Danny sat on the sofa and pulled Diana down next to him.
“A detective turned up and wanted to ask a load of questions. I should have sent Mark down to get you, but it all got very complicated and we ended up talking about my sport and TV programmes instead. Then I realised that my watch was still on your bedside table and I’d been gone ages. I’m so sorry!”
“It’s okay now you’re back,” said Diana “But there’s something that’s been puzzling me. Why was the jewellery in Debbie’s safe rather than upstairs with you and the others in the penthouse?”
“Most of the stuff I bought was in our safe, but in a misguided attempt to make Debbie feel important, we asked her to keep some of the jewellery and smaller stuff in her own room safe. Mike and I thought giving her a bit of responsibility would help her to feel a part of the team. Not one of our best decisions. Come back upstairs with me, Diana? Please?”
“Of course, I will,” she smiled as a sense of relief put everything back into perspective again. “I just got into a bad place texting Caroline and John, and talking to my next-door neighbour Jane. It pushed last night out of my mind, and all I could think about was going home and hiding under the duvet. I’m sorry. I should have trusted you. I’m not very good with trust at the moment.”
“All that matters is that I got back here in time. Do you still want to go home now?”
Diana shook her head and relaxed as his arms tightened around her.
“Caroline’s on her way back to Uni, Jane has the legal stuff in case John turns up again – and I’ve told him what she’s prepared to do. Even the cat is managing very well without me. Jane said that he was asleep on her lap. He never sleeps on mine. So, it seems that I don’t have much to go back to at the moment. Do you still want me to stay, Danny?”
‘More than anything that I’ve wanted for a long time,” he said, holding her even closer. “Leave things here and come upstairs with me. I think you’ll like Detective Inspector Willis. We’re on first name terms now; he’s called Sam and he was very impressed with your quick-thinking last night. He was less impressed when I told him about the texts and voicemail you’d received from your ex, but that’s a different matter.”
Danny stood up and pulled Diana to her feet; he picked her up and whirled her around, laughing as she struggled to get down.
“You’ll put your shoulders out, or your knees will collapse!” she cried.
“If it means that you’ll be my personal nurse, it would be worth it!”
They were still laughing when they arrived up in the penthouse, but did their best to look more serious as the lift doors opened. Danny introduced Diana to Sam, and after kissing her hand, he went off to make more phone calls and talk with Mike. The DI was pleasant and courteous; he asked her a number of questions about Debbie and her appearance after the attack, and any impressions she’d had of Simon. Once he’d got all the answers he needed, he asked about John’s communications of the night before. Diana handed him her mobile, and scanning through the texts, he frowned. A frown that deepened when he heard the voicemails. He said that he understood that Diana didn’t want to take any action about them at the moment, but impressed upon her the importance of not deleting them, just in case.
Danny reappeared and shook hands with Sam before Mark showed him the way back downstairs; there were several hotel staff that he still had to interview.
“I’ve just checked, and our room downstairs is being refreshed, and will be ready for us to go back and put our feet up shortly,” said Danny. “What do you want to do now Diana?”
“Are you sure that you’d rather be in my little room than up here?”
“Most definitely yes. Mike and Mark will stay up here. You and I still have to talk about what happens tomorrow, that comes later when we’re back downstairs and on our own.”
“I assume you’ll let me know what you decide?” said Mike, wryly.
Diana blushed, realising that she was the cause of this uncertainty. Danny shot a look at Mike and narrowed his eyes, but before he had a chance to comment; Diana asked, “Will we be able to see Debbie today? We both promised.”
Sensing an opportunity to ease the tension, Mike assured Diana that Debbie was now in a private room with her own nurse, a huge flower and cuddly toy collection had been despatched, and that they could visit after lunch.
Diana had something else on her mind as well.
“Is there any news on Simon? If he hasn’t fled the country, is Debbie still at risk from him?”
“Little scrote!” said Danny. “Nip downstairs Mark and mention that to Sam. I wouldn’t put anything past Simon. If the police don’t put someone in to look after Debbie, we could get some private security, couldn’t we, Diana?”
“With my nursing hat on, I’d say that you need to tread more carefully with an NHS hospital,” she replied. “It may need Debbie to be moved to a private hospital where they’re used to providing privacy and security for famous people. Do we know how serious her injuries are?”
