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The Beads of Nemesis by Elizabeth Hunter

 

Overview: "Will you marry me?" Pericles asked her.
And Morag, aware of his needs for his young twin son and daughter, agreed.
Pride forbade her revealing the fact she'd fallen in love at first sight with this understanding and devastating man. But she vowed she would be all that a Greek expected of his wife.
Then she discovered this was not enough -- she wanted his love, too. That's why she dreaded the arrival of her beautiful stepsister, Delia, who had always taken everything 

 

The Beads of Nemesis by Elizabeth Hunter Book Chapter One

 

“Oh? And where do you spend your afternoon, Morag?” Takis asked.
“I’ve got some shopping to do,” she said reluctantly.
He flashed her a smile. “What do you buy? A new dress? I shall come with you and help you choose! I have a very good eye for buying dresses.”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“No woman should go shopping by herself,” he declared. “They need someone to tell them that look beautiful in one dress, or more desirable in another. You will see, I am very good at escorting women and I always know exactly the right thing to say! Besides, I can translate all your wishes to the assistants and make sure you get what you want.”
Morag sighed. She decided complete honesty was the only way to deal with him and she scurried round her mind for the right words in which to tell him that she didn’t want his company. “Takis, please leave me alone. P-Pericles wouldn’t like it, and I don’t like it either!”
His eyebrows rose in complete disbelief. “P-Pericles,” he mimicked
her. “Do you mind about him?”
“Of course I do!”
“He doesn’t seem to return the compliment! If you were my bride, you would not be waiting for a bus under the hot sun! He deserves that you should look elsewhere for a little fun. Why doesn’t he buy you a car?”
Morag hesitated. Then, “I don’t drive,” she confessed, “Pericles could teach you!”
Morag felt more uncomfortable and hot than ever. “I can drive, only I
don’t, so it’s my own choice to wait around for buses. “Pericles could
drive you himself!”
“Why should he? He has better things to do with his time!”
“But I haven’t? From now on I am your chauffeur. You have only to ask and I shall be there to drive you!”
“No, Takis. If I wanted anyone to drive me, I’d ask Pericles! It was only
this afternoon when we missed the bus and Kimon saw you that we
needed a lift. Usually we can manage very well by ourselves!”
“No thanks to Pericles!”
Morag glared at him. “I won’t have you sneering at him!” she retorted. “He’s very kind to me, and I love him very much!”
Takis lost some of his bounce and began to apologise. “I hadn’t realised that you felt like that about him,” he protested. “I thought it was a suitable arrangement for you both. Though I still feel he could look after you better!” His smile came back, and he patted her knee. “You defend him just like a Greek wife!” he teased her. “Are you as meek as a Greek wife should be to Pericles?”
Morag looked determinedly out of the window. She saw with relief that they were almost in Athens. “I try to be,” she said.
Takis chuckled. “It would be interesting to find out if he defends you with the same fervour. He was never in the least bit strict with Susan.” He drove in silence all the rest of the way into the centre of Athens, only asking her where she wanted to be put down. “There’s a place to park just by the temple of Olympian Zeus. Will that be too far for you to walk?”
Morag had no idea, but she was in no mood to argue with him. “Of course not,” she said with a confidence she was far from feeling.
“But it is!” Kimon insisted, breaking abruptly into the argument he had been having with his sister ever since they had set foot into the car. “Can’t you take us right to the museum, Takis? Or to Omonia Square?” “If you like,” the Greek agreed easily. He pointed out the Royal Guard
outside the Parliamentary buildings, dressed in the short white kilts, white stockings, and long shoes with their pouffs on the toes.
“Along here are the shops,” Peggy told Morag. “Grandma buys her clothes here. They’re very good shops, but there aren’t any department stores like in London - at least, I don’t think there are. You won’t get lost, will you?” “No, of course I won’t get lost!” Morag protested. “I’ll come and see you into the museum first.”
Takis stopped the car and leaned across her to open the door. “You’re not still cross with me, are you, Morag?” he asked her, smiling straight into her eyes. “Tell me you are not! Please let me come back to the cafe outside the museum in an hour’s time and buy you all an ice-cream? Then I shall know that you’ve forgiven me!”
Morag hesitated and knew, even while she did so, that it was a mistake. “I think it would be better if you didn’t,” she began, but he had already noted her lack of decision.
