Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 61 It's Probably

  • “It’s probably stuck, not having been opened since the fence was last painted,” he explained, striding towards her. “We mostly use the side entrance.”
His white shirt was unbuttoned, flapping open as he walked, revealing black curls nestled on his darkly tanned chest and a fine line of hair arrowing down, disappearing below the belt line of white shorts. Snug, sexy shorts, leaving most of his muscular legs bare.
His flagrant maleness caught the breath in Christabel’s throat. She barely had wits enough to withdraw her hand and stand back from the gate for him to work the catch free for her. The urge to simply feast her eyes on him was so strong, it was difficult to think of anything else.
His thick dark hair looked soft and springy, newly washed. He had neat ears for a man, tucked close to his head. His jaw was shiny-smooth. She picked up a tantalising scent, something sharper than fresh sea air, intriguingly attractive, multi-layered in essence. Very Jared, offering sensory pleasure.
“There!” He beamed a triumphant grin at them as he swung the gate wide.
“Thank you,” Alicia piped up, minding her manners.
“You’re welcome,” he returned, waving them forward, his eyes gathering a gleam of more personal triumph as his gaze travelled from her daughter to Christabel herself.
“Lucky you arrived before the storm,” he remarked. “I was about to close the shutters on the veranda.”
“We like storms,” Alicia informed him.
“Well, in that case, we’ll leave the shutters open unless the rain starts coming in.”
Happy with this indulgence, Alicia skipped ahead along the path. Christabel waited for Jared to shut the gate behind them, inwardly churning over what he had to be thinking, given the overt provocation of her dress. She couldn’t bring herself to walk ahead, knowing she would feel him watching the free movement of her buttocks with every step she took. It wouldn’t be so bad, walking with him.
His shoulder muscles bunched as he realigned the catch and fastened it. Her own tautly strung nerves thrummed with the tension coming from him, causing her stomach to contract and sending little quivers down her thighs. Yet when he turned to her, it was with a warm, welcoming smile, aimed at relaxing any fears she might have over accepting his invitation.
“I like the pendant you’re wearing. Very eye-catching,” he remarked.
“It goes with the dress,” she answered before she could catch the words back.
To her intense relief his gaze didn’t wander downwards. His eyes twinkled appreciation straight into hers. “Once again you demonstrate your talent for the perfect touch.”
“I’m a long way from perfect, Jared,” she blurted out, guiltily conscious of raising expectations she didn’t know if she could meet or not. Would he want more from her than having his desire sated? Was it just a physical craving for him?
“You gave me the kind of showcase I wanted for our pearls, Christabel. Your designs are now on display in Hong Kong, exciting far more interest in the trade than a showing of our wholesale product.”
A rush of pleasure eased her sense of guilt. “Then I’ve given you something of value for all the time you’ve spent on me.”
He frowned quizzically. “I do want more.”
The quiet tone carried a wealth of suggestion, tapping straight into the pulsing core of why she’d come, why he’d invited her. He wanted more and so did she, and it had nothing to do with pearls and professional business. She stared at him, feeling the gathering ache of need he stirred, wishing it could be appeased, wondering if the risk would be worth taking.
“It must mean something to you, as well,” Jared went on, “knowing your creative vision has excited such interest?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to say, I only did it for you, but that was far too revealing a truth. “I simply enjoy designing, Jared. What you do with my work…that’s your business. It doesn’t relate to me any more.”
“But you could make a real name for yourself,” he pointed out.
A kick of alarm hit her heart. “You didn’t use my name, did you?”
His frown deepened. “No. As per our agreement, the jewellery was simply labelled Designs by Picard. But I do feel very strongly that you should get recognition, Christabel.”
She shook her head, the anxious moment receding at his reassurance. “I truly don’t want that.”
“Why not?”
Because they’ll find me through you. But she couldn’t say that. Dragging him into her dilemma wouldn’t solve anything. “I’m happier this way.”
“You could make a very substantial career.”
