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Moth to the Flame

By:Sara Craven

Moth to the Flame
Sara Craven

       Juliet went to Italy to check on her sister, Jan. According to Jan,

she'd arrived just in time. Wealthy, powerful Santino Vallone was

trying to prevent Jan from marrying his young brother, Mario.

With courage and determination, schoolteacher Juliet came to the

rescue. Bravely she led Santino down a false trail by pretending to



But Juliet only had one side of the story. When Santino kidnapped

her, taking her to his castle by the sea, she realized the path she'd

chosen led to danger--and heartbreak!


'Well, I can't understand you,' Mrs Laurence said plaintively. 'Most

girls would give their eye teeth for a week in Rome with all

expenses paid.'

Juliet Laurence repressed a sigh and gave her mother a look of

affectionate resignation. 'You make it all sound so simple,' she said.

'It is simple,' her mother protested.

'And of course Jan will welcome me with open arms, without the

slightest idea that I've been sent out to spy on her.'

'What an unpleasant way of expressing it!' Mrs Laurence directed a

quelling glance at her older daughter. 'That is not my intention at all.

I admit that I'm concerned, but...'

'But you want to know what she's doing, and why she hasn't written

to you for nearly a month, without actually asking her directly,'

Juliet supplied accurately.

'But she never keeps me waiting so long for a letter,' Mrs Laurence

said defensively. 'Something's wrong, I know it is. I have one of my

feelings ...'

'Oh, Mim!' Juliet smiled ruefully. 'You and those "feelings" of

yours-the panics they've started! If you're so worried, why don't

you telephone Jan? It would be cheaper than sending me to Rome

to ferret out the information for you.'

'I can't phone her. I'd sound like one of those dreadful,

over-protective mothers who keep dragging their fledglings back to

the nest,' Mrs Laurence said fretfully. 'Jan would hate it. And I've

never pestered or interfered, have I?'

Juliet patted her hand. 'No, Mim, love, of course not.'

And if the thought fleetingly occurred to her that if it had been

herself all those miles away in Rome instead of her younger sister,

her mother's antennae might not have been quite so sensitive to

impending doom, she loyally suppressed it. After all, Jan was her

last-born, and Juliet had always known, ever since her sister's birth,

that Jan was the favourite child. It was an instinctive knowledge

and she had been able to absorb it without particular hurt, because

she knew that she was also loved and valued, and that what

favouritism there was had been wholly unconscious on her mother's


Jan, after all, was everyone's darling. She was incredibly lovely to

look at, for one thing. Strangers had hung over her pram, cooing

rapturously while she accepted their homage. She had continued to

accept it all through her childhood, at school and at play, and no

one had been in the least surprised when a career in modelling

beckoned when she was seventeen. And now she had been working

in Rome for almost a year at a leading fashion house, the latest in a

series of glamorous jobs.

Juliet did not grudge her sister one iota of her almost meteoric

success. No one, she had realised a long time ago, was ever likely

to offer her a career in modelling, even if that had been what she

wanted-unless it was to advertise tights or nail varnish. Her legs

were long and shapely, and her hands small and well cared for, but

her figure, although slender and rounded in the right places, would

never set the world on fire, she thought judiciously, and while she

shared Jan's basic colouring, her own hair tended towards a bright

copper rather than her sister's rich red-gold colour and her eyes had

more grey than green in them. Her face was thinner, too, its

cheekbones more prominent and the mouth more vulnerable.

It was odd to think of herself as the more vulnerable when she was

the older by eighteen months. When they had been small, she had

always been protective towards Jan, alert for the sort of mischief

that could lead to danger. Jan had seemed to accept this in much the

same spirit as she received admiration, but at the same time she

seemed to have been born knowing exactly where she was going

and what she wanted out of life, whereas Juliet had never really

known where her path would lead. It had led, eventually, to training

as a teacher, and she had just completed her probationary year. She

was happy and settled in her post in a primary school, but was that

really how she should be feeling at twenty-two? she wondered. She

had never let the knowledge that Jan regarded her as. a

stick-in-the-mud worry her in the past, because she had never

craved the sort of limelight that seemed to be her sister's life's

blood, but just recently she had begun to ask herself whether Jan's                       


strictures might not have a certain justice, and whether she was not

in grave danger of resigning herself to a rut.

