Jaws of the Vice









July 25th
9 am
The de Ros Mansion


As Diana slowly walked down the staircase, she could smell the coffee that Edith was brewing in the kitchen.


The red haired Irish housekeeper looked over as she entered the kitchen, looking regal as always even when what she was wearing was a pale blue jogging suit and trainers with a white t-shirt under the zipped top.


“Good morning, Mrs. de Ros,” Edith said as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it to her, “Will Miss Abigail be coming down soon?”


“No – let her sleep,” Diana said with a smile as she sat down and looked at the Times.  “This is really the first chance she’s had to have some time to herself for a month, and I want her to take every second she needs to rest.”


“Very good, Mrs. de Ros,” Edith said as she went back to preparing breakfast.  “Miss Huntingdown rang to see if you could drop in at the office today to discuss August?”


“She’ll want to know when we’re heading to the summer house,” Diana said as she idly turned the page of the paper.  “I’ll call in and see…”


Edith looked round to see her employer staring at the paper.


“Mrs. de Ros, is something wrong?”


“Hmm?”  Diana looked up and shook her head.  “No – no Edith, it was merely an announcement in the paper that took me somewhat by surprise.  I have to go out – when Miss Abigail finally emerges, tell her I will be back in time for lunch.”


“Of course, Mrs. de Ros,” Edith said as Diana took the paper, grabbed her handbag and headed for the front door.  Collecting the coffee mug, she emptied it and washed it carefully, before returning to her other chores.


As she sat in her car, Diana looked at the society page of the paper again.  It showed a photograph of a silver haired woman in a high collared blouse, accompanied by a younger woman with long blonde hair in a leather jacket and light coloured blouse.


She glanced again at the caption underneath.


Valeria, Countess de Ros, accompanied by her daughter Natasha, arriving at JFK airport yesterday.


“Que diable fait-elle ici?” she said as she started the engine and drove off.




10 am
Manchester, MA


“Good morning sleepy head – and just what time did you come in last night?”


Joanne rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms up as she looked at Heather.  She was wearing a pair of blue shorts and a matching t-shirt.


“I will have you know I was in by eleven, Heather – and if you don’t believe me ask Carina.  She dropped me off here before she headed for home.”


“Ask me what,” Carina said as she came into the kitchen.


“You’re up and about early,” Heather said as she looked at Cari push herself up onto a seat at the breakfast bar, holding her back as she nursed the visible bump in her stomach.


“I had an appointment with my doctor,” Cari said as she picked up a slice of toast, “She came up to see me at home – Mom had to go into the office today.  Where are the kids?”


“Outside – the new treehouse Sandy had put in is proving a big hit,” Heather said as she put her hand on Carina’s stomach.  “How is she?”


“Big and healthy,” Carina said with a smile.  “Anyway, I did drop Jo here off at eleven – I needed to get some sleep last night, and Mom’s turning into a bit of a monster about it.”


“Can you blame her?”


“No – not really,” Cari said with a smile. 


“Oh,” Joanne said as she sipped her coffee, “Abby phoned last night?”


“She’s back?”


“Yeah – and Diana is bringing her up tomorrow to my place.  I think she’s coming a week later.”


“Great – I haven’t seen Aunt Di for more than ten minutes since I came up here,” Carina said as the doorbell rang.


“I’ll get it,” Joanne said as she stood up and walked to the front of the house.


“How are you otherwise,” Heather said as she looked at Carina.


“Don’t worry – the Beast is content for the moment,” she said as Jo called out “Judy – when did you land here?”


“Two days ago,” Judy McNally said as she came in.  “My folks had to head down to JFK, so I thought I’d drop in and say Hi.”


“Hey Ju,” Carina said as she hugged her future roommate, “how’s the summer for you?”


“I can’t complain – when does Abby get up here?”


“Tomorrow – why?”


“Because when my folks get back, Tony will be with them – he’s come over for a few weeks.”


10.30 am
Complete Style Magazine


Given the choice, Juliette would still be in Beverley, but Anne and Mary had insisted on the meeting this morning.  “At least,” she thought as she walked to her office, “I get a chance to talk to….”


As she walked in, she was shocked to see Diana there, not just casually dressed, but with a look of both fear and anger on her face.


“What has got you so upset darling?”


Diana threw the paper down, exclaiming, “Didn’t you see the papers darling?”


“I thought you never read the newspapers Diana?” Juliette smiled.


“Well, well, well… “ Diana stumbled for the word she wanted. “That woman is in New York.”


“What woman?”


“Mon beaucoup apprécié belle-mère et sa fille se révolte.”




“Precisely,” Diana said, “Valeria is so reactionary she makes ME look positively liberal”


“I know Darling.” Juliette reached out to hug her best friend.


“That woman is positively antediluvian… You know JUST what she’s going to say about Abigail’s modelling career and the dignity of the de Ros family. And what of course is worse is that Abigail adores her.”


 “Don’t sweat it darling, knowing Valeria it will be a flying visit and she’ll scuttle back to her chateau.


“Dear Goddess I hope so Ju.  I really want some time away next week – and if SHE and Natasha are around…”


“Diana, does Abigail know they are in the city?”


Diana suddenly turned and stared at Juliette.  “Oh no – you don’t suppose…  Forgive me, Juliette, but I must…”


“Call me later,” she shouted after the rapidly departing Diana.



10.45 am
The de Ros Mansion


“Good morning, Edith,” Abigail said as she came into the kitchen, wearing a silk kimono wrapped around her body, “any coffee in the pot?”


“Yes, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she poured a mug and handed it over.  “Your mother said to tell you she would be back in time for lunch.”


“She went out?  She wasn’t planning to,” Abby said, “and where’s the paper?”


“She took it with her – excuse me, Miss Abigail, I need to see who is at the front door.”


“Sure,” Abby said as she sat at the breakfast bar, and drank her coffee.  As she did so, however, she heard Edith say, “I am sorry, Madame, but Mrs. de Ros is not home at present…”


“I am a countess, and you would do well to remember that.  I ask again, is Countess de Ros at home?”


The French accent made Abigail sit bolt upright, and then come through from the kitchen.  Edith was standing just inside the door, but on the outside was a tall, thin woman with silver hair, wearing a red silk dress with red shoes.


“Grandmama?  This is an unexpected pleasure – Mama did not tell me you were coming.”


“Indeed,” Valeria de Ros said as she looked at her granddaughter.  “That much is painfully obvious to me.”


Abigail glanced down, and then said “Edith, would you show Countess de Ros into the front room, and see that she has some coffee.  I will join her shortly.”


“Of course, Miss Abigail.  This way,” Edith said as Abigail took the stairs two at a time, and ran into her room.  She silently thanked the goddess that being a model made her an expert at the quick change, as five minutes later she came back down, dressed now in a short sleeved primrose yellow dress with matching high heels.


“Much better,” Valeria said as Abigail came into the room.


“My apologies, Grandmama,” Abigail said as Edith brought a pot of coffee in, along with the best china, “but I did not return home until last night, and it was rather late.  Mama allowed me to sleep in.  May I offer you some coffee?”


“Thank you,” Valeria said as Abigail poured the coffee and offered her a cup.


“So what brings you to New York?  I thought you rarely travelled these days.”


“I have some business to conduct here, and your aunt Natasha is looking into a number of opportunities.”


“Aunt Natasha is here as well?  Why did she not accompany you today?”


“She is required elsewhere, but she looks…”


The two of them turned as Diana came in, panting slightly.


“Mama, look who has come to visit,” Abigail said with a smile.


“So…  So I see.  Good morning, Countess.”


Valeria looked her up and down, before saying “Good morning, Diana.  Do you require some time to dress and compose yourself?”


“No – but I will take some of that coffee if it is on offer, Abigail.  What brings you to New York?”


“As I was explaining to Abigail, I have some business matters to attend to.”  She finished her cup and stood.  “I will be at La Maison at seven this evening with Natasha.  I will see you both then.”


“With all due respect, Countess…”


“Until then,” Valeria said as she walked out, Abigail signaling to Edith to show her out.


“Goddess protect me,” Diana said as she sat down, “I have descended into the fifth circle.  Abigail, have Edith open a bottle of the ’69 to have with lunch.”


“A little early for the good stuff, isn’t it Mama,” Abby said as she sat down.  Diana looked at her daughter, raising an eyebrow before she said, “How long did it take you to realize you had to change.”


“Five minutes – but Mama, she means well…”


"Abby darling my ability to tolerate your grandmother is in a precise mathematical relationship with the amount of wine I have drunk."

“Meaning what Mama?"

"The more drunk I am, the less likely I am to want to throttle her."

Abigail looked at her mother in mock horror.  "Grandmama is not that bad."

"To you darling, No… but she never wanted me to marry her son, that I only bore one grandchild was not good enough, and that you were a girl and I couldn't sire more male de Ros' - well that was the ultimate sin on my part."


Diana rubbed her head before saying “We will go to dinner tonight – more than that I cannot promise.”



4 pm
Manchester Beach


If the previous summer’s vacation had been themed by Abigail’s complaints that her breasts were not growing, this was the year of Carina complaining about her stomach growing so large, and incidentally now needing a double D cup bra.


Carina sat on the beach, watching Little George and Sandy playing happily at the water’s edge with Heather, Jo and Judy. She wished she could join in, but her doctors were telling her she needed plenty of rest.  Besides, the tunic and leggings she was wearing were not conducive to sea water.


Inwardly she was talking to her other half, who was getting restless at all the inactivity. The Beast was craving blood, she desperately needed the thrill of torture and murder, but the saner voice of Carina was restraining her, reminding the thing within her how much greater the pleasure would be when baby was safely delivered, and they could go prowl the world for a fresh victim together.


Carina lay down and let the beast’s fantasies enter her brain. Visions of blood and the sounds of screaming started to arouse and excite her, surreptitiously Carina touched herself, letting her passions rise, before she heard a young girl ask.


“Do you have an itch down there Carina? Does it need me to scratch it?” Young Sandy stood there looking at Carina, as the teenager burst into laughter.


“I’m afraid it’s the kind of itch you can’t help me with darling – but thank you anyway.”


“Okay.” Little Sandy ran back to the waters edge.


 “Oh to be that innocent again.” Carina whispered to herself.


Carina had thought seriously about driving down to the farm, getting one of Heather’s stock of cars, going somewhere and doing a drive by shooting.  Something, anything, to release that overwhelming, delirious feeling, which such violence gave her.


But again she’d listened to the saner side of her brain and let the thoughts pass. At night The Beast constantly reminded Carina how much she owed her for being this restrained.  Here, in the open, she could contain it. 


She also knew Juliette was watching her for signs of the Beast as well.  Sometimes, she caught a genuine look of worry in her mother’s eyes – a worry she shared as well.


“Hey!” Judy ran up the beached and dropped to the sand next to her friend.


“Hey back.” Carina smiled.


“They love all this.” Judy indicated the small children.


“Yeah, it’s just great for them to come here away from the city and unwind.”


“Well in not so many years you’ll be doing the same with her.” Judy pointed at the bump.


“I guess.” Carina lifted her glasses up. “I just hope though her life won’t be totally predictable, be nice if she gets a few surprises along the way.”


“Still no ideas on names?” Judy raised what was becoming a hot topic of conversation.


“Other than Abigail as one of her middle names, still nope.”


“Well Judith is nice.” Judy giggled.


“So is Joanne.” Jo shook her hair out as she grabbed a towel.


“Everyone’s name is nice.” Cari laughed, “but I still can’t decide.  As soon as I do, you’ll be amongst the second to know.”


“Well you still have a few weeks.” Heather kissed Cari on the cheek.


“I like Alexandra!” the little girl stood with her arms crossed and a strict look.


“So do I” Carina grabbed her and started tickling her.



6 pm
The de Ros Mansion


Diana was driving herself to distraction just trying to pick out a dress to wear for dinner with her former mother-in-law. 40 discarded dresses sat on her bed in a neat pile as she ransacked her closets.

"I just know whatever I wear that damn woman will find to criticize.,” she growled to herself.

"Then why all the fuss mama?"

Diana looked over her shoulder at Abigail.

"Because I will not endure one of that woman's snubs tonight."

Abigail laughed lightly as she undid her robe to reveal a skintight white strapless gown with a covering of the most delicate beadwork and embroidery.

"Okay I know I never bought that for you darling?" Diana asked accusingly, "How much did it cost?

"It's a borrower from Mary."


“I see – and did the remarkable Miss Thomas have any suggestions for me?”


“Funny you should ask,” Abigail said as she held up a dress bag, “have a look.”


Diana took the bag and opened it, whistling to herself as she removed the blue velvet gown.  It had long sleeves and a daring neckline, the centre panel of opaque silk promising more modesty than the cut suggested.


“Stylish, but also traditional enough to meet even Grandmama’s tastes,” Abigail said with a smile.  “Want a hand to put it on?”


“Why not – this will show the harridan I am no mere chick for her to stamp on,” Diana said as she headed for the bathroom, Abby shaking her head as she followed her with her eyes.



7 pm
La Maison


Countess Valeria sat tapping her feet; she abhorred tardiness at all times, and particularly when it was her former daughter-in-law who was the one who was late.


She was at the restaurant early, she expected everyone else to do the same.  Natasha sat next to her, fiddling with her napkin as she looked at her mother.  The Countess was wearing a black long sleeved gown, while Natasha was wearing a knee length red velvet dress with a round collar.


Suddenly she heard the door of the private dining room open and Diana and Abigail made their entrance, handing their coats to the clerk and revealing their gowns.


“I’m sorry we are late Countess,” Diana said as she walked forward, “the traffic was horrific.”


“Good evening Grandmother.” Abigail added, “Our cabbie was equally hopeless.”


Raising an eyebrow, Valeria sniffed at the comment and said, “You came by taxi?”


“It is better than booking a chauffer driven car for the short journey,” Diana said as first she, then Abigail kissed her on both cheeks, before doing the same to Natasha.


“How are you Natasha?” Diana asked.


“Natasha is good.” Valeria answered for her daughter.


The waiters exchanged meaningful glances as they seated the four ladies, they could already tell it was going to be one of ‘those’ nights.


“You may start to serve.” Valeria said as she waved a hand at the waiters.


“I saw your photographs in Vogue.” Natasha spoke to her niece.


“Did you like them?” Abby smiled at her aunt.


“Very much, I particularly… “ Natasha went silent as she received an icy glance from her mother.


Conversation dried up as the waiters brought in the Hors d'oeuvre’s and the wine.


As the wine waiter served the wine, first offering it to the Countess Valeria as the hostess, Diana noticed of course that it was Chateau Ros, from the Countesses’ own vineyard in the Medoc.


“The 92 was not our greatest year, but this is satisfactory.” Valeria dismissed the waiters after each woman had her drink and food.


They sat in silence for a moment, looking at each other before they started eating.


“Why are you in New York Grandmamma?” Abigail asked the question that was on both hers and her mother’s mind.


“Do I need a reason to come see my Granddaughter?”


Abigail smiled.  “Of course not, grandmamma, but you visit so rarely, and with no warning, we were naturally concerned.”


Diana nodded – grateful that Abigail had taken the lead.  She may have been more – direct.