“I don’t need a career. What I need is to be free, Jared. Can you understand that?” A kind of desperate panic welled up in her, forcing an explanation that warned him where she stood. “Not to be tied down. Not to be owned. Not to have my life ordered by others. So don’t count on more from me. Don’t ever count on more. I’ve tried to tell you.…”
“Yes, you have,” he agreed. “I’m sorry if you think I haven’t respected those feelings.”
The passionate outpouring broke into a ragged sigh. “Then why am I here?” she muttered defeatedly.
“Because it’s where you want to be.”
As simple as that. Except nothing was really as simple as that. She looked at him in anguished uncertainty.
“Let it rest for now, Christabel. Come…” He gestured towards the veranda, smiling in light whimsy. “…it’s only one evening.”
One evening…he was right. It involved only a short time span. Nothing need happen that she didn’t want to happen. And Alicia was with her.
Her gaze automatically swung to the veranda as she fell into step beside Jared. Alicia was chatting to a little old woman who was bent over, exuding interest in what the child was saying.
“Vikki Chan,” Jared elucidated. “Probably checking when and where to serve the honey prawns.”
As with many of the Chinese population in Broome, she wore loose cotton trousers and an overblouse with slits on the side. Her grey hair was scraped into a bun and her much wrinkled face was creased into an indulgent smile. Clearly Alicia was at ease with her.
Christabel gratefully seized on an impersonal topic of conversation. “I find it amazing that the Chinese and Japanese people here have adopted Western society names.”
“They’ve been here a long time. Descendants of the divers in the old days.”
“Yes, but they still keep many of their customs. Like leaving money on the graves in their cemetery.”
  • “Ah, but that has to do with beliefs, not day-to-day mixing with people. The captains of the pearling luggers gave Western names to their divers, for their own convenience in identifying them. The practice was accepted and passed on.”
“A very arrogant practice, imposing one culture on another.”
“Not a culture. Just a name. The Chinese culture is alive and thriving in Broome.” He slid her a dry look. “I doubt you’d find Vikki critical on that point. She’s quite the queen bee in the Chinese community.”
Being the keeper of the Picard home probably carried a certain status, Christabel thought, and being of a venerable age undoubtedly carried weight. She wasn’t really expecting the bright and shrewd intelligence that came straight at her from the old woman’s eyes when she straightened up from talking to Alicia.
Christabel felt herself blushing. Nothing was escaping those eyes. They had her stripped and logged in detail, with probably a character analysis done, as well. It took staunch discipline to keep walking up the steps to the veranda, her spine automatically stiffening at feeling herself scrutinised so comprehensively.
It reminded Christabel of her first meeting with Bernhard Kruger after she’d married his son.
Was she suitable?
Would she fit into the right mould?
Would she deliver what was required of her?
She’d had no conception of what she was getting into then. But she did here, with Jared’s world, and no matter what she felt with him, the conviction came very strongly that it was wrong to even touch it as she had.
“Vikki Chan…Christabel Valdez,” Jared casually introduced. “And her daughter, Alicia, whose acquaintance you’ve obviously already made.”
The old woman bowed. “An honour to meet you.”
Christabel politely inclined her head. “The honour is mine. It is very kind of you to welcome me.”
Vikki Chan raised a smiling face. “Your daughter tells me she’d like to eat out here so she can watch the storm. I wondered if you would prefer inside.”
“No. This is fine,” Christabel quickly assured her, noting that a table on the veranda had already been set and feeling she didn’t want to go farther into this house. It was easier, staying outside. Easier to leave.
“As you wish. I hope you will enjoy the evening.”
Only one evening, Christabel recited firmly to herself, as she watched the old woman walk back into her domain, Jared’s domain.
Behind her, a clap of thunder boomed with deafening force. It sounded like the crack of doom, warning her she should not have come. But it was only one evening. If she kept her head, no more would come from it.
Having screwed up the necessary willpower, she turned to face Jared…and the storm.
Get more Pearls
Go to Bravonovel app
Then you can read more chapters. And you'll find other wonderful stories on Bravonovel.