Trials and Tribulations – part 5







"Some late money for Freedom's Runner," Francesca whispered as she expertly surveyed the tote boards, "does someone know something we don't?"

"He stripped very fit in my opinion..."  The redhead standing next to her looked again at the form book.

"But didn't we both say he looked maybe a little over-cooked Marnie." Angel broke in.

"They clocked a very fast time on him earlier in the week." George Saunders said as he looked at his notes.

"Maybe...but to me none of them look to have the beating of Sinnerz," Marnie looked down at her race program.

"He's odds-on though," Francesca mused, "if we are going to make any money here it’s getting the forecast...what do you call it over here...the Exacta?"

"Well we both have placed bets Sinnerz first, and Zentipede she chases him home." Marnie nodded to Angel.

"She has a nice action," Francesca looked carefully, "but if Freedom's Runner is maybe a little overdone...?"

"Yes, she will be better next time out." Angel nodded in agreement.

"And what of the Europeans Paula?"

"According to my brother Carolinius is a fair colt, but on a line through Sarrabus then he's held by Dorsetman, and as we know Saintz beat Dorsetman,” the Duchess said as she watched the horses carefully.

"WEll I'm hearing very little to dissuade me from betting the Exacta that the girls are proposing." Francesca nodded her head...  “Now where are those betting windows?"


"So what are your bets John?" John Vosloo asked.


"Sinnerz first, Sky Nip second.  Everyone seems to be assuming he will win and are playing the exacta and trifecta Colonel...sorry John..."

"I know,” the South African said with a smile, “I have to restrain myself from saying Sir John to you."

The photographer smiled as he looked round.  "Oh by the way,” he said as a familiar face appeared, “do you know Jack Linklater?  Jack, this is John Vosloo, Charlotte’s sort of uncle."


“A real pleasure,” Jack said as they shook hands, “so what brings you over here?”


“Business – and dealing with some family history?”


“Oh – sounds intriguing…”


“Jack, are you telling me for once you are the last to hear the gossip?”


“What gossip?”


“You know Charlotte Gordon, right?”


“The cute little redhead who works for Shirley?  Of course I do.”


“Well – that’s her mother,” John Vosloo said as they looked across.


“Who…  Oh dear lord, am I wrong, or is that the darling of Italian Hello, the Marchesa di Cambrello?”


“It is – and Charlotte is her daughter,” John Hammond said as he saw the look of total surprise on Jack’s face.


“Well, it is nice to see life can still surprise me,” Jack said with a smile.  “By the way, I was talking to George, the old rogue, and he’s given me a tip to place alongside SiantzAndSinnerz.  Interested?”




Francesca smiled as she looked round, and then noticed the bearded George Simpson, watching the room carefully.


“Caroline, may I ask a question?”


“Of course Francesca, personal or professional?”


"A bit of both…  Your partner George - was he ever with MI5 or Special Branch Caroline?"

"No," Caroline said as she looked at the horses coming out on to the track for the pre-race parade. "Why do you ask?”

"Because he's one of these people with a talent for being in a room, noticing everything, whilst no one seems to notice he is there even."

"Well yeah it is his talent," Caroline smiled inwardly, "but no I can emphatically assure you he was never a spy."

"Interesting..." Francesca said as she took a few mental notes to herself.

"So are you following the stable girls Francesca?"

"I am...and you?"

"Risking a place/show bet on Black Ninja..."

"The rank outsider?"

"Yes, but have you seen the mascara ads with the Ninja's on TV?"

"Yes I think I have...Why?"

"Young Anna, and Nikki over there are the models in that ad...and I'm taking the safe bet on Sinnerz, but for a long-shot?"

"I've heard of worse inspirations," Francesca nodded.  “And George?”


“I think he has a few on this one as well.”



The room turned as an announcement came over the tannoy.


"Ladies and Gentlemen - before the horses parade, to commemorate the fallen dead of the Commonwealth Of Kentucky, and the wider world in World War One Can I ask you to observe total silence, please rise, gentlemen remove your hats, and place your hands over your heart for the playing of 'The Last Post'."


As one they stood, heads bowed as the lone trumpeter blew the notes in total silence.  Hardened military men like John Hammond and John Vosloo felt moisture in their eyes, and as they looked to the side they saw Jack Linklater, heads bowed, eyes closed, as he whispered a silent prayer.


Alex Richmond was also saying a silent prayer as he stood with his family, remembering his own demons.  He felt Vanessa’s hand in his, and put his other hand on George’s shoulder as he looked at Gus, both of them praying the children of today would never know that horror.