“We were in Paris a few weeks ago as well…”


“Pshaw – a city that has descended into decadence.  I will not visit it unless I absolutely must.  Still, given your new found fame, I understand why you did not have time to visit me.”


Diana rolled her eyes and took another drink before saying “So why are you here, Countess?”


“Firstly,” Valeria said as she looked to Natasha, “to give Abigail her birthday present.”


Natasha wiped her mouth and put her napkin down before picking up her purse, and taking out a faded velvet box.  She handed it over to Abigail, who opened it and said “Grandmamma, this is…”


“It is the de Ros brooch,” Valeria said as Diana watched her daughter take out the emerald and gold jewel, “and I wish you to have it.”


“Countess,” Diana said quietly, “this is a most generous gift.  I know how much you value it.”


“It is nothing – and she is deserving of it,” Valeria said as Abigail put the jewel away.  She caught the look in Natasha’s eyes as the waiters returned and cleared away the plates, returning with the main course.


Once they had left, Valeria said “I’m here to see Sotheby’s about arranging an auction, and your aunt will be joining the consulate here.”


“Congratulations Natasha.” Diana smiled.


“Félicitations tante Natasha.” Abby added.


“Thank you.” Natasha smiled modestly.  “It is a junior posting, but I feel it beings honor to our family name.”


As she looked at her, Diana could not help wondering how much she knew of her brother’s time over here.  She had only been sixteen when she and Abigail had moved over here, and it may be that Valeria kept much hidden from her.


In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she wondered how much Valeria herself knew, but this was not the place and this was not the time to ask such questions.


“So what are you wanting to sell at Sotheby’s Countess?” Diana asked politely.


“Most of the paintings and sculpture from my home.” Valeria said it in a matter of fact manner.


“Most of the what?” Diana spluttered slightly as she had been taking a sip of her wine.


“Well they are nice, but I think it’s clear Abigail would rather live here in America, and so I think maybe we can put the money to better use on modernizing the estate and our production.”


“So you are saying if Abigail lived in France, you’d maybe be thinking differently?” Diana was pretty sure she understood the old ladies reason for dropping this bombshell.


“I do not believe I said that,” Valeria said quietly, “but in these straitened economic times, tough decisions do have to be made.  It means little to me if the money raised can be put to good use.”


Abigail leaned over and whispered to Natasha “Why is Grandmamma doing this?”


“I learned not to question her decisions a long time ago,” Natasha whispered back, “no matter what my personal feelings may be.”


“Countess,” Diana said as she put her knife and fork down, “Surely you are robbing Natasha of her birthright by doing this?”


“I have provided for my family,” Valeria said quietly as she wiped her chin, “and do not need more.  Obviously, with Abigail’s current lifestyle, art is not a major concern for her.”


Abigail looked over at Diana, who flashed a warning look as the waiters cleared the plates.  “Well, it will be Abigail’s decision where to make her home when she turns eighteen and finishes school.


“Changing the subject for a moment, we are heading to see Juliette and the others tomorrow – they are already at their summer houses and we will stay with her in Beverley.  Would you care to come and see them during your visit?”


“Perhaps we could, Mama,” Natasha said quietly, “It has been a long time since we saw her and Carina.”


Valeria looked at her daughter in law, as the dessert was prepared at their sides, the brandy flaming as the pancakes were cooked.  “I had heard a rumor that young Carina was with child.”


“She is – about seven months,” Abigail said.  “The father sadly disappeared, but she is going to bring the baby up, as her mother brought her up.”


“That sounds like a very brave decision,” Natasha said, but Valeria merely snorted as she ate her crepes Suzette.


“I am sorry, Countess,” Diana said quietly, “but I personally support Carina’s decision.  She will have the baby and still be a student, which to me shows amazing bravery.”


Valeria remained silent, before saying “Yes, we shall join you on Monday if that is acceptable.”


“I am sure Juliette will look forward to it,” Diana said with a fixed smile.



July 26th
Riverside Road, Beverley
11 am



“They’re here,” Carina, cried out as the Daimler pulled up outside.  She walked outside, her smock top over her black Capri pants, and hugged Abigail as she got out of the car.


“Hey kid,” Abigail said as she looked at her friend, “You look wonderful.”


“I feel big,” Cari said with a smile, “but I’m glad you finally got here.  Hey, Aunt Di.”


“Carina,” Diana said as she hugged her goddaughter, “Is your mother here?”


“Right here,” Juliette said as she stood in the doorway.  “Bring the bags in – I’ve got some drinks set up on the patio.”


“I could do with one,” Diana said as she rubbed her forehead and carried a bag in.


“Is she all right?” Carina said as she picked up a bag.


“Rough night – Grandmamma is in town.”


Carina stopped and looked at Abigail.  “Grandmamma?  Countess de Ros herself is in New York?  And you survived?”


“She is not that bad, honestly,” Abby said as she closed the trunk.


“Abby, do you know one of the things I love about you is the way you always see the good in people – well, some of the time.”


“Ha ha,” Abby said as they walked into the house.  “You’re going to love it when she comes to visit on Monday.”


“Monday?”  Carina put the bag down and said, “She’s coming here on Monday?”


“Along with my aunt Natasha – why?”


“Oh no reason,” Cari said as she hugged her best friend, “No reason at all.  Let’s go out to the patio.”


As they walked out, they heard Juliette say “Monday?  Well, then… Abby darling, have some iced tea.”


“Thanks,” Abby said as she took the drink.  “So where’s Jo?”


“On the beach with the kids I think – Listen, Judy’s in town, and we were going to go for a pizza tonight.  You up for it?”


“Sure – if Mother does not object.”


“Of course I do not, dear – you have not seen your friends for a while.  Go, have fun – I will spend the evening with Juliette, Heather and Sandy.”


“Thanks Mama,” Abigail said as she and Carina went into the house.  “She doesn’t know,” Juliette said to Diana.


“No – she deserves a little surprise,” Diana said with a smile.




7 pm


Judy McNally smiled as the cab drew up, and the three girls got out.  Abby was wearing a yellow vest top and khaki shorts, Jo a blue sleeveless blouse and leggings, and Cari a white maternity top and a pair of baggy shorts.


“Abby,” she said as she hugged her friend, “How was the tour?”


“Tiring – I am so glad I get a few weeks off now.  I just wish the House was here.”


“Oh, I’m sure he would be if he could,” Judy said as she took Abby’s arm.  “So, ready for a pizza?”


“Yeah sure,” she said as they went in – and through the restaurant before climbing a staircase.


“All right, what’s going on,” Abigail said, before she saw a tall young man standing in front of a door.


“Tony?  Tony McNally?  When did you get into town?”


“Yesterday,” he said with a smile as they hugged each other, “and I have a very special job to do.”




“This” he said as he opened the door, and Abigail was literally pushed inside. 


She stumbled and then looked round the room, as the other girls clapped and cheered.


“Well, we didn’t get the chance last month,” Cari said as she slapped her back, “so tonight, Abigail Michelle Sophia de Ros – this is your sweet Sixteenth!”


“Happy unbirthday, Stick.”


“Lily!  So this is where you were going this week!”


She made her way round the room, greeting her classmates and her fashion colleagues as the music started to play…



7.30 pm
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
The Chilton Club


Sandy stepped out of the car, wearing a blue linen jacket and skirt, with three-inch heels, while Heather wore a grey jacket over a floral print knee length dress.


“So what is this place,” she said as she looked up at the red brick building.


“A quiet little home from home,” Sandy said as a second car drew up, allowing Diana and Juliette to exit.  Diana wore a blue dress with a pair of white gloves, while Juliette had on a brown trouser suit with a black camisole.


“I didn’t know you were a member,” Juliette said as she looked at the door.


“I have my little secrets,” Sandy said as she walked up the staircase and pressed the bell.  A moment later, a liveried doorman opened the door.


“Miss Alexandra Richmond and guests,” Sandy said, waiting for the servant to indicate they should enter.


“Welcome back to the Chilton, Miss Richmond,” he said as he closed the door.  “May I ask you to leave your cell phones with the cloakroom attendant, and I will see if your booth is ready.”


“Our cell phones?”


“Club rules,” Sandy said as they walked over and placed them in a clear box, the attendant locking it and handing Sandy the slip.


“If you and your guests will follow me, Miss Richmond?”


The party followed the servant past several rooms, and into a private dining room.



8.30 pm


It was in Carina’s experience the oddest sweet 16 she’d ever been to. Both sides of Abby’s life were represented, but they weren’t mixing.


Down one side of the room were the models, Lily and others, as well as some of the junior staff from Complete Style and the agency.  On the other, the Angels and friends, with people like Ally and Nell looking at the models and whispering.


Carina was in the odd position of being one of the very few people in the room who could move in either grouping.  What was needed was something to get the groups mingling.


“Okay Cari,” she breathed to herself, “if anyone is going get this party started it had better be you.”


Carina walked slowly up to the deejay and had a word with him. The tall black guy listened intently and then broke out into a broad grin.


“And now a request from Carina and baby,” the deejay spoke in to the microphone.


Out on the dance floor Carina stood alone as the guy put the track on. Suddenly the Birdie Song started to play. From round the room girls started laughing at the sight of the obviously pregnant young woman doing the dance.


From the St Angela’s side of the room, Judy joined her friend on the floor laughing her head off. From the fashion side Lily giggled as she too came out and started to dance.


Within seconds the floor was full of women laughing as they did the absurd dance and enjoying it immensely.


“Great idea,” Judy said as Abby and Jo joined them.


“Sometimes the best ideas come in silly ways,” Cari shouted out as Abby flapped her arms and did the moves.



8.30 pm



“These crab cakes are to die for,” Heather said as she looked at the other three.  “How long have you been a member here, lover?”


“I went on the list the moment I was born,” Sandy said as she sipped her wine.  “Diana, is everything all right?”


“Hmmm?”  Diana looked up and said, “I am sorry – I just can’t get over the things that my beloved former mother in law said last night.”


“The charming Valeria de Ros is in town,” Juliette said as she looked at Sandy.


“I wondered what the thunderstorm was last night,” Sandy said with a smile.  “Was Natasha with her?”


“Oui,” Diana said quietly, “on a very short leash as well.  I am unsure why – especially as she is coming to work in New York.”


“Perhaps Guillemme may have been part of the reason?”


Diana looked at Sandy, before she said, “How did you?”


“Open secret, my dear,” Sandy said quietly, “but obviously Valeria has found out.  Is it likely she would have sanctioned her own remaining child been so far away unless…”


“Unless she wants them as far apart as possible, and Guillemme has to stay in Brussels.”


Heather looked at Diana, and said, “Who is…?”


“Diana’s brother – he is a diplomat in the European Union, and it would appear the lover of Natasha de Ros.  Valeria would take a dim view of that, certainly…”


“Of course,” Diana said as she slammed her hand down, and then apologized as the others looked on. 


“Miss Richmond?”


“My apologies Carl,” Sandy said, “a little over exuberance.  You may serve the main course.”






9.30 pm


“All right, girls – and boys,” Cari said as she took the microphone, “let’s hear it for the woman of the hour – ABBY!!!!”


Abby smiled and waved to the cheering crowd as she took the microphone.  “Well, this is a surprise,” she said as she looked round the hall, “but thank you – thank you all.  I really don’t know what to say.”


“Not even to him?”


“To who?”  Abby turned round to see The House standing behind her.  “I delayed my flight – happy birthday,” he said as he dipped Abby and kissed her, the room cheering and clapping – even Tony as he stood with Dave and some of the other boys at the back of the room.


“Wow – now that is a nice surprise,” she said as she smiled back up at him.




9.30 pm


“She would do that – sell the artwork just to spite Natasha?”


“And as a lever to force Abigail to return home – and yes, she is more than capable of doing it.  I tell you, she is a demon in silk and heels.”


“And we are not?”


“Different type of hell,” Diana said as she raised a glass to Sandy.  “It is a pity you have to return home for the week.”


“Only for one more week, and then I come up here for the month.  I’m telling you, I need the rest.”


“So what’s the news in the city anyway?”


“Not much – there’s a spate of cat burglaries, that’s all.”


“A new face?”


“Yeah – no pattern, so nothing to worry about.  Let’s just relax for tonight….”



July 28th
11 am


Guy was tired; the flight from Paris to New York always tired him. He missed the Concorde service, at least that had reduced the time spent in the air. All this security nowadays, though, rankled his aristocratic sensibilities and to tell the truth he resented having to remove his shoes for security, as well as all the other inconveniences of modern jet travel.


The taxi ride in from the airport had not been much of an improvement over the time on the plane. New York at this time of year was hot, sticky and he could easily understand why those who could afford to do so departed at this time of year for the beaches and the countryside.


Since the fight with Yve, Guy had been taking time to reassess his life, he’d made efforts to repair relations with his sons, and now the time had come to do similarly with his daughter and his granddaughter.


The discovery of the relationship between his son Guillemme and Natasha de Ros had been one of the few jarring moments of his family rebuilding tour. Not that he disliked Natasha; he in fact rather liked her though he found her a little shy and withdrawn for his taste. It was her mother that he detested, one family link with Valeria de Ros was bad enough, and a second could be intolerable.


Still he could dismiss Valeria from his mind, she was thousands of miles away on her beloved Bordeaux estate, and this trip was all about ‘his girls’ and nothing to do with her at all.


Abigail’s trip to Paris had been chaotic; Guy had never seen such an uproar, normally sane people going mad just to get a glimpse of her. He’d been sorry she had been in Berlin when she celebrated her 16th birthday, but he’d promised her he’d come over for a visit and here he was.


As the cab fought its way through the 5th Avenue traffic, Guy looked out the windows. New York women lacked the grace and style of their Parisian counterparts, but the odd woman with ‘that certain something’ caught his eye as they slowly navigated the traffic. Guy might have reformed himself a bit but old habits die hard, and to not appreciate a beautiful woman was to Guy a crime on par with not enjoying a bottle of fine wine.


Eventually, the cab pulled up outside the de Ros mansion, and Guy stepped out, immaculate as always in his grey linen suit and light blue shirt.  Smiling, he walked up the stairs and rang the bell, as the cab driver brought the cases up.


The door opened, but to Guy’s surprise it was neither Diana nor Abigail that answered the door, but a tall grey haired man in a dark suit.


“Good morning, Your Grace,” John said with a low bow.  “Miss Richmond sends her regards, and asks if you will allow me to drive you to the Huntingdown residence in Beverley, where Madame and Abigail have been staying for the weekend.”


“John, my old friend,” Guy said with a smile, “so long as you have something cold to drink and the time to talk, I place myself entirely in your hands.”


“Excellent – Edith will take care of your luggage for you.”


“Allow me five minutes to refresh myself, and find something I wish to give Abigail, and I am at your service,” Guy said.  He liked John, and the idea of being out of the city was appealing to him.


Twenty minutes later, he was relaxing in the back of Vanessa Richmond’s limousine; sipping on the chilled champagne John had provided and watching the traffic pass on the interstate.


“Diana told me when we met that your daughter and granddaughter are moving over to join you, John,” Guy said as he looked to the front of the car.


“That is quite right, sir – Barbara and Jeannie are coming out in two weeks time.  They will join Sandy, Heather and the kids in Manchester for a couple of weeks, before settling in out brownstone and preparing for school.”