“You couldn’t be so cruel as to deny me!” he pleaded. “The children will like to have me there!” He rubbed his hand through Kimon’s hair. “Don’t I buy you the best ice-creams ?” he asked him.
“I suppose so,” Kimon confirmed. He ducked away from his cousin. “But Daddy doesn’t like us to eat too much between meals,” he added somewhat primly.
“Then I shall come and sit at the next-door table and hope you take pity on me!” Takis declared. He watched them climb out of the car, his eyes dancing with amusement “See you then!” he laughed and, with a wave of his hand, he was gone.
Morag frowned after him, but there was nothing to be done and so with a slight shrug of her shoulders she put him to the back of her mind and walked with the children through the formal gardens that led to the National Museum.
“Are you sure you’ll be all right?” she fussed as she bought their tickets and gave them each some money to buy postcards or anything else they wanted.
“Of course we shall be!” Peggy insisted.
Kimon nodded. “We know what we want to see, you see,” he pointed out. “I want to look at any coins I can find and Peggy wants to make a drawing of the little Jockey now that they’ve found the horse and mounted him on it. He does look rather super - much younger than we are!”
Morag, who had seen the statue when she had visited the museum before she had met any of the Holmes, was surprised. “I didn’t know you liked to draw,” she said to Peggy.
“Well, Grandma didn’t like me to talk about it,” the small girl explained, “but since she’s started painting again, she doesn’t mind my wasting my time drawing things half so much. She looked at some I’d done the other day and told me quite a lot of useful things to help me get the perspective right. She wasn’t cross at all!”
“Wasn’t she?” Morag smiled with real pleasure. “She must think you’re good if she took the trouble to look at your work. She hasn’t much time for the second-rate.”
“No,” Peggy agreed with all the assurance of one who knew that there was no danger of her every being considered that. “But I’m not as good as she is. She’s done a beautiful painting of you!”
“Of me?”
“Yes,” said Kimon. “She showed it to us while you were getting married in England. It looks quite like you, only I haven’t seen you looking dreamy like she has. She said you looked like that when you thought about Daddy.”
Morag was completely disconcerted. She longed to question them longer, but their impatience to be gone was so obvious that she hadn’t the heart to keep them. “I’ll be back in one hour exactly,” she told them. “Yes, all right. Don’t fuss, Morag!”
Conscious that she was doing exactly that, Morag went out of the building again, reminding herself that, unlike herself, they both spoke excellent Greek and could always ask someone if they couldn’t find their way back to the main doors. It would be far more difficult for her to manage her shopping than it would be for them to spend an hour on their own in the museum.
She walked down one of the main streets that went between Omonia and Syntagma Squares, shamelessly window-shopping. She thought she was justified in buying herself a new dress. She had not discussed money with Pericles, and she had no idea whether he eventually intended to make her some kind of an allowance, or whether she would have to ask him whenever she was in need. But this money was her own. She had brought it with her to finance her trip through Greece and she had only spent very little of it. It cost her nothing to live at Dora’s villa beyond her few personal needs. Then the idea had come to her that she would buy herself a new dress. It had to be no ordinary dress, but something very special, something that would flatter her into a kind of beauty. She had not forgotten how Pericles had looked at her that evening that she had worn her green dress and she wanted badly for him to look at her like that again. Not even Delia’s best efforts to divert his attention to herself had quite succeeded that evening. If, Morag thought, she could find herself a truly splendid dress, perhaps he would look at her again in the same way, he might even want to kiss her again, kiss her as he had not kissed her ever since their wedding.
The first shop she entered had nothing that caught her eye, but in the second shop was a dress made of cloth of gold and cut in a style that she knew immediately would suit her. She pointed silently at it when the assistant came to serve her and for a second they both gazed at the dress in silence.
“It’s beautiful!” Morag breathed.
The assistant nodded sympathetically. “It is also expensive,” she murmured in very creditable English. “Do you want to try it?”
Morag nodded. She didn’t care how expensive it was, she had to have it. If that didn’t have the desired effect on Pericles, she would write herself off as a total failure and that didn’t even bear thinking about.
“How much is it?” she asked timidly as the assistant gathered up the full skirt and threw it over her head. She held her breath and watched the gold cloth ripple down to her ankles. It shimmered, trembling just as she had trembled when Pericles had touched her. She didn’t care how much it cost, she had to have it!
Even so the price came as a jolt to her. “Are you sure?” she exclaimed, unable to take her eyes off her gleaming reflection in the glass.
“Yes, kyria, I am very sure.”
