A Killer Opening

(unedited) Chapters

CHAPTER SIX

Amelia stood at the dining room window gazing out over the magnificent vista of the hotel gardens, the lawns rolling down to the palm tree-lined beach and on over the Mediterranean Sea. She barely noticed the scent of jasmine emanating from the low hedges framing the pool and patio area. She was agitated, which was easily signalled by the staccato tap-tapping of her foot on the marble floor. 


That afternoon—after a brief shower necessitated by her unscheduled sprint down the side of La Colina Alta, and a five-minute break sitting on her bed, playing an imaginary tape in her head of Uncle Seb telling her what a wonderful job she was doing and how the party would be a roaring success—she and Oliver had buried themselves under a pile of papers, heads bowed close together as they pored over the fine details of the upcoming party. Little did her guests know that they did indeed possess one mobile phone that was just within signal range of the Mallorca mobile phone towers. And they were taking this time to make absolutely sure they had thought of everything so that they could message the staff to bring anything they’d forgotten before they left the big island on Friday. 


Amelia had left Oliver an hour before dinner so she could take another quick shower before changing into her sea-green evening dress that flowed around her like she was wearing scarves tied together. When she had bought it, Maud had told her she looked like a gypsy fortune-teller, which had done nothing to put her off her new purchase. 


After adding some light makeup and an even lighter floral scent, she hurried down to the kitchen to decant the homemade gazpacho soup starter into Uncle Seb’s magnificent antique sterling silver soup tureens. It was necessarily but also thankfully simple before the weekend’s planned hedonistic gastronomy. 


Amelia had then laid out the cold buffet and fruit salad, to which she would add the homemade almond based ice cream, made in advance by the chef using almonds from her own almond trees. 


Thinking about all she and Oliver had achieved, Amelia wondered if it wouldn’t have been more apt for her to be laying in a darkened room recovering from exhaustion rather than tap-tapping her foot in agitation.


‘There you are, my dear,’ Oliver called and she glanced over her shoulder to see him framed in the dining room doorway, the light from the foyer chandeliers reflecting off the stained-glass door creating a kind of coloured aura around him. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked.


Amelia had told him all about her mother’s strange pursuit of her after sundowners. Oliver, of course, had found her recounting of the humiliating events hilarious and he had continued to burst into gales of laughter every time he’d thought of it as they worked together that afternoon. Which was why his question had deeper meaning than the surface one. 
He wanted to know if she was ready to face her mother after Maud lied to her face, and then told her that her once best friend was planning suicide.


‘I have laid the table with the bluntest of butter knives and our shortest pronged forks to avoid bloodshed,’ Amelia assured him.


‘Very good,’ Oliver said with a smirk. ‘It is now precisely eight. Shall I strike the dinner gong?’
‘Yes, go ahead,’ Amelia replied, turning back to the window for one final look at the tranquil scene. She pulled in a deep fortifying breath, like a warrior donning his armour, at which moment a dark spectre crossed the sky, blocking out the last orange rays from the dying sun. Amelia squinted, scanning the strangely mobile darkness for one hint of what had happened. 


After a few seconds she could make out a mass of swirling wings, then a wall of squawking screeching hit her ears, making her wince, as her entire flock of perhaps twenty flamingos rose up from the lake and were rushing across the sky in front of the hotel. It was magnificent!


‘My god! You couldn’t have asked for a better advertisement. I hope to goodness someone caught it on camara. I’ll bet that blighter Herb did, since I gave his back to him not ten minutes ago,’ Oliver laughed.


But Amelia only shivered, thinking the flamingos’ flight looked more like a desperate escape than a magnificent advertisement.


‘Are you alright?’ Oliver asked. 


‘Just someone walking over my grave, I guess,’ she replied, still watching the stunning sight of the flamingos flocking.


‘In all my years on this island, that is the first time I have seen them do that.’

‘Is it an omen?’ she asked. ‘And if so, can we both please agree that it is a good one rather than a bad one? Especially after my mother’s dramatic warning this afternoon.’


‘We will most definitely make that assumption, my dear, for what could possibly go wrong now we have all the players held captive on our island? All we have to do is keep them alive until Saturday. Surely that can’t be beyond the wit of man, or indeed woman.’ Amelia flinched. He was poking fun at her fear for her friend. Laughing at the ease with which Maud had drawn her into a likely imagined drama. 