“I had the pleasure of seeing the photographs from the awards show – she strikes me as a strong and capable young woman, even with her infirmity.”


“It is very kind of you to say so sir – I think she will fit in very well here.  And, if I am being honest, I look forward to having them nearby.  I had not realized how much I had missed them.”


“My dear John, I can understand that sentiment,” Guy said as the countryside flew past.


The clock was at half one as John drew up outside the Huntingdown holiday house.  Stepping out, John opened the door and waited for Guy to exit, as Juliette came out.


“Guy, how delightful to see you again,” Juliette said as Guy kissed her on both cheeks.  “You look well.”


“I feel well,” Guy said with a smile, “and how is Carina?”


“See for yourself,” Juliette said as Carina came out.  Guy looked at the young woman, and smiled as he said, “Your beauty grows each day, my child.”


“That’s not all,” Cari said as she rubbed her stomach.  “But we are glad you could come – they’re on the patio at the back.”


“Join us, John,” Juliette said with a smile, “Sandy and Heather will be here with the children in a little while.”


“Thank you, Miss Juliette,” John said as they all walked through.  Diana and Abigail were lying on two recliners, their eyes closed as they enjoyed the sunshine.


“Ah, how rare,” Guy said, “to have such beauties unaware of my presence.”


“Father,” Diana said as he eyes snapped open, “When did you arrive?”


“Today,” Guy said as both Diana and Abigail got up and embraced him, “I thought it would be a pleasant surprise.  I did not really get a chance to spend time and talk with you in Paris.”


“It is – a wonderful surprise,” Abby said as she kissed her grandfather on both cheeks, “but I wish we had known you were coming, then we would not have imposed on you to come out here.”


“Nonsense – the surprise has made the journey worthwhile.  So tell me, what has happened to you since I last saw you.”


“Well, papa,” Diana said quietly, “this could be a slightly uncomfortable visit for you – at least at first.”


“Oh?  Why would that be,” Guy said as he looked at his daughter, and the front door bell rang again.


“Perhaps I should fetch you a drink – I think you are going to need it,” Diana said as she went to a drink cabinet and poured her father a large brandy.


“Oh – why would I…”


“Good afternoon, Guy.”


Guy stiffened slightly as he turned to see Valeria de Ros standing there, in a blue jacket and skirt, Natasha behind her in a white blouse and long skirt.


“Valeria,” he said with a smile, “it has been entirely too long.”


“Indeed,” she said as Guy formally kissed her on both cheeks.  “What brings you to the United States now?”


“To see Diana and Abigail of course, you?”


“That and other matters,” Valeria said as Abby offered her a glass of wine.  “Thank you child – so this is your summer home Juliette?”


“It is, Valeria,” Juliette said with a smile as she guided her away, Diana looking at Guy with a look that said everything.


“A time for surprises indeed – good afternoon Natasha.  I understand congratulations are in order?”


“Thank you,” Natasha said as Abigail took out her cell phone, the music playing.


“Missy?  What can I do for?


“One moment – I wanted to be sure I heard that correctly…”


As she went in, Carina sat next to Natasha, with Guy alongside Diana.


“I saw Guillemme before I came here – he looked well.”


Natasha blushed as Diana said, “Papa, I am sorry – had I known, this would not have happened.”


“It is all right Diana – these things happen,” Guy said with a smile, before looking to the door as he heard Abby scream.


“What has happened,” he said as he stood up, and Abby came back, looking at her phone as Valeria and Juliette returned.


“That, that was Missy,” Abigail said as she looked at everyone else.  “She…  She told me I have an invite for a show in December, but I must discuss it with you first, Mama.”


“Oh,” Diana said quietly, “and which show is it, my dear?”


Abigail blushed slightly, as she said “the Victoria’s Secret show…”


Diana looked at Juliette, and then at her own father.  “I did hear you correctly, Abigail?”


“You did Mama – I told Missy I would discuss the matter with you before informing her of my decision.”


“And what is this show,” Valeria said, her voice making clear her thoughts.


Before Diana could answer, Guy said “they are a firm that provide lingerie and other clothing to women who wish to feel they are special, Valeria.  I for one am proud my granddaughter would be asked to do such an event.”


“You are, papa?”


“Of course, Diana – I wish to support her in all she does, and I am sure Valeria will feel the same way.  After all, she is Countess de Ros, is she not?”


“As am I,” Valeria said coldly, “and I for one feel very uncomfortable with this suggestion.”


“It is very tasteful,” Juliette said, “I myself did the show in my younger days.”


Valeria turned and raised an eyebrow as Diana looked at Abigail.  “We can discuss this later – in private,” she said quietly, “but right now, do you not have a beach party to prepare for?”


“In a short while, Mama,” Abigail said as she stood straight.  “I first wish you all to understand this is ultimately my decision, so I thank you all for your thoughts.”  Turning, she walked into the house, almost walking into Carina.


“Hey – what did Missy want?”


“I’ve been asked to do the VS show – my elders and betters are discussing the matter.”


“Wow – well done that girl,” Cari said as she hugged her.  “I take it Diana has reservations?”


“I don’t know – and right now I don’t care.  Let’s get ready – Jo will be here soon, and the beach party awaits!”






"Why would Abigail seek to make such a show of herself?" Valeria asked defiantly.

"Well it is a pretty big deal for models to get asked to walk that show." Juliette tried to explain. "It's national TV exposure…"

"They pick the most beautiful and leggy young women." Guy enthused, "It is a huge compliment I suspect even to be asked."

"But she's only 16." Diana clearly had doubts.

"I was doing lingerie when I was 16." Juliette answered.

"My Granddaughter is not going to disgrace the family…"

"Mama it's not a disgrace." Natasha tried to intervene.

Valeria gave her daughter an icy glare.

"The girls actually have huge fun, it's one of the best gigs around." Juliette defended.

"So you think she should do it Ju?" Diana asked.

"If she wants to then yeah, why not?"

"It will be over my dead body." Valeria pronounced.

"Oh well she's certainly doing it then." Guy smiled his charming and wicked grin.

"I suspect she may ask Behati at her party tonight for advice." Diana thought aloud.

"Who is this Behati person?" Valeria queried.

"Behati Prinsloo…. she's one of Abby's model friends." Juliette spoke.

"She's that little stunner from South Africa."

"She's from Namibia Papa," Diana added, "But she's walked that show a few times. I'm sure she'll give Abigail sound advice."


“Hey,” Sandy said as she and Heather came in with the kids, “How is…”


The group turned and looked at her, as she said “Right – Natasha, can you give me and Heather a hand please?”


“Let’s table discussion on this for now,” Diana said as she rubbed her eyes.  “I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think Papa and the Countess should have dinner with me tonight so that we can discuss this.”


“An interesting proposition,” Guy said, “I am amenable if Valeria is.”


“Very well – this is a family matter anyway.”


“Good – Natasha?”


“Yes,” she said as she turned at the door.


“Will you join the rest of us for dinner tonight?”


“I would be honoured, if Mama will allow it.”


Valeria nodded, as Natasha left to join Sandy and Heather.


“I apologise for my mother,” she said as she came into the kitchen, “she can be a trifle overpowering.”


“No sweat – how would you like to go somewhere tonight?  I’ll have you back before Valeria.”


“Where,” Natasha said as she looked at Heather.  The young woman just smiled and said “I’ll tell you later.”




6.30 pm
Manchester Beach


“Good, we’re not the first,” Jo said as she pulled up at the beach.  The three girls got out of the jeep and smiled as they approached the fire that was burning on the sand, Jo carrying the bags while Abby brought the mats.  Both girls were wearing bikini tops and Daisy Dukes, while Carina wore a low cut swimsuit with shorts over her legs.


“Hey,” Judy said as she came over, “how was your day?”


“Don’t ask,” Abby said quietly, “both my grandfather and my grandmother decided to visit today.”


“Don’t they get on?”


“Let me put it this way – they make Itchy and Scratchy look like Mormons,” Cari said as she looked round.  “Quite a good turnout so far.”


“Hey Abby!”


As she turned round, Abigail saw Behati Prinsloo and Lily Cole walking towards her.


“Just the girls I want to see,” Abby said, “Excuse me a minute girls.”  She walked over and took her fellow models to one side.




“Yeah – she got an invite today and it’s caused a few heated discussions.”


“An invite?”  Judy passed a couple of cans out of an icebox over to them and said “To what?”


“The Victoria’s Secrets show.”




“Wow!  Have you said yes?”


“Not yet,” Abby said as she looked at the other two, “My mother may have a few objections, but I can deal with that.  What’s it like?”


“Good show,” Lily said as she clapped Abby on her shoulder, “very tasteful.”


“Yeah – tell me grandparents that.”


“Listen Stick,” Behati said, “You’re under age, and so they will not put you in the more risqué part of the show.  It means lingerie and a few other things, but nothing else.  No worse than some of the other stuff.”


“Yeah,” Lily said, “at least it’s not Anne Summers.”


“There is that,” Abby said quietly, “If I asked you, would you tell that to my grandmother?”


“Sure – how bad can she be?”


6.30 pm



Diana looked at Juliette as Guy and Valeria headed to the car.


“If I have not returned by eleven, then inform the police and tell them I will inform them where the bodies are,” she said before she left, closing the door behind her.


“Right,” Juliette said as she went in and joined the others, “Natasha, is it true about you and Diana’s brother?”


Natasha blushed and smiled as she slowly nodded.


“Right – then we need to start showing you life without Valeria, Countess de Ros.  Heather?”


“Did you find what I asked you for?”


“On my bed.”


“Right,” Heather said as she took Natasha by the hand, “You are with me for tonight.  You don’t mind babysitting, do you Juliette?”


“Of course not – I have a paper to review anyway.  Go – have fun?”


“Have fun?  Where?”


“On the beach,” Heather said as she dragged Natasha from the room.


“When do you have to leave?”


“Not for a couple of hours – it will be so good to come back next week for the month.”


Natasha’s eyes opened as she looked at the outfit on the bed.


“But I cannot…”


“Yes you can – your new life starts today,” Heather said as she left her alone.  “Give me ten minutes, and we’ll set off.”





7.30 pm
Manchester Beach


“Who’s that?” Abby pointed towards a dark haired girl in sunglasses who’d been hanging round the edge of the party.


“Who?” Jo asked.


“Her,” Abby pointed to the girl in the red swimsuit.  Something was familiar about her, but she couldn’t put her finger on what.


“Oh just some chick selling weed.” Jo danced on, “Why - do you want some?”


“Jo you know I don’t, and you know Heather would flay you alive if she caught you doing it.”


“I know, but she’s doing pretty good business.”


Abby glanced round, noting couples passing joints to each other and shook her head. Abigail got her highs from other sources, she grinned inwardly, but she knew that most of the people at the party probably partook of marijuana at least occasionally.


“Girls.” Tony walked over with some beer bottles in his hand.


“Oh thanks,” Joanne took a long sip. “That hits the spot.”


Abby giggled as she sipped from her bottle, alcohol was another one of those pleasures she didn’t partake of much.


“Want a beer Winston?” Tony offered as the beefy footballer came over.


“No - we have physicals this week, coaches would kill me even a trace of alcohol turned up in my urine and blood tests.”


“You better keep out of the way of the smoke then bro.” Tony observed.


“Yeah I’d noticed that girl was selling quite a bit.”


“Does anyone know who she is?” Jo asked.


“I don’t.” House looked round at the dope dealer.


“I only really know a few of you guys, and of course I recognize some of your model friends Abs.” Tony looked at some of the women dancing in the firelight. “You know the guys back at school will never believe this.”


Abigail smiled, “well underneath they are just ordinary girls.”


“Yeah but it’s what is on the outside makes mere mortals like me worry.” Jo grinned.


“Well with Abby I like both what’s on the inside… and the outside.” Tony smiled.


“Thank you kind sir.” The leggy blonde model grinned till she caught House’s face out of the corner of her eye.


“Hey Tony… Dance with me.” Joanne spotted the potential trouble and dragged Tony away.


“Damn slick limey.” Winston looked daggers at Tony’s back.


“He’s just Judy’s cousin.”


“Even so, he looks like he could cause trouble,” Winston said as he watched Tony dancing with Joanne.





 “Here we are,” Heather said as she pulled up in the parking lot, looking at the fire on the beach and smiling.  “Now are you glad I sneaked you out?”


“Whatever will Mama think?”


“Mama Valeria need never know,” Heather said as she got out of her van, a long shawl covering her waist and bikini bottoms while her top held her chest in place.  “Come on, live a little.”


Natasha blushed as she stepped out, wearing one of Juliette’s blue bikinis with a scarf over her shoulders.


“Aunt Natasha?  Come and join us,” Abby said as they walked towards the girls.  “Glad you could make it.”


“So am I,” Natasha said with a smile, “it means I can be myself – at least for a little while.”


“I can understand that feeling, but surely Grandmamma is not that strict?”


“You do not know how much she disapproves of what I do.  She does not even allow me to speak my mind on matters – for example, I think you are a wonderful model.”


“Listen,” Abby said as she sat down with Heather and her aunt, “this business with her selling the contents of the mansion – is it really a ploy to get me to go back to France?”


“Personally, yes, I believe it may be,” Natasha said as she took a drink from her glass, and then looked at it.  “What is this?”


“Long Island Iced Tea,” Heather said, “you need to realize, Natasha, you coming here is not a punishment, but an opportunity.”


“Hey,” Abby said as she looked at her aunt, “want to sneak off tomorrow and do some shopping?  Get some new clothes, and leave them here until you come?”


“What about mama?”


“Leave her with my mama and grandpapa – we can find out if the blood settles afterwards.”


“You are assuming they survive tonight – why does Guy not agree with Valeria?”


“I suspect it has much to do with mama and papa,” Abby said quietly, “But never mind – want to come?”


“Oh yes,” Natasha said as she sipped her drink, “you bet I do.”



8.30 pm
5 Corners Kitchen, Marblehead MA


“A very interesting place,” Guy said as he looked round, “Where did you hear of it?”


“It was recommended to me,” Diana said quietly, “I felt it would be an acceptable compromise for all three of us while we talked.”


“Well, the décor is depressingly modern,” Valeria said as she sipped her wine, “but the food and service are acceptable.”


“Good – then we can get to the business at hand,” Diana said quietly.  “I know in your way you both love Abigail, and you have different views on the work that she does…”


“That, I suspect, is putting it mildly,” Guy said as he sipped his wine…”


“Papa, please.  I also took a long time to reconcile myself with the fact she wished to be a model, but now I have, and it is impossible to deny she is a success.  Indeed, I spoke with my accountant, and her earnings this year have been substantial.”


“And where do these vast earnings go,” Valeria said as she looked at Guy.


“Into a trust fund for her college and further education,” Diana answered, “and nobody has access to it save for myself.  She also makes substantial donations to local charities, such as the Jamie Kirkham foundation at her school.”


“Good to hear,” Guy said with a smile, Valeria glaring at him.


“The point is this,” Diana said as she put her glass down.  “If I can live with her decisions, and can guide her on this, then I ask for the support of both of you in doing that.  I will never allow her to do anything that is demeaning to our family name.  On that you have my word.”


