‘My phone hasn’t got a signal here,’ she lied to her brother. ‘So use this number if there’s an emergency. It’s right there in front of you on caller display—write it down, James. By the way, has Hugo called?’ She didn’t know if it was relief or dread she felt when James replied in the negative.
Disconnecting the call, she handed the phone back.
Her chest felt full and heavy and she suddenly realised she was on the verge of tears.
‘Who is Hugo?’ Pascha asked. ‘You mentioned him earlier.’
‘Hugo is my boss. Or perhaps I should say was my boss.’
Pascha arched a brow. ‘Was?’
‘Unless Hugo’s had a new heart transplanted into him, I won’t have a job to go back to. Most employers wouldn’t be happy about a key member of staff taking off for a week’s leave on a whim, especially when that member of staff has already been given an official warning for taking too many unauthorised absences.’ Stopping herself, Emily clamped her lips together. Pascha didn’t care about her or her job. All she was to him was a potential threat that had to be hidden away.
Fashion design was all she’d ever wanted to do. But she shouldn’t complain about Hugo. He’d been incredibly supportive through what had been a horrific time, at least initially, but he had a business to run—something he’d made abundantly clear when he’d given her that official warning less than a month ago.
After a long, thoughtful pause, Pascha said in a softer tone, ‘I’m certain that if you explain the situation when you return Hugo will understand. He must know how ill your father is.’
Emily felt her heart lurch at the unexpected kindness from Pascha. Heartlessness she could cope with, but not that. Not now when her stomach felt so knotted she was having trouble holding down the beautiful food she’d just eaten.
Her mother had adored lobster, had been the person to teach her how to demolish one so effectively.
A wave of despair almost had her doubled over, lancing her stomach with a thousand thorns.
Her darling, darling mother; oh, how she missed her.
Emily fought to control her emotions. She couldn’t let him see it. She just couldn’t. He had enough power over her already.
‘I...I need to get some sleep,’ she said, backing away from him. ‘Was there anything else you wanted?’
He shook his head, a strange, penetrative expression in his eyes.
She gave a brief nod and turned on her heel, forcing her rubbery legs to walk.
By the time Emily slid the door of her cabin shut, the grief had abated and her sudden tears had retreated back into their ducts.
Sinking onto the bed, she gazed up at the ceiling.
She could still feel Pascha’s gaze on her skin.
* * *
The next morning, fortified by a huge breakfast that had been brought to her room, and armed with mosquito repellent, high-factor sun-cream and bottles of water, Emily set off to explore the island. It had been a long evening and an even longer night. She’d gone to bed far earlier than she usually did. As hard as she’d tried she’d been unable to sleep, her mind a cacophony of faces clamouring for attention: her mother; her father; her brother. Pascha...
She’d felt trapped in her guest lodge. She might be free to go anywhere on the island but knowing she could bump into Pascha had kept her firmly inside. She couldn’t even get her sewing machine out. Such was the absolute silence of the island, the noise would have woken everyone up.
Making her way out of the main living area, she passed dozens of workers bustling around cleaning the house and grounds, the place a hive of activity. First she traversed the beach, smiling to see a couple of small children chasing each other over the sand. She waved politely at Luis, who was at the bow of the yacht at the jetty. He must have returned from taking Pascha to Puerto Rico.
Now she knew Pascha was off the island she could breathe a little easier, and was already plotting ways to convince Valeria to let her phone England and check on her father. So what if she embarrassed herself? Some things were more important than saving face.
She’d even tried to crack the code used to block her mobile again. It had been a complete waste of time. She doubted even her old housemate, the whizz who had taught her how to hack into Pascha’s laptop, could have cracked it.
Finished with the beach, she set off up through the dense foliage. The further inland she went, the greater the humidity, and the trail she followed seemed to go nowhere in particular.
On the verge of turning back, she heard the sound of rushing water.
A couple of minutes later, she was awestruck with wonder.
‘Oh wow,’ she whispered under her breath.