A quickening in the blood
Edmund seated himself beside her. ‘Your face is very wet.’ He drew a handkerchief from his sleeve. ‘Let me dry that, at least.’
She did not look at him as his hand gently rubbed her skin with the linen. The action had a quality of intimacy that was made greater by their isolation, the lowering sky and pounding rain – even, she thought, by the scent of country life that surrounded them. He said:
‘Do you still have kind words for the island, with the sun vanished, and the landscape dull and ugly instead of bright?’
‘I do not think it ugly.’
‘No. I do not believe you do. But after all, you are an islander. There is something in your blood which responds to it.’
She was silent. Sometimes his fingers rather than the kerchief, touched her face, a brushing soft in itself but with strength behind it. She kept her face averted and at last, kerchief and pretence abandoned, his fingers touched her fully, moving from cheek to chin to throat. She tried to pull away but his hand took her face and turned it, not roughly but with firmness, so that their eyes met. She stared into the dark, heavy-browed face.
‘Sarnia,’ he said, ‘there is something I must say.’