Tuesday 6th December
“Dom – come in,” Shirley said as she held the door open for Dominique and Ama, “Maisha is in her room, but we are expecting some others to call round as well.”
“Greetings Sister,” Maisha said as she came out and embraced Ama, “come, we shall prepare some food as we talk.”
“So where is John then?” Dominique asked as Shirley hung up her coat.
“At the club, a group of colleagues are giving him a sendoff into matrimony.”
“And do I need ask just who has organized that?” Dom smiled, “it has Jack’s fingerprints all over the idea.”
“Yes,” Shirley said as they walked into the drawing room, “I’m just hoping that it all stays civilized.”
“Oh they will drink a lot of drink,” Dominique laughed, “but I’m guessing it will be mainly be reminiscing, and telling tall tales.”
“Yes I trust Luke for one to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand.”
“Agreed,” Dom said as she accepted a glass of Brandy, “he’s a calming force certainly.”
“An old head on young shoulders as even his mother agrees.”
“Martha is right in that,” Dominique sipped her drink as they both sat down. “I understand we are gathering here on Thursday for a small celebration as well?”
“Yes,” Shirley nodded, “anyway to change topics what do you have to tell me?”
“Really just a lot of disconnected bits that may or may not be part of a bigger picture Madame.”
“I’d come to that conclusion already myself. The true picture of just what is going on remains stubbornly out of focus.”
Dom nodded as she sipped her drink. “It’s hamstringing everyone who is trying to make sense of this, from us all the way to Admiral Preminger.”
“It has to mean something,” Shirley said quietly, “and it can’t just be a simple takeover for a model agency, Byushin and his associates are expending far too much effort and money for that just to be the case.”
“Agreed, but unless we can get someone who is privy to what is going on to talk then we are still working on guesswork.”
“I concur,” Shirley said as the door opened, and Maisha looked in. “Heather is here, Mum – may she come in?”
“Of course,” Shirley said as the blonde walked in. “Dom – how was Iceland?”
“Cold – any further news?”
“Well, two things – Ju asked me to let you know that Tatiana and Olga have accepted the late invitation.”
“Wormhole? She’s coming over here?”
“Indeed,” Shirley said, “you will not know yet, but two of Byushin’s men went to Complete Style today. Mariana – saw them from the premises, but I feel if they are part of any sort of leverage over Yuri Makarov, then they are safer here where we may protect them.”
“Which brings me to my other news – Byushin is in town.”
“He is – where?”
“Working on that now…”
“Have you met Tatiana Ulyanova and her daughter Sister?” Maisha asked as they sat on the balcony.
“Briefly during the summer while we were in England. Mom has worked with Miss Ulyanova before and they came over and chatted for a few minutes one evening while we were at a restaurant.”
“Okay,” Maisha said quietly, “I was just wondering why Aunt Juliette had them added to the guest list.”
“I’m guessing it has something to do with the takeover bid for Norstar.”
“It seems logical Ama.”
“They probably know more than we do,” Ama smiled at a couple of younger women who came in, talking to Shirley.
“Oh who are they?”
“Rhenia Tripp, and Liddy Kaplan her PA.”
“Ah the comptroller at Norstar.”
“Why are we here,” Krys said as she and Kylie walked into the lobby.
“I have some business to conduct here – and Heather is also visiting, darling,” Kylie drawled as they approached the concierge.
“Miss Mitchell – you are expected. Go right on up.”
As they entered the lift, Krys looked round. “So this is where the Xavier of Xavier International lives? Very up market.”
“Indeed,” Kylie said as they left the lift and walked down the corridor. Knocking on the door, she smiled as Krys saw the door open, and a dark skinned teenager standing there in a blouse and jeans.
“Maisha darling – I trust you are excited for the weekend?”
“I am indeed, Kylie – may I be introduced to your friend?”
“Of course – Maisha, this is Krystal and Krys, this is Maisha – you know, darling, I am not sure if I should call you Maisha Xavier or Maisha Hammond or what?”
“Maisha will be fine – welcome, Krys. Allow me to take your coat – we are all gathering in the drawing room.”
“Of course,” Kylie said as she walked into the large room with Krys, as Heather and Dom – now wearing her wig – came in.”
“Krys – thank you for meeting us here. Did you find what you wanted at APCO?”
“I did indeed…”
“We wanted to ask,” Kylie said, “if you would like to join us here in Thursday – Shirley is holding a small soiree for her friends.”
“I’d love to join you all,” Krys smiled as she sat with Kylie and Heather. “But with the shoot on Friday I’m thinking I need be tucked up in bed nice and early on Thursday night.”
