Authors: Jane Corrie
Bond of Fate by Jane Corrie
"I need a wife," Julian Cridell stated
It was not quite what Melanie had in mind when she applied for the position. As a newly graduated teacher, without a job or a home, the
advertisement for a companion to a teenage girl had seemed made for her.
Julian's proposal was strictly a business
arrangement with a limited time frame. So she agreed. And it might have worked out all right except for one thing.
Melanie had not even considered the possibility that she would foolishly fall in love with the man she called a husband.
Printed in U.S.A.
HARLEQUIN ROMANCE by Jane Corrie
2167—PATTERSON'S ISLAND 2194—THE TEXAN RANCHER 2209—PEACOCK'S WALK 2257—THE ISLAND BRIDE 2285—CARIBBEAN COCKTAIL 2313—THE SPANISH UNCLE 2335—TASMANIAN TANGLE 2365—THE STATION BOSS 2384--ISLAND FIESTA 2413—PIRATES' LAIR 2431—BRIDE FOR SALE
2521—ROSS'S GIRL 2551—MAN WITH TWO FACES 2743—CARTIER'S STRIKE
Original hardcover edition published in 1987 by Mills & Boon Limited
Harlequin Romance first edition February 1988
Copyright © 1987 by Jane Corrie.
Philippine copyright 1987. Australian copyright 1987.
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
The Harlequin trademarks, consisting of the words HARLEQUIN ROMANCE and the portrayal of a Harlequin, are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited; the portrayal of a Harlequin is registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the Canada Trade Marks Office.
MELANIE GREENSMITH sat disconsolately gazing at the
dregs in her coffee cup in the small café a few yards
down from the college where she had just graduated.
Her future—and the same could be said for her fellows—was not exactly brimming over with hopeful anticipation of employment. She was a fully fledged teacher, yes, and so were the fifty others who only a few hours ago had climbed up those imposing steps to receive their diplomas, but after the congratulations and the back-thumping had come the certain and sure knowledge that only a very privileged few of them would actually be doing the work that they had trained for.
Melanie knew that her chances were very slim in this respect, even though she lived in London where jobs were at a premium. If she could afford to take part-time work, things might not have looked so black for her, but she couldn't, for her first consideration was to find herself lodgings of a sort. A flat was way beyond her slender means, but she had managed to scrape a few pounds aside out of her allowance for this contingency. But the high cost of lodgings in that area would soon leave her with no alternative but to accept her aunt's kind offer of living with her and her new husband.
She was very fond of her Aunt Alice, and had her aunt stayed a widow, Melanie would have been only too happy to join her in her little mews cottage on the South Bank of the Thames, but now there was Arthur
Makin to contend with, the man who had married her aunt within weeks of their meeting. A stout, florid and thoroughly repugnant man, with a jovial manner that had apparently fooled her aunt from the start of their acquaintance, he was clever enough to go on fooling her while he had the comfort of a nice home and good food.
It hadn't taken Melanie long to get his measure, and on the one and only occasion she had stayed with them, she had had to think up various tactics to keep out 'of his way when her aunt was out either shopping or visiting a sick friend a few doors away.
The loss of her mother, Melanie's only surviving parent, had been bad enough. She had been an invalid for years, but Melanie had been able to cope with her debilitating illness through the kind help of a neighbour of twenty years' standing who had been a hospital matron before her retirement; this woman had shared the task of caring for the elderly lady and thus had enabled Melanie to get qualifications for work, not only for the sorely needed income, but also to ease her mother's worries over her daughter's future.
Her mother had died during Melanie's last term at college, and she hadn't been able to keep the flat on that they had been living in; she couldn't afford to, for after all the bills were settled there was nothing left.
Up until now, Melanie had managed to put off her aunt's constant insistence that she make her home with her. It had meant countless little white lies. She was busy. It was her last term, and she had to qualify. She had visited them on the odd occasion, but had only taken tea with them, and then had slipped off on some excuse or other.
She was well aware that her aunt was of the opinion
that there was a romantic attachment in the background that would account for her lack of dutiful attendance on her only surviving relative, and as this suited Melanie's purpose she neither admitted nor disclaimed such a state of affairs. Anything was better than to be the cause of her aunt finding out what sort of a man she had married, and as he himself would be extremely careful not to queer his pitch, the onus rested on Melanie; things would have to be bad before she landed herself in that unenviable position.
