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.