“Probably darling,” Kylie looked across the room at both the two African girls, and at Rhenia and her assistant.
“It’s the first day of my new career, no way I can afford to show up looking a wreck because I haven’t slept.”
“It’s a good point,” Heather nodded.
“I need a word with Ama and Maisha,” Kylie stood, “I’ll be right back.”
As she walked over, Ama said “Kylie – what may we do for you?”
“Tell me that the parcel from the Honoured Mistress has arrived safely – and I need to tell you what happened with Marina today…”
Wednesday 7th December
9 am GMT
“So YOU get to go to the wedding, and we DON’T?” Eve grumbled as the girls all sat doing free study.
“So it seems. That’s why I was called into the Beak’s office – I fly out on Friday for a long weekend.”
“But you don’t even know Uncle John and Aunt Shirley,” Kits moaned as she looked up from what she was reading, “this isn’t fair.”
“I know,” Olga said, “but it seems Aunt Juliette thinks it’s important that Mummy and I are in New York this weekend.”
“Still doesn’t make it right Olgs,” Liz raised her voice, “if you get to go, so should we.”
“Quiet please girls.”
“Yes Mrs. Gresham-Fox.” The friends answered together.
“I’m going to ring Mum shortly and plead that she has a word with the beak before she flies out herself.” Kits reduced her voice to a whisper.
“I think we all need to make calls,” Eve nodded. “After all, it’ll be your first time there, won’t it?”
“Yes – why?”
“Because,” Kits said with a smile, “we know the right people to meet, and the right places to go…”
“Do you think they will get her to agree?”
“Perhaps – with the right persuasion…”
10 am GMT
As Yuri walked into the foyer, the concierge looked at him and said “Mr Markov?”
“That’s right – how did you…”
“I was told to expect you – if you will take the lift to the fourth floor, your hosts are waiting in Personality Suite 3.”
“Thank you,” Yuri said as he slipped Jack a tip, and made his way to the lifts. He wondered why they had suggested here – and then as he knocked on the door, he was pleasantly surprised when Kirsten Rucker opened the door.
“Indeed – please come in,” she said as she held the door open, and Yuri walked in to see a second woman standing up.
“Thank you for seeing us Mr. Makarov,” Kirsten said as she closed the door, “I’ll try and make this as painless as possible. Coffee?”
“Thank you,” Yuri said as he took a seat, and Kirsten passed him a cup. “Well, I will admit some friends insisted I meet with you - but I also remembered having met your father a few times Miss Rucker, and I know he is a man of integrity, so I am pretty sure I can trust you in this.”
“Thank you,” Kirsten smiled, “and my apologies - this is my roommate back home Liz Patterson, she’s just going to record our chat.”
“Alright,” the Russian nodded.
“Now as I explained in my phone call I’m doing a post graduate course in counseling and I’m talking to couples whose relationships were impacted by contact with the craft of bdsm.”
“So you said.” Yuri smiled, “and might I ask why you chose this topic?”
“You’ve never met my mother have you?” Kirsten smiled back.
“No I have never had that pleasure.”
“Well let me just say that before she retired she was a very famous dominatrix shall we.”
“John Rucker is married to a Domme?” For a second Yuri lost his composure.
“Well he is now.” Kirsten crossed her legs before continuing. “I won’t explain my family history, but just say she was forced to give me up when I was born, and it’s only very recently really they met again and got married finally.”
“I understand,” the man relaxed again, “so you have personal experience of the ‘harm’ that bdsm can do to a relationship?”
“You might say so.”
“Alright - what do you wish to talk about?”
“You know that I have already talked to your wife.”
“My ex-wife – we are divorced,” Yuri said quietly.
“Of course – my apologies. As I said, we talked about what happened, but it is important to hear all sides of a story – the public, the private, and the unspoken.”
“So you are not a fan of Churchill?”
“History is only written by the winners for the winners, Mr Makarov – and in my experience, in the scenarios you and your wife found yourself in, there are no real winners.”
Yuri was stunned at what Kirsten was saying, before he said “so you want to hear what I have to say, without knowing what she said?”
“Indeed – shall we start with how you met…
As Yuri talked, answering Kirsten’s questions, Liz took notes, saying nothing but looking at them both from time to time.
“Your wife was saying,” Kirsten said as she consulted her notes, “that during your marriage she voluntarily ceded most power, control, and responsibility to you. Is that a valid assessment?”