Klaus and Dieter stood to attention as the rest of their families remained silent, Sigi with her arms round her children, Natalya nodding as she looked at Carina, Annie and Judith.


The room remained in respectful silence as the tune continued, even Caroline, Shirley and George, although they remained ever alert.  The most poignant was when they noticed Ama and Maisha with Helen, Charlotte and Francesca, all looking ahead, all with their memories.


The last few notes played, before the entire course burst out into spontaneous applause, and the parade of horses began.




“And where have you been Pops,” Mary said as Dave came over.


“I was talking to George – Caroline’s number two?  He suggested that putting a few dollars on a couple of horses to show might be good in this race.”


“And did you?”


“Goes against everything we’ve done over the years, poppet – but yeah.  This place brought me so much luck all those years ago – maybe it will do again.”


Mary looked at Dave as he smiled.  “I’ll tell you later – maybe.  Where are the others?”


“Around the place – David and Sally have been keeping an eye on them…”




“Come on Dad,” Pepsi said as she nudged Grant, “there really is nothing more you can do – you need to let her do the work now.”


“I know – it just always makes me nervous until the race is over,” Grant said as April put her arm round his waist.


“Our daughter is right Grant – let’s just watch…”




“He is looking good,” Klaus said as he looked through his field glasses, SaintzAndSinnerz running smoothly up the track towards the stalls.  “Can you see him, little one?”


“I can Grappy,” Judith said as he held the binoculars to her eyes, “he’s vewy pwetty.”


“Yes he is,” Annie said as she rubbed her bump.  Carina placed her hand on there and smiled as they kissed.






“Brooke – I was wondering if you were going to make it.”


“So was I – you gave me something to think about when we talked the other day.  I never knew you had that kind of streak in you.”


“We all have our hidden sides Brooke,” Diana said quietly, “and the fact you are mentioning our conversation tells me you have as well.  So my question is the same as the other night – why are you still here?”


“As I say, you gave me something to think about…  If these young men were somehow to sneak out of the grip of the SVU, then I do not believe justice would be done.”  Taking a drink from her glass, Brooke continued “and I think for Katy’s friend, and any others, justice needs to be done.”


“Why do I get the feeling you have had this conversation with yourself before Brooke?”


“For the same reason you would not have asked me the question, unless you had asked it of yourself Diana.  We should talk about that sometime.”


“Perhaps – and?”


“Let me know – I would at least wish to be there.”


As Brooke walked off, Caroline walked over to Diana.


“I suspect there are hidden depths to our friend, the judge…”


“Indeed,” Caroline said, “but she is in?”


“She is in,” Diana said quietly, Caroline smiling as she went to the viewing area and Diana went outside.


“Hey,” Marine said as she looked round, “Can you feel that atmosphere?”


"You'd think it was the Derby itself?" Caroline whispered to Marnie. "All this tension."

"Well for milers over here it is their equivalent...”  Marnie looked at the rest of the field and said “some awful good horses have won this race over the years."

"And been quickly shoved aside because of the glamour of the big one."

"Very true...but to true horsemen this race is often just as important."

"Is he sweating a little?" Caroline looked through her glasses.

"Just a bit, but Jorge looks unconcerned, I think he's just sensing the importance of the race."




"Did you have a little bet on Black Ninja as well Doc?" Nikki asked as they stood with their friends.

"Yep...I just couldn't resist a connection like that."

"I don't think any of us could," Barbara smiled as House lifted Jeannie into a seat, and she sat beside her.

"I don't think Saintz can lose though," House said as he sat himself, “but the betting value is to be had in the places.”


“That’s what our resident experts said,” Jeannie said as she looked at Angel and Marnie.




"Well Roy it might not be the Derby, but we are having our Saturday at Louisville my boy."

"Agreed Guy...” Roy said with a smile, “and it’s wonderful to be here both with a special horse, and special friends."

"Thank you Roy." Guy smiled, "by the way did you see dear Valeria is practically chewing her fingers?"

"I had, Tonia is almost as nervous – and as for Grant..."

"The only one of us who seems just as always is George..."

"I always think he has nerves of steel."





"Why are you out here, and not in the seats Diana?" Heather asked as she came out of the powder room in the Grandstand hospitality suite.

"I'm making sure the waiters know to bring the champagne through just at the right time."

"Attention to detail eh?"


