- Author: Karen Swan
Read book online «The Secret Path by Karen Swan (summer beach reads TXT) 📕». Author - Karen Swan
No one laughs like we do
‘Tell me a secret,’ Tara whispered into the silence.
‘A secret?’ Alex echoed, sounding sleepy.
‘Yes. Something you’ve never told anyone before.’
‘Oh. That type of secret.’
She smacked his chest. Immediately kissed it. He smelled of her shower gel – jasmine and vanilla.
‘Hmm.’ The sound reverberated against her ear, travelling through her and into her. She felt suffused with him – his breath, his smell, his kisses, his love.
There was a silence, and then his chest inflated, the thought assuming a physical shape. ‘Well, I’ve always wanted a pet goat.’
She lifted her head and pinned him with a look. ‘That is not what I meant!’
He grinned back at her. ‘No?’
‘But I’ve never told anyone that before. I feel very . . . vulnerable to have admitted I love their flicky little tails and hairy chins and little prancy jumps.’
She smacked him again, laughing. ‘No! That doesn’t count and you know it doesn’t.’
She gazed at him, wishing he wasn’t so handsome. Or funny. ‘Tell me what frightens you most in the world.’
‘Oh well, that’s easy. What frightens me most in the world is what we’re doing to the world.’
She groaned. ‘Ugh. Can you just stop being an eco-warrior for one minute? We’re in bed!’
‘I’m a biologist,’ he corrected her. ‘And biology never sleeps. Unlike you.’
He arched an eyebrow; they were beautifully shaped – thick and straight, but finishing in a sharp point – and their very boldness highlighted the paleness of celery-green eyes that sometimes looked grey in weak light.
‘What can I say? My body and brain just need a lot of rest and repair.’
‘Well, it’s not beauty sleep you need, for sure.’
‘Charmer,’ she grinned, nudging him with her shoulders, but pleased. ‘Do you ever think what might have happened if we hadn’t met in the coffee shop that morning?’
‘No.’ And before she could protest, he smiled. ‘Because if it hadn’t been there, it’d have been somewhere else.’
‘You’re a fatalist?’ she gasped with mock-horror. ‘But how can you say such a thing? You’re a scientist.’
‘I say it as a good son. My mom always told me, the people who are meant to be in your life, you’ll meet them twice without trying.’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘And you believed that?’
‘Of course. I believe everything my mom ever told me.’ A small smile whickered in his eyes, so hers too, and she let the lack of rigorous adherence to scientific principle go. He loved his mum. There was a lot to be said for that.
‘Do you . . .’ She thought for a moment. ‘Oh! Do you believe in never going to sleep on a fight?’
‘I believe in going to sleep on a mattress.’
‘Stop it!’ she laughed. ‘Be serious! I am learning about you!’ She peered at him through narrowed amber eyes. ‘I am studying you! You are my specialist subject.’
‘Huh.’ He inhaled deeply, but a smile tickled his lips.
‘So do you?’ she prompted. ‘. . . Believe in never going to sleep on a fight?’
‘I’ve never thought about it. But I guess . . .’ He lapsed into thought. ‘No.’
He seemed surprised by her surprise. ‘What? I don’t think it’s about the speed of how you resolve something. In my experience, talk can be cheap and apologies are meaningless if you’re just rushing to get them in before a deadline. Sometimes, yeah, it’s better to go to sleep on the fight.’
‘Said no one ever,’ she protested.
He shrugged. ‘You’ve got to have conviction if you want to have integrity. All the people I admire most in the world have principles they would die for.’
She took his hand, which was lying inert over his chest, and distractedly slotted her fingers between his, feeling the size of his palm against hers. There was a tiny moon-shaped scar on the side of his hand from where he’d been hooked by a fishing fly when he was a little boy. She loved stroking it, the ridges satisfying under her thumb. ‘So, like who, then?’
He gave her the side-eye. ‘Do you know the artist Peter Beard?’
‘Sure. Did all the Africa collages. Smeared them with his blood.’
‘Right. He was one of the first to recognize species decline in the wild and really do something about it. Back in the sixties and seventies, this was. He’s a pioneer, even though everyone just thinks of him as a playboy.’
‘Like Attenborough, but with sex appeal?’
‘Yeah, he had a lot of that back in the day.’
‘So you admire him because he’s a conservationist?’
‘Not just that – I admire him because he has the power of conviction and if he believes in something, he backs it up, a hundred per cent.’ He looked at her. ‘Whenever he’s done the wrong thing, it’s always been for the right reasons.’
‘Like what? Give me an example.’
‘Okay then.’ He thought for a moment. ‘Okay. There was this one time he caught a poacher on his land – and do you know what he did?’
She shook her head. ‘Nope, not a clue.’
‘He put the guy in his own snare.’
She stared at him. ‘What?’
‘Yep. Left him there for hours. Didn’t kill him, but . . . he made him think twice about ever doing it again, let’s put it that way.’ His voice had become velvet – thick, soft, like a big cat’s purr. ‘When I read that, I thought he was fucking A! He became my hero there and then. Finally, here was someone actually doing something!’
‘But he put the guy in a snare.’
‘The guy was putting lions in snares. Is that any better?’ He blinked back at her, his eyes shining with their own fierce light. ‘Sometimes talk isn’t enough, Ta. You have to act. Be prepared to cross the line to