New Starts – part 2
West Central Park
“There you go Katy – the top bits add up, and the bottom stays the same.”
“I think I get it now mom – and thanks for helping me with my math homework,” Katy said as she put the sheets into her folder.
“You must have had a relaxing night at the spa with the girls,” Katherine said as she handed Jan a sandwich and a bottle of fruit juice.
“Yeah – nothing beats an hour in the sauna and a full body massage,” Jan said with a smile as she sat back. “Do you fancy going to the pictures with Katy later?”
“Is there anything suitable on?”
“I’ll have a look at the Post,” Jan said as she reached for the paper, only for her cell phone to ring.
“Oh boy,” she said as she looked at the caller, “it’s Tom.”
She answered and said “Hey Tom – tell me this is a social call.”
“I wish,” she heard her boss say, “they’re back to their old ways.”
“Providence – Adam’s on his way to collect you. Three dead, and over twelve million stolen.”
“All right – I’ll meet him downstairs,” Jan said as she stood up.
“Yeah – thank the lord next weekend I’m in France. I’ll see you later mom,” she said as she headed out.
La Guardia Airport
“Will you relax, Aunt Natasha,” Abigail said as she watched her aunt pacing to and fro. “They will be through in a minute, and we go straight to the fitting from here.”
“I know, I know,” Natasha said as she sat next to her niece, her skirt rising to reveal the tops of her high boots, “but it has been so long, and when they come that means it’s really…”
Both women stood as a tall, blonde haired woman in a cream leather jacket and pants walked up and hugged Natasha.
“Abby, this is Caroline de Melfort – Caroline, my niece Abigail de Ros.”
“The model? I’m very pleased to meet you,” Caroline said as she kissed Abigail on both cheeks. “But why the glasses and casual clothes?”
“Anonymity,” Abby said as she looked to the security doors, and then walked forward to embrace the next person to come through. She looked to be about the same age as Abigail, with short blonde hair and at least four inches smaller.
“Cousin Marie-Louise, I’m glad you made it,” Abby said as she looked at her cousin. “How are Uncle Roger and Aunt Yvette?”
“Well, and looking forward to seeing you next week,” the young girl said with a smile as Abby took her bag, and then saw the final girl coming through.
Isabelle Trompert looked round, her brunette hair pulled back, and then joined Caroline and Natasha. Her long skirt covered her legs, while she wore a large brown sweater and scarf.
“Well, we’re all here now,” Natasha said, “come on – we need to go straight to the fitting.”
“They’re here,” Sandy said as the armoured car drove up and into the barn, Heather and Shirley closing the doors on it after the others came out before they walked into the house.
“That was – amazing,” Maddie said as she sat down and rubbed her head. “How the hell did we pull that off?”
“Our usual aplomb and Juliette’s planning,” Shirley said as Sandy handed out mugs of coffee.
“Right,” Diana said, “you need to get out of those clothes and put everything into the black bags in the room. We have soup for you when you’re done.”
As Maddie stepped under the shower and washed herself, she realized she had been involved in something she had not done for years – and loved every second of it. She understood now why Shirley had become revitalized by it, and how it had brought so many of the girls out of their shells.
“I must do this more often,” she said as she dried herself off, and then picked up her cell phone.
“Hey, it’s me. How was your day?
“Oh mine was fantastic – you know that trip we thought of taking next Spring? Let’s do it – you and me on the beach on the Gold Coast.
“Yeah, I miss you too, but I’ll see you soon. Kiss the girls for me.
She made her way down the stairs to see Dominique sitting at the desk, listening to the police band radio as Annie came in.
“The police just found the Bakers – scared, but unhurt. Apparently the girl said the masked lady was very gentle and kind to her.”
“Nice to know I still have it in me,” Annie said with a smile. She headed up to change as Sandy came in.
"So any idea as to the value of the take?"
"Huge." Shirley smiled. "Beyond that
vaguest of statements I have no clue."
"That place was an Aladdin's cave." Heather
"The police are already calling it the biggest
armed robbery in history." Dominique looked up from listening in to the
"And I just got to sit here…." Lily shook
"Well once we have it all disposed of you get a full share same as everyone else Lily." Juliette spoke.
“The doubloons we picked up – I reckon there were about a hundred, each worth ten thousand at current market value, so that’s a million there.”
“Charlotte, did you get a look at the jewels?”
“A glimpse,” the redhead said, “but there are ten large sacks in there. I reckon another 12 to 15 million there.”
"Those boxes that weighed so much, I took a look." Dominique smiled broadly. "Gold bars being shipped from the US to Saudi."
"That's a few more million." Maddie looked round.
"What about the paintings Heather?" Dom
"A Vermeer, a pair of Cezanne's, a Picasso and a
Whistler…Conservatively one hundred million, if we sell them."
"Everything needs be out of the country by tonight." Shirley looked concerned.
“Can that be arranged?”
“I have a private jet still at the airport – I’ll have it ready to fly in an hour, but we need to get it down there,” Shirley said as she took her phone out.
“There’s a panel van in the garage – we can use that and then ditch it.”
“Right,” Maddie said as she stood up, “get that van ready. Annie, girls, we need to get the stuff loaded up as fast as possible. Where do you reckon we could get to?”
“With that weight – Ireland. I’ll contact Big Mike and ask if he can send a crew to meet us there.”
“Right then,” Sandy said as she stood with Heather, “let’s go to work.”
“We meet at Diana’s place for Sunday lunch tomorrow,” Shirley said, “we may have a better idea by then, if I get my team to Ireland in time. But even with the tribute, we did exceptionally well today.”
"So this is the place they publish American
Complete Style from?" Marie-Louise asked as they emerged from the
"It is, and may I introduce both Carina and
Joanne." Abby smiled.
"It's a pleasure." Cari said as she stood up and embraced the other three.
“I prefer handshakes,” Jo said as she did just that.
"Okay do I need go blonde?" Isabelle laughed as she looked at the other bridesmaids.
"No, you look perfect as you are." Natasha said
as she joined in the laughter.
"Marc is ready for you in the cave." the receptionist smiled.
“This way,” Abigail said as she led them through the office.
“The cave,” Caroline whispered to Natasha.
“It is the office of their style consultant, Mary Thomas – and the perfect place for a fitting,” Natasha said as Abby and Jo opened the doors, the girls walking in.
“Ah there you are,” Marc said as he embraced them all.
"Marc these are my friends Isabelle and Caroline, and my niece to be Marie-Louise."
"C'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer toutes les filles."
"Merci monsieur." Marie-Louise smiled as the designer kissed her.
"So I feel like I already know you all…"
"From our body statistics?" Caroline asked.
"Yes… I am a designer, and to know the shape of the body is to know most of the woman already. Only when I see them in person do I know if the dress will be perfect to reveal their soul – and I feel it is for all six of you."
“I like him already,” Isabelle said as she looked round.
“Time must not be wasted – all six of you, follow little Cher here to be fitted.”
“See you in a little while,” Abby said as they walked off.
“All right,” Marc Jacobs said as he stood back, “what do you think?”
Natasha walked critically down the line, the six girls smiling as they held a small posy in their hands to represent what they would wear the following Saturday.
“Do we need to take in Marie-Louise’s dress a little?”
Marc looked and nodded. “Just a little – a small thing which can be fixed if necessary on the day.”
“And the length of Joanne’s skirt?”
“Yes, that does need to be adjusted. Colette?”
An assistant came back and pinned Joanne’s skirt a centimeter.
“But otherwise – you are a genius, and you have proved it again Marc.”
“And girls – you are happy with the dresses?”
All six nodded, looking at the cream silk as it hung from their necks and reached the floor.
“Excellent – we ship them tomorrow for you to put on next Saturday. I will see you there – for this commission, I come in person!”
“And you are most welcome at the event, Marc,” Natasha said with a smile.
“Oh no – but I will come to the breakfast and partake of a drink,” the designer said with a smile.
“Well, if you hurry up and change girls, we can go and get a coffee – and plan my bachelorette night!”
As they sat round the conference table, drinking mugs of coffee, Caroline said “So where do we stay for this week? We cannot all stay at your place, surely?”
“Alas no – Jeanne Marais is still my house guest.”
"Our thoughts were,” Carina said, “if Isabelle
and Caroline don't mind sharing a bed you can maybe stay at my Mother's
"While you stay at our place Cousin?" Abby
"Your Mother is the famous Juliette Huntingdown?"
"Well it would be an honor," Isabelle smiled “and call me Izzy everyone does.”
"So what does your father do Marie-Louise?"
"He works for a firm of lawyers, and is also the
Mayor of our little town."
"That sounds interesting…"
"Well we live a fairly quiet, provincial, non-Parisian life" Marie-Louise smiled, "I go to my local Lycée."
“Uncle Roger is the quiet member of the family,” Abby said with a smile.
“So what do you both do for a living – I mean I know Marie-Louise is still at school, but…”
“I work on French television, on a continuing drama,” Izzy said.
“She means a soap,” Natasha said with a smile.
“While I work in a school as a teacher,” Caroline said.
"I feel like a baby with you all."
Marie-Louise whispered, "They are all so sophisticated, and I'm just
"Well you don't seem it." Abigail hugged her
cousin. "You look so pretty."
"I feel like I'm so plain compared to you all though."
“My dear cousin, I thought I was plain and still do at times – and now look at me. Your time will come, I promise – next Saturday.”
Marie-Louise blushed and nodded at the compliment.
"You need to give me some acting tips" Abby
"May I ask why?"
"Doing commercials, and worse chat shows make me
a bundle of nerves, I forget my lines, and I panic…"
"So even one of the world's most famous models is
human?" Caroline laughed.
"It's funny I never have trouble." Carina
"That's because you never have lines."
"You model as well Carina?" Izzy asked.
"Only part-time, and only photographic really,
but I have done some commercials, I'm mainly a Student and a Mother."
"You have a baby?" Marie-Louise asked.
"Yes, she's nearly six months old. You’ll meet her at the wedding, if not before."
"What about you Joanne?"
"Me? I'm like Marie-Louise a distinctly non-famous school student."
"She goes to university this fall, she wants to be a Criminal Psychologist." Abby spoke up.
"That sounds impressive." Caroline looked approvingly.
"Well it's what most interests me."
"That's the main thing," Caroline nodded,
"What about you Carina what is your major as you say over here."
"I'm majoring in history at Yale."
“Ah Yale,” Izzy said, “a fine old university. I went to RADA in London myself, while you went to Geneva, did you not Caroline?”
“I did – and it taught me so much. Enough of us, however – let us discuss how we are going to celebrate the end of your spinsterhood, Natasha.”
“Nothing too explicit, Caroline – I heard the story of your undergarments and the flags at UN Plaza,”
“That was a scurrilous lie,” Caroline said as she looked at Natasha. “It was my swimsuit. But no, something low key.”
“Well, there are plenty of nightclubs,” Abigail said.
"So we go to a nightclub?" Caroline asked.
"Yeah we'll round up the girls and see what
trouble we can get into." Natasha laughed.
"Trouble…" Marie-Louise looked doubtful.
"Well we will have the notorious Rochermann twins
in our party, and as I know with those two ANYTHING can happen." Natasha
"My sister Heather is at least sane and sober." Jo tried to reassure Marie-Louise.
“And if we invite Janice as well, we have the law on our side,” Carina said with a laugh.
“Janice Carter, fellow Sinner and FBI agent,” Joanne said.
“We can give Pussy a call as well…”
“Pussy van Roon – in fact, let’s make it an open invitation to the Sinners?”
“Who, please, are the Sinnners?”
“A social group we belong to, Marie-Louise,” Jo said, “It’s only a name, nothing more. We have insurance executives, florists, nannies – and the odd super model or three.”
"Now that is a truly eclectic group."
Caroline laughed. "Jeanne as well I presume will join us?"
"And a few others…" Natasha said with that
twinkle in her beautiful eyes.
"Why do I think we are going to need cops on our side?" Izzy whispered to Carina.
FBI Field Office, New York
Tom Callaghan walked out of his office and looked at Adam and Janice.
“Well, this has been a shithole of a day, hasn’t it?”
All three had just heard the news of the second robbery at the airport.
“How much did they get away with in Providence, Jan?”
“The bank reckons fifteen million in total.”
"A huge fuckin' bank job, and it was just to set
up an even bigger robbery at the damn airport." Tom shook his head and
looked heavenward. "These women get better or worse, depending on your
viewpoint, every time they strike."
"The usual crap at the house Tom, sex and
sadism." Janice nodded as she read the reports from the locals.
"Three dead in the bank including the
manager." Adam hung up his phone. "One poor bastard got it just
because he pissed himself."
Tom Callaghan shook his head. "All I want is to
one day have the pleasure of ripping off just one of those masks and seeing the
face of one of the fuckin' bitches."
"The local CSU's and our people are trying to put
together the evidence from each scene…"
"Let me guess Jan it's minimal."
"Looks like that way Tom."
Tom sat back and ticked off the ‘findings’ on his
fingers. "The weapons will never be
used again, the ammunition could come from anywhere. There'll be clothing
fibres but we'll never get the garments to match them to, the vehicles will
just vanish off the face of this earth."
"Video will give us nothing useful." Adam
"Well we never accused them of being dumb."
Janice shook her head.
The trio turned as the doors to the office opened.
"Hi Mikey long time no see." Tom extended
his hand to a short man in golfing clothes.
"Guys meet Mike Maguire from the Boston
"They ruined my Saturday golf game." Maguire
complained as he shook hands. "So do you guys see anything my guys can be
"Not a damn thing." Callaghan shook his
"I might just have something." Adam looked
up from his phone. "The bank manager's wife told the cop who interviewed
her that they got their info via some hooker who the manager got chummy with
some day. We find the girl, maybe she can tell us who she told?"
"Oh God that's a slim lead Adam." Tom looked
"But at least it's a lead."
"Mike, Jan, run down the places he might have hired a whore, let's see if this pans out?"
“I’ll get ahold of details of his business trip over the last few months, work from there,” Mike said as he left, Jan watching him as they went.
“Adam, when do we get the complete list from the depository?”
“They’re still working through it Tom – might be tomorrow.”
“All right,” Tom said as he rubbed his head, “we can’t do any more until then. Go home both of you – I’ll see you tomorrow at ten.”
“Fancy a drink,” Adam said as he picked his coat up.
“Yeah – I just need to send a text,” Jan said as she took her phone out and started typing.
“Ama? We’re back?”
“Welcome home,” Ama said as Dom and Annie came up, “how was your day?”
“Very productive,” Dom said with a smile. “Why don’t I order some pizza from across the road?”
“That sounds good,” Ama said as Annie checked her phone. She looked up and indicated to Dom to meet her in the kitchen.
“That was Janice – they mentioned the late lamented bank manager had blabbed to a whore, and that’s how they got the information.”