"Anyway we better get to a vantage spot, looks like they are loading them in," Heather looked up at a TV monitor.


“Agreed – shall we?”




“Well, the runners and riders are all in the stalls now,” the announcer said, “the crowd waits in nervous anticipation…  The starter raises his hand…  AND THEY ARE OFF!”


The room fell silent as they watched through their binoculars and on the screen,


“And it’s Cariolanus with the early lead, followed by Freedom’s Runner, SaintzAndSinnerz, Zentipede and Black Ninja, these five already clear of the main field…”


“Come on,” Grant whispered quietly, “you know the field, you know the course…”


“And as we approach the bend, Zentipede and SaintzAndSinnerz move alongside Freedom’s Runner, Cariolanus still with a slight lead as we approach the four furlong mark…”


“I cannot watch,” Valeria said as she stood with Nessa, Natalya and Paulie.


“Approaching five furlongs, and Cariolaus is fading, Cariolanus has been caught by Zentipede and SaintzAndSinnerz, with Black Ninja beginning to make a move.  Freedom’s Runner is trying to hang in there…”


“Hold on,” George whispered to himself, “hold on…”


“And we’re into the final furlong, and SaintsAndSinnerz is making its move, coming alongside and overtaking Zentipede, it’s going clear now as Sky Nip comes from behind, past Black Ninja, into third place.  It’s the last few feet, and…  SaintsAndSinnerz wins, Zentipede second, Sky Nip third, Black Ninja fourth, the others coming in now…”






The cheers and clapping went round the room as George, Roy, Guy and Grant hugged each other, before they grabbed Tonia, Valeria and April and made their way out of the room.  As they did so, Diana signalled to the waiters outside, who started to bring in bottles of champagne and glasses.


“Excellent – we should all toast the success of today,” Klaus said.


“I think you three have had quite enough though,” David Clarke said as he looked at his younger sisters, “don’t you?”


“You take the fun out of everything,” Vicky said with a smile.


“All right – one more glass, and then that is it, understood?”


“And I agree,” Dave said, “we can celebrate a little.  I managed to get the first four – we made a few dollars today…”




“Well you both called it,” Jo and Abby said as they hugged Angel and Marnie.


“True – but we got the four placed as well in the correct order, thanks to a tip from George.    Our horse may not have paid out great odds, but accumulated – a nice little pay day all round.”


“For quite a few of us I think, in one form or another…”



“We did it,” Katy said as she hugged and kissed George, Sands smiling slyly as she looked at Fergus running his finger under the collar.


“So have you cooled down now Sands?”


“Yeah – sorry about that Mom, Heather,” she said as she looked at them, “I guess the occasion and the times got to me.  I do look good though, don’t I?”


“Yes you do,” Sandy said, “but perhaps the three of us need to have a little chat when we get home, hmm?”


“Yeah – yeah that sounds good,” Sands said as she sipped from the glass.


“Want to come with me and collect the winnings, Sands,” Juliette said as she stood behind the family, “I want to see if they’ll let you pass into the betting area.”


“Sure Aunt Ju,” Sands said as she smiled at Fergus, and followed her out, her hips swaying as they walked along, and then went into a side room.


“Well, if nothing else you’ve managed to create havoc today, young Alexandra Richmond – have you any idea how much talk there is about your little posse?  I overheard Eve talking to Aileen Gaunt quietly in a corner about her actions – and you do not want to see what Capricorn and Alison are up to.”


“I know,” Sands said with a smile as she looked at Jan, “and I am sorry if parents are getting upset.  But I had to take the opportunity today provided – especially when I saw Roberto Romanov in the VIP area.”


“Well, it has certainly established your credentials,” Juliette said, “but we are going to have some clearing up to do afterwards.  So – did it work?”


Sands nodded as her mind went back to a week ago, when she had gone home with Katy for dinner…



“There you are,” Jan said as the two girls took their coats off.  “Katy, do you mind if I have a quick word with Sands?  It’s about something for Abby’s birthday.”


“Sure – I’ll be in my room when you’re done,” Katy said as Jan walked with Sands into her bedroom.  As she came in, she was surprised to see both Juliette and Grace sitting there. 


“Aunt Ju?  Aunt Grace?  What’s going on?”


“Sands,” Jan said as she closed the door, “I want to ask you if you will do something for me – something you may not like when you hear it, but if you do it, it will help bring Laura a sense of closure as well.”


“Laura?  Is this something to do with the sleazebags that…”


“In a way,” Juliette said.  “You know the boys who gave your friends those pills got the pills from their fathers?”