“Largely scratches from where she fought him off,” said Mike, looking at his notes. “Luckily, she’d passed out by the time he actually raped her, so she has extensive bruising from the attack but no internal injuries. It’s the psychological and emotional effects that are the worst bits though?”
“Yes. It’s not something that you can just shrug off once the external damage has healed.” said Diana sadly. “Last night she was more distressed about mine and Danny’s reactions than what had actually happened to her. She needs as much reassurance as possible; but being Danny’s PA may not be a reality for a while to come. An attack like this takes a long time to work through. Once she’s well, she needs to be doing something where she can develop confidence and build up her self-esteem without being too stressed. You’ll give her the time she needs, won’t you, Danny? Does she have a supportive family?”
“She has a sister who lives locally but her parents are abroad. Do you want me to look into the other situation, Danny?” asked Mike with a groan. “Advertise for a new PA?”
With a thoughtful look on his face, Danny shook his head.
“There’s definitely no rush at the moment. I need to have a think about things. Come on Diana. Our room should be ready by now, and as before Mike, leave us in peace for a while please? We’ve things to sort out.”
“Yes, Boss!” said Mike, grinning this time.
Diana blushed as Danny grabbed her hand, and pulled her towards the lift. He managed to restrain himself until they were safely back in her room, but put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door handle, and double locked the door. The sight of her nightshirt folded up neatly on the freshly made bed, next to his boxers and Ben’s tee-shirt prompted Danny to pull Diana into one of those embraces that could only have one outcome. She reached for her nightshirt in order to cover her modesty, but her inhibitions of the morning were rapidly overcome by Danny’s desire to remove every shred of clothing and make love in the daylight this time.
She resisted initially.
“Danny! I’ve got stretchmarks and wrinkles…and other physical aspects that are best kept in the dark.”
“And I, my love, have a number of hideous sports-related operation scars all over my body. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine. Wrinkles are nothing to be ashamed of either; they’re the lines of our lives, and yours show what a lovely person you are. The curtains are drawn, the door is locked. There’s just you and me, and plenty of opportunity to explore and enjoy each other.”
Resistance was definitely useless; surrender turned out to be far more pleasurable, especially when Danny held up a new silver foil packet tucked discretely under Diana’s travelling alarm clock.
Lying in Danny’s arms afterwards, and feeling the warmth of his skin against hers, Diana couldn’t remember feeling so relaxed, and as if nothing else in the world mattered.
“Penny for them?” asked Danny, kissing her forehead.
“I feel happy. More than that, I feel content, and that’s not a feeling that I’ve had for a very long time. Is this real Danny?”
“It is for me.”
Her hand was curled protectively on his chest and he picked it up and kissed the palm. “Not exactly ebony and ivory, are we? More like cappuccino and cream. I am the product of an arrogant white English man who gave me his big blue eyes, and beautiful black Nigerian woman from whom I inherited my stubbornness and wilful ways. A marriage that turned out to be made in Hell, and a life that could have ended very badly if sport hadn’t found me before crime did. Does it bother you? My skin colour?”
“Does mine bother you?” Diana replied, very gently kissing the scar on his chest. “I don’t deny that it’s something that influences some people, but they usually have a host of other issues as well. Your skin is a beautiful colour and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that you are just as wonderful underneath it.”
“Don’t go home, Diana. Stay with me?” he said, his hands stroking her hair as he kissed her face with those butterfly kisses that made her shiver.
“For a night, for a week maybe, even for a month?” she asked. “How long would it take before the gilt wears off this middle-aged gingerbread, and I slink back home, only to have John laugh at my foolishness?”
Turning her face up to his, he kissed her very gently. “Come and be my PA as well as my lover, and if you fall in love with me, we can run off and get married.”
“Don’t joke, Danny. I’m a nurse. That’s my job. I look after people and support them.”
“Precisely, you have all the credentials and experience already. You’ve seen what Debbie did. Don’t you think that you could do it better? You’re intelligent, good at dealing with people, Mike likes you, and I – I want you beside me all the way. We could get to know each other so much better.”
“You really are serious, aren’t you?”
