Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

The curtain rustled and when he turned Ms head, Raika had entered. She was strikingly beautiful and wore a ruby in one nostril and great silver ear-rings with little bells on the end that tinkled when she moved ier head.

Her sari was of blue silk threaded with gold and outlined every curve of her graceful body. Drummond nodded, and without speaking she started to work.

First came the hot rinse, water so scalding that he had to stifle the cry of pain that rose in his throat. She worked on his limbs to start with, first with the brushes and then with practised hands, loosening taut muscles, relaxing him so completely that he seemed to be floating, suspended in mid-air.

And as always, he was amazed at the matter-of-fact-ness of it all, the lack of overt sensuality. But then this was India where life and death, love and the flesh, were all a part of one great mystery.

She sluiced him down again with another bucket of

‘hot water that was followed immediately by one so cold it drew the breath from his body. He gasped and there was a glint of laughter in her eyes, barely contained, so that at once she became real, a creature of flesh and blood.

She leaned over Mm, the damp sari gaping to the waist and Drummond cupped a hand over one sharply pointed breast She went very still and stayed there ia that position, leaning across him, her hand still reaching for the brush.

Drummond stared up at her, the nipple hardening against his palm and something stirred in her eyes. Her head came down slowly, the mouth slightly parted, and as he slid his free hand up around her neck, there was a discreet cough at the entrance.

Raika stood back at once completely unconcerned, and Drummond sat up. Ram Singh peered through the curtain, an anxious frown on his face.

‘So sorry, Mr. Drummond but there is a person to see you.’

Dremmond frowned..A person?.

‘A Miss Janet Tate.. Ram Singh laughed nervously. ‘An American lady..

‘In this place?’

Hamid appeared at the Hindu’s shoulder, a cigarette in his mouth. ‘A day for surprises, Jack. Any idea who she is?’

There’s one way of finding out.

Drummond tightened the towel around his waist, left the cubicle and went into the next room. It was beautifully furnished with heavy carpets, low divans and round brass coffee tables at which several clients were relaxing after the rigours of the bath.

He crossed the room followed by Hamid and the

Hindu, knelt on a divan and peered through the latticed partition of wrought iron into Ram Singh’s office.

Janet Tate stood at the desk, examining a figurine of a dancer. She put it down, turned and looked around her with interest, moving very slowly across the floor, incredibly lovely in the yellow dress, the long, shoulder-length black hair framing her calm face.

Hamid sighed softly. ‘A hour! from Paradise itself, sent to delight us.’

Drummond straightened, a frown on his face. ‘Get me a robe, will you?’

The Hindu was back in a. moment and helped him into it. ‘Aren’t you going to dress first?’ Hamid said.

Drammond grinned. ‘My curiosity won’t allow me to wait that long.’

When he opened the door and stepped into the office, Janet Tate was examining a tapestry hanging on one wall. She turned quickly and stood quite still.

The man who faced her was about forty, the crisp black hair already greying a little at the temples. He was perhaps six feet in height, well built with good, capable hands. She noticed them particularly as he fastened the belt of his robe.

But it was the face that interested her, the slight ironic quirk to the mouth of someone who laughed at himself and other people too much; the strong, well-defined bones of the Gael. Not handsome, the ugly, puckered scar running from the right eye to the corner of the mouth had taken care of that, but the eyes were like smoke slanting across a hillside on a winter’s day and she was aware of a strange, inexplicable holiowness inside her.

‘Mr. Drummond? I’m Janet Tate.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack