Read The Passionate Sinner Online

Authors: Violet Winspear

Tags: #Romance

The Passionate Sinner

BOOK: The Passionate Sinner
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Violet Winspear


Harlequin Presents edition published January  ISBN - -  -

Original hardcover edition published in  by Mills & Boon Limited

Copyright©  by Violet Winspear. 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.

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 the incidents are pure invention.

The Harlequin trademark, consisting of the word HARLEQUIN and the portrayal of a Harlequin, is registered in the United States Patent Office and in the Canada Trade Marks Office.



AN island set in a tropical sea, on which dwelt a man who lived his life in darkness ... and here she was, the one who had handed him the eyewash unaware that the nurse had poured something that would cause him instant agony and subsequent blindness.

He had been in surgery for hours, and always at the end of a long and delicate operation he rinsed out his strained eyes with a harmless but soothing lotion. The nurse mixed it, handed the little eye-cup to her assistant, and returned her attention to the checking of the instruments which had been used by the surgeon. He had tipped back his head and blinked the lotion first into his left eye, then into his right one ... a moment later letting out a dreadful choked cry.

They did everything possible to save his sight ... the entire incident was tragic and terrible for Paul van Setan and the terrified girl who had handed him the eye-wash.

Somehow in the ensuing panic and blame, the young assistant found herself in the position of the accused. It was her fault entirely, the older nurse said at the hospital inquiry. It was the girl’s job to ensure that there was never a mix-up of bottles in the surgery, and in all innocence the wrong lotion had been poured out for eyewash. Then the whispering began ... everyone knew, excepting Paul van Setan, that the girl was head over heels in love with him, but he never even noticed if she was alive. Plain girls who fell for a man who never noticed them ... well, wasn’t there an old saying about a woman scorned?

The other nurse had a certain glamour, the doctors were sympathetic towards her, and blame fell like a clap of doom on the quiet, unassuming student nurse. They curtly dismissed her and she had to find employment that was less congenial to her ... but what did anything matter any more?

It was many months later that by merest chance she learned that the Dutch surgeon, who had performed such miracles with the scalpel on the shattered faces and bodies of his patients, was living far away in the tropics. The island was owned by a wealthy man whose son, badly burned in a speedboat accident, had been restored to health and humanity by the skill of the man whose precious sight was now gone. Never again would those extraordinary hands and keen sight combine to heal someone; they had been as sure and gifted as if a great artist worked in detail on steel or wood. Paul had worked with flesh and bone, carving what had seemed impossibly ruined back into the shape of a face, restoring a shattered limb to usefulness, or rebuilding a hip so the sufferer might walk again.

But he couldn’t restore his own lost sight, and he could no longer help his patients. He could only decide, after months of recuperation on a tropical island, to write for others in the surgical field a book on the art of restoration surgery. But he needed someone to assist him, a secretary who would understand the medical terms and be able to spell correctly the mystic words.

And the girl they had condemned, who had in fact come to think of herself as the one who had ruined him, wanted that job as she had never wanted anything in her life before ... except to see Paul van Setan no longer blind, which seemed a wish as far out of reach as the stars in the sky.

The incredible part was that she stood an excellent chance of landing the job, for not even her name could ring a bell of painful remembrance in the mind of the surgeon.

When she was a young child her father had died and some months later her mother had married an old sweetheart. Quite naturally she had wanted her daughter to use his name and the girl had done so to please her mother, but now out of the blue had come this chance to go and work for Paul, and that was of far more importance than respect for the sentimental wishes of two people who were quite content to live their lives without her. With this in mind she set about having her baptismal name restored on her employment cards and all other documents she would need to go and work abroad. When her letter of application, along with details of her secretarial abilities, was sent off to faraway Pulau-Indah it was signed with a name Paul wouldn’t know or remotelv connect with his dreadful accident.

Dropped was the plain middle name of Jane, which she had always used because her first name sounded so fanciful for someone like herself, and the letter was signed Merlin Lakeside.

And now Merlin stood on a sweep of airfield above the glitter of the ocean, where lateen-sailed boats made bright etchings against the incredible horizon. Somewhere out there, across those opalescent waters, lay Pulau-Indah—the beautiful island—and her fingers tightened on the handle of her overnight bag, for she was being flown by helicopter to Paul van Setan’s house on the island and the rest of her baggage was already aboard one of those colourful boats.

Then, her senses very highly strung at this moment, she felt rather than saw the approach of the pilot from around the side of the scarlet and white steel bubble that was to fly her off to her first meeting with Paul since that awful, heart-shattering day in surgery.

The young man was Indonesian and he wished her
‘Goede dag,’
in Dutch, at the same time flicking a look of inquiry over her slim figure in the cool shirtwaister she bad bought in London. Her eyes were hidden away behind the large lenses of sun-glasses, and her hair was scooped back into a nape-knot that concealed its tawny-brouncolour, rather like that of a tortoiseshell cat. Since she had flown out by jet straight from the cold English wintertime her skin was startling white to the gaze of the helicopter pilot, whose own colouring was that of very dark hair and warm brown skin, his eyes like crescents of black jade above his high cheekbones.

‘We are now ready to take off,
he said. ‘May I take your bag for you?’

He spoke good English and that was a relief. Merlin smiled and shook her head. ‘I can manage,

‘Ah, so you learn a few words of the island language.’ he said, a sudden glitter of interest in his eyes, as if before she spoke he had decided that she was rather prim, proper and colourless, ‘It is always wise when going to foreign places, for there can be misunderstandings, can there not?’