She traced the shape of his face with her fingers, finding it difficult to believe what was happening between them.
“Serious enough to have talked to Mike about it.”
“Without asking me first? I already have a job, a home and a cat that doesn’t like me very much.”
“Mike is a very good judge of character and I trust him,” said Danny, desperate to ease her fears. “I know he likes you, and once I knew that he would be happy to work with you, I felt safer about asking if you were interested in spending more time with me. You’re good at your job, but so many of your talents are wasted, home is full of unhappy memories, and as for the cat…”
“This is all a bit too much for me.” said Diana, sitting up and hugging her knees. “I need to think, and it’s very hard to be rational when I’m in bed with you, and…”
“And making love with you has made me feel liberated and incredible; but it’s like a romantic novel come true. Something bad has to happen now.”
“Plenty to hold onto at least.” she said quietly, thinking of all the ambitious young women, and wondering how she could ever compete with them? But he had been surrounded with gorgeous girls all weekend, and he chose her. Danny was very quiet, and for a moment she thought that he’d gone into one of his catnaps. She moved slightly, and felt his arms tightening around her again.
“I’m falling for you, Diana.” he whispered. “You make me feel that there’s some purpose in what I do again. I’ve just been going through the motions since Lisa became ill. Yes, you have plenty for me to hold onto. Your body is voluptuous, it welcomes me and makes me feel far more excited than any of those skinny girls with tiny breasts, sharp hips, and elbows like daggers. I love every part of you! I particularly love the fact you are so much more relaxed and responsive with me already. Tell me how you feel?”
“Oh Danny! I feel like I’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning! A huge and rather wonderful bolt, but something that’s turning my ordinary world upside down nevertheless. I find it hard to understand what it is that’s set me apart from all the others – and I’m not fishing for compliments here. I suppose that having spent most of my life being ordinary, I’m finding it difficult to accept this change. How could it all work?”
“I would get Mike to draw you up a contract that means you get paid for being my PA, but with an opt out clause so that you could leave at any time if you were unhappy. They’d give you a sabbatical from work, wouldn’t they? You could help me to raise money for good causes, and make more informed decisions about who I sponsor in the future?”
Danny moved up beside her and laid his chin on her shoulder.
“Next excuse?” he said.
“Where would I live? What would happen to the house? What about my children?”
“Slow down. With regard to where you would live; you would be with me and I have a number of places to live, not to mention access to hotels to stay in like this one. Do you really want to carry on living in a house that you shared with your horrible husband? How attached to this house are your children?”
“Last question first; my children grew up there, most of their friends are working or away at Uni, but they tend to get together in the holidays. It’s their home. It used to be mine but having John lurking in the back bedroom for the past two years has tainted it. I’m not sure that I could adapt to drifting from one place to another. I’m too old for that, Danny.”
“So, you put your house on the market and we snap it up through a third party at over market value in order to mollify your ex. The house is then put in trust for your children so that they’ll always have somewhere to call their own, and a nest egg if they need money in the future. God forbid, but if things don’t work out for us, you will have the house to go back to. We could put your friend Jane on some kind of a retainer to ensure that the place is looked after, and you would be able to pop back and visit her – and the cat – when you want to. It would be an investment for your children’s future. I’ve learned a great deal about these legal things from Mike over the years. As to the drifting around, I’ve been scaling down the travelling since Lisa died; she spent most of the time in LA because of her treatment. The house there has too many memories for me, so it’s rented out at the moment, but Mike thinks he’s found a buyer. I’m staying in this country and trying to resurrect my career. Hence the awful book. You are still frowning. Have I overloaded you again, my love?”
Diana nodded, but decided that thinking was better done when curled up in Danny’s arms. It was a decision that definitely met with his approval. She had to admit that there was logic in everything he said, and that it was about time she made some changes to her life, but these changes were a bit drastic!
Danny leaned over and picked his watch up from the bedside table, raising an eyebrow. “I’m starving again and it’s nearly twelve-thirty. How do you feel about getting dressed, coming back upstairs, and having lunch with Mike and Mark? I’ll get Mark to organise some food in the room so we can all sit round the table and natter. I think you might feel more comfortable if you have the chance to get to know them better, and discover what kind of a demanding sod I am. How does that sound?”