the thought of her out of his mind during his performance.

But now, seeing her walking towards him, Joss wondered if that had been the right decision to make.

She didn’t speak or look at him for a few moments as she stopped in front of him, but instead slid a hand lovingly along the back of the bike.

‘She’s beautiful,’ she said, finally looking up at him.

Joss offered her the joint in silence.

‘No thanks, I gave that up years ago. It’s not considered cool anymore by the thinking person.’

‘Agreed. I was trying to relax a bit after the strain of the performance.’

‘I saw you go outside. I wanted to tell you how good you were.’

‘Thank you.’

‘In fact I thought you were brilliant. I can’t understand why …’

She was standing in front him, facing him as he still sat on the bike. Joss flicked what was left of the joint on the ground, dismounted, and to his own astonishment, unable to resist the urge this time, pulled her gently to him.

‘Are you sure it wasn’t for this?’ Leaning forward he pressed a cool, fleeting kiss on her mouth, and then prevented her from speaking by putting a finger on her lips.

As if it was the most normal thing in the world for a complete stranger to kiss her, Michelle, only half a head shorter than Joss, held his eyes for a long moment. They were both aware of an instant attraction that had been initiated as their eyes had met in the foyer and they now stood captivated, silent, scrutinising the very essence and wonder of this moment. Michelle took hold of his hand and as their fingers intermingled removed it slowly from her mouth.

 ‘I was about to take the bike for a spin,’ Joss said at last, breaking the spell. ‘Would you like to come along?’

Christ, what was he thinking?

Michelle nodded. ‘But I can’t,’ she said, releasing his hand. ‘I’m with Ian Slater; he’s performing in the Barber Quartet after the interval.’

‘Yes, I know. So why did you come out to see me?’

‘I told you …’

‘No, you didn’t.’

‘I don’t know why,’ Michelle admitted after a small hesitant pause, her eyes still never leaving his face. ‘I just had to.’

Joss thought for a moment, weighing up her words.

‘When is he on?’

‘The second performance after the interval.’

‘If I promise to have you back by then, will you come?’

Michelle was keen; it sounded so exciting. ‘I can’t really. I must get back. My girlfriend and her ex are waiting for me as well.’

‘Why not send her a message?’

‘You really mean to go now?’

‘Yes, why not? It’ll be cool. This time of the night we’ll have the road to ourselves. It’ll be fun.’

Wondering what was happening here, yet totally thrilled with the idea, Michelle watched him take an extra helmet out of the left side pannier at the back of the bike. She knew that she was lost. And he knew that she was. She was sure of it. Her heart was pounding at the idea of speeding through the night with this fascinating guy. It would be an incredible experience. Never in her life had she done anything as reckless as this would be. No one would ever believe …

‘But …’

He stopped her by putting the helmet on her head, standing very close, speaking very low. ‘Please, I would like you to come. I assure you, you’ll be quite safe. Believe me, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll be back to see your boyfriend perform, I promise.’

What the hell was he doing?

‘But I’m not dressed for it.’

Joanna would think she’d gone stark raving mad, Michelle thought. The two of them had been standing in the foyer, watching Walker’s elegant, lanky frame bend over to talk to some of his admirers, smiling as he took his leave. Ian had gone backstage to get ready for his performance and Joanna’s ex had gone to get them a drink. When she saw Walker moving away from his admirers to go outside, she’d known without a doubt that she had to follow him.

That first glance when their eyes had met in the foyer had the most peculiar effect on her. She hadn’t a clue who Joss Walker was. She had never heard of Joss Walker. However, when she asked around, no one else seemed to know much about him either. All anyone knew was that he came from England. Around two years ago he’d suddenly appeared on the charity fund-raising scene and only performed in the bigger events. The Cairns Choral Society had apparently tried to entice him to join their group but he had politely declined.

She had been lost even then. He had taken control over her thoughts, and then that voice … His voice had the capacity to caress every sensuous part in her body; she’d been pulled into it. Particularly when he was singing that wonderful conclusion from La Bohème; she had wanted to cry and reach out to him, aware of a link that had to be more than just chemistry and couldn’t be ignored. Even if she had wanted to, which she didn’t. No one, no one at all, had ever had that effect on her that she could remember; she just had to find out why.

‘Here, hold this for me for a moment, please,’ she’d said, handing Joanna her small bag. ‘I’ve got to go and see him.’

‘What? Why? He obviously wants to get a break from people; he won’t want to see you.’

‘Yes he will, I know he will.’

‘Don’t be a geek, Chelle, he’d …’

She hadn’t waited to hear what Joanna said next.

Joss meanwhile had collected his leather jacket and helped Michelle into it. He then slipped back into his evening jacket and turning to Michelle, was about to help her on the bike when he noticed her flimsy peep-toe shoes.