“Well, I for one accept your word, my dear,” Guy said as he raised his glass at her.”


“I am not so sure,” Valeria said quietly, “that your word is sufficient.  But, I accept as her mother you must take the lead in this, so I will accept your judgment in this while she is under legal age.”


Diana darkened when she heard this, but then said “I will accept that for now.  I will talk with Juliette and others, and make a decision in the morning.  Now, what of you papa – I hear you have seen my brothers?”




9 pm


“I must go,” Sandy said as she picked up her car keys, “Call me when you know what is happening?”


“Of course,” Juliette said as she hugged her friend, “and stay safe – we’ll see you on Saturday at your place.”



9.30 pm
Manchester Beach


“Who was the girl you were talking with?” Heather asked as Natasha brought back a couple of beers from the cooler.”


“I presume some friend of Abigail’s.” Natasha glanced at a couple of curvy girls in tiny bikinis. “Am I the only one intimidated by girls like that?”


“Hey you have nothing to worry about.” Heather glanced down at the trim Frenchwoman’s body, “You stack up well against most of the girls here.”


“I do?” Natasha looked down at her own body.


“Yeah.” Heather nodded. “Now if I wasn’t taken, and you weren’t straight… “


Natasha giggled. “I know.”


“So who is she?” Heather again pointed to the dark haired girl.


“Oh some French girl, I forget her name, she was inquisitive about how I knew Abby, so I told her about Abby and Mama.”


Heather made a mental note; she would ask Abby later, she disliked curiosity.


“I think she’s selling marijuana as well. Do you?


“No.” Heather shook her head. “You?”


“No me neither.”


Suddenly two men who looked like they lifted some pretty serious weights came over and dragged Heather and Natasha out to dance.


 “Okay this is UNFAIR!” Carina pouted at Abby and the girls as they danced in the firelight.   Heather and Natasha were doing some sort of movement with Lily and a couple of well-built men.


“What’s unfair Cari?” Judy asked as she flopped down beside her friend.


“Half a dozen supermodels and some of my most attractive girlfriends in bikinis. Some really cute guys in speedos, and a great party.”




“I look like a beached whale.” Carina looked down at her steadily growing tummy as Judy burst into giggles.


“Just wait till next year, you’ll be back to your own stunning self.”


“Goddess I hope so Jude.” Carina glanced at a tall lifeguard who walked by. “Baby has got me so confused, I’m not sure what I want more, him? Or a bowl of chili with an ice cream chaser?”


“Still craving Mexican food?”


“In the WORST way Jude.”


“Poor Cari.” Judy hugged her best friend.


“Here Carina you look like you could use this.” Behati Prinsloo handed Cari a glass of clear liquid.


“What’s this? Vodka I hope.” Carina cast envious eyes at how the Namibian model filled out her bikini.


“No just cream soda I’m afraid.”


“Yuck!” Carina made faces as she drank.


“Never let Adam get you pregnant Behati.” Judy giggled. “Pregnancy plus model equals BAD TEMPER.”


Judy ducked as Carina threw a sandal at her.


“So I see.”


“Models and friends… Who needs ‘em?” Carina pouted as the girls again burst into laughter.



Down the beach Abigail watched as Winston and Tony eyed each other warily. She’d danced with both of them and enjoyed it, but she could do without the jealousy that was building between them.


“Great party Abs.” Ally and Nell collapsed to the sand either side of her.


“Thanks girls.” Abby smiled.


“He is GORGEOUS!” Nell practically was drooling as the lifeguard walked by.


“Down girl.” Ally laughed at her twin. “He’s all mine.”


“Oh damn who invited Holly?” Abby looked pained as the statuesque blonde walked down the beach with two tall young men in tow.


“I thought she and Cari buried the hatchet?” Ally whispered.


“Yeah they did, but Cari is feeling sorry for herself and the last thing she needs is Holly… “


Everyone at the party turned and gasped as Holly wriggled out of her Sacred Heart sweats to reveal the yellow micro bikini she had on underneath.


“Oh my God!” Abby, Ally and Nell said simultaneously before turning to look at Carina who was looking daggers at her great rival.


“Holly,” Cari said as she walked over, “Sure you’re warm enough with that on?”


“Oh I think I’m fine,” Holly said quietly, “it’s not often I get to wear this.  But my parents are away, and while the cat’s away…”


“I understand,” Carina said with the sweetest smile, “still, this time next year, why don’t we see who looks best in a bikini then?”


“Why not,” Holly said with a smile.  Jo and Abby came over as Holly went and joined the others.


"Mama would not approve." Natasha watched as Holly danced between the two boys she'd brought to the party, swaying provocatively to the music.

"Well she's having a good time, and I don't think they are anything she can't handle." Heather giggled.

"I guess I envy her the freedom." Natasha sighed.

"Be good to move to New York on your own eh?"

"Oh God yes."

"Well here's to your freedom."

The two clinked their beer bottles in a toast.


“I swear,” Cari said quietly, “the beast has never felt more like coming out than now…”


“Calm it, cus,” Jo said quietly, “let her have her fun.”


“Hey Cari,” Lily said as she came over, “I got you something.”


Carina took a sip of the drink and smiled.  “Thank you,” she said quietly, “just what the doctor ordered.”


“I thought you weren’t allowed alcohol?”


“A little won’t hurt her,” Lily said as she smiled at Cari.  “Will it?”


“Might actually make it bearable…”


“Not long to go now,” Heather said as she and Natasha came over and sat with them.  “Listen – I need to get Natasha back before her mother notices she has gone.”


“Thanks for coming,” Abby said as Natasha knelt down and said “May I?”


“Be my guest – Baby likes to be felt,” Cari said as Natasha gently placed her hand on her bump.


“Oh,” she said quietly, “you are very brave, to carry and bring up this child by yourself.”


“She’s not alone,” Abby said as she hugged her friend, “We’re all together in this.”


“Amen to that,” Cari said as she nodded.


“So tomorrow, Aunt Natasha – I will see you at ten?”


Natasha nodded as she and Heather headed back to the car.


"I see they finally decided to share him." Abby giggled as she walked up the beach and saw both Nan and Ally making out with the lifeguard in the back of Ally's jeep.

Carina shook her head, "They were such nice little girls."

Abby laughed, "you turning moralist Cari?"

"No just reflecting that I guess I'm growing up, I can still see them as the little twins with their hair in braids like it was yesterday… Now look?" she observed as Nell removed her bikini top and let the guy snuggle in her breasts.

"Yeah, they are more adventurous then me I guess."

"House and Tony were getting pretty nasty to each other there."

"I know." Abigail sighed.

"And as you've said you still dream of me."

"Cari!" Abby looked round in case anyone had heard.

"Don't worry your secret is safe with me babe." Carina laughed, "And for as long as those photos stay hidden."


“True – but I must sort this before there is another dream like last time.”


“Tell me about it later,” Carina said as she saw the dark haired girl walk past.  “Who the hell was that,” she said as she looked at Abigail.


“I don’t know – I don’t know if anyone does.  Maybe she was a local girl who spotted an opportunity to make some easy money.”


The girl glanced over at her and nodded before she made her way up the beach.


“Is it just me, or does she look annoyingly familiar from somewhere?”


“You think so as well,” Joanne said as she came up.


“Yeah – anyway, we need to get going.  Abby, the House is looking for you.”


“Ooops – see you girls in a minute,” Abby said as she got up and walked off, the dark haired girl watching her before she turned and walked off.



11 pm
The Richmond Mansion.


Sandy threw the car keys on the table as she looked round the empty kitchen.  She really wished she had stayed out there, but her work schedule for this week would not allow it.  At least she had driven beck safely, as she poured herself a glass of wine and went to run a bath.


Half an hour later, she walked from the bathroom to her bedroom, smiling as she looked forward to a good night’s sleep.  She slipped into a nightdress, turned the light off and cuddled up with a pillow, wishing Heather was there instead.


Sandy missed Heather so much when she was away, to not have her curled up alongside her in bed depressed her and reminded her of the bad old days.  She looked at her vibrator in her bedside drawer and then closed it again. ""No I'm not that desperate” she thought to herself as she drifted off to sleep...







The slight breeze across her face made Sandy twitch and open her eyes, turning over to escape the chill.  It was only when she realized her window had been closed that she opened her eyes, only to widen them as she saw the .22 pointed at her, and felt the leather glove over her mouth.


“Not a word,” the woman standing over her said, “I’m not going to hurt you so long as you do as I say.”


Sandy nodded slowly, as the woman withdrew her hand.  She saw the stocking over her head, holding her red hair down, and was glad she actually had very little jewelry in the house at that moment in time.


The intruder was about five ten, and wore a black jumper and leggings with sneakers, but she looked as if she meant business.  “Now, put your lips together,” the woman said, and as Sandy did so she took a roll of white tape out, tore several strips off and pressed them down over her mouth.  She then moved the covers off, and taped Sandy’s ankles together, and her legs above and below her knees, before making her roll over and taping her wrists together behind her back.


She was quick and efficient, as she made Sandy kneel and taped her arms to her body, then lay her back down and smiled as she proceeded to search the room.  Sandy was amused to watch her – she obviously had an eye for what was good, but on the other hand much of her really valuable stuff was in the bank, and not at home.


Sandy watched as the thief worked her way through her possessions. The girl clearly knew what she wanted, but Sandy was offended by her manner in opening and closing all her closets and drawers.

For a few moments the woman stood looking at Sandy's dress closet, and Sandy would have sworn she gasped, then stroked some of the clothing as though in admiration.

Sandy tried to form clear impressions of this thief in the night, hoping, knowing, she'd have the 'pleasure' of meeting her again.

Her voice though sounded vaguely familiar and that was disconcerting.


Still, she worked well; leaving things relatively organized as she found some cases, and selected items with care.  She then opened Sandy’s purse and emptied it, taking her cards and cash, before saying “This all you got?”


She nodded, the woman watching her before she nodded in return and slipped out of the bedroom window.  Sandy lay on her side for a few minutes, enjoying the peace, before she managed to sit up and slowly drew open a drawer in the bedside table, taking out a nail file and starting to rub it on the tape around her wrists.


Within ten minutes she was free, and removed the tape from her mouth.  Looking through the boxes, she made a quick estimate of the value of the pieces, and then rang her credit card companies to say her purse had been snatched, and have them cancelled.


“She may have her fun,” Sandy said with a smile, “but she will not profit too much from it.  She looked familiar somehow, I wonder why?”


The masked woman made her way along the back alleys, and removed her mask as she emerged onto the busy street, looking left and right before she merged into the crowd walking along.  As she did so, Annie Kelly shook herself and silently cursed her luck.  It had looked an easy target, and so it had been, but it was a shock that she had climbed though Sandy Richmond's window. 


If she had known she'd have avoided the place. She hated stealing from someone who was a friend of her friends and she hoped she hadn't frightened her too badly. As she walked along, she remembered the beautiful clothes and sighed with envy. She just hoped Miss Richmond would forgive her one day for wanting the same things once she had purchased them.


29th July
9 am


“You were WHAT?”


Diana looked at Juliette as she stood by the telephone.


“No, no I understand.  Do you wish me to tell Heather, or will you?


“Of course – and you are absolutely certain you do not wish us to come back?


“Very well then – let us know if you desire anything, and take it easy Sandy.”


“What happened,” Diana said as Juliette replaced the telephone.


“Sandy was robbed during the night – the cat burglar you told us about.”


Diana’s face froze as she said “What does she want us to do?”


“Nothing – she says she got free quickly, and nothing of real value was taken.  Nevertheless, she was a little upset to be taped in her bed – and I am sure some day, she will wish to discuss the matter with her.”


“I’m sure she will,” Diana said as Abigail came in.  “Well, my dear, what are your plans for today?”


“Jo and I are going to the mall,” she said quietly as she stood in her Angels sweatshirt and grey shorts.  “Where are Grandpapa and Grandmamma?”


“On the patio,” Juliette said, “I believe Natasha went out earlier to go with Heather to help with the kids.”


“Good morning Abigail – will you join us on the patio please?”


“I’ll be back in a minute,” she said before she walked out with Diana, following Valeria out to the patio. 


“Good morning, my dear,” Guy said as he stood up, “Please, sit.”


“Before any of you say anything,” Abby said, “I discussed the invitation last night with some of my fellow models, and I have come to a decision.”


Diana sat with her father and mother in law and said, “Tell us, Abigail.”


“I have been assured that given my age, nothing that is inappropriate will be asked of me.  I have also been assured that the others will watch out for me.  I will do nothing to bring the name of de Ros or de Grechy into disrepute, and I do not believe this will.  So I wish to accept the invitation, but I will as always be guided by you, Mama, and by Missy.”


The three adults looked at each other, before Diana said “very well, Abigail, call Missy and tell her you accept in principle, but I will discuss the matter with her when she calls next week.”


“Thank you, mama,” Abigail said as she turned and walked back in.


“I disagree,” Valeria said, “but it is her choice.  I must return to the city to meet the auctioneers – John is coming to collect me.  Natasha will stay tonight, and return tomorrow with you if that is acceptable.”


“Of course,” Diana said as Valeria stood and swept out of the room.


“And where is Natasha,” Guy said as he looked at Diana.


“On her way to meet Joanne and Abigail,” Diana said with a smile.  “Tell me, how long before I can expect a visit from Guillemme?”


“When it is diplomatic to,” Guy said with a smile.  “Diana – I have had much to think about these last few months, and I have realized I have wronged you and Abigail greatly.  Can you forgive me?”


“Papa, of course I can,” Diana said with a smile.  “I have heard of your visits.”


“Good,” Guy said, “Because there is a matter I wish to discuss with you.  When you were in London, my dear, did anything happen concerning Abigail and Carina?”


Diana sat back and said, “There were a few incidents, what have you heard?”


“Diana, were Abigail and Carina – how can I put this – close at some point?”


Her face paling, Diana said, “what have you heard?”


“I was sent a communication, asking if I was interested in purchasing some photographs - an example was enclosed.  Naturally, I declined the offer, but it did make me aware of a possible situation – one I suspect you may wish to do something about.”


“Who from?”


Guy looked at Diana, and said quietly “I do not know, but I have asked a private detective to find out.  This is my gift to you, my dear – to end this before it begins.”


Newbury Street
11 am


“Oh my – you’re Abigail de Ros.  How may we serve you?”


“Sorry,” Abby groaned as Natasha, Jo and Heather stood behind her; “today is not for me, but for my friend Natasha here.  She is coming to work in New York, and is interested in looking for some new clothes.”


The assistant nodded and said to Natasha “Of course – welcome to Diane von Furstenberg.  What sort of clothing are you interested in?”


“Perhaps some clothes for an office – a very diplomatic office,” Natasha said quietly.


“Of course – if you will come this way?”


“Well,” Jo said as she sat down, “We’ve done Armani for party wear, Kate Spade for accessories, and Ted Baker.  What else?”


“Do you think she would like a makeover,” Heather said as she looked at Natasha, examining a printed tunic dress.


“What are you thinking?”


“Viselli Santoro?”


“Let’s see what happens next,” Jo said as the manager approached Abby.


“Miss de Ros, forgive me, but could I impose on you to sign some items for a charity auction?”