Morag sighed. If she paid such a sum on a single dress, she would have nothing left of her own. It would serve her right, for it would be sheer extravagance to spend her all on a single dress, and a dress that she was not likely to wear often at that.
“I’ll take it!”
She felt quite dazed with her own bravado. She had to keep looking at the dress to reassure herself all over again as she countersigned the traveller’s cheques she had brought with her. The assistant glanced at
her wedding-ring with a little smile.
“I hope he knows! Or is it to surprise him?”
“It’s a surprise,” Morag admitted. “It’s my own money, so he can’t be
very angry -” She broke off as a decidedly male hand covered one of hers
and Takis squinted at the bill beside the empty plastic cover to her
traveller’s cheques.
“Phew!” he whistled. The Greek girl picked the gold dress off the rail
and held it up for him to see. “Your wife has chosen well. She looked
magnificent -”
“She always looks lovely!” Takis cut her off.
Only Morag seemed to have noticed the Greek girl’s mistake. “He isn’t-”
Takis silenced her with a quick kiss on the side of her mouth. “My wife thinks I’m marvellous! You see, I never question how much she spends on clothes!”
“A nice husband to have!” the Greek girl said admiringly. “Shall I wrap the dress, kyria, or do you want us to send it?”
“I’ll-I’ll take it with me,” Morag stammered, her mouth dry.
Takis flashed his bright smile. “I’ll carry it for her, so put a decent handle on it. I don’t like it when the string cuts into my fingers.”
The girl gave him a look of pure adulation and hurried away to fold and wrap the dress.
“I wish you hadn’t come, Takis,” said Morag. “I did ask you not to.” “And who would have carried your packages then?”
“And another thing,” Morag went on, warming to her theme, “how dare you give the impression that you’re my husband?”
He put a finger across her lips to silence her. “Better that than that she should jump to a different conclusion, my sweet innocent. You wouldn’t like it if she thought I was not your husband, would you?”
She glared at him. “I’ll carry my own package!” she snapped, almost snatching it out of the assistant’s hands. “I can keep my eye on it then!” Takis shrugged and winked at the Greek girl. “Tell me when you are tired and then I will carry it,” he smiled.
Morag could hardly refuse his company back to the museum. It would have been silly to have walked ahead because she knew he would only follow on behind making her feel a fool.
As if he had read her thoughts, Takis put a hand on her shoulder and
smiled his little boy smile. “You won’t make me sit at a separate table for my ice-cream, will you, Morag? I’m doing my best to please you!”
She gasped with suppressed fury. “Your best! Perhaps you should try your worst for a change!”
He grinned. “If you like. My worst would be to forget this foolish marriage of yours and kiss you a little myself. You’re a pretty little thing, Morag pedhi, especially when you try to look cool and calm,
and your eyes flash fire and promise -”
“They promise you nothing! Takis, if you go on like this,
I shall tell Pericles - and Dora!”
“Dora would blame you. No man is ever to blame for flirting with a pretty girl in her opinion. I think you won’t say anything to Thia Dora. And you are too afraid of Pericles to mention any escapade to him. No, no, you value his opinion of you too highly to risk his taking you to task for playing games with me!”
Morag hurried her footsteps, her indignation reverberating along the pavement. “I’ll never speak to you again!” she told him furiously. “Why won’t you go away?” But he only laughed and took her new dress from her, tucking it under his arm as he put a hand on her elbow to guide her across the busy street.
If Morag would have rather that he was anywhere else; the children were more than pleased to him, however. They were already seated at one of the tables that had been arranged under the trees in the forecourt of the museum. “We didn’t order until you came,” Kimon mentioned quickly. “We thought Takis might be with you.”
“So I can pay, huh?” his cousin teased him. “Well, here I am! What are you all going to have?”
“Ice-cream,” they demanded unanimously.
Takis looked at Morag, his eyes bright - too bright. “And you?”
She would have liked to have refused to have anything but she thought that that would be making too much of a silly incident. Besides, it was terribly hot and the cooling breeze that always seemed to be present beside the sea was absent from the stifling Athens streets. She looked down her nose, sitting very straight in her chair. “I’ll have a pressed lemon,” she said.
Takis laughed. “I’ll tell him to bring you plenty of sugar!” he teased
her.
Morag averted her face. She rescued the box holding her dress from beside his chair where he had put it and hugged it to her. He had spoilt her whole afternoon, but at least she had her dress!
