Pepe was of the same mould. Something she would do well to remember.

She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

Another knock at the door.

‘Mademoiselle Delaney?’ came a muffled female voice.

‘I’m awake,’ she called back, slipping out of the bed. Much as she hated to admit it, that had to qualify as the most comfortable bed she had ever slept on.

The handle turned and a middle-aged woman carrying a tray of coffee and croissants walked in.

Cara remembered her from their arrival, was certain Pepe had introduced her as Monique, his housekeeper.

‘Good morning,’ said Monique, heading straight for a small round table in the corner of the room and placing the tray on it. ‘Did you sleep well?’

‘Yes, thank you,’ she answered in a small voice, forcing a smile. She always felt so...noodley when with strangers, as if her tongue had loosened, then tied itself into knots.

‘Your deliveries have arrived,’ Monique told her, drawing back the heavy full-length curtains to reveal a small balcony.

Morning sunshine filled the room.

Cara cleared her throat. ‘What deliveries?’

‘From the boutiques. I will bring them to you now. Monsieur Mastrangelo has requested that you be ready to leave in an hour.’

Her heart sinking, Cara remembered a trip to the Loire Valley was on the day’s agenda.

Her spirits lifted a fraction when Monique, assisted by a young woman, brought the boxes of clothes in to her, and a hand-case of toiletries.

‘If there is anything else you require, please let me know,’ Monique said before leaving the room.

Putting her half-eaten croissant to one side, Cara began going through the boxes, her spirits sinking all over again as she fingered the beautiful fabrics and accessories.

Why couldn’t Pepe have ensured the clothing he’d ordered for her was inappropriate and gross? Here was an entire wardrobe for her and there was not a single item she wouldn’t have selected herself if money had not been an object. Simple, elegant, casual clothing with an innate vibrancy. Even the nightdresses he’d ordered were beautiful.

When she opened the hand-case she wanted to scream with both joy and despair. Enclosed was every lotion and potion a woman could want, and make-up selected especially for her colouring. Worst of all was that it was all brands she coveted. She would walk past their counters in department stores and gaze at the beautiful items, promising herself that she would buy them when she earned enough money.

Shouldn’t she be pleased she had them roughly five years ahead of schedule? Maybe she should but she couldn’t muster up the necessary sparkly feelings. She didn’t want to feel any gratitude towards Pepe. Wasn’t that how Stockholm syndrome started? Not that she’d been kidnapped, not in the traditional sense of the word. In the ‘really not been given any other option’ sense of the word then she had been.

She gathered all the toiletries together and took them into the en suite. Before stepping into the shower, she examined her thighs. Pepe’s ointment was a marvel. The only discernible sign of injury was a slight pink mark. No pain at all.

The shower itself invigorated her. The gel smelt so utterly gorgeous and the water pressure and heat were so marvellous that she washed herself twice.

Well, that certainly beat the pathetic excuse for a shower she had in her shared bathroom in Dublin.

Wrapping a large fluffy white towel securely around her, she wandered back into her bedroom. She needed to select something to wear, which in theory shouldn’t be a problem, but when one was confronted with a dozen beautiful outfits it became one.

For the first time in her life she had a problem selecting what to wear.

Just as she’d decided on a pair of designer black jeans and a cherry-red cashmere jumper, there was another knock on her door.

‘Come in,’ she called, expecting to see Monique standing there.

Her welcoming smile turned into a scowl when she found Pepe there instead.



‘Good morning to you too, cucciola mia,’ he replied with a flash of his straight white teeth. He was wearing a grey suit with a white shirt and a black cravat. Yes. A cravat. Pepe wore a cravat that should look ridiculous but instead...

He looked far too gorgeous for sensibility.

‘We need to leave shortly.’

Cara shrugged. ‘If you want me to come with you, then you’ll have to wait. I’m not ready.’

‘Monique told you to be ready in an hour. That was an hour ago.’

‘I don’t wear a watch and my phone’s out of battery, so I have no way of knowing what the time is. I would charge my phone but the charger’s in Dublin,’ she added pointedly.