Messing with the Media

By mutual agreement, mobile phones were turned to silent before they went to bed that night. It was another good night’s sleep for them both, with Danny spooning himself around Diana after they’d made love, and feeling as if he didn’t have a care in the world. The urge to pee woke him in the morning, and very carefully he slid out of bed and headed for the bathroom.  Coming out again after brushing his teeth, there seemed to be a lot of noise outside.  He very cautiously peered round the edge of the hallway blind to see a throng of paparazzi, leaning on Diana’s front garden wall, her car, and anything else they could lean against.

“Oh shit!” he said quietly, and padded back to bed, trying to get back in without waking Diana.  He picked up his phone and was greeted with a flood of texts.  He looked at Mike’s first.

Simon’s mates have broken the news.  Trying to keep a lid on things but someone has leaked Diana’s address, keep the curtains drawn for now.

From Mark:

Police visited Deb last night.  Spending the day with her at the hospital. Keep your head down and don’t make Diana do all the washing up.

From Ted:

Paps outside the gates first thing, then vanished. Someone has told them that you are at Diana’s.  If the two of you need rescuing, let me know.  I won’t bring the Bentley. Look after each other.

Woken by the change of Danny’s position, Diana stretched, turned over towards Danny, and gave him a sleepy smile.

“Good morning.  Did you sleep well?”

He leaned over and kissed her; a freshly brushed teeth kiss.

“I slept very well my love, but our media friends would appear to have had a more stressful night. Simon’s friends were quick to get pictures of his confession on their mobiles before the police took the evidence, and they sold them to the press.  Luckily DI Willis and a female police officer went to see Debbie last night and told her what had happened. Mark has texted to say that he’s spending the day with her today.  Ted had the press at the house earlier, but someone gave them your address.  I suspect your ex is behind the leak.  We have a large group of paps outside.  Mike is trying to calm things down. Ted will come and rescue us if need be.  Better check your phone too?”

Ignoring the long stream of texts from John, Diana looked at Jane’s first.  Not surprisingly it was to advise her about the people outside the house, and that they had already knocked on her door.  She told them to sod off and bother someone else.  She had also had a couple of calls from angry neighbours about the people blocking up the road.  They were threatening to call the police if Diana didn’t get the press to clear off.

She told them to go ahead.

“I guess we’ll be staying in today then,” said Danny, putting his phone down and holding a slightly shell-shocked Diana to his chest. “Mike says to keep the curtains drawn – which suits me fine.”

“What can we do to get them to go away?” said Diana, scanning through the rest of her texts.

“Wait it out.  There will be something else to interest them soon enough. Either that or one of your neighbours will complain to the police, who will advise them to move along or risk arrest and detention for breach of the peace – or something like that.  Have we got enough food for a siege?”

“I got some staples in yesterday; we could probably manage for a couple of days without starving.  Jane texted to say that she has plenty in her larder if we need it.  She’s finding the whole thing very funny and hasn’t seen this much excitement in the road for years. We know that Debbie is okay and safe, and that’s all that matters really.  I’m sorry about Simon, but his confession puts a line under things. I just hope no one blames your phony laryngitis for putting temptation in his way.”

“Hosting the auction would have given him the career boost he badly needed. He chose to attack Debbie, and steal stuff from the safe.  You shouldn’t take risks like that without thinking about the consequences.  You do realise that we are safest up here in bed, don’t you?” said Danny, grinning and kissing Diana again, and again, and again.

“Explain that to me slowly, and with fewer kisses in between, because they distract me.”

“Downstairs is easy prey for professional cameras; there’s always a possibility of nasty neighbours at the back of your house hiring out the garden or an upstairs bedroom to the paps.  Because this bedroom is at the front of the house, and there’s a green space opposite, it would be harder to get a decent picture.  We’ll just have to sneak down, grab some food and run back up the stairs.  Good job you have a TV in here; we can keep an eye on the news.  Can you bear to spend the day in bed with me?”

“Oh yes!” she laughed, and continued scanning her texts.  “Ah! I think I’ve found the source of the leak.  A pathetic text from John asking if we are enjoying the audience?”

“It will pass.  If it doesn’t, Ted will come and rescue us.  We have a minibus with tinted windows specially for secret missions.  Unless all the fuss makes you miserable, I’d rather stick it out here for a few days at least.”

“You couldn’t have said anything to make me feel happier.  Toast, coffee and juice for breakfast?”

“Let’s go down together, my love.  If the worst comes to the worst, I can whip my tee-shirt off and dazzle them with my six pack. It worked on John after all!”

“Better put your boxers on first then?”

“Oh yeah.”

Danny bounced down the stairs, Diana followed more cautiously.

“How come the press haven’t been ringing your door bell?” he asked. “They’ve been banging on the door enough.”

Diana started to laugh, so much that she had to sit down on the stairs in order to control herself.

“The irony!  John disconnected the bell ages ago when the kids were still living here.  He said that the sound of it got on his nerves.  More likely that it was because no one ever rang the bell to see him – and now – he’s been indirectly responsible for giving us a bit of peace!”

Danny’s phone rang; not just a text this time, and he sat down on one of the kitchen stools to answer it.

“Hi Mike.  You okay?”

“Sorry to ring you.  Sam Willis – the detective – wants to talk to you and Diana.  He didn’t have your mobile so I said I’d ring you before I passed it on – just in case you thought it was a reporter pretending to be a police man.”

“Yet another reason why you are a wonderful manager – a manager who is supposed to be on holiday by the way.”

“Yeah, I know, but who could have guessed Simon would top himself? If it’s any consolation you and I get a positive mention in the suicide note.  He said that he should have been grateful for the opportunity we gave him to host the auction, rather than attacking Debbie and stealing the stuff.  Talking of which, what do you want me to do with said stuff?”

“Get rid of it.  Donate to a good cause – maybe a charity that supports people in Debbie’s position.  She’s got us but others are often dealing with it alone.”

“What about the other stuff you bought.  Necker? The crash helmet?”

“I think Diana would rather have a less ostentatious holiday.  In fact. If these bloody reporters would do one, we could carry on having a nice little holiday here.  I even did some washing up yesterday.  Can’t the DI get rid of them?”

“I’ll give him your mobile number; you can ask him yourself.”

“Tell him to give us an hour to make breakfast, carry it upstairs and eat it.”

“In the bedroom, eh?”

“It’s the only place where we are safe from the mob outside. Once you’ve rung the DI put your phone down and do something holiday-ish.”

“No offence meant but your star is on the ascendant at the moment.  I’ll take some time off when things have settled down.  Apart from the mob and the washing up – you sound happy.”

“I am.  Very happy.  We both are.  We are both very, very hungry as well.  Catch you later.”

Diana had already loaded the tray with plates, mugs, the cafetiere, fruit juice and strawberry jam.  She was just waiting for the second lot of toast to pop up.

Danny loved toast.

“Breakfast in bed. Bliss.” Danny smiled as he carried the tray upstairs and settled the tray between them.  Diana handed him the TV remote. “Thank you, my love.  Shall we see if we are on the news?”

“Oh, go on then.  They’ll blur out my registration plate and house number, won’t they?”

“For what good it would do. I wonder what the DI wants?  Simon’s confession should clear everything up really.  Did I make the right decision about the auction stuff?”

“You did. Apart from the fact it’s a reminder of what happened later that night, you’re correct.  I would hate to spend a fortnight on Necker, and if someone less fortunate than us can benefit from it, all well and good. I never really took notice of what else you bought. I was far too distracted.”

Putting his arm around her shoulders, he kissed her very gently on the cheek. 

“I bought some jewellery, even at that early stage of our relationship I was going to give it to you, but now that I know you better, I’d rather we choose things together.  Talking of which, do you have any cans of Diet Coke in the house?”

“In the fridge.  Do you really want some with your breakfast?”

“No.  If we’re going to be under house arrest, you might have to make do with a ring pull when I get down on one knee to propose.  Will you say ‘yes’?”

“You’ll have to wait and find out.  It’s a very romantic gesture though. Hang on.  Turn the sound up on the TV.”

The picture on the screen was very familiar to Diana. It was the outside of her house, but now it was complete with the press, together with the sight of Jane peering out from behind her curtain.  The news report also showed a picture of Danny’s Cotswold house, his flat in London, and the house in LA that was in the process of being sold. According to the news, it was a mystery why Danny had chosen to hide out in this humble suburban semi.  John managed to get his five eggs in by claiming that Danny had stolen his house and his wife, and that their children were now homeless.  Just as Diana was moving up from simmer to fume, DI Willis phoned; “Danny! How are you both?”

“Apart from the noisy lot outside, we are both fine.  What’s up?”

“Donating the stolen goods to charity; is that okay?  I have to check as you are the legal owner.”

“Yeah.  I’ve told Mike to donate them to some worthy causes. Can you get anything done about the press though?  This is a quiet place usually, but some of Diana’s neighbours are already complaining about the noise and cars blocking up the road. We have supplies in, so we won’t starve to death but there’s not an awful lot I can say to the press about what’s happened anyway.  Mike’s going to prepare an official press release about Simon’s death, but I think our main problem is Diana’s ex-husband who is peddling a load of lies to anyone who’ll listen.”

“I’ll have a word with the local police force, and see if they can move people on.  Perhaps Diana needs to do an interview with one of the more sympathetic papers or magazines?  How long are you intending to stay there?  You’d be more secure in your other house.”

“We wanted to be on our own for a while.  Not a good idea in retrospect, but if it wasn’t for the media, we’d be perfectly happy here.  I’ll talk to Diana, and if she’s okay we’ll get Mike to set something up.  Was there anything else?”

“Diana’s ex also claims that you assaulted him when he came round, and made threats.”

“For the record; the front door was on the chain so I couldn’t have hit him if I wanted to.  I told him to do one or we’d call the police but Diana will confirm that I stayed on our side of the door all the time. If you want an independent witness; Jane next door was watching the whole thing from her front window.  Can’t you lot do him for wasting police time?”

“I’ll have a word.  If things don’t calm down in a day or two, you might have to move out though.”

“Ted is on standby with a minibus to smuggle us out in the middle of the night. Thanks for going to see Debbie and breaking it to her gently by the way.  How did she take it?”

“As I expected her to. Shocked and tearful. They’re doing a good job of helping her through it at the hospital though, and your lad Mark has been there most of the time.  Give my regards to Diana anyway, and Danny…”


“Don’t punch any of the press. Please?”

Packing the remains of their breakfast on the tray, Diana was about to take it back downstairs, but Danny took it from her.

