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Ready to climb back to the cottage, Blythe hesitated and waited for
him.
'Thanks for the party,' he said formally.
'You left early.'
'Your place is small for a crowd. I didn't think I'd be missed.'
'One more wouldn't have made a difference. I hope we didn't make
too much noise.'
'Don't worry about it.' He nodded to her and went on his way.
She wondered if Jas had enjoyed himself at all or simply thought
her and her friends shallow and frivolous.
He wasn't an easy man to get to know. Yet now and again she'd
caught a glimpse of warmth, of enthusiasm, even excitement dammed
up behind that wall of detachment. And of an unwanted sexual
attraction to her.
Her cheeks grew hot and a prickling sensation ran over her skin.
Surely she'd thrown out enough hints to Jas even told him
point-blank that she liked him. He'd turned that aside with a
generalisation and walked away.
He hadn't even said he liked her in return. A tremor of doubt shook
her. Maybe he found her a nuisance  offering to do things for him,
collecting mail, running errands, issuing unwanted invitations...even
inviting him to flirt with her. She'd never done that before.
But there was that rarely glimpsed glitter in his eyes that he couldn't
hide, the unspoken but unmistakable male-to-female message: I find
you desirable.
Despite that, he'd made it patently clear that he didn't want to get
involved. So if she got her fingers burned she had only herself to
blame.
While she was having lunch a couple of days later a storm warning
was broadcast on the radio. A cyclone sweeping across the Pacific
from the Islands had veered towards New Zealand and was expected
to come howling down the coast during the night. It had lost some of
its force and the eye would probably be well out to sea, but winds of
up to a hundred kilometres an hour were forecast.
She'd need to cut all the flowers she could and make sure the rest were
as secure as possible.
She 'was already working in the garden when it occurred to her that
Jas might not have heard the radio warning. Did he even have a radio?
Blythe wasn't sure. She hesitated only a moment or two before
pulling off her gloves and going down to his house.
His door was open, and at her knock he emerged from the kitchen at
the rear, a tea-towel in his hands. 'Hello.'
'Hi.' She tried to gauge his expression, and decided it was wary.
'Um...have you heard the cyclone warning?'
'Cyclone?'
'They said on the radio the edge of it's supposed to hit us some time
tonight.'
'Well, as you told me once, there's not a lot we can do about it.'
'You should probably make sure your windows are secure, and...you
don't have outdoor furniture or anything that's likely to be picked up
and thrown through a window, do you?'
'No, but I'll check around the place for anything loose.'
'Well...I'll leave you to it.'
'Thanks for telling me.' As she turned and started down the steps, he
said, 'Blythe?'
'Yes?' She stopped to face him.
'Will you need any help to prepare for this? Your flowers won't stand
cyclone winds, will they?'
She couldn't keep a note of worry from her voice. 'I'm going to pick as
many as I can today and put them into drums of water.'
'Your tunnel house it's only plastic.'
'It's on the sheltered side of the hill and sturdier than it looks. I just
have to cross my fingers and hope.'
'I'll come and help you pick.'
'But you're busy.'
'Not too busy to help out a friend.'
A friend. She was so glad to hear him say that, she flashed him a
brilliant smile. 'Thank you. But are you sure ?'
'Give me fifteen minutes and I'll be there.'
CHAPTER FIVE
BLYTHE showed Jas how to cut the stalks of the budding sunflowers
at an angle. They worked quickly, gathering the stems into bundles
and plunging them into the big drums that Blythe had prepared with a
mixture of water and a treatment agent.
Several people phoned to check she'd heard the warning, and asking
if she needed help. She thanked them and told them she had help
already. Micky offered to bring some friends along but she assured
him everything was under control.
As she laid down the phone Jas thrust another bundle of sunflowers
into a drum. 'Had you thought of putting them in the garage?' he
asked her, glancing dubiously at the white plastic overhead.
'They'd wilt in there.' The garage was corrugated iron and the day was
still deceptively sunny and hot.
Blythe had found a straw stetson that her father sometimes used and
made Jas put it on. She wore a wide hat herself, and a loose sleeveless
shirt over her shorts. Each time she took more blooms to the tunnel
house she splashed a little cool water on her face and under her arms
from the tap outside, but she could feel sweat gathering between her
breasts.
Jas was sweating too, the back of his T-shirt darkened and damp. At
one point he straightened, removed the hat to wipe his forehead with
his hand, and said incredulously, 'You normally do this on your
own?''I don't usually harvest so many at once. And I pick in the
evening or early morning.'
When a little later Jas stripped off his shirt and used it to wipe his
forehead again before tossing the shirt to the ground, Blythe took out
the tube of sunscreen she always kept in the back pocket of her shorts
and handed it to him.
Jas gave her a quizzical look but spread the cream on his arms and
chest while she pretended to be occupied tying a bundle of stems
together.
He had a nice chest, not too hairy. There was no spare flesh on him,
but his upper arms were quite muscular for a man with a sedentary
occupation. Maybe he lifted weights. Or books, she thought, smiling
inwardly as she knotted the binding about the thick stems of the
sunflowers. He had plenty of those to heft around.
As she straightened he replaced the cap on the tube and gave the
sunscreen back to her. 'Thanks.'
'Turn around,' she said briskly, unscrewing the cap again. He couldn't
have reached his back.
He didn't do it immediately, and she repeated, 'Turn around. It's your
back that's most likely to get burnt.'
Jas turned, and stood with his hands on his hips while she squeezed
white goo onto her palm and spread it quickly across the firm, warm
flesh. She had to stop her hand from lingering, her thumb from
exploring the intriguing groove of his spine. It was done in seconds
and she stepped back. 'There.'
Jas's shoulders moved as he took a breath. 'Thanks,' he repeated, his
voice muffled. Without looking at her he returned to cutting the
sunflowers.
When they'd picked all those that were close to flowering, they
checked the ones that couldn't be harvested yet, making sure their
supports were secure. Blythe brought out a roll of fine netting from [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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