your date?’ Gideon asked, ignoring her blatant invitation to remove
‘Now you’re on your feet you can come to the dining room and find out,’
Josie said, sharply, taking her tone from him. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me,
since I’ve been working, I’m going to take a shower.’
‘Don’t forget the matches. You’ll need to light the candles,’ he said, as
she opened the door. ‘Although, personally, I prefer to shower under
‘Have you ever tried to put on make-up by starlight?’ She shook her
head. ‘Don’t answer that.’
‘What’s the matter?’ he asked, as she hesitated in the doorway.
‘Something … scuttled.’
‘What sort of something?’
‘How the heck would I know. It’s dark.’
‘You’re not scared of spiders are you?’
‘I can handle the average bathroom spider,’ she said, ‘but this is Africa
where the spiders come larger, hairier. And they have teeth.’
‘Fangs. Great. That makes me feel so much better.’
‘The thing to remember, Josie, is that they’re more frightened of you than
you are of them.’
‘You know that for a fact, do you?’ she asked, as she returned for the
‘Any creature with two brain cells to rub together is more frightened of
us than we are of them. From hippos to ants. They only lash out in
‘Well that’s reassuring,’ she said. ‘I’ll do my best not to panic it,
whatever it is.’
‘Do you want me to come and guard your back while you’re in the shower?’
She glanced at him and for a moment he thought she was going to say yes.
Then, with a determined little shake of the head, ‘I don’t need a guard, I
need a light.’
As she looked quickly away, the nets, glowing in the candlelight, moved in
the light breeze coming in off the river and she was held, apparently
‘You don’t get that kind of magic with electricity,’ he said, as her face
‘No…’ Then, abruptly, ‘I’ll make sure to mention it to the photographer.
Celebrity will like that nineteenth century effect.’
‘I’d be happier if you liked it.’
The words slipped out before he’d considered what that might mean. But
then unconsidered words, actions, had marked the day. He hadn’t been
entirely himself since he’d smelled the tantalising aroma of coffee,
caught a glimpse of Josie through the branches.
Or maybe he was being himself for the first time in a decade.
‘It’s a mosquito net,’ she pointed out. ‘What’s to be happy about?’
‘Of course. You’re absolutely right.’
She looked at him as if she wasn’t sure whether he was being serious.
That made two of them…
‘So what am I likely to find in the bathroom?’ she demanded. ‘I’m
assuming not hippos.’
‘Not great climbers, hippos,’ he agreed. ‘It’s probably just a gecko. A
small lizard that eats mosquitoes and, as such, to be welcomed.’
‘Well, great. But will it take a bite out of me?’ she asked.
‘Not if you’re polite,’ he said, wondering if perhaps he might, after all,
have hit his head. He didn’t appear to be making much sense. ‘Step on it
and all bets are off.’
‘I’m kidding, Josie. They live high on the walls and the ceiling and
anyway, you’ll be safe enough in those boots. Just make sure you shake
them out before you put them on in the morning.’
She glared at him.
‘Basic bush craft.’
Her response to that was alliterative and to the point as she struck a
match and braving the dark, advanced to where a row of tea lights were set
in glass holders on a shelf. The flames grew, steadied and were reflected
endlessly in mirrors that had been carefully placed to reflect and amplify
‘Okay?’ he called.
‘I can’t see anything that looks as if it’s about to leap out and devour
me,’ she replied. ‘But while this is all very pretty, I want lamps
available for every bathroom. Big, bright gas lamps that will shine a
light into every corner.’
‘Where’s the excitement, the adventure in that?’ he asked.
‘Believe me, Gideon, I’ve had all the excitement I can handle for one
‘It’s not over yet,’ he reminded her. ‘Better leave the door open, just
in case. All you have to do is scream…’
There was a sharp click as Josie responded by shutting the bathroom door
with a firmness that suggested he was more trouble that an entire bath
full of spiders.
Maybe she was right.
Gideon set down the glass, his grin fading as he leaned his head against
the back of the sofa and closed his eyes to avoid looking at the wedding
He’d get up, move it in a minute. For now he was content just to sit
there, listening to the shower running in the bathroom, the comforting
sound of another person sharing his space. Even if she was getting ready
for a “date”.
Obviously she was having dinner with Cryssie but the fact that she’d
chosen to tease him a little about it brought the smile back to his face.
That she’d made the effort to provoke him, cared enough to tease him a
little, maybe make him jealous was a result and he could use that.
Even as the thought slid into his mind he recoiled from it.
He’d been using her all day, having her make phone calls, fetch and carry
for him – admittedly with mixed results; she was no pushover. And she
hadn’t handed her lunch over without an ulterior motive.
He refused to accept that he was a control freak as she’d suggested, but
he was single-minded, totally focussed on growing his business.
He’d sorted out her bed shortage simply to prove that he could do it when
no one else could.
That’s what he did. New challenges, more exciting resorts, ever more
extreme adventure breaks; the kind that his father had dismissed as
Who on earth would want to travel across the world to bungee jump? Go dog
sledding in the far north of Canada? Trekking through the Kalahari?
Nothing had mattered more than proving himself better than the adults who,
stuck in the past, had been too stupid to listen to a teenage boy who’d
seen the future.
Not his family.
Not even Lissa, the woman whose genius for design had turned this place
from a basic boy’s own safari lodge, much like any other, into a place of
beauty. Who’d taken the utilitarian and made it magic with candles,
The wedding dress taunted him and unable to bear it a moment longer, he
hauled himself off the sofa, lifted it down and stuffed it inside the
wardrobe so that it was out of sight.
He used his arm to wipe the cold sweat from his face then leaned against
the door, forcing himself to let go of the tension that had snapped
through him like a wire the minute he’d seen it hanging there, like a
He’d come here to draw a line under the past, but instead of closure, it
seemed to be pursuing him, hunting him down.
What was it Connie had said? “…sooner or later you’re going to have to
The water was still running in the shower, tantalising him with its
promise of soothing, reviving heat. With the image of being crammed in
there with Josie, her hands on his shoulders, sliding down his back,
easing away the pain with those capable hands. Just the thought of it
warmed the muscles, eased the ache, sent a hot flood of desire coursing
through his veins as he imagine her small breasts against his wet skin as
she kneaded away the aches, dug into the hollow at the base of his spine.
In his heart…
He recoiled from the thought. Dammit, he was still using her, even inside
Not good. Forget hot, what he needed was a cold shower and he opened the
bathroom door just wide enough to grab a towel from the rack. As the
candles flickered in the draught something moved, catching his eye and he
opened the door a little wider. It wasn’t a gecko that had lost it’s grip
sitting in the middle of the floor, but a hunting spider on the prowl for
Suddenly everything went quiet as the water was turned off. He had one,
maybe two seconds before Josie stepped out of the shower, saw the spider
His chance to be a hero.
His reward, a naked woman in his arms.
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From the book
A WEDDING AT LEOPARD TREE
LODGE by Liz Fielding
Text Copyright © 2010 DATE
by Liz Fielding
Cover Art Copyright ©
20109 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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