“Come downstairs by all means, and tell me where everything goes, but I don’t expect you to wait on me.  Perhaps we can wash up together, and when we’ve done that…”


“What else is there to do but go back to bed.  Not necessarily rampant sex, I just like being here with you and snuggling.”

She couldn’t argue with that, and didn’t want to, either.

Lovely Jane

“What do you want for dinner, and if you say ‘you’ again, I may throw something?” asked Diana, standing with the fridge door wide open.

Danny grinned, and leaned over to grab his glass of juice from the breakfast bar.  Despite all his misgivings, life at Diana’s house was pretty good. Okay it wasn’t the Ritz, but it was comfortable, and Diana seemed to be very happy to be back in her own element.

“What are the options?”

“We could send out for pizza; they deliver.  The chippy is just round the corner, so is the Co-Op.  What’s your soul food?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you choose to eat that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed? Some people like Shepherd’s pie, others want a roast dinner, fish and chips, omelette, Toad in the Hole?”

“Can you do omelettes?  I can’t remember the last time I had a decent omelette. There’s no point ordering them in hotels.  They just arrive tasting and looking like a rubber tyre. Don’t even get me started on the rubbish they serve up as omelettes in LA.”

“Define omelette?  Plain, cheese, ham, or ham and cheese?”

“Oh, ham and cheese.  Have you got the stuff for it though?”

“I’ll put some more clothes on and go to the Co-op for the bits. Umm, maybe you should actually put something on too – just in case anyone else turns up.”

“Do I really have to get dressed? It’s just that this house is nice and warm, and you have carpets and comfortable furniture.”

“Let me guess, the Cotswold house is very white, very laminate, very tiled, and the only place you can veg out on is your bed.”

“How did you know?  Mike never got the chance to show you any photos.”

“Ted told me.  That was why he had a quick look round before he left.  Jenny and Ted are going to make your house more comfortable for you.”

“Just for me? Or for us?”

“It could be for us – as long as you understand that I am used to cooking and cleaning, so the culture shock is going to be far greater for me than it is for you.  Talking of which, I need to put some washing in.  Let’s go upstairs, and sort out some clothes before I go shopping.  Don’t pout, Danny.  I am happy to wash your clothes with mine, but I think you ought to try just a little bit of unpacking too.”

Danny chased her up the stairs and into their bedroom.  He paused at the door and touched the hasp and padlock and raised his eyebrows.

“Were you intending to lock me in when you go out?  I’ve seen the film ‘Misery’ you know.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Fell asleep.  Mike woke me up when it finished, and suggested I go to bed because I was snoring.  Do I snore?”

“I don’t think so, I seem to sleep very soundly when I’m with you – when I’m not being woken in the night by emergencies, that is.  When John was still living in Ben’s bedroom, I realised that he was going into my room and rooting around when I was out.  My DIY skills weren’t up to fitting a proper lock, but Helen suggested a hasp and padlock instead.  I bought one with a combination lock, and came up with a sequence that he’d never guess.  He didn’t manage to work it out, but I know he tried because the numbers were always jumbled up when I came home from work.”

“Do I have to unpack everything now?” said Danny plaintively, as he looked at the pile of bags and cases. “There’s quite a lot of stuff here.”

“I doubt if you need most of it.  Mark’s taken most of your clothes home, but I think we could push the boat out and have clean nightclothes – especially if you get cold shoulders again. I’ll bring the laundry bag in from the bathroom.  Half of this wardrobe is yours and there are plenty of hangers; you can have the two lower drawers in the chest for socks and boxers.  That isn’t too difficult to accomplish, is it?  You are pouting again, Danny.”

“What’s in this box?” Danny picked up the box and backed out of the wardrobe.  Diana blushed, took it away from him and hid it behind her back. He wasn’t deterred that easily.

“No more unpacking until you show me what’s in the box.”

Danny stood his ground.

  “It’s nothing.” Diana muttered.

“Show me – please?”

Very reluctantly, Diana handed him the box and shut her eyes as he opened it.

“Is this yours?” he asked.  She nodded and continued to blush.  He put the box on the bed and tilted her face up to his.  She still couldn’t look him in the eye.

“It was a Christmas present from Helen,” she said.  “I’ve never used it in case John heard.  It makes a hell of a noise.”

“Can I have a look – and a listen?” he asked very politely but with that naughty grin.  Reluctantly, Diana picked up the box and took out the extremely large and pink vibrator.  She turned it on, then turned it off again very quickly.  Danny fell back on the bed laughing, then took the vibrator from her and put it in the box.

“Put it back in the wardrobe, my love.  I don’t think you need it now – do you – do we?”

“That’s what Helen said when I told her about – us – and…”

“I’m looking forward to meeting Helen.  She sounds like a good friend.  Do you tell her everything about – us?”

Diana nodded, blushing again and burying her head in his shoulder. Danny laughed and kissed her cheek. 

“You really were a shy rosebud when I met you.  Can I just say how much I am loving helping you to blossom into the woman you were always meant to be?   Do I still have to put all my stuff away though?”

“Yes.  The distraction is over!”

“You said that you worked in A&E sometimes, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and I was extremely strict when I needed to be. There, that’s me done.  You won’t need any socks. I know most people have gone over to laminate flooring, but John said we couldn’t afford it, and I’m quite fond of my old carpets really.”

“That’s why I liked the hotel – no need for socks unless you actually have to go out. Do I need to put jeans on as well?”

“Provided you put a long tee-shirt on and some boxers, you’ll do.  I want you to feel comfortable, but we don’t want to frighten Jane and the cat if they pop over. That’s fine.  You do have rather lovely legs, as well as an impressive torso.  Downstairs now, before I get distracted again.”

“I don’t mind you being distracted at all.” he said, as he picked up the laundry bag and ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. Diana joined him, more suitably clad in jeans, trainers and an old navy and white striped rugby shirt of Ben’s.

Danny scrutinised her outfit and grinned.

“Is it that rough at the Co-op? You look like you’re off to a scrum.  I like it though, it brings back memories, it’s another look for you and highly desirable.”

“I had to buy it for Ben when he was in high school; not that he ever wore it, but purchase was compulsory, it cost a small fortune and I couldn’t bear to throw it away.  Luckily it came in an extra, extra-large size. I’d forgotten about your hell-raising past when I put it on. Leave the laundry by the washing machine; I’ll put in in when I get back.  I won’t be long but leave the chain off the front door, and please don’t open it to John if he comes back?”

“What about Jane?”

“She’ll come via the back garden and tap on the door.  If you’re going to flop on the sofa and watch the television, you’ll see her straight away.  She’s lovely, and she’s very pleased for me that you’ve come to stay. I’ll get more juice and fizzy water while I’m out. That’s a wonderful kiss, Danny, but I’ll only be gone ten minutes, unless I get nabbed by a tabloid reporter at the till.”

“Will you be okay?  Shall I come too?”

“I wouldn’t put you through that for a small bag of shopping.  Stay in the warm.”

She was gone.  As advised, Danny flopped on the sofa with the remote in his hand, and flicked through the channels looking for anything to distract him.  It reminded him a little of the early days with Lisa, when they could still live in an ordinary house, before his wealth and notoriety had demanded a more secure home.  The houses got bigger, and the walls and gates got higher until the involvement in television meant a move to LA, and a farewell to any attempt at normality.

Just as Danny was dozing off, there was a gentle knocking at the kitchen door.  He jumped to his feet and took a few moments to work out where he was.  An elderly woman was waving at him.  Was this Jane?  She looked fairly friendly, so he opened the door and smiled.

“Hello!  I’m Jane and you must be Danny.  Where’s Diana?”

“Hello Jane, Diana’s gone to the Co-op for eggs.  She’s cooking us omelettes for dinner.  Thank you for looking after the house.  Have you got the cat with you?”

“He’s fast asleep on my armchair. I think Diana’s ex has put him off men for life.  I have to admit that I was watching from behind the curtains when John turned up earlier.  I couldn’t catch everything you said, but you certainly sent him off with a flea in his ear. About time someone stood up to him, miserable little bully.”

“Diana seems so strong, though?” said Danny sitting back down on the sofa.  “Why did she put up with him for so long?”

Jane sat down in the armchair, and Danny had to repress a smile when he thought of how he and Diana had abused it earlier.

“She had this cock-eyed idea that she had to wait till the kids were old enough to cope with the stress of a separation and divorce.  John got more and more blatant with his affairs and groping; he made a pass at me. Just the once though but it was at my husband’s funeral.”

“Bastard! Sorry.  Swearing gets me into trouble.  What did you do?”

“Kicked him where it hurt – hard.  Then I made an announcement to everyone who was listening.  Told them that John had groped me, and that was like letting off a firework.  Half the women present had a similar story to tell, and some of the others were too scared to admit it.  John did a runner, and when he finally came home, Diana told him she wanted a divorce because he couldn’t deny his philandering any more.  It took two years of having to share the house with that slimeball, but she survived it somehow.  She knew that if she moved out, he’d sell the house, and she and the kids would have nothing. If this is just a passing fancy, Danny, better get out sooner than later.  Life has hurt her enough as it is.”

Taking a deep breath, and making a confession that he hadn’t properly made to Diana yet, he said, “I love her, Jane.  She stands up to me like no one else; she seems to understand me, and I feel happier now than I have for a long time.  It’s no secret that my wife Lisa had cancer, and that she died two years ago.  I’m lucky enough to have people who work for me, work with me, and who pulled me through, but when I met Diana, it was like the fog was finally lifting.  I know its early days for us, and I wanted to whisk her away to live in the lap of luxury, but something made me realise that it was asking too much too soon.  We need to get to know each better, and this is a good place to start, isn’t it?”

“I’ve read all the stories about you; it’s all in the past though, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, too old to raise hell any more.  I can handle the celebrity events – just.  Diana made this weekend so much easier.  She sees through the publicity crap, and when she has to be kind and in control, she’s awesome. The girl who was attacked and raped at the hotel, Diana was brilliant with her.  She knew all the right things to do to preserve evidence, but she held onto that girl like she was her own daughter.  I hope she’ll be okay; Diana organised getting her into a private hospital where she can be looked after and have time to recover.”

“I’ll miss Diana.”

“She told you that the house is being put into trust for the children though? To be honest, I’m beginning to think that it would be a good place for the two of us to run away to, if the high life gets too much.  Will you carry on looking after the cat, please?”

“Of course.  Anyway, I just popped in to say hello, and to make sure everything was okay.”


“Diana has found herself a good man this time.  Inside and out.  Tell Diana I popped in?”