“Of course, I’ll be back in a minute,” Abby said as she walked off.  Jo and Heather sat and looked out onto the street.


“Last night,” Heather said, “Did you see a dark haired girl hanging about the party?”


“Yeah – she was selling weed – and before you say it, no I didn’t.  Why?”


“She was talking to Natasha as well, asking her about Abby, Maybe I’m just paranoid after June, but I don’t like…”


Joanne looked at Heather as she stared at the other side of the shop.




“Have you got your cell phone handy?”


“Yeah why?”


“Nine o’clock – tall woman, leather trousers and jacket, red scarf.”


“I see her,” Joanne said as she looked at the red haired woman looking through the racks, “What about her?”


“I’d swear it’s the same girl.  Start filming her – see if she looks over at Natasha or Abigail.”


As Jo switched her phone on, Abigail came back.  The girl looked at her and hurriedly left the shop, as she said “Come with me, you two – I’ve got a treat for you and Natasha.”


New York,
The Waldorf Hotel



“It is good to visit here again, even in this accursed heat,” Madame X said as she sat in the lounge of her suite.  She looked as elegant as always in her cream sweater and pants.


Dominique nodded as she sat in her customary black jacket and dress.


“Well Dominique have you had the chance to look at what we have on the Black Cat?”


“I have Madame.”


“And your opinion?”


“She’s a very nice little climber, some of her jobs have been pretty hard climbs.”


“And that tells you what?”


Dominique paused to organize her thoughts.




“Sorry Madame…” Dominique took a deep breath. “She’s an opportunist, some of her scores have been pretty small, others much larger. I think she picks buildings that house well-to-do people, not individuals and looks for open windows she can climb to.”




“She’s not a safe cracker, she takes things from out in the open, waking the occupants, tying them up, then taking her time to find things.”


“In your professional opinion Dominique would this Black Cat be an asset to this organization?”


“Yes Madame, if I got to work with her I think she might be an exceptional asset… But…”


“But what?” Madame asked.


“I think she’s an amateur who’s found out she’s good at this… Amateurs make mistakes, we need find her before the cops do.”


“And if I wanted to find this Cat where should I be looking?” Madame asked.


“Gyms… especially those with climbing walls… This girl is in shape and in practice, I’d place a good size bet she works out and climbs each day.”


“Alright, I’ll get Susan to put people on it when she arrives next week.”


“Another thing Madame, I should arrange to rattle known fences, she’s probably fencing what she takes with pretty low level scum.”


“Oh, and that concerns you why?”


“Because a lot of those bastards are snitches… As I said, I don’t think the Black Cat is a professional. We don’t need a snitch turning her over to the police.”


“Indeed,” Madame said with a nod.  “Do so – and be on the lookout for any unusual reports.”


Piattini Wine Café, Newbury Street
1 pm


The four women sitting at the table on the terrace were talking quietly to each other as they looked along the road.  One, the tallest, wore a blue sheath pinafore dress with matching long gloves and a white hat.  The two older women wear dressed in black dresses with elbow length sleeves and a low cut neckline, black gloves and hats.  The fourth young woman wore a white strapless dress with matching gloves and a large hat.  All four had high-heeled shoes and dark glasses, as they sat and admired the men who were walking past.


“Now he’s a real looker,” Heather said as one bleached blonde man walked past, in an open necked shirt and khaki pants.  “What would you do with him in bed, Joanne?”


“Please, my dear Heather, we are in the presence of French nobility – I cannot possibly describe what I would do with him,” Joanne said as she sipped her wine, the waiter bringing her Vitello Ravioli.


“Oh please, my dear,” Natasha said as she smiled at the waiter, “I will tell you exactly what I would do with him if you will tell me.”


“Aunt Natasha!  I never knew you had it in you,” Abigail said as she looked at her Fettuccinie Agli Spinaci.


“My dear Abby, there is so much you do not know about me.  Even your Uncle Willy had a lot to learn…”


“Willy?  You call Uncle Guillemme Willy?”


“I call him many other things – he can be quite the animal at…”


“Too much information!”  Joanne sat back and laughed, then looked over her glasses at a young dark haired man.  He returned the gaze, only to get slapped on the arm by the young woman walking with him.


“You seem a completely different person today,” Heather said as she looked at the young French noblewoman.  “How does it feel to be out of the influence of your mother?”


“I look forward to it immensely,” Natasha said as she watched two more men walk past, their eyes fixed on her the whole time.  “My mother has many fine qualities, but compassion could not reasonable considered to be one of them.”


“I realize that – which is why I am glad you will be here soon.”


Sipping her wine, Natasha looked at Abigail and said “Do not let her ruin your life, Abby – stay in this country.”


“I get the feeling Guy is enjoying this immensely,” Joanne said as two more men looked at her.  She smiled and inclined her head, as Natasha said, “Guy is an unusual man.  I can understand why he is – shall we say, abrasive with my mother.  When your father died, she feels he showed no respect when he did not attend the funeral, and then you moved over here.”


“Well, I understand they never have got on.”


“That is true,” Natasha said as Heather re-filled her glass.


"Are you still a virgin Abigail?" Natasha asked the question straight out.

"Yes," Abby blushed.  “I mean, I have a boyfriend…”


“Two, from what I saw last night, but dear God." Natasha giggled, "You are a world famous model, men have pinup pictures of you, and you still haven't?"

"Me neither." Jo admitted.


"I can't believe it." Natasha looked frankly stunned.

"Even I think you are both holding out too long." Heather glanced at both younger girls.

"You mean you'd not mind?" Joanne asked her sister.

“Depends on the boy, if you really want to know – and I’d expect you to take precautions.”


"I know mother would." Abby shook her head. "She's determined I wear white at my wedding.”

"I'm going to wear white." Natasha sipped her wine, "Doesn't change the fact though at 14 I let the gardener's son fuck me."

"Aunt Natasha!" Abigail hissed, "Far too much detail."


“True, though - it was an August day, he was 16, built like am Adonis and hung like a horse.  It was a magnificent experience.”


“Right,” Heather said quietly as she sipped her wine, “What does Guillemme have to say about that?”


“Willy is very like his father in some aspects – he is truly a man of the world,” Natasha said quietly, “and the distance merely makes the anticipation much greater,”


“What would Grandmamma say if she found out?”


Natasha sipped her wine again, and said, “I really could care less.  She is a tyrant, and I am glad to finally step out from under her shadow, I feel I have been stifled for far too long.”


“Well, I think we certainly look more the part now,” Joanne said as she sipped from her glass.


“Indeed – and I cannot thank you enough for all this today, especially these dresses.  I feel like Holly Golightly in that film.”


“Well, you look the part – we’ll take the clothes and other things back to the summer house, and store them there until you arrive.”


"Heather I think we need get both these girls on the pill." Natasha took a long sip from her wine. "I'll get a doctor friend of mine to prescribe for them both."

"Then we need to find them the right men." Heather was slightly tipsy and giggled.  Joanne and Abigail looked at each other, wondering how the conversation had got to this.

"What about him?" Natasha pointed to a big dark haired construction worker.

"Mmmm he might even get me to change a lifetimes habit." Heather purred.

"I bet his…."

"Natasha!" Joanne kicked her under the table.

"Auntie darling we are quite capable of finding our own men." Abby whispered.

"Well you haven't done a very good job so far." Natasha remarked. 


“All right, who are you and what have you done with Natasha de Ros,” Abigail said as all four girls burst out laughing.


“Seriously, Natasha, we can do fine – see those two men at the next table?”


Jo stood up and walked over to the two men, sitting at the table and talking quietly with them.  As she stood up and came back, she said “Well?”


“Nice men – they’re here on honeymoon.  Heather, dear sister of mine, I’ll take that help now.”


The quartet burst out laughing again as they refilled their glasses, and passed judgment on others as they walked by.


Suddenly, Abby stopped and looked round.


“What is it,” Jo said as she looked at her friend.


“Someone is taking photographs of us.”


“How do you…”?


“I’m a model, Natasha – I know the sound of a camera when I hear one.”  She looked along the rest of the terrace, and then across the road to a coffee house.


“There – no, don’t look.  Table at the front, tall, thin, red hair in leather pants.”


Heather glanced to her side, and then said “that’s the girl who was at the store earlier.  Jo, show them the camera footage.”


Joanne took out her cell phone and showed Natasha and Abigail the film.  “I know her,” Natasha said quietly, “she is the girl from the beach last night.  I mean, her hair is different, but everything else is the same.”


“Wait here,” Heather said as she stood up, leaving her napkin on the table as she started to walk to the road.  As she did, however, the other woman stood up, left some money on her table, and hailed a cab, jumping in before Heather could get to her.


“Now I’m worried,” she said as she came back.


“I am sure it is just a coincidence, Heather,” Natasha said as she patted the nanny’s arm, “sit down and have some more wine.”


“Why not,” Heather said with a smile, “and then I’d better call Ju and get her to come get us.  I don’t think I can drive after this much drink.”


“What I do nor understand is why your mother – and forgive me for saying this – is so against you having a free life, to spend with whoever you want.”


“She is a very proud woman,” Natasha said to Joanne in reply.


“And a very stubborn one – and I know stubborn mothers,” Abby said as she sipped from her glass again.”


"Valeria must have had sex." Heather reasoned, “after all, she had you and your brother.”

"Abby's father was 18 years older then me… I've always thought I was a mistake." Natasha looked serious.

"I sort of wondered at the age gap." Jo spoke quietly.


“My mother is very proud of her heritage,” Natasha said.  “If you go back far enough, we are of Romanov blood.  My great grandfather married a French noblewoman, and took her name – a great disgrace to the mother family, and he was disowned but the bloodline continues through us.


“At any rate, I remember hearing her and your father talking once, when I was a little girl – it would have been not long after your parents married, but before you were born.  He said something about ‘that actor’ and what he had done.  Then I did not understand.  Now…”


“Oh my  - are you saying that…”


“I do not know – but as long as I have lived, Mama has never liked Paris, Cannes, any of those places.  As I say, I know very little, and Mama will not speak of it.”


“Sorry – I intruded,” Joanne said as she looked at Natasha.


“It is all right, my dear – families all have their little secrets.  Shall I order another bottle?”


“No,” Heather said as she looked at her watch, “we need to head back, but I cannot drive now – let me call Juliette.”


She took out her cell phone and started dialing.  “Ju?  It’s Heather.  Can you and Cari do a teeny, tiny favour for the four of us please?”


7 pm


“Oh my,” Vanessa said as the party came in.  She had driven up to spend the day with her grandchildren, but when Juliette had asked if she could stick around while she fetched Heather and her party home, she knew they had spent an – interesting day.  So she had agreed to stay with Diana while they drove into the city to fetch them.


Now as she stood in the hallway of the summer house, watching the four come in laughing and swaying slightly, she saw just how good a day they had experienced.


“I’ve parked Heather’s car outside,” Carina said as she followed Juliette in.  “Looks like they had a lot of fun.”


“Oh you have no idea,” Heather giggled.  “So much to tell you, but now is not the time.”


“My dear Natasha,” Guy said as he came in with Diana, “You look positively radiant.”


“And I feel it, Guy,” Natasha said as she hugged Guy, and gave him a long deep kiss.  “You and Willy are so very much alike, you know…”


“Oh dear,” Diana said, “Perhaps I should get her to bed.”


“A wise move – and I promise I will say nothing to her mother,” Guy said as Diana took her upstairs.


“Oh my,” Vanessa said as she looked at the others, “she does seem to take after her father.”


“What, Grandpapa,” Abigail said as she collapsed into a chair, “I do not remember him being like that.”


“Ah – I feel I have spoken out of turn…”


“Come, my dear Vanessa – share with us,” Guy said as he sat her down.”


“Well, the word was that Valeria was seeing an actor of some European vein, and then they suddenly called it off – and then seven months later…”


“You mean?”


Vanessa nodded as Joanne let out a low whistle.  “But not a word – Valeria is a very proud woman.”


“My lips are sealed,” Heather said as she made an overemphatic zipping motion.


“On the other hand,” Guy said as he sat, Vanessa’s hands in his, “I am most curious.  Tell me more, Vanessa, darling…”


“I don’t know Guy…”


“Vanessa, you know I can keep a secret.  Don’t you?”


“Oh – Vanessa has secrets…”


“Quiet, Heather,” Juliette said with a smile.


“Well, Valeria had decided to go to Cannes for a holiday, and at a party she met him.  He had starred in some Gallic Noir films – tall, dark, strong, and her husband at that time was beginning to show signs of the illness that claimed him.  Well, the wine flowed, the atmosphere was exciting, and one thing led to another…”


“Oh my,” Guy said quietly, “Valeria let herself go?”


Vanessa slowly nodded.  “One night – the one night she allowed herself to be a real woman, and – well, when he found out, he denied everything.  Her husband accepted Natasha as his own, but I suspect he always knew…”


Guy wrote a name down on a piece of paper, showing it to Vanessa and smiling as she nodded.


“She is not the only one,” Guy said quietly, “but she need never know the truth.  As I say, it is safe with me, Vanessa.”


“Guy de Grechy, has anyone told you that you are a true gentleman?”


Guy smiled as he kissed Vanessa’s hand, Diana slowly shaking her head.


“Oh boy,” Juliette said as she rubbed her eyes.  “Carina?”


“Yes, Mom?”


“Can you tell these two when they wake up they are watching George and Sandy tomorrow – Diana and Guy are returning to the city, and I am taking Natasha back to her mother.”


“Got it, Juliette,” Cari said as she looked at Jo and Abby, both gently snoring with their heads together…


30th July

8 am


"Oooh my head, Il s'agit de la pire gueule de bois que j'ai jamais eu." Natasha looked more than slightly worse for wear as she staggered into the breakfast room.


"There's coffee in the pot." Juliette grinned brightly as she stood at the range.  “The kids are outside having breakfast with Carina.


"Darling Juliette the brightness of your smile is making my head hurt this morning." Natasha groaned.


"How much wine did we actually drink?" Heather staggered in wearing just a New York Rangers hockey sweater.


“Not sure.” Natasha looked hard at the one person in the room who felt worse then she did.


“I lost count at the fourth bottle,” Heather said as she rubbed her head.  “Abigail and Joanne?”


“Are still asleep – I figured Carina can cope until they awake.  Do you want one of those full English breakfasts you like so much Heather?" Juliette asked.


"What do you think?" Heather gave her a look that could have shattered marble.


"So what did happen yesterday?" Diana asked from the end of the table where she had been sitting nursing her morning coffee.


"I think we had fun." Heather looked hard at the piece of French toast Juliette slipped in front of her.


“I saw the new wardrobe – very chic, Natasha.”


“Oh yeah – I may have to get my dress cleaned.  Am I still all right to store the clothes here, Heather?”


“Of course,” Heather said as she very gingerly bit into the French toast, and then sipped her coffee.  “I think after the fitting, lunch seemed such a good idea.  And lunch continued…”


“Oh yes – I remember now,” Natasha said quietly,  “What is mama going to say about me?”


“Nothing, for she will know nothing,” Guy said as he came in.  “Heather, the children were asking if you would bring them something back from the house, a Furby?”