“Ah,” Dom said quietly, “we need to keep an eye on Doc and the others. Do you not have a rehearsal tomorrow?”
“Yeah – after lunch.”
“Right – we’ll discuss it then. In the meantime, I’ll give Heather a call.”
The Altama Hotel
Tricia looked round as she walked into the bar, and then smiled as she went to join Angel at one of the tables. She had two others girls with her, all three wearing strapless gowns. Angel was in one of deepest blue, while one of the others was in green, and the other in red.
“Hello Tricia,” Angel said in her sultry voice, “you know Genevieve, but this is Antoinette.”
“Pleasure,” Nikki said as she raised her glass.
“So where’s Annabelle?”
“She’s on her way,” Angel said. “She had to stop off and collect our last member first.”
“Ladies – Tricia, night off?”
“In a way,” she said to the barman, “I’ll have a Manhattan, martini for her, and for you Genevieve?”
“Singapore Sling,” the young blonde said as the barman went off.
“There you are,” Angel said as Annabelle came in with Kerry, “I was beginning to wonder what happened to you?”
“We stopped for a drink on the way,” Annabelle said as Kerry sat down, looking at the others.
“So are you all…”
“They all know me,” Angel said quietly. “When you say you stopped for a drink, Annabelle, you mean what?”
“I needed a drink – this is new to me,” Kerry said as the barman brought the drinks over, and looked at the two new arrivals.
“Long Island Iced Tea – and make it a large one.”
The barman nodded and walked off as Angel whispered “You’d better be all right, young lady.”
“Save your threats – I’ve drunk more and been fine,” Kerry said.
“Good,” Angel said as a middle aged man walked over.
“Mister Kent,” Tricia said as she and Angel stood up. “This is Angel, who has managed to meet your request.”
“Thank you,” Angel said, “I hope we meet your expectations.”
“Well, we’re in the Oldman suite when you are ready,” he said.
“Waiting for you,” he said with a smile as he walked off, Angel looking at him.
“Yes,” he said as he walked back.
“No photographs, no films, no videos appearing on the internet. If they do, we will find out, and we will take action.”
He looked at the six girls, and then nodded before he left the bar.
“Drink up ladies,” she said quietly, “show time.”
Twenty minutes later, the doors to the Oldman suite opened wide, and the young men inside looked up as six beautiful women walked in, their gowns showing their shoulders and chests off as the doors closed behind them.
All were dressed in dinner suits, bowties around the necks of their pristine white shirts, but to Angel’s eyes they looked so young, innocent, and quite frankly astonished at what was coming in. The looks of surprise on the boy’s faces as they looked hard at the sultry and sophisticated looking women in their evening dresses warmed her.
“Dad,” the young man who was sat at the end of the table said, “who are they?”
“The entertainment for this evening,” Mister Kent said as he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Happy birthday Clark.”
“Clark… Kent?” Annabelle whispered, only to be shushed by Angel.
“Good evening gentlemen,” she said, “I was led to believe there were some men here who knew how to treat a lady.”
“Now then,” Annabelle said as she walked over to one of the boys, a red head who was staring at her, “what’s your name?”
“Well Alex,” she purred, “do I scare you?”
“A… A little.”
“Not for very long I won’t,” she said as she stroked his cheek with her gloved hand, “why don’t you come with me…”
Kerry looked round as Antoinette, Genevieve and Trisha took one or two of the boys with them to one side, and then whispered “why the fuck did I agree to this?”
“Because you agreed to it,” Angel said as Clark stared at her.
“So what the hell do I do?”
"You know that talk when your mom told you all the things nice girls don't do?" Angel asked.
"Do them darling."
"Darling,” Angel whispered, “you go sit on the birthday boy’s lap, and just let him feel you wiggling against his cock, and getting a sight of your cleavage."
"You need to get him turned on." Annabelle added as she allowed Alex to play with her breasts.
"I'm not a slut…"
"Darling we've been paid for this," Angel
smiled, "I'm sorry but that already makes you a whore."
"When you feel him really hard, get him to take
your dress off." Annabelle told the inexperienced Kerry as she kissed
"By then I HOPE it's coming naturally to you." Angel laughed lightly.
Kerry nodded and walked over to Clark, standing behind him with her hands on his shoulders as she said “Angel tells me that you are the birthday boy.”
“Well, birthday boy, I’m your present,” Kerry said, trying to control her shaking as she sat on his lap, Clark staring at her chest. “Do you like what you see?”
“I guess so,” he whispered, but Kerry could feel under her dress how excited he was. Swallowing, she leaned over and gently took his head in her hands, kissing him as she swayed on his lap, feeling his response.
“Oh god,” he whispered, “what the hell are you doing to me?”
“Making you a man,” she said out loud.
“Making me a whore,” she thought to herself, but she smiled instead and said “You can touch them, you know.”
She watched as he put his hands out and caressed her chest, feeling a new warmth inside her as she wriggled in response, and she felt him get still harder. He gently squeezed, and Kerry was surprised to hear herself moan in response.
“Oh that’s good,” she said as she kissed his forehead, “would you like to see more of them?”
Angel watched as she stood up and turned her back, Clark slowly standing, his erection visible in his pants as he unzipped her dress and let it fall to the ground. She turned and posed, in her white basque, her stockings held up, and said, “so what do you think?”
She walked over and removed his jacket, and then his bowtie, slowly opening his shirt as she kissed his neck and then his lips. “Don’t be shy,” she heard herself saying, “you know what to do…”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!” That was what her mind was screaming, but her body was giving the orders now, as he started to kiss her breasts, Kerry reaching down and rubbing his crotch as he did so.
“Why don’t I help you with them,” she said as she knelt down and slowly unzipped his pants, pulling them down before she removed his boxers. Across the room, the boys had split into groups of two or three, each of them being entertained by one of the ladies as Kerry slowly stroked and then kissed Clark’s cock, feeling the burning inside herself as she did so.
She decided to pretend he was her favourite teacher, as she said “you can remove my panties, and then we can have some real fun.”
The burning inside her was growing as he unfastened her garment and took it off, and she sat down, watching as he kicked his shoes off, his young cock large and glistening as he took the silver square, opened it and slipped it on. She went between her legs and started to try to move in. She guided him to the right place, and closed her eyes, suppressing the screams deep inside her as she felt him move inside her, and then suddenly thrust forward.
Angel looked over from where two of the boys were kissing her bare chest and smiled – the contract was being fulfilled, better than she expected a s Kerry wrapped her legs round the young man and pulled him further into her.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god…”
Doc looked round the room, these guys were young, they were horny, most of them were, or had been virgins till she and her little stable of ladies had arrived. They might be cumming fast right now, but these boys would be recovering quickly, she and the others would be getting fucked multiple times before these boys finally cried uncle.
The scene in the room was almost Roman as the girls lay on tables, on the carpet, everywhere, all with their dresses off. Tricia had one young man in her mouth, while another kid fucked her doggy style from behind. Nell had two boys each suckling on a breast while a third was doing what came naturally.
She turned her attention back to the young stud she
was entertaining, his manhood buried deep inside her, he was approaching his
climax. She locked her legs round his waist pulling him in even deeper as she felt
her own orgasm rising.
"Oh God!" she heard the boy shout as he shot
"Damn," she thought before another boy quickly entered her and finished the job, giving her the orgasm she craved. "Yessssssssssss!" the cry escaped her lips.
This was ecstasy, as she looked over at Kerry. She was with Alex now; giving him a hand job as another of the boys, called Greg from what she had heard, worked her clit with his tongue and mouth. She knew she had been hard on her, and scared her, but from the look on her face there was no going back for her now.
Eventually, a natural break came round, and Angel stood up.
"Okay Boys, it's break time, we need to powder
our noses, but don't worry - we will come back." Angel purred as she
gathered up her little band and led them into the powder room.
"Well ladies having fun?" Nell asked as the
door shut behind them.
"I could do with some drinks." Tricia
"Well ring down to the bar darling, put them on
Mr. Kent's bill." Angel laughed.
"These boys are insatiable." Becca smiled
"Tell me about it." Nell giggled, "If I
told someone I think she'd be jealous she missed out on this."
"She might." Doc laughed again.
"Are you sore Kerry?" Nell asked the
"A little." Kerry said as she cleaned
"Put the fresh stockings on I gave you."
Angel noted the little blood stains on her current ones – perfection was the
"My mind was saying no, but my body was saying
yes, was it like that with all of you the first time?"
Each girl smiled remembering her first.
"Oh those looks tell me everything." Kerry
"Okay drinks on their way ladies." Trish
hung up the house phone.
"Fix your faces girls, this might be a long night." Angel spoke contentedly.
It was midnight when the boys finally sat together, looks of contentment on all their faces as the girls dressed themselves again.
“You were magnificent,” Mister Kent said as he handed over an envelope.
“Thank you,” Angel purred, “be sure to tell your colleagues of our services.” She handed Mister Kent a business card, on which was a picture of an angel with the message “Angelic Escorts.” A telephone number and e-mail address was also on there, as she gave one to each of the boys.
"Girls here's a little extra for each of
you." Kent passed each girl a thousand dollars. "A tip for making the
night so memorable."
"Thank you." Angel smiled as she put the
extra cash in her purse.
“Good night, Clark, and happy birthday,” Kerry said as he waved at them, and the group walked to the bar area.
"A nice man." Tricia smiled.
"Everyone set to go?" Nell asked.
"I have my car, I can give lifts." Tricia
"No I think we can take a cab." Doc glanced
"I'll take Kerry with me." Nell spoke.
“I’ll split the money and get you it all tomorrow – and thank you again.”
“Angel, a word,” Nell said as the others went out. “Business Cards? You had freaking business cards printed?”
“Relax, Nell – I’m only giving them to those I think I can trust. It’ll be fine – trust me.”
Sunday 18th January
FBI Field Office, NY
Adam and Tom sat in his office, each drinking a coffee as they glanced over the latest reports.
"So how do you dispose of and launder all
this?" Adam looked at the up to date document listing what had been
"With the right contacts pretty easily." Tom
looked up, "We know now they have contacts in the Far East and Europe, I'd
give you odds the stuff left the country yesterday and it will vanish from our
"Hello Boys, it looks like yesterday’s events
will extend my stay with you." Jeanne knocked on the door.
"I guessed Interpol would be interested." Tom nodded. “You’re welcome to keep using our offices.”
"What I can do though I don't know." Jeanne shrugged her shoulders.
"You're hearing nothing from Europe?"
"Not a single thing Adam, beyond the name of the
mysterious Madame X coming up as the likely fence."
"She's cropped up in regard to the Pussycats before."
“Yeah – last spring it was thought she was in the US, and we had some trouble with the ladies at the same time. Since then, nothing. What do you know of her?”
“Not much more than you – she is recognized as a major player and organizer, but she has also helped others in the past. It appears she has a strong moral code – she is known to be involved in bringing down drug lords.”
Jeanne shook her head. “None we can name. The last major thing she was involved in we know of was an armoured car raid in Bristol before Christmas. They took the family of the driver hostage – treated them all with care and respect, but kept them bound and gagged while he was forced to take a car containing eight million pounds to a rendezvous.”
“Serious player then,” Adam said as Jan walked in. “Hey Jeanne – I thought you were back in France today.”
“Alas no – my work continues, so I fly out with you on Friday. Apparently, some major works of art were amongst the items stolen yesterday.”
“Well, at least you’re kept busy,” Jan said with a smile.
The de Ros Mansion
“We will see you later,” Natasha said as she waved from the door, the three visitors going with her as they left for a sight-seeing tour of New York.
“A magnificent lunch, Diana, my compliments to you, Edith,” Shirley said as they sat round the room, Edith passing coffee round.
“I’m glad you liked it, Miss Xavier,” Edith said as she handed the last cup to Diana.
“Thank you Edith – you may take the rest of the day off. Abigail and I will clear up later.”
“Thank you, Madame de Ros – I will leave shortly to visit my sister,” the housekeeper said as she left the room.
“So how are your guests behaving themselves?”
“They’re fine – we talked about Paris until the small hours. Carina here found us still talking when she got up to see to Judith.”
“She’s teething, aren’t you little one,” Carina said as she played with her daughter. “The miracle of teething gel.”
Judith gurgled as she sat on her mother’s lap, trying to reach up and catch her hand.
They heard the front door open and close, before Juliette said “Jan’s working today, so she sent her apologies – as well as a copy of the list of items stolen. I hope you’re all sitting comfortably.”
“What about Dom and Annie?”
“They’ve gone with Maisha and Ama to do some ice skating, but I briefed Dom earlier today,” Shirley said. “They know what we are about to tell you.”
“According to Janice, the bank is putting the total losses yesterday at fifteen million dollars.”
“What,” Lily said as she looked at the others. “That’s a ridiculous amount of money.”
“That’s the bank,” Shirley said, “now for the items we found at the depository. My experts have been evaluating the goods that arrived in Ireland last night – I trust you will not object to the fact that I promised a payment to my friend Michael for his assistance?”
“I think we can afford it,” Juliette said, “but carry on.”
“I should also say that Cathy flew to Ireland last night to oversee the evaluation and disposal of some of the items through your usual channels, Juliette. She has expressed her astonishment at what we obtained.”
“You said, Heather, the paintings alone are worth one hundred million.”
Heather nodded, and then said “remember we cannot sell for that, and there will be commission and finder’s fees. We also promised tribute to the leaders in the Boston area, and compensation to the driver. Even when you factor all of that in, however, when the dust settles our offshore accounts will be substantially increased.”
“Do we have an estimate,” Charlotte asked.
“At least eight million each.”
Shirley looked at Lily, who was staring ahead in shock.
“Eight… Eight million… Eight million dollars for sitting on my butt?”
Maddie looked round the room, and said “well, if nobody else is going to say it, I am – HOT DOGGITY DOG!!”
“Maddie, Lily, we have accounts ready and set up for both of you. The rest of you, watch your balances. And as always, for you three…”
“We know, we know,” Carina said, “the trust fund grows even more.”
“Does Janice say what the official world is doing?”
“Our friend Jeanne has been asked to stay and help the investigations,” Shirley said. “But Jan did warn us last night of a potential source of trouble.”
“Oh,” Juliette said, “what’s that?”
“The widow Coates remembered we said that her late unlamented husband had told a whore, and the word had got to us.”
"The hotel in Greenwich?" Juliette asked
"I visited last night with Jo and Dom." Heather smiled, “I erased their security footage for the night in question."
"So the best they can get is a few weeks old memory of what the whore might have looked like?”
"Correct." Heather nodded.
“The slip of the tongue was mine,” Juliette said.
“Janice takes equal fault for not spotting it, and we have minimized the risk,” Shirley said.
"We still keep an even closer eye on Doc
"I agree,” Heather said. “By the way she's pretty good on computers herself, her home-made fire walls made hers one of the hardest I've ever hacked into."