She nodded, and yet felt that there had been almost an amused sort of mockery in his words, and she recalled her own reflections on the plane coming here, that there was room for gossip in an unmarried man of Paul’s age being host as well as employer to a single girl of her years.

Merlin was twenty-one but inclined to look rather younger, and she knew that Paul was thirty-six. That he had not yet married was in some ways remarkable, but he had been entirely devoted to his work, though at the hospital it had been known that he had a couple of attractive and socialy well-placed women in his private life. But there had never been any talk of a binding relationship and the assumption was that he would eventually marry someone who would understand and adorn his career. In the meantime he had obviously been content to put his work before personal happiness, and that he had his working base in England was associated with the fact that he had trained under the eminent Sir Ivor Cliveland. There had been rumours of the two men going into partnership and forming their own clinic ... but now that hope was crushed out of existence, and Merlin felt an actual physical torment at knowing she had been partly instrumental in bringing Paul’s brilliant career to a dark end.

As she walked with the pilot to the helicopter she silently prayed that Paul would never find out that she had been the nurse who had placed that fatal eye-wash in his hand ... yet she also wondered if in some strange way she came to him in the hope of not only making amends but of being punished at his hands. She was at times desperately aware of what had been said about her at the time of the accident ... that she was in love with Paul van Setan and he had ignored her.

A hand gripped her elbow and helped her into the helicopter seat; a pair of earphones were handed to her, for these flying bubbles were noisy and in order to hear the pilot when he spoke to her it was necessary that she wear them. This being so it was also necessary that she remove her smoked glasses.

He turned to look at her and a sudden gleam came into his eyes, for in the confines of the cabin he was close to her and looking into her large reflective eyes that were the texture of blown violas with a dash of honey, with at the coiner of her left eye a tiny dark mole. Her face seemed quiet, but to the imaginative mind her mouth was like a soft red flower against her clear skin.

A girl most men passed by in their search for what they considered more passionate, vivacious, and ready to be responsive.

But this young man was Indonesian and he suddenly stared deep into Merlin’s eyes and a curious little smile edged his lips. ‘You knew the
before he got blinded, eh?’

‘No.’ She shook her head in swift, and inwardly frightened, denial. ‘I’ve come out to be his secretary—to help him write his book.’

‘Then you don’t know the sort of man he is,

‘No,’ she said again, and in a way this was true, for she had only seen him as a brilliant surgeon; she had never known him as a blinded man, and possibly an embittered one.

‘Be warned, Miss Lakeside.’ The helicopter swung into the air with a movement as of a scimitar slicing into the throat. ‘He can be a tiger, that one, for all that he cannot see in daylight. But at night it is different and he can walk the jungle as even a native would not dare, with hearing as acute as the creatures of the dark. As you know, he was a great man in the world beyond these waters, and even yet he uses his hands as a doctor when the need is urgent. His senses are more acute than yours or mine, and it is a wonder to see him walk as if he isn’t blind, sometimes almost into a huge palm tree, when he will pull up quite suddenly, as if with his very skin and the hair on it he can feel the tree growing there. The islanders fear him a little, but they also look up to him.
Sang Harimau,
they call him.’

‘And what does it mean?’ Merlin could feel the thudding of her heart under the cool material of her dress, under which she wore but a slip and matching briefs. She had known it would be warm out here, but at this moment she felt a trickle of ice through her veins.

‘King Tiger,’ said the pilot. ‘The one who sees in the dark, who swims where the shark swims, and has no fear. There are girls on the island who would lay themselves at his feet, but he doesn’t see them with his eyes or his heart. There is a great coldness in him.
A burning coldness as of the tiger who hunts what has hurt him.’

Merlin shivered and didn’t dare to look at the pilot. She gazed down instead and saw that deep emerald jungle was giving way to the shining surface of the sea, and a sense of apprehension took a tighter grip on her, for she had thought of an island as a place of drowsy lagoons, rippling surf and the drooping fronds of palm trees. This was much more primitive than that, a place lost out of time, where the ways of the modern world would not have reached. The liberation of woman and the dying idea that men were meant to dominate!

The Paul van Setan she had known did not fit into the tigerskin this young Indonesian had flung around his personality. She thought of him striding into surgery, gowned and hooded, and utterly certain of what he was about to do to the unconscious figure on the operating table ... he was going to give back hope and form to something torn by metal or scarred by flame.

But a tiger ... that sleek and dangerous animal prowled the night and made people afraid.

No, she wouldn’t ... couldn’t believe that Paul had changed so much, from a civilised man of mercy to a primitive brute. If that were true then he would hardly be sending for a secretary to help him with a book that might pass on to others some of the skill and dedication he had put into his work.

No, this young man at her side might have a veneer of worldliness, but at heart he was still an islander, and such people dealt in myth and used rare terms to describe people. They no doubt referred to Paul in that way because he had always been a striking man to look at, with a superb bodily co-ordination that had made it possible for him to stand the strain of those long operations, his hands at the completion of them as steady as they had been at the start.

BOOK: The Passionate Sinner
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Crucible by Gordon Rennie
Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke
The Sacrificial Daughter by Peter Meredith
Acropolis by Ryals, R.K.
Confession by Gary Whitmore
The Deadly Space Between by Patricia Duncker
After Midnight by Colleen Faulkner
The Wolf's Prey by Edugardo Gilbert X
Memory Scents by Gayle Eileen Curtis