“I suppose it is, though I’m not sure I ever thought of it in quite those terms.” Yuri paused, “I like to think that my marriage was a loving partnership, but I guess when I do think of it then Tatiana was inclined to being submissive yes.”
“And is it fair to also say that in your professional life you are also used to having control and being in authority?”
“I suppose it is.”
“May I make an observation?” Liz asked.
“Well when we were chatting initially Kirsten didn’t tell you that I am also a Domme, and that my sister is as well.”
“No she didn’t,” Yuri gave Liz an appraising look.
“In my experience a lot of customers who seek the services of ProDommes are men who in their ‘real’ lives are tremendously powerful, and who as relief from all the pressure and responsibility need, and like, to give away their power to a fantasy female figure. Is this what happened to you Mr. Makarov?”
“The power transfer is the whole basis of bdsm,” Kirsten added quietly.
“No – if truth be told, I had no idea initially where it was I was going that night,” Yuri said quietly, “but – yes, when I fell deeper in, you have a point.”
“Do you hide a lot of secrets about yourself from the real world Mr. Makarov?” Kirsten asked quietly.
“Do you mean do I like to protect my privacy?”
“In part, but do you also hide behind an illusion as to just who you really are?”
“That’s a tough question Miss Rucker, is it relevant?”
“Not totally,” Kirsten said with a smile, “but it’s a line of thought I might have pursued if I’d been a therapist trying to help you and your wife when your marriage fell apart.”
“Oh?” despite himself Yuri was curious. “Why?”
“Because I think a couple of things. First that you need to acknowledge that you have what you probably see as weaknesses, and secondly that asking for, and taking, help from friends and others isn’t a sign of failure.”
“Interesting thoughts,” Yuri said as he put his cup down, “and I wish to thank you Miss Rucker – you have given me much to think about, and confirmed some things I had been thinking. I believe our time is up – I have a trip to prepare for.”
“Where are the girls,” Liz asked as Agnes closed the door to her flat.
“They have gone to the school – and, I suspect, present shopping,” Agnes said as she showed her two visitors into the front room, leaving them and then returning with a coffee tray.
“So girls what did he say?” Agnes asked as Kirsten and Liz both sat down on her couch.
“I’m pretty sure you can guess a lot of it Aggie,” Liz smiled as she picked up her coffee. “It’s a pretty familiar story.”
“A man with a high pressure career seeing a Domme as a way to release the stresses of his life?”
“Pretty much,” Kirsten took a sip, “but I am inclined to the thought that he was deliberately exposed to BDSM originally by someone with a good read on his personality.”
Sitting back, Agnes slowly sipped from her cup. “So it was a setup?”
“Maybe,” Kirsten took a moment and thought, “but if it wasn’t, they soon discovered that he’d do anything rather then tell the woman he loved that he had a weakness.”
“So they used it as blackmail material?”
“I’m 99% sure of that,” Kirsten nodded.
“And they used me and my dungeon for their purposes,” Aggie started to sound angry.
“Perhaps – but in all honesty Agnes, has it never happened?”
“No – no I cannot say agencies may not have used the dungeon to their ends without my knowledge, but this is different – I talked to your mother, Kirsten.”
“Oh? What for?”
“To ask permission to talk to another party about what happened – the more I hear, the more I feel this man is an innocent, who is caught in something far worse.”
“Well, talk fast – he flies to New York tomorrow,” Liz said.
“Does he now? So do we…”
The Inner Temple
“My apologies, Ma’am,” the clerk said as she looked into Cat’s office, “I have the Duchess of Lardarn on the phone to you now.”
“Oh joy – I can guess what this is about,” Catriona said as she picked up the handset, motioning for the clerk to close the door. “Paula – let me guess, you had a phone call an hour or so ago?”
“Indeed,” Paula Gaunt said, “and we were not the only ones.”
“I did as well,” Tamsin Mahan-Gaunt said.
“And did you get an earful of complaints from Eve as well Paula?” Cat sighed.
“Yes,” the Duchess sighed, “It’s why I set up this three way call to determine what we should do.”
“But I thought they had agreed, this one was one too many, and this close to Christmas?”
“I think that they were willing to accept they had to stay in school this close to the end of term – and then they heard that Olga was getting to go.” Tamsin spoke.
“Yes that’s what has them upset.”
“Agreed Paula,” Cat paused, “I phoned Shirley after I heard Liz’s pleas and it turns out that the invitation to Tatiana and Olga was at Juliette’s request, with a backup from Agnes.”
“Hang on - Aggie asked as well?”