Jo shook her head. “Once I’ve got these tests out of the way, she and I need to have a serious talk about matters.”
“Still, in the meantime, we’ll ask Annie to keep a close eye on her.”
“So,” Shirley whispered to Maddie, “How does it feel to suddenly have a decent retirement plan?”
“Oh I’m not in the mood for retiring yet,” Maddie said with a smile, “I think I’ve only just started…”
“Welcome to the majors,” Charlotte said as she hugged Lily.
“Yeah – perhaps you should offer to buy Dom’s house off her,” Penny said with a smile.
“She won’t sell – but… Can I have a drink please – a stiff one?”
“I think we could all use one,” Diana said as she stood up. “There are some bottles of champagne in the cellar…”
Monday 19th January
St Angela’s Gymnasium
The banner that was hung over one end of the hall made the event very clear, as it read “2015 Inter-School Freshman Dance” in big red letters on a gold background.
An annual event, the idea was the schools took turns to host a night where all the new students from all the schools could get together, and try to form bonds. Of course, with St Angela’s and Sacred Heart in the same room at the same time, Miss Tennant and her opposite number felt some tension – the memories of the basketball game last year still fresh in their minds.
But this was added to by the other schools – and especially the boys from places like St Augustine’s and Collegiate. At least, Annie said to herself as she walked round as one of the chaperones, they did not have to wear uniform.
A few boys and girls has already arrived, and were standing in small groups of friends, looking awkwardly at each other, wondering who would make the first move.
“Well, this is different,” Doc said as she stood with Nikki and Becca. Unlike the previous Saturday, all three were in jeans and open necked blouses, no makeup, hair hanging loose, and wearing their glasses.
“Hey you lot,” Pepsi said as she came in, “what’s happening?”
“Not a lot,” Becca said as Ama came in, “just looking at each other.”
“All right,” the DJ said, “let’s get this party started.”
He played a record as one or two people came onto the dance floor.
"It's so good of you to help chaperone the dance
Miss Kelly." one of the male teachers from St. Augustine's spoke.
"Thank you." Annie looked at her charges, "Why the hell are they looking so drab?" she asked herself.
"Girls who usually dress so sexily, looking so plain… it made no sense."
"I can't see Miss January here." one of the
Harker boys moaned to a friend.
"Yeah the hottest looking freshman in the city
and she's skipping the big dance…."
"It's false advertising." A third boy complained, "They got us here under false pretenses."
"No Jeannie Brewster either," another boy
"She had to work tonight I heard."
"See false advertising."
"Jeannie wouldn't dance anyway because of her
"But she'd be awfully easy on the eye."
Doc giggled as she walked up. “Oh I don’t know,” she said to them, “why don’t one of you dance with me instead.”
The boys looked at her for a moment, before one of them said “sure” and walked onto the dance floor with her, dancing in a very awkward manner.
“You got your wish,” she thought to herself as some of the other boys approached the girls.
“Nick,” Ama said as she looked at her friend, “I did not know you went to one of these schools?”
“I don’t – I snuck in with Annie Kelly. May I have this dance?”
Ama smiled shyly and nodded as Nick took her hand and led her onto the dance floor, Pepsi smiling as she watched.
“They make a nice couple,” Becca said, before she was asked onto the dance floor by a boy with red hair. It took her a few minutes to recognize Alex from the Saturday night.
“So where do you go to school,” she asked as they moved in something approaching a dance.
“St Augustine’s, you come here?”
Becca nodded and smiled.
"The freshman dance is tonight." Abby said
as she sat in her robe awaiting the photographers’ call.
"I know." Jeannie smiled.
"Wish you were there?"
"NO!" Jeannie laughed. "I think thanks
to you I found the right guy for me."
"He's a very gentle man…"
"Any regrets Abs?"
"No Tony is perfect for me." Abby smiled,
"He's kind, considerate, attentive…."
"Good in bed?" Jeannie giggled.
"Yes." Abby smiled shyly.
"I asked them to put some music on to get you
girls in the right mood." Terry Kuchewski the photographer came over.
"I want lots of energy, lots of pop please girls."
Assistants suddenly swarmed over each model fussing over each detail.
Abby slipped off her gown to reveal a grey silk halter neck dress and five inch heel pumps, while Jeannie had on a black silk blouse and leather micro skirt, slit up the side, black stockings and ankle boots.
“All right girls,” Terry said as Jeannie was lifted onto the stool, “You’re listening to the music, enjoying it – yes that’s it keep going.”
"Okay can you cross Jeannie's legs please?"
"Hey Mum can I wear a skirt this short for
"Over my dead body Jeannie Brewster." a
voice came from beyond the lights.
"Spoilsport." Jeannie called back as she
bopped her shoulders pretending to dance as she sat on the bar stool leaning on
"Now you as well Abigail."
"Like this?" Abby pretended to dance.
"Those are great poses. Just listen to the music, work off it please…. Nice…. very nice."
Things had livened up a little, and at least the groups were mixing, but Annie was still perplexed, so decided the direct approach would produce results.
"Okay spill it Doc?" Annie said as she backed
Anna up into a corner.
"The reason why you and your little group who
usually when out in public dress to the nines, are looking….well like
"Am I talking to our teacher, or our
friend?" Doc was suddenly serious.
"Both I guess."
"Well have you considered one part is I don't
want to be signing calendars?"
"That one I'll grant you." Annie had been
asked to sign her own pic a few times.
"The other reason might just be a few boys here
might just have had intimate knowledge…."
"Shit…you girls promised Caroline."
“It was a party,” Doc said, “and things got a little out of hand. We just wanted to spare their embarrassment – well, more than we have anyway.”
“Doc, if Caroline finds out…”
“Nothing like that happened,” Anna said as she walked off, Annie watching her as she passed a group of boys.
"This is their card." one of the boys
"You say they are expensive?" another boy
"Yeah but they are classy and mature….not like
these girls at all." he glanced at Doc
"Oh if only he knew…" Doc smiled to herself.
"Kent has to be the luckiest guy alive, a father who gives him a present like that."
"Well Terry?" Jeannie asked as she relaxed
in her chair.
"Take a look." he started scrolling through
the images on the computer.
"Not too shabby….makes me look as leggy as
"You both look wonderful." Karen Hammond the
fashion editor in charge spoke.
"Well you are the boss." Abigail slipped her
glasses on to look at the pictures. "Yeah these are good."
"Hire the best models you get the best
"Karen their egos are already big enough."
Diana smiled as she came into the studio.
"What time is it Mum?" Jeannie called out.
"Gone midnight, and you have school in the morning…."
“Knocking off time,” Jeannie said as she put her coat on, “Night all.”
Tuesday 20th January
Carina opened the door to see Ingrid standing in the corridor.
“Hey there – classes over for the day,” she said with a smile.
“All done – did she make it?”
“She did,” Ingrid said as she came in, followed by a very special visitor.
Sigrid von Manschen at 35 still looked as she had at 15, a cute little redhead who fitted everyone’s idea of the girl next door, or baby sister. That she was a mother herself of three young children, and the wife of a socially prominent Frankfurt banker, seemingly made no difference, she was still seemingly eternally meant to look young.
“Aunt Sigi this is Carina, Carina Aunt Sigrid.” Ingrid made the introductions.
“Hello…” Carina paused.
“Call me Sigi or Aunt Sigi, Carina. I don’t mind either.” Sigrid smiled as she kissed her niece.
“Okay Aunt Sigi it is…how was your flight?”
“Oh the usual Lufthansa hell, I had to show my passport to get a drink, they’ve lost one of my bags, and the food was inedible.”
“Poor you.” Carina smiled. She had taken a taken an instant liking to her aunt. “So was Ingrid showing you something of the campus while I was at class?”
“A bit, I have to say it’s a lovely university.”
“Where did you study yourself?”
“Berlin and Heidelberg, one very twentieth century, the other very, very old. I studied law and jurisprudence.”
“She’s never practiced though.” Ingrid smiled, “She married Uncle Dieter instead.”
“Well let’s be correct, he got me pregnant, THEN I married him.” Sigi smiled.
“Can I just make a remark Aunt?” Cari asked, “That it’s a pleasure to finally meet a relative who I don’t have to stare upwards at.”
“I know, they are all damn giants aren’t they?”
“We aren’t giants, it’s just you two are short.” Ingrid laughed.
“Don’t listen to her Carina, take it from me they are freaks.”
“So, is our dear daddy unaware Sigi is here?”
“As far as I am aware – unless he rang Uncle Dieter in the last twelve hours,” Ingrid said.
“Good – we’ll drive down tonight. I happen to know he and Mom are having a meal out, so we’re meeting Aunt Diana at her place – we’re going to give them the fright of their lives.”
“Hey Ingrid,” Judy said as she came in, “who’s this?”
“Judy, this is my – our Aunt Sigi. Aunt Sigi, Judy McNally, Cari’s roommate.”
“Pleasure,” Judy said as she shook Sigi’s hand.
“Jude, we need to go to the city tonight. Anything you need taken to your place for the ball?”
“Yeah – I got my shoes today, so can you drop them off?”
“No problem – pack 'em up and give me them in an hour. I need to change and get Baby ready.”
“Aunt Sigi,” Ingrid said, “meet Judith, Carina’s daughter.”
“Hello young lady,” Sigi said as she shook Judith’s finger, “a real pleasure to meet you.”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Carina said, “Have fun with her.”
“I think she may need…”
“Oh sorry – over there if you don’t mind?”
Cari ducked into her room as Sigi laid Judith down on the changing table.
When she returned ten minutes later, she had already changed the diaper and was tickling Judith’s tummy, the baby gurgling happily.
"Well Jude,” Carina said, “what do you make of
"She looks younger then us Cari." Judy smiled. "I hope she has ID - she'll never get served in a bar or anything."
"And you say she has three children herself?"
"Didn't you see her professional way with a
"Yeah I did…She's the most unprincess like
Princess I ever saw."
"Well technically since her marriage she's a mere Baroness, but yeah I get what you mean."
“Right then,” Sigi said as she looked at the girls, “what say we give my big brother the shock of his life?”
The de Ros Mansion.
Diana was sitting in her drawing room with Abigail, allowing their meal to digest, when there was a ring on the front door.
“Now who could that be,” Diana said as Abby stood up.
“I’ll find out,” Abby said as she went to the door, only to smile as Edith let Carina and Ingrid in.
“Hey you two, what brings you down here tonight,” she said as they came in.
“To bring a special visitor,” Carina said as Sigi walked in behind them. “Countess Abigail de Ros, may I introduce you to Baroness Sigrid von Manschen.”
“Or as I call her, Aunt Sigi,” Ingrid said with a laugh as the door closed.
"Oh Dear God this is ridiculous." Sigi
laughed as she was introduced to Abigail.
"You'll have to do what I do and wear heels
"But I HATE them."
Abigail laughed, "Well it's that or a crick in
the neck from looking straight up."
"I guess I’d better go shopping." Sigi
sighed. "So how is your aunt,
Abigail - nerves yet?"
"A few…do you know her?"
"Only very slightly, we met at a seminar on EEC
law last year. She probably doesn't even remember me"
"Actually I do remember you…" Natasha spoke
from the doorway, "This evil woman's idea of how to enliven a very dull seminar
was a flask of Schnapps…By the end of the seminar neither of us cared what the
speakers were saying."
"Well as you say it was DEADLY." Sigi laughed
as Natasha embraced her.
"So you are Cari's aunt?"
"For her sins…"
"DIANA!" Sigi ran to embrace an old friend.
"Sigi do you ever grow up?" Diana chuckled
as the German woman hugged her.
"Not if I can avoid doing so." Sigi said
with a twinkle in her eye.
"So does Klaus know you are here?"
"I'd rather he didn't - we are doing an operation to make sure we get Juliette to Vienna."
“Ah, mystery and intrigue – well, come in, come in, and let us conspire. Have you eaten yet?”
“Not yet – we’ll go and grab something later before I go to my hotel and Carina heads back to settle her daughter. You have a magnificent home here Diana – your investments have paid in dividends.”
“I cannot complain, although my daughter may soon eclipse me,” Diana said as they sat down. “So how is the family?”
“Noisy – I left the nanny in charge, and Dieter is in Geneva at an investment bankers meeting for a few days. I have photos if you are interested?”
Sigi took a small wallet from her purse and handed it to Diana while Natasha handed her a drink.
“They look like wonderful boys,” Diana said, “and your daughter is the spitting image of you.”
“Well, Abigail is just like you – if a few inches taller,” Sigi said with a smile. “Seeing her reminds me of the time you and Juliette snuck me away from my governess and told everyone I was your younger sister.”
“Oh I heard about that,” Natasha said as she curled up on the chair, “is it true you had to dress like Vanessa Paradis while Diana and Juliette pretended to be the stern teachers?”
“Mamma,” Abby said as she looked over, “is there any truth in this?”
“Oh it was true all right,” Sigi said with a smile. “We ended up in this café at the Left Bank, and Diana did the most wonderful Marlene Dietrich rendition of Lily Marlene…”
“Only to be topped,” Diana said as she looked over, “by your rather animated rendition of The Ballad of Jenny Diver from the Threepenny Opera. Tell me, Sigi dearest, do you still listen to Brecht?”
“Whenever I get the chance, Diana – true opera knows no boundaries.”
“Hang on,” Abby said quietly, “my mother? Singing in public? A Berthold Brecht song? Why is this only announced to me now?”
“Way to go Aunt Diana – next you’ll be telling me you danced the Can Can at the Moulin Rouge.”
Cari looked at Diana and Sigi, who were trying not to laugh, and said “Oh my goddess, you didn’t…”
“NO I did not,” Diana said as she sat back. “That was Juliette, and it was a charity event for the Sorbonne.”
“My mom danced the Can Can? Oh I wish I had seen that,” Cari said with a laugh.
“Still, your mother Abigail – What has she told you of her life before she met your father?”
“Not much – why, what secrets does she have?”
“Sigi, tread very carefully,” Diana said with a smile.
“Oh come on Diana – how old are you now Abigail, sixteen?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Well, when I, an innocent fifteen year old, had to explain to one young man that your mother was just getting ready while a second one climbed out of the widow and descended on the ivy from the veranda of the apartment she shared with Juliette…”
“What can I say, darling – I was a young girl, we all were…”
“But this is all news to me.”
“Me as well,” Carina said as she set her drink down. “Was Mom a rebel raiser as well?”
“Ask her about the Café Madelaine some time,” Sigi said as she stood up. “Diana darling may I…”
“Second door on the right,” she said as she and Ingrid
left and took care of matters. As they
washed, Sigi said "So Ingy sweetie, my grand-niece...her father?"
"Carina doesn't volunteer the information, I
"Your father neither?"
