“Aphrodite’s Tears” by Hannah Fielding
Blurb: In ancient Greece, one of the twelve labours of Heracles was to bring back a golden apple from the Garden of Hesperides. To archaeologist Oriel Anderson, joining a team of Greek divers on the island of Helios seems like the golden apple of her dreams. Yet the dream becomes a nightmare when she meets the devilish owner of the island, Damian Lekkas. In shocked recognition, she is flooded with the memory of a romantic night in a stranger’s arms, six summers ago. A very different man stands before her now, and Oriel senses that the sardonic Greek autocrat is hell-bent on playing a cat and mouse game with her. As they cross swords and passions mount, Oriel is aware that malevolent eyes watch her from the shadows. Dark rumours are whispered about the Lekkas family. What dangers lie in Helios, a bewitching land where ancient rituals are still enacted to appease the gods, young men risk their lives in the treacherous depths of the Ionian Sea, and the volatile earth can erupt at any moment? Will Oriel find the hidden treasures she seeks? Or will Damian’s tragic past catch up with them, threatening to engulf them both?
She and Damian ascended slowly, holding the dive rope and stopping at intervals along the way, a barrage of bubbles breaking the surface as they finally rose to the top. They were helped into the boat and were immediately surrounded by the other divers, who were all talking at once, everyone wanting to have a look at the antique finds. ‘Thavmahsios, thavmahsios, wonderful, wonderful,’ they cried out as they examined Damian’s Roman seaman’s knife, and a perfectly intact drinking cup with a rudely fashioned face leering from its side. When Stavros saw that Oriel’s amphora had an unbroken seal, he laughed, eyes twinkling. ‘We need to celebrate, and we’ve got the wine right here!’
‘Not sure what it’ll be like after two thousand years,’ said Damian, throwing down his mask. ‘I’ve heard Cousteau talk about trying some from an amphora he’d raised from a wreck near Cap Ferrat. It tasted worse than vinegar, and there was no alcohol left at all. But this one might be worth a toast, I suppose,’ he added with a lopsided grin.
‘Wait a minute, everyone,’ laughed Oriel. ‘Not until it’s been properly cleaned and documented. I don’t want anyone touching that seal!’
‘How’s the wreck looking?’ asked Mohammed, the keen young Algerian diver who was due to go down next.
‘Most of the artefacts are embedded in the calcite that’s formed around the wreck,’ answered Damian. ‘It’s going to be impossible, working underwater, to extract them without breaking them. I suggest you only pick up the smaller, accessible items for now.’ He turned to Oriel. ‘I propose we cut the wreck into blocks of about two hundred pounds apiece, which is the maximum our winches can raise.’
‘I think that’s the only course open to you,’ agreed Oriel. ‘So long as all the necessary drawings, maps and photographs have been made first. There’s a lot to do before we can even think of carving up the argosy.’
Damian nodded and said to Stavros, ‘This is such a big job, I think we might have to ask Vassilis and his crew to help us bring the big pieces up.’
‘Yes, he’s just bought some sophisticated equipment from America. He was boasting about it at Manoli’s last night,’ Stavros told him.
As the next pair of divers were being seen off, Damian turned to Oriel. ‘I take it that Vassilis looked after you well at the temple site yesterday?’
‘Yes, he’s very thorough. I was impressed.’
Damian glanced at her. ‘Not too impressed I hope,’ he said, devilment in his eyes. He paused, then added: ‘You did well down there. There’s something methodical in how you work. Good under pressure too, I’d guess. Not a thermokéfalos hothead like Spyros over there. He’ll need to be watched.’
Oriel glanced over at the wiry young Greek who was showing off, arms gesticulating wildly, his excitable voice rising above the laughter of his diver companions. She was glad to have an opportunity to turn her face away so that Damian couldn’t see the pink hue rise in her cheeks. There was something very intoxicating about approval, and she felt a heady warmth at the remarks he’d made about her.
**Aphrodite’s Tears is out in paperback on 25th January for £7.99.
Egyptian by birth Hannah is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has lived all over the world. She currently lives between her writing retreat in the South of France and her rambling family home in Ireland. Hannah’s grandmother, Esther Fanous, was the revolutionary feminist writer in Egypt during the early 1900s and helped found the Women’s Wafd Central Committee in 1920.