“She did Tippy Toes, which is why I for one don’t think this has anything to do with just putting our noses out of joint.”
“So can we assume this invitation is related to that vile Russian’s bid for Norstar?”
“We probably can Paula,” Cat smiled, “but it also probably has something to do with providing Tatiana and Olga with some personal security. I can’t shake the feeling there is more to what’s going on than meets the eye.”
“All of which is perfectly reasonable, but which is not going to make my daughter any less insistent that she be allowed to come to New York as well,” Tam sounded exasperated. “How do I put Kits off? Do I put her off?”
“Or do we all cave and ring the school?”
“Which might work for you Cat, but I have two other daughters who will not be happy if I get Eve special permission to go to New York and not them.”
“What’s John doing?”
“Not going – he has exams next week.”
Tapping her pen on the table for a moment, Cat said “I think they have us over a barrel on this – but we need to find a way to keep Eileen and Clodagh happy as well.”
“Laura and Miley are coming for the wedding – perhaps…”
“Nope – Aggie won’t change her mind on them. Although – there may be a way to make it less entertaining for them.”
“And that is,” Tamsin asked.
“Have a teacher go with them…”
3 pm GMT
The headmistress looked up as the door opened, and Kit, Liz and Eve came into her office.
“You wished to see us, Miss,” Eve said as she closed the door.
“Yes – I have just had a telephone conversation with your mothers, following Olga Marakova having received a weekend pass out?”
“Oh,” Liz said with her sweetest smile, “on what subject?”
“On the question of whether or not you three should accompany her – as I understand your proposal, to provide support for her?”
“That may have come up in private conversation,” Kit said, “and what have they decided?”
“Well, upon consulting with me, I am prepared to authorize weekend passouts for you three as well, to accompany your parents. There are, however, two conditions.”
“And they are,” Eva said quietly.
“Firstly, you need to explain matters to your sisters, Miss Gaunt.”
“And the second condition?”
“You are accompanied by a member of staff – who has a reason to be in the city as well.”
The three girls looked at each other as the headmistress said “so, be packed and ready to depart at eight Friday morning with Mrs Gresham-Fox as your chaperone…”
“That was a wonderful meal, sis,” Michael Gresham-Fox said as he came back from the kitchen, “just what was needed after a day discoursing with eager young minds.”
“Just so long as that was all they were doing,” Grace said as she brought the coffee through, “I have no desire to explain things to your wife again.”
“So where did you meet your wife Michael?” Harriet asked as they sat down, “was she already a teacher?”
“No,” Michael laughed as he shook his head, “Angela was an army officer when we met, something hush-hush that she has never been able to tell me.”
“I was in the Sudan working on a project exploring historic fish levels in the Nile, and she was there as I said doing something she’s never revealed.”
“You’ve never wondered what?” Sarah sat down, “I hate not knowing secrets personally.”
“Oh I was curious, but we started dating when we both returned to London, and she resigned from the army when we got married and took a job teaching at her old school. Over time it has stopped being important I guess”
“Now she gets to worry what secrets my little brother keeps from her about what happens when he is one of his expeditions,” Grace grinned.
“As if I have any… Hang on…”
Michael looked at his phone and put it to his ear. “Angela – we were just talking about you. How is life at the old school yard.
“Okay then – see you when I see you.”
“What was that about,” Grace said as she poured the coffee.
“Oh – Angela is coming over for the weekend as well. Something about having to accompany some sixth formers…”
5 pm GMT
“Sir,” Kay said as she went into the oak lined room, “you wished to see me.”
“I did,” the tall man standing at the window said, “I saw your briefing note, before your trip this weekend. Some things are – worrying.”
“In what way Sir?”
“Can you assure me that the whole Shakespeare Project isn’t going to blow up in our faces Kay?” the Director-General gestured for his subordinate to sit down. “The service has too much invested in this for it to fall apart due to such a relatively trivial matter.”
“I know sir,” Kay smoothed her skirt out as she sat down, “but I can’t be seen to be intervening overtly without tipping our hand.”
“Understood,” the older man started to drum his fingers on his desk, ‘but I need to know what measures you have put in place in case it all turns sour?’
For a few seconds Kay looked around the immaculately neat office while she organized her thoughts.
“I’ve done what I can sir, but when an operative is out there on their own they know they are literally putting their lives on the line. Shakespeare is a professional, and very good at this…”
“I know, but so was that damn Russian dancer, and look what happened to him,” the DG interrupted.