‘Mmm, perhaps you’d better take those off.’

‘My shoes …? Why?’

‘I suppose you could call them shoes, but there’s not much of them, is there? They wouldn’t be safe. I have a thick pair of walking socks in one of the panniers. They would do a much better job keeping these toes of yours safe.’

Michelle found herself being lifted onto the bike and in a moment her shoes were safely tucked away and her feet encased in Joss’s warm socks.

‘That’s better,’ she grinned, holding out her decidedly non-fashionable footwear.

‘Definitely,’ Joss grinned back. He then folded her long flowing dress out of harm’s way around her bottom and knees, and reaching inside his trousers pocket, handed her his mobile.

‘Here, use mine.’

Moments later, Joss donned his own helmet then settled himself on the bike, started the engine, and with Michelle’s arms clinging around his body they roared off.

Once on the Captain Cook Highway he headed north towards the beaches. Five minutes later they passed through the more northern suburbs of Cairns. After sweeping past the Palm Cove turn-off, Joss slowed down and pulled over, and without turning the engine off brought the bike to a stop at the side of the highway.

‘If you want to see your boyfriend perform,’ he called out at Michelle, half-turned on his seat, both feet firmly placed on the ground to balance the bike, ‘we’ll have to head back now.’

‘No, no! Go on, please!’ Michelle shouted back in his ear, arms still around his waist. ‘You knew this would happen, didn’t you? This is fantastic!’

Grinning to himself, Joss was about to take off again, when Michelle tapped him on the shoulder.

‘You’d better let me send another message,’ she yelled as he turned. ‘Joanna might think we’ve had an accident if I don’t turn up.’

Nodding, Joss pointed to the pocket of his jacket. He would allow himself this one adventure with her, he thought, while he waited for Michelle to send the SMS. Just this once, then he would have to let her go. She was far too young. It was no good tempting fate. He managed to enjoy his life as it was right now, he was content again. Why invite trouble?

While they sped past luxurious properties, their inhabitants fast asleep, the somewhat sinister sight of the dark expanse of the ocean touched delicately by the silver light of a not quite fully grown moon, for a long time their only companion, they followed the coast road to Port Douglas. With the many bends, sweeping open corners and the light on full beam, the motorcycle felt as if close to flying.

As Joss wound the motor up to one-twenty, one-thirty and at one particular long straight stretch of road to one hundred and fifty kilometres an hour, Michelle held onto him for dear life. Her chest pressed to his back, her arms tightly around his waist, she was on an incredible high, her exhilaration passing through to Joss like an electric current.

Joss shared her elation. Just before Mossman, passing the Port Douglas turn off, he spun off the Captain Cook Highway onto the Mulligan Highway and the steep Rex Mountain Range, the bike easily taking the long sweeps and loops of the climb that would take them up to the Tablelands. Slowing only slightly at the corners he would throw the bike on its side, keeling over considerably, but never too dangerously far, for just at the right moment he would straighten the bike up again and so prevented it from sliding out from under them. It was like an out-of-body experience, the two of them like one entity, soaring through the shrouded night chasing a bright beam of light.

Intoxicated by the touch of danger, they wanted it never to end.

Slowing down as they moved through the township of Julatten – situated on top of the Rex Range and renowned worldwide by bird watchers for its hundreds of species of birds – they passed through the small village of Mount Molloy, where Joss picked up speed and set course for the Tableland town of Mareeba. Minutes later, without given it a second thought, he suddenly changed his mind as he saw the sign pointing to a privately built road that led to Lake Mitchell.

Once on the private Quaid Road he slowed the bike down and followed the road at a more leisurely pace towards the lake. Although closed to the public, Joss had been there a few times with friends on horse trail rides and knew it to be a magnificent place. When they arrived at the lake it didn’t take him more than a few minutes to find a convenient area to park the bike. He turned the engine off, closed his eyes for a second or two then swiftly stepped off the bike. Before Michelle could say anything or move, he lifted her up in his arms and off the bike. They stood holding each other in silence, the adrenaline still pumping through their veins, while their eyes gradually got used to the dark. Joss let go of Michelle’s shoulders and removed her helmet, placing on the bike’s seat. Taking her hand and still without saying a word, he guided her carefully along a well-worn, short bush trail towards the lakeside.

‘Wow! Look at this!’ Michelle, drugged by the wind, their sensational journey, and the incredibly beautiful scene in front of her, stood mesmerised.

‘Isn’t it awesome? Hey, let’s have a swim!’ She immediately started to take off the thick woollen socks. ‘Come on, Joss, let’s have a swim, why don’t we?’

Slipping out of his leather jacket, Michelle was about to rush over to the darkly inviting lake when Joss held her back. ‘I think not, girl, let’s sit for a moment. Let your eyes get properly adjusted to the dark so you can see what you’re doing. For all you know there may be crocodiles in there …’

‘Oh, come on, don’t be a spoilsport,’ Michelle chuckled. ‘Look, the water will be lovely; I can see everything quite clearly. We’ve arrived in fairyland, Joss.’