“Will do.  Thank you.  I won’t let her down.”

Jane blew him a kiss and went out through the kitchen door, determined to let the other neighbours know that Danny didn’t just look gorgeous, he was a thoroughly nice bloke too.

When she returned from the shop, Diana was expecting to find Danny crashed out on the sofa, with the remote lying on the floor where he’d dropped it. He was in the kitchen when she opened the front door and dumped the shopping bags in the hallway.  No one had ever swept her up in their arms in quite the way Danny did.  He held on to her as if his life depended upon it.

“Are you okay?  Did something happen while I was away?  It wasn’t John, was it?”

“No.  It was your wonderful friend Jane. She came in to check that everything was okay, and she went away smiling and blowing kisses, so I think I made a favourable impression.”

“Good.  What did I do to deserve the bear hug?”

“She helped me to understand a little more about why you are the way that you are.  I told her that I loved, you, but I think it’s time that I told you too. I love you, Diana, and I would live wherever you want to live.  I can’t give all my money away, nor give up every element of the high life, but we can do compromise, can’t we?”

“Oh Danny.  I love you too, and it nearly killed me earlier today when I thought I’d never see you again. What a daft pair we are!”

“Oh, and I did some washing up while you were away.  I remembered that glasses should be washed up after you’ve had fruit juice in them, or the bits stick to the glass.  It isn’t much, but…”

“I couldn’t have asked for a nicer surprise.  Is that your mobile?”

“I left it upstairs.  Back in a minute.”

Except that Diana had managed to unpack and put away all the shopping, and quickly rinse off the remaining soap bubbles from the glasses, before Danny came back downstairs clutching his phone, and looking a bit thunderstruck.

“That was Mike. He didn’t want to disturb us but he thought we ought to know.  The police have found Simon. He’s dead.  He hung himself. According to his friends, he was trying to get out of the country on Sunday, but the net had closed in on that escape route. The police nearly caught him when he tried to get into the hospital; he told his mates that he was going there to apologise to Debbie. He also told them what he’d done and left a note confessing all.  Most of the stuff he pinched has been recovered; it was a bit too hot to sell after the press got hold of the details. At least Debbie won’t have to go to court now.”

“Silly little boy. What a waste.” Diana said sadly.  “She may not have to go to court, but at least Debbie would have had some closure, now she’ll have the burden of Simon’s suicide to deal with as well. We need to make sure she’s getting some counselling at the hospital. Is Mark going to tell her?”

“Mike phoned Mark before calling us.  He sent you his love by the way.  I told him you were up the shop, and cooking omelettes for dinner.  I also told him that I was very happy, and that I’d already told your ex-husband off.  Jane said she was watching out of the window when John turned up, and had to stop herself from cheering when he stomped off.”

“Good old Jane.  She’s been a wonderful friend to me. She’s one of the reasons why I needed to come home.  Helen is another friend I need to visit.  She’s always loathed John, and he did his best to split up our friendship.  According to John, Helen would be a burden to her friends because of her disability, and it would mean that I had less time for the kids, and especially him.   Enough of John.  I got recognised in the Co-op!”

“Was that good or bad?”

“Started off bad; some idiot bloke started making comments about you, and how you must have really sunk low to send your girlfriend out get the shopping from the Co-Op.  He was hell bent on telling me what a hoodlum you are, and how you had a history of violence and drinking.  The girl on the till told him to stop annoying her customers or she’d have security chuck him out. He went. We cheered. I hadn’t realised that you were that famous. I suppose I must be now after being plastered all over the papers. Are you hungry now?”


“Come and sit in the kitchen while I cook then.  You might learn something, although it sounds as if you have already. Thank you for washing up the glasses.”

Horrible John

The scene of domestic bliss was interrupted by a hammering on the front door, and a voice that Diana knew only too well.

“Open this door at once, Diana!  I know that you’ve got that bloke in there with you, one of the neighbours saw you come back here in a big car this afternoon.  A Rolls or something.  What’s the deal with the ‘For Sale’ sign outside?  I haven’t given you permission to sell the house.  I own half of it after all.”

Diana raised her eyebrows and got off the stool.  Danny put a hand on her arm and shook his head.  He had read John’s texts and heard his voice mails; he had the measure of the man without even meeting him. Taking off Ben’s tee-shirt so that his rather impressive physique complete with battle scars was on display, Danny handed it to Diana, and went into the hallway.   Leaving the door on the chain, he opened the front door a few inches.

“You want something, mate?” he snarled.  “God, you are even more pathetic than I thought you were after reading that rubbish you texted to Diana.  Give it up, sunshine.  She’s found someone who appreciates her, and is a damn sight more caring than you.  The house belongs to your children, and you’ll get your half of the sale within the next couple of days.  In the meantime, get your sorry arse in gear, before we call the police and have you arrested for harassment. Oh, and it’s a Bentley, not a Rolls.”

Diana was hiding behind the kitchen door, clutching the tee-shirt and trying hard not to laugh too loudly.  She couldn’t see John, but she could imagine how Danny’s bare chest and athletic build would make her short, paunchy and balding ex, look and feel inferior.  He would never stand up to a man, especially not someone as powerful and infamous as Danny.  John muttered a few expletives, but turned around and stormed off across the road towards his car.

Closing the door, Danny turned around to face Diana and hoped that he hadn’t gone too far. One look at her trying desperately not to laugh was enough.  He took her in his arms and kissed her.

“I didn’t come on too strong, did I?” he asked. “My stomach muscles ache from being held in so tight.”

“You were magnificent! Taking your tee-shirt off was a master stroke.  John has never had what could be described as an impressive physique. I wonder which one of my nosey neighbours tipped him off?”

“Can I ask you a question?” he said, pulling her even closer.

“Anything, I’ll answer anything when you hold me like that.”

“Good.  Because I want to know where your ex used to sit in the front room.”

She took his hand and led him through to where a large winged armchair stood separate from the rest of the furniture.

“The master’s chair.  Even the cat wouldn’t sit on it in case he was yelled at.  Since John left, I have moved it slightly and even sat on it myself a couple of times. Why?”

Danny sat down on the chair and pulled her onto his lap.

“Because this is one of the many places where you and I will be making love, and getting rid of all the John-ness from your house.”

The very words sent a tingle down her spine, as his arm held her tight and his other hand tilted her face for a long and very lingering kiss. “Mm-m. Sooner rather than later it would seem…” he said with that slow and very sexy smile.

A Parting of the Ways

The goodbyes turned a bit tearful, at least as far as Diana was concerned.  Mark and Mike were staying on in the suite until Ted returned from blocking up the road outside Diana’s house while unloading their luggage.  Mike was being dropped off at the station later to get a train to London because he found it easier to do his paperwork on the train than in the car, and Mark was going back to the Cotswold house with Ted.  He’d promised to visit Debbie from there and take her presents with him, but would be using a smaller car to make his journeys; Ted didn’t trust anyone else with the Bentley.

Mike warned Diana that there would be a ‘For Sale’ sign outside her house for a day or two at least, until the sale was completed and the house put into trust for Ben and Caroline.  She was worried that John might object to this, but as Mike pointed out, they were paying over market value anyway, and disputing the sale would cost John a bomb in legal fees.  The solicitor had been asked to advise him of this, and give him an estimate of just how much it could cost him if he objected.

Sitting in the back of the Bentley, Danny’s head resting on her shoulder, Diana couldn’t help wondering what he would make of her small and not particularly attractive house.  She had tried to update it over the years, but with the exception of the new kitchen, she knew that the rest of the house was showing its age. 

Oh well, shabby chic was in at the moment, anyway.

“Umm, do we need to go out for shopping when we get there?” asked Danny nervously.

“Not immediately, Jane has got some bread and milk in for us, and the fridge freezer is fairly full – unless Caroline ate it all on the weekend.  I can understand you disliking clothes shopping, but what’s wrong with buying food? Have you had an incident that has mentally scarred you?”

“Very funny.  I pay other people to do the food shopping. Lisa never made me go shopping for food, even in the early days.  Once I was making money, we had a housekeeper and a cook to do all that.  If we’re at an event, Mark or my PA will go out with Ted for anything we need. I haven’t the faintest idea who did what when we lived in LA, we had loads of staff and food just appeared.”

“I’ve spent most of my married life doing things alone or with the children, so it would be nice to have someone to laugh with while I’m pushing the shopping trolley,” said Diana. “I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with my cooking, which has never killed anyone but is not exactly cordon bleu.”

Taking her slightly by surprise, Danny put his arms around her and pulled her close, kissing her very firmly on the lips, so firmly that she hoped Ted had his eyes on the driving and not on the back seat. There was no point in resisting after all the day’s stress, so she kissed him back and left him in no doubt that the magic they had found in her hotel room was going to be rekindled once they got home, to her home. She came up for air, and stroked his face with her fingertips.

He was smiling.

“If the worst comes to the worst, we can live on toast, coffee and fruit juice, or order up some takeaways, and eat them in bed watching the TV.” said Diana.

His smile increased, and he kissed her again. “We were happy in your hotel room, weren’t we, my love?  When we made love and curled up to spoon at night?  I sleep so much better when I can hold you close.”

“Yes. We were very happy, and when we get home and there will be even less reason to get up and sort out other people’s problems, we will be even happier.  Just you and me, getting to know each other, and getting back to basics.”

“I can do basics. I’ve been accused of being very basic actually.”

“I had noticed. If necessary, I shall instal you on the sofa in the living room so you can flick through the sports channels, while I nip up to the local Co-op and get us some nibbles.”

“Going home with you is sounding more and more interesting by the minute.  Do you have a bath or a shower?”

“Both, but in the same room.  There’s a downstairs toilet as well.”

Obviously reassured, Danny fell asleep in her arms for the rest of the journey; Diana relaxed until she began to recognise familiar scenery; she looked up and caught Ted’s eyes in the mirror.

“Nearly there.” he said over the intercom.  “I have a favour to ask.”

“Will you need the toilet?” Diana asked.

“Probably, but can I have a little look around your house afterwards please?  Jenny wants to make the big house more welcoming for you.  It’s all a bit modernistic and white.  I had a feeling that your house might be more like our cottage in terms of décor.  It would give us a chance to make the big house more homely?”

“Oh Ted, how kind! Won’t Danny mind though?”

“He’s spent time in the gym, the pool, and in his bedroom but the rest of the house is a mystery to him.  We all moved there once the work in the US was finished and we didn’t like to make too many changes at the time.  Jenny will be relieved.”

“You haven’t seen the inside of my house yet.”

