Taryn scoffed at the village theory. How could a special rainbow bring about a change in one’s life? But when she saw it. she couldn’t help her growing excitement
Her meeting with Luke Major immediately afterward was a distinct letdown...and a shock.
Luke was an exact replica of Taryn's ex-fiancé. And Taryn could do without the kind of changes he had made in her life!
dug in her heels and urged Dainty into a gallop. Her corn-cold hair flew out behind and she laughed aloud in sheer enjoyment. Out here on the moors the wind had whipped a healthy colour into her cheeks and she looked a different person from the heartbroken girl who had returned home several months ago.
She was oblivious to the sudden sharp shower that speckled her yellow shirt in darkening spots, aware only of a feeling of freedom and wondering why she had never sought to escape this peaceful corner of England.
Her sorrel horse took the incline in his stride, not hesitating until he reached the brow of the hill. Here horse and rider were silhouetted against the sky. The ground levelled out again before dropping sharply into a valley and from force of habit the animal slowed and stopped, knowing that his owner liked to pause a while in this spot.
From this vantage point the village of Ferndale could clearly be seen, but it was not the cottages that drew Taryn’s attention this day, nor the meandering stream that disappeared underground before emerging many miles later to open out into the sea. It was the large house to her right built high on the western slopes. Austere and forbidding. Dale End had lain empty for many years, a sentinel over the valley.
But now it had a new owner. Tomorrow he was visiting the place to decide exactly how much work needed doing to make it habitable. Curiosity in the village was rife, but Taryn had more than just normal interest—she hoped to get a job there. In actual fact an interview had been arranged for the next morning.
The shower had passed and the warm summer sun was already drying Taryn’s clothes. As she looked across the valley a rainbow appeared—faintly at first but soon deepening into a colourful prismatic arch. It was not the rainbow itself that drew forth a surprised cry from Taryn’s lips and made her sit forward in her saddle, but the fact that it formed a perfect bridge from east to west—one end disappearing into the woodland above and beyond the village and the other appearing to touch Dale End itself.
How many times as a child had she prayed to find a rainbow like this? Of course, she was too old now for such fantasies, but she could not help recalling Great-Aunt Margaret’s prophecy that whenever a rainbow spanned the valley in just this position a dramatic change was about to take place in the life of the beholder. The last time this natural phenomenon had occurred her father had been a young man. Standing in this precise spot, he had shortly afterwards met and fallen in love with her mother. Taryn had argued that the meeting would have taken place anyway, but Great-Aunt Margaret had been adamant that the rainbow had influenced their encounter.
Despite the fact that she scoffed at this theory Taryn could not help feeling excited. Even Dainty stood unusually still, his ears alerted as though he too was impressed by this astounding sight. It was not until the noise increased that she realised it was an approaching aircraft that attracted his attention. She watched as it cut through the coloured arc. At closer quarters she saw it was a helicopter—a huge white mechanical bird. Three times it circled the valley before swooping suddenly in the direction of the girl on horseback. She watched in total fascination, not really believing that he was going to land here; but as the characteristic drone grew louder, joined now by the whirr of the rotating blades, she was left in no doubt as to the pilot’s intention.
Before she had time to goad Dainty into action a strong current of air rushed across the clearing, tugging at her hair and clothes and causing her breath to catch in her throat. The grass and shrub were whipped into a frenzy as though by a whirlwind. The horse reared in fright, catching Taryn unawares. She made a futile grab for the reins before feeling herself fly through the air to land with a force that took all the breath from her body. The noise was now deafening. She attempted to rise, but, temporarily winded, could do no more than lift her head. The great white machine hovered ominously near and she closed her eyes and buried her face in the turf, confident that it was only a matter of seconds before she would be crushed.
Suddenly all was still once again. Taryn rolled over as a shadow crossed her body. She looked up at the tall figure, then shook her head in disbelief. It couldn’t be! He had always said he would never return to England. What was he doing here now? ‘Mark! ’ Her lips formed the word, though no sound came. Slowly she rose to her feet and stood facing the man who had once meant so much to her—and now —what did she feel now? Anger! A sudden searing anger that he had the nerve to seek her out again after all that had happened. Hadn’t he done enough damage without reopening the wound?
‘What the devil do you think you’re playing at?’ He spoke first. ‘Why didn't you move?’
He was still the same arrogant brute. Why had she ever thought herself in love with him? The answer was simple. When she was alone in a strange country he had befriended her. He was fiendishly handsome and could be perfectly charming when he tried. She looked into the tawny eyes, hard now and calculating—so different from their velvet softness in one of his more tender moods. His full lips were drawn into a tight line as he waited for her reply.
‘I could ask what you’re doing here,’ she returned. ‘Don’t you think you’ve hurt me enough?'
He frowned. ‘What do you mean—hurt you?'
‘Either you have a very short memory, Mark Vandyke, or you’re being deliberately evasive.’ Taryn held herself stiffly, proudly, her eyes meeting and holding those of the dark, handsome man who had appeared so suddenly and incredibly on the scene.
He gave a short laugh. ‘I think there’s been some mistake. My name's not Mark Vandyke.’
‘But ’ she stared uncomprehendingly, 'but you must be. You can’t tell me I don’t know the man I was going to marry. What game are you playing?’
He ran fingers through his short brown hair, an expression of amused bewilderment crossing his face. ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you.’ His eyes ran appraisingly over her slim, taut figure in the close-fitting shirt and faded blue jeans. ‘Even more sorry that I’m
your young man.’
‘I doubt it, if you knew how I felt,’ snapped Taryn. ‘I never want to see him again as long as I live. But if you’re not Mark, then who are you, and what are you doing here?’
