Authors: Sara Craven
What the press says about Harlequin Romances...
"…clean, wholesome fiction…always with an upbeat, happy ending."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"…a work of art."
The Globe & Mail
"Nothing quite like it has happened since
Gone With the Wind
—Los Angeles Times
"…among the top ten…"
—International Herald-Tribune, Paris
"Women have come to trust these clean, easy-to-read love stories about contemporary people, set in exciting foreign places."
Other titles by Sara Craven
IN HARLEQUIN PRESENTS
A GIFT FOR A LION
TEMPLE OF THE MOON
A PLACE OF STORMS
Other titles by Sara Craven
IN HARLEQUIN ROMANCES
THE GARDEN OF DREAMS
Harlequin Presents edition published July 1978
Copyright© 1978 by Sara Craven.
Janna Prentiss stole a swift glance at her watch, and stifled her amusement as she realised the gesture was being surreptitiously copied all around the classroom. Not that she could really blame the children, she thought tolerantly. The autumn term was the longest, and this half-term break was more than welcome—to the teachers as well as the pupils. When they came back after their week's holiday, everything would slide with ever-increasing momentum towards the hectic excitement of Christmas, and its attendant Nativity plays, carol concerts and frantic present-making.
A lot of her fellow staff members groaned both inwardly and aloud at the prospect, but Janna always found herself rather looking forward to Christmas, in spite of all the extra work. She enjoyed the yards of paper chains and the parties, and helping to cut out robins and holly which actually bore some resemblance to the real thing for the home-made calendars and cards.
It was this part of the year that she found so disturbing. She glanced out through the big window to the tree which dominated the centre of the tarmac playground. The summer had been long and lingering, but now, in late October, a wind with all the chill of winter in its breath was shaking loose the last remaining leaves and sending them drifting in little eddies to the ground.
The lunch bell was due to go at any moment. Quietly, she told the child at the top of each table to collect up the books and hand them in. There wouldn't be any work that afternoon. Mrs Parsons, the headmistress, had hired some films, and the children were seething with excitement, vehemently arguing the merits of Tom and Jerry over Bugs Bunny. She chivvied them into a certain amount of quiet and order, and along the corridor to the school hall for lunch. It was mince, she noted wryly, with the soya bean which seemed an inevitable addition these days, and it was a taste she hadn't been able to acquire to far, although the children seemed to like it well enough. She wandered back towards the staffroom. She wasn't particularly hungry. She had an apple in her briefcase, and she would make do with that.
As she walked past the school office, Vivien Lennard, the school secretary, peered round the door at her. 'Oh, there you are, Janna. I was just going to send a kid with a note to find you. Colin rang to say he would pick you up in five minutes.'
'Oh.' Janna paused for a moment, taken aback. She did occasionally have lunch with Colin, but he usually gave her a fair amount of warning. She knew that if she'd spoken to Colin herself, she would have made an excuse. She didn't feel like indulging in a large and probably stodgy meal at the White Hart, whose dining room was Carrisford's only restaurant.
'Cheer up!' Vivien sounded amused. 'Anyone, would think you'd just had the death sentence pronounced! Well, that comes later, dear—at the wedding. For now, you're just engaged to the lad, so why not enjoy it?'
Janna smiled in spite of herself, knowing quite well that Vivien herself was as happily married as it was almost possible to be.
'Sorry if I'm ruining your image of love's young dream,' she returned. 'I'm just feeling a little jaded, that's all. It's been damned hard work this term so far. This class hasn't been as easy to get to know as some that I've had.'
'Never mind.' Vivien gave her a pat on the arm. 'When you and Colin get married, all this will just seem like some horrible dream. He does still want you to give up work straight away, doesn't he?'
'Yes,' Janna agreed with something of an effort, 'he does.'
Vivien stared at her. 'Don't tell me you're having second thoughts!'
Janna smiled faintly. 'Oh, not about Colin, just about giving up work. It seems so—so odd, somehow. I just can't visualise myself as a lady, of leisure.'
'A lady of leisure—with Colin's home to run, and all that entertaining you'll be called on to do, not to mention having a family of your own some day? You're kidding!'
'I suppose it does sound ridiculous. But when I started my training I thought I'd be teaching for years to come.'
'The dedicated spinster, I suppose, with Prime Ministers coming to wring your gnarled hand and swear they got their inspiration from you.' Vivien's laugh was infectious. She gave Janna a shrewd all-encompassing glance from the sleek cap of smooth dark hair which curved forward on to her cheeks, and the slightly tilting green eyes, down over her slender but rounded figure to her slim legs and small feet in fashionably high-heeled shoes. 'I'm sorry, my dear, but you don't fit the image at all.'
