Amanda rolled over in bed to see sunlight streaming in through the blinds. She looked round to see Virgil lying on his back, his hands behind his head, wearing a pensive expression. "Not more bad dreams, Poet?" she asked, concern in her voice.

He turned towards her, smiling. "No, you 'kissed me and stopped me from shaking' remember?" he replied, leaning over to kiss her lips. He leant back, "No, I was just looking at you and thinking I would like to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life."

"Mr. Tracy!" she exclaimed, in her best 'Elizabeth Bennett' voice. "What an immoral suggestion!"

He smiled, "On the contrary, I would like to make a very moral suggestion. I want to ask you to marry me." She opened her mouth to reply, but he put his finger to her lips, forestalling her, and carried on. "But before I do, there is something I have to tell you. And before I can tell you, you have to promise that you will never tell another soul."

"How mysterious! OK, I promise. So, what is this great secret?"

He looked down, uncertain how to go on. "My family run – we are – the organisation you know as International Rescue. So you see, if you were to marry me, it would mean living on the island with us. Now, if you don't feel you could do that, we could still see each other. You could come and visit, or I could come and see you, but.." He suddenly looked up, taking in her expression. "You're not hearing a word of this, are you?"

Amanda realised her mouth had been hanging open, and closed it. "You're – you're one of the 'Thunderbird men'?" she said in a small voice, quoting the line from the pop song.

He nodded. "I fly Thunderbird 2, the transporter craft. OK, let's take this slowly. Do you want to marry me?"

"Of course I do" she replied, giving him a kiss.

"And would you mind living with us on the island?"

"I don't see why not. I'm a writer – I can write anywhere."

"And you wouldn't mind me rushing off on rescues? Maybe coming back injured?"

"Well, it can't be any worse than being married to a doctor or a fireman." She thought for a minute. "Do you often get injured?" She touched his leg through the sheets and looked at him. "Did this happen on a rescue?"  He nodded. "You don't have to tell  me if you don't want."

He shook his head, and put his arm around her. "No, It's all right. In fact it's quite a relief to be able to talk about it." His expression took on a faraway look as he thought back. "It happened in Florence, back in June. We had arrived about two hours after the earthquake." (Amanda gave a little gasp of recognition). "We had been working for about eight hours, had rescued several groups of people and were now on the mopping-up stage of the operation. Scott was checking a pile of rubble to see if it contained any survivors. He was wearing headphones to try and listen for signs of life. I had gone to collect some coffee for us both from a nearby mobile canteen. I was just on my way back when I felt a tremor under my feet – there are often small aftershocks like that after a big 'quake. I looked up to see the wall behind Scott start to crumble. I shouted to him, and started to run – and that's the last thing I remember."

"So that was your nightmare?"

"That was the first part, yes. Scott told me that I gave him a shove that sent him flying, then I got caught by the falling debris. I don't remember any of that, though. The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room, desperately trying to find out what had happened to Scott, while being restrained by Italian medical staff who could barely understand what I was saying – I suppose I wasn't very coherent. That's the second nightmare." He gave her a hug. "But I'm over it now, thanks to you."

She looked at him. "I still find all this hard to believe. The hardest part is knowing I can't talk to anyone about it – not even Penny. Hang on a minute," she looked the expression on his face. "Penny already knows, doesn't she? Come on, you've told me so much, tell me the rest. What's Penny's part in all this?"

"Penny's our London agent. Sometimes this just involves mundane matters like finding out information for us, or taking delivery of things we don't want to have connected to the Tracy business. Other times her activities are, well, let's just say 'more adventurous'. I'll let her fill in some of the details. She and Parker have been very useful to us over the years."

"Parker, too?" she exclaimed in amazement.

"Yes," and he laughed. "Next time you're on your own with him, ask him to tell you about the time he broke into the vault in the Bank of England for us!"

She put her arms around his neck. "Now, apart from belonging to the most secret organisation in the world, is there anything else you need to tell me?"

 "No, except that I'm glad things happened the way they did, because otherwise I'd never have met you."

"Good," She kissed him again, seductively. "Then can I interest you in another symphony like the one we had last night?"

"I'm not sure I could manage a whole symphony before breakfast," he said, in a teasing tone, as his fingers played an arpeggio across her skin.. "Would you settle for a concerto?"



Times Literary Supplement :

 Book news

Author Annabelle Lee was in Hatchards, Piccadilly today to sign copies of her latest book, the first since her recent marriage. Set later than her normal period, Brothers in arms tells the story of Marcus, a young World War II bomber pilot, who is injured rescuing his brother from a collapsing building in the London blitz. Severely traumatised, he is sent to the West Country to recuperate, and eventually regains his physical and mental health through the love and support of a young WAAF officer.


Author's note: the story of Virgil and Amanda will be continued in Family ties