Keywords; up the garden path, bernard preston, A Family Affair.
How well does Peter cope with scheming women?
These early unedited, free chapters from A Family Affair are here to whet your appetite and bring consciousness of a new author in this niche. Me, Bernard Preston.
A Family Affair is a trilogy of three books. If you've read this far, and are enjoying the plot, then isn't it time to spend a measly 99c and purchase the fully edited version of Book II? In any event, this is one of the last of the freebies. Change now, by purchasing the A Family Affair, Book 2, Peter's Children from Our STORE. Pay your 99c with credit card or Paypal. Only 99c, download onto your computer, or onto you phone using the free Kindle app from Amazon.
I'm keeping the first purchaser's feedback for posterity. In fact, I'm going to frame it. A Family Affair reviews.
It was their second to last day. Santie had seen a notice about an organized walk into the mountains, up Lammergeier’s pass to where the rare vulture had a nest and could occasionally be seen. She had put their names down, thinking the walk would do them good. Perhaps being around other people would help. Janet had nodded glumly, before bursting into tears for the second time that day. They packed their haversacks early with some sandwiches and a couple of bottles of juice, the binoculars and a light windcheater and made their way over to Reception. Janet had coolly munched her standard apple, but Santie eventually managed to convince her to enjoy a boiled egg and toast. Janet fiddled with the egg, eventually finishing it. Then she angrily jammed the empty shell top, down on the bottom half, abruptly stood up and left the table. After a few ablutions, they pulled on their hiking boots and set off silently for the clubhouse. Santie had the peculiar feeling that Janet was trapped in an empty eggshell. There was dew on the grass, their footprints leaving stark tracks across the dewy lawns. There was one other track ahead of them.
They arrived at the lodge expecting a crowd but the young woman behind the desk said: ‘You are in such luck today. There are only the two of you walking with the guide. He is so knowledgeable about the mountains. You will have a wonderful day; just look how clear it is. These last wisps of cloud will burn off within the hour. It’s a good thing you’ve got your hats.’
Peter walked out of the manager’s office carrying a book of South African birds of prey and a light haversack. A broad smile spread across his handsome features. ‘Oh good, look who’s coming hiking today!’
Janet looked up from where she had been staring at her boots. Santie watched as all the lights came on. The change was instantaneous and the look that passed between Peter and Janet gave Santie her cue. She had probably lost Janet anyway, and a depressed, anorexic partner wasn’t what she wanted in any case. On the stairs leading out of the reception area Santie contrived to sprain her ankle. She gave a low cry.
‘Oh, what’s happened Santie?’ Janet was instantly her old self, concerned.
‘Ooh, my ankle.’ She tested it a couple of times, grimacing with pretended pain, limping around and holding her ankle.
Peter said: ‘Let me have a look,’ but Santie shooed him away and sat down on the step.
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do this, but you two must go.’
‘I can’t go and leave you like this, Santie.’
‘Of course you can. Peter, do you think you could take me back to our cottage. I’ll spend the day icing it and reading. I want to finish that new Coetzee that I found in the cottage before we leave anyway. Please don’t worry about me.’
Peter nodded, and helped her up the steps and into the resort Land Rover. Janet protested all the way back to the chalet, not knowing that Santie’s mind was made up. ‘Peter, would you give us a moment, please?’
‘Of course. There’s no rush.’
Janet helped Santie into the cottage, past the ‘Killer Walker’, and onto the couch. She got some ice out of the freezer and put it into a bag and gave it to Santie. Santie leaned over and whispered in her ear: ‘Do it Janet. Go out and have a wonderful day, and do it. Please, will you? For us, for our baby? Hook him, but please don’t put the barb in – I want you back!’ Janet was astonished. ‘But …’
‘Don’t argue with me. Just do it. Please. For us.’ Santie gave her a little push. ‘Bye Peter. Have a wonderful day, and don’t fall down a precipice,’ she called through the bedroom door. Janet hesitated for just a moment, gave Santie a little hug, and started out after Peter.
Peter and Janet rode on horseback for the first ten kilometres. Janet was not at all sure about riding, but Peter assured her the piebald mare was very steady and surefooted. His young gelding was a flighty creature, constantly wanting to fly off into a gallop, but Peter was a master on horseback. Once they reached the harder going, they corralled the horses and started the long hike up the Little Berg pass. First there was a hard climb of nearly a thousand feet and then they reached a plateau where they could walk through meadows of sweet rooigras and little copses of indigenous trees, and crossed a few streams. At first Janet took off her boots and waded, but after that she just followed Peter. If he jumped, she jumped. If he boulder-hopped, then she followed suit, and managed. She tired very quickly in her depleted state, and was soon pleading with Peter to stop for a sandwich. She ate hungrily, thankful that she had food for two. ‘So, who are you, Jane?’ Peter asked.