"No we discussed it, it's Carina's business, but
I hear on the grape vine it was a one night thing and he left after getting the
news she was pregnant."
"Oh poor Carina…that's not fun."
"No, but Judith is such a sweet baby."
"Yes, even if she greeted me like that." Sigi smiled.
As they returned, Diana handed them each a glass of wine and said “So – you want Juliette in Vienna for the Opera Ball?”
“That’s right,” Carina said, “if I’m coming out there, I want her by my side, but she has issues with some of Sigi’s family.”
“To be honest, most of my family,” Sigi said with a sigh, “They are still somewhat parochial in their outlook.”
“If my beloved mother in law can be turned, so can they,” Diana said with a smile. “What we need is the right incentive – and to do that, we need to call in a favour from a friend.
“Abigail, darling, get Missy to come and see me will you?”
“Missy? Why, mama?”
“Because we need to get sneaky,” Diana said with a smile.
Wednesday 21st January
The Huntingdown Apartment
“All right Cari, I’ll see you later,” Juliette said as she found her car keys, and headed for the door. As she opened it, however, she was greeted by a cry of “SURPRISE!”
“Sigi? Oh my god Sigi – when did you get into town?” Juliette said as she embraced her old friend.
“Last night – I stayed in the Waldorf, but I wanted to come and see you before I did anything else – can I come in?”
“Of course,” she said as Sigi came in, “Does Klaus know you’re here?”
“I knocked on his door and gave him the fright of his life. I must say, I love this place, it reflects you so well.”
“But what are you doing here?”
“Can’t I come and visit my favourite niece during the season here?”
“Well, yes, of course, but…”
“Then that is why I am here,” she said with a smile. “Now come on – take me to your workplace, I understand the divine Mary still works there…”
“Mary? Where are you hiding in here?”
“That you Ju? I’m in here,” she heard Merlin call out, so she beckoned Sigi to follow her quietly behind. As they approached, they saw she was looking at a table, matching the Dior gowns to possible models.
“Tell me,” she said without looking up, “if I put Carina and Holly on the stage at the same time, would they be able to carry it off without trying to kill each other?”
“I’m sure they can be professional for a little while,” Juliette said as she looked over the smaller woman’s shoulder.
“Hmmm – and what about this one for young Anna?”
“A truly beautiful creation – I hope she can carry it off, as you say.”
Mary lifted her head and took her glasses off, turning to see if her ears had deceived her.
“Oh my – Sigi? Is that really little Sigi? You’ve hardly grown at all!”
“From you, I take this as a compliment,” Sigi said as they embraced. “How many years has it been since Paris?”
“Enough to make me an old woman and Juliette a grandmother,” Mary said with a broad smile.
The Waldorf Hotel
"Jeanne, Janice, thank you both for coming."
Natasha kissed both women. "I have a problem I need your advice on."
"Sounds intriguing," Janice eased herself up
on to a bar stool.
"What advice can two policewomen offer a
diplomat?" Jeanne asked.
"Just how diplomatic I should be…should I invite
Klaus to the wedding now he's Juliette's…?"
"Ju would deny he's her anything." Janice
glanced at the menu.
"But he clearly is, let's be honest." Jeanne
"Well if I invite him do I invite Ingrid?"
"I guess so." Janice tried to catch the
"And if her, do I invite Sigi and her
"Oh I see your problem darling, what does your
Mama say?" Jeanne also tried getting a drink.
"She just reminded me that Sigi's husband Dieter
is a distant cousin of mine, and that Juliette and Klaus are becoming a couple."
"Well go ahead, invite all four then…"
"But our church is already packed to the
"I'm sure you can fit them in, a good Aristocratic wedding can I'm sure slip in more princes and barons." Janice laughed aloud.
“Oh why not – in for a penny and all that,” Natasha said as she whistled, and the barman came over. “Three manhattans – and don’t skimp on the vermouth.”
"I've booked a table for Carina's debutante ball ladies - who is in and who isn't?" Shirley asked her friends and colleagues.
"Sorry, I need to return home." Penny look disappointed, "I have a new house to move into."
“I understand – perhaps next time?”
“We shall see,” Penny said with a smile.
"Do we need escorts?" Lily asked.
"Should do, the tickets are doubles…"
"Well Piet has said he'd like to meet my friends,
convince himself we aren't all spies." Charlotte smiled.
"Susan and Clint will be back…" Maddie
"Well that's six with John, we need three more
couples." Shirley looked up from her information.
"Put me down, with date." Dominique smiled
at her friend’s curious looks.
“Date? And who are you going to be bringing?”
“Just wait and see,” Dominique said with a smile.
"Just you and Maddie, Lily?"
"Well Uncle George is socially respectable…. Yeah, we’re in"
"Maddie and PARTNER?" Shirley enquired.
“Sure,” Maddie said, “I’ll get them out here for the weekend.”
“Excellent then that is – done,” Shirley said with a smile.
“So we finally get to meet the mysterious other,” Lily said. “Susan never told us who it was.”
“Because I keep my professional and private life separate,” Maddie said with a smile.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“She surprised me as well,” Klaus said as he sat down. “I was not expecting to see her for two weeks.”
“All right then, darling Sigi,” Juliette said as she sat opposite them, “why are you here?”
“Well,” Sigi said, “you know that Carina has agreed to come to Vienna for the Opera Ball?”
“Yeah – that should be her last ball for a while.”
“Well – I really think you should be there for her as well, Juliette.”
She looked at them as Carina and Ingrid came in.
“Oops – I think we’re interrupting something,” Cari said as she looked at both of them.”
“Juliette,” Klaus said, “give me one good reason why you should not come to the ball.”
“I have work for one thing…”
“I happen to know Anna wants you to do an article on the coming out fashions for this year – you can call it research.”
“True, but I know hardly anyone out there…”
“You know me,” Ingrid said, “and Papa and Aunt Sigi and Carina…”
“What about Judith?”
“Heather and Judy have offered to look after her for a few days,” Carina said with a smile.
Juliette looked round the room, and then said “Klaus, your family…”
“Can go boil their heads, as I believe the expression goes. I would consider it a great honour if you would join us there.”
Juliette sighed and said “I don’t know…”
“At least say you’ll think about it,” Sigi said as she reached over and took her hand.
“All right, I’ll think about it,” she finally said as she stood up, “now who wants some coffee?”
Twenty minutes later, the group were standing around, holding their coffee mugs as Juliette looked round.
“Alright let’s review where we stand troops.” Juliette spoke to the assembled throng in her kitchen.
“Well Alex and I have our suits cleaned and pressed, we can go as soon as our commander calls.” Klaus smiled,
“Why do men think preparing for something this big is so easy?” Sigi looked at her brother in disgust, especially when there is the little matter of a wedding outside the country to intervene.
“My dress is made, I just need to pick it up closer to the date.” Carina spoke.
“Mine too.” Her sister nodded.
“What about shoes, accessories, etc.?” Juliette looked up from her checklist.
“All acquired.” Ingrid nodded.
“Aunt Sigi is lending me her sapphires.”
“Vanessa is letting me wear the Richmond Emeralds.” Cari looked happy at the thought.
“John will drive us in Vanessa’s limo Mom.”
“Yours and Papa’s department, Juliette.”
“I got the tickets for Annie, and for John and Shirley…Who else do you want to invite at the last minute?”
“You remembered Aunt Sigi?” Cari asked.
“Yes I did, officially she’s Klaus’ escort as I am Alexander’s”
“Aunt Diana…did you.”
“Diana and a guest are also to be on our table.” Juliette looked relaxed.
"Oh before I forget hair and makeup…"
"Mary has assembled a little team, they'll be
here all afternoon to work on us all." Juliette smiled at her daughter.
"I just hope I am not going to disappoint
"Carina you never have yet." Juliette put
her arms round her daughter.
"What about Judith?" for a second Cari
"Janine has volunteered to babysit."
"Oh that was good of her." Cari relaxed.
“So there’s nothing more we can do, except enjoy the wedding.”
“On which note,” Klaus said, “you should know that Sigi and I received invitations by personal delivery today. If you would rather we did not come…”
Juliette looked at Cari, who shook her head and said “nothing to do with me mom.”
“Well, we fly out tomorrow, but I would be happy to see you here on Saturday Klaus – and you Sigi.”
“And with that,” Carina said, “we have a party to attend. Sure you won’t come Mom?”
“No, I’ll watch Judith,” Juliette said with a smile, “along with Sigi.”
“Then I must go,” Klaus said, “I have an invitation to Dinner with the gentlemen. I will see you in France,” he said as he bowed, and left the ladies.
“This plane is going to be full of those going to the wedding,” Carina said as she and Ingrid left, “and I for one think it will be the better for it.”
Marquee New York
“Are you sure I am allowed in here,” Marie-Louise said as the cab pulled up outside the main entrance. The young girl was wearing an off the shoulder silver top, skin tight jeans and ankle boots, bought for her by Abby that day.
“Trust me, cousin,” Abigail said as they got out, “tonight, you are a very important person.”
“Listen to your cousin,” Jo said as she got out as well, “she can get us into places.”
Abby was wearing a black velvet jacket and jeans, with high heeled black boots, while Jo wore a blue smock top over dark leggings and knee length leather boots.
“Miss de Ros,” the doorman said as he unclipped the rope over the entrance, “we were told to expect you and your party. Bob here will show you to the area reserved.”
Marie-Louise looked round as they were led into the nightclub, and round to an area with a rope over the entrance, a sign saying “private party” over the rope and a very large gentleman standing by the rope.
“Let them in,” Abby heard Natasha call out, and the man removed the rope, allowing them to come in and join her with Caroline and Isabelle.
“You made it,” she said as they embraced and kissed. “The others are hopefully on their way.”
“Interesting place – how do we get drinks?”
“They’re running a shuttle service with drinks here all night – part of the booking, and we go on the dance floor whenever we want.”
“So this is where the action is,” Annie said as she and Caroline joined the group, both wearing blouses and jeans.
“Sure is – Caroline, Isabella and Marie-Louise, meet Annie Kelly and Caroline Jameson.”
“Pleasure,” Caroline said as she smiled at them. “What do you have to do get a drink around here?”
“Know the right people, for one thing,” Pussy said as she and Frieda came into the area, Pussy draping a sash that said “New Bride To Be” over Natasha’s top.
“There – now they know who to pamper,” she said as she kissed the young woman on both cheeks.
“Where’s Ama,” Abby asked.
“She went round to see Maisha – she felt it was wrong for her to come, and I respect her decision,” Annie said as she took a drink.
“Come on,” Annie said as she dragged Carina and Jo with her to the dance floor, “let’s party!”
As they went onto the floor, more of the girls arrived, kissing Natasha and joining in the conversations.
"So how does it feel to be a sinner
Marie-Louise?" Caroline asked the French girl as she sat at the table.
"But I have not misbehaved," she looked bewildered as she answered.
"It's what the press call our little social group, the men are saints, the women sinners."
"It comes from a photo taken at Halloween last
year that appeared in the papers." Annie added as she re-joined them.
"I'm still not sure I understand, but…" she sipped her champagne, "I guess I am a sinner now."
“You are indeed,” Abby said, “we all are in our own sweet way.”
Outside the club John pulled the limo up. "Okay
girls this is the place." he glanced in the mirror.
Jeannie smiled and called out her thanks.
"I better get you out love." John got out of the limo and retrieved the
chair from the trunk, opening it on the sidewalk.
"Hey Bub you can't…." the doorman came over.
"Can you give me a hand here?" John opened
the limo door.
"Why…Oh Miss Brewster we were told to expect you
and your party." the doorman said as he assisted John in getting Jeannie
"Okay we all here?" Jeannie called out as
Kelly Rochermann and her daughters, Doc, Nikki and her Mom, and Pepsi all
"Thank the Lord - no photographers." John
said as he looked round.
"It's early." Ally observed, "By the
time we leave I'll bet you the press will know we are here."
"Wagons Roll!" Doc laughed as she started wheeling Jeannie into the club.
“This way,” the manager said as they were led to the area, Abby waving as the rope was lifted and Jeannie was rolled in. The other girls were wearing tight tops and jeans, while Kelly had on an off the shoulder top and leggings.
"Can someone help me up onto one of those bar
stools with the chair backs please." Jeannie smiled. "Prop me in one
of those and for once I can watch what's going on from adult height."
"Be careful Caroline." Annie spoke softly as
she and her roomie lifted the disabled girl.
"Now that's better,” Jeannie said with a smile, “I can see what's going on."
"I love those thigh high boots." Caroline checked out the young model’s ensemble – thigh high black leather boots and mini skirt, with a gold crop top. "Does your Mom know you are out in a leather mini that short?"
"Hey wait till she arrives with Diana, their skirts are even shorter."
“You are joking,” Caroline said as she looked at Abby.
“Don’t ask me,” she said as Jeanne arrived.
“Hey – you made it,” Natasha said as they kissed each other.
“Of course I made it – let’s do this,” she said as she, Carina and Ingrid dragged the bride to be onto the dance floor.
“We’re not too late are we,” Tonia said as she arrived with Lisa.
“Of course not – grab a drink and join in the fun!”
"Great party ladies.'" Kelly Rochermann
dropped into her seat as she came back from the dance floor.
"I know isn't it just." Jeanne laughed as
she glanced round. "I'm glad I got to stay on in New York for it."
"Well the damn Pussycats are good for something
then." Abby interrupted.
"I guess so."
"Hey girls." Claire Morse grabbed and hugged
her friends as she and her daughters arrived. "This is some turnout."
"New York is giving my friend a great
sendoff." Jeanne remarked. "She's so happy and excited."
"Well I've met the groom, I think I'd be excited
too." Claire giggled.
"He's certainly handsome." Kelly sighed
"All my uncles are handsome." Abby smiled.
"You're a good looking family darling."
"I wish I could convince Marie-Louise of
"She's just a bit shy Abby." Jeanne nodded, "But she seems to be enjoying chatting with Jeannie."
"I just got indecently propositioned on the dance
floor." Izzy laughed.
"By that black kid who dances so well?"
asked the French Caroline.
"Yes." Izzy laughed more.
"So what did you say?"
"I said if he's still here when I've drunk more
of this champagne, and his…"
"Izzy you wouldn't?" British Caroline
laughed as well.
"Why not my friends?"
“Oh My Goddess – MAMA?”
Abigail looked at her mother and Barbara, who were both wearing leather minidresses, the skirt barely covering their bottoms, and five inch heels.
“What’s the matter, Abigail – don’t believe your mother can get away with this,” Diana said as she closed Abby’s mouth.
“Well, I say you can,” Pussy said as she handed them a drink.
"Hey girls." Jo greeted the twins.
"Hey yourself." Nell replied as she sipped
"So who's here other than our party?"
"A few guys we know." Ally looked round.