As Sands nodded, Jan said “well, we’re building a case that will bring their parents to justice, but our problem is we also want to bring down the man who persuaded them to import the drugs.  Katy’s Gran, Eleanor Ball, is at this moment cutting off the primary source, but the head sleazeball is probably just going to find new supplies of these drugs, and new ways of getting them in, unless we stop him.”


“But why are you telling me this?”


“Well, Jan asked me if I could think of a way of getting this man, Roberto Romanov – and the one way we can think of doing it is to exploit the fact he likes young girls.”  She showed Sands a photograph of a tall, thin man with white hair.


“Sands,” Juliette continued, “you know how Katy uses her looks as a model?”


“Yes – and the trouble my best friend found herself in.  Why?”


“Because the way to Romanov is to make him think there is a young firebrand he would want to conquer – and we want you to be that firebrand.”


“You mean,” Sands said quietly, “you want me to be a bad girl?”


“That’s right – we know at the race meet next week, Gus van Roon is going to have a salon set up in the car park, for our exclusive yes.  What we need is for you to transform yourself into something irresistible, and take the opportunity to seduce someone with the aim of presenting yourself as – well, very expensive jailbait.”


“And hopefully attracting the attention of this Romanov?”


“That’s the idea – we want you to let you inner devils take over Sands.  Is this something you think you can do?”


“To get justice for Laura – I’ll do whatever you ask.  But what will Mom and Heather say?”


“Let us worry about that,” Jan said, “and all three of us will be watching out for you.”




“I’ll be your conscience, if you like,” Grace said.  “I heard today an old friend is going to be here for the race – and he’s going to be your mark.  His name is Fergus MacLean, and I’ve known him for years.  We’ll make sure you meet on the day – I’m sure Katy will join in the art of talking him up.”


“What about the other girls?”


“Play it by ear,” Jan said.  “So, are you up for this Sands?”





“So – did it work?”


“In the sense of convincing ‘Uncle Fergus’ I am a blackmailing horny little sexpot who has him wrapped round my little finger?  Yes, it worked – and I think I know a few more things about myself as well.  Aunt Ju, I know I’m bi now – should I tell Heather and Mom?”


“I think they both will want to talk to you anyway,” Jan said.  “I know Heather sent Holly to find you?”


“Yeah – she may have just discovered she has feelings for me as well,” Sands giggled.


“Okay – I don’t want to know,” Juliette said, “but you think Fergus is under your control?”


“Oh yes – we’re going shopping next week with him.


“Both of us.”


OOOkay – well, we have to see this through now.  Do you think Romanov saw you?”


“I know he did – so we play it along until he makes his move?”


“That’s right,” Jan said as he handed over some notes.  “The winnings – time for you and Katy to have a chat probably.”


“Yeah – I may have said something out loud I haven’t told Mom and Heather yet, about my feelings.”


“Oh,” Juliette said as she raised an eyebrow, “this to do with Holly?”


“It is,” Sands said with a smile.






Accetping the trophy on behalf of the owner’s syndicate, Roy Razinski.”


Grant and Guy posed with Roy as he accepted the trophy and cheque, the photographers snapping away as George and Caroline watched from the sidelines.


“Ever wish you were upi there with them, George.”


“Not today, Carolien my dear – not with the British media as well.”


“I don’t think they would recognise you now, you old rogue.”


“Nonetheless, I have always been cautious, and I always will be,” George said with a smile.


“Francesca di Cambrello was asking if you had worked in Special Branch or the intelligence community.”


George chickled quietly as he said “what did you tell her?”


“Definitely not – she is a known asset in our community George.”


“So I gathered from Madame – she never crossed my path, and with luck she never will.”


“I doubt it will ever happen, but you never know.  So your share fo the winnings?”


“Goes to the fees as always, but I made a good killing on the placing as well.”


“I heard you spread the love.”


“I did – care to accompany me back to the room for a celebratory drink?”


“I thought you would never ask,” Caroline said, neither of them noticing the photographer as he took their pictures.





“So,” Poppy said as she came over to Erica, “is the winner the only thing you are celebrating today?”


“What do you think,” Erica said with a smile as they both took a glass.


“How was it?”


“A bit painful, but so worth it,” Erica said with a smile, “even if I had to almost explode at Simon for it to happen.”


“Hmmm – I heard some of the older girls saying it’s always better as a way to make up after an argument, if they have the right person to do it with?”