“I’m trying to discreetly distract people, but this has all gotten very public, very quickly,” Kay said quietly. “We may just need let this whole mess regarding Norstar Models play out, and just keep heads down till it’s settled.”
“Some of these people you know Kay are both bright, and have extremely good sources of information themselves, what risk do you honestly think there is they will fit all the pieces together?”
“I’m not sure, but at least I’ll be in New York and able to keep a close eye on things.”
“Let’s just hope that is good enough. This is critical, especially at the moment, Kay – keep me informed.”
“Well, I’m going to have dinner with some of those friends now, so we shall see…”
8 pm GMT
“I just want to rip someone’s head off over this,” Agnes McAdam said as she sat at the table with her two friends.
“Calm down Aggie,” Sherry tried again to get the Scotswoman to chill out.
“I just hate the thought that I got played and used like that Sherry.”
“We can tell,” Kay smiled as she tried to see if the waiter was bringing their food.
“And I guess I’m also angry at myself that I missed all the signs that the Russians were setting Yuri Makarov up. I’m usually better than that”
“Did he admit to this trainee therapist that he knew he’d been played?”
“No Kay darling,” Agnes sighed, “but both Kirsten and Liz know enough about the realities of BDSM to read between the lines.”
“Well I for one bow to your superior knowledge of that whole damn thing,” Sherry smiled. “I know nothing at all about it all.”
“Are you saying that you and Mike never even experimented?” Kay asked with an amused look in her eye. “Ray and I have tied each other up a few times. You never got Mike never to use his handcuffs on you?”
“No,” Sherry laughed as she shook her head, “I guess we are both boringly vanilla.”
“It can be fun,” Kay laughed as well.
“Be that as it may,” Aggie still sounded agitated, “I don’t like that it all happened right under my nose.”
“Look, what happened happened,” Kay said quietly as the waiters brought their food over, “let it go. Tomorrow we all fly over for the wedding – and I for one am looking forward to it immensely.”
“Even with the additional guests,” Agnes said.
“Oh yes – my darling niece and two of her friends – Cat Crawford and Paula Gaunt’s daughters. Seems another friend of theirs is going with her mother.”
“Oh – anyone I know?”
“Tatiana Ulyanova and Olga Marakova?”
Kay had started to lift a forkful of food to her mouth, but she stopped and said “the model and her daughter? Why are they going?”
“Apparently, she’s an old friend of Klaus and Juliette – so they invited them over for the weekend, the girls heard, and – well. It’s been a fun afternoon. But one of the teachers is having to go with them.”
“Well, serves them right…” Sherry said as she sipped her wine.
“So did you vent your spleen at anyone else Aggie, or did you reserve all your bile for old friends?” Kay asked.
“Oh I had a moan to Donald,” Agnes said as she put her glass down, “and I also did something naughty.”
“What?” Sherry asked as she sipped her own wine.
“Oh I rang an old Russian contact of mine…And don’t look at me like that Kay, I said I misbehaved.”
“And what did this old contact say?” Kay asked quietly.
“He said that the top guys in Russia are worried that one of their own isn’t playing by the rules”
“Meaning what?” Sherry sounded interested.
“That he is either not paying what the real top men consider their dues, or he’s leaking their secrets. Either way they want to flush out whoever it is.”
Kay looked across the table at her friend, before she said “it would be just like them to try and do it without tipping their hand to anyone. Especially now, with the new administration for their old friends.”
“You’re not going to explain that one, are you?”
“No I’m not,” Kay said with a smile, “anyway – how the heck did you get 6 down today Desdemona…”
Thursday 8th December
11 am GMT
Heathrow, Terminal 5
“Ladies and Gentlemen, if you could take your seats as quickly as possible…”
Yuri Makarov tried to stretch in his seat, and found it all but impossible. He wished he’d defied his employers’ orders and flown business class, but forcing him to fly coach was one of the little humiliations ‘they’ liked to enforce upon him occasionally to prove who had the upper hand. He hadn’t even being allowed to book the seats with a little more room…
“When they say jump, I ask how high?” he thought to himself as he closed his eyes and tried to relax. No doubt this downgrade in his ticket was due to their displeasure over him talking to Kristin Rucker, but personally he was glad he had. He’d been able to open up slightly to another person and she had actually given him some things to think about.
He would survive the discomfort of being crammed into this plane, after all he’d survived worse things at the hands of Byushin and the others, but he said a silent prayer that hopefully one day soon this would all be over.
Then, maybe, he could be reunited with his family, and they would understand why he did what he did… For now, however, he would endure the food, the drink – at least he could watch whatever he wanted.