In all but one thing, it suddenly occurred to her after she had gone back into her office and resumed her task of filling in the endless forms that were part of her daily routine. Janna was a lovely thing and had never lacked for masculine admirers, long before Colin Travers had arrived on the scene. Yet there had always been something cool, even remote about her, although Vivien had always considered her husband Bill was exaggerating when he described Janna as 'an icicle'. Nevertheless, there was a promise of generosity in the curves of Janna's mouth that Vivien could swear had never been fulfilled, and allied to this was the constant suggestion that Janna was holding herself back in some bay constantly reserved.
'One thing's certain,' Vivien told herself as she thrust an envelope into her typewriter and began to type the address. 'If she ever does let herself go, someone will be counting his blessings for the rest of his life.'
Meanwhile, the unconscious object of all this speculation had retrieved her full-length suede coat from the cloakroom, and was standing near the main entrance watching out for? Colin's car.
A group of older children, who would be attending the second dinner sitting, came racing over to her. 'Miss—Miss —have you seen that car?'
Alison Wade, who had been in her class the previous year, caught her hand. 'Come and see it, Miss. It's—it's fantastic!'
'It must be,' Janna said amusedly, knowing that Alison was not easily impressed.
Half-resignedly, she allowed herself to be shepherded round to the side of the building where the staff and visitors parked their cars, and her jaw dropped a little. Alison had not been exaggerating. She knew very little about cars and she could place neither the model nor its country of origin. What she could recognise was the understated suggestion of power and performance in the streamlined, low-slung shape, and an unmistakable aura of luxury.
The children were staring at it and murmuring, resisting the temptation to touch it and leave fingermarks on the immaculate pale grey body.
Kevin Daniel nudged her. 'Eh, Miss,' he said in awe, 'it's like something out of a James Bond film.' He pointed at the headlamps. 'D'you think there's concealed machine-guns there?'
'I doubt it,' Janna told him Apologetically, but even she was taken aback by the instrument panel on the dashboard. Maybe there were no machine-guns, but she was sure every gadget in the history of the world was included somewhere in that terrifying array of dials and switches.
A car horn blared sharply, and involuntarily she stepped back, wondering just for a second if the car owner was somehow able to warn people away by some form of remote control… Then she saw Colin's car parked outside the school gates, and chided herself for her own fanciful-ness. She paused long enough to shoo the children safely back to the playground and out of temptation's way, then went out of the gates where Colin was waiting impatiently, holding the passenger door open for her.
'We haven't got much time,' he remarked as he swung himself into the driving seat, leaning across and brushing his lips against her cheek.
Janna glanced at her watch. We've over an hour. The service at the White Hart isn't that slow and…'
He shook his head. 'We aren't going there. There's something I want to show you first. We might manage a drink and a sandwich at the Crown afterwards.'
'The Crown?' Janna stared at him, puzzled. 'But that's out of town.'
He sent her a brief, triumphant smile. 'I know. Sit back, my sweet, and prepare for a surprise.'
Janna complied, faintly bewildered by the air of barely suppressed excitement that hung about Colin. He was generally so imperturbable, so much in control of his emotions. It was one of the things that she admired about him, and certainly an aspect of his character which explained his success in business. It was an open secret locally that Colin was the driving force now at Travers Engineering, and that his father, who had founded the .firm, was content
be a figurehead, and leave the running of the company in Colin's hands.
Travers was the only large works in the locality, and it had expanded dramatically in recent years in spite of the generally depressed economic climate. With the expansion had come a change of role for Carrisford, with a brand new housing estate springing up on its outskirts, and & hurried building programme to add to the capacity of its primary and comprehensive schools. Yet in many ways it still remained a rather sleepy little market town, Janna thought with affection as Colin's car threaded its way through the crowded square bordered by tall grey stone buildings. The tradition was there in the market cross, and the square Georgian town hall set firmly at one end of the market place.
It had always looked the same for as long as she could remember. She had gone away to do her training, and in many ways had been glad to go, and she still wasn't sure what had brought her back as a newly fledged teacher in her probationary year. Her parents were undemonstratively glad to see her. They regarded it as part of the scheme of things that the daughter of their marriage should live at home until she set out on a married life of her own. There was a reassuring sense of permanence, of stability about things, and Colin's advent into her life seemed, as far, as her mother was concerned certainly, merely ah inevitable piece in the pattern.