Of course she was right. His eyes by now well adjusted to the Cimmerian night, and helped by the silky light of the moon, he could see everything quite plainly as well. Close to the water’s edge was a stretch of open-spaced trees, which, with others shadowed and fenced in by bushes and undergrowth further back, encircled a very inviting and enchanting-looking lake. It all did give the impression of being rather mystical and fairylike, he had to agree. Especially with the few flimsy vapour veils still touching the water here and there. He also knew it would be quite safe to swim in this lake; he’d swum here a few times himself. The thing was, did he want this? Did he want what a swim may lead to?  

Of course he did. Would he be human if he didn’t? Yet she seemed very vulnerable and impulsive. Would it be fair to take advantage of that, if he didn’t intend seeing her again? Could not see her again, much as he wanted to, if he was honest with himself. Would that be wise?  

‘Michelle, stop and think for a moment.’

‘About what?’

‘You don’t know the first thing about me.’

‘Oh, I don’t know. I know you have a magnificent voice and after that stupendous ride, I know you are pretty wild and wonderful on a bike. What more do I need to know?’

‘You need to come out of the clouds and be sensible.’

‘Why? Oh, come on, Joss, don’t be a fuddy-duddy, you’re letting the show down. I don’t want to come out of the clouds and be sensible, I’m in fairyland. I’m having a great time!’

Her back to him, Michelle bend forward, seized the hem of her skirt and in one swift move, lifted the dress that had cost her four hundred and thirty dollars over her head and dropped it carelessly onto the ground. Then wearing nothing else but the briefest pair of knickers she made once again for the lake.

‘You don’t intend to rape me or do something totally nasty or horrible like that to me, do you?’

Her feet were already splashing into the shallow water when she stopped to turn to him. Outlined in the moonlight, it wasn’t only the lake that looked inviting and enchanting, Joss noticed, somehow finding it hard to breath.

Tall, fine-boned and so slender, she was nevertheless well proportioned. Except for her breasts perhaps, which were very small and sharply pointed, and managed to make her look like a long-legged, somewhat under-developed teenager.

‘Well, I hadn’t actually thought about that, but if I do come for a swim,’ he teased, trying to keep his mind away from the obvious, ‘I may want to do something totally wanton and lascivious with you and that, I should think is not on.’

‘Why?’ Michelle chuckled. ‘Who’s protesting?’

She had walked slowly backwards, the water now up to her thighs. ‘Not me!’ With that she let herself merge gently into the water and still on her back started to swim lazily towards the centre of the lake.

Joss watched her go; she was a powerful swimmer, her arm movements strong and rhythmic, her feet well controlled. The argument inside his mind already lost, he decided he would have to live with the consequences. He too started to take off his shoes and socks, then dropped his trousers and took off his jacket and shirt.

‘Bloody hell!’ he spluttered, taken aback by the unexpected cold temperature of the water. It took his breath away for a moment. ‘You could’ve warned me!’ he called out, listening to her laughter.

‘Serve you right for trying to bring me down!’

‘You just wait there, lady!’

Once in the deeper part he dived under and went after her. Grabbing her by the legs when he got to her he yanked her down deep, and arms around her trunk, kept her clutched to his chest while she struggled to get out and back up. Then after a few seconds holding her close he suddenly let go of her and pushed her back up.

‘You brute!’ Michelle gasped. Her eyes almost blinded by water, she saw Joss’s head appear from beneath as he joined her. ‘I thought I was going to explode!’

‘That’ll teach you not to play games with wild and wonderful strangers. Say you’re sorry.’

‘But I’m not.’ Her arms around his neck, her abdomen tightening with desire, she couldn’t hold back a shiver.

‘You’re getting cold; come on, I’ll race you back.’

They arrived at the shore more or less at the same time and, their feet slipping and sliding in the muddy soil, ran hand in hand back to their clothes.

‘Wait here,’ Joss urged throwing the leather jacket around Michelle’s shoulders. ‘I should have a towel in one of my cases.’ He was back in no time clutching a large and not too clean bath towel. ‘Success! It may just be a little smelly but it’s better than nothing.’

‘God, what have you got back there, Pandora’s Box?’

Michelle grabbed the towel and leaning forward, immediately started to dry her hair. She had apparently lost the clasp that had held her hair back and it now hung in soft curls way down past her shoulders. ‘If I didn’t think it to be too far-fetched, I’d imagine you had this whole extraordinary trip to the lake planned well ahead.’

‘Entrapping you with my alluring voice and wild wicked charm no doubt?’

