(If you like romantic suspense set in the Greek islands, why not also try The English Daughter, set in Corfu?)
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Andrew sat on the cliff below the castle wall and watched the sky. Far below, the Aegean was a deep rust in the setting sun. Wind gusted against his back. At his feet barley and rockroses, a cushion of yellow vetch growing in the ruins, small red and white flowers whose names Melissa would know.
Down on the beach men moved, dark shapes against the sand. A small boat rode at anchor. Stiffly, Andrew shifted position. From the corner of his eye he saw a stocky, dark-haired man standing a bottle of retsina down on a rock, wiping it carefully with a handkerchief. He nodded a greeting.
Then, to his left, another movement -
Two men looked down at him. One pushed at his body with a foot. 'He's out cold, no problem. Do it.' The other spun the cap from the bottle, poured the contents over Andrew, put the bottle between the sleeping fingers. Then they both rolled him over the edge.
A rattle of falling scree, then silence.
'I should have known I'd find you here.'
The cool voice cut through the beat of straining wings. Gulls, oystercatchers and sanderling were exploding from an English estuary, darkening the ice-blue March sky. Katherine Hopkins had just marched straight across the sands, disturbing hundreds of birds roosting on the beach.
'And a good day to you, too,' Melissa said dryly, squinting up at the tall figure. Freezing and cramped after lying motionless behind a breakwater for hours, she had just lost a shot: a vital consideration since nature photography was part of her living.
'You're full of surprises, Katherine,' she observed now through chill-flayed lips. 'I thought you only liked your animals stuffed or sautéed.'
'Always so sure of yourself,' answered Katherine, 'Always so right.' She ignored the sights and sounds of alarm around them: birds did not buy anything. Coming to look the site over in private, she had been intensely irritated to realise that Melissa Haye was there first.
'But you've never actually beaten me. I always win in the end. Don't I?'
Melissa shrugged and snapped the cap onto her 600mm lens, fingers tingling with returning life. Unlike her own windswept hair, not a strand of Katherine's dark chignon stirred in the crisp air. Looking over business-dynamo Katherine Hopkins, the trousers tailored to those sleek legs, the scarlet jacket and silken cravat, Melissa wondered why an intelligent woman should find it so hard to accept that anyone was different from her.
What was done was done. Because of local opposition and a campaign spearheaded by Melissa herself, Katherine had failed to build one of her Total Woman Centres on this estuary. To Katherine the horseshoe of cliffs, the closer profile of river and sea, sands and reedbeds, mudflats and marsh, was a barren landscape, evocative as the moon but unproductive.
'Remember the paper which "no longer required" you?' Katherine continued, grinding a razorshell under one green boot. 'Remember the "lost" photo commissions? That was down to me. A couple of phone calls in the right places was all it took.'
'Now you've reminded me...' Melissa scooped a beanbag camera-support, hat and veiling into jacket pockets, her back icy where Katherine's shadow fell. It would be great, she thought, if Katherine could let the past alone, but, on and off, Kate Hopkins had been trying a long time to block her career. Looking back, Melissa acknowledged that Katherine's vindictiveness had actually spurred her on by making her do more, try harder. She laughed softly.
'I never thanked you for that, did I?' She glanced up again at her nemesis. They both knew why Katherine detested her. It had nothing to do with Melissa's work.
Katherine's patrician cheekbones turned a delicate pink. 'What is your problem?' she demanded. 'Total Woman Centres provide a service for thousands.'
At fifty pounds an entry ticket, Melissa wondered how many thousands were being favoured. Katherine though was a woman with a mission: already, at thirty-four, one of the wealthiest women in Britain, with her 24-hour shopping and healthcare stores established in every major city in Europe. Her business didn't need more expansion, but Katherine was greedy.
'A pity, then, that the people here voted to leave things as they are.' Cradling her camera, sweeping a rapid look over the area she had been stalking to make sure she would forget none of her photo gear, Melissa rose stiffly to her feet. The waders would not settle now until she and Katherine were gone.
'You can't possibly pretend it ends now,' snapped Katherine. 'This is a prime site...'
'I know.' The estuary was a focal point for local families. In summer, these sands rang with children's voices. In winter, mudflats and saltings upstream tingled to the cries of curlew.
Melissa smiled, then frowned, the taste of sea-salt catching for an instant in her throat. 'We should go.' Accustomed to numbness in her legs after a photo-shoot, she started to limp briskly towards the dunes.
'....perfect for the sensitive development I had proposed -'
Abruptly Katherine broke off, instinctively shying away as a storm of Brent geese flew in overhead. Melissa stopped, throwing back her blonde head to track the birds gossiping and grunting in flight: an everyday miracle. 'Amazing!' she murmured, thirst and cold forgotten.
The dark chattering swarm sharpened her responses to the estuary. Andrew should have been here to see this, she thought, hands tightening on the camera.
Memories, too strong to be denied, welled in her. As grief threatened to break out again, it helped Melissa to know that Andrew's favourite place was safe: that she and the local people who had once been Andrew's neighbours had made it safe.