Janet hesitated, glancing up at him. How to answer? ‘I’m an accountant from Cape Town,’ she replied finally. ‘Santie and are I old friends and we try to take a short holiday together each year. She lives in Jo’burg.’
‘Is she a lawyer?’
‘Yes, how did you know? She works for a big-shot insurance group and is rapidly on the rise. And you, who are you?’ She thought it wise to get the questioning away from herself.
‘I’m doing an honours year in Physics. It is fascinating, but I am getting tired of studying. The prof is trying to convince me to continue with the Masters program next year so I’m trying to decide whether to go teaching or not. We’ll see.’ He was dressed in standard khaki shirt and shorts with a pair of very worn but comfortable-looking leather boots.
‘Lots of girlfriends, I’m sure?’
‘I’ve had a few casual relationships but nothing that has lasted. Lots of nice girls but no one who has clicked yet. And you? You must surely be married?’ He glanced at her left hand for the umpteenth time.
"Just finished reading Book 2, Peter's children, from A Family Affair. Very good!! Quite racy! Read it all on the kindle app on my phone.
‘No, Santie and I are very much single girls. We’re too busy right now building our careers. You have to be very focused these days if you want to go places, so no time for husbands and babies.’ She gave a low throaty laugh that made Peter turn around, and stare at her. He was a few steps ahead and above her on the path as they climbed up the side of the long ridge to where the rare vultures had their nest.
Wisps of Janet’s honey blonde hair had escaped her scrunchie and were flying loose in the breeze. Her face was glowing in the sunshine, a picture of happiness and her strong, long legs in the main were keeping up with him. His heart missed a few beats. She is beautiful, he thought, tearing his eyes away, back to the mountain but found his eyes constantly darting back to the young woman walking a couple of paces behind him.
There was not another human being within ten kilometres. Far below them they could see the resort. Even from that height above the resort they could see a few white sails dotting the lake.
‘Where have you been the last few days? We were hoping to get in some more tennis and I felt sure you would be back for another windsurfing.’
Janet didn’t answer for a while. They went on climbing up the ridge which was getting narrower and the path steeper, with loose pebbles threatening to swamp Janet. ‘Santie and I had a pretty serious quarrel. Worse than we have had for years. It knocked us quite hard, and we didn’t feel up to tennis. I’m sorry. It’s over now, but such a pity about her ankle. She would have loved this.’
‘Well, yes, it is a pity, but I’m also glad there are just the two of us. I’m so used to big parties, that it is really nice to be able to go at this pace. You keep up well.’
‘I work out pretty often.’
‘Oh, I usually play tennis once or twice a week, and a bit of triathlon in the season. And you?’
‘Mainly squash but I play a bit of tennis, mostly with Dad.’
‘He’s an excellent player.’
Peter nodded. ‘Don’t tell him I told you, but he played Davis Cup for South Africa a couple of times about thirty years ago.’
‘Phew, really!’ said Janet. ‘No wonder he can hit the ball so sweetly. And where does he work?’
‘He is a doctor. In Westville. A small one-man orthopaedic practice.’
They reached a vertical shelf of rock. High up above them they could see various ledges. ‘That second ledge is where the Lammergeiers have their nest,’ said Peter, pointing. Janet looked up and could see the white droppings that littered the rocks where the baby vultures would have hatched year after year. There was no sign of the giant raptors, but a pair of eagles were diving and swooping high above them, giving strange shrieks.
‘What are those?’
‘Black Eagles. There are still quite a lot of them in the mountains. Their nest is around the corner.’
‘What are they doing?’ asked Janet. ‘They seem to be having such fun up there.’
Peter blushed. ‘It’s called … never mind.’ He looked away.
‘Why Peter, you’ve gone all red!’ said Janet, sitting on a rocky ledge just below him. ‘What’s it called?’
‘Do you really want to know?’ he asked.
They watched the huge birds as they caught a thermal, rapidly gaining height, circling around each other. Janet had them sharply focused in her binoculars as they ‘joined hands’, and then spiralled downwards in a plunge of over a thousand feet. She followed them down in excitement until they released their sharp claws, breaking free, the aerial games over and setting off in tandem across the valley hunting the next thermal.
‘It’s a mating dance. We would call it foreplay.’
‘Oh, you are teasing me!’ Janet gave him a sharp slap on the shoulder.
‘No, honestly, that’s what it is. It’s hard to believe that such fierce creatures can be so affectionate. I often see them playing together like that in the mating season.’
