Authors: Christina Jones
Tags: #Fiction, #General
‘Actually –’ Jay leaned forward slightly ‘– I don’t think we’re entirely alone. I think there’s someone in the
‘What? Who? No, surely not.’
Erin squinted down the sweep of age-foot-dinted steps and over the grassy slopes, all night-black now, and across the Swan’s lawns to where the
stood, deserted, in all its golden, flickering, fairy-lit glory.
The sequins on the distant thrones and the pillars danced in the moonlight, and the glorious silken drapery moved very softly in the lightest of breezes. The vast embellished interior was empty.
‘No, there’s no one there. You’re imagining it.’
‘I’m not. I’m sure I’m not. I saw something move,’ Jay said. ‘Just a shadow, but definitely a movement.’
‘It’s probably just a fox clearing up all the sweets and goodies that were dropped.’ Erin smiled in the darkness. ‘Good luck to him. I hope he enjoys his wedding night supper and –’ She stopped and stared. ‘No – did you see that? It can’t be a fox – well, not unless it’s a circus fox and its walking on its hind legs. You were right, there’s someone in there.’
‘Told you,’ Jay laughed. ‘I’m right. You’re wrong. Now you have to pay a forfeit.’
Erin giggled. ‘Oh God, not out here – and not when my nanna’s still waiting to dance with you. Hey –’ she leaned forward over the stone balustrade ‘– there it is again. A shadow. Did you see it?’
‘Yeah. Two shadows,’ Jay said. ‘Someone’s using our
for a clandestine lovers’ tryst.’
‘Blimey, that’s poetic. I’m impressed. Are
you going to quote romantic poetry to me on our honeymoon?’
‘Shame. Ooh, I wonder who it is though? It must be either someone who works for the Swan, or one of our guests, as we have exclusivity. Oooh, I wonder if it’s Uncle Doug and Abbie? I do hope not. Eeeuwww.’
‘Mmm, not a pleasant thought. But why would they be in the
? Doug’s got a room here tonight and Abbie probably lives-in anyway. They wouldn’t need the
, would they? Oh, well, good luck to them whoever they are.’
Erin looked at him in surprise. ‘Aren’t you even slightly curious to know who they are? Won’t it keep you awake all night, wondering?’
‘I’m hoping –’ Jay smiled slowly ‘– to be kept awake all night by something else entirely.’
‘But actually, yes. I suppose it would be fun to know,’ he admitted. ‘Especially if it’s some wildly unsuitable couple. Like Nalisha and Dreadlock David.’
‘Or Dora Wilberforce and your posh Uncle Samir.’
Jay pulled a face. ‘Please don’t – that could give me nightmares. Come on then Little Miss Inquisitive, we can just be taking a romantic wedding-night stroll in the moonlight, can’t we?’
‘We can.’ Erin gathered up the masses of her glorious dress and multiple net petticoats. ‘And I’ll never breathe a word that you’re simply as nosy as I am. Oh … I’m going to need a hand down these steps again.’
‘You could always take your dress off.’
‘No way,’ she laughed. ‘It’d take far too long. It’d be sunrise before I was down to my vest and knickers.’
‘Bloody hell, that doesn’t bode
well for my intentions later.’
‘Later,’ Erin giggled, ‘I promise you I shall just ask you to unzip, unlace, and unhook me and I’ll leap out of it from a standing start.’
‘Really? I’m impressed. And you can’t do that now?’
‘Nope. But if you hold my hands I’m going to kick off these shoes. I can’t walk across the grass in them and my feet have been numb for about the last five hours. Aaah – bliss.’
Erin’s height dropped dramatically as the insanely high – and even more insanely expensive – cream-satin and silver-net-delicately-studded-with-tiny-organza-rosebuds wedding shoes now lay discarded on the terrace.
‘Just the dress to deal with now. Look, I’ll grab this side if you grab the other. Ta.’
Giggling, they carefully negotiated the layers of dress on the downward curve of wide stone steps again, and walked silently hand in hand across the damp grass. The hem of the dress, dragging on the lawns, would probably be ruined, but Erin absolutely adored the cool dew on her bare feet and between her burning toes.
Total, total heaven.
It was, Erin thought, simply fabulous to be outside, in the cooling night air. To be able to feel her feet again. To be with Jay. Just with Jay. Yes, of course, she was a bit curious about the inhabitants of the
, but more than that it was just lovely to be alone with Jay.