“You, by the way, never said who it was you did it with,” Erica said with a smile.


“No, no she didn’t.”


The two girls turned round to see Denice and Pippa standing behind them.


“Ah,” Erica said quietly, “mom, I think you and I need to have a talk.”


“Yes, yes I think we do – but I’m not upset with you.  I should have seen it coming at some time,” Denice said with a smile.  “At least it was with a boy you like.  Did he?”


“Yes he did,” Erica nodded.


“Right – I think we need to talk to someone like Karen in the very near future.”


“And when were you going to tell me,” Pippa said as she looked at Poppy.




“Oh forget it – we’re celebrating after all,” Pippa said as she hugged her daughter, “but you and I are going to have the same chat as Erica and her mother, understood?”


“Yes Mom,” Poppy said with a sigh.





“Okay bestie,” Katy said as Sands came back into the room, “you, me, over here, now.”


“Well, if you insist,” Sands said as she counted some notes, “your winnings.”


“Thanks – but what the heck has got into you today?  It’s almost as we’ve unleashed the hidden Alexandra Richmond.”


“I think we have,” Sands purred, “and I have to admit, I like how it feels.”


“Yeah – I gotta admit, you work it,” Katy said, “but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.  How did you work out you were Bi?”


“You were there in Munich Katy – you were at the club.  I couldn’t get the images out of my head – and it’s been festering ever since.  Then when I said it tonight, it just felt – right.”


Nodding, Katy said “all right then – but for the sake of the Goddess, talk to your mom and Heather, all right?  IT’s gonna get out there sooner rather than later.”


“I know – and I will,” Sands said, “but I don’t think I’m the only one asking that question tonight…”





“Mum - can Aileen and I have a word with you?”


Paula looked at Eve and Aileen, and said “of course you can – what’s wrong?”


“Over there,” Eve said as she indicated a quiet corner, Paula nodding as they walked over.


“What’s going on,” John said as he stood with Kit.


“I’ll let them tell you later,” Kit said as the three of them sat down, and Paula said “all right – what’s wrong?”


“Go on Aileen – tell Mum what you told me.”


Aileen looked at her mother, and swallowed as she said “Mum – if I said I was having some very real dreams about someone – the sort of dreams that made a mess – what would you say?”


“Hmmm – well, you are getting to that age,” Paula said as she nodded.


“And of I told you it was about someone at school?”


“Not one of the teachers surely…”  Paula suddenly looked at Aileen as she realised what she was saying.  “Aileen, are you saying that you think you are?”


“I think I might be Mummy – but I was so scared to tell someone, and then…”


“And then today, and the girls your age…”


“It just came out when Kit and I talked to her,” Eve said.  Paula nodded, and then said “come here.”  As she put her arms round Aileen, she said “Whatever your choice is, your father and I love you very much Aileen – and nothing is ever going to change that.  All right?”


“All right Mummy – thank you,” Aileen said as she started to cry.


“We’ll talk about this later – right now, let’s go and join the celebration,” Paula said as she looked at the middle daughter, and brushed her hair away from her face.  “All right?”



"If we weren't syndicating him ourselves, todays win would have added considerably to his value as a potential sire." Grant said as he started to calm down.

"It would indeed Grant dear boy...So plans?"

"Toddy thinks spell him Guy, a warm up race, then Saratoga's rich prizes, another break then build up for the Breeders Cup."

"It sounds correct to me," Roy nodded, "the problem with milers is you can't spell them too long, they thrive best on a reasonably consistent diet of hardish training and racing."

"The Brigadier certainly seemed to..."

"Agreed," Guy nodded.

"Alright now you have me lost," Tonia broke in, "who was the Brigadier?"

"Brigadier Gerard, who with all respect to our chap," George smiled, "remains the greatest racehorse ever over one mile...And yes I know I'm showing my age Shirley Xavier."

"Was I going to say anything?" Shirley smiled broadly.

"I also saw him race when I was a young man, and I too totally agree with George." Guy smiled.

"Well he was a freak," Grant nodded, "it was why he largely failed as a sire, our chap has much more reliable breading lines."

"Well it might be early, but can I book a couple of his slots for his first season?" Francesca enquired, "I'd like to set him to a couple of my Arrivister mares."

"Mmmm nice logic Marchesa," Grant dived to the huge stud book he carried most places.

"Breeding can wait Francesca dear, for now we celebrate...then we watch the Kentucky Derby itself."