Amelia squinted her eyes as she looked up into Oliver’s face, ready to once again threaten permanent withdrawal of his bridge privileges when Sawubona and Tantriana glided into the room.


‘Felicitations on this blessed evening,’ the guru said, pausing just inside the doorway, raising his palms together as if in prayer and bowing deeply, before continuing his glide across the room. He took a seat at the head of the table where Oliver normally sat. Oliver scowled. Amelia grinned, deciding this was punishment enough for her snarky friend.


‘I’m late with the gong,’ Oliver muttered, racing out of the room. Amelia watched Sawubona nod to Tantriana who lifted the lid off the tureen and served the guru with a brim high serving of gazpacho before taking her seat at his right hand. Amelia watched as Sawubona and Tantriana tucked into dinner, not bothering to wait for the other guests to arrive.


The gong sounded at ten past eight instead of eight on the dot as promised. It was another ten minutes before Price arrived, quickly followed by Leo and then Daisy. Maud was at least five minutes behind Daisy, and as he had warned might be possible, Bill did not turn up at all. 


***


As Sawubona had seated himself at the head of the table, Amelia had no choice but to allow her other guests to pick their own seats too. Truth be told, she resented the time she and Oliver had wasted pre-planning a seating arrangement, though she was relieved when Leo took his seat beside her at the foot of the table. She was less thrilled when drab old Wendy Gale sat opposite him on Amelia’s other side. But then again, beggars could most definitely not be choosers and drab though she may be, Wendy was nowhere near the bottom of Amelia’s list of preferred dinner companions. 


It was around twenty minutes after eight by the time her guests were finally settled, having helped themselves to soup from the silver tureens. Right at that moment, Herb bustled in, grinning from ear to ear and waving his camera over his head, while simultaneously doing a jubilant little jig. It was quite a horrific sight, if you thought about it. Added to which, he had still not changed out of his awful safari outfit, nor did he even bother to apologise for being late for dinner. 


Instead, he regaled them with an excited description of a sight they had all witnessed themselves. ‘Did you see those giant bloody birds turn the sky pink like candyfloss? I can sell that shot to National Geographic for a flipping mint!’ Amelia instantly got over his rudeness, quickly glancing at Oliver who winked. We have our money shot for our glossy advertising the two conspirators silently agreed.


Soon, the soup tureens were drained and her guests were tucking-in to heaping plates from the buffet. Well, other than Daisy of course, who was still diligently working her way through a single half-bowl of soup.


Sawubona and Tantriana wolfed down plate after plate from the buffet, acting as if they had never eaten a good home-cooked meal in their lives. Sawubona occasionally raised his head from his plate, opened his arms as if in welcome, then spoke words that were no doubt meant to be filled with wisdom but sounded to Amelia like something that might be found inside an upmarket fortune cookie. 


Price and Maud, having seated themselves inconveniently distant and diagonally across from each other, were forced to shout their ever more exaggerated tales of self-aggrandisement and celebrity friendships, drowning out any alternative conversations in the process. 


‘I met Monica May in Harrods only last week,’ Maud bragged, nauseating Amelia, who, glancing around the table, noticed even the grossly spiritual Tantriana and Sawubona raising synchronous eyebrows at that little gem.


All the shouting and bragging was irritating, but at least for Amelia – safe at the foot of the table – it diverted Maud’s attention from her. She settled into quiet conversation with Leo who, bless his heart, did his utmost to draw Wendy out of her shell.  For a first evening entertaining such a mixed bunch, a group who would not necessarily mix in real life, Amelia was quietly satisfied.


It was that quiet satisfaction that inspired Amelia to raise her glass, ready to toast her Uncle Sebastian for his splendid idea of building a healing hotel, and of course darling Oliver for all his help in making it a reality. But just as she lifted her glass, drew in a breath and opened her mouth to speak, Maud, with impeccable, deliberate timing, beat her to it. 

 

‘Darlings. I want you, my most intimate of friends, to be the first to know that I, Maud Lavender, will be delighting my many fans worldwide with a spectacular new play. It is so close to completion that I will be presenting it to my many droves of clamouring investors this autumn, ready for a spring opening.’

 

Her pronouncement was initially met with silence, although Amelia thought she heard Oliver mumble, ‘Not without your ghost-writer you won’t.’ 

