The enormous man, tall and broad, with skin dark as midnight, did not reply, instead silently indicating that she should walk ahead of him into the dark hallway with a seriousness that suggested it would be a mistake to…
The door opens with vigor, and I jerk up from my notebook, my pencil sliding off the page as a hunk of hair falls across my face. Not in an attractive, heroine-like way. In an I-cant-see-a-thing kind of way. Dammit. I thought she wouldn’t find me here. I picked this cupboard for it’s roominess. it fits me, several linen tablecloths, a stack of well ironed napkins and a candle. And my notebook. And a pencil.
I was looking for quiet. And definitely not looking for Lady B.
My mother is English, however, so I know how to fake it till I make it. I paste a smile on my face. “Lady B!”
“You are missing the ball.”
My father is Italian, though, so I find myself gritting my teeth. “Am I?”
Her blue gaze narrows. “You are.”
I have never been good at faking it. My shoulders slump. “I know.”
Her lips purse. “What is it, gel? Miss Neville has brought gentlemen in BOOTS. It’s quite diverting.”
This does not make me feel better. “It sounds like it. Except, you see, I can’t go. I have to stay here. I have to work.”
She looks to my notebook. “Work on what?”
“My book. I’m on deadline. And, you see…” my voice lowers to a near whisper, “The book is quite late.”
She does see. “Well. Are you nearly finished?”
She does not, however, know that that precise question is not something to ask a writer on deadline. You see, probably, to the general outside observer, I am nearly finished. But I feel like I’ve half of Africa to traverse before I’m done. North-to-south Africa. Not the easy way. It occurs that the other way isn’t easy either…but I’d take it.
“I am…getting there.”
“Hmm. And when do you think you will get there?” This woman has clearly taken lessons from my mother on how to ask all the wrong questions.
I sigh. “Before the next ball, I’m hoping. But today…I need a little bit of time in this cupboard, if you don’t mind.”
She leans in, tilting her head to look at my notebook. I cover the page with my hand instinctively. She looks up. “Will it be quite salacious?”
I think of leather straps and bathing chambers and boxing rings. “If it is ever finished, my lady, it will be.”
Her eyes light. “And am I in it?”
I smile. “In fact, you are, and it’s quite a scene.”
She nods, her decision made. “Then I shall leave you to it.”
The door to the cupboard closes with a snap.
When you are nearly at the end of a project — what do you need to get it done? Absolute silence? Chocolate? A week in a posh hotel? Massages? A large man with a whip?