"I need a favor, can you find a safe guy and get
him to ask Abby’s cousin to dance, she’s a bit of a wallflower."
"We noticed…" Nell said.
"I'll see who we can round up." Ally went off to the dance floor.
"Thanks girls, I will owe you one."
The club manager watched the ladies in the roped off
section. Having such a prestige group was great for the club and they were
paying handsomely to have a great time.
"Boss we have trouble outside," one of the
hostesses came up and whispered in his ear.
The young woman nodded. "Pru Stratton is besieged
in her car."
"Okay I'll sort it," he signaled discreetly to two of the bouncers to follow him.
“Excuse us gentlemen,” he said as a path was cleared through from the door to the cab, and he opened the door.
“Our apologies for the delay Ms. Stratton – if you will follow me?”
“If it means a drink, I’ll follow you,” Pru said as she stepped out, her silver skin tight pants reflecting the flashing bulbs as she walked into the club.
“Pru, you made it,” Pussy said as she handed her a drink, “join in the fun!”
“Hey you’re back,” Caroline said as she embraced Susan, “how was the trip?”
“Enlightening,” Susan said, “I introduced Clint to my mother, we exchanged pleasantries, and then some old friends dropped in for tea and crumpets.”
“And there’s a flying pig over there,” Caroline said as she handed her friend a drink.
“All right – but I did persuade her to try and dry out, and we did meet some old friends. I need to tell Lily to expect a call when she gets back.”
Taking Caroline into a corner, she whispered “I saw the news – just how much did you take?”
“They’re still trying to figure it out,” Caroline said as she looked at the bump under Susan’s top. “But baby will have some very rich aunts.”
Marie-Louise turned her head to see a tall red headed boy standing on the other side of the rope from her.
“Sorry if this seems forward, but could I have a dance with you?”
She looked at Abby, who nodded and shooed her up and out of the roped off area, watching as the boy took her cousin onto the dance floor and they started to move to the music.
Glancing over, she mouthed “Thank you” to Ally, before Cari dragged her out as well.
The clink at the side of the champagne glass brought the party together.
"Ladies I would like to propose a toast."
Caroline de Melfort looked to make sure everyone had a full glass, "To
Natasha, and may she have the long happy marriage she deserves."
"Natasha." the other women clinked their
"Girls,” Natasha said as she beamed, “can I thank
you all for coming to my party."
"It's a slow night and we had no other invites…"
"As I was saying." Natasha stood up,
"Thank you for coming, such wonderful friends remind me of how America has
changed my life, and how much I love all of you."
"It's our pleasure." Kelly shouted.
"Willy and I will look forward to seeing many of
you at the wedding, but also all of you when we move into our new home in a few
"More PARTAYING!" yelled out Ally.
"And I'm on the wagon." Susan rolled her
Natasha giggled, "Well on that subject, let me
say my Mama's worst fears have come true…After the wedding I'm also going off
drink…for Seven and a half months,"
"You’re pregnant?" Half the women shouted.
"YESSSSSSSSS!" Natasha laughed.
"The woman who insisted we get birth control is
pregnant." Abby laughed.
"Do as I say, not as I do Darling." Natasha smiled.
“Excuse me ladies – I’m looking for Natasha de Ros.”
The party turned to see a tall man standing there, dressed in a tuxedo, dark trousers, white shirt, black shoes, bow tie. He stood about six foot two; broad shouldered, and held a box in his hands.
“That would be me,” Natasha said, “How may I help you?”
“I have a gift for you,” he said as he handed Natasha the box. Opening it, she took out a single red rose, as Pussy signaled to the DJ.
“It’s beautiful, but why…”
The sound of Tom Jones singing You Can Leave Your Hat On started to come over the speakers, as the man slowly unbuttoned his jacket and slipped it down his arms, moving towards Natasha as he did so.
“What does he think he is doing,” Marie-Louise said as he unfastened his bow tie, and placed it over Natasha’s head, moving it to and from before he left it there and started to unbutton his shirt.
“OH DEAR GODDESS – Pussy, you didn’t…”
“Oh yes I did Tee,” Pussy said as he got Natasha to unbutton his shirt.
She soon had him down to a leopard skin thong, the music continuing with Kiss by Tom Jones.
"Oh dear lord." Diana laughed as her
sister-in-law rubbed herself up and down the man in his thong as they danced.
"GO AUNT NATSAHA!" Abby shouted.
"Your Grandmother will kill us all…" Diana
laughed as the ladies snapped pictures.
"What do you mean Grandmamma, Uncle Willy might
beat her to it."
"I never knew she had it in her." Izzy stood
shaking with laughter.
"Nor I think did she." Jeanne held up her
phone filming the dancing couple.
"You know this will be all over the Internet?" Annie was splitting her sides with laughter.
"I just have to do this." Heather took a
twenty dollar bill from her purse and tucked it into the man’s underwear.
"I'll add to his tip." Becca tucked a note
"What tip?" her mother laughed, "You can tell he's a good Jewish boy." she added a twenty as the guy danced in front of her.
"Oh my God." Ally and Nell yelled as they
got up to dance with the stripper.
"Is that what they call a sausage sandwiched in
Pumpernickel." Barbara laughed.
"If they dance any closer it will be." Izzy
was bursting her sides.
"I don't believe it!" Abby laughed as Marie-Louise
removed her top and joined the twins dancing with the guy.
"How many glasses as she had darling?" asked
"Mmmm too many." Abby's jaw dropped as her cousin’s
bra came flying towards her - quickly followed by the twins tops and bras,
"They'll not let a French girl top them."
Kelly laughed at her daughters.
"Is he gay or straight do you think?"
Barbara whispered to her daughter.
"Oh I hope he's straight." Jeannie's eyes were firmly on the bulge in his underwear.
“Plenty of water for her when we get home tonight – and not a word to Roger, understand?”
“Mama, I won’t mention this if you don’t mention this.”
“What?” Diana watched as Abby joined in.
One of the hostesses walked up and whispered into the
manager’s ear "the ladies are getting a little rowdy Boss."
"I noticed,” he said as he looked over, “but I think with the Deputy Mayor’s wife and daughters participating we are raid proof tonight."
“They seem to be playing it safe anyway.”
“True – on which note, what’s the state of play with the press?”
“Baying for anything according to the guys at the door.”
“Hmmm – All right, I have instructions if this happens.”
He walked quietly over to the party and tapped Caroline on the shoulder.
"Miss Jameson, I was told to talk to you if we got trouble tonight."
"The press outside?"
"Yeah customers leaving are talking about this
"Do you have back entrances?"
"We do." the manager nodded.
"Phone this guy." Caroline scribbled John's
mobile phone number on a napkin. "Tell him what's going on and that we
need transport arranged."
Caroline watched as he walked off, and then went over to Diana.
“We may need to leave soon – discretely,” she whispered into her ear.
“I guessed as much – let me know when,” Diana called back as the man kissed Natasha, and waved goodbye to the baying pack. Before he left, though, he walked up to Jeannie and gave her a long, passionate kiss, leaving her breathless before he walked away.
“Oh… My,” she said quietly, “he’s certainly not gay…”
A short while later, the manager came over and whispered into Caroline’s ear.
“All right folks – wonderful party though this is, we need to start moving out, and we need to avoid the press out front. John has a fleet of cars waiting out back – we go in groups of two and three.”
“Abby, Abby, Abby, Abs – do we really have to go,” Marie-Louise said as she slumped over the table.”
“I’m afraid we do – you have a long flight ahead of you tomorrow,” Abby said as she handed over her top. “Who is first?”
“Clare – you and Kelly with the girls?”
“Gotcha,” Kelly said as she rounded the twins up, and left with the Morse’s.
They left in small groups, until only the bridesmaids were left, as well as Jeannie and Barbara.
“Do you mind if I go with you,” Annie asked as she stepped forward with Carina. “I need to pick something up at Juliette’s place.”
“Sure,” Carina said as they left with Caroline and Isabella, and then the de Ros family left, Abby helping Marie-Louise as Diana carried Natasha.
“You’re a real swell, Aunt Diana,” Natasha said as they got into the back of the limo.
“So I’m told,” Diana said as they drove off, “so I’m told…”
Thursday 22nd January
The Huntingdown Apartment
"Am I complicating ball preparations by being
your lover?" Annie lay back in her girlfriend’s arms in Carina’s room.
"Only in that seeing you in your gown will drive
me mad wanting to dance with you, and I won't be able to." Juliette kissed
"So who is to be your 'official' escort
"Jack Stonemeyer, he's handsome, a great dancer,
he's on the baseball squad at Columbia, he's independently rich, and
"Should I be worried?" Annie looked up in
her girlfriend’s eyes.
"I was also about to add that he's gay."
"Oh." Annie giggled.
"So no darling he's no danger of taking your place either in my heart or my bed." Carina started nibbling Annie's ear lobe.
The de Ros Mansion
“Oh mon dieu, ce qui s'est passé la nuit dernière...”
“Good morning Marie-Louise,” Abigail said as she looked up from the breakfast table, “and how do you feel this morning?”
The young girl looked at her cousin, wearing the uniform of St Angela’s and munching on her toast, and sat down, her head in her hands.
“Tell me I did nothing I should be ashamed of,” she said as she looked at Abby.
“Ah,” Abby said, “well, let me put it this way – you were not the only one.”
“I was not…”
“Drink this,” Diana said as she handed Marie-Louise a glass of bubbling water, “and then have something to eat. It will help the alcohol to pass.”
“What exactly did I do last night,” she said as she looked at both of them.
“Do you remember the stripper?”
Marie-Louise looked at Diana, and then said “oh… OH no…”
“Do not worry, we will not tell your father, or Natasha’s mother – if we did, we’d have to show the pictures of what she did at the same time…”
Marie-Louise looked at them both, and then started laughing.
“Today, you relax,” Diana said, “we fly out of La Guardia tonight.”
“Oh my head…”
Pepsi looked at Anna and Nikki, and then at Jeannie.
“It was one hell of a party,” Jeannie said as they left the main hall, “but I suspect these two are a little the worse for wear.”
“And you’re fine,” Pepsi said as she looked at Becca.
“I was on my very best behavior,” Becca said, “and besides, mom was there – as was yours Nikki.”
“You should see her this morning – I don’t think she’s capable of lifting a telephone, never mind close a deal,” Nikki said as she drank from a bottle of water.
The group made their way down to the English classroom, only to stare in amazement as Annie Kelly stood at the front of the classroom.
“All right,” Jeannie said, “who skipped the weekend and took us to Monday instead?”
“Any other time, Jeannie,” Annie said, “I would agree.” She rubbed her head as the others took her seat, before saying “I’m here today because I want to lead a discussion with you about the book you are reading.”
She held up a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and said “Right – who has noticed the thing about the chapter numbers?”
Juliette cursed silently as she heard the telephone ring, and picked it up.
“Good morning Juliette, my apologies for interrupting your busy day.”
"Hello Shirley, lovely to hear from you."
Juliette lay back in her office chair.
"Well thank you Darling, pass on a message please
to Cari that we are making up a second table to support her on her big
"She'll appreciate that,” Juliette said with a
smile, “she's starting to get nervous."
"Well hopefully lots of friendly faces will
"There's another little thing you can help me
with as well if you don't mind."
"Only in so far as I want to get myself a car for
over here…any advice?"
"Ask Janice and Sandy, they are the experts…what
are you thinking of getting?"
"I'm really not sure, it's why I'm asking."
"Well, and it's my personal opinion, I see you in
a vintage James Bond Aston Martin."
"A bit too flashy maybe?"
"Shirley darling in our little circle you need a
car makes a statement."
"Like Carina's Maserati?"
"I'll ring the girls and see what they say, but
you've given me something to at least think on."
Juliette replaced the phone and then went to the door.
“Can you call home for me and ask Carina to make sure everything is ready for four - the car is coming to pick her, Judith and the others up then.”
“On it Boss – anything else?”
“Yes – get the Fashion Week Schedule for me, will you?”
Friday 23rd January
8 am ECT
Charles de Gaulle Airport
Abigail and Diana led the party out from the customs area, Joanne looking round her as they crossed the arrival hall.
“Is it just me, or is it warmer here,” she said as she looked at Abigail.
“It is – we’re further south than New York here,” Abby said as they wheeled their bags along, approaching a man who was standing by the door.
“Welcome, ladies,” he said as he touched his peaked cap. “The Countess de Ros sends her welcome, and asks if you will join me in the transport outside.”
“So we get the escort,” Joanne said with a giggle as they walked out and climbed into the large minibus.
“Indeed,” Diana said, “the others are travelling by train to the town, but we are going to the Chateau de Ros.”
“How long has it been since you visited there,” Carina said as they buckled in.
“It will be my first visit since we moved to New York,” Diana said, Abby nodding in agreement as they headed off.
“You will find light refreshment in the basket under the seat, Countess,” the driver said, Diana reaching under and pulling out the large wicker basket with the help of Joanne.
“Flasks of coffee and pastries – very thoughtful,” she said as she passed Marie-Louise a cup.
The scenery had slowly changed as they headed south, the city giving way to the countryside, the hills undulating up and down more and more the further they travelled.
It was nearly one; the group watching the world pass by, before the minibus pulled off the expressway and onto a smaller road, passing small farms as Carina looked into the distance.
“You can see some of the other local vineyards there,” Abigail said as she pointed out the rows of dots, while the minibus weaved its way along the narrow roads, past cottages and farms.
Eventually, they passed a sign that said “Bienvenue à Rosville.” The bus passed through the town, passing a market as the girls looked at the town hall behind the stalls.
“What a beautiful town,” Carina said as they passed a large church which had some women hanging bunting around it.
“That is the church where Alex will conduct the religious ceremony,” Natasha said as she looked out.
“So how exactly does this work tomorrow,” Juliette asked.
“Under French law, a couple can only be married by the local mayor or leading dignitary,” Diana said, “so there is the formal marriage ceremony first in the town hall. By tradition, only family and attendants go to that ceremony. From there, we go to the church for the religious ceremony and blessing, and then to the wedding breakfast at Chateau de Ros.”
“Chateau de Ros – we’ve heard so much about it,” Joanne said as they passed the other side of the town, and went along the road, the vineyards becoming more visible as they drove. “When do we get our first glimpse of it?”
“Right about – now,” Abigail said as she pointed to the front of the bus. There was what looked a small forest that they were about to drive through, but over the top of the trees they could see four round turrets rising in the air, made from pale stone and with red-sloped roofs on them.
“How big is this place,” Carina whispered, “if we see those now?”
“Big,” Diana said as they entered the forest, the light shining on the road through the trees.
“And here we are,” the driver said as he turned through a set of ornate gates, and the minibus drove up a tree lined avenue.
“It looks smaller than I remembered,” Abigail said as they came out onto a large circular driveway, a large fountain in the middle, and pulled up in front of a large mansion.