 

But Amelia barely noticed Oliver’s jibe – which hinted at her own secret involvement in Maud’s success – she was still absorbing the blow of Maud’s obvious attempt to overshadow her own achievements. Why do I always get my hopes up? I know she’ll never change! 

 

‘Though I will need more competent assistance if I am to achieve my deadline,’ Maud continued, oblivious to Amelia’s hurt, shamelessly contradicting her effusive praise of Wendy earlier that day.

 

Wendy blanched. Her eyes galloping around the table from person to person. 
‘Mother!’ Amelia hissed, reaching across the table to grab hold of Wendy’s clammy hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze. 

 

‘It’s quite alright,’ Wendy said. ‘When I took the position, you can be sure I did not expect to find any pleasure in working for your mother. You could say, in that expectation at least, I have not been disappointed.’ Maud’s mouth hung slackly open as the two women grinned at each other, and for the first time, Amelia saw the other woman’s spirit beneath the kicked puppy façade.


‘When you told me you were leaving I almost bolted,’ she added with a rueful smile. ‘But by then my situation had worsened. The attacks… well they had escalated, so I had little choice but to take the position even in light of your warnings and my own reservations.’


Wendy’s neck and jaw were tense as she spoke, and though Amelia was certain her mother could produce that look on the face of a saint, she’d seen the same look before Maud had ever got her claws into her. In fact, thinking about it with a clear head for the first time, Amelia realised that Wendy had been terrified, and that exact same look that had crossed Wendy’s face in the driveway when they had first arrived at the hotel.


‘What happened to you?’ Amelia whispered. For a moment, she wasn’t sure the other woman would answer her, but after a few frozen seconds, Wendy drew in a sharp breath through her nose, as if she had forgotten to breathe, then she puffed it out in three short bursts. Then she rolled her delicate shoulders and launched into an explanation.


‘It’s funny Maud should mention Harrods, for that was where my ordeal began one day almost eighteen months ago, not long before Christmas,’ she began. ‘I was there shopping in the Food Hall for my employer, trying to emancipate a single jar from a tower of jars meant to resemble a Christmas tree. The whole display was so pretty and festive, I really didn’t want to be the one to spoil it, but my employer had a particular black truffle puree he was certain he could not live without. 


‘I had been standing there for perhaps five minutes, studying it like it was my turn at Jenga, when a handsome blond man approached. He was what I’d call the stockbroker type. You know, navy striped suit, umbrella tucked under one arm and an artistically battered briefcase in the opposite hand,’ she said. Then corrected herself. ‘No, he was shinier than that… he looked like he was a model dressed up like that quintessential stockbroker, that’s just how beautiful he was…  Simon was the one to strike up the conversation,’ Wendy said, seemingly needing to excuse some unseen misbehaviour. 


‘He was shopping for quail eggs and asked if I knew where he might find some. I did not, and for some reason, I also told him I had never tasted one. He immediately jumped on that fact. “I must remedy that,” he said. And as he seemed harmless enough, when he invited me out for dinner, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t, when invited by a man who looked like he should be on the cover of Vogue and dined on quail eggs?’


‘Why are we all so entranced by a dreary story from the hired help? Is my news not sufficiently riveting?’ Maud interrupted.


‘Ignore your ex-employer, dear Wendy, and tell your new employer the rest of the story.’ Amelia surprised even herself by not-so-subtly offering the fragile woman a much-needed life raft. 


‘Um…Thank you?’ Wendy said, before swallowing over an apparent lump in her throat and launching back into her story. ‘Uh, well…we went on a couple of dates. Simon talked incessantly about himself: how successful he was, what clubs he belonged to, the people in high places he not just knew but had some sort of hold over. I was disappointed because a bully and a braggart is not my idea of the ideal man,’ Wendy explained, unconsciously glancing across at Price the exact moment she said the word braggart. A deep flush rose on his cheeks before he scraped back his chair, struggled to his feet and waddled across to the decanters before pouring himself a large measure of scotch.


‘I’d appreciate a top-up myself if we are to be subjected to this sad little story,’ Maud called to him, holding out her glass for a refill.


‘And…?’ Amelia prompted, ignoring the distraction.


‘And, when I explained, quite gently I can assure you, that I didn’t believe we were a good fit, he flew off the handle, called me a plain little tease.’ She paled and seemed to shrink in her chair as she recalled the incident.  ‘He stormed off and I thought that would be that. An unpleasant end, but still a relief.’