“As always, Guy, I bow to your infinite experience,” Francesca said with a smile.  “Valeria, you have trained him well.”


“No, I have not trained him,” Valeria said with a smile, “merely shown him the virtues of patience.”


“Vanessa,” Francesca whispered as she passed, “may I ask you to ask yoru borther if her can spare a few minutes?  It is a private matter.”


“Of course,” Nessa whispered back as she walked away.



“Sandy – have you done well today?”


“So far – a word however.  Why are you and my daughter whispering to each other Juliette?" Sandy asked as she cornered her friend. "What is the big secret?"


"What secret?"


"Oh come on Ju, you cannot say that to me, I've known you far too many are up to something, and Sands has agreed to help...right?"


"This is neither the time nor the place Sandy…"


"So I'm right?" Sandy looked triumphant. "Just promise me she is not going to get hurt by this please."


“No, she won’t – but she needs to talk to you and Heather Sandy.  Seems she let a little secret out to some of the girls today, and she’s going to need the support of both of you.”


“She…  Oh.”  Sandy looked at her old friend, and said “you mean…”




“Okay – leave that with us,” Sandy said as she looked at her daughter.





“Well, I see you did well,” Natalya said as she sat with her old school friend.


“I cannot complain – and I have begun discussions on how I can increase my own stock as well,” Francesca said as she sipped her drink.


“So, what are you doing after this weekend Francesca?"

"Flying with the children to London Natty,” Francesca said, “and then I suppose trying to organise my new life."

"Meaning what?"

"Well for starters finding myself somewhere to live and work from...then hiring some staff...then seeing what happens."


“So you are going to use London as a base of operations?”


“Indeed – convenient for Frankfurt and Sigi, but also a place where I can work discretely.  You know that Shirley Xavier has offered me a place on her board?”


“I had heard – I think that is a very shrewd move on her part,” Natalya said as she looked over.  "And in your personal life?"

"I guess Charlotte and I have a wedding to organise, and we need start handling the transition phase Papa envisaged for her.  We are talking fo getting Piet’s family over for a week to meet up – and then there is what remains of my family to build bridges with."


“Which I would imagine includes Senor Claudio Morelli?”


“Oh yes,” Francesca said with a nod, “I’ve seen him once in the years since my parents died – he just looked at me, spat and turned away.”


“So how are you going to manage that?”


“Not quite sure yet, but we shall see, we shall see…”

"When do you see the New York lawyers?"

"Monday...  We will fly to London Tuesday overnight.  I have a sutie booked at the Savoy until I can sort out more permanent accommodation – at least that in itself should not take too long."


“And the office accommodation?”


“Shirley has offered to provide a temporary home until I sort that out – what I need is a good legal secretary who can hit the ground running…”


“Forgive the interruption ladies.”


“Alex,” Natalya said with a smile, “what can I do for you?”


“Actually, my dear Natalya, it is Francesca I wish to talk to – can I have a few minutes alone with her…”


“Ah – matters of religion,” Natalya said with a smile.  “Of course.”


“I’ll catch you later,” Francesca said with a smile, as Natalya waked off and Alex took her seat.


"So - What is wrong that you ask my sister if we can have a little chat Francesca?...  Nothing...?"

"No, not at all Father Alexander," the Marchesa smiled, "I just needed to hear an authoratitative voice of sanity.”


“And when that was not available, you asked for me?”


“Alex…  Am I wrong in wanting Carlotta to be married in Santa Chiara as I was, and the women in our family have been for centuries?"

"No you aren't wrong Francesca," Alex smiled, "but you have to remember, Charlotte was not raised in our faith..."

"Her father promised she would be," Francesca interrupted.

"Be that as it may,” Alex said with a sad smile, “she's a protestant, marrying a protestant...even with your huge influence in Naples, I'm not sure that 'our' church would be happy for starters."

"Maybe not."

"And you really do need to respect Charlotte's wishes in this."

"But Carlotta is currently the last descendant..."

"It doesn't matter," it was Alex's turn to butt in, "you need to respect her wishes in this."

"It just seems so wrong." Francesca shook her head.

"It might, but until she changes her mind there is nothing to be done."


"It's not like I'm trying to have something as ostentatious as a wedding in the Cathedral Father."

"You know as well as I do, that to your Neapolitan aristocracy Santa Chiara means more than the Cathedral does." Alex shook his head, "I know how much was spent by your family in restoring not only your own tombs, but those of the royal family after the bombing in World War Two."