They had indicated that The Night Manager was available to watch on one channel…
“This is amazing,” Miley said as she sat in her seat, Laura next to her and the window as her older sister looked out, “so much room.”
“And the channels on your set have been adjusted,” Aggie said as she put her bag into the overhead locker, “so no swapping once we’re in the air, all right?”
“Spoilsport,” Laura said as she stuck her tongue out.
“So are your political masters aware they are paying for us to fly business class Ray? Or aren’t they?”
“No Aggie,” the civil servant laughed at the next seat down, “fortunately they aren’t paying a penny, if they were we’d be back there in coach,” he gestured over his shoulder.
“The treasury is having one of its periodic fits about expenses and travel,” Kay added.
“Even for your department darling?” Agnes lifted an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Especially us,” the woman from the SIS sighed, “the new minister has sent the bean counters in and suddenly we are paying for our own coffee.”
“I had a memo querying our entertainment budget at the embassy,” Donald shook his head, “I had to explain the facts of life regarding just what the French expect in the way of being wined and dined before they will even talk to me.”
“Oh at least they can’t complain about us all getting the weekend off to come over to New York for a wedding if we pay for it ourselves.”
“They will find something Aggie,” Ray laughed. “So let’s enjoy the flight over.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we need you know to take your seats…”
“Showtime,” Agnes said as she passed the girls a boiled sweet, Donald and Ray taking the window seats and strapping themselves in before the two women did.
“Alright is there anything in all this that I’ve missed?” Kay whispered as she started to read the contents of the notebook she had carried on in her handbag. She’d seen Yuri Makarov boarding in coach as she and the others had embarked, and she guessed that the fact of his being on this plane had a lot to do with the material she was looking at.
“So just what is really going on with Norstar?” Kay asked herself, “and is it something I really should be worrying about?”
She’d met Byushin once, at an embassy meet and greet in Moscow when he was still just a rising star, and he’d tried hitting on her. From what she remembered it had grossed her out, though she’d played along for a little…just in case it might lead to something worthwhile for her work. The man was aggressive and tough, and thought he could have whatever he wanted if he bribed, or beat up, the right person. They were ‘qualities’ that fitted a lot of the oligarchs who had been successful, and prospered, in recent times.
So was it all a business matter, was it as mundane as being just about sex, or did Makarov’s appearance first in London, now on this plane, truly signify something was going on that she need know?
Questions, questions… Kay looked across at Ray as the plane taxied off, and out her notebook on her lap…
“Now haven’t I seen you in something on television?” Yuri looked at the grey haired woman next to him, “do you do something in the fashion industry?”
“I actually teach fashion students at a university ‘ow to sew,” Rose smiled, “but I also do work for a few friends in the business.”
“Now I’ve placed you,” Yuri smiled, “you did the embroidery on Juliette Huntingdown’s wedding dress.”
“Yes,” Rose blushed.
“I saw you on an awards show didn’t I?”
“Yes,” Rose looked at the man, “forgive me, but you don’t look like a guy follows the fashion industry?”
“Well more a case I know some people. I was a law student in Paris in the early 90’s and I have known Juliette, Diana de Ros, and several other models and ex-models for years. I was even married to a model.”
“Oh - who?”
“Do you know Tatiana Ulyanova?”
“I’ve met her.” Rose thought, ”she was at Juliette’s wedding.”
“Which was why despite Klaus inviting me, I wasn’t.”
“Understood,” Rose nodded.
“So can I ask why you flying to New York?”
“Me daughter’s boss is getting married, and I was invited.”
“So did you work on this wedding dress?”
“No,” Rose said with a smile, “but I do work with the designer of the dress – Kylie Mitchell.”
“Ah, the teenage genius,” Yuri said as he nodded his head, “so this is purely a social occasion for you.”
“Indeed,” Rose said as the steward came over.
“Miss Harper, we have the usual menu prepared for you – will you take some apple juice with your meal?”
“Thank you, yes?”
“Forgive me – a special menu?”
“I cannot tolerate alcohol – a personal thing.”
“Of course – forgive me. My name is Yuri.”
“Rose – do you have children?”
“A daughter – she is seventeen. You only have the one daughter?”
“And a granddaughter…”
Rhenia smiled as she came into the meeting room, to see Maddie sitting there, her white blouse under the black trouser suit.
“Rhenia – have you managed to get fully settled now,” Maddie said as she stood up and held her arms out.
“I have indeed – where is Emma today?”