It was a long time before their order came. The waiter, when he did come, was carrying a huge tray, laden several layers deep with drinks, ice-creams, cakes and large, cool glasses of water that were served automatically with every order. Diverted for a moment from her anger with Takis, Morag watched the man making his way towards them and thought how well the Athenians laid out their cafes, making the best of every site, temporary or otherwise. Then, with a start of dismay, she realised that the waiter was not the only one who was coming towards them, for behind him came Pericles, a Pericles looking so grim that she clutched her package closer still for comfort.
“Daddy!” Peggy exclaimed. “Daddy, what are you doing here?”
Pericles’ eyes rested on Morag’s face. “I came to take you home. Are you ready to go?”
She nodded helplessly, as tongue-tied as she always was in his presence nowadays.
“But you haven’t had your pressed lemon,” Kimon reminded her, his voice tinged with indignation. “Nor have we had our ice-creams!” he added.
Pericles put his hand on Morag’s feet, the steely pressure of his fingers drawing her to her feet. “Then you two can come home with Takis,” he ordered them. “Morag will come with me - now!”
Morag clutched her package and followed him to where he had left his car in silence. She wished that he would look a little less grim, or that she could think of something bright to say that would relieve the atmosphere between them.
“I thought I told you not to dally with Takis, or to be alone with him?” Pericles said smoothly in a voice that brought a wave of panic to the pit of her stomach.
“The children,” she began.
“The children! Were the children there when you went shopping together ?”
In silence she shook her head. “I didn’t ask him to come, Perry. He followed me to the shop.”
He gave her a long, level look. “All right, Morag,” he said at last. “But I shan’t tell you a third time. Stay away from Takis, or I shall make it my business to see that you do! Now get in and I’ll drive you home.”
She did so, the tears stinging her eyes. He got in beside her and started the engine, but he didn’t drive off immediately.
“Tears, Morag? Then see that you don’t give me cause to get really angry with you because, by God, you’ll be sorry if you do!” Morag gave him a frightened look and thought he looked grimmer than ever. She had not the slightest difficulty in believing him. She was sorry now, though she didn’t see how she could have got rid of Takis under the circumstances and, if she had felt braver, she would have said so. Pericles lifted an eyebrow and smiled suddenly.
“You could have refused to get into his car in the first place,” he told her. “That was where you made your mistake.”
And looking back over the afternoon, Morag could only agree with him.
CHAPTER SIX
“Have I any money?”
The question as it came out sounded bald and ungracious, and she immediately wished it unsaid, as happened so often with her nowadays.
Pericles glanced at the parcel she was still hugging to her. “I hadn’t thought about it,” he admitted. “I’m sorry, Morag. I should have done so. What have you been living on all this time?”
“I haven’t needed much. I don’t need much now. I only meant that it’s nice to have a little, to give the children ice-creams occasionally, and things like that.”
He gave her a wry look. “Is that an explanation of why you encouraged Takis to tag along? To pay for the children’s ice-creams?”
She coloured. “No, of course not. I was only trying to explain why I needed money.”
“My dear girl, if you buy all your clothes at that particular boutique you’ll need more than a few drachmae to keep you going!” She found his amusement very hard to bear, but it was worse still when he added, “Did Takis suggest you went there too ?”
“No.”
He cast her a quick, curious glance. “I thought you brought all your clothes back from England with you?” he enquired.
“Yes, I did,” she admitted. She knew he was going to ask her why she found it necessary to buy anything more and she had no answer ready for him. How could she confess that she had deliberately gone out to buy a dress that would transform her into the woman of his dreams, and not just the girl whom he had married as a convenience to look after his children! “But one doesn’t want to wear old clothes for ever. I’m sure your mother must be sick of the sight of me in jeans. She’s very elegant herself, isn’t she?”
“I don’t think she minds your jeans,” he said, still looking amused. “Is this new dress to take their place?”
“Not exactly,” she said. Was it likely that she’d wear an evening dress of cloth of gold in the middle of the afternoon? It made it all the more difficult to explain why she had bought it at all!
“Did you buy the dress for Takis ?”
“Of course not!”
“I don’t see that there’s any of course about it,” he returned with renewed anger. “He has a way with women - as I know to my cost!” Morag felt an impatience with the dead Susan that made her long to tell Pericles once and for all how stupid she thought his wife had been. But there are limits as to what one can fittingly say about the dead, and she bit back the words, her mind working furiously as to how else she could convince him that Takis meant nothing to her, whatever emotion he had stirred in Susan’s breast.