‘I think that’s my business,’ he returned blandly.
‘In that case,’ turning away, ‘I’ll go and find my horse.’
His eyebrows slid up. ‘If you don’t know how to control the animal you shouldn’t ride him.’
Taryn glared. ‘Dainty is most obedient. It’s just that he’s not used to being nearly blown off his feet by some huge mechanical monster coming down out of the sky.’
He seemed unperturbed by her outburst. ‘You’ll probably find he’s gone home. I should try there first.’
‘Naturally.’ She flung him one last scathing glance before swinging sharply away. She still could not really believe he was not Mark, yet he had seemed genuine enough in his denial of the other man’s identity.
Taryn sensed him watching her, but refused to give him the satisfaction of turning round. Head held high, she tramped the half mile or so back to the hamlet, her mind in a turmoil and her serenity of the morning rudely disturbed. It was uncanny that two men should so closely resemble each other; even his voice held the same inflections. She shivered despite the warmth of the day; the unhappy memories she was striving so hard to forget flooding again to the forefront of her mind.
Mark! The man to whom she had lost her heart. The first and only time she had been in love. She grimaced wryly. How he must have laughed behind her back. So often he had said he had business to attend to when all the while it had been Maria.
She said the name aloud in loathing and disgust.
She reached the row of cottages and there, in the field opposite where he was kept during the summer months, stood Dainty, looking not in the least concerned and none the worse for his fright. Taryn stopped to speak encouragingly to him, a little annoyed that the stranger had been right, before entering the cottage she shared with Great-Aunt Margaret.
Gammy, as she was fondly called by one and all, was in the kitchen preparing tea. A widow in her mid-fifties, she still bore on her face the tell-tale lines of grief etched there following the tragic death of her husband in the same car accident that had killed Taryn’s parents six years ago. She had blamed herself for letting them go, haring foreseen that something evil was going to happen that day. Gammy’s premonitions were an expected part of family life, and as Taryn looked upon the woman who had become her second mother she suddenly remembered the rainbow. Her meeting with the man in the helicopter had pushed it from her mind.
‘Gammy,’ she said, her face alight with excitement, ‘did you see the rainbow?’
Her aunt turned from the sandwich she was making, her startling blue eyes observing Taryn keenly. They were very much alike, both with the same fine bone structure as had all the women in the Penreath family, but whereas Taryn’s hair was the colour of ripened corn, Margaret’s was dark brown, peppered now with white, which instead of making her look older only served to enhance the woman’s basic beauty. ‘I’ve been too busy to notice the weather, but judging by the look on your face this was no ordinary rainbow.’
‘It wasn’t. It wasn’t. Oh, Gammy, I've seen
rainbow!’ She might have been back in her infancy when all the children used to look for Gammy’s special rainbow.
Gammy smiled indulgently. ‘I knew you would one day, Taryn, it was in your stars. You can forget your broken heart now. All will be well. No one has ever had bad luck after seeing that rainbow.’
‘I’d like to believe you, Gammy dear.’ Taryn pulled out a kitchen chair from beneath the table and turning it round sat astride, her arms resting along the back, her chin on her hands. ‘But I think you’re wrong this time. In fact, I
‘How can you say that? You’ve hardly given it time.’
Taryn pulled a face. ‘You’ll never believe me— but only seconds after I saw the rainbow a helicopter landed in the top field. It scared poor Dainty half out of his wits. He threw me and bolted for home. I don’t mind admitting for a minute I thought I was going to be crushed beneath it.’
Gammy frowned and put down the knife. ‘That’s strange, but I shouldn’t let it worry you. Who was it? Do you know?’
‘If you think that’s strange, wait till you hear the rest.’ Taryn paused to get the greater effect from her words. ‘It was Mark! ’
Gammy snorted in disbelief. ‘Of all the nerve! What did
want? He’d better not ’
‘Wait,' chuckled Taryn. ‘I
it was Mark, he looked like him—and he spoke like him—but when I asked him why he was here he didn’t know what I was talking about. He didn’t know me, and the name Mark Vandyke meant nothing to him.’
‘Are you sure?’ more puzzled now than before.
‘Positive. He wouldn’t tell me who he was, but honestly, Gammy, I’d be willing to stake my life that it’s Mark.’
Taryn’s aunt sank on to a chair and passed a hand over her forehead. ‘I can’t take this in. If it is Mark why did he lie to you? Did he look ill? Perhaps he’s suffering from amnesia?’
‘I never thought of that, but—no, I don’t think so. He was a picture of health; in fact I’ve never seen him look fitter.’ It was one solution, though. If he had lost his memory it would certainly account for the way he behaved. Many was the time she had told him about the village where she had spent her childhood. Perhaps some chord of his memory still retained her vivid descriptions of this Devonshire village. Maybe Ferndale was the only name he could recall and he was trying to evoke more memories by visiting it?
‘Why didn’t you bring him here?’ asked Gammy next. ‘I should like to see this young man about whom I’ve heard so much.’
Taryn sniffed. ‘Our meeting hardly warranted invitations. He wasn’t very friendly.’
‘I doubt if you gave him the opportunity. Knowing how you feel about Mark I can imagine your reaction.’
‘Especially when he nearly killed me! ’
‘Don’t exaggerate, Taryn.’
‘But he did. Another few inches and it would have been all over.’
‘Well—yards perhaps, but it was too close for my liking.’
Just then the door burst open and young Rory, Taryn’s seven-year-old nephew, dashed in, his eyes shining and blond curls bobbing. ‘Gammy, Aunty Taryn, have you seen the helicopter? I asked the man if I could have a ride and he said he’ll take me up tomorrow.’