'Wide-eyed enthusiasm doesn't work with me. Is that how you won the locals over, turning on the little girl charm?' Pausing when she did, Katherine was looking at her sidelong.
Melissa clicked her tongue and chuckled: she was actually grateful for Katherine's presence and sharp comments. 'You'll never know. Meetings are over, and so is the voting. People like their sand and "mud" as it is.'
'So it would seem.' Green eyes showed gold for an instant as Katherine acknowledged that unpalatable fact. Dismissing the estuary development from her immediate calculations with a brisk shake of her head, Katherine moved when Melissa did, keeping pace with her opponent as they left the beach and began to thread through the tall, twisting corridors of dunes.
As they walked, Melissa moving sure as a skier over soft dry sand and clumps of tough marram grass, Katherine's green eyes flashed up her sand-coloured fatigues and gloves, flitted over the younger woman's delicate complexion, gold brows and lashes, shoulder length silky blonde hair. Her rival would probably have to diet to stop those soft body curves, the round lines of an open face, neat nose, from blurring into flab.
Katherine's lips twitched with satisfaction. Those who thwarted her always paid. Melissa Haye had lost before, but it seemed she had still not learned her lesson. Throughout the last decade, their paths had crossed too often, both professionally and personally.
Andrew Thornhill had been Katherine's personal assistant and occasional lover. Recognising how his attractively-uneven, maturing looks and ready enthusiasm could be a foil to her poised, subtle fire, she had given him the chance of a great career. Yet he had been a disappointment, preferring the safe Melissa Haye.
Katherine's lips tensed, umber sculptured eyebrows drawing together as she negotiated a litter of pebbles and feathers on the narrowing dune path. Although it had piqued her to be rejected for some romping teenager, it had cost her nothing. Andrew had been young, and so could be excused his choice. She had wished him well, and it seemed he had been happy - he had lived with Melissa Haye until his sudden death in Rhodes, two years ago.
Old history. Katherine shook herself, consigning Andrew Thornhill to oblivion, and returned to her present enemy now peeling off her gloves, that prying long lens nestled in the crook of an arm.
'I'm watching you, Melissa Haye. One day you're going to make a serious mistake.'
The threat: always a good sign she was doing her job, reflected Melissa wryly. Behind, the distant tide hissed in her ears like an indrawn breath.
'Then we'll see who pays.'
There it was, a gold-plated promise of revenge. Melissa was surprised at how little she felt.
'Nothing to say?' Katherine liked proof of attention.
Melissa sighed. 'Can't we call a truce for once, Katherine?' Fishing into a trouser pocket for her favourite silver seahorse earrings, she hooked them deftly into her ears whilst cresting a dune-top and dipping down the other side. These silver seahorses were special: Andrew had bought them for her on Rhodes...
Katherine was coming at her again, leaning forward as she kicked through rabbit-marked sand. Her wide, up-tilting eyes were sharp.
'You disgust me,' she said, scornful of any olive branch. Her rapid gaze, fixing on Melissa's silver seahorse jewellery, became dismissive. 'Everything you are. Everything you stand for. Cross me again and I'll finish you for good.'
Katherine pushed past Melissa, striding on towards the track and her black four-wheel drive, towards civilisation and her plans for revenge.
Clutching her camera, Melissa stared out to sea. She no longer thought of Katherine's threats. The past had returned.
Andrew Thornhill, with his straight brown hair, craggy nose and keen smile. Six-one in his stockinged feet, and broadening. He had blushed when he first saw her at the local wildlife group meeting at Wells-next-the-Sea. Later, walking with Melissa by the sea shore, Andrew had asked her out. He was twenty then, Melissa seventeen.
They had lived together for eight years.
Still the memories flowed. His walk, his voice, his scent. His lethal sloe gin. His listening face. His hilarious imitation of a love-struck diplomat. The way he double-knotted his shoelaces. The way he liked 'messing about' round rock-pools. The way he made love -
'Stop this!' The heavy camera trembled on Melissa's arm. Andrew had died two years ago, and still she was struggling to come to terms with it. She had to get away, find a different direction. But there was something she had to do first: a secret, private mission behind her next assignment.
Her bags were always packed. She loved roving - new places, new people. She was due to go to Greece in April, the peak time for the amazing spring flowering and bird migration in the region, stay on the remote eastern island of Asteri, just off the coast from Turkey, whilst she researched her latest travel series: 'Paradise under Threat.' She could bring that trip forward, fly to Rhodes, take the light airplane to Asteri.
It would be expedient to drop out of circulation in England until a certain brunette forgot her. Kate Hopkins had a spiteful memory and a long business arm.
Melissa laid her camera down and sat on the shadowed side of the dunes, nimble fingers digging into the cold sand. The ebbing, mournful cry of a curlew dragged at her insides as she swallowed, faintly nauseated.
Two years ago, due to join Andrew on Rhodes for a holiday, she had been summoned instead to identify his body.