She woke Danny very gently; and he blinked, confused as to where he was and what was going on. Jane was at her front window, clutching the cat and waving.  Ted got out of the car and opened the passenger doors; Danny emerged, stretched and looked around him curiously while Diana opened the front door of the house, and Ted started unloading their luggage.

The house seemed in a reasonable state; either Caroline had been particularly tidy, or as Diana guessed, Jane had been in and given the place a once over after their earlier conversation.  She tried not to look too closely at her old familiar furniture and furnishings.  Ted indicated ‘upstairs’, with his head and took the bags up.  Danny was still looking a bit bewildered, so Diana steered him into the kitchen, sat him on a stool, and poured him some orange juice.  He leaned on the breakfast bar and drank two glasses full before he looked at her and smiled.

“Just us then?  What about the cat?”

“I’ll unlock his cat flap. He might come in just to see who you are, but he’ll probably run back into Jane’s once he’s had a look at us.”

Ted had a quick look round the front room and kitchen, then came out smiling.

“Right, I’m off.  Danny’s got my number and if you want me to come and fetch you, just call. I’ve some ideas for Jenny to be getting on with. See you both later.”

Diana hugged him, and he was quite surprised when Danny gave him a bit of a man hug too.  They came outside to the driveway and waved Ted goodbye.  Quite a few of the neighbours were looking out of their windows at the Bentley, some of them had actually come out of their houses as well.  Danny put his arm around Diana, and gave her a big kiss on the cheek before they went back inside, and closed the front door very firmly.

And put the chain across.

It was a moment of peace, broken only by Danny whispering in Diana’s ear.

“Where’s our bedroom?”

She took his hand, and they walked up the stairs together, with Diana indicating which room was which.

“Bathroom, the room that Caroline and Ben have taken it in turns to use when they come home, Ben’s old room which has been occupied by John for the past two years.  I gave him our old double bed to sleep on. I splashed out a new king-size bed on interest free credit.  It is now paid for, and until now, the only person who has slept in it, is me.”

She threw open the door to her bedroom, and giggled as Danny jumped on the bed and dragged her with him.  She’d bought new curtains and bedding in lilac and pale blue to help rid the room of John’s presence, his red sheets and black duvet cover; it was now a place of calm that had soothed Diana on many occasions when John had been particularly irksome.  Danny had only one thing on his mind, and if she was honest with herself, the thought of making love with him on her own bed and in her own bedroom, had flitted in and out of her mind throughout the journey back home in the Bentley.

Inhibitions flew out of the window; clothes were strewn around the floor, and Diana was overjoyed to find that she didn’t need to be in a hotel room to experience lovemaking with the man who made her feel so incredibly alive.  From the look on Danny’s face as he lay in her arms afterwards, it was just as wonderful for him. No tears from either of them this time, just the happiness that came from being close to each other again.

“Not so bad being in my house, is it?” said Diana as she ran her fingers down his spine and kissed him.

“Brilliant.  Can we do this all week?” he asked. “Can we make love in some of the other rooms?  Not Ben and Caroline’s obviously.”

“Not keen on the toilet or bathroom; they’re a bit cramped.  This is the only room in the house where rare and very dull marital sex took place with me, and that was a long time ago.”

“Let’s face it, your ex is a dick, Diana!” Danny exclaimed. “A limp dick!  When we first met you told me that he found you boring and frigid.  You could never be boring to me, and judging by the way you respond when we make love, you are most definitely not frigid! Perhaps the reason why he had so many affairs, was because he really wasn’t any good, in bed or out of it. Thank heavens for that, or you wouldn’t be lying in bed with me now. I hate to sound like a sex maniac, but I really fancy you, Diana.”


 “It’s a good tension release – apparently.  Now we are home and have nothing else to do, I think we should do some more exploring so that we have an even better idea of what turns us both on. I’m hungry now though.  Do we have to get dressed to go down to the kitchen?”

“Open up that overnight bag by the door.”

Danny leaned over from the bed and undid the zip.  There, where she had thoughtfully placed them, were Danny’s boxers, Ben’s borrowed tee-shirt, and Diana’s nightshirt. Thus attired, they went downstairs to the kitchen and rummaged through the fridge freezer and the larder.  Before she went away for the weekend, Diana had stocked up with goodies for Caroline, but she didn’t appear to have made much of a dent in the chocolate bars, crisps and biscuits.  There were healthier things available, but it was instant food gratification that Danny was after.  Diana poured him some more juice, and sat next to him at the breakfast bar, grabbing the odd crisp from his packet.

Diana felt very happy.

So did Danny.

A Change of Plan

Mike and Mark stood outside the lift in the little hallway as soon as they heard it coming, and when the doors opened to reveal Danny and Diana, holding hands, there was a bit of a cheer, before both of them took turns to hug Diana.

“We’ve been sitting here with our fingers crossed for ages, and you’re back.” said Mike. “What happens now?”

Danny took a deep breath. “Change of plan.  Diana and I will be going to her house for a while. She’s not making me take the train though. We have to ask Ted if he can drive us home. The three of you can take time off and I’ll keep you updated.  I’ll need a credit card and some cash, and I’ll take some of the stuff you got yesterday, Mark. I’ll go and sort out what I need.”

He went into the bedroom and left the door open; Mike hugged Diana again and shook his head.

“I don’t know what’s gone on with you two, but you seem to have averted a crisis.  I’ll put my number in your mobile if you like, and although I’m taking time off, I’m only ever a call away if you need anything.  Don’t worry about Debbie; Mark seems to have that situation in hand.”

“Yes.” she said. “That was the thing that changed my mind about leaving.  Danny was more worried about Debbie than himself.”

“You know that this is a big step for him, don’t you?  I guess we’re all a bit to blame for running around after him; the monster was created long ago and we inherited him, but underneath he really is a lovely man who has spent most of his working life being pilloried and insulted by the media.  Do you want me to carry on with your house sale?”

“Is that still a possibility? I suppose it would be easier to arrange if I’m – if we’re in the house?”

“Spend some time with Danny there.  If you decide to come back to the Cotswold house after a day or so of him having to stand on his own two feet with only you to support him, you’ll have a much better idea of what he needs from a PA – and a partner.”

“That sounds as if you won’t be having much of a holiday.”

“I’ll be home with my husband, and unlike previous holidays, I won’t be worrying about the latest mess that Danny’s got himself into. I trust you, Diana.  Danny hasn’t got anything on his calendar for the next week at the moment, but things will be ramping up soon, and we’ll all have plenty of work on our hands.”

“Will it be okay then if Ted takes us home?”

“I don’t think I’d be able to stop him, although your neighbours might object to the size of your transport.  Go in and help Danny choose what to take – and Diana?”


“You may not need the swimsuits right now, but take some of your new things with you.  Ted can take everything else back with him to the house.  Jenny will be extremely pleased to have him to herself for a while.”

“Is she nice? Jenny?”

“You like Ted, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, he’s lovely, so kind.”

“Then you’ll get on well with Jenny too.  She and Ted are both happy to be back in the UK, and have settled into their cottage.  If Danny is serious about both of you coming to live there, they will be over the moon. Go and get packed and leave all the boring bits to me and Mark.”

Danny was sitting on the bed, looking through his packages, studiously avoiding any of Diana’s bags. He looked up at her, his face shadowed with that tiredness that she’d seen before, and that made her want to hold him tight, and take the pain away. She pulled him close, leaning down to kiss his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I’m sorry for being such an arrogant fool and driving you away. I really thought I’d lost you then.”

“Well, you haven’t. Let’s just sort through these bags and see what we want to take with us now, and what we want sending on to the other house. There’s a bag of silliness for Mark to give to Debbie as well. Do you want to see what I’ve bought?”

“If you want to show me?”

“I do.  We’ll leave the swimsuits in the bag for now though. You won’t need your dinner jacket at mine either.  Casual dress only.”

“Or undress?”

“Most definitely.  I put clean sheets on the bed before I left. I always do.  It’s nice coming back from somewhere to a freshly made bed. Unless you can work your charms on my unsociable cat, it will just be the two of us.”

“I’ll have you all to myself?”

“I’d like to introduce you to Jane – and the cat.  Let’s sort through this stuff and get packed; being away is making me feel homesick now.”

“It hasn’t all been bad, has it?” Danny asked, trying to choose which of his new polo shirts to pack.

“No, and you know it hasn’t,” she replied.   “I just need to come back down to earth a bit, and Mike seems to think that it will do you the world of good too.”

“Oh, does he?  I suppose I’ll have to get used to you lot ganging up on me.”

“You could sack us all?” Diana took out one of the dresses she had bought, and held it up against her.  Danny grinned, and pulled her down on the bed next to him.

“One last thing, Danny. If John turns up at the house, you are not to lay a finger on him.  Promise?”

“Can I tell him to go away?”

“Provided that you avoid using foul language.  There is no need to stoop to his level.”

“You strike a hard bargain.”

“I sincerely hope so!”

She bounced off the bed and continued sorting out the bags she was taking home and those that were going on to Danny’s house. Very reluctantly, Danny started packing his own bags.  This was the sort of thing that Mark – or his PA – did for him, but he felt that this was one time when he needed to do his own packing. 

Diana took note of this, and smiled, trying not to look too smug.

Leaving Danny to his packing, she went downstairs to her room and finished tidying up and packing everything away.  This time Danny’s boxers and Ben’s tee-shirt were placed in the top of her overnight bag, wrapped up in her nightshirt.  She smiled as she placed his toothbrush alongside hers in her washbag; this was going to be a test of their relationship, but she felt safer than she had when she had stormed out of the suite earlier on.

She called Jane first; not wanting her to be thrown by the sight of the Bentley drawing up outside her house. 

“Good job I got in extra milk and bread for you yesterday. How exciting!  Do you want anything else?”

“A little favour.  Can you move anything alcoholic out of my house and into yours?  You can drink it as well if you like.  Danny has had a problem with alcohol in the past.  I’m asking him to put his high life on hold for a while, and the last thing I want is for him to fall off the wagon while he’s here.”

“I’ll put it out of sight in mine.  What about you though?  If you need a glass of something to fortify you, you can always nip next door. “

“Oh Jane, that makes him sound like a monster.  He isn’t at all.  He is the sweetest man I’ve ever met, and I’m hoping that this works out – for both of us.”

“You know where I am if you need me.”

“I will introduce you once we’ve unpacked.  Thank you so much.”

Helen’s call was just an update, and to let her know that she and Danny would organise a visit once they’d moved to the Cotswold house.  Helen was pleased, and almost as excited as Jane.