“She’s gone with Sandra to do some last minute shopping, then she’s meeting the girls for a rehearsal for Saturday. I’ll meet up with Sandra later – Shirley wants to see us at the apartment.”
“Fair enough,” Rhenia said as Missy came in. “Good to see you, Maddie,” she said as they all sat down, “how is Kathy?”
“She’s well – but concerned, as I am, about what is happening. I know Francesca has received the formal offer – but I hear other things have happened.”
“Indeed – Svenson, his – representative – tried to get in to see Juliette yesterday without an appointment, but Marina stopped him. There have been other developments, however – Byushin is apparently in New York, and Makarov is flying in later today.”
“They are?” Maddie looked at Missy, before she said “Francesca arrives tomorrow with the others, correct?”
“Indeed – Rhenia has instructed security not to allow any representative of Byushin into the office, and Marian has done the same over at CS. We need to be on our guard, however…”
“In case they approach us in other ways?”
“Indeed – he must know what is happening this weekend. Rhenia, can you talk to Caroline please – she’s handling security for the event…
The Inn on the Green
“So I take it we are all going to go watch Mo do her thing at this photo-shoot?” Nessa asked as the little group waited to be served.
“Well count me in for sure,” Lee Peyton said with a laugh “I might actually learn something I can use.”
“Lee you are incorrigible,” Paulie shook her head.
“Who me?” the brunette giggled.
“Yes you,” the other women chorused.
“Hey it’s Maureen who is the expert in Japanese bondage.”
“Yeah who’d of thunk it,” Nessa shook her head, “Maureen Gardiner, Shibari mistress.”
“Well not me,” Lee said as she shook her head, “I had always thought of her as being straight and dull.”
“Compared to you dear cousin, she always has been…”
“And you Ness darling were far, far, worse,” Lee interrupted.
“She’s making up for lost time now though,” Glenda laughed, “just who was that stud dropped you off outside Ness dear?”
“None of your beeswax Glenda Verducci,” Nessa laughed, “and I might equally ask who that gorgeous man I saw you with last night at the club?”
“The three of you,” Paulie shook her head, ”I thought women our age were supposed to lose interest in sex?”
“Were we? News to me – by the way, not a word to David this Saturday.”
“As if we would,” Lee laughed as Paulie looked at them…
“Oh it feels so good not having to go somewhere and change back,” Krys looked at her reflection in the mirror and smiled. “I can relax and enjoy being me, do the things I want to do – including wearing something like this in the middle of the day!”
“Me,” she murmured as she turned from side to side.
For a few seconds Tommy asserted himself and thought about that, was the blonde stunner staring back at him in the mirror now really ‘me’? He reflected back on that Russian obviously trying to get to know Krys better, and wondered why the thought actually amused him. Didn’t it concern him that most of the male population now desired his female alter ego? Shouldn’t he at least be a little revolted that men now wanted little more then to get him/her into bed?
“When I look like this?” Krys giggled as she looked at the pale pink baby doll nightie that tented over her large breasts and which allowed her to show her long legs to such advantage.
“Face it Tommy I’m drop dead gorgeous, and you love being me.”
“But are you taking over?”
“Only if you let me…”
Tommy shook his head and headed for the bedroom. He needed to go out for supplies, and this was not the best outfit to wear for that purpose…
“I’m glad you made it safely Mum, and that you found Clint without any problems. Once you’re unpacked, get a taxi here – Kylie will be here as well for the final fittings, and the gowns arrived safely this morning.”
Susan put her hand over the phone as Pamela came into the office.
“Madeline and Sandra are in the conference room, Susan.”
“Thanks – Mum, I’ve got to go to a meeting. I’ll see you later – and give April a kiss from me.” Putting the phone down, Susan stood up and brushed the lint from her trouser suit, then picked up her pad as she made her way to the conference room.
She smiled as she saw Maddie and Sandra standing by the window, looking out over the city. “Well, this is a meeting of minds,” she said with a smile.
“Indeed,” Sandra said as she turned round, “two of the three directors. Penny?”
“Flies in tomorrow with Helen – Dom, you look hassled.”
“I am a bit,” Dominique said as she came in, “this Byushin business.”
“Somebody want to tell me about it?”
“I do,” Shirley said in her deep voice as she came in, “because we need a detached view of experience. Sit down, let me bring you up to speed…”
The Waldorf Astoria
Laura and Miley looked over as they heard the knock on the door, and when Miley opened it Agnes looked in.
“Unpacked and settled in, girls?”
“Yes Mum,” Laura said with a smile.
