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.”
“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?”
“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.”