The texts to Ben and Caroline were short and sweet.  They would always be welcome in their family home, but not this week because their mother and Danny wanted a few days of peace and quiet. 

They replied.  Exclamation marks from Ben, and kisses from Caroline.

Checking that she hadn’t forgotten anything, and taking a last rather nostalgic look at her hotel room, she picked up her bags and closed the door.  She had a feeling that Danny might have taken advantage of her absence to get Mark to help with his packing, but that’s what he was paying him for after all.


“Do I get a fashion show then? I especially want to see you in a swimsuit.” said Danny, throwing himself down on the bed. Diana very slowly unloaded the bags and placed them in two distinct piles.  She opened the bedroom door and pushed the luggage trolley outside, before shutting the door again and leaning against it.

Had Danny been looking at her face rather than the shopping, he would have realised that all was not well with her.

“I am not, and never will be, a model, an actress, nor a prostitute,” she said very calmly. “I value my freedom more than anything else because it’s taken me a long time to achieve. This morning I have lost a job that I love, been plastered all over the papers, given my ex-husband more ammunition to fire at me, and now, you expect me to parade up and down this bedroom like a tart.  You can keep the clothes for someone else, Danny. I am going back to my room to finish packing, then I’ll pay my hotel bill and get a taxi to the station.  I’m going home.  To my home.  It may not be much compared to yours but at least it’s mine until the children are old enough to look after themselves. Then I shall buy a little flat somewhere, and live out an ordinary life.  Thank you for an extraordinary weekend, Danny.”

She couldn’t look at him, knowing that if she did, his face would show the anguish her words had caused.  She opened the door and walked into the main room.  Mike and Mark were sat at the table, poring over the papers.  She stopped, briefly.

 “Thank you both for your kindness and pass on my thanks to Ted.  I can’t take any more and I was foolish enough to think that I could. I’m going downstairs to finish packing my things, and then I’ll settle up my hotel bill and go home.”

Diana got into the lift, desperate to stem the tears that she was holding back until she was in the safety of her hotel room. Then she threw herself down on the bed and sobbed, still able to smell the scent of Danny on the pillows, her mind and body remembering every moment they had spent in the room together.

Mike stood in the doorway of Danny’s bedroom.  Danny was still lying on the bed, speechless and seemingly unable to move.

“Get after her you bloody fool!” Mike shouted. “I don’t know what you said or did, but it must have been insulting and inconsiderate to have had that effect on her.  If you let her go now Danny, she will never come back!”

Danny shook his head, trying to clear his mind. “It was a joke!   Nothing more than that! Oh God, what have I done?”

“Get downstairs now!  You’ll spend the rest of your life being miserable, even more miserable than you’ve been since Lisa died. You have a chance at happiness, don’t throw it away!”

Getting to his feel slowly, Danny grabbed Mike’s arm. “What can I say to her?  How can I make it better?”

“I can’t tell you what to do on this one, mate.  If you think she’s worth it then prove it.  Take the key card and hope to hell she’s too upset to have put the chain across the door.”

Mike handed him the card and watched as Danny ran to the lift, shoeless, but showing as much speed as he ever did on a sports field. Mark looked up from the papers, and showed his crossed fingers. Mike picked up his mobile and called down to reception, making sure that Diana’s bill had been incorporated into Danny’s.  Then he crossed his own fingers hoping that their relationship was salvageable.

Knocking on the door gently, Danny called her name, knowing somehow that using the key card might be seen as just another symbol of his power over her.   

“Please, Diana?  Can we just talk first? If you really want to go home and have time to think, that’s fine but I can’t bear the thought of you making that journey alone.  Just for once you’re making me think of someone other than myself.  Please let me in?”

He waited, his heart beating so fast and loud, that he thought it would explode.  The door opened a crack, and Diana went back to sitting in one of the armchairs; her face pale and resolute, a bundle of tissues clasped in her hand.  Danny came in and closed the door very quietly behind him.  Something, way at the back of his mind, told him not to touch her, just to sit in the armchair next to hers, and be patient, patient and quiet.

At length she spoke, in a voice so sad that he had to hold himself back from taking her in his arms. “I don’t think that I can ever be your kept woman, Danny. I know that the PA side of it is just a lure to keep me, but why can’t you see that there’s nothing in the world that can make me into something that I’m not? I can’t make up for the loss of your wife, nor step into Debbie’s tiny stilettos.  There’s so much that I’ve loved about this weekend, but there are things that don’t sit well with me, and I can’t change them.”

“The last thing in the world I want is for you to be unhappy, my love,” he said.  “You’re right.  Money can’t buy everything; I’ve had too much of it for too long to be able to remember what counting the pennies is like.  Forget the big house, the new clothes, and all the publicity.  This weekend, the time I’ve spent with you has made me remember that, and learn more about myself.  If you really want to go home, let me come too? I want to look at your world, and see if we can’t find some compromise.  I want to be with you, and I don’t care where we are as long as we’re together. Please, Diana?”

Once again, he crouched down by her chair, still afraid to touch her however much he wanted to make contact. He closed his eyes and although he’d never been particularly religious, at that moment he came very close to praying.

“It’s a small three-bedroomed semi, in a fairly suburban area,” she said very quietly. “We had the kitchen done a couple of years ago, but the rest of the house is pretty much the same as it was twenty-two years ago when we moved in.  Old carpets and well-worn furniture. No swimming pool, gym or jacuzzi, and the grounds consist of a driveway, a small front garden, and a larger bit of grass at the back with a patio and a barbecue.  Could you, would you cope with that?”

“For you. Yes. For as long as you want.  Do you have a car at home?”

Diana giggled.  It was a weak giggle, but a giggle nevertheless.  “I do, but it’s not a patch on the Bentley. It’s a little old red Focus, but it gets me around.  Are you serious Danny?”

He sat down on the floor and leaned his head against her knees. “If it means that you and I are together, I’ll go anywhere and do anything that you ask. I wasn’t born into money, and though my memories of the time when things were tight aren’t good, I will do anything to prove that this isn’t just a flash in the pan. Please take me home with you, Diana?”

She stroked his head, and smiled as the tension went from his shoulders.

“Get up Danny, your knees won’t like being in that position for long.  Let’s sit down on the sofa, like we did that first night.  I have to admit, I didn’t expect you to come downstairs, let alone agree to come home with me.”

He put his arms around her, happy to feel her head resting against his shoulder; just sitting together on the sofa, like he and Lisa used to in the days before he became infamous, and the money started rolling in. He kissed the top of Diana’s head, and breathed in the scent of her hair. It made him feel safe again.

“Do you feel up to coming back upstairs, and telling them that you’ve forgiven me and that we need to make arrangements about going home – to your home?” he asked.

“I don’t suppose going back on the train is an option – considering all the publicity.  It’s a shame that the Bentley is so big, parking is going to be a bit of a problem in our road.  What will Mike, Mark and Ted do?”

“I’d given Mike a week off once we’d settled in at the big house, but he can go home now if we’re going to yours.  Ted will be very happy to be going back to Jenny, and Mark can have some time off too if he wants.  They’ve all earned it.  As far as I know, the police have finished with us for now.  There’s Debbie to consider too, though.”

Reaching up to turn his face to hers, she kissed him on the lips.  Not an affectionate peck, but a proper kiss that made him feel that he’d broken down another barrier between them. “Don’t worry too much about Debbie for the time being,” she said.  “I had a talk with Mark when we were out shopping this morning.  He’s been feeling very guilty about not looking out for her that night.  They’ve been texting each other and although it’s a friendship, I think he’d be very happy going to visit her in the meantime.”

“Let’s pack up today.  Mike will be fine about sorting out the hotel.  If Ted takes us back to yours, he can return here for Mike and Mark.  There’s something else I need to confess.”

“More?  Go on.”

“I don’t drive anymore.  That’s one of the many reasons why I have Ted.  I lost my licence due to drink driving years ago, and I haven’t applied for another one.”

“Hah! So, I get to be your chauffeur as well!”

“If I didn’t think you’d get all offended, I’d give you a pay rise.  I must make sure I get my cards from Mike so that we’ve got some money to live on.  Will I have to go shopping for food?”

“Poor boy!” she said, kissing him again. “If you are coming home with me, I will do my best to make sure that you don’t have to do anything that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable.”

“I like this,” he said. “I like just sitting here, the two of us. This is why I like this room so much.  I suppose we ought to go back upstairs and put them out of their misery.”

“I’d imagine that they are anticipating a good outcome; otherwise, you’d have been up there ranting and raving, and I’d be downstairs ordering a taxi to the station.”

“Come on then.  Let’s get things sorted out.  You strike a hard bargain, but by God you’re worth it!”


Mike tapped gently on the bedroom door, loathe to disturb the happy couple but aware that Ted was waiting downstairs, and Mark needed to finalise Danny’s shopping requirements.  Diana moved Danny’s sleeping head slightly, and did up a couple of buttons on her shirt.

“Come in,” she called quietly, but it was sufficient to rouse Danny from what had been a short, but very sweet sleep.  Mike poked his head around the door and raised his eyebrows.

“It’s good to see that you’ve remembered how to sleep again Danny, but Mark and Ted are champing at the bit to go, and I’ve got some paperwork that I need you to look over.”

Pausing only to give Diana a quick kiss, Danny sat up and blinked. “I didn’t fall asleep in the middle of a conversation, did I?” he asked Diana.

“No.  You’d finished talking and you looked so peaceful, I didn’t have the heart to wake you.  I knew Mike would remind us eventually, and he did.”

Grabbing her hand and pulling them both up from the bed, Danny headed for the door.  Mark was sitting at the table with a notepad and pen in hand.  Danny reeled off his needs, most of which had already been written down by Mark.  Looking over his shoulder, Danny laughed at the predicted list.

“There’s no limit to Diana’s shopping; she buys whatever she needs, Mark.  I think I know her well enough by now to say that she won’t keep you hanging around for a long time, nor will she spend my entire fortune on anything that isn’t comfortable to wear, ugly to look at, and non-huggable.” 

Diana and Mark looked at each other and laughed; before picking up her handbag, she gave Danny a very long and loving embrace, touched by the fact that he was reluctant to let her go.

“We won’t be long; you’re right,” she said. “When you’re used to buying clothes on a tight budget, you don’t get easily distracted. The budget will be dictated by my boredom threshold too.”

“I’ll miss you.” he whispered burying his face in her hair. “I might have to nip downstairs and sniff your shampoo.”

“Thank you for reminding me; I only bought enough for the weekend. Keep busy and we’ll be back soon.”

