In Bed with the EnemyBy: Janet Woods
Darcie turned her face towards the rapidly darkening sky as the taxi drove away. As the salty wind whipped her long dark air into strands, an echo of her father’s words came into her mind.
‘Where else but in Australia could you get a view like this? I’ve got plans for this place, Darcie. We’ll extend it. We’ll add some holiday accommodation with a tea room and souvenir shop.’
Now the man who’d raised her from childhood had been dead this past six months, and his dreams would never come about. At one stage she’d considered remaining in England with her mother, but she’d seen so little of her mother since childhood that they were virtually strangers, and her love for Australia had driven her back once she’d got over the worst of her grief.
Dashing the tears from her eyes she inhaled a deep ozone-charged breath of air, then picked up her case and turned towards the rusty wrought iron gate set in an archway of a tall green privet hedge - behind which the garden sloped down towards the beach and dunes, allowing an uninterrupted view of the infinite reaches of the Indian Ocean.
She kicked the gate open and walked into the garden as she stared with complete and utter bewilderment. Before her, where her house and garden had once been was a stretch of bare, bulldozed earth.
‘Good God! Somebody’s stolen the house!’
There must be something wrong with her eyes, she muttered, blinking experimentally a couple of times. The house didn’t materialize, which wasn’t surprising, because not even a weed marred the awesome perfection of what seemed to have become a prime building site overlooking the ocean.
‘This must be Colin’s doing,’ she whispered. How could he? He knew how much the place means to her.’ It was typical of her cousin to ride roughshod over her feelings. Colin was twelve years older than her, married with two children. He’d come into her life when he was about twelve, an orphan placed in the care of his uncle. They’d never seen eye to eye over anything.
I’m going to kill him by slow torture, she promised herself as she turned back towards the gate. I’ll hang him up by his tongue and pluck every hair from his body with a pair of tweezers. After that I’ll drive hot darning needles under his toe-nails and -’Ouch!’
Dropping her case she clasped her injured foot, hopping around on the other until the pain lessened to a dull throb and her lopsided stance put her in grave danger of falling over. Once recovered, she scraped away the sand from the metal notice with the point of her shoe.
Leon Price. Property developer. The phone number was that of the Argyle Inn, the most exclusive hotel just on the outskirts of town - the one that had been up for sale just before she left. Leon Price must have bought it. Her eyes narrowed into flinty, dark blue slits.
They’d met before. She’d been sixteen when he’d come to the house, all arrogance and good looks, flashing his checkbook under her father’s nose. He’d wanted to buy the land but her father refused to sell. Her father had been out the second time he’d called. Leon Price had been charming, talking to her like an adult instead of a gawky teenager with braces on her teeth. It was then she’d experienced the first stirrings of hero worship. He’d had a splendid moustache, she remembered - and had looked like a film star.
Well she was no longer sixteen, she was twenty-four, and he no longer held a special place in her heart. She scowled. ‘I hope you’re in residence, Leon Price, because I’m coming to see you right now. If you think you’re developing my property, you can think again.’
* * * *
Relaxing after a bumpy flight from Sydney, Leon crossed one long leg over the other and stared at the fire flickering through his whisky glass. He liked this green southwest corner of Western Australia, liked the tall Jarrah forest surrounding it, being able to have a fire in April and listening to rain pelting against the window. It reminded him of England, a country he’d left behind fourteen years previously, but which he remembered with a fond sort of nostalgia at times like this.
He hoped Helen would like it here as much as he did. A tiny frown forked between his eyes. The site he’d bought was one he’d been after for years. It was perfect for the house he had in mind, and the Argyle Inn would provide his income.