There was Barry Tennent for one thing. He taught at the same

school, and they had been out together several times. Juliet

admitted that she enjoyed his company, and she knew that Barry

was ambitious, with his eye on a deputy headship before he was

thirty. Nor did she find him unattractive. But was that really all

there was to it-to marry a man because his prospects were sound,

and he was 'not unattractive'? Her mother too approved of Barry.'

She said he was 'reliable' as if that was the one quality that

mattered, but Juliet was not so sure. It was all so safe and so


She had even found herself guiltily wishing of late that it could be

possible to change identities with Jan just for a brief while so that

she could see what another lifestyle was like. But there was no

profit to be gained from that kind of daydreaming. Perhaps a change

of job would provide the impetus she needed. She could even work

abroad. A girl she had been at college with was now living with a

family in one of the E.E.C. countries, teaching their children

English. Perhaps Katie might know of a similar post that would

appeal to her.

It was this feeling of restlessness which had sorely tempted her to

agree without a second thought when her mother had first suggested

the trip to Rome-and if the invitation had come from Jan herself,

she would not have hesitated. But Jan had never suggested that

either her mother or her sister should visit her in her adopted city.

She came home, of course, bringing generous presents-beautiful

handbags and belts, and delicious perfume, and tossing them casual

stories of parties she had attended and celebrities she had met, but

her visits were never long. Jan, Juliet thought dispassionately, bored

easily. She always had, even as a small child. She could remember

incidents in childhood play, and even friendships disrupted by Jan's

demand for novelty. It was almost surprising that her interest in her

new career had not waned. Juliet had half-expected the glamour of

that to pall after a few months.

She rarely heard from Jan, but as long as her mother received

regular correspondence, she did not allow it to worry her too much.

Her affection for her sister now was not quite so uncritical as it had

been when they were younger.

Only now there had been no letters for over three weeks, and Mrs

Laurence had reacted sharply to the prolonged silence.

Poor Mim, Juliet thought, stealing her a compassionate look. She

had always tried so hard to seem impartial, and she would have

been genuinely horrified if anyone had suggested that she favoured

Jan more in any way.

'Mim,' she said gently, 'we really must leave Jan to live her own life,

you know. There could be any number of reasons why she hasn't

written lately. Perhaps she's extra busy just now, or away on a trip


'Or ill.' Mrs Laurence's eyes sought Juliet's. 'Oh, darling,

something's wrong. I can feel it-here.' She pressed a hand to her


'Nonsense,' Juliet said robustly. 'If she was sick then the Di Lorenzo

company would have let you know. You would have been sent for.'

Her mother's hand reached for hers. 'Please, Juliet, go and see her.

Put my mind at rest. If there is something the matter, she's more

likely to confide in you than she is in me.'

'I wouldn't count on that.' Juliet's tone was dry. 'She's never been a

great one for confidences, you know.'

'But you're her sister. Who else would she confide in?' Mrs

Laurence looked a little hurt. 'Juliet, you sounded for a minute as if

you didn't-love Jan.'

'Oh, I love her,' Juliet said calmly. 'And I'm just as bewitched,

bedevilled and bedazzled as everyone else who comes within her

aegis. But to be honest, Mim, there are moments when I don't

actually-like her very much, and when she upsets you just

happens to be one of them ... However, if it will please you and

give you some peace of mind, I'll go to Rome as soon as term ends.

But you must write to Jan and tell her I'm coming. I won't just land

on her unannounced. And if she replies that it's not convenient, then

wild horses won't drag me anywhere near Italy, and you must

accept that.'

'Agreed,' Mrs Laurence said joyfully. 'And of course she'll want

you, dear. It will be lovely for you, apart from anything else. You've

been looking tired lately, and a nice break in the sun will do you