He stood and watched them go; Mike put his arm around Danny’s shoulders and steered him back to the table, where a pile of legal paperwork was waiting for them.    

“She’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.  If this thing is going to last between the two of you, then I think you need to appreciate what a culture shock all this is for her.  Cast your mind back to before you became a marketable commodity if you can; you’ve led a very extraordinary life for so long now.  I think Diana is a very special person, and she may well be just what you need, but you’re going to have to accept that not everyone wants to live in the lap of luxury.”

“I know, I know.  Lisa spent years trying to get me to understand that money can’t buy everything.  God knows, we both appreciate that, don’t we? I’d have given away every penny to have had more time with her.”

“Now it’s time to look at what you want from life.  I’ve got the paperwork for the LA house; we have a buyer but are you absolutely certain that you want to get rid of it?”

“Too many memories, and if we’re talking about making life more ordinary, I don’t think Diana would take to that kind of lifestyle.  It would take her too far away from her children and friends for a start. If we need to anywhere other than London or the Cotswolds, we’ll just have to go to a hotel or rent a cottage or something.”

“I’ve spoken to Jenny this morning about getting the house ready for tomorrow.  It seems that Ted has given Diana a glowing reference already; she was very pleased to find that no drastic refurnishing would be necessary, apart from making things a bit more homely.”

“Would you think me daft if I said that I’m counting my blessings today, mate?”

“Don’t go and get all slushy on me, Dan.  I take it you won’t mind me taking a few days off to go home and see my other half once you’ve settled in the house.”

“I can do a bit of shouting and swearing if you like, but hey, I feel mellow and I’m looking forward to seeing what Diana makes of the house, and how she shapes up as my PA while you’re in London.”

“I’ve drawn up a loose job description, and a few things she can get her teeth into.  Mark’s happy to go back with you, and as he’s taken a shine to Diana as well, he’ll offer his help if she needs it.  That could all change if she turns into the shopper from Hell, however!”

Nothing could have been further from the truth; Ted sat outside a café, taking the opportunity to have a well-earned cup of coffee, and keeping a weather eye on the Bentley.  Mark had dashed off to complete Danny’s shopping, and arranged to meet up with Diana in her favourite chain store so that he could pay the bill.  He winked at her, and reminded her that next time she went clothes shopping it would be with her own company credit card.  It was yet another notion that terrified her, but every time such a thought crept in, she thought of Danny; the gentle kisses, the all-enveloping hugs, and the wonder of having someone who actually made love to her, wanted to spend time with her, and didn’t find her boring nor frigid.

Buying some special presents for Debbie was fun, and she did it first, using Caroline’s favourites as a guideline.  Finding everything else she needed wasn’t too arduous, a couple of nice blouses and dresses, and she paid special attention to acquiring a couple of swimsuits that combined a flattering shape with a decent covering. Having only bought a limited supply of toiletries with her, she stocked up and bought some nice scarves and necklaces as well.  Her timing was immaculate; having stowed Danny’s shopping in the car, Mark found her and paid for her purchases with a flourish of the card.  To Diana, the number of her bags looked hugely extravagant, until Ted opened the boot and compared them to the bags and boxes belonging to Danny that were already there.

“As you can see,” said Mark. “Danny likes to be prepared for any eventualities. I’ve got a feeling that meeting you has caught him on the hop a bit, but as far as I’m concerned, Diana, you are an extremely efficient shopper, and very welcome.”

“I’ll second that!” said Ted, doffing an imaginary cap.  He only wore the chauffeur’s livery on special occasions. 

Diana blushed.  She really wasn’t used to all the positive male attention that she’d received in the past three days. She sat in the back of the Bentley on her own; Mark got travel sickness, and was always happier in the front.  Diana didn’t mind sitting alone; she was still rather stunned by all that had happened, and couldn’t deny the butterflies that were flitting around in her stomach at the prospect of being reunited with Danny. The thought of the money that had been spent that morning was rather scary, but Mark seemed to take it all in his stride. She took a moment instead to think of Caroline and Ben, and what they might be doing, but John crept back into her thoughts like an ugly, poisonous snake.  She still hadn’t looked at his messages nor listened to his voicemails.  She decided to trust Danny on this.

Having read their way through the paperwork, Mike was busy on his laptop while Danny was on the floor doing press ups. He got to his feet when Mark, Diana and an extremely loaded luggage trolley came up in the lift.

“You were quick! Did you get everything you needed, Diana?”

“Yes, and Mark got everything you needed as well, and I am very proud to say that my pile of shopping is smaller than yours.  Have you put the world to rights while we were away?”

“You would be surprised at what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.  Your ex really is a git, isn’t he?”

“What has he done now?” Diana looked aghast.

“Nothing important,” said Mike dismissively.  “He’s been trying to sell his story to the tabloids but most of the press would rather stick to our side of things.  He’s not really newsworthy, whereas the extremely generous donation that Danny has made to your hospice trust is going down very well, and has generated a number of prospective TV appearances for the ‘bad boy done good’.”

Seeing the look of horror on Diana’s face, Danny took her in his arms.

“Most of the press will check out stuff like your ex’s rubbish with Mike first.” he said.  “The stories John has been peddling have no substance, are more than a little racist, and the last thing anyone needs is a costly lawsuit for printing his blatant lies.  There may be a few local rags who’ll run a toned-down version of his story in the lesser pages, but no one will be that interested in the long term. Mike is used to mitigating bad news about me; on this occasion I’m actually the good guy for a change!” “I’m sorry.” she said quietly. Once again John had done something to suck all the pleasure out of life. Danny shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry about.  You’ve done nothing wrong, and now you and I are going to take this shopping into the bedroom, and explore it all.”

Gross Misconduct

Just as Diana was about to make her way upstairs for breakfast, her mobile rang and glancing at the number she saw that it was the manager of the hospice where she worked.  That was a little puzzling, as she wasn’t due back at work until the middle of the week.  She took the call anyway.

“Hello Diana, I take it that you’ve seen the news today?”

Her tone of voice was not happy.

“Um, no I haven’t yet,” said Diana. “I just got out of the shower.  Is there a problem?”

“Well, your face is plastered all over the tabloids, together with your new ‘partner’, as I think they are calling him. This is not exactly good publicity for the company you know. Flaunting your love life for everyone to see.  You should know better at your age.”

“I spent most of the day on Saturday publicising the company, not to mention the fact that Danny is one of the company’s major sponsors.”

Diana could feel her hackles rising and she wasn’t sure if it was the comments about Danny or the ageist remarks about herself.

“Yes, well. I’ve had couple of calls and emails this morning, complaining about your behaviour and asking for your resignation.  Some of the board members consider that you have brought the company into disrepute.  We won’t be asking for your notice under the circumstances. I’m sure that you don’t want to give us any further bad publicity. You need to be thinking of the people who need our support rather than your love life.  I’ll put this in writing anyway.  Where do you want me to send the letter?”

“You can put it in an email, then I can forward it to – to my legal representative.”

Diana put the mobile down and took a step back from it. 

What to do now? 

Sit down and cry? 

Throw something?

Ask Danny to come downstairs?  

She decided to square up her shoulders, and join the others for breakfast.  She might cry at some point anyway, she didn’t really feel like throwing anything, and it would be better to let everyone know her situation before she signed a contract.

If they still wanted her to, that is.  

She put on as brave a face as possible, especially when Danny jumped to his feet as soon as she walked out of the lift.

He wasn’t easily fooled however and took both of her hands in his.

“Have you been looking at your ex’s texts?”

“No,” Diana took a deep breath. “I’ve just been sacked.  For bringing the company into disrepute.”

“Who called you?” said Mike, picking up his mobile.

“My manager – ex-manager.  Says she’s had complaints about my behaviour.”

“Sit down and eat some breakfast with Danny,” said Mike.  “I need to make a few calls.”

He went back into his bedroom and closed the door. 

Danny grinned.

“There was a time when I’d have been on the phone bawling people out about this, but Mike is SO much better at it than me.” said Danny.  “Cold as ice when he needs to be. Fruit juice? Coffee? Toast? Or just me? That’s better. I saw a little smile then.  When you’ve finished your breakfast, we’ll get the contract out and go through it again until you’re happy.  Can I look at your ex’s texts if I promise not to swear too much?”

Diana handed him her mobile and drank some juice. Mark buttered some toast for her and offered a choice of strawberry jam, marmalade or Marmite.  Another simple, but friendly gesture that made her smile a bit more and eased some of the shock.  Danny found John’s texts highly amusing and beckoned Mark over to read some of them, others he found less amusing, and provoked in him the desire to grab John by the neck and give him a good thumping.  He put the mobile face down on the table, and moved his chair closer to Diana’s.  

“What a prat.”

“That’s mild for you.” said Mark pouring a mug of coffee for Diana.

“Are they that bad?” she asked, feeling the dark pall of disappointment descending even further.

“Seen worse.  I get the impression that he doesn’t think that his ex-wife should dare to – how does he put it? Ah yes, ‘seek attention by jumping into bed with a black third-rate ex-sportsman and has-been TV presenter’.  Not that I care about his opinion, but I would guess that I probably make more in a month from my repeats than he does in a year. What does the racist sexist git do for a living anyway?”

“Insurance – he sells it – I think.”  Diana stifled a giggle.   “I don’t know for sure, as he was always very secretive about it – and about how much he earned.  That’s why I went back to nursing once the children were older. I needed some money to buy clothes for the three of us, and other things that they needed.  John was always pleading poverty whenever I asked for money.”

“Not any more.  Mark is quite looking forward to helping you bend our credit card.  Make sure she gets a couple of swimsuits as well, mate.”

“Swimsuits?” Diana asked.

“Indoor heated pool with jacuzzi.  Isn’t that a form of relaxation? There’s the gym too.  You don’t get a six-pack from watching sport on the TV.  I gave myself this weekend off and thanks to you I’ve rediscovered another form of exercise that’s far more enjoyable.”

Diana blushed but couldn’t help smiling as well.

Mike came back out the bedroom laughing.

“Oh dear.  Your manager has somewhat overstepped the mark, and is getting a good telling off for it.  I’ve spoken to your CEO.  He’s rather pleased about the publicity, says that it’s all very positive about you Diana, and the compassionate way you supported Debbie.  Says he’s very proud to have you on the staff, and far from being sacked, as of now, you are on a year’s sabbatical to free you up to work with us.  He hopes that you’ll be able to drum up some more funds and increase awareness about hospice care.  I do think we ought to show Diana what all the fuss is about though, Mark?”

