Chapter Eighteen

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Chapter 18

Rhiannon stared deeply into his eyes for a moment, considering her answer. They really were incredibly beautiful, as blue as a mountain lake in winter, and framed by long, thick, sooty lashes. It was more that, though, he had a way of holding a person captive in his gaze – it was as if he could see directly into your soul.

“Your eyes should have given it away immediately – they’re identical to Alex’s. To tell you the truth, I was struck by how familiar you seemed the day you arrived at the villa. Yet I knew that I’d never met you before – if I had, I’d have remembered.” She smiled softly as she spoke.

“Alex is the image of her mother,” John said puzzled.

“Obviously I have never met her mother, but she inherited her eyes from you. But it is more the similarity in mannerisms and movement – all languid grace.”

“You make me sound like a bloody ballet dancer.”

“Ballet dancers are incredibly fit but, no, you’re more dangerous than a dancer. You’re like a panther – sleek, silent, stealthy – all rippling muscles and intense alertness.” Her hand trailed along his back as she spoke. “It’s a devastating image – you’re devastating.”

“The Porter effect,” John murmered.

“What’s that?”

“I’ll explain later. Never mind now, you were saying how you knew my name.”

“Well, like I said, I knew I’d never met you before so I put the sense of it out of my mind. Then when you were sick and unconscious, I was struck again by this sense of your being familiar.” She touched his face softly. “Something about your bone structure. Anyway, that night you were restless and talking – not very coherently most of the time, names mostly. Then you said quite clearly that Alex had to know you weren’t to blame and that’s when I knew.”

“From the name Alex? It could have been any Alex.”

“Yeah, I know. But what with the resemblance and the fact that she had told me you were in the Army – it was too much of a coincidence.”

“She spoke to you about me?”

“A little…”

“I bet it wasn’t good – I haven’t been a good father, we’re not close as I would like.”

“I was with her when you called. I gathered you’d been out of touch for several weeks – she was relieved you were safe.”

“Was she? My work means I haven’t been around much and just recently my missions haven’t always gone according to plan and I’ve been delayed. I was away when her Mum died – I’m not sure I’ll forgive myself for that.”

“Is that what you meant when you were calling out her name and saying you had to make her understand that it wasn’t your fault?”

“I said that?”

“Yes, as well as calling out a lot of other names – men’s names and one in particular… Steve.”

She watched as a haunted look came into John’s eyes, their brilliant colour darkening with emotion.

“He was a colleague… a friend – he… erm, he died.”

“I’m sorry… God, that’s so inadequate. Do you want to tell me what happened? Can you tell me?”

He rolled on to his back, staring up at the temple ceiling in silence. Rhiannon propped herself up on her arm.

“I’m sorry, John, I shouldn’t have asked.”

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