Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

He braked, switched off the engine and they walked the last few yards. The full moon touched the scene with a pale luminosity and the dark shadows of half-mined pillars fell across the mosaic floor like iron bars.

The statue of the Buddha was at the far end, chipped and cracked by time and the weather, one arm missing, but the great, serene face was still complete, hooded eyes staring blindly into eternity across the river.

Janet walked towards it slowly and Dnimmond paused to light a cheroot. When he raised his head, she was standing at the edge of ths crumbling terrace, staring pensively into the night

The moon was directly behind her, outlining her shapely limbs through the thin silk of the dress, and when she turned and looked at him, she looked unreal and ethereal like some dark goddess of the night who anight % away at any moment

They stood like that, trapped by a moment of time, looking at each other, and then she came forward slowly, reached up and gently touched his face.

Drummond turned his head, brushing her palm with his lips and slipped his arm about her waist. She leaned against him, trembling a little and in the distance, thunder rumbled menacingly.

She glanced up quickly. ‘What was that?.

.Storm on the way.’ He pointed to where sheet lightning nickered over the mountains. ‘We’d better get moving.’

She was conscious of the unnatural stillness. A blanket of dark moved in from the horizon, blotting out the stars as it came. Drummond took her hand and they ran back towards the jeep.

He pressed the starter and moved away immediately, and in the same moment, great heavy drops started to splash against the windscreen. He pressed his foot flat against the boards, but it was no good. There was a tremendous clap of thunder overhead and the skies opened.

There was no time to put up the canvas tUt and he crouched behind the wheel, eyes narrowed against the stinging, ice-cold rain and Janet huddled at his side.

He drove into the courtyard at the mission, braked to a halt and they scrambled out and ran up the steps to the porch.

The thin silken dress was plastered to her body like a second skin and she shivered uncontrollably, laughing at the same time.

“That was marvellous, simply marvellous..

‘Better get out of those wet things,’ he said. ‘You’ll catch your death.’

‘You could use a towel yourself.’ She took his hand.

“Well go round this way. Father Kerrigan’s probably gone to bed.’

They followed the verandah to the garden at the rear where the window of her bedroom stood ajar. She went in, turned up the lamp and found a spare towel.

‘Do what you can with that while I get changed.’

‘Like me to dry your back?’ he said.

She gave him a quick push towards the window. ‘Go on, get out of here.’

She pulled the curtain, peeled off her wet clothes and towelled herself briskly, still shivering. After a while, the shaking stopped and a warm glow spread through her body. She pulled on her dressing gown, tying the cord at her waist and went back outside.

Drummond wiped the rain from his head and face and hung the towel across the rail. It was bitterly cold by now and he stood there breathing deeply, taking the freshness into his lungs, filled with a strange inward restlessness.

‘Feeling better?’ she said quietly.

He turned slowly. Janet Tate was standing a few feet away by the rail and as lightning exploded, her face seemed to jump out of the night, the hair like a dark curtain to her shoulders. And she was beautiful, that was the thing which came to him with a sense of real wonder. Not just attractive, but beautiful, and he took two stumbling steps towards her, pulling her close.

The drumming of the rain on the corrugated iron roof increased into a solid roaring that seemed to fill her ears. She was aware of his strength, the arms crushing her to him and as her loose dressing gown parted, his lips found her bare shoulders, her breasts.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack