Veiled Dreams, page 1
First published by Our Street Books, 2013
Our Street Books is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., Laurel House, Station Approach,
Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
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Text copyright: Gill James 2013
ISBN: 978 1 78099 870 1
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publishers.
The rights of Gill James as author have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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Design: Stuart Davies
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
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Chapter One: Christina
Chapter Two: Jan
Chapter Three: Bad timing
Chapter Four: The Fight
Chapter Five: The White-tiled Room
Chapter Six: Theft
Chapter Seven: Princess
Chapter Eight: To the Palace
Chapter Nine: Home
Chapter Ten: Imigriana
Chapter Eleven: Prayers
Chapter Twelve: Jan
Chapter Thirteen: The Prophet
Chapter Fourteen: Leonis
Chapter Fifteen: A Falling Out
Chapter Sixteen: Jan
Chapter Seventeen: Philaderan
Chapter Eighteen: Captured
Chapter Nineteen: The Riders of the Northern Territories
Chapter Twenty: Chase Across the Desert
Chapter Twenty-One: Imprisoned again
Chapter Twenty-Two: Maniella
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Chalice
Chapter Twenty-Four: Lydia
Chapter Twenty-Five: Switch-Off
Chapter Twenty-Six: Kissed at Last
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Back
Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Veil
She never did find out why her friends didn’t turn up that night just after Christmas. She waited for them for almost an hour at the outdoor rink. She cursed them for thinking it was too cold. And she cursed the ‘flu’ bug that was doing the rounds.
But I’m here now, she thought, so I might as well get on with it.
Christina pulled on her boots and tightened up the laces. Soon she was whirling round the ice causing her skimpy little skirt to twirl out prettily. She smiled to herself as she moved, and knew her legs looked good even in these thick granny tights. Those dance skating lessons had certainly been worth it.
She had the small rink almost to herself, and, as always, people stopped to watch. Some actually clapped. People came and went, but a group of bikers stayed put.
‘Pretty, pretty,’ called one of them. ‘Do us a twirl.’ Their English sounded funny. How did they know she was English, though?
Hot and breathless, she had to stop. She soon began to feel cold though and the hot chocolate stall looked inviting. She joined the queue, and as she waited her turn, her teeth began to chatter.
‘Wouldn’t you rather have a beer?’ called one of the bikers.
It seemed to take forever to get served.
‘Met slagroom?’ asked the ugly man when she finally reached the counter.
Christina nodded. Cream would be nice, but she didn’t know enough Dutch yet to ask for marshmallows.
She drank her chocolate. It was good and warmed her up.
‘Will you dance with me?’ called one of the bikers.
Will you leave me alone? she thought. She looked at her watch. She’d better get going. It was getting quite near the time she said she should be back home. The last thing she wanted was another argument with her parents.
As she stepped off the ice, another of the bikers came up to her. He put an arm around her waist and the stench of cigarette smoke and beer assaulted her nostrils. Then his face was leering into hers. He said something in Dutch, which she couldn’t understand. Oh, why hadn’t she gone straight home when the others hadn’t shown up? She struggled to free herself from him. He said something else. The smell of beer on his breath was even stronger now. Encouraging him, the others began to cheer and laugh, and Christina’s mouth went dry and her heart began to race.
‘Let go!’ she screamed, looking frantically around for someone to help her.
There was no help. No one seemed to think the bikers were doing any harm.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed another motorbike arrive with its tall leather-clad rider. He shouted something to the drunken biker. This time, she understood the Dutch.
‘Let her go, idiot!’ he shouted clearly and slowly. He got off his machine and as he removed his helmet, silky blond hair tumbled to his shoulders. The drunkard stepped back. There was a rapid conversation between the tall blonde one and the others, before he waved them away. At last they began to move.
A white light pulsated from one of the bars beside the rink. Christina tried to focus on the one who was trying to help her, but the light dazzled her and she had to shut her eyes. Suddenly the world was spinning round and she felt slightly sick. She was losing control, as if her brain was seizing up.
Not that. Please not that. Not here. She knew she shouldn’t have looked at that light.
Everything went black and Christina was trapped in a narrow room from which she couldn’t escape. A band tightened around her head and she was suffocating. Then nothing at all. But it was a nothingness that seemed to go on for hours.
When she awoke, she didn’t know where she’d been. She never did.
There was a strong smell of leather. The guy with the long blond hair was standing very close to her. She could see the other bikers still hanging around. The biker who had grabbed her was looking worried.
‘How are you, little one?’ asked the tall blond one in Dutch.
She couldn’t muster any words together in this language, which was still so new for her. ‘I, er, I’m English,’ she stuttered.
The drunken biker wobbled forward. ‘Sorry…sorry,’ he muttered, holding up his hands.
‘Where were you then?’ asked the tall blond biker. ‘You seemed a long way away.’