‘Naturally. I mean, extra helmet, leather jacket, socks to protect my feet, a towel to dry my long skinny frame – here …’ Having dried the rest of her body except her feet in a somewhat haphazard fashion she walked over to Joss. ‘I left a few dry spots for you.’

She made an attempt to dry his hair. ‘Your hair’s gone all curly from the water.’

‘Yes, it tends to do that, as does yours I notice.’ Joss got hold of her wrist to take the towel from her. ‘Perhaps you’d better let me do that myself.’

For a moment their eyes met and held in the soft light of the moon and as they had done in the foyer earlier in the evening, conveyed a message Joss was now convinced he should not follow up.

‘So what else have you hidden in those panniers that might come in handy?’ Michelle asked softly. Refusing to hand back the towel, she slowly, seductively, started to dry his chest and shoulders, her eyes never leaving his face.

‘Not the sort of things you are thinking of.’

‘In that case you didn’t plan this adventure as well as you thought you did. Did you?’

‘I didn’t plan this adventure at all. I always carry an extra helmet. The leather jacket I wore coming to the show on my bike. As I do a lot of walking, I always carry an extra pair of socks. And I’m a vet. This towel was last used when I wiped my hands after attending to a horse. So you see,’ he chuckled, this time taking the wet towel from her to wrap around his waist; trying to hide his body’s reaction to the deliberate caresses it was getting, ‘all very convenient circumstances.’

‘Oh, nice one,’ Michelle murmured, her now empty hands caressing his neck as she folded them gently at the back of his head. ’You do know how to pull a person down, don’t you? I shall never forgive you.’

‘Yes you will, once you come back to your senses.’

‘Oh do shut up, Joss.’

To make sure that he did she immediately kissed him on the lips, urgently using her tongue and teeth, and Joss, in spite of his good intentions, the firm pointy breasts pressing hard against his chest, gave in. His arms encircling her slender frame, he kissed her back, long and hard and without reservation. Even so it was he who let go first and, with his hands resting on her hips, pushed her gently away from him.

‘Michelle, much as we both want to, I don’t think we should.’

‘Why not?’

‘Think about it. We were only going for a ride, have ourselves an adventure …’

‘It was always more than an adventure, Joss, wasn’t it? From the very moment we looked at each other.’

‘True.’

‘Then why?’

‘I can’t really say. It’s hard not to give in, believe me. You’re not on your own in that. It may sound stupid, but I feel I’m taking advantage of the situation. Of you, you …’

‘Joss! God! I’m twenty-four. I …’

‘Yes, and I’m forty-two and that could be the problem.’

‘But shouldn’t that be my decision?’

It took her no more than two seconds to absorb the surprise and know that it was cool. If she had thought about it at all she would have thought ten or maybe eleven years at the most, but this made no difference, no difference at all to what she felt towards him.

‘Possibly, but right now it’s mine. So here,’ Joss said, his voice sounding gruff. He picked up Michelle’s dress which lay crumpled up in a softly glowing heap on the ground behind her and tried to hand it over to her. ‘Put your dress back on. And I suggest you take those wet panties off. Or whatever you call those bits of string – they are going to be extremely uncomfortable on the bike, wet like that.’

Speechless with disbelief for a moment, Michelle just stood staring up at Joss. Then, hurt and unnerved, she snatched the dress out of his hands and turned to walk a few metres away from him, her emotions in turmoil. It was a struggle to get the dress over her still moist skin. Why? Why did he have to spoil it all? What difference did a few lousy years make to them? They had been in tune with each other from the very moment their eyes connected, still were, she was sure of that. He wanted what she wanted, his body didn’t lie, then why?

Her eyes, resting on the moon-spangled water across the lake, saw the magical light and shadows of the bushes and tall trees around her, yet, busy as it was with the mystery of Joss, her mind did not register any of their enchantment this time.

Joss, meanwhile, hastened to don his trousers and shirt, knowing he’d been too brusque. He should have been gentler, try to make her realise that … but Christ! Nevertheless, she must be so confused. Leaving his wet boxers where he had dropped them and still on his bare feet he hurried to be with her.

‘Michelle, don’t be angry.’ He felt her back and shoulders tense as he put his hands on her hips. ‘Don’t be upset, please. It’s not as if I didn’t want to make love to you, far from it, you know that.’

‘Oh yes, I do! I’m well aware of that, how could I not be?’

To his relief he detected a smile in her voice.

‘But you have to be prepared to live on the edge sometimes, Joss.’

As if he didn’t know. He had lived on a knife-edge for months on end, years ago, and then dropped off it into an abyss more terrible than anyone could imagine, taking his family with him. It had taken him almost ten years to come to terms with that episode of his life. He would never risk that ever happening again. To have made love to her now would have carried him far beyond the one and only adventure he had promised himself. Even that, he had to admit, had not been a wise thing to do. It was going to be rough to let her go from his life.

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