 

‘But that wasn’t that, was it?’ Amelia asked.


‘No…’ Wendy said, shaking her head wearily from side to side. ‘It was just the beginning of a nightmare that included a burglary, some very specific and horrific threats, a whole raft of nasty rumours and accusations, all of which culminated in a fire in my lodgings…’


Amelia gasped, just as Leo barked, ‘What an absolute bastard!’


‘Which is my round-about way of explaining why I was so relieved to be offered a live-in position by your mother.’ Oh yes, it was clear to Amelia that, as horrible as she knew being under Maud’s control could be, it would have been nothing when compared to the terror Wendy had experienced.


‘It’s strange—’ Wendy said, but whatever she planned to say was interrupted by Sawubona and Tantriana wordlessly scraping back their chairs and sloping off for another round at the buffet.


By the time Amelia’s attention returned to Wendy, the poor woman had ducked her head and had focussed her attention on the food in front of her. Amelia decided that now was not the time to push her further. As it was, she looked so fragile that one more question might tip her over the edge and Amelia had enough on her plate without tears at the table.


The remainder of the meal passed relatively smoothly if you didn’t count Daisy alternately fidgeting with her napkin and restlessly popping her knuckles; Price and Maud guzzling down an entire decanter of her best scotch; and Sawubona hoovering up every morsel of food like a starving Biafran at a banquet.

It was around 10 pm when, noticing the guests had finished their desserts, Amelia rose to her feet and said, ‘If everyone has finished, shall we take coffee in the drawing-room?’ She didn’t wait for a response and left towards the sliding door which separated the dining room from the drawing room. She paused before she reached the door to allow her guests to precede her, which they did, filing past her into the lounge. She couldn’t help noticing that Wendy still looked pale. On impulse, she reached out to take her by the elbow. ‘You’re quite safe here, you know,’ she told the startled woman. ‘Oh, and the job offer was quite genuine if you can face employment with Maud Lavender’s daughter.’


‘You are probably right, I’m sure I am quite safe, it’s just—’ Wendy began, but the tide of people carried her through the doorway into the drawing-room before she could finish.

 

***

In the drawing room, Maud and Price headed directly for the nearest decanter, chatting loudly enough that Amelia could feel the beginnings of a throbbing headache at her temples. So, she was infinitely relieved when they wandered outside onto the veranda, taking their seats at one of the pretty wrought iron tables that overlooked the gardens. They’re as thick as thieves, Amelia thought. No doubt they are outside right now, complaining about the accommodations, and planning some mischief that I will be unable to prevent. The very thought of those two vipers out of sight and unsupervised had her right eyelid twitching and her counting the wooden rings on the curtain pole above the window.


‘Anyone for a rubber?’ Oliver asked, breaking into her thoughts. He gestured toward the table he had set up hours ago, determined to unleash his preternatural skills on some unsuspecting opponents.


‘You play bridge?’ Sawubona asked, his laughing brown eyes alight with excitement. ‘My many esteemed Hollywood clients, who you understand I cannot name, have taught me this game... I would like to play.’


‘I’m sure Lia will be playing,’ Leo said, seating himself at the table. ‘And I will make up the fourth, even though I am as much an amateur today as I was the first time dear old Uncle Seb set up that very table in the old house over the way.’


‘That’s settled then,’ Oliver said, pouring out coffee for himself and Amelia and seating himself beside Leo, not opposite. Oliver was competitive and was not about to fall on his sword by pairing himself with bumbling old Leo, the self-proclaimed amateur.


Amelia was ashamed to admit to swerving deeply around Leo to plant herself directly opposite Oliver, leaving Sawubona to pair up with the man she had loved – still loved in some unexplored way – but whom any sane person would not choose to partner in the game Sebastian Ferver had called ‘the game of a lifetime.’ 


As they settled, Herb approached the coffee table with a decanter of scotch, ready to pour some into his already poured coffee. ‘Anyone else for a nip?’ he asked, waving the decanter around like an old-timey mining lamp in a dark cavern. He wandered over to the two sofas, which were laid out kitty-corner, close to the fireplace, that would only ever be needed in winter but was now, in summertime, decorated with a mixture of flamingo feathers and wildflowers collected on Amelia’s morning walk. 