The Chateau de Ros was not the largest chateau in the region, but it was one of the larger ones – the three floors extending for a hundred feet in each direction from the large stairs to the front entrance. The windows were in a classical style, the sun reflecting off them as Joanne stared up.
“My god – it’s like a fairy tale,” she said as the driver opened the luggage compartment of the mini bus.
“You were only a little girl when you last visited here,” Diana said as the driver opened the door, while the doors to the chateau opened and a small army of valets appeared, descending the stairs and taking the cases inside as Valeria de Ros came out, wearing a grey trouser suit over a red jumper.
“Welcome,” she said as she came down and embraced Natasha. “Come in, come in – it is cold out here, and we have lunch ready.”
“Did the dresses arrive, mama?”
“They did my dear – and they are currently hanging ready for you all to wear tomorrow. The designer has sent word that he will meet us at the town hall tomorrow morning.”
“Wonderful – come on everyone, I’m hungry.”
They walked into the main reception area, Marie-Louise staring up at the large ornate chandelier that hung from the ceiling. The floor was made of marble, with a white staircase that went in two halves in a gentle curve and then met to ascend to the upper floor.
“Amazing, isn’t it,” Juliette said with a smile. The sunlight streamed in through the high windows, illuminating every corner as they looked round.
“Come,” Valeria said, “this way.”
They walked to the left into a smaller dining room, where the table was laid for ten.
“Sit,” Valeria said as she rang a bell, “and tell me all about the journey over.”
“Goddess, Abigail, I knew you were rich, but this is amazing.”
Joanne turned from the window and looked over as a maid unpacked and put her clothes away. The room was as large as the main room at Sandy’s house, and she had it all to herself, while Carina had her own room to look after Judith as well. Abigail and her mother had a suite of rooms to themselves.
After they had eaten, Abigail had given them the quick tour. The Chateau actually had two wings behind the main house, looking out onto a garden that had been designed by Capability Brown. Beyond the garden stood the buildings where Chateau de Ros wine was produced – some of which were in the process of being rebuilt.
And beyond that were the hills, on the southern facing side of which were the vines, bare now, but still been maintained by an army of workers who were walking along the hill sides, tending and looking after the grape producing plants.
“Well, we don’t like to talk about it,” Abigail said as she came in from the en suite bathroom, drying her hands while the maid gave a little curtsey and left, closing the door behind her. “Still, I had forgotten just how beautiful this place is.”
She joined Joanne at the window, looking over to the hills where the vines were been maintained. “Grandmamma runs the vineyard from the east wing, over there – that’s where the business offices and storage rooms are. The west wing is where the servants live.”
“Just how many people work here?”
“Normally? Twelve I think in the house, as well as the chef and housekeeper. There are extra staff here for the wedding and the breakfast.”
“I’m amazed Edith didn’t come?”
“We invited her, but she hates travelling.”
Jo shook her head. “So what chance of visiting the town today?”
“We’re going to the church later to do a rehearsal, and then we’re all having dinner here tonight – all the women anyway. The menfolk are gathering at a local hotel for the dinner there.”
“Women only – would that be the best time to mention Wednesday night?”
“No, I’m leaving that to mama to raise when she thinks the moment is right,” Abigail said, as there was a knock on the door.
“Hey,” Carina said as she came in, “your grandmother has an amazing place Abigail.”
“So Joanne was saying,” Abigail said with a smile. “Why don’t we have a look round?”
“Why not – we’re only here for a little while anyway.”
As they descended the large staircase, they could see caterers carrying boxes of items into the large banqueting hall.
“The wedding breakfast will be in there,” they heard Valeria say as she walked out, with Diana and the others following. “Ah, there you are girls, we will head to the church in an hour for the rehearsal.”
“We’re going to have a look round until then grandmamma,” Abigail said with a smile.
“Good, good – just be back here ready to leave in an hour.”
Church of St Augustus
“Ah here they are,” Alex Richmond said as the ladies walked in. “I was just talking to the men here about how beautiful I am sure you will all look in the morning.”
“Of course we will,” Natasha said as she kissed Guillemme. “You look particularly handsome today.”
“Not as good as you though,” Guillemme said as he looked at her. Abby giggled as she saw Guy exchange a look with the tall, dark haired man next to him.
“Uncle Roger, how are you,” she said as she walked up and kissed him.
“Very well, and all the better for seeing my niece,” Roger du Grechy said as he kissed her on both cheeks. “Have you looked after my little princess?”
“She has papa,” Marie-Louise said, smiling at Diana and Abigail. Roger raised an eyebrow and said “Well, I am sure I will hear all about it in due course. Alex, shall we begin?”
“Of course,” Alex said. “Valeria, the timetable for tomorrow?”
“We are expected at the town hall at ten thirty tomorrow for the civil ceremony. You and any partners are invited tomorrow to that ceremony. The carriages will arrive at the Chateau at ten precisely for that.”
“A family tradition,” Valeria said with a smile. “We will ride there in open carriages – the forecast for tomorrow is acceptable for that. The menfolk will be brought by car.
“After the civil ceremony you will dress, and then we walk to the church for the service to start at 11.45. Guests for that have been asked to arrive at 11.30 to ensure they are in place for the arrival, or otherwise to process with us.”
“Will the children be carrying out the traditional role?”
“They will – I will have the scissors for that purpose. After the ceremony here, you and Guillemme return by carriage, as will Guy and I, while the others come back by car.”
“The chapel is being prepared later, so for now accept these as your thrones,” Alex said as he indicated the two high backed chairs. “So, you walk down from the back of the church…”
Saturday 24th January
Chateau de Ros
The breakfast table was the most packed Valeria had known it to be for some time, and she could not be happier, as Abigail took another pastry and ate it with her hot coffee.
“I knocked on Natasha’s door, but she’s too nervous to eat anything,” she said as she looked around the table. “She just said she was having a long bath, and that she would meet Marc at the town hall after the civic ceremony.”
“Well, John is due to arrive in half an hour,” Valeria said as she sipped her coffee, “and the hairdressers any time now. I guess you are all feeling a little nervous?”
The six girls looked at each other and nodded as Juliette and Diana watched.
“Understandable – but it is time for you all to go and get ready. We will see you at ten, dressed for a truly wonderful day.”
They all nodded as they wiped their mouths and stood up, walking slowly to the stairs as a maid came in.
“Excuse me, Madame, the hairdresser and beauticians have arrived.”
“Excellent – I will see them in a moment,” Valeria said as she stood up, “as soon as I have made sure Natasha is all right.”
“It’s going to be a long day,” Juliette said as she sipped her coffee.
“But a very special one – come, we must prepare ourselves.”
"Shirley…John…You made it." Valeria said as
she greeted her friends.
"We had to stop in London,” Shirley said, “but we
"The luxury of having one’s own jet." John
smiled. "Where can I park my cameras?"
"In the ante room – and thank you so much for
doing the pictures John." Valeria smiled.
"I saw a few of my colleagues outside the
"Yours are the official photos though."
"It's been a while since I was down here."
John looked round, "the Medoc is as beautiful as I remember, your house is
stunning, and this weather is a distinct improvement on New York."
"I agree on all three counts." Shirley laughed, "Especially with regards to the weather."
“I will have some coffee brought to you in a moment, and a car will take you to the ceremony,” Valeria said as she escorted them in.
“There – that should finish it.”
Marie-Louise looked at herself in the mirror as Abigail stood back, her hair held in place by a floral band, her lipstick and mascara making her look so much older.
“Now, I do not want to hear you say at any time today that you are not beautiful,” Abigail said as she removed the towel and helped her cousin to stand up. “Put your jacket and gloves on, and come with me.”
She watched as the fourteen year old put on the light blue silk jacket over her matching camisole and skirt, donned the short leather gloves, and then followed Abigail down.
“And here comes the most beautiful of us all,” Carina said as the two girls walked into the entrance hall.
“Of course she is,” Diana said as she stood there with Juliette. She was wearing a cream jacket and skirt, while Juliette wore a dark blue coat dress with matching shoes. Both also wore hats to complement their jackets, and short gloves. Judith was in her grandmother’s arms, wearing a fur lined coat and a band in her hair.
“So where is the bride and her mother,” Juliette said as she made a slight adjustment to Carina’s skirt, “they are the stars of the show, after all?”
“Not on this occasion,” Valeria said as she walked down the stairs, wearing a grey jacket and skirt with gold trim, grey shoes and golden gloves, with a hat that had a small lace veil hanging down from it. “Today, Natasha is the star.”
The women watched as Natasha walked slowly down, wearing a white jacket over a knee length white gown. She wore a white hat, and matching gloves, as well as the biggest smile of all of them.
“Well, I think it is time,” Valeria said as the doors to the chateau were opened. “After you ladies?”
She left first, accompanied by Diana and Juliette with Judith, as they climbed into the first carriage. Marie-Louise, Abigail, Joanne and Carina got into the second carriage, while Caroline and Isabelle accompanied Natasha in the third one.
As they drove down the avenue, the staff of the chateau and the vineyards applauded, wishing them on their way as they headed out onto the main road and past the photographers.
The journey through the brightly lit streets was a pleasure, as the girls talked amongst themselves and the people waved from the street. Eventually, the first carriage pulled up outside the town hall, as the driver helped the three ladies out.
"So who is giving Natasha away?" Juliette
"Prince Nikolai Barskov, he's Valeria's
"The family was originally, like Valeria's. His ancestor was a Romanov Grand Duke who
married a mere countess, their children were given the title by Alexander the
"So what's he like."
"Old, stooped, but still with an eye for a
beautiful woman." a voice from behind Juliette spoke.
"I'm sorry…" Juliette spun round. There was an elderly man standing there, his
hands resting on a cane, and dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and silk tie.
"Juliette, may I present Nikolai Barskov."
"Oh I'm sorry." Juliette blushed.
"Mademoiselle, when one gets to my age it's
reassuring to hear oneself discussed, it's evidence I'm still alive."
"Nikolai, from what I hear you are very much still alive." Diana smiled as he kissed her. “I heard about the incident at Maxine’s.”
"And you must be the redoubtable Miss Huntingdown?" The prince kissed her hand, "And yes, Diana dear, rumors of my demise are still premature. Valeria, my dear.”
“Nikolai, thank you for doing this,” she said as the other two carriages drew up. “Natasha my dear,” he said as he helped her out, “You look radiant.”
“Thank you,” Natasha said. “Shall we?”
The party walked up the stairs to the entrance to the town hall, where they were met by the mayor, dressed in a dark suit with the sash of office over his shoulder.
“Countess,” he said as he kissed Valeria on both cheeks. “The groom and party await inside. Who will act as the other witnesses?”
“Guy, Myself and Caroline,” Valeria said with a smile.
“Good – then we can proceed,” he said as the doors were opened, and the party walked in, John and Shirley waiting inside.
“John, my friend, thank you for this,” Natasha said as she kissed him.
“It is my pleasure – and thank you allowing Shirley to attend this part,” he said with a smile. “Your husband awaits you inside.”
As the doors opened, she saw Guillemme standing at the front of the room with Guy and Roger. Sitting behind him was Yvette and Alain, the third of the du Grechy brothers, with his partner Claude.
The party walked in and took their seats, as the mayor stood at the front behind a desk and looked at Natasha and Guillemme.
“Shall we,” he said as he looked round.
“Guillemme Michel du Grechy, do you wish to marry Natasha Valeria de Ros?”
“Oui,” Guillemme said as he looked at Natasha.
“Natasha Valeria de Ros, do you wish to marry Guillemme Michel du Grechy?”
“Then by the powers invested in me, I pronounce you man and wife.”
“That’s it,” Carina whispered to Abigail.
“Yup, short, sweet and to the point,” Abby said as they signed the register, followed by Guy, Valeria, Roger and Caroline.
“I am required by law,” the mayor then said, “to say that Guillemme Michel du Grechy, born in Grechy and currently resident in Park Avenue, New York, is now married to Natasha Valeria de Ros, Born and resident at Chateau de Ros, Rosville, and also in New York. You may kiss your bride.”
The room cheered and clapped as they kissed, before the mayor said “I present to you the livret de famille – keep it safe, especially for the next part of the day.”
“Thank you,” Guillemme said as he handed it to Roger, and then they both shook the mayor’s hand.
“Now, a few photographs here,” John said as Shirley joined Juliette and Diana.
“So beautiful in the simplicity,” she said, Diana nodding in agreement.
“Now then,” Valeria said, “you all need to change for the church ceremony. Gentlemen, follow Guy – Ladies, follow me.”
The party smiled as the husband and bride walked down between the chairs, and they followed to change.
“There you are,” Marc said as they entered the room, “come come – your gowns await.”
"I was just going through the guest list."
Jo shook her head as she started to change, "Virtually everyone has a
title, or a von, or a de in their surname."
"I know, isn't it incredible to see." Carina
"You might not like it though Cari."
"Why?" Carina tilted her head.
"Look at the bridesmaids…."
Carina glanced down the list and then blanched "Princess
Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim…oh Goddess Valeria didn't…"
"She did." Jo giggled.
"And no way to get this changed…Mom did you see
the guest list."
"I did,” Juliette said, “but strictly speaking
since yesterday that's what you've been."
"Now I'm totally lost."
"The court in Munich ruled yesterday on your adoption
by your father, he rang to tell me."
"Your Serene Highness." Jo did a mock
"Oh knock it off Jo." Cari looked flustered.
“Ladies, ladies – less chatter more changing. Follow Abigail’s example – she is already donning her gown.”
“Force of habit,” Abby said as the gown was placed over her and then fastened by an assistant.
“This is a beautiful town,” Janice said as she and Adam walked out of the hotel, along with Sandy and Heather.
“What are the girls putting the ribbons across the road for,” Heather asked.
“No idea,” Sandy said, “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
“It is a tradition,” Jeanne said as she joined them, “all will be explained when they start to go to the church.”
"Who is that arriving now?" Marie-Louise
asked as she peeked out of the window.
"My Aunt Sigi and her husband." Cari looked
round the curtain. "She was collecting him in Geneva then driving cross
country…mmmm I love that old Mercedes of his."
"Very stylish." Jo added her opinion.
"She looks younger then me." Marie-Louise
"Don't let looks fool you, Sigi has three
"Oh Wow!" Marie-Louise shook her head.
"Now who is that?" asked Jo as a car with
police outriders pulled up.
"The Foreign Minister." Marie-Louise glanced at the man following his wife out of the limo.
"So the President couldn't make it and sent the
Minister instead." Carina laughed.
"No." Marie-Louise clearly didn't get the
"Who is this guy?" Jo asked as another
chauffeur driven limo arrived with outriders.
"From the little flag, it's someone from the
UN." Abby took a peek.