Mark picked up the sheaf of papers that he’d hidden under the table.  As Mike had said, the photos weren’t that bad, although Diana could easily pick fault with any and all of them.  Her smile was a constant now, and Danny, holding her very protectively, looked equally happy and not in the slightest bit like thumping anyone.

“We make rather a handsome couple, don’t we?” said Danny, shuffling through and picking out what he thought were the best pictures.  The articles were a bit over the top, and as for the Florence Nightingale comparisons, Diana raised her eyebrows, and wondered how anyone could think that she had caused any damage to the hospice. 

“I’m afraid that it isn’t your behaviour as such, it’s your association with bad boy Danny.” said Mike, moving the newspapers and handing her the contract to look at instead.

Danny put on a suitably penitent expression.  Unable to resist, she put her arms around his neck, kissed him swiftly, and picked up the pen Mike was offering her.

“Here goes!”

There were three copies to sign; Mike and Danny countersigned and witnessed.  There was no going back now.

“Welcome to Team Bad Boy! I’ll go and have a look at my clothes, and see what Mark needs to stock me up with.  I don’t want to offend housekeeping here with your son’s tee-shirt Diana, though Jenny won’t be bothered by it at all when we get back.  She and Ted have been with me almost as long as Mike. Talking of which, Ted says let him know when you and Mark are ready to go shopping.”

Pushing the now empty toast plate away from her, Diana looked imploringly at Danny, who stood up, grabbed her hand and took her into the bedroom.  They sat down on the bed together and Danny took her hands in his.

“Come on. Spill the beans.”

“All I can smell is the smoke of my boats being burned.  I can cope with most things, but I need to know that I’m making the right decisions for you – as well as me.”

“Come and lay down next to me.  No overtures, I just think that we both need to hold onto each other for a little while.  All the time you were downstairs having a shower, I was missing you.  I will miss you this morning while you are out shopping, but Mike has some business that will keep me out of trouble.  I am so used to seeing pictures in the papers of me snarling and shouting at people. This morning, I am all smiles, and I have a lovely lady on my arm who is worth her weight in gold – and I do not mean that in a derogatory sense! It’s about time I grew up.  If Lisa hadn’t become ill when she did, I might have been able to make that change years ago, but I was too angry and too screwed up to think about anything but her. She encouraged me to go and see a shrink, but the effect was short-lived.  I’d be fine for half an hour, but going home and seeing her wasting away made me feel like I was useless.  Lisa fought so bravely, and I tried to be strong for her, and for myself but it was no good, and I’ve been beating myself up about it ever since.  I was dragged very reluctantly to this book-signing and fundraising weekend, and I was miserable. Then you smiled at me, and it was like putting down a heavy weight. I want you to work as my PA so that you can get to know what an awkward sod I am, then if someday soon I get down on one knee to you, I’ll know that you’ve made that choice of your own free will.”

It wasn’t an easy speech to make and Diana understood this.  Danny laying his soul bare, pushed her own fears out of the way, as some of his pent-up grief spilled over again.  Not the body-wracking sobbing of their first night together, but silent tears that she kissed away. She grabbed another handful of tissues, mindful that her red shirt marked very easily.

“I have another solution.” said Danny, and undid some of the shirt buttons so that his face could rest against one of her breasts and his hand could cup the other.  “Buy any clothes that you want, buy clothes that undo easily, buy what you feel happy and comfortable in, but whatever you do…”

“I know – don’t forget the swimsuits.”

The Cotswold House

The journey home was quieter, with everyone feeling full, but content, and for Diana, sitting the back of the Bentley, with Danny’s arm around her, it felt like she had reached the epitome of happiness.  They stopped off at reception for Mike to order the early paper editions, but on this occasion, Danny decided he could wait until breakfast to see what the media thought of him. He got out of the lift with Diana on the first floor, and left Mark and Mike to go on up to the suite.

Some of Diana’s clothes had already been laundered, and she tucked them away discreetly in her suitcase. Being alone with Danny again was blissful; just being able to kiss and hold each other without worrying about camera flashes and any other intrusions.  Mutual consumption of garlic bread led to scrupulous dental hygiene, but use of the bathroom was shared without any fuss or embarrassment.  Danny announced that there was no point in putting any night clothes on if they were only going to take them off again. They’d also come to a mutual agreement on whether condoms were needed.  No possibility of a pregnancy since Diana had had her tubes tied after Caroline was born, the combination of her chastity and Danny’s regular insurance medicals took the last barrier away. Making love with Danny seemed to get more intense every time, and his very obvious appreciation made Diana feel more confident and assertive, a notion that certainly went down well with Danny.

Mindful of Danny’s cold shoulders, Diana passed him Ben’s tee-shirt, but decided that the warmth that was having Danny curled around her was sufficient, so her nightshirt stayed under the pillow. Just a little step toward losing her inhibitions but one that Danny seemed to understand. She still didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but nothing else seemed to matter after being told what a wonderful woman she was, and that the whole world would know by the morning.  Diana thought that was something of an overstatement on Danny’s part, but saw no point in arguing. As they drifted off to sleep together, her hopes were of some peace and quiet tonight.

Sometime during the night Diana turned over, and as a consequence the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes, was Danny’s face, relaxed and seemingly carefree as he slept.  She kissed him softly, and moved closer. 

He opened his eyes, and put an arm around her waist. “What time is it?”

“Just after eight.  Did you sleep well?”

“So well that I am now dying to go for a pee.  Promise that you’ll still be here when I get back?”


Diana smiled as Danny leaped out of bed and headed for the bathroom.  Coming back just as swiftly, he threw off the tee-shirt and jumped back into bed, enveloping Diana in a bear hug that took her breath away.

“Did you really mean that?” said Danny, running his hands down her spine and making her shiver with delight. “Did you really mean always?”

“Yes.  The more time I spend with you – and with the rest of the team of course – the less I feel like going back home. What happens now though, Danny? We can’t stay in this hotel forever.”

“We’ll be leaving tomorrow.  All of us – and that includes you whether you sign the contract or not.”

“Oh goodness, I forgot all about signing up.  Can I do it this morning?”

“It would make Mike feel more secure.  We have a choice of where we go next.  I have the apartment in London, and the new house in the Cotswolds.  There’s the estate in LA but that’s in the process of being sold.  You need to meet the rest of my team as well.”

“There’s more?”

“We keep permanent staff at both places in the UK.  Ted’s wife Jenny is the housekeeper at the Cotswold house, so he’d kind of like it if we headed back there first. We have a gardener, a cook who will come in for big dinners, and a guy who tells me off for not keeping in shape. Says he’s a personal trainer.”

“What kind of a house is it?”

“It’s big.  Whitish. It’s got a gym, and an indoor heated swimming pool, and more rooms than I can remember. I haven’t really looked around it much. I sold our previous house in the UK when we moved to LA, and I bought this one when I decided to come back home.  Jenny keeps it ready for us.  She and Ted have one of the cottages in the grounds.”

“ONE of the cottages in the grounds! I feel panic rising again!”

“I have an extremely good cure for panic.  Have you turned your phone on yet?”


“Me neither.  Let’s just stay incognito for a bit longer? I like the way that you make love to me now that you aren’t so shy.”

“I never wanted to be as close to John as I do with you.  Is that him or me do you think?

“It’s us – he doesn’t even enter into the equation.”

When they finally turned their mobiles on, the buzzing of unread texts was overwhelming.  Danny scanned through his, and called Mike first.

“It’s me! Yes, we are both awake, and hungry.  Shall we all have breakfast upstairs?  Don’t tell me what the papers are saying.  I’ll see for myself.  Yes, I’ll tell her.  What sleeping tablets?  I slept like a baby – well, maybe not a baby exactly.  I know – too much information. See you in a bit.”

Danny leaned back on the pillows and put his arms around Diana who was anxiously scrolling through her texts.

“Put the phone down, my angel,” he said.  “Mike says to tell you that all the photos with you in are very flattering.  No one has written anything nasty about you, on the contrary, you are being portrayed as a modern-day Florence Nightingale who is going to turn this extremely bad boy around.  Mike is ordering breakfast for us all upstairs, and he also says that the rest of your clean laundry is hanging up outside our room so that you have something else to wear today.  What have you got on your phone?”

“Nice complimentary texts from Jane and Ben.  Caroline is in hoots but very proud, and Helen thinks the pictures are flattering as well.  There are twelve texts from John, and each one is worse than the last.  He doesn’t appear to have taken notice of the warning I gave him about the police either, as there are another six voice mails that I don’t want to listen to.”

“I’ll look at them when we get upstairs.  How do you feel about going clothes shopping with Mark this morning?”

“With Mark?”

“Yes.  As well as being Mike’s second in command, he does my personal shopping and has a very bendy company credit card. I thought maybe you could pick up some more clothes for yourself, and get some nice girly stuff for Debbie. Ted will take you both to the shopping centre, and I will stay here with Mike, watch some more sport on the TV, and do some sit-ups and other stuff I need to do to keep my abs intact, and my personal trainer happy. You have to sign the contract first though.”

“Danny!  I have clothes at home.  Nothing special; I bought my best ones to wear here, but …”

“I have a feeling that your house might be out of bounds for a few days at least.  Mike has put the wheels in motion about buying it, and if the grumpy old git is a pain, we’ll take out an injunction against him.  Will Jane and the cat be alright if he turns up?”

“John has never been violent to me.” said Diana, still defensive and unable to be dishonest.  “He prefers to make threats and tell lies.  Jane hates him with a vengeance and will have even less of a problem about phoning the police if he turns up now that the story is out about me – and you?”

“About us my love.  I’ll throw some clothes on and bring your laundry in from outside.  You have a shower, and I’ll go and get one upstairs to save time. The suite has two bathrooms.  Did I tell you that already? Do not look at anything from your ex until you are with me and Mike. Promise?”

“Can I ask you something?” It was another thing that Diana had thought of during dinner, but had been distracted.  “Is there a Mrs Mike or Mrs Mark tucked away somewhere as well?”

“Mark is still young, free and single but frequently seen escorting young ladies to nightclubs when we are in town.  There is a Mr Mike.  He lives in London and runs a small publishing company.  He and Mike have a flat over the business.  I take it that you have no problem about that?”

“Of course not.  I’m just glad that Mike has someone special; he carries a heavy load for you, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.  Especially over the past two years.  Last night I got a good night’s sleep without having to resort to sleeping tablets.  That’s another reason for keeping you close, my love.  I’ve had enough of relying on medication to keep me sane.”

“We can look at that a bit later if you want.  There are much better methods of getting relaxed than taking tablets.”