Daisy held out her cup and Herb poured her a shot. Wendy and Tantriana, who were sitting on the second sofa, shook their heads. He’ll charm their secrets out of them even without the liquor to loosen their tongues, Amelia thought. And then I’ll be blamed and the hotel will be ruined, Amelia’s inner-Maud told her. She noticed the tell-tale tremor, her hands shaking, as she picked up her cards. Don’t be a goose. It will be their fault if they trust a man who has ruined more promising careers than I’ve ruined hot dinners, she thought, shaking off her worry and focusing on her hand.


***

She and Oliver had lost…to Leo. It was a scandal. Sawubona was a card shark or a grifter or perhaps he had a direct line to some spiritual entity.  


‘Never beaten Oliver before,’ Leo chortled, pounding Sawubona on the back as he left the table to get them all more coffee. Amelia sat frozen in place, facing a slack jawed Oliver.

 

‘What just happened?’ he asked, incredulous, and Amelia burst into gales of laughter. He was in shock.

 

‘It’s just one game, darling,’ she reassured him. ‘They have to beat us again to win the rubber.’

Half an hour later, Amelia’s focus was divided between bridge and the rapid deterioration of Daisy’s condition. Something was clearly wrong with her. If she didn’t know for a fact that Daisy had only had one glass of wine with dinner and two small shots of scotch in her coffee, Amelia would have sworn Hollywood’s Princess was drunk out of her mind. She had started slurring her words about thirty minutes before and was now curled with her feet underneath her, her head leaned against the arm of the Chesterfield sofa. How is she so drunk? Is she drinking on medication? Is she on drugs?

 

‘Are you alright, Daisy?’ she called.

 

‘Yes, of course, darling. Though I am feeling a little sleepy,’ she slurred. ‘In faaaact, I think it’s time I headed upstairs to Bedfordshire.’

 

‘I can see you up,’ Herb offered, practically jumping to his feet, and taking hold of Daisy’s hand to pull her to hers.

 

Amelia thought Daisy might have shivered in revulsion at the clammy fingers grasping her own. The poor girl tried to shake him off, saying, ‘Oh no, don’t go to any trouble for me.’

 

‘No trouble at all, little darlin’. Good old Herb’s dead on his feet too, don’t you know? But there’s no sleep for the wicked until all this evening’s juicy gossip is recorded for posterity,’ he said, tapping the front pocket of his dreadful khaki shirt, where his paparazzi pad and pen were secreted.

 

Daisy twisted her neck, hazy eyes sluggishly searching the room for Price, but the man was still outside, gossiping with Maud. So, outmanoeuvred, she rose unsteadily to her feet, and with Herb still not releasing her hand, she nodded and waved her goodnights to Tantriana and Wendy. Herb guided her towards the door, though even with his support, she could barely stand on her designer red-soled stilettos. 

 

She should be okay now, Amelia thought, turning her attention back to the game. She’ll sleep soundly and wake up as good as new.

 

‘Where did you learn to play?’ Oliver asked, speaking to the guru who was bowing his head, possibly to hide his grin which was so big it looked in danger of splitting his face in two.

 

‘One day I will tell you that story, but for now, my beloved and I must salute the moon and prepare for bed, for we rise with the sun to prepare for tomorrow’s puja.’ 

 

At his words, Tantriana rose from her seat on the sofa next to Wendy and glided across to him. 

 

‘I’m heading up to bed now too. I’ll walk up with you,’ Wendy said, moving to stand. 

 

‘First time I’ve got anything right in years,’ Leo mused, shaking his head and smiling down at the card table.

 

‘You didn’t get anything right, old chap. Your new hero Sawubona did.’

 

‘Oh, but I did, my dear boy. I partnered with a master!’ Leo chortled, heading to the door, turning only to salute them goodnight, before continuing out into the hallway and upstairs to bed.

 

Which left Maud and Price outside and Amelia and Oliver in the drawing-room. 

 

‘Shall we tidy up the dinner dishes?’ Amelia suggested.

 

‘Of course. Only slovens leave dishes to fester overnight.’ Oliver smiled. ‘And after that, perhaps we should run through tomorrow’s itinerary.’

 

The two of them made light work of the clearing and washing up and were in the office by the time Maud and Price made their way indoors and headed upstairs. 

 

‘Almost midnight,’ Oliver commented. ‘They’d better hurry before one of them turns into a pumpkin at the stroke of twelve.’

 

Amelia stifled her laugh, not wanted to encourage him. ‘I’m going to head down to the beach for a swim,’ she said. ‘Will you come?’