Her upturned face was about a metre below him, shiny drops of sweat running down her forehead. A large damp patch had formed between her breasts on the white cotton blouse. A dark blue ribbon around the collar, pulling together two more ribbons just at the nipple line gave Janet a simple, very sexy appearance. She had dressed very petitely but leaving nothing showing other than her bare shoulders and arms and, dressed in denim shorts, her long powerful legs. An athlete, thought Peter, looking at her muscled shoulders, and a bright one at that. As Janet reached up for a handhold, Peter was very aware of her slender figure and her beautifully formed, but moderate breasts, tightly outlined by her blouse.
He sat down on the ledge, and gave her a helping hand. She sat happily next to him, and they looked down the long valley from where they had come. ‘Let’s have lunch,’ he said, ‘while we wait. The Lammergeiers don’t come very often but we might be lucky.’
Just then the pair of Black Eagles flew swiftly overhead, flying silently close to the rock face only a hundred feet above their heads. Janet could clearly see the mottled white patches in their wings, the leading bird distinctly larger.
‘They’re hunting dassies,’ Peter said. ‘Silent, but deadly.’
Janet pulled out peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches and a couple of oranges and laid them out. Peter had lumps of cheese and whole wheat rolls and a bar of chocolate. He turned up his nose when she offered him peanut butter and lettuce but, laughing at him, she held the sandwich to his lips.
‘Hmm, that’s quite nice,’ he said. ‘Who would have thought so?’
‘I like it because the peanut butter doesn’t then stick to the roof of your mouth,’ Janet said, giving him another mouthful of her sandwich. Then it was Peter’s turn to share his cheese and chocolate. They sat quietly munching, both of them very aware of their proximity and a mutually growing sense of intimacy.
All the while Peter’s eyes were scanning the skies, the eagles out of sight around the rocky headland. Just as he gave her the last square of chocolate, he gave a low whistle and reached for his binoculars. Focusing, and moving the glasses back and forth he eventually found what he was looking for. ‘It’s them! The Lammergeiers. Look!’
‘Where?’ said Janet. ‘I can’t see them. Oh, I’m getting a stiff neck from looking up like that.’
‘It’s much easier if you lie back a little,’ said Peter demonstrating.
Janet lay on her back, peering at the heavens, first with and then without the glasses. ‘But I still can’t see them.’ Wriggling over next to her, Peter pointed with his arm and shoulder right next to her cheek, directing her gaze. Afterwards he blamed the subtle scent of her newly shampooed hair, with a hint of jasmine, mingled with the not unpleasant smell of fresh sweat, that flushed out a cascade of neurotransmitters from his so-called ‘Reptilian Brain’, readying every cell of his body for action. Janet too was finding it hard to concentrate on the birds. She glanced quickly over at Peter and found him staring hard at her. It was her turn to blush. Peter reached over and, putting his hand behind her head, gently kissed her. Janet responded without hesitation, instantly experiencing a first tremble of happiness. The kiss was long and slow and exploratory, the Lammergeiers forgotten, neither of them really sure what the other was thinking or expecting, but both knowing what they were feeling. Both thought they were being too forward and quick, waiting for the other to lead. Janet rolled over onto his chest with her arms around Peter’s neck. The next kiss came much faster, and the temperature rose quickly as they began to pull and tug at each other, their hands delicately exploring, waiting for cues of approval and confirmation. Long moments of delight passed as fancy took the reins, leaving sure-footed reason far behind. Could this be it, the real girl for me? thought Peter.
It was only some weeks later that Janet really began to appreciate the enormity of the terrible mistake she then made, one that she was going to rue for the rest of her life. She gave Peter a quick impish kiss, tearing herself away and, jumping to her feet, raced off along the path. ‘Catch me if you can,’ she called. She told Santie how she could have had him right there – Peter was ready for the taking. It would never be so easy ever again.
It was one of those impulsive decisions, so often lightly made: make him work just a bit harder. In the end it made not the slightest difference to Peter but, for Janet, it meant a lifetime of guilt from which she never escaped, no matter how much she rationalised in the middle of the night. Time softened the guilt, but remorse hounded her for the next fifty years. For Peter it gave him just a little space, time for his slow-paced rational mind to escape from where it was temporally (and temporarily) stuck somewhere between his legs and rise about fifty centimetres to where it belonged between his ears. Imagination had taken an unbeatable lead, threatening to leave her sure-footed companion Reason in the dust but Janet’s impulsive decision to jump up and run yielded just enough time for Peter’s passion and emotion to be reined in. In any event, it made no difference: in the end Janet still got her man. Or at least that part of him that she wanted. What she hadn’t bargained for, playing her little game so glibly was that, with Peter’s semen, came his heart.
Mountains are always beautiful, none more so than South Africa's Drakensberg. Not particularly high, but reaching to about 14 000 feet there are sublimely beautiful places where I have enjoyed many stunning holidays hiking.
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