“Oh, yeah – right,” she said as she sipped her coffee, and then put her mug down.  “There was something I wished to tell you and Diana, Juliette, but it has slipped my mind for the moment.”


“The girl in the leather pants?”


“Oh yeah,” Joanne said as she came in, “some girl hanging around the party on Saturday – we saw her in Boston yesterday watching us.”


“Oh,” Diana said quietly, “do you have pictures?”


Jo took her cell phone out of her pocket and showed Diana the film.


“Hmmm – send it to my phone, will you?”


Jo pressed on her phone, and said “Done.”


“Anyway,” Juliette said, “we need to be on our way in thirty minutes.  So eat up, drink up, wash up – and Heather?”




“Not the hockey shirt please.”


Heather looked down and said “Oh – right.  Don’t worry – I’ll change.”

Juliette looked over at Natasha, who was nibbling on a danish as she held her coffee.  "So what is the new job at the UN exactly Natasha, you never did say."

"Well,” she said quietly, “you know I've been working in the local office of the Foreign Ministry acting as the liaison with the local consular offices of foreign governments?"

"I didn't but go on." Juliette answered as she poured herself another coffee.

"Well it seems that despite Mother's attempts to keep me at home my work got noticed by my superiors, and I was offered this job as a liaison officer with our UN delegation."

"Sounds impressive." Juliette nodded.

"It's not really, but career wise it's a good posting, and most importantly it gets me away from Mother."

"Did you know my sister-in-law speaks seven languages?" Diana said proudly.

"Well you are all multi-lingual as well." Natasha smiled shyly.

"But I don't think many of us can speak and write in both Arabic and Russian," Diana added.

"Now that is impressive." Guy whistled. "My son is going to marry a talented girl."

"Marry?" several voices asked at once, Diana the loudest of all.

"Yes,” Guy said with a beaming smile, “it seems little Natasha here is keeping a bigger secret then we thought. I just got off the phone with Willy as she calls him, and he told me he'd proposed and Natasha here accepted him."


Diana turned and looked at Natasha, who smiled and blushed as she nodded.


“Félicitations, mon cher, mais ce n'est que votre mère va dire?”


“Je n'ai aucune idée - en fait, je ne suis pas sûr de savoir comment lui dire. Avez-vous des idées ?”


Diana shook her head and said “Pas tout de suite - mais promettez-moi que je peux être là quand vous lui dites?”




“Je soupçonne que c'est pour qu'elle puisse profiter de l'expression sur son visage.”


Natasha and Diana both looked at Guy, before they burst out laughing.


“Seriously,” Diana said as she wiped her eyes, “be brave and tell her sooner rather than later.  As you go through the departure date at Charles de Gaulle may be a good time.”


“Well, congratulations anyway,” Juliette said, “but you need to get a move on.  Go – the shower awaits!”


“Gotcha,” Heather said as she and Natasha headed for the bathroom.


“Well, Diana,” Guy said with the sweetest of smiles, “do you think Valeria will ever forgive me?”


Diana just shook her head as Abigail came in, rubbing her head as she stood in her nightshirt.


“What did I miss?”



The de Ros Mansion
10 am


Natasha and Diana walked in with Guy, the young blonde wearing a dark jacket and skirt with a white jumper.


“Thank you, Diana,” she said quietly, “I guess I should head to the hotel and meet with Mamma now.”


“Allow me to accompany you,” Guy said with a bow, “I have some business to discuss anyway.”


“Thank you,” Natasha said as Guy showed her out.  Diana watched them as they headed down the street, and then headed out again.



The Richmond Mansion
10 am




Heather ran into the rear room Sandy used as a workshop, to see her boss and lover sitting at the drawing table, working on a commission.


“Hey lover,” she said as she looked up, “what’s…”


She didn’t get to say much more as Heather ran over and hugged her, and then looked at Sandy.


“Are you all right?”


“Of course I am,” Sandy said as she brushed Heather’s hair away from her eyes.  “It was more annoyed than anything.”


“I can understand that,” Heather said with a smile.  “Ju says to come round for dinner before we head back tonight – we can talk about it then.”



Complete Style Magazine
11 am


“Juliette?  I didn’t think you were coming in today?”


Juliette waved at Anna as she said “Sorry – I needed to come in get some reassurances from Missy.”


“Oh yeah – she told me yesterday about Abby's invite.  How is Countess de Ros taking it?”


“Which one?  Her mother or her grandmother?”


“Ouch – listen, while you’re here, Antonio is talking to Mary.”


“Oh is he now?  I wish to have words with him,” Juliette said as she made her way to Mary’s domain in the storerooms.


“… And I swear, my darling Mary, that is the absolute truth.”


“Antonio, you liar – Juliette!  This is a pleasant surprise.”


“Hello Mary – could I be an awful pain and borrow my temperamental photographer for a few minutes?


“Of course,” Mary said as she left, Antonio giving a low bow to her as she left.


“Juliette my darling, how are you this fine day?”


“I am fine, Antonio – but you may not be in a few minutes.”


“Oh – I sense a cloud on the horizon of our relationship.  Come tell me all about it.”


“London, Antonio – the shoot.”


“Ah yes, such expression, such passion…”


“I do not think you know the meaning of the word passion, dear sweet Antonio, until you have seen Diana on the rampage.  I had to stop her from flying down to see you a couple of months ago.”


“Oh?  What have I done to offend the divine countess?”


“The photos, Antonio – someone sent me copies.”


She took the photographer by the arm and led him to her office, watching him sit as she retrieved an envelope from a locked filing cabinet and put them in front of him.


“Oh my…  I assure you, sweet Juliette, I did not send these.”


“Funnily enough, I believe you, Antonio – but the question remains, where did they come from?”


Antonio sat back, and thought for a moment.  “I cannot answer that question, darling Juliette – I have though the negatives were locked in my studio.  Of course I have had some parties since…”


He suddenly sat up and put his thin hand to his chin.




“Forgive me, Juliette – and pray ask forgiveness for me from the divine Countess de Ros.  I fear I may have been responsible in a roundabout way.”


Juliette sat back and said “How?”


“Two weeks after the shoot, I had a party in my Paris studio.  A friend – a good friend – said she had been in the crowd in Carnaby Street, there had been wine drunk, I may have been slightly indiscrete…”


“Don’t tell me,” Juliette said as she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes, “You showed her the prints…”


Antonio nodded and said, “Can you forgive me?”


“Just tell me who, Antonio…”




3 pm
the de Ros mansion


Diana looked up from her chair as her father came in, but for once he was not smiling.  In fact, he sat down and had the deepest frown Diana had ever seen on his face.


“Papa?  Whatever is the matter?”


“Diana, my darling, I fear I have created a major problem for you, and this time I do not know what I can do about it.”


“Father, what has…”?


“Countess de Ros,” Edith said from the doorway as Valeria walked in, in her long blue dress and grey overcoat.  Guy and Diana looked at each other as she sat down and stayed completely silent.


“Edith, some coffee please,” Diana said quietly, watching Valeria the whole time, as her housekeeper left the room, returning a few moments later with a pot of coffee and three cups.

“Here,” Diana said as she poured a cup and handed it to Valeria, “what has happened?”


“It has been a most trying day,” Valeria said with a sigh.  “Did Natasha behave herself yesterday?”


“She was the model of a perfect daughter,” Diana said as she cast a warning glance to her father.


“Good – I feared when she returned today she looked the worse for wear, but she went to see her new employers soon after her return, It was a short time later I had a most distasteful visitor.”


“Really?  Who was this person to cause you such discomfort?”


Valeria looked at Guy, and said, “she said she knew you – most intimately.”


“She?”  Diana looked at Guy, who put his coffee cup down and said simply “ah.”


“Papa, why were you so serious when you arrived a few moments ago?”


Guy shook his head and said, “Forgive me, Diana my dear, but if I am right we need to hear Valeria first.”


Diana looked at her mother-on-law, who said, “She was a tall woman, obviously French but of lesser breeding, and had shoulder length blonde hair.  She walked in, and said her name was Yve, and that she had been a witness to a fashion photography event in the Carnaby Street area of London last May.”


Valeria watched as Diana and Guy looked at each other, Guy slowly nodding as he sat back.


“We know who this woman is,” Diana said quietly, “but the question is, how does she know who you are?”


“I will come to that in a moment, but she told me that this event was one where the two main models were Carina Huntingdown and Abigail de Ros.  She also told me that there was a moment when the two models – oh how shall I put this…”


“Les femmes ont partagé un baiser passionné.”


Guy looked at Diana as Valeria nodded.


“She showed me some prints of the photographs – and informed me that she had the negatives.” 


“Un maître-chanteur - la chienne!”


“I have to agree with you, Diana,” Valeria said quietly.  “She informed me that she was prepared to sell me the negatives – if I could match some of the offers the lower popular magazines would be willing to offer.”




Guy nodded as he said, “Sadly, I know that Valeria is telling the truth.  The private detective I hired called me as well today, and informed me it was she who had sent the prints to me.  He also told me she was in New York, and I went to see her today to ask why she sought to hurt my family.  It was not the most – edifying of experiences.”


“So she was your mistress?”


“She was,” Guy said as he looked at Valeria.  “Later that night I happened to meet the girls with some friends and we went to a private club.  There was an – incident between Yve and Abigail, and I was informed a short while later the paparazzi were awaiting our exit.  I managed to get her out by other means, but the next day I discovered Yve had been responsible.


“Well, when we returned to my apartment in Paris, there was a – discussion, and as Diana will testify, I ended the relationship and told her to leave – immediately.  Whatever you may think of me, Valeria, I love my family and will not see them hurt if I can help it.”


“But how did she get the photos, Papa?”


“I do not know – but I went to see her today, and demanded to know what she felt she would achieve by this.  I sadly did not realize the depths of her hatred and contempt for me.”


“What happened Papa,” Diana said as she put her hand on Guy’s knee.


“She laughed at me.  She made it perfectly clear she was only with me because she coveted my money, and not me.  In fact, some of the things she said – well, I cannot share them here.  Suffice to say I was chastened, and knew no amount of boasting would change her mind.”


“But,” Diana said, “I do not understand how she knew where you were, Valeria?”


“Apparently, she spoke to Natasha at a party on Saturday, while we were discussing Abigail over dinner?”


“Ah – do not think badly of her for that, Valeria.  She was asked if she would like to go, and accepted.”


Valeria looked at Diana and said “I am not going to chastise her for that – but she apparently spied on her all weekend.”


“Mon dieu,” Diana said as she took out her cell phone, and showed Guy and Valeria the video file Joanne had sent her earlier.


“That is her,” Guy said, “without a shadow of a doubt.  I swear, I should have forced her to hand them over…”


“She would not have them with her,” Diana said quietly.  “What did she say to you Valeria?  What exactly did she want?”


“The equivalent of one hundred thousand US dollars.”


Guy stood up and swore under his breath as he walked round the room.


“I see,” Diana said quietly, “Papa, Valeria, will you excuse me for a few minutes.”  She stood up, smoothed her skirt down and walked quietly out of the room.


“I should have done more than kick her out, I should have…  Valeria, are you all right?”


Guy sat next to his old enemy, who was crying, gasping sounds coming from her as she held her head in her hands.


“Valeria,” he whispered as he put his arms round her and held her close, “Come, tell me what else is wrong…”


He allowed her to continue crying, letting her get it out of her system, before she said, and “Guy…  Guy, can I tell you a secret?”


“I am the very soul of discretion, what is it?”


“Natasha – this girl took great delight in describing what my daughter was wearing and doing, both Saturday and yesterday.  The Natasha she was describing seemed so alive in her words – and I feel I have been a bad mother, trying to control her too much.”


“Come, Valeria, I am sure that is not true.”


“I know you do not think much of me, de Grechy,” Valeria sobbed, “but I love my daughter, and my granddaughter, and I will do anything to protect them from harm.”


“As do I – I would do anything for them,” Guy said quietly.  “We are not so different, you and I – we put family and honour above all, and sometimes we do not realize what we are truly doing.”


Valeria looked into Guy’s eyes, and nodded as he offered his handkerchief.  “Perhaps we are similar, Guy – and that is why we find each other so difficult to live with.”


“Diana is my daughter, Valeria, and Abigail my granddaughter.  I know you have your hurts, as do I – but on this occasion, can we agree to unite to help resolve this situation?”


“Yes,” Valeria said as she wiped her eyes.  “Your son, Guillemme – he is an honourable man, like yourself?”


“More so – you might say he is the white sheep of the family.  Why?”


“A topic for another time, I feel.  Thank you, Guy – and one more thing.”


“Not a word of what we just shared?”


Valeria nodded as Diana came back in.  “My apologies – I needed some time to collect my thoughts,” she said as she sat down.  “I believe I am right in saying that we must end this now?”


Guy and Valeria both nodded as her mother in law said “I will pay the amount if that is what it takes…”


“No – from what I know of Yve, she will not consider this enough.  Do you agree, Father?”


Guy slowly nodded as Valeria said “So what do we do?”


“You place it in my hands,” Diana said quietly, “and I will bring it to a resolution without bringing your names into it.  All I require, Valeria, is for you to contact her and tell her you will pay, then when she says where, you inform me – and enjoy the rest of your break with Natasha.  She will move here soon, and it is important you part on good terms.”


“But what will you accomplish that we cannot,” Guy said quietly.


“I ask you to accept my word, Papa, Valeria – I will ensure this woman never bothers this family again.”


“And Abigail?”


“Will never know what I will do to protect her.  Will you accept my advice on this?”


Guy and Valeria both nodded as Diana picked up her coffee cup.  “Good – now, Valeria, this auction – when will it be?”


“In August – but I have decided only to sell what is absolutely necessary.  It is unfair to deprive Natasha of so much.”


“I approve,” Diana said, “so what have you decided to sell?”


“Well, I genuinely do need to modernize some of the equipment, and upgrade the winery to meet inspection requirements, so some things will have to go – but only enough to meet the costs. I own some particularly ugly paintings from the Flemish School. They aren't great masterpieces, but they will fetch a few dollars." Valeria thought openly.

"That horrendous piece of modern sculpture, that Edouard had in his study." Diana answered, "The artist is currently very fashionable, that might fetch seven figures."

"That thing? I had it moved to the cellar."

“Then perhaps it is time to allow it to disgrace the air of someone else?”


"I'm sure between us, Valeria we can work out the pieces to sell without hurting the look and feel of the house." Guy observed.  “If, of course, you will accept our guidance?”


Valeria nodded and said, “thank you – I would appreciate your advice… I was thinking with the prices old wine fetches…?" Valeria speculated.


"No,” Guy said as he held her hand, “that is unthinkable. Vos caves sont un vivant, la respiration, rappel des talents et compétences des générations de vignerons. Vous ne devez absolument vendre aucuns vraiment de vieilles bouteilles."




"I myself own some wonderful Chateau de Ros from the 1930's that should be drinkable."


"You do Guy?"  He looked at her old adversary with a new respect.


"Valeria my dear next time you are in Paris come to my apartment and we will share a bottle."


"How are you storing them Guy?"


Diana slipped out as the conversation started to get very technical.


Reaching into her purse in the hallway, she punched a few numbers on her cell phone.


"Ju, thank the Goddess, I have a name for our blackmailer."