“And you have shown me some rather wonderful methods of relaxation already…”

“Danny! I was talking about meditation and mindfulness – actually.”

In the Public Eye

Mike confirmed that Diana’s room and the penthouse suite were booked until Tuesday. Housekeeping came up to collect Diana’s laundry and assured her that it would all be done by the morning, so she would have clean clothes to wear.  Looking through her suitcase, Diana rapidly realised that neither of the velvet dresses would do for day wear, and the summer dress wouldn’t fare well in the current rainy weather.  That left her with what she was wearing, and the red shirt and black trousers she’d worn for the train journey.  Mindful of Danny’s words, she refreshed her lipstick, brushed out her hair and rummaged in her suitcase for a long, soft scarf in shades of blue to put round her neck. 

A glance in the mirror confirmed that she would do.

Having despatched her clothes to the laundry in the basement, Diana wandered back up to the suite where Danny was lounging on the sofa and watching a sports programme.  Mike was busy on the phone, and Mark was doing something that vaguely resembled ‘tidying up’.  Ted had disappeared to wherever it was that he routinely disappeared to.

Danny looked up as she entered the room and grinned.

“Hello Beautiful!  The table’s booked and the press have been tipped off. There may be others waiting downstairs when we go out though. Have you sorted the laundry? Mark’s having a rummage around to see if there’s anything we need doing too.  Come and sit down with me.  We don’t have to watch sport.”

Diana laughed and sat down on the sofa, very happy to feel Danny’s arm around her, and his nose buried in her hair.

“Why does your hair always smell so good?  You can say what you like, none of the skinny models who’ve thrown themselves at me in the past, could look as lovely in jeans and a sweater. Is that Chanel No. 5 I can smell as well?”

“Yes, it was a Christmas treat from my friend Helen.  John didn’t like perfume; he said that it made him sneeze.  It didn’t seem to affect him when he was off with other women though.” Diana said a little sadly.

“To hell with John!  You are a free woman now and embarking on a new life with me – with us – still nervous?”

“Slightly less.  Helen is extremely excited for me and the cat is asleep on Jane’s lap again.  She says she doesn’t want any money for looking after the house, but she’ll accept some for feeding the cat. He’s got very picky about what he eats recently. She very reluctantly gave me her bank details.”

“Pass them over to Mike.  How much does it cost to feed a cat Mike?  Be generous? I suppose I ought to put my shoes and socks on.  Did I tell you how much I hate socks?”

“I may have read about it somewhere…”

“What else have you read about me?  My temper tantrums? My alcoholism? How difficult I am to work with?”

“All of those things and more, but I prefer to make my own mind up about people. The first time I met you, I felt your sadness, fancied you like mad, and I wanted more than anything to get to know you.” Diana whispered in Danny’s ear. 

“And now you know me better?” he whispered back.

“The thought of a future with you, however short it may be, makes me feel happy. My life before wasn’t bad, especially once the divorce came through, but, oh Danny, you’ve opened up a door, and I really want to walk through it.”

He pulled her close and kissed her, sliding his warm hands under her jumper.  If it hadn’t been for Mike’s discreet cough, they would both have forgotten that they weren’t alone.

“Come on lovebirds. Get your shoes and socks on, Danny.  Ted’s just texted; he’s waiting downstairs, and we already have some happy snappers waiting in the car park.”

The very thought made Diana cringe.  Busy putting his shoes on, Danny didn’t notice but Mike did. He leaned over the back of the sofa and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I’ve sent out a press release identifying you as Danny’s partner, and as the person who comforted the young woman after she had been attacked,” said Mike. “We haven’t released Debbie’s details, but I’ve managed to track down her sister, and she’s coming down to visit her today. All you need to do is put up with Danny hugging and kissing you in public because he wants to, and for the cameras, and telling everyone how wonderful you are. Keep that smile on your face, and leave the taking to Danny.  They’ll try to get a rise out of you, but bear in mind how much you mean to Danny – and that the rest of us think you are rather special too. Okay?”

Nodding, because it was much safer than actually speaking, Diana looked up at Danny, who was now fully shod and holding his hands out to her.  She took them and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and into his arms again.

“Now you see why Mike is such a good manager. He knows me well, and he’s already made a very accurate assessment of you.  Stop worrying, try to relax and look forward to a decent meal. You can drink wine if you want to, but I’m on fizzy water and fruit juice.”

“I’ll join you. I think I may need to keep my wits about me, and although I like the odd drink, too many shifts in A&E have shown me the damage that alcohol can do.  Are we both eating garlic bread?”

“You bet!  I love garlic bread! I promise to brush my teeth though.”

“Me too. I remember stuff, it’s another part of the training.  You have a thing about dental hygiene. And you hate wearing socks.”

“Diana, you are definitely my Wonder Woman.  Come on team, let’s face the music!”

Danny led the way into the lift, holding Diana’s hand very tightly. Reception was empty apart from Ted, who gestured to the car park, which was full of cars and the press retinue.  Mike opened the door and stood to one side as Danny and Diana came through to a barrage of flashes, and intrusive fluffy microphone booms.

“Hey Danny, any comments about the alleged rape and burglary?  We’ve got the press release but is there anything else that’s new?”

“Not really mate.  The young lady is in a safe place and we’ve seen to it that she’s being well looked after.  We can’t give any details of her whereabouts of course. The police are looking for the little scrote who is ‘alleged’ to have done this.  As far as we know, he’s still in the country so if you spot him…last seen wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap, but you can’t miss that chin of his.  Dimple in the chin, devil within as my old Nan used to say. Hurry up and take your snaps, we’re all starving and the restaurant is booked for seven-fifteen.”

“Anything that your lady friend wants to contribute? Nurse Davenport, is it?”

Danny looked at Diana and smiled.  She squeezed his hand and smiled back as the flashes went off again. “My name is Diana. Diana Davenport. Yes, I am a nurse by profession and I have been here this weekend trying to raise awareness and funds for hospice care.  Danny and I met, and discovered that we had a great deal in common.  It’s early days for us, so I’d appreciate it if you could cut out the innuendos, and concentrate on helping the police to find the deeply unpleasant person who abused a young girl, and who is currently on the run. I’m starving too, so if you don’t mind, can you let us get in the car and go out for dinner, please?”

Ted gently ushered the team through to the Bentley; Danny, Mark and Mike were still smiling at the way Diana had dealt with the reporter, a young man renowned for his snidey comments. Sitting in the back between Mike and Danny, she felt calmer and relieved that the pressure was off temporarily.

“There will be a few more members of the press at the restaurant.” said Mike, checking his tablet. “Good advertising for the owner, and a reminder that we are all human beings and like to sit down and enjoy a meal together. I have a feeling that you’ll be able to deal without my advice in future.”

“Don’t bank on it, Mike,” said Diana. “I need all the help I can get.  I don’t have a problem dealing with belligerent A&E attendees, but this is a whole new world for me.  Make sure you tell me if I’m out of line?”

“He’s been doing that for me for years, my love,” said Danny.  “You’ll be much easier to mind than me. Ted’s dropping us off outside the restaurant.  He’ll join us when he’s parked the car up round the back.”

As advised, there was a small cluster of reporters and a solitary photographer waiting outside the restaurant.  Danny and Diana smiled for the camera, including a snap or two with the owner, who ushered them into a side room set up specially for Danny’s group, and with a couple of tables and chairs set aside for the media.  The questioners were kinder, less intrusive than before, and much of the information required could be supplied by Danny and Mike. Diana focussed on the menu, and was taken by surprise by a rather direct question.

“Are you going back to nursing, Diana? Are we to see you as Danny’s new PA or his partner?  This is a pretty big change, isn’t it?”

Danny squeezed her hand, not quite knowing whether she wanted to answer the question or not.  She squeezed back and smiled.

“I haven’t spoken to my employer yet.  That will come tomorrow.  I’ve been talking to Danny and Mike about the future, and I’ve sounded out my close friends and family.  They think it’s time that I learned to live a little, and the PA contract that has been drawn up for me will certainly ensure that.   As for being Danny’s partner; that’s early days too, but we are definitely enjoying each other’s company and getting to know more about each other.  My son is binge-watching Danny’s programmes and my daughter has been Googling like mad.  I have their blessing, and that’s important to me.”

“What about your ex-husband?  We understand that you’re only recently divorced.  Is Danny the cause?”

“You’ve been doing your research but missed out on one very important detail. I met Danny three days after my divorce was finalised.  For the past two years I have had to share my home with an estranged, unpleasant, and very grumpy man who never gave a thought for me during our marriage.  You can imagine what a wonderful sense of freedom this weekend has given me, and though Danny and I have only been together for a couple of days, he is, and always will be a much nicer, kinder and more thoughtful man than my ex-husband. I am expecting some kind of a backlash from my ex, but he’s spent twenty-odd years making me miserable.  He can’t hurt me anymore.”

At this point Danny intervened, and put his arm around Diana, pulling her close.

“That will do now.  We need to order some food.  Even before she had a contract, Diana proved to all of us what an asset she is, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s the first woman that’s made me feel happy since my wife Lisa died.  Diana is a real woman, not some skinny model or actress out to hang onto my coat tails. We’ve both had a bad time over the past two years, and now we intend enjoy life again.  Thank you for your time. It’s much appreciated, but if you print any crap about us, you will be sorry.”

The last comment was made in a joking fashion, but those who had been writing about Danny for some years knew that it wasn’t a good idea to cross him. They said their goodbyes, and the meal began in earnest, with the promised garlic bread.

Apart from the first night of the fundraising weekend, Diana couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed so much, or enjoyed a meal with a group of other people. Meals out with friends at home were always overshadowed by the knowledge that John had slept with most of the women, and was receiving suspicious looks from their husbands.  She was often invited out for meals associated with work, but John refused to go with her, and as they were organised for couples, or single women looking for new partners, Diana felt uncomfortably out on a limb. Sitting next to Danny, who was eating one-handed so that he could keep the arm around her waist; listening to tales of his misbehaviour, and the scrapes that Mike, Mark and Ted had got him out of in the past, she began to feel like she belonged.  As a real person, not just a deserted wife who was pitied and whispered about, or a hard-working nurse who gave up most of her time to care for others.

The evening passed happily. The food was much better than the hotel fodder, and the high point of dinner was zabaglione whipped up over a gas burner at the table.  On the rare occasions that John had taken Diana to an Italian restaurant, he had always refused to have this particular pudding because it was too expensive, and it was usually only cooked for two people at a time. Danny grinned as he and Diana shared their romantic dessert, accompanied by cat calls from the others.