“Good – I just had a message that Katy Carter is coming to see you later tonight, while I go to see Aunt Shirley, and your father meets with Uncle Will.”
“Great,” Miley said, “so what do we get to do?”
“I think she’s going to take you to have some time with a couple of the other girls…”
“What do you think, darling?”
“I’m amazed,” Rose said as she stepped back and looked at Kylie. “It certainly seems to bring out the best in both of them.”
“It feels wonderful,” Ama said as she looked at Maisha, “what is it made from?”
“Lambs wool – sourced from Fitzstuarts Woolens,” Kylie said with a smile, “and the jackets certainly offset it. Good – take them off carefully, darlings, and I will see you on Saturday.”
As Maisha and Ama walked out of the room, Maddie and Sandy walked in.
“I knew the suits were the way to go, Darlings,” Kylie said with a smile.
“Kylie, I am flabbergasted – I know what Emma has for tomorrow but this…”
“Steve won’t recognise me in this,” Sandy said as she turned from side to side, “if this is us, what do you have for Shirley?”
“You will see on Friday,” Rose said as she pinned Sandy’s jacket. “Now – go and change.”
As they went off, Rose left, walking back in with Shirley as Kylie smiled, and said “exquisite, darling…”
The Burton Apartment
“Hey there – come away in,” Erica said with a smile as she stood back, Katy coming in with Laura and Miley. All three girls were wearing padded jackets, with jeans tucked into boots, and when they took their jackets off they were all wearing jumpers.
“I felt they would appreciate a night with the five of us,” Katy said with a smile, “given the grown ups are either at work or at a party.”
“Yeah – Mom has gone to see Ian about something,” Erica said as she closed the door. “Come on through – Mel and I have ordered some pizzas, and we can talk.”
“Hey,” Mel said as she waved from the chair, her long legs stretched out, “good to see you both. How was the flight?”
“Not too bad, but it’s so cold here,” Miley said as she sat down, “it’s worse than our old place in Paddington.”
“Well, we are further north,” Erica said, “so looking forward to the wedding?”
“We are – but Mum seems to be worried about something,” Laura said quietly. “She tries to hide it, but we can tell.”
“Is it me or is this all rather peaceful compared to similar events in the groups recent past darling?” Mandy drawled in her trademarked, languid, style as the ladies stood round the drawing room.
“If you mean that no fights have broken out, and everybody still has their clothes on, then I guess yes it is,” Kelly smiled.
“I think people got all that out of their systems in Italy,” Diana sipped her drink. “This is more an opportunity to relax.”
“True,” Mandy said quietly, “it was a weekend to remember.”
“That it was Mandy,” Sigrid spoke up, “still at least this means I can forget all my cares and just relax.”
“We all can,” Tonia joined the conversation, “so is Brooke feeling any better Diana?”
“She has good spots and bad ones,” Diana said quietly, “but she will get better.”
“Good. If anyone deserves a new chance, it is Brooke.”
“So where is Abby Diana?”
“Out with Grace and Jeannie talking with Missy’s new girl Krys, She has her first shoot tomorrow and they are there to help soothe her nerves I think.”
“Babysitting,” Sandy said as she sipped her wine, “for Annie, while she goes to a teachers meeting.
“So why aren’t your daughters here tonight Ju? Maddie asked as they stood on the balcony.
“They have classes tomorrow,” Juliette said with a smile, “they’ll drive to New York when they finish.”
“Studies come first.”
“Exactly.” Juliette smiled, ”Jo, the twins, and all our other college students are in the same boat.”
“So how is work?”
“Oh,” Maddie laughed, “shall I be bold and ask both kinds?”
“Well I’m finishing editing Fiona’s book, and I’m doing a couple of events promoting my book about Aunt Jane…”
“Thank you for the signed copy by the way.”
“All while still getting the February and March editions of CS ready.”
“So no time for?” Madeline touched her nose discreetly.
“No I even had to call off a couple of things, just too much else going on.”
“Don’t you just hate it when real life gets in the way?” Maddie laughed.
“So what about you?”
“Honestly, we had to let one plan go – JD is filming, and Tracey had to take care of a family matter. But, with Emma preparing for her tour, we wanted to spend more time together while we could.”
“I can understand that…”
“Listen – this business with Byushin. I heard Marina had to step in.”
“Indeed – and I hear he is in the country. Interesting…”
“Francesca – going my way?”
“Indeed,” the Italian noblewoman said as she and Charlotte greeted Agnes in the lobby.
“And where is Frances?”
“Piet is looking after her – shall we go up?”