She listened as Juliette replied.


"You already knew? How?…. Oh Antonio is there eh?…. Well Papa and Valeria have both heard from her…. yes both of them…. she's made a blackmail demand to Valeria…. One Hundred Thousand, but you know that would never satisfy her…. I told them both leave it with me…. Yes when she gives Valeria a time and place, maybe she needs meet our "friends'?"


She nodded as she said “Very well – we will meet tonight at Sandy’s house and discuss matters.  I will see you there.”


Ending the call, she went back in to see Guy and Valeria laughing as they talked. 


“Do you know, if nothing else I am glad this has cleared some of the bad air between us,” she said quietly.  “Papa, Sandy has asked if I will call on her tonight.  Can I implore on you to ensure Valeria gets back to her hotel in time for Natasha’s return?”


“Of course, my child,” Guy said, as Diana left them to talk…




7 pm
The Richmond Mansion



“For the last time, I am all right girls – but I will have a word with that young lady some day.”


“Well, if you are sure, Sandy,” Juliette said as Sandy sat with Heather.


“She’s sure – and she’ll have to get past me first,” Heather said with a determined smile.  “So it’s Guy’s old girlfriend who is behind this?”


“It is,” Juliette said quietly, “and I personally am disgusted, but the how she did it is not the question.  The question is what do we do about it?


“We do not pay her, that much is certain,” Diana, said quietly, “Her type are never satisfied.”


“Indeed,” Sandy said, “we need a more permanent solution.  Any thoughts?”


“How permanent?”


“She threatened the family,” Heather said, “and she spied on us.  I know what my answer is.”


"I think maybe we let Carina release the beast and deal with her." Juliette observed.

"Isn't that a bit extreme darling?" Sandy asked.

"I don't think so." Diana added.

"It kills two birds with one stone, it lets my daughter satisfy her blood lust, and disposes of a noxious little blackmailer.”  Juliette closed her eyes and nodded.  “I know it is not our usual forte, but I see no other way.”

"So we grab her and take her to the farm?" Heather spoke.

"That's what I was thinking” Juliette said as she nodded.


"Yve disappears for all time." Diana gave her opinion. "She wouldn't be the first foreigner to come to the US and try to disappear."

"We'll need to find out where she's living and make it look like she's moved." Heather thought aloud.  “Maybe Tommy can help once the deed is done.”

"I'm sure Carina will adore getting that information out of her." Diana laughed nastily as she thought of what her goddaughter could do.

"And everyone concerned forgets who she ever was… Right?" Juliette looked for consensus.

"Abigail must never know, or Jo." Sandy added. "This stays with us and the Beast."


"Valeria and my father will certainly never miss her." Diana reflected.

"Okay so technical details ladies, how do we do it?" Juliette asked.

"I've got a black panel truck stored at the farm." Heather spoke up.  “We let her think she is coming to pick up her blood money, and instead she discovers what a blood vendetta really can be.”


“Di, can you truly persuade Valeria to allow you to handle this?”


“I think we can come to an agreement,” Diana said quietly.  “I tell Yve I will be making the payment, we meet somewhere discrete, and you grab her. We silence her, bind her, bring her to the Farm, and leave her with Cari and her inner demons.”


Juliette nodded, and said “I think that will work.  I stay to support Cari, the rest of you go back to the Manchester house or the city.  When do you find out Diana?”


“Tomorrow, so we are in agreement?”


The four looked at each other and nodded, as Juliette said “Good – now, other matters…”



10.30 pm


“Carina?  Are you still awake?”


“Hey Mom,” Carina said as she came in, eating a bowl of chili, “What’s up?”


“Good – can you come with me a minute?”  She led the way to the front room and sat down as Cari curled up in a chair opposite, nestling the bowl on top of her bump.


“Cari – how hot is that chili?”


“Reasonable – but Baby seems to like it.”


“With you it was gherkins – anyway, I’m going to need your help with something, but it has to be done discretely, and neither Joanne nor Abigail must know – especially Abigail.”


“Really?  Must be serious if you’re saying that.  What happened?”


“Remember London?  Specifically Barnaby Street?”


Cari nodded and then grinned.  “Don’t tell me the photos have surfaced somewhere?”


“They have – and the person who has them has tried to blackmail Guy and Valeria.”


Carina had another spoonful of chili halfway to her mouth, but stopped and slowly lowered it to the bowl.


“Blackmail?  Do we know who it is?”


“We do – it is Yve.”


“The bitch that insulted Abigail at the nightclub?  How did she get ahold of them?”


“Not important – what is important is that we know, and Diana has asked us to help her take care of the situation – permanently.”


Carina put her bowl down and said, “How can I help?”


“How are things with you right now, darling?”


“Honestly – tough.  I…”  Carina suddenly stopped and looked at her mother, grinning as she said “Me?”


“You, darling.  We bring her to the farm, and you get to look after her and find out everything – and then you get to keep going.  Will that satisfy her until after the birth?”


“Oh yes,” Carina said slowly, “and when you have what you need?”


“Kill her.  We’ll drive to the farm tomorrow – Sandy will ask Abi to help Jo with the kids for a few hours.”




31st July
The de Ros Mansion
9 am


Diana was sitting reading the paper when she heard the telephone ring.  Setting her coffee cup down, she walked over and picked up the receiver.


“de Ros.”


“Diana, it is Valeria.  1 pm today, at the Metropolitan Museum.  The Robert Lehmann collection.”


“Thank you Valeria – do not concern yourself any more with this matter.  I have it in hand.”


Ending the call, she then dialed another number.


“Juliette?  Have Sandy and Heather meet me at 12.30 outside the Met.  We will see you at about 3 at the latest.”





The Farm
12.30 PM


Juliette and Carina walked into the barn, turning on the light as Carina picked up a chair and set it next to a table.


“So nobody else will be here?”


“No, darling – they will bring Yve here, secure her to the chair, and then depart.  I will stay in the house unless you call for me.”


Carina nodded as she felt the strength of the chair.  Juliette pulled a chair over and sat down, as she said, “We need to know where she’s staying, who else may know, and where the negatives and any prints are.  There are other questions – and we need to know we have the right answers.


“And just remember, Carina my love, we need ALL that information, so she’s got to at least be in a fit enough state to answer your questions.”


“I know Mom…. Information first…. FUN! Second,” Carina said with a smile, “not that extracting that information will really be a chore.”


“Your Aunt Diana has a list of questions, make sure you get the truth from the bitch.”


“Oh she’ll get little rewards for telling me the truth, as well as punishments if she lies.”


Juliette saw the almost rapturous look on her daughter’s face as she contemplated her work. It frankly made her shudder and momentarily pity Yve for what was to come.


“What are going to wear darling?”


“This.” Carina indicated the old tracksuit she had on, “There’s going to be a lot of blood, I don’t mind ruining this.”


“It’s hardly Miss Lynx?”


“Yeah, but baby makes it hard for me to climb into any of my dominatrix outfits, besides she’s never leaving here, she can see my face, and I might as well be comfortable.”


Juliette nodded at the pragmatic nature of her daughter’s reply, this was purely revenge for offending the group and its relatives, not some sexually driven feast of perversion.


“Do you have all you need darling?”


Carina nodded, “I keep a couple of kits together, one here at the farm, the other’s at home.”


Juliette watched as Cari opened a small leather package containing a selection of knives, scalpels, clamps, and needles, both metal and bamboo.  There were also several devices hooked up to batteries.


“My do it yourself torturers kit.” Carina smiled at her Mother.


“I just need one more thing,” she said as she walked over to the side and lifted something, carrying in carefully over and setting it next to the chair.


“Now I’m ready – let’s go and have lunch.”


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1 pm


Diana walked into the exhibition area, looking round as she checked her purse, and seeing the young blonde haired woman sitting on a bench.  She wore a cream silk jersey with a black knee length skirt, and dark stockings with her black three-inch pumps.  A grey over coat covered the ensemble.


Smiling, she walked over and sat down next to her, before she said “Good Afternoon, Yve.”


The blonde turned to see the older woman, in her black jacket and slacks, sitting looking at the other pictures.


“Diana,” she said quietly, “this is an unexpected pleasure.”


“Unexpected, yes,” Diana said quietly, “but believe me, it is hardly a pleasure.  I never thought you would stop so low as to blackmail my family.”


“Blackmail is such an ugly word – I merely offered first refusal on the purchase of the negatives and the story.  I am sure your delightful father told you that as well.”


“I have spoke to both my father and my mother in law, and I have agreed to act as their representative on the matter.”


“Very noble of you, Diana.”


“It is my daughter you seek to shame – of course I was willing to do it.”


“Shame?  Hardly in this day and age, Diana – or are you ashamed of her?”


Diana simply smiled as she said “As much as it pains me to do this, I have the payment you requested, but I am not bringing that amount of money with me.  Would you do me the honour of accompanying me to my car – and bring your purse with you.  I would like to examine the contents before I make the transaction.”


“No tricks?”


“Yve, regardless of what you think of me, I am a woman of honour.  I promise, you will receive full and complete payment for what you have.  Of course, if you would rather deal with the vultures…”


“I will come with you,” Yve said as she stood up, clinging to her purse as they walked along the corridors and to the underground car park.  Diana walked quickly across; her Daimler parked next to a black van at the far said of the lot.


Opening the trunk of her car, she stood to one side as Yve looked in at the small case.


“The photographs if you please,” Diana said, “and then I will give you the combination to the case.”


“Always the careful one Diana,” Yve said as she extracted an envelope from the bag and handed it to her.  Diana opened the package and looked at the negatives, before saying “Thank you – the combination is 5281”


Yve nodded as she leaned in and opened the case, staring at the piece of paper that was inside, and the words written on it.


“Payment to be made.”


“You stupid little bitch,” Diana hissed into Yve’s ear as the young girl felt the cold metal press into her back, “you fucked with the wrong family this time.  Do you not think I will take every step necessary to protect my family?”


“Diana, what do you think you’re…?"


Her answer was interrupted as the side of the van next to them opened and two women, dressed in black and wearing balaclava masks, jumped out.  One of them pulled Yve’s hands behind her back and secured them tightly together with a zip tie, while the other pressed a length of brown plaster over her lips, and then covered her head with a black sack, which she tightened round her neck.


“Whtfffkrudng,” she shouted as she was bundled into the back of the van, Diana climbing in after she closed and locked her own car, and then pulling a second zip tie tightly round her ankles.


“Profitez de votre voyage, vous stupide petite vache, il sera le dernier que vous prenez jamais.”  Diana sat back as one of the masked women got behind the driver’s wheel, and headed out of the parking lot.





The Farm
3 pm


The masked women forced the bound and hooded Yve to half walk, half hop towards the barn as Diana walked into the main farmhouse.


“Carina my dear,” she said as she walked in, “are you ready?”


“Oh I am more than ready, Aunt Di,” Carina said as she stood up.  “Do you have the list of things you need to know?”


“Here,” she said as she handed Carina a sheet of paper.  “I must return to inform my father and mother in law that all has been taken care of.  I will hear from you shortly?”


“Hopefully,” Carina said as she drained her mug.  “I’ll see you in a little while.”


“I will be here Darling,” Juliette said as she looked up from her book.  “Some coffee before you go, Diana?”


“Thank you,” Diana said as she sat down.


Carina whistled to herself as she walked across the yard, the two masked women leaving the barn as she approached it.


“All comfy and cozy,” she said to Heather and Sandy as they removed their masks.


“All yours,” Sandy said as she shook her hair.  “Enjoy yourself – oh, and Joanne wants to know if you are still on for the trip tomorrow.”


“Hopefully,” Carina said with a smile as she walked into the barn.  Yve was sat in the wooden chair, her upper body lashed to the chair back with ropes around her waist and chest, while her arms were tied to the sides at the wrists and elbows.  Her ankles were tied to the legs of the chair, while the hood still covered her head.


She walked up to the chair, humming to herself as she placed her hands on Yve’s shoulders, the young girl stiffening at the touch.


Walking round in front of her, Carina pulled the hood off and looked at Yve.  She stared back at the young blonde haired woman, very obviously pregnant and wearing an old tracksuit, wondering where she had seem this short person before.


“Hello Yve,” Carina said with a sweet smile, “I don’t know if you remember me, but we met in London at the nightclub.  You remember – the night you and some of your friends thought it would be a good idea to insult my friends and me.


“Now, had that been it, I would have forgiven you, even after the little business with the paparazzi.  But no – you had to go and try to be greedy, and to try and hurt my friends and me even more.”




“That’s right, you remember me,” Carina said as she stroked her hand down Yve’s cheek.  Grabbing the end of the plaster, she pulled it off and listened with a smile to Yve’s yelp.


“What… What are you doing?” she gasped as she looked at her, “where am I and what is this all…?”


She was silenced by a slap across her cheek, and Carina saying quietly “no, no, no – you are in my world and under my command here, so I ask the questions, and you do the talking.”


“Who are you to think you can threaten me?”


“Who am I?  Incredibly good question, Yve, incredibly good question.  As a sign of good faith, I will tell you only the truth.  Some people call me Miss Lynx – perhaps you have heard the name?”


Yve blanched as she heard the words.  Even she had heard of the ladies who wreaked such terror – and this little Madame was one of them?


“Mon dieu – then Diana…”


“Oh yes – and I hope you now appreciate the gravity of your mistake, and the extent of your future health.”


Yve started shaking as Carina stood in front of her.


"Okay Yve first we set some ground rules… See this?" Carina indicated a carpenter's vice secured to a heavy table. "One of your hands is going in that. Each time you tell me a lie I will tighten it one round, each time you tell me the truth I will loosen it a round."

"Bitch!" the Frenchwoman screamed.

"Eventually if you tell me enough lies that will break and shatter every bone in your hand… To tell the truth," Carina caressed the device, "I'm hoping you DO lie to me a lot."


"You are insane." Yve looked at Carina, her fear mounting as the teenager looked at her.

"That I am," Carina grinned proudly, "Technically I'm a high end psychopath capable of hiding myself within a perfectly normal exterior.  So yes, you score the first points tonight!"

"Oh my God."

Carina smiled as she picked up a knife and held it, looking lovingly at the blade.  "I get my kicks killing and torturing people, and yes before you ask, I have killed several people.

"You're nothing but a serial killing BITCH!"

"Temper, temper, Yve - there will be plenty of time for foul language once we really get started.  Of course, eventually there will be silence, but there are so many interesting things we can do and discuss between then and now.”


She stood behind Yve, and rubbed her hands over her chest, saying “Of course, if you so desire, you can make a full confession now, and then we can have a really pleasant few hours before you depart…”


“Va te faire foutre!”  Yve spat at Carina, who smiled as she said, “Well, don’t say I did not make the offer.  Last chance to end this quickly – will you answer all my questions?”


“NO, I will not, you hell cow.”


Yve was shocked at Carina’s speed and strength, as she untied and moved her left hand between the vice panels, watching as Carina tightened it just enough to hold her hand in place.


"Yve sweetie are you sure you want to remain this stubborn?"


"Putain de salope américaine!" the Frenchwoman spat out the words.


"Well I've given you every opportunity to tell me nicely, now be it on your own head….and I can assure you this WILL hurt you a lot more then it will hurt me."