‘OK,’ Jay whispered, as they walked
between the gods and goddesses forming their silent towering guard of honour again, and reached the
’s opening. ‘Now we just peep in, and whoever it is, we don’t say anything. Not a word. We just look and walk away. OK?’
‘OK. And can we laugh when we’re out of earshot?’
‘Yes, or maybe not, depending on who it is.’
‘Oooh, yes – and we don’t want anyone to think we’re peeping Toms, do we?’
Trying not to giggle, Erin bunched up the layers of her dress and they tiptoed towards the entrance and peered in.
The candles had been extinguished, but the zillions of pinprick fairy lights in the pleated silken ceiling gave a gentle golden glow.
Kam and Gina, oblivious to anything or anyone but each other, were entwined on one of the deep-cushioned sofas.
Erin swallowed. The way Kam was looking at Gina needed no interpretation.
She tightened her grip on Jay’s hand and tugged him away. ‘Come on,’ she hissed. ‘We really shouldn’t be here.’
‘No –’ he shook his head ‘– we shouldn’t. But …’
‘Sssh. Quick. Before they see us.’
‘Right now they wouldn’t notice if we had an earthquake and a hurricane combined. But yes, let’s go.’
Hand in hand, keeping to the grass so that their footsteps were muffled, they ran as fast as Erin’s dress would allow back to the terrace.
‘Gosh,’ Erin said breathlessly
once they were back leaning against the stone balustrade. ‘Kam and Gina. I’d never have guessed that in a million years, would you? But how absolutely fantastic.’
Jay nodded. ‘Wonderful. And clearly they want to keep it a secret, so we’ll never ever let them know that we know.’
‘Kam and Gina,’ Erin murmured again, beaming. ‘Gina and Kam. Perfect. Oh, I’m so happy for her – she deserves a lovely man. And no wonder she’s been looking like she’s discovered the elixir of eternal youth.’
‘And Kam has been looking like the cat that got the cream for ages,’ Jay chuckled. ‘And he must be very serious about her because he hasn’t breathed a word – usually he’s bragging about his conquests from the rooftops. And I’ve never seen him look at another woman the way he was gazing at her. He’s head over heels.’
‘Oooh.’ Erin leaned back against Jay. ‘Isn’t that just lovely? I’m so happy for them both. What a wonderful ending to a wonderful day.’
‘It’s not quite over yet.’
‘Oooh, no – you’ve still got to party-dance with Nanna.’
‘I was thinking more about our wedding night – and our honeymoon.’
‘Mmmm, me too. Are we going to tell our parents when we get there? Mum and Dad are bound to worry if I don’t.’
‘Of course. I thought we’d let everyone know we’ve arrived safely when we land at Keshod.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Erin grinned up at him. ‘You’re very wicked. And I love you insanely.’
‘Good. I think it’s in the rules. And as soon as we mention Keshod, Mum and Dad will know straight away that we’re in Gujarat, won’t they?’
‘Going back to your – and their – roots for our honeymoon.’ Erin laughed softly. ‘They couldn’t ask for more, could they? They’ll be amazed when they find out where we are.’
‘They will. And it’s something
we planned all on our own, without any family interference at all. Come here.’ Jay pulled her against him and sighed. ‘Damn – this dress is fabulous, but I can’t get close enough to you.’
‘You’ll just have to wait until the leap from the standing start.’
‘You’re a hard woman.’
They laughed together.
Erin sighed happily in his arms. ‘Can you picture your parents’ faces when we tell them that we’re staying at Mandvi Beach? In a honeymoon
. A glorious all mod cons silken tent on the sands. With a huge carved queen-sized bed, and having traditional Guajarati barbecues beside the ocean.’
Jay nodded. ‘Oh yes. But I think we’ll keep all the details to ourselves until we get back. I know everything worked out wonderfully in the end, but they could have caused so much trouble with their interfering and trying to force us into a Monsoon Wedding. If they hadn’t been quite so pushy and obvious, maybe we’d have told them about our plans, but as it is …’
Jay kissed her. Very, very slowly.
Then he lifted his head from hers
and smiled. ‘I think we can manage our Monsoon Honeymoon very nicely on our own, don’t you, Mrs Keskar?
‘Oh yes,’ Erin sighed blissfully, curling against him. ‘I
we can …’