‘N-no,’ stammered Christina. She’d just been dazzled by the lights, hadn’t she?
‘Are you all right?’ he asked.
What was he saying? She hadn’t had a fit, had she? Perhaps it had just been a petit mal this time.
‘You look pale. Do you want me to call someone for you?’
‘No! I’m fine,’ said Christina. She really felt fine now. This man was very interesting. In fact, he was gorgeous. She just felt too ill to appreciate him properly. To her horror, she started to shake.
‘Oh, dear. You’re shivering. You will catch cold and must get home. Do you live far?’ The slight Dutch accent was cheerful and friendly and his eyes twinkled.
‘I’ll be all right. Honest I will,’ she managed to say.
‘I could give you a lift on my bike.’
‘No better not.’ She thought of all those warnings about not going off with strangers. How her parents didn’t like motorbikes. Then there was the question of whether she could handle anyone as sophisticated as this. He was obviously quite a bit older than her.
‘I don’t drink or smoke,’ he said. ‘Or do dru
Thank goodness it wasn’t a full-blown fit, she thought.
‘You shouldn’t go home on your own,’ he said
‘I’m Jan by the way.’
‘And I’m Christina,’ she replied.
There was no one in front of him as he raced across the long dyke. It was already light. The water on his left was tepid and lifeless. Even at this hour, the heat was draining the country of energy, but the speed of the bike gave him a welcome breeze. He was probably going faster than he should have, but he didn’t care now. For once, the bikers’ meet had been a bore. He had to go, even though he hadn’t wanted to this time. After all, he was their chairman, and the Baeyk Motel only allowed them all there if he was present. He could never work out why they thought he was a good influence. Perhaps it was just because he didn’t drink heavily.
He sped up a notch. He could think of nothing but her, probably still sleeping now. It was the school holidays and she’d asked to go with him, but he couldn’t take her. She wouldn’t be allowed in the bars and he couldn’t leave her alone in the motel. That would have been terrible for her. Besides, he’d set off during school time. No way would her parents have let her go. Maybe next year, when she was older, when they knew him better, and they were sure the epilepsy was under control.
He was soon on the outskirts of the city. It was beginning to wake up. Front doors opened and the traffic was building. There would surely be a flower seller open somewhere? He’d go straight to her, only stopping to buy the biggest bunch of flowers he had the money for, leaving just enough to buy breakfast. Best not even go home and shower first, which would show her that he’d come straight round there.
The traffic slowed him down. There was a storm going on inside him. Six months now they’d been together, and his stomach still churned before he went to meet her. The thought of seeing her still edged his days with gold. He stopped at the traffic lights, revving the bike, but it didn’t make him feel any better.
The lights changed to green. He swung round the corner, off the wide boulevard and into the main shopping street near where she lived. It was a good job the other traffic was slow, or he would have been speeding for sure. There were speed cameras everywhere. It was just like being with her. He had to be careful all the time. She was underage, after all. She often teased him, about being old-fashioned. Sometimes, she said he didn’t care – didn’t find her attractive. If only she knew what he really thought. But he wouldn’t rush and spoil anything, not for the world. This girl was important. More important than any other girl he had been with.
He inched forward to the next set of lights, where he needed to turn right into her street. Good. The flower seller was already there and opening up his booth. Jan parked the bike.
‘What can you do for thirty euros?’ he asked. ‘With plenty of colour in it?’
‘What about five of these,’ said the vendor, beginning to take some huge yellow lilies out of a bucket. ‘And six of those?’ he suggested, pointing to some equally big fiery red flowers, which looked a bit like dragons heads with tongues sticking out.
Jan nodded. They were exactly right. They reminded him of Christina, dramatic, colourful and beautiful, and a little bit angry.
He watched impatiently as the merchant spent what seemed like hours, putting the flowers together. He worked carefully, adding in a few bits of green and one or two smaller blue colours. Finally, he added the little packet of the magic formula, which helped to keep the flowers fresh, and then skilfully wrapped the whole bouquet in cellophane in such a way that the flowers were protected without being squashed.
‘There you are, sir,’ said the merchant, handing the bouquet over. ‘Make sure she puts them in water straight away, and remind her to cut two centimetres off the stems first, and not to forget to put the powder into the water.’ He tapped the side of his nose and winked at Jan. ‘I hope they have the desired effect.’
Jan stowed the flowers carefully into the little space he had left in the luggage compartment of his bike, and turned down into Christina’s street. He felt slightly sick, and his pulse was beginning to race. Sometimes, he thought he could do without this relationship – always the tension. He was always worrying what she might think and trying to guess whether she felt the same about him. But, no, he couldn’t give her up. It just made so much difference to him. Life was grand, because Christina existed.
