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I had planned a love in the snow scene, but how about we escape the chill of a Northern Hemisphere Midwinter and go South?!
I've snatched this snippet from a novel written earlier this year, and of course relates to a romantic engagement at African Safari lodge. How timely, in consideration of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement whilst on a Safari Holiday. It goes over word count I'm afraid: eeeek!
Brief: Allessandre has just presented Nina with an engagement ring and asked her to marry him, but a commotion outside the lodge defers Nina's answer: her brother on the war path.
African Safari & Mid-Winter Engagement.
Paul’s 4x4 pickup skidded to a halt outside Allessandre’s lodge. It caused a bit of a stir among guests just returned from a two-day safari, their guides unpacking a safari truck eyes agog.
Paul leapt out rifle in hand and came striding toward Allessandre who’d heard the commotion and stepped outside to see what in hell was going down.
Reluctant to follow Nina remained inside the lodge awaiting imminent verbal explosion. She really did not want another confrontation with Paul, but nonetheless watched his approach from the shadows behind the mosquito screen door.
‘Did Nina arrive here, earlier?’ he asked, his tone that of man in panic mode.
‘She did,’ replied Allessandre, flippant in response, ‘and supposed to be back before dark, right?’
‘This is no joking matter,’ said Paul, as Aniel his trusted tracker appeared from beside the lodge. ‘She came up here with a young lioness at heel, and Lost returned home twenty-minutes ago at the run.’
‘That was my fault,’ volunteered Allessandre, still feeling guilty for having challenged the poor animal in a stand-off: man with golf club against young lioness. ‘I kind of scared it off.’
‘And Nina, how long ago did she set off back from here?’ asked Paul. ‘We searched the lower path, and Aniel risked his neck to walk up here. There's a pride of lions nearby tonight, and he clearly hasn’t found her, either.’
‘She’s still here,’ declared Allessandre.
In the glow of light cascading from the veranda Paul’s relief evident on face, his tone of voice still tinged with anger. ‘Why didn’t you say so before? I very nearly had a heart attack when Lost returned and no sign of Nina.’
‘Sorry about that,’ said Allessandre, as Nina appeared and came to stand beside him.
‘I do know my way back Paul, and I know what to listen out for,’ she said, defensively.
‘That’s not the point,’ argued her brother. ‘You know the dangers of walking about in the bush at night, and I can’t believe you seriously thought you could stroll back when it suited you to do so.’
‘I’m not that stupid,’ she snapped.
‘Stupid enough in not using the pickup to get here,’ he stated, sounding more furious than before. ‘And Lost, what happened to her? She looked traumatized on her return.’
‘As I said, that was my fault,’ declared Allessandre. ‘I saw Nina coming up the slope behind the lodge, and then suddenly this lioness came charging toward her.’
‘He played the hero,’ said Nina, cutting in, ‘and got between Lost and myself and frightened her.’
‘And only a golf club to defend us,’ said Allessandre, wrapping his arm around her shoulders in protective gesture.
‘She’s only a youngster,’ said Paul, sounding disheartened to think Lost had been traumatized by one man’s ignorance, when she herself knew it had taken him months of tender loving care to get the cub to trust him after man had shot her mother.
Paul had every reason to be angry, and she knew in her heart it was because a terrible nightmare incident from their past had driven him up to the lodge in panicked rage. But what could she say, other than sorry, the past her reason for being there.
‘Thank God Lost came straight home, and didn’t panic and run out into the bush. If that had happened and she’d encountered the nearby pride she’d have been lucky to survive.’
He turned to Aniel, said, ‘Right, let’s be getting off home.’
Aniel leapt into the cab of the pickup, and Paul said in parting shot, ‘Next time you come up here let me know if you’re not coming back.’
Nina felt suitably chastised, and said, ‘I’m sorry, I thought I’d be coming straight back, and you’re right, I should have used the pickup.’
Paul paused by the driver’s door. ‘I take it you ‘re staying?’
‘For tonight,’ she replied, hiding her left hand beneath her right, ‘but I’ll be back in the morning sometime.’
‘See you tomorrow then, and be careful.’
Nina sighed a sigh of relief as he turned the pickup and drove off.
‘I feel so guilty,’ she said, looking to Allessandre. ‘I should have gone with him.’
‘But you didn’t,’ he said, taking her in his arms. ‘Does that mean you’re accepting my proposal?’
‘I have,’ she replied, holding her left hand aloft to display the engagement ring. ‘It’s beautiful and completes the ensemble that you bought on the first day we met.’
Allessandre smiled, his expression that of triumph tinged with surprise.
After all, he’d asked her to marry him, produced the ring, and she’d dallied on reply. Then her brother had suddenly arrived and, perhaps, feeling a little dejected by her silent reaction Allessandre had come outside as much to escape inevitable rejection as that of Paul's hurried arrival.
‘I do love you,’ she said, cupping his face in her hands, ‘and I didn’t falter on reply because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to marry you . . .’
‘I know, it just came as a bit of a shock, right?’
‘You can say that again, and I’m not sure now that it’s happened. That I’m not dreaming,’ she said.
‘Believe me, it's no dream, and as my wife you’ll want for nothing.’
‘But I don’t want you for what you’ve have I want you for who you are,’ she said, eager to set the record straight. ‘I love the man behind the arrogant mask, the man with the big heart, the man who wanted to be my lover, the man who’ll be my everything.’
He laughed. ‘You think I don’t know all that?’ He kissed her. He hugged her tight. He scooped her off her feet. ‘You never once bothered looking at what I had in any great detail, nor were you the least bit impressed by my stable of cars and horses, and earlier, look what you said about the LearJet.’
She couldn’t help but smile.
‘You can smile,’ he said, carrying her inside the lodge.
‘Well it is a bit OTT arriving at a game reserve in a private jet.’
‘So you won’t be going OTT back to England, then?’ he mooted, a broad grin as he let her feet slide to the floor.
‘Perhaps not,’ she said, teasing him.
‘You’re flying back with me and nothing more to be said.’
‘Is that so?’ she said, attempting to extricate herself from his clutches.
Allessandre gripped her tighter, his lion-like growl pre-cursor to a kiss she had no intention of trying to escape from.
This is an extra cutey pic, because the lioness in the story looked like this when found by Paul (the heroine's brother). But for Nina, Lost proved to be a wonderful companion throughout weeks of much inner soul searching and time to rethink through past heart-breaking events!
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