"One of the assistant Secretaries-General,"
Caroline read from the guest list.
"And the hits keep coming." Joanne mumbled somewhat in awe.
“Ladies, jackets on and gloves, if you please?”
The assistants helped them to don the bolero jackets and long elbow gloves that matched their ivory silk gowns, covering their backs as the other women looked on.
"I'm more nervous then when I’m walking a
show." Abby spoke softly. "So many VIP's."
"It's a little daunting isn't it?" Izzy
pulled on her gloves.
"And you are a VIP yourself cousin."
"You saw me in my school uniform, that's the real
me, not the model."
"Well as we walk down the aisle, let the model
"I think I'll have to Izzy."
“I must see if the menfolk are ready,” Valeria said as she slipped out, and John knocked on the door before looking in.
“May I get a group shot, Marc?”
“Natasha, are you ready?”
The women watched as Natasha walked slowly over, the strapless white gown covered by a sheer overdress with inlaid silver brocade, the skirt flowing out and behind her as she moved. Her hair was covered by a simple white cap, the veil flowing down from it as it covered her face, and the white opera gloves covered her hands and lower arms.
“My wedding veil,” Valeria said, “the something borrowed for today. The dress is new, and the old awaits outside for later.”
“And the something blue?”
“For Willy to find later,” Natasha said with a smile as the florist handed her a bouquet, while the other six girls were handed large lilies.
“Right – let me arrange you,” John said as he put the girls in a line, three on each side, and then took a number of shots.
“Natasha, it is time.”
She smiled as Nikolai entered, now wearing a formal morning suit with a silk cravat. Offering his arm, he allowed Natasha to take it as they walked out together, the girls following as they joined Guillemme, Guy and the others in their morning suits.
“Oh my,” Jeanne said as she watched them descend the steps, “she is the most beautiful of a group of beautiful women.”
Guillemme stood next to Natasha as they started to walk down the street, smiling at the people gathered to watch. As they approached the first of the white ribbons, Valeria handed Natasha a pair of ceremonial scissors, which she used to cut the ribbon.
“It signifies her removing the obstacles to her happiness,” Jeanne said as the rest of the guests followed the wedding party down the street to the church.
As the bells rang, Natasha cut through the last of the ribbons and then stepped into the path to the church, Alex beaming as he stood with the priest to greet them.
“Welcome,” the father said, “do you have the livret de famille?”
Roger handed it to Guillemme, who handed it to the priest. He looked at it, smiled and said “Then we are ready. If we can allow the guests to enter first?”
The party stood to one side, smiling and nodding as the guests made their way in.
"So who is here from New York Ju?" Diana asked
as she took her seat behind her brother, and looked round the packed church.
"I saw Roy and Tonia, and Grant and April."
"Guy invited them because they are racing
partners of his, George of course politely declined. Pepsi is staying with Ama and Annie for a few
"I saw Jeanne with a man with horrid scars on his
"I asked Valeria about him, that's her
father." Juliette nodded.
"Oh now I remember he used to race cars, that
awful crash at Le Mans…poor man."
"Janice and Adam are here somewhere."
"She waved as I came in." Diana smiled.
“And Sheila is here with John,” Juliette said as Sheila sat with Tonia and April.
“Good morning, Juliette, Diana.”
“Hello Klaus,” Juliette said as she turned and smiled at him and Sigi.
“Juliette, this is my husband Dieter. Dieter, Juliette Huntingdown.”
“A pleasure,” Dieter said in English.
"The Rochermann's are here I see." Juliette
glanced back to the church door.
"Now where did they find those hats?" Diana
looked hard, "They are lovely."
"I bet they are from Paris, they'd been on sale in New York, I'd have beaten them to them." Juliette said enviously.
“Hush – here they come.”
A string quartet started playing as Guy and Roger walked down the aisle, followed by Guillemme as he escorted Valeria to her seat.
Alex walked to the front of the church and turned, his robes rustling in the breeze as he watched the bridesmaids walk down, taking their places at the front of the church as they turned to look back.
“Will you please stand,” Alex said in French, and as they stood all eyes turned to the back of the church, as Nikolai escorted Natasha down the centre, the string quartet playing.
At the front of the church, two red velvet chairs had been placed under a silk canopy, Guillemme standing in front of it with Roger as Natasha and Nikolai made their way in front.
“Bien-aimés,” Alex said, “nous sommes réunis en ce lieu pour assister à l'union de cet homme et de cette femme dans le saint marriage.”
“Vous pouvez embrasser la mariée,” Alex said, the church applauding as Guillemme lifted Natasha’s veil and kissed her again, Diana sighing and smiling as they did so.
“They look so happy,” Alain said as he looked on.
“They do indeed,” Yvette said as they turned and smiled, then sat down as Alex took the pulpit and Guy stood at the front.
“Si je parle dans les langues des hommes et des anges, mais je n'ai pas l'amour, je suis un airain qui résonne, ou une cymbale qui retentit. Si j'ai le don de prophétie et de tous les mystères et toute la connaissance, et si j'ai une foi qui peut déplacer des montagnes, mais n'ai pas l'amour, je ne suis rien. Si je distribuerais tous mes biens aux pauvres et je livrerais même mon corps pour être brûlé, mais je n'ai pas l'amour, je n'y gagne rien. L'amour est patient, amour est aimable. Il n'envie pas, il ne se vante pas, il n'est pas fier. Il n'est pas grossier, il n'est pas égoïste, il n'est pas facilement irrité, il ne garde aucun disque des maux. L'amour ne se réjouit pas de l'injustice, mais se réjouit avec la vérité. Il protège toujours, toujours des confiances, toujours espoirs, persévère toujours. L'amour n'échoue jamais. Mais là où il ya des prophéties, elles cesseront; où il ya des langues, elles seront calmées; où il est de notoriété, il va passer loin. Car nous connaissons en partie et nous prophétisons en partie, mais quand vient la perfection, l'imparfait disparaît. Quand j'étais enfant, je parlais comme un enfant, je pensais comme un enfant, je raisonnais comme un enfant. Quand je suis devenu homme, j'ai fait était de l'enfant derrière moi. Maintenant, nous voyons mais une piètre image comme dans un miroir; alors nous verrons face à face. Maintenant, je sais en partie; alors je connaîtrai comme j'ai été connu. Et maintenant ces trois choses demeurent: la foi, l'espérance et l'amour. Mais le plus grand de ces derniers est amour.”
Juliette wiped her eyes as Alex stood up and started to deliver the homily.
“Mesdames et Messieurs, s'il vous plaît être dressées pour Guillemme et Natasha!”
The church stood as one and applauded as the happy couple walked down, and out of the church, the bridesmaids following as Guy accompanied Valeria, and then Roger and Yvette, and everyone behind them.
“Now that was a ceremony,” Sheila said as she watched John taking pictures of the happy couple, then the wedding party.
“Oh yes, they look so happy,” Diana said as she watched.
“Were you married in this church, Diana?”
“I was – a cold and wet day as I recall. But that is the past – they are the future.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Valeria said, “if you will please get into the coaches, they will take you to the chateau.”
Diana watched as the children gathered around Guillemme and Natasha, laughing as they tossed a collection of coins into the church yard for them to collect.
“Well, to the reception,” she said as they joined the groups waiting to board the buses that had been provided.
Heather gasped as she looked out of the window.
"This is like something out of a romance
novel." Heather looked at the grand chateau in the distance.
"Look at all the vines though." Sandy
pointed. "This is very much a working estate, the chateau is really just a
pretty grand office block from which Valeria runs all this."
"I remember that's why she sold those art items,
to raise capital."
"Yeah the wine business is just like any other,
get behind the times and you can go under."
"I'm looking forward to seeing her art
collection, from what I've read she has an amazing Rembrandt."
"Trust you lover." Sandy smiled.
The coach swung round and stopped, the guests stepping out as they were ushered into the reception room, where waiters were waiting with glasses of champagne.
“This is an amazing place,” April said as she looked round, her hand in Grant’s.
“You’re telling me,” he said in a hushed voice.
“Relax,” Kelly said as she joined them with her husband, “it’s just a bigger version of our places in New York. A much bigger place…”
The room was getting more and more full, as the bridesmaids arrived with Guy, Valeria, Roger and Yvette.
“Well done, all of you,” Roger said as he kissed his daughter, and they each took a drink. Marie-Louise looked at her father, and then accepted the glass.
"So I spotted that marble tomb with the carved
figure of the man with a huge wig on in the church Abs."
"My esteemed ancestor, the first count, the Sun
King gave him this estate for his distinction in battle."
"I guessed it might be." Carina sipped her
"According to family legend he drank a bottle of
brandy every morning, then another before bed, he wasn't brave, just
"Well that's we Irish for you." Alexander
joined the conversation. He was dressed
in his usual dark suit, but with the dog collar.
"I hear your parishioners will be missing you for
a couple more weeks Father Alex?" Carina asked.
"Well Valeria has promised to take me round this estate and those of her friends, I was not going to miss out on an opportunity like that."
The room then applauded as Guillemme and Natasha entered.
"Natasha looks so happy." Izzy whispered in
Who are all these extra people?"
Izzy glanced round, "Mainly estate workers, and
other locals I guess. The church was too small for all of them to come to the
"It's a good thing this hall is so large."
"I know." Caroline brought over some salmon
sandwiches. "It's a lovely room."
"See the one person though going round just
looking at the paintings."
"Your sister." Izzy checked.
"That's her, more interested in great art then virtually anything else. I wonder if Sandy will ever forgive her."
“I will attempt to,” Sandy said as she came over. “You were all beautiful today.”
“Even you,” she said as she looked at Marie-Louise, who blushed.
“Of course my daughter is beautiful,” Yvette said, “as are all du Grechy women.”
The teenager blushed as Sigi walked over with her husband.
“Dieter, may I introduce my newly discovered niece Carina. Carina, my husband Dieter.”
“An honor,” Carina said as she gave a small bow.
“No, the honour is mine – I hope when you come soon to Vienna, the rest of Sigi and Klaus’ family can see the beauty you are.”
“Next to Ingrid, I am not that great a beauty,” Carina said quietly.
“I disagree- but well said.”
"Janice this is my Papa," Jeanne made the
"It's a pleasure sir." Jan shook his hand,
"This is my partner Adam."
"Aha the two FBI agents my daughter has told me
"Yes." Adam said as he shook the man’s hand. “Your daughter is a fine addition to our
"She told me also you used to race as well
"Just in local events,” Janice said with a smile,
“it was a hobby, unlike…"
"It is all right,” Monsieur Marais said. “You can talk about racing, I accepted my
injuries long ago."
"I was going to say unlike you…I remember
watching you drive at Sebring on TV in one of those huge Porsche's"
"Did you never drive anything that
"No," Janice answered, "though I did
once sit behind the wheel of one of the Jaguars."
"Those I heard were beasts…"
"Adam I think we became superfluous." Jeanne
"I think we did." Adam smiled, "Can I
offer you a glass of champagne." he offered Jeanne his arm.
"I think so, something tells me they'll still be here when we get back."
As she turned and looked at Valeria, Heather said “you must be very proud of Natasha today.”
“I am,” she said as she looked at her daughter, talking to the Foreign Minister with her new husband. “Come, I have something I know you wish to see.”
She led her to the long hall, and along a gallery.
"Well Heather what do you think of it?"
Valeria led the art historian to the end of the picture gallery.
"It's breathtaking." Heather fought for
words as she examined the Rembrandt in detail.
"The subject is…"
"The Merchants Guild in Amsterdam." Heather
"You know this painting?"
"I've seen his preliminary sketches…Oh Valeria
you don't know what an honor seeing this is…"
"You know its history?"
"I know it hung in the Hermitage in St Petersburg
at one time."
"It was given to my Great Great Grandfather as a
wedding present by the Tsar."
"But I thought the Tsar exiled him."
"He did…officially, but well sometimes family
love overcame such difficulties as his wife not being royal."
"And he gave him this…oh my…it's…"
"I think she's impressed Grandmamma." Abby
brought some champagne glasses into the long room.
"I could spend a week just looking at this one
picture alone, let alone all the other treasures you have here."
"It’s lovely seeing someone who really appreciates
these things Heather." Valeria smiled. "Can I make a horrid
"I'm just so used to them having seemingly always
been here, even the things I added like this painting, that I often walk by
them and don't even notice."
"How can you not notice?" Heather said
almost in raptures as she looked closely at the brushstrokes.
"Familiarity I suppose." Valeria shrugged.
Heather shook her head, "I could never…"
"Come on you two." Abby smiled, "I was
sent to bring you two back to the party."
"I'm just so glad your security is so good
Valeria." Heather cast a professional eye over the system of pressure
sensors and laser beams.
"My Insurance Company insists upon it."
Heather nodded. Never had she been so glad they had the “no friends or family” rule – after the events of the previous week, this would have been a tempting target.
“Mes seigneurs et dames, invités d'honneur, Mesdames et Messieurs, je vous prie de prendre vos places pour le petit déjeuner de mariage.”
“Does that mean it’s time to eat,” Ally said as she stood with her sister and parents.
“I thought you were doing well at French?”
“Only kidding,” she said as they walked into the banqueting hall, six crystal chandeliers hanging over the large round tables, while at the side by the windows that looked out onto the grounds was a single long table, where the bridesmaids, Roger, Guy and Valeria took their seats.
“I see we’re at the same table,” Janice said as she and Adam sat with the Rochermanns, Sandy and Heather, and finally Jeanne and her father. Shirley sat nearby with Tonia and Roy, Grant and April, and Yvette, before Alain and Claude joined them.
“There you are,” Shirley said as John joined them, “no problem I hope?”
“Not at all – I needed to take a shot of the happy couple with the Croquembouche,” he said with a smile.
Alex walked in with the local priest, and joined the top table, before they heard “Et maintenant, bienvenue à la table du duc et de la duchesse Grechy.”
The room stood and clapped as Guillemme and Natasha walked in, her veil now removed as they took their place at the top table.
Alex stood and said “Seigneur, nous te remercions pour votre provison pour nous en ce jour de joie, et priez que vous bénira et l'heureux couple que nous sommes assis à partager. Amen.”
“Let’s eat,” Sandy whispered to Heather as an army of waiters and waitresses started to serve the meal.
“So what’s on the menu,” Kelly said as she looked at the embossed card in front of her.