Five minutes later he was outside her apartment block, the bike parked again. Breathing in and out slowly several times, he rang the bell. There was no reply for a while. That was something, he supposed. It meant that her parents were already out at work, so at least he wouldn’t have to see them. Then the waiting became too much. He lifted his hand to ring the bell again, but just as he was about to press it, the buzzer sounded. His heart missed a beat.
‘Hello, who’s there?’ said a sleepy voice. Something sank inside Jan. It was Paul, her brother. Yet it was almost a relief.
‘Hi, it’s me. Jan de Vries,’ replied Jan.
‘You’d better come on in,’ said Paul, now slightly less sleepily. ‘She’s not up yet. I’ll go and wake her.’
The buzzer sounded again, and the front door swung open. Paul was standing in the hallway in his dressing gown.
‘Go on in,’ he said. ‘I’ll go and get her up. Would you like a coffee?’
‘It’s okay, thanks,’ replied Jan. ‘I thought I’d take her out to breakfast.’
Paul wandered off towards Christina’s bedroom. Jan sat in the lounge nursing the flowers. He was grimy and sticky from the journey anyway. The lounge was impeccable –nothing out a place and not a speck of dust anywhere. He was a complete misfit. But hopefully, she would be glad to see him, and the little argument they’d had just before he’d left would be completely forgotten. He hoped she’d love the flowers, and going out to breakfast, and perhaps now gradually, her parents would start to accept him. He even thought of getting his hair cut, but she’d told him so often how much she loved his long blond hair. Soon she would be older. They would be able to take things further, and she’d be able to come on more of the biker trips with him. He’d even be willing to give up that for her, but that was another of the things she said she liked about him. If he became too much Mr Sensible, she’d go off him. He even worried sometimes that she didn’t quite approve of the fact that he didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Well, not much, anyway.
What were they doing? He hoped she wasn’t unwell. Then he heard the raised voices.
Christina’s voice was hard to hear. But he could make out ‘ever – again – have gone – flowers where the sun…’
‘Oh come, on,’ he heard Paul say. ‘He’s waiting out there with a great big bunch of flowers. Come and sort it out, won’t you?’
A door slammed. Paul reappeared in the lounge.
‘She won’t speak to you,’ he said.
‘Oh well,’ said Jan getting up. What else could he do? He was sorry about going to the meet, but well, if he was going to carry on being a biker, he’d had to go. And she wanted him to be a biker.
‘Look, Jan,’ said Paul. ‘I can’t make her come out. You’ll have to try again later.’
‘I’ll leave the flowers, then,’ said Jan.
A door suddenly opened. Christina rushed into the lounge. Her green eyes were flashing, her thick dark curls were mussed from sleep. Still, something leapt up in him as he saw her.
‘You can keep your bloody flowers,’ she said. ‘Don’t come near me again. If you can’t put me first, it’s all off.’
She rushed back to her room. Paul shrugged his shoulders. Jan could do nothing but leave. The lump in his throat was so huge he couldn’t swallow – could hardly breathe. He couldn’t lose her, he just couldn’t.
Mrs Van Bredow, the Grants’ next-door neighbour was just coming in.
‘Oh, what lovely flowers,’ she exclaimed and beamed at Jan. ‘For Christina?’
Jan managed to nod.
‘Oh, there’s no one in?’ she asked. ‘I’ll take them, if you like, and see that she gets them.’
Jan didn’t speak.
A slight cloud passed over the old lady’s face.
‘Oh, she didn’t want them?’ she said.
‘No,’ said Jan, suddenly finding his voice. ‘You may as well keep them, Mrs Van Bredow. Enjoy!’
He thrust the bouquet into her arms, and went to leave. Mrs Van Bredow grabbed his arm, quite strongly, Jan thought, for someone in so much pain. She looked him straight in the eyes and Jan felt as if she was trying to tell him something.
‘Don’t give up on her, don’t give up.’
She let herself into the apartment, still clutching the flowers.
The day had lost its colour. The heat and the traffic were just a nuisance. Despite the bright sun, everything seemed grey. He wanted to get back now to his apartment and have a shower and then just sleep, try to forget, and then perhaps when he’d had a good rest, he could think what to do to make her come round.
But there was another problem waiting for him sitting on the doorstep to the tall old canal-side house his apartment was in. Susanne Richards. Her parents rented the two floors below him and she was at school with Christina. She was always hanging around.
‘Not seeing Christina, today, then?’ she asked. ‘I’d have thought you would have been gagging for it, after being away for all that time. I know, I bet she’s sent you back home to have a shower first. Little miss high and mighty.’
‘I’m too tired for this,’ said Jan. ‘Could you move, so I can get in?’
‘Have you two fallen out?’ asked Susanne, grinning.
‘No…not really,’ muttered Jan. What business was it of hers? ‘No we haven’t. Not at all.’ He wished she would just go away.
She grinned at him again. But at least she moved a little over to the side and he was able to struggle past her with his luggage.