Merger By Matrimony

By: Cathy Williams


“We need never stop this, you know,” he said gravely.




Wasn’t this what she’d wanted to hear? Some talk of commitment? Of permanence? What else could he mean? They’d spent a wonderful night together and at least as far as she was concerned, it was much more than that.

“What, not even to eat or have a bath?” she asked lightly, while her heart pounded like a steam engine inside her.

“I’m being serious.” He lay flat on his back with his hands folded behind his head. “We could get married,” he said. “I mean it makes sense, don’t you think? We’re compatible in bed, more than compatible, and it could sort out every niggling area of all this bargaining over the business that we’ve been trying to do over the past few weeks. I can’t personally think of a better arrangement than marriage.”






CHAPTER ONE




THE grey-haired man was looking lost and bewildered. From her vantage point in the classroom, and looking over the heads of the fifteen pupils who had shown up for school, Destiny Felt could see him staring around him, then peering at the piece of paper in his hand, as if searching for inspiration which had been lost somewhere along the way. Rivulets of perspiration poured down his face, which was scrunched up in frowning, perplexed concentration, and his shirt bore two spreading damp patches under the arms.

He was ridiculously attired for the belting heat, she thought. Long trousers, a long-sleeved shirt which had been ineffectively rolled to the elbows. The only sensible thing about his clothing was the broad-brimmed hat which produced at least some shade for his face, even though he looked ridiculous in it.

What on earth was he doing in this part of the world? Visitors were virtually non-existent—unless they were photo-happy tourists, which this man didn’t appear to be—and as far as she was aware they were not expecting any new medics or teachers to the compound.

She continued viewing his antics for a few minutes longer, watching as he shoved the paper into the briefcase which he’d temporarily stood on the scorching ground at his side before tentatively making his way to the first open door he saw.

Her father would not welcome the intrusion, she thought, continuing to eye the stranger as he knocked hesitantly on the door before pushing through. She fought down the temptation to abandon her class and hotfoot it to her father’s research quarters, and instead she reverted her attention to the motley assortment of children.

All would be explained, and sooner rather than later. In a compound comprised of a mere fifteen working adults, nothing was a secret, least of all the appearance of a foreigner obviously on a mission of some sort.

The overhead fan, which appeared to be on the point of total collapse from old age, provided a certain amount of desultory, sulky relief from the heat, but she could still feel the humid air puffing its way through the open windows. No wonder the poor man had looked as though he’d been about to faint from heat exhaustion.

By the time she was ready to dismiss her class, she too was feeling in desperate need of a shower, not to mention a change of clothes.

In fact, she was heading in the direction of her quarters when she heard the clatter of footsteps along the wooden corridor of the school house.

‘Destiny!’ Her father’s voice sounded urgent.

‘Just coming!’ Damn. She hoped she wasn’t about to be palmed off with the hapless man. This was her father’s famous ploy. To offload perfect strangers, when they showed up for whatever reason, on her, and whenever she complained about it he would cheerfully brush aside her objections with a casual wave of the hand and a gleeful remark along the lines of how blessed he was to have an obliging daughter such as her.

The three of them very nearly catapulted into one another round the bend in the corridor.

‘Destiny…’

She glanced at the man, then turned her full attention to her father, who favoured her with an anxious smile. ‘Just about to go and have a shower, Dad.’

‘Someone here to see you.’

Destiny slowly turned to face the man whose hand had shot out towards her. She was at least six inches taller than him. Not an unusual occurrence. She was nearly six feet, and in fact there were only four people on the compound taller than her, including her father, who looked positively towering next to the stranger.

‘Derek Wilson. Pleased to meet you.’

‘Don’t you speak Spanish?’ Destiny asked politely, in Spanish.

‘Now, don’t start that, darling.’ Her father remonstrated with her absent-mindedly, and removed his spectacles to give them a quick clean with the corner of his faded, loose shirt.

‘Well…people come here expecting us all to speak their tongue…’

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