 

‘No, I’m going to finish off here and then I’m heading to bed. It’s been a long and tiresome day.’


Amelia popped upstairs to change, then headed through the jasmine scented gardens, past the pool – she wasn’t much of a pool person – and headed for the sloping lawns that descended to the beach. On her way past the pool, she caught a flash of pale blue out of the corner of her eye, and turning her head she spotted Daisy emerging from the back door to the hotel and walking purposely in the direction of the mountain path. Wasn’t she drunk an hour ago? Amelia wondered.

She thought about going after her, but then her attention was diverted when she spotted two figures at the far end of the beach, close to the rocks, shrouded in darkness. One looked like Bill, who hadn’t bothered to come up for dinner but seemed perfectly happy to interrupt his tinkering on the yacht for a seaside assignation with a stranger. Yes, it’s definitely him, she thought, hurrying down the slope, calling out his name as she went. I’d know that battered old captain’s hat anywhere.


The other figure she couldn’t make out. Amelia wasn’t sure if it was a man or woman under the formless garment. At a guess it was one of those ponchos for sailing in bad weather, not that Amelia’s stomach would countenance such an idea. Or perhaps it was an artist’s smock, both of which seemed a little odd in the Mediterranean summer heat. 


Amelia stopped short. It had been a long day, and she wasn’t in the mood for company, but she wasn’t rude either, so she waved in their direction as she walked past. 


Neither of the two figures even noticed her. They were too busy gesticulating; maybe even arguing. On second thoughts, maybe I should go over in case things escalate, she thought. But before she was close enough to overhear their words, one of them clapped the other on the shoulder, tapped his temple with his index finger a couple of times, and the two of them stalked away in different directions; Bill towards the cliff path that led to the jetty, and the stranger along the path that led from the beach towards La Colina Alta where it split in two—one branch leading to the artists community and the other back to the hotel.  


Deep in thought, Amelia tried to push away the day as the serene water lapped at the shore and she waded into its moonlit depths. The beach was wonderfully clean after Pau and Bill had cleared away the seaweed, and as she waded into the water, the sea felt cool and refreshing against her skin. She swam for more than half an hour, keeping within the golden glow of the dual lights from the lighthouse and the hotel. The sea embraced her gently as she alternately swam and floated just far enough from shore to be completely alone, just for a little while. After her bathe she wandered, relaxed and happy, back to the hotel.


As she passed across the pool patio, she could see a dim light glowing through her office window. Oliver is still working, she thought, changing course as she entered the French doors, and made a beeline for her office. Poking her head around the door, she found Oliver sitting at her desk, staring intently down at tomorrow’s schedule. She cleared her throat softly so as not to startle him, and said, ‘I’m off up to bed. I’ll be down at seven to lay out the breakfast. Thanks for all your help today,’ then turned away without waiting for a response.
‘I’m coming!’ he called after her. He was soon at her side and they walked upstairs together, then parted on the landing, with Amelia air-kissing Oliver on both cheeks, much to his disgruntlement.


Monty and Tulip were already in her room when she entered, sprawled across her bed, legs stretch to the maximum so there was only a corner of spare space for her.


‘You’d better move before I’m out of the shower or you’ll be relegated to the parlour,’ she told them as she headed to the bathroom. Tulip rolled onto her back and wriggled for a tummy scratch. They wouldn’t be moving. And they wouldn’t be sleeping in the parlour either.

It felt she’d only been asleep for a matter of seconds when she was woken by the bell on reception. She prised open one eye to peer at the clock on the nightstand; it was after two thirty am. She’d had less than an hour’s sleep she realised as she staggered half-blind with sleep to her bedroom door.


Opening it a chink, she could see Oliver heading down the stairs. Herb was downstairs, leaning over the reception desk, riffling through some papers. 


‘Get your grubby fingers off my stuff!’ Oliver blasted him as he made it to the bottom step. ‘Or you’ll lose a couple!’


Amelia grinned. Oliver won’t take any nonsense from Herb, she thought as she shuffled back across the room, climbed back into bed and snuggled up with her dogs.


She was woken again at three am, this time by Tantriana and Sawubona, who had apparently completed their salute to the moon and were now practicing a different kind of activity. ‘Bloody hell, I hope to goodness they’re quick,’ Amelia whispered to Monty. 


She didn’t get her wish.