“Still…  I wonder if hearing her grandmama’s wishes may influence her?


“Possibly – possibly not.  There is, however, an alternative you may wish to consider.  Not a full ceremony, true, but a blessing in the chapel?”


“Hmmm - you know, Alex, I see why people like you as a priest.”


“Oh – my rugged good looks?”


“More your rugged common sense,” Francesca said with a smile.



"Why does my granddaughter have a champagne glass?" Klaus asked.

"Don't worry Pops,” Carina said as Judith smiled, holding the glass carefully, “she only has 7Up in it, but she likes to join in the toasts."

"Well as long as it’s only a soft drink, Cari Darling."

"At least she gets the choice of what to drink," Annie looked slightly pained, "I will be so happy never ever to drink this slop again."

"Patience my love." Carina bent down and kissed her lover. "At least you are going full drastic rushes into Boston..."

"Yet!" Annie tried a smile, "but yeah it does look like I'll finish the school year out."


“We can but hope,” Klaus said as Sigi came over.  “So I hear you have a new partner in business, my dear sister.”


“Indeed – she’s going to be based in London, but she will be a valuable asset for the firm…”




"Shirley I saw Mother talking to Alex earlier...”  As Charlotte sipped her champagne, she said “you know she wants me to be married in a church in Naples?"

"I'd fact I was talking about it to Alex myself earlier in the day. Did you know he is something of an expert on Santa Chiara?"

"HE is? but why?"

"When he was a priest in Rome years ago, he sat on a committee recommending the restorations being done to the basilica after the war damage. He was one of those who advised to go back to how it originally looked as a Gothic church, and to request restore a lot of the 18th century baroque alterations."

"Well I live and learn," Charlotte laughed. "But in the meantime I know Mother has her heart set on the place....what to do?"

"Talk to Alex yourself Charlotte, and let me also say talk to John Vosloo, he will probably tell you what your father would have said."


“I have this feeling I may have advice from beyond the grave as well,” Charlotte said as she looked at Piet talking to Francesca.


“Hmm – the video messages.  Have you looked at them yet?”


“No – I want to deal with the lawyers first, then watch them.  I also have to decide what to do about the letter they wrote to Dad.”


“Do you think you will open it?”


“Shirley,” Charlotte said as she sighed, “I genuinely have no idea…”






“We need to put our bets on for the Derby,” John said, Shirley nodding as he went off with some of the others.


“Well, it has been a most interesting day, Shirley,” Francesca said as she sat with her.  “A most interesting day indeed.”


“I suspect you have learned more than you are willing to let on, Francesca,” Shirley said with a smile.


“I may have, I may not have,” Francesca said, “and I suspect Eleanor would tell me more.  But she is with her family today, so well and good.  I wanted to thank you again for the use of an office in your building, while I get things set up.”


“Well, as you will be one of our directors, the office will be there on the executive floor as a matter of right – it only makes sense you use it until your own can be arranged.”


“What I need next is a good legal secretary…”


“Well, I may be able to assist with that as well,” Shirley said with a smile.


“You can?”


“Indeed – so long as you are willing to consider someone with, shall we say, additional skills?”


“Surely not Beverly,” Francesca said as she saw the young Cockney talking to Susan and Caroline.


“No – we are putting a different career path in place for her,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Rather, we have been notified by Teacher of a young lady who is about to take the final test to become a full sister.   She graduated from the University of Pretoria Primus inter Pares, and her speciality is international law.”


“And she joined the Sisters because?”


“Let us say, she has lived in Zimbabwe in the past.  She felt she had to fight back against what was happening there – and when I was talking to Teacher…”


“Teacher being?”


“A lovely woman who heads up our training facility.  At any rate, I was talking to her of how you and Commander Joyce could visit, and she immediately thought of this young lady.  She does the test this week, and is open to the idea of relocating to London, to work alongside you and Charlotte.”


“Sounds like the sort of person I can work with.  What is her name?”


“Hannah – I’ll set up the meeting for when you are in London,” Shirley said with a smile.




“Well – and where have you been hiding,” Cassandra said as she saw Capricorn and Alison Clarke walking over.


“We were talking to some of the boys, Mom,” Capricorn said with a smile, “letting them get us drinks and treating us like real ladies.”


“Well, you are real ladies – just very young ones,” Cassandra said with a smile.  “I just hope nothing happened to upset either of you.”


“No, Mrs Stone,” Alison said, “we were good girls.”