Séchées Risotto aux tomates Gâteaux avec aïoli au basilic
Crabe Bisque de aïoli et croûtons à l'ail
Mesclun Verts aux poires et aux épices Noix de Sherry Vinaigrette
Mixte frisée Verts de canard croustillant à l'orange amère Vinaigrette
Poulet Cordon Bleu avec Green Bean Almandine
Strudel aux champignons sauvages avec poivrons rouges rôtis et fromage de chèvre
Layer Cake noix de coco
“Somebody help me,” Adam said as he looked at it, and then smiled as Janice turned it over and showed him the English translation
Sundried Tomato Risotto Cakes with Basil Aioli
Crab Bisque with Aioli and Garlic Croutons
Mesclun Greens with Pears and Spiced Walnuts in Sherry Vinaigrette
Mixed Frisee Greens with Crispy Duck in Bitter Orange Vinaigrette
Chicken Cordon Bleu with Green Bean Almandine
Wild Mushroom Strudel with Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese
Coconut Layer Cake
“Okay, that I understand,” Adam said with a smile.
“Just be aware, Monsieur,” Jeanne’s father said with a smile, “the meal may take some time, depending on what may be planned for between the courses.”
“Why – what may happen?”
“Oh I may know of the first thing,” Jeanne said with a smile as the first course was brought out to them.
As the plates were cleared away, Heather noticed a group of men coming in, who lined up against the far wall, and then started singing as four of them played the accordion.
“They are vineyard workers,” Yvette explained, “serenading the happy couple on their special day and wishing them every blessing for the future.”
"I'd never quite realized how important your
French family is Abs." Jo reflected.
"Well the estate is vital to the local economy, Grandmamma
spends a lot for local goods and services as well."
"Well I can see the respect."
"That's a bit embarrassing and mediaeval, but the family has always tried to be good neighbors and in hard times we have tried to take our share of the pain rather then lay workers off."
“So she’s never been quite the gorgon your mother painted her once?”
“No – they merely had a mutual distrust,” Abby said as the soup arrived, “long dissipated. One day the responsibility will be mine as the last de Ros, Mama has told me that since I was a small child. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad I live in New York, this place will still be here when I inherit." Abigail smiled.
The meal seemed to last for hours, until Roger stood up and called for attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, I ask you to charge your glasses.”
At that moment, one of the waiters brought out a large engraved silver cup with two handles, and placed it in front of Natasha and Guilemme. Valeria filled it with champagne, as Roger said “Please join me in wishing health and happiness to the bride and groom!”
“The Bride and Groom!”
They lifted the cup between them, toasted each other and drank as the photos were taken.
“Simply beautiful,” Diana said as she wiped away a tear.
“We respectfully ask now that you allow us to clear the room for dancing,” Valeria said. “We shall repair outside for a short while.”
The guests stood up and walked out, chatting amongst themselves as they did so. Shirley and John started to discuss art with Nikolai, while Tonia and April walked with their husbands alongside Sandy and Heather.
“Girls, you looked divine today,” Ingrid and Sigi said as they joined the six maids.
“Why thank you kind lady,” Izzy said with a curtsey.
"So how does your family home compare to this
place Ingrid?" Jo enquired.
"Which one?" Ingrid said with a smile.
"How many houses does your family own?"
"That we use?"
"I guess so…." Jo almost wished she hadn't
started this conversation since she was pretty sure what the answer was going
"Well, our place in Munich is a bit bigger than
your home in New York, but Rudelstein is about twice the size of this
"Twice as big?" Jo shook her head unable to
comprehend that fact.
"Furstenheim is far, far bigger, but we only keep
an apartment there, the rest is open to the public."
"Even BIGGER…Just how rich are your family
"Not exceedingly," Sigi joined the
conversation. "Most of the property is tied up in trusts, we get income,
but Dieter jokes I married him for his money."
"We basically are just caretakers for the future
Jo, our houses don't really belong to us, they belong to everyone and to
everyone in the future as reminders of the past."
"I get that Ingrid." Jo smiled, "we
need to keep all of places like this so we can remember history."
"It can be inconvenient as well, one day I'll
tell you of the war between my Grandfather and the Bavarian government over
putting decent plumbing in at Furstenheim." Sigrid laughed.
"Historic houses can be a burden sometimes."
Guy joined the conversation. "I have had my own problems with the Ministry
of Culture over alterations at Grechy."
Jo shook her head, "They belong to you, but you
can't change them as you like."
"That's about it Jo." Ingrid nodded.
"I'm glad then that the best house I'll probably ever own is a modern suburban place."
“There is much to say for modern architecture as well – although some designs in the cities…”
“It has been a beautiful day,” Juliette said as she stood with Klaus, cradling Judith in her arms.
“Indeed, a day when romance is the victor, and love triumphs over all,” Klaus said as he looked at his champagne glass.
“You really are still an old romantic at heart, Klaus,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Well, a romantic at any rate,” he said as he smiled at Judith. “But then, I have the most beautiful grandmother to talk to.”
“Okay, that’s going to cost you,” Juliette said with a laugh. “And you are a handsome grandfather, you know.”
“In a way, I wish my father was here, so he could see the error of his ways.”
“Klaus,” Juliette said as she turned and put Judith on her shoulder, “let’s not talk about him and what he did any more, all right?”
“All right,” he said with a smile, “I promise.”
long do you think?" Valeria whispered to Guy as they watched Juliette and
"I've learned never to predict romance my
"Well I predict within a year we will all be
gathered again, but this time in Munich."
"I know all her friends are hoping for her
happiness, especially my daughter."
"Juliette has been particularly battered by the
sea of life." Valeria paused to fix Guy's tie, "How can such an
elegant man tie his neckwear so poorly…"
"The sea of life…" Guy tried to get Valeria
back on topic.
"Well just look recently, that atrocious art
forger…I hear he attacked her."
"I heard that as well. I suppose I agree with you, poor Juliette needs calm waters to sail on."
“Then perhaps we can help smooth those waters?”
Guy looked at Valeria, his eyebrow raised. “And what do you have in mind, my dear?”
"Valeria has invited us to come stay in the
summer." Heather whispered a short while later into her lover’s ear.
"And what will I do while you orgasm over
"Lover you just know you want to hit these local
"I guess so." Sandy laughed. "Buy stuff
to ship home for future projects."
"You'll be able to describe it as a working trip
and write it off on your taxes."
"And we get to spend time away from both Jo and
"Mmmm that sounds nice."
"I can bring that shorty nightie you particularly
"You know me too well," Sandy smiled at her partner, "I'll tell Valeria we accept her offer."
“And so, to the grand ball in New York,” Abigail said as she handed Caroline a glass.
"We get a few days to adjust back to New York
time, then we fly to Vienna." Carina sipped her champagne.
"It sounds like pure hell…" Marie-Louise
smiled, "But I have to say I loved my stay in New York."
She looked up to see her mother walking over, shaking her head as Klaus and Sigi talked animatedly.
"Okay I must be out of my mind, but I just told
your father I will come to Vienna." Juliette came over shaking slightly.
"Oh Mom that's amazing!" Cari hugged her
"Marie-Louise can you grab me another glass of
champagne before I change my mind."
"So how did they take it?"
"Didn't you hear your aunt’s squeal of
"No I was contemplating jet lag."
"I guess we'll both be getting it." Juliette
smiled, "Thank you Marie-Louise I need this."
"My pleasure," the young girl giggled.
"Thank You." Ingrid threw her arms round Juliette, "Papa just told me the news."
“I need my head examined – but I have to admit, I love Vienna, and it is years since I have been there…”
"Bien Mesdames et Messieurs, c'est où je dois commencer à travailler. Nous tous pouvons faire notre chemin dans l'autre pièce afin que je puisse commencer à prendre des photographies." John smiled.
"What was that?" Jo whispered to Abby.
"John wants to start taking photographs."
As John took his camera, Shirley walked over.
“Ladies, may I borrow you for a few moments?”
“Will you excuse us,” Abigail said as the two of them followed Shirley out into the garden, where Juliette, Carina, Sandy, Heather and Janice were standing.
“My apologies for interrupting the party,” she said quietly, “but I have received word of the total result of the recent events.”
“And,” Heather asked quietly.
“After expenses, we each gain to the tune of eight million.”
“Oh my lord,” Janice whispered, “that pays for a lot of bills.”
“And other things – everything should be settled by Monday.”
“Right – then we really have something to celebrate now. Come – they may be leaving soon.”
Juliette nodded as she walked in, looking at the sleeping Judith as Marie-Louise watched over her.
“Right,” John said as he came over, “I do not have a group photo of you lot yet. Gather round baby, and say Camembert…”
“You looked happy for the photo,” Jeanne said as Janice and Sandy rejoined her and her father.
“Have you had your photo taken yet?”
“Forgive me, ladies, but I tend not to pose for the camera these days.”
“Oh,” Janice said, “no forgive me.”
“So do you ever think of racing again, Janice?”
"You know we should enroll at one of the race
driving schools Sandy." Janice said to Sandy.
"I know, it's not like we don't have the money to
indulge ourselves a bit."
"I was thinking that we see if we are any good,
maybe we try a few endurance races back home as co-drivers."
"Your mom won't like that Sandy." Heather
"But safety equipment is so good now, accidents
like mine are a very remote possibility." Monsieur Marais added. "If
you both love driving as much as I hear, getting your skills checked out at a
school can do no harm."
"I must admit it is a tempting idea," Sandy looked wrapped in her thoughts.
“So Alain, how is life treating you,” Diana said as she sat with her younger brother.
“I cannot complain, although Claude and I are discussing moving, perhaps to Britain.”
“Oh, and why is that?”
“I think a few people are – uncomfortable with the life that Claude and I live,” Alain said as he swirled his drink.
“I am truly sorry to hear that,” Diana said as she put her hand on his, “if there is anything I can do?”
“I appreciate the offer,” Alain said with a smile, “and I am du Grechy – I do not surrender that easily. But for Claude, I would make the sacrifice.”
“You should both come and stay with me and Abigail for a short while – take time to consider your decision.”
“You are as wise as you are beautiful,” Alain said, “thank you – I will tell him.”
"Hello Baron, may I have a word please?"
As he turned to see who possessed such a remarkably
deep and rich voice, she extended her hand and said “I'm Shirley Xavier, a
friend of Juliette's."
"Oh hello," he shook her hand, "and
please, my name is Dieter. I much prefer
"Well, Dieter,” Shirley said with a smile, “I was
admiring your car earlier, can you tell me what model that is please?"
"Are you thinking of buying one?"
"Very much so, for use in the US when I stay
"Well it’s a Mercedes Benz 330SL Gullwing."
"It has such style."
"Yes for a car from the fifties it's incredible.
I'd recommend though, unless you are a collector, making sure you buy one with
an updated engine, suspension, etc…they drive much easier."
Shirley nodded, "I was planning on driving it quite a bit. Thank you, Dieter, that is very useful."
“Forgive me, Count,” John said as he came over, “but the dancing is about to start, and I have to take my guest across the floor.”
“and I must find my wife,” Dieter said as they made their way back into the ballroom. The tables had been cleared to the side, and a small band was set up on a stage.
"Why is Jeanne's mother not here?" Kelly
whispered to Diana as they stood at the side.
"Her parents are divorced, she sort of had a
breakdown after his accident."
"Oh that's terrible."
"She lost her golden haired hero, and she
"She's a friend of yours though Diana?"
Diana nodded. "I met her after the separation, and she's delightful, but I do feel sorry for him having finally met him."
“Mesdames et Messieurs, s'il vous plaît se félicitent de la mariée et le marié à la piste de danse.”
The crowd parted as Guillemme led Natasha onto the dance floor, bowed and then took her hand as the band started to play a waltz. The room clapped as they moved off, joined a short while later by Valeria and Guy, then Nikolai escorted Caroline onto the dance floor.
“Shall we,” Klaus said as he offered his hand to Juliette, Carina and Ingrid smiling as they moved off, joined by Roger and Yvette, then by more and more couples.
“Let them have the first dance,” Carina said as she watched, “they deserve it.”
As the dancing continued, Juliette sat with Shirley, Klaus, John, Guy and Valeria.
“So run that past me again,” Shirley said, “you are technically Your Serene Highness because?”
“Perhaps I should bow to the greater knowledge of the inestimable Countess de Ros on this one,” Klaus said with a smile.
“No, no , history is always best told by the heirs,” Valeria said with a smile.
“Well, Furstenheim was originally a small part of the Holy Roman Empire – and the title of Serene Highness was applied to the rulers of those kingdoms,” Klaus said with a smile.
“I read about that in History class,” Jo said as she came over. “Mostly what we now call Germany, but much of central Europe as well, correct?”
“Indeed – modern Austria, Hungary, and much of Italy were part at one time. At any rate, the empire ended in 1806, after the battle of Austerltiz, and most of the smaller principalities, such as mine, became part of Bavaria.
“Bavaria was part of the German Confederation, and later the German Empire, but all the royal families were allowed to keep their rank, status and title, so we remained Serene Highnesses. Even when the First World War ended, and we became a republic, the titles remained, in the same way as Guy and Valeria hold the titles accorded to their families.”
“Indeed,” Valeria said, “the rules are slightly different for our ranks – my dear Natasha becomes a duchess instead of a countess – but we still respect and honour their titles.”
“So even though Germany is a federal republic, you still have these little pockets?”
“Oh yes,” Guy said, “and we welcome each and every one of them.”
“So how far does your family go back?”
“To at least the 10th Century,” Klaus said, “and some hold to the traditions more than others.”
“So how many of the old guard am I likely to meet in Vienna,” Juliette said warily.
“Hopefully, none – but if we do, I am ready for them. I will not allow them to dictate to me again, Juliette.”
“So long as they accept Carina – what they say to me matters less if they accept her.”
As the evening drew on, Carina walked over to join Ingrid.
“Have you seen your father anywhere,” she said as she looked round the room.
“No, I haven’t” Ingrid said. “Aunt Sigi said I’m to go back to the hotel with them, and I’ll probably see him in the morning. I haven’t seen your mother either.”
“I’m not worried about that – she’s probably with one of the other ladies. Come on – let’s get another drink.”
Sunday 25th January
Chateau de Ros
"Good Morning Sir,” the lady said as she opened
the door and backed in, “your coffee and breakfast."
"Guten Morgen," the man smiled as he sat himself up, and she put everything on the folding tray over his lap, unfolding the napkin and placing it on his chest, ticked into his open shirt.
"Is there anything else that you wish to come up from the kitchen Sir?"
"No this looks most satisfactory…Thank You."
"Well we aim for the highest standards of
"I can see…again... Thank You."
"You are most welcome Sir." she curtsied and
made as to leave.
"Come here woman." he said as he moved the
tray to one side and jumped out of bed.
She shrunk back as she said "Oh no Sir, No Sir….what
would the management say?"
"I don't care…I'm going to have my wicked way
"Oh Sir," she murmured as he wrapped his arm
around her and kissed her - long and hard.
"You know,” he said as he finally let go, and
head her gasp, “you should have got breakfast for yourself."
"I've got what I want to eat right here," she reached in his pajamas. "I think it would satisfy me and fill me…”
"Oh Juliette,” Klaus murmured, “I love you."
She blushed as she said "I love you as well Klaus…"