And just a moment later, the clouds open, the thunder wails, and the rain pours down like every angel in heaven is crying.
“What do you mean, you don’t know where she is?”
I’m in the morning room of Guthrie House and a young security guard stands before me, his eyes downcast.
“She went to the loo, sir. She seemed to be taking a long time, so I went in to check on her…and she was gone.”
I had interviews after the polo match. Olivia was supposed to be driven back here, to meet me. But she never arrived.
While I was wasting time answering stupid fucking questions, talking to people I abhor, Olivia was…getting lost? Getting taken? A thousand gut-wrenching thoughts barrel through my head, making it pound.
My hand tears through my hair. “Get out.”
Winston is on it. He’ll find her—that’s what he does; he’s good at it. But I pace the room, because I want to be the one out there looking for her.
“It’ll be all right, Nick,” Simon tries, sitting on the couch beside Franny. “She’ll turn up. She probably just lost her way.”
Thunder roars outside, rattling the window, mockingly.
And then the phone rings. Fergus answers and turns to me with the closest thing I’ve ever seen on his face to a smile. “Miss Hammond just walked up to the South Gate, Your Grace. They’re bringing her around now.”
And it’s like my whole body deflates with relief.
Until I see her—dripping wet, with big, wounded eyes. I cross the room and pull her against me. “Are you hurt? Christ, what happened?”
“I needed to think,” Olivia says flatly. “I think better when I walk around.”
My hands tighten on her arms as I lean back, wanting to shake her. “You can’t walk around the city without security, Olivia.”
She just looks at me with that same blank expression. “No, I can. You can’t, but I can.”
“I’ve been going out of my mind!”
Her voice is colorless. Drained. “Why?”
“Yes, why? I’m just in-house American pussy that you’re not tired of yet.”
Horror slams into me like a sledgehammer, punching the air from my lungs, choking off my response.
“Just a cunt your friend is welcome to have at, but not until you’re finished because you don’t share.”
“Olivia, I didn’t mean—”
“You didn’t mean for me to hear? Yeah, I got that.” She shakes out of my arms and backs away, her eyes hard and distrustful. “How could you say those things?”
“I didn’t mean them.”
“I don’t care if you meant them, you said them! Is that how you talk about me with your friends, Nicholas?” She points at Simon.
And I don’t give a fuck that we have an audience.
I approach her and hiss, “Lancaster is not my friend.”
“He sounded like your friend.”
“He’s not! It’s just…it’s just the way things are here.”
Olivia shakes her head and her voice becomes clogged, strained with the effort of holding back tears. “If that’s how it is, then I’m going home. I thought I could do this, but…I don’t want to anymore.”
When she turns, I yell, “Stop!”
She doesn’t bother to turn around. “Fuck off!”
I grab her arm. And then she does swing around. Slapping me so hard my head snaps to the side and my cheek throbs.
“Don’t fucking touch me!” Olivia faces me, her feet shoulder-width apart, hands curved into claws, eyes darting—like a beautiful, wild, cornered animal—that’s been wounded.
“Let me explain.”
“I’m leaving!” she screeches.
My face goes hard, tight, and anger sharpens my words—because she won’t goddamn listen.
“Clue in, love—the car’s mine, the house is mine, the whole fucking country is mine! You’re not going anywhere because I’ll tell them not to take you anywhere.”
She lifts her chin, shoulders back. “Then I’ll walk to the airport.”
“It’s too far—you can’t walk.”
Franny’s voice, musical and calm, like a preschool teacher’s, comes between us.
“Children, children…that’s enough of that.”
She takes both of Olivia’s hands in hers, turning her back to me. “Olivia, Nicholas is right—it’s dreadful outside; you can’t walk anywhere. And you look terrible—you can’t go out like this!”
She turns to Fergus. “Fergus, have a bath drawn and bring a bottle of Courvoisier to Olivia’s room.”
Franny pushes Olivia’s hair back, the way you would for a sad little child. “A nice hot bath, a good drink, and if you still want to leave in the morning, I’ll drive you myself.” Her dark eyes glare at me pointedly. “I have my own car.”
Olivia shudders when she inhales, like she’s on the verge of tears—and the sound is tearing at me.
“Go on now,” Franny tells her. “I’ll be up in a moment.”
When Olivia leaves the room, I move to follow, but Franny steps into my path.
“Oh no, you stay here.”
“Simon,” I say with a scowl, “collect your wife before I say something I’ll regret.”