She sighed. Things were bad. She had made several enquiries regarding the work situation, but to no avail. All her student friends were doing the same, and getting the same results. Her thoughts turned to Jane, her room-mate, who was getting married in a week's time. She and Chris had got it all worked out. Two could live as cheaply as one,
There were others who were on the same bent—it didn't always include marriage, but they all had someone to go to or somewhere to go.
It hadn't fallen to Melanie's lot to find someone to want to share with her. She had been so anxious not to fail in her exams that most evenings had been spent swotting, and if the truth were known she would have been most upset had such a suggestion actually been put to her by a member of the male fraternity.
It wasn't that she was unattractive. Her features were comely without being beautiful. Her eyes pansy-blue, were perhaps her best asset, and her mouth was appealing too, though perhaps a little too generous for classical tastes. Her tawny brown hair was always worn pulled back severely into a bunched conglomeration at the nape of her neck because of its wiry nature. These attributes all added up to the nickname of `Bluestocking' that had been given her during her
early days at college and which had since stuck.
At this moment, Melanie could only be grateful that her aunt was away on holiday and had missed her `coming out' ceremony, for she would have insisted on dragging Melanie back with her afterwards. As it was, Melanie had precisely one week to find herself somewhere to live and, which was more important, the means to pay for her board.
As she debated whether to get herself another cup of coffee, Melanie's eye lighted on a newspaper lying on the next unoccupied table, opened at the job vacancy section, and as she went back from the counter with the coffee she picked it up and sat idly perusing the lists of vacancies. All vacancies, as her situation was not one to encourage fussiness.
Her eye caught one advertisement that held her attention. A well-educated lady was wanted as a companion for a child of thirteen. The age required ranged between twenty-two and twenty-eight years old, and applicants had to have a current passport. Interviews, she read, were to be held at the Savoy Hotel from two p.m. to four p.m. on the seventh.
Melanie frowned. But that was today, she thought, and looked at the publication date to find that the paper was two days old.
She wasn't one to give much credence to what might be considered the hand of fate, and no such thoughts were in her mind, but it did occur to her that this was a living-in situation, which was precisely what she needed. A glance at her watch showed that it was a quarter to two. If she was to stand any chance of obtaining the post, she ought to get a move on, so grabbing her shoulder bag and taking the paper with her, she was on her way to the Savoy.
Several rather off-putting thoughts came into her
head as she made the journey, and she almost talked herself out of going through with it. She had heard some hair-raising tales of English girls who had taken work that took them abroad, and eventually found themselves stranded in foreign lands. Only the thought that there would be so many applicants that she probably wouldn't even get an interview kept her going.
This premise turned out to be accurate, at least the fact that there would be many applicants for the post, as Melanie found on entering a room to the right of Reception to which she was directed on enquiry.
She felt highly exposed as she took the last seat in the row and suffered the critical examination of the other hopefuls, who seemed, after a short survey, to feel that they had nothing to worry about, for they resumed chatting amongst themselves.
As each girl left the inner sanctum where the interviews were being held, all eyes were on her, and necks craned forward to hear what she said to the girl she had been chatting with before she entered the lion's den. A general sigh of relief would echo down the line as the words, 'They'll let me know', were repeated, and interpreted by all and sundry as the famous old adage, 'Don't call us, we'll call you'!
It seemed to Melanie that the time each applicant spent in the interview room got briefer as the line dwindled in front of her; she had moved up several chairs since her arrival, but as applicants were still arriving there were no vacant seats.
At this rate it did look as if she was going to get an interview, and she didn't know whether to be pleased or worried about it. She had noticed that there were some very lovely girls in the line-up, who had taken particular care over their appearance, whereas she
was wearing her old windcheater with the college colours on one arm, under which she wore a serviceable light jumper and skirt, and sensible, well-worn brogues that suggested that she would be more at home tramping the Downs than attending an important interview.
These thoughts hardly gave her confidence as she watched each applicant in the line, which had now, frighteningly, dwindled to three in front of her, preen herself, brushing imaginary specks of fluff away from her smart suit before presenting herself for inspection.
To take her mind off such thoughts, Melanie concentrated on the advertisement, particularly the passport bit. Whether it was the sight of so many pretty girls in the room, or her own highly coloured imagination, she couldn't tell, but the thought that some Eastern potentate might be considering taking a few new recruits back to his harem did occur to her, especially as it seemed that they were all being given the same non-committal comment at the conclusion of the interview. Perhaps little asterisks were put against the names of the prettiest?