Hilltop Tryst. Betty Neels

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Hilltop Tryst - Betty Neels

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      “You are easily the most beautiful woman here, Beatrice.

      “Lift your chin, throw your shoulders back, and do me proud.”

      She was so surprised that for a moment she didn’t do anything at all, and when she looked up at him he was smiling.

      After that, the evening was a thundering success.

      It was late as they drove back to the hotel, and there were very few people in the foyer. They left the doorman to take the car to the garage, and wandered across the carpeted floor toward the staircase.

      “Thank you for a lovely evening,” said Beatrice, suddenly shy.

      The doctor took her hand and turned her round to face him.

      “You enjoyed yourself? Good.” He sounded remote. “A change of scene is the best cure for a damaged heart. It seems to be working well.”

      It was as if he were reminding her that she was there as one of his patients…. She suddenly wanted to cry without knowing why, but she swallowed back the tears and said very politely, “I’m sure you’re right. Good night.” And she walked, with a very straight back, upstairs.

      Romance readers around the world were sad to note the passing of Betty Neels in June 2001. Her career spanned thirty years, and she continued to write into her ninetieth year. To her millions of fans, Betty epitomized the romance writer, and yet she began writing almost by accident. She had retired from nursing, but her inquiring mind still sought stimulation. Her new career was born when she heard a lady in her local library bemoaning the lack of good romance novels. Betty’s first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam, was published in 1969, and she eventually completed 134 books. Her novels offer a reassuring warmth that was very much a part of her own personality. She was a wonderful writer, and she will be greatly missed. Her spirit and genuine talent will live on in all her stories.

      Hilltop Tryst

      Betty Neels

      MILLS & BOON

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      THE SUN, rising gloriously on the morning of Midsummer’s Day, turned the swelling Dorset hills into a wide vista of golden green fields and clumps of trees under a blue sky. Miles away, traffic along the dual carriageway thundered on its way to the west, unheard and unheeded in the quiet countryside around the village of Hindley, its inhabitants for the most part still sleeping in their beds. Farm workers were already about their work, though; the bleating of sheep and the sounds of horses and cattle were blotted out from time to time by the sound of a tractor being started up; but on the brow of the hill rising behind the village these sounds were faint, the bird-song was louder.

      Half-way up the hill a girl sat, leaning comfortably against the trunk of a fallen tree, a shaggy dog sprawled beside her. She had drawn up her knees, clasped her arms around them and rested her chin on them—a pretty, rounded chin, but determined too, belying the wide, gentle mouth and the soft brown eyes with their thick black lashes. Her hair was long and brown, plaited and hanging over one shoulder. She flung it back with a well-shaped hand and spoke to the dog.

      ‘There—the sun’s rising on the longest day of the year, Knotty. Midsummer Madness—the high tide of the year, a day for fairies and elves, a day for making a wish. Do you suppose if I made one it might come true?’

      Knotty, usually obliging with his replies, took no notice, but growled softly, cocked his large, drooping ears and allowed his teeth to show. He got to his feet and she put a restraining hand on his collar, turning to look behind her as she caught the sound of steady feet and someone coming along, whistling.

      Knotty barked as a man left the line of trees and came towards them. A giant of a man, dressed in an open-necked shirt and elderly trousers, his pale hair shone in the sunlight and he walked with an easy self-assurance. Tucked under one arm was a small dog, a Jack Russell, looking bedraggled.

      He stopped by the girl, towering over her so that she was forced to crane her neck to see his face. ‘Good morning. Perhaps you can help me?’ He had put down a balled fist for Knotty to examine, ignoring the teeth.

      ‘I found this little chap down a rabbit-hole—couldn’t get out and probably been there for some time. Is there a vet around here?’ He smiled at her. ‘The name’s Latimer— Oliver Latimer.’

      The girl got to her feet, glad for once that she was a tall girl, and very nearly able to look him in the face. ‘Beatrice Browning. That’s Nobby—Miss Mead’s dog. She’ll be so very glad, he’s been missing for a couple of days—everyone has been out looking for him. Where was he?’

      ‘About a mile on the other side of these woods—there’s a stretch of common land… The vet?’

      ‘You’d better come with me. Father will be up by now; he’s leaving early to visit a couple of farms.’

      She started down the hill towards the village below. ‘You’re out early,’ she observed.

      ‘Yes. You too. It’s the best time of the day, isn’t it?’

      She nodded. They had left the hill behind them and were in a narrow rutted lane, the roofs of the village very close.

      ‘You live here?’ he wanted to know. He spoke so casually that she decided that he was merely making polite conversation.

      ‘My home is here; I live with an aunt in Wilton.’ She turned to look at him. ‘Well, not all the time—I’m staying with her until she can get another companion.’ She went on walking. ‘Actually she’s a great-aunt.’

      She frowned; here she was, handing out information which couldn’t be of the slightest interest to this man. She said austerely, ‘What a splendid day it is. Here we are.’ Her father’s house was of a comfortable size surrounded by a large, overgrown garden, and with a paddock alongside for any animals he might need to take under his care. She led the way around the side of the house, so in through the back door, and found her father sitting on the doorstep drinking tea. He wished her good morning and looked enquiringly at her companion. ‘A patient already—bless me, that’s Nobby! Hurt?’

      ‘Nothing broken, I fancy. Hungry and dehydrated, I should imagine.’

      ‘Mr Latimer found him down a rabbit-hole the other side of Billings Wood,’ said Beatrice. ‘My father,’ she added rather unnecessarily.

      The two men shook hands, and Nobby was handed over to be examined by her father. Presently he said, ‘He seems to have got off very lightly. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t go straight back to Miss Mead.’


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