"Let's start with an easy question, where have you been staying?"




"Oh dear wrong answer." Carina tightened the vice, Yve feeling the wide metal panels bear down on her hand. "Now again, where have you been living?"


"Vous êtes rien d'autre que l'anus d'une hyène femelle."


"Sorry wrong answer again." Carina tightened two turns.


“AAAAAHHHH” Yve called out as the panels started to press down on her hand


"Why two turns? You swore at me in French, English only now please.  Where are you living?"


“Perdez-vous putain peu sorcière d'elle!”


“Oh well,” Carina said, but as she gave a half turn and Yve felt a knuckle break, she screamed “ALL RIGHT!!!! I’LL TELL YOU!!!”


“I’m listening…”


“An…  An apartment on West 53rd.”  She gave an address, which Carina noted down, before slackening the vice.


“See, it’s not so hard is it?  Now, a little reward.”


Yve watched as Cari took one of the scalpels, and slit her jumper from neck to waist, parting the material to reveal a white lace bra.


“Tres chic,” Carina purred as she grabbed Yve’s chest and groped it, her fingers pressing hard into the flesh as Yve felt a moan building inside her, one she struggled to check.


“No – why are you doing this?” she moaned as she felt her hand throbbing.


“A reward for being a good girl,” Carina said as she slit through her bra at the front, the material parting to reveal her breasts.  “Now, the next question is also easy – how did you get the negatives?”


“I… I bought them from someone.”


“Oh dear,” Carina said as she tightened the vice again, Yve screaming out as she felt her hand being squashed between the metal panels.


“You…  You are mad.”


“True – but I am not the one in the grip of a vice.  How did you get the photos?”




“I said,” Carina said as Yve felt the bones in her hand break, “how did you get the negatives?”




“Better,” Carina said as she loosened the vice a small turn.  She then began to massage Yve’s bare breasts, the pain in her hand mixing with the increasing pleasure despite her protests.


“You have such a beautiful chest,” Carina said with a smile as Yve looked at her, “It will give me a great deal of pleasure to make your last few hours on this earth painful as well as pleasurable – so long as you continue to tell me the truth.  Who did you steal them from?”


“From…  Oh dear god…  From the offices of Complete STYYIIIIIIIIIIIII” Her yelp was caused by Carina fixing a pair of clamps over her already firm nipples, before her hand returned to the vice handle.



“NO!  No – I stole them from a photographer friend, Antonio.  Please, stop and I’ll tell you everything.”


“Oh you will anyway,” Carina said as she picked up a scalpel, “I know you will.”


“Just imagine what I’m going to do to you with this?” Carina laughed.




Carina ran the blade of the scalpel over the woman exposed stomach, not cutting, just letting her feel the blade.


“You can see I’m pregnant.” Carina smiled, “My OBGYN told me all about what a Caesarian might entail…. I sort of wonder if I should try and see how it works practically.”


Carina made a superficial cut on the woman’s stomach.


“Now do I need make a deeper incision, or will you answer more questions?”


“You little psycho sow – is Abigail as bag as you?  Under that goody goody exterior, does she AAAAAAAAAAAA”


“You really don’t get it, do you,” Carina said as she drew the blade of the knife across Yve’s stomach, “If she was here, you would be dead already.  But she is not – you’re with me.  And I have so many questions still to ask you.”


Putting the scalpel down, Carina said quietly “Who else has seen the photographs?”


“If you think I SHHITITTTTTT” Yve screamed with pain as Carina twisted the clamps.


“Yes, I do – and unless you want that hand crushed completely, start talking.  Have some dignity left, girl.”




In the farmhouse, Juliette was sitting at the kitchen table, talking to Fiona by Skype.


“I’m tellin ya, lassie, wee Jeannie has her calendar booked for the neat year awready.”


“Well, at least she will have some structure to her life for that first year.  Are you going to get a chance to see her before she comes out?”


“Nah – so say hi fer me when ye see her.  How’s wee Cari?”


“Not so small now – I will be glad when she finally gives birth.”


“Where is she anyways?”


“Letting off some steam.”






Yve was screaming out as the hot steam scalded her already red nipples.


“Then answer the question, Yve,” Carina said calmly, “Who else have you offered the photographs to?”


“Nobody else, you sick little fuck,” Yve said, panting as Carina looked at her.


“I believe you,” she said as she put the miniature steam gun down, and then leaned over and kissed her on the lips, her tongue exploring her mouth.


“Mon dieu, vous êtes vraiment une lesbienne, vous enfer vache” Yve said as Carina finally let her go.


“Oh I am much more than that – don’t you realize that by now,” Carina said with a smile as she took some bamboo skewers in her hand.  “You know, in history class we learned of the torture methods used by the Chinese – and by the French in Indochina.”


“I am sure you took great enjoyment out of that,” Yve snarled as she looked at Carina.


“Oh I did – and then I realized that, truth be told, the pushing of these under the skin is too slow.”  She turned the vice again, making Yve scream as she felt the bones in her hand crushing, and then knelt down, removing her shoes and tenderly caressing the young girl’s feet.


“Wha…  What are you going to do now,” Yve said as Carina looked up at her.


“Oh, just give you a pedicure,” she said quietly, as she lifted up a small pair of sliver pliers and waved them in front of her.  “Now, I suspect what you gave Diana today is not the only evidence – so where are the rest of the negatives, and any computer disks or sticks with anything on them to do with this?”


“Merde - ce qui la baise vous pensez que vous êtes ....”  Yve closed her eyes and bit down on her tongue as Carina removed the toenail from the small toe of her left foot, holding up the blood stained item.


“Putain bâtard - qu'est-ce que tu fais pour moi,” Yve said, before she screamed in pain as Carina ripped out the next toenail.


“I’ll ask again – and please, Yve, in English – where are the negatives and the files?”


Yve spat down into Carina’s face, before she said “why am I not surprised?  Just out of curiosity, did you ever love Guy?”


“That old bastard?  I already told you how I feel about him, and as for the dyke grandAAAARRGGHHHHH”


“Oops, there goes another one,” Carina said as she stood up, and looked over the notes she had taken so far.  “Yeah – I just wanted to see if you had changed your mind.  Now, are you going to answer, or shall I continue?”


“You’ll never know, you little….”


“Manners,” Carina said as she removed the fourth toenail, then the fifth, before moving over and removing the toenails from the other foot.  Yve screamed each time, but still refused to answer the question.


“This is hot work,” Carina said as she stood up, “I need a drink.”  She walked over to the table and opened a bottle of water, pouring some into a glass and adding ice and a slice of lemon into it.


She took a long, cool drink and then looked at Yve.  “Would you care for some,” she said as she looked at her, the blood dripping from her toes.


“No way,” she said through gritted teeth.


“Pity – you might appreciate it.  Now, where are the files and the negatives?”


Yve merely shook her head, as Carina cut the rest of the lemon in half before she walked over, holding one in each hand.


"This little trick I discovered when I was playing with my own dear daddy." Carina laughed as she dripped lemon juice over the uncovered raw flesh where the toenails had been.

"YYYYYYAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!" Yve's screams were cataclysmic in scale.

"Now just tell me nicely where the negatives, any computer disks, etc are?"


“Where… Where you will never find them, bitch.”


“Where?” Carina said as she went and cut a fresh lemon in half, squeezing the juice over her toes as Yve arched her back, the last bones in her hand giving way as she did so.








“Very Good Yve – full name and address please.”


As Yve panted it out, Carina noted it down and checked her list, then the notes she had already made.


“Well, I think that covers everything,” she said with a smile as she stood in front of Yve.  “Quite a lot of hate you had bottled up in there, my friend – doesn’t it feel better to have got it all out of your system?  Say thank you, Carina…”


“Thank…  Thank you Carina.”


“Better,” the young girl said as she poured the cold water over Yve’s toes.


“What… What happens now,” Yve said as she looked up at Carina.  She then screamed again as her tormentor began to pull on the clamps that were held firmly in place on her nipples.


“Please – don’t do that.  I can’t stand that pain?”


“Oh poor baby – would you like me to remove the clamps.”


Yve looked in Carina’s eyes and nodded, searching for any sign of mercy.


“Very well then.”  She caught a glimpse of light on steel, then screamed again as the scalpel sliced through both nipples, Carina holding the claps up as the blood began to spurt out.


“There – I did as you asked,” she said as Yve looked at her, screaming out loud.


“Oh I’ve had enough of that,” Carina said as she picked up Yve’s jumper, cut off a piece with the scalpel, and stuffed it into her mouth.  She then unzipped and pulled down her skirt, cutting her panties away and adding that to the stuffing, before she picked up a roll of silver duct tape and wrapped it tightly round her head.


“Better,” Carina said as she tore the tape off and smoothed it down, “I was getting a headache.  Oh my – you look so damp there,” she then said as she looked at the damp wood between Yve’s legs.  Picking up a small Tazer, she gave the button a little push, and then pressed it against Yve’s crotch and let off a discharge, Yve arching her back and screaming again into her back as the current ran through her.


“Oh yeah, really damp,” Carina said with a sigh as she held up Yve’s chin with her finger.  “Now the interrogation is over,” she whispered, “I can have some fun…”




“Well Mom we have a problem.” Carina said in a low voice as she came back into the farmhouse.  Her tracksuit was covered in blood, and there were blood splatters over her face.


“She died before she told you everything?” Juliette looked up with a concerned glance.


“Oh no I got all the information.” Cari said as she started to strip out of the blood stained tracksuit. “The problem is in the information, seems the bitch wasn’t as dumb as we hoped.”




“The negatives and computer disks are in the safe of a friend of hers.”


“Oh crap.” Juliette looked annoyed – the possibility had crossed her mind, but she had prayed it would not be the case.


“Wait - it gets worse.  The guy’s name is Francois Legault and he’s one of Natasha’s new colleagues at the French UN delegation.”


“Oh dear god – we’ll need to discuss how we deal with that,” Juliette said as she went to the kitchen, returning with a pair of tongs as she used them to deposit Carina’s clothes into a bag.  “I’ll burn that tracksuit and the rest of your clothes.”


“You’d better take this as well.” Cari handed over a .38.




“Two in her head, I stood in front of her – I actually think she was grateful at the end.  Diana should take her out in the morning and lose her.  I don’t think you want to see her again.”


“Yes – yes, you’re probably right,” Juliette said.  She looked distracted as she considered what Carina had done if even she was saying not to go in.


“I left my notes on the kitchen table, everything else was pretty much as we worked it out.”


“Had she shown them to anyone else?” Juliette asked.


“Nothing identifiable, but she was shopping us to the British and American tabloids. She sent them all a teaser saying it featured a world famous model and her girlfriend kissing, but the heads were edited out.”


“Well that’s something at least.  If that is all they have to go on, then it could be over half the models in the business today.”


“She really was a nasty bitch, Mom. While I take a shower and change, read some of the crap she told me about Guy, and how much she hated Abigail.”


“Okay you go and take that shower darling. I’ll clean up some here and call Diana.” 


“Thanks Mom.” Carina hugged her mother, “that was hard work, but I feel better now.  After the shower, I’m going to eat a few bites, then turn in early if you don’t mind?”


“Of course not – now go, I’ll sort some food out.”


She watched Carina slowly walk up the stairs, and then dialed a number on her call phone.


“Diana?  It’s over – Carina wants you to come and clean up tomorrow.


“Only you – I’m not going in there, but we have good news and bad news.  Bring Sandy with you, and I’ll see you both at my place tomorrow afternoon.”


Ending the call, she picked up the tongs and sack, and made her way into the kitchen, adding the blood stained trainers to the sack before opening the refrigerator and looking in…




1st August
1 pm
The Huntingdown holiday home, Beverley.


Juliette and Heather looked up as Diana and Sandy came into the room.


“Is it…?”


“It is done,” Diana said as she sat in a chair.  “I have disposed of everything, and the barn has been steam cleaned.  It was an – arduous duty.  How is Carina?”


“As always – she woke up this morning with a song on her lips and looking as if a great burden was taken off her mind.  Valeria and Guy?”


“Grateful – I told them I had obtained and destroyed all copies.  Did we?”


“Regretfully no – but we know where the remaining copies are.  The main issue is to decide on our next steps.  Firstly, we need to ensure her apartment is cleaned out.”


“Let me have the address,” Heather said, “I can make sure a delivery firm comes and collects all her goods, and we can then dispose of them discretely.  I’ll get Joanne to…”


“No – keep her out of this.  Do it yourself.”


Heather nodded as she said “the newspapers?”


“Once they realize they’re getting nothing, they should back down.  Our immediate concern is the safe.  None of us are true safe crackers, and if this man is in the diplomatic delegation we must expect an increased level of security.  No, I think this is one of those occasions when we call in specialist help.”


“Are you thinking what I’m thinking,” Sandy said as she looked at Juliette.


“I believe you are – excuse me one moment.”





1.30 pm
New York


“Well, I think everything appears to be in order now,” Madame X said as she looked out of the office window.  “Clint, when do you start your new position?”


“Monday,” Clint said as he looked over from the couch.  “I’ve also made contact with the local fences, as per Dominique’s instructions – if any of Susan’s things surface, I’ll know.”


“Thanks,” Susan said from behind the desk.  “Well, I guess we are ready to…”


The sound of Vivaldi made everyone look round, as Madame X looked at her own cell phone, and smiled as she answered it.


“Juliette – an unexpected pleasure.  I trust you are all well, and Carina is resting?


“Excellent – how can I be of assistance to you today.”


The others watched as Madame nodded before she said “Of course, I shall ask Dominique to contact you directly to discuss details.  Where may she find you?


“Very well – she will call within the hour, and do not despair – we shall ensure everything is recovered.  I will be in touch, Juliette?”


“Problem,” Sarah said as she looked over.


“Juliette requires some documents and items to be extracted from a safe – I think this is in Dominique’s area of expertise.  Have her come in, will you?”



2nd August
JFK Airport
5 pm

Valeria walked over to where Diana was standing, checking the boarding passes in her hand.


“Well it’s been an ‘interesting visit’ Valeria.” Diana smiled as she kissed her mother-in-law on both cheeks.


“It certainly has.” Valeria tried to preserve her stern image, but a slight smile escaped her lips.


“I’m glad we finally got to talk and bury a few things that we should have disposed of years ago.”


“That’s true Diana… And I think I also need thank you and your friends for a happier and more glamorous daughter.” She looked at Natasha who was attracting admiring stares at her long legs in the velvet minidress she was wearing.


“Remember you promised to go visit Papa and advise him on his wine.”


“I will.” Valeria did smile this time. “Your father is actually quite a charming old rogue.”


“Mama that’s the final call for our flight.” Natasha gathered up her carryon bag.


“Mwah, Mwah” Diana gave Natasha farewell kisses on her cheek.


“See you soon Natasha.”


Diana waved as they both hurried into the International departures lounge.


“Bonsoir!” Diana cried out.


Smiling, she turned to head out of the airport, stopping outside and breathing a sigh of relief.


“Safely seen off?”


Diana turned and smiled as she saw Dominique standing there, smiling with her arms folded.


“Safely departed,” Diana said quietly as she returned the smile.  “Come – I will explain what remains to be tidied up…”








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