“I’m not surprised Takis is so spoilt,” she said in an amused, cool voice that pleased her well. “You all go on about him as if he were something fantastically special. No wonder he believes it himself!” Pericles’ mouth tightened. “You have to admit he is handsome-”
“Do you think so?” Morag said in the same light tones. “Don’t you?”
Morag achieved a yawn. “In a way. Flashy good looks like his have never appealed to me much. I prefer,” She broke off. If she told him what she preferred, he would be bound to recognise himself in the picture she drew. “I prefer someone less obvious - stronger, if you know what I mean, who doesn’t have to play-act all the time.”
“Does he play-act?” He sounded as though it were a new thought to him and one that he rather liked.
“All the time. He’s the biggest ham I’ve ever met!”
“Well, well,” he murmured. “And what makes you think you prefer the iron hand in the velvet glove? I haven’t noticed you giving way to anyone or anything, except when one of those sudden impulses of yours takes you by storm.” “I may have been impulsive over David, but I’ve got over that.” She glanced at him covertly through her eyelashes. “I wish I’d never told you that Takis is like him! You’ve been quite horrid and suspicious ever since! And anyway, David had more substance that Takis, even if he wasn’t all that I’d thought him. You make me sound a perfect idiot!”
“Didn’t you also marry me on impulse?” he said.
She refused to answer. Was that what he believed of her? It seemed to her only too likely, and it was a depressing thought to her that she could see no way of denying the charge without telling him why she had married him, and she wasn’t ready to do that, even if she could have found tie words to do so.
“Well?” he prompted her.
Morag bit her lip in displeasure, frowning out of the window. “You don’t understand!” she said. “You don’t understand me, and I don’t think you understood Susan either!” She put a hand quickly up to her mouth. “I didn’t mean-”
His hands tightened on the steering-wheel and he slowed the car down to a crawl. “What did you mean?” he asked in the inflexible dangerous tones that she knew so well.
“Only that I’m not as silly as you think!”
He stopped the car altogether. “Aren’t you, my dear?”
She shook her head, swallowing hard. “I’m not a child!” she almost shouted. “You go on as if I do nothing but jump from one scrape into another!”
She knew he was looking at her and that she wouldn’t be able to read his expression even if she could bring herself to look back at him. She began picking , at her fingers instead, unconsciously betraying the nervousness that she most wanted to hide from him.
“If you do,” he said, “this is one scrape you won’t get out of in a hurry! You had your chance to change your mind. It’s too late for you to do so now!” He went on watching her, then he put a hand over hers, forcing her to be still. “Why don’t you think I understood Susan?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted.
“You must have some reason for saying such a thing!” She hesitated. Then, “I don’t believe she preferred Takis,” she said at last in a small voice. “Not unless you made her think she did.”
“Oh?” his voice was wintry in the extreme. She made a restless movement with her hands, but he had no intention of releasing his hold on them.
“She couldn’t have done!”
His eyebrows rose at that. “Why not?”
“Because she married you!”
One corner of his mouth turned down. “She didn’t have much choice. Her family saw to that, aided and abetted by mine. Love and romance didn’t come into the matter. It’s not unusual in Greece, you know.” Morag bent her head. “I can’t explain,” she muttered. “I knew you wouldn’t understand!”
“On the contrary, I think I do understand. I find it a very interesting point of view!”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Yes, well, aren’t we going home? Takis and the children will be there before us if we don’t hurry.”
“Does that matter?” he drawled.
“Of course!” she said. “It’s my job to look after them!” She saw him smile. “As my wife, your job is whatever I say it is. The children will be all right without you for a few minutes. Now, let’s talk about you. How much money do you think you’ll need each month?”
She was so relieved that Pericles wanted to talk about money and nothing more personal that she looked up with a quick intake of breath. Her eyes met his and dropped into his hand which was still covering hers. “It’s very hot. Takis had ordered a pressed lemon for me, but you took me away before I could drink it. You might at least have waited until I’d had a sip from it.”
“Is that a hint that I should find a cafe and buy you a drink?”
She nodded, feeling more at ease. “If we don’t have to worry about the children. And if you can spare the time?” She turned on him, suddenly aware that it was the middle of the afternoon and that he ought to be working. “Why are you here anyway?”
His expression was indulgent. “Would you rather I went away?”
“No, but shouldn’t you be working?”

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