Cassandra raised an eyebrow as she saw Capricorn giggle, and then said “really?  So when the two of you went off with those older boys, it was to?”


“Look at the horses,” Alison said with a smile.


“Right – okay then,” Cassandra said as she looked closely at them.


“I didn’t hear you call them horses at the time,” Capricorn whispered as her mother turned round, Alison giggling until she heard her sister say “Ahem.”


“Oh – hi Mary,” she said as she looked round.


“We need to get together to watch the race – all of us.”


“Coming Mary – see you Capricorn.”


“See you,” the young girl said as Alison walked off with Mary.






“And the runners are lining up now for the running of the 2016 Kentucky Derby.  One or two still to go into the starting gates, and then we will be ready for the off…”


“I know we made the right decision for him,” Grant said, “but I still wish we had been able to enter him…”


“Enough,” April said, “for once, let’s just enjoy the race!”


“I agree,” Guy said with a smile, “let us enjoy the occasion.”


“And the last horse has entered the stalls….  And we have a go, the Kentucky Derby is underway, with Danzing Candy leading from Gun Runner and Nyquist, as we approach the first bend…”


“Come on, come on,” Jack whispered as he put his arm round Pepsi, “prove me right…”


“And at the halfway stage it’s still Danzing Candy, Gun Runner and Nyquist virtually neck and neck, and it looks like Exaggerator is starting to make a move from the back of the field.”


“That’s the one Guy said to watch,” George said as he watched, standing next to Caroline, Ama and Maisha, “he said it was a good outside bet…”


“And at the top of the stretch, Danzing Candy is starting to fade away, Gun Runner and Nyquist passing…”


“You were not tempted,” Annie whispered to Caroline.


“Nope – I listen to the experts…”


“And Nyquist has taken the lead, it’s Nyquist from Gun Runner and Mohaymen, and Exaggerator is coming up strong, two furlongs to go and Exaggerator had moved into third, Nyquist holidng the lead, Gun Runner fading slightly…”


“Yes, yes,” Francesca said as they cheered the horses on…


“And at the line, it’s Nyquist who wins the 2016 Kentucy Derby, by 1 ¼ lengths from Exagerrator, then Gun Runner 3 ¾ lengths back in third, and Mohaymen in fourth.  Truly a magnificent race…”


“Well,” Mary said with a smile, “Best fifty dollars I ever invested, and best tips I ever got.”


“What did you get,” Denice asked.


“The Superfecta – that’s my super fees paid for the year…”



"This must be me lucky place," Dave Clarke stood shaking his head, as he looked at the envelope in his hand.

"How so?" Clint asked him.

"Well with those tips on the Derby, I've made over 8 Grand in folding paper,"

"Hey good for you Dave," Missy said as she gave him a kiss.

"You know,” he said as he looked round, “this is the most money I've ever held that was mine, and mine only, ever?"

"Well knowing you, you won’t waste it." Missy smiled.

"A great steak for me and the kids..."

"Remember we are eating as a group tonight Dave."

"Okay.” He nodded as he put the envelope in his inside jacket pocket, and said “a great steak when we get home to Oakland then, and a couple of things that the girls would like as presents."

"Sounds a plan to me," Missy grinned happily.


“All right folks – we’re heading back to our hotels, but don’t forget we’re gathering for dinner…”


8.30 pm

The Brown Hotel, 335 West Broadway, Louisville


“Well, if we were going to book a celebration dinner anywhere in Louisville,” Ray said as he looked round the room, “this is the place.”


“Fess up Hubby,” Tonia said with a smile, “you just want the Hot Browns in the morning, right?”


“Well, there is that as well,” Roy said with a smile as George came in, “you’re our resident Brit, George – what do you think of the place?”


“Not bad – a bit Georgian, but this is Kentucky,” he said as Shirley and John came in, all of them taking a glass of champagne.  “So we get to kick back now.”


“As if we haven’t celebrated and kicked back enough?”


“My dear Princess Juliette,” Shirley said as her friend came in, “we have one difference between now and the Breeder’s Cup.”


“And that is?”


“We’re not flying back tonight…”




“Okay,” Mary said as she came in with David, Dave and Sally, “at least the others have gone to bed.”


“Not surprising – they all must be exhausted,” Sally said as she looked round.


“That is one way of putting it,” Dave said, “but I won some money today, so we can have a little celebration of our own.”


“Good – the band is playing,” Missy said as she appeared behind him, “come and have a dance.”


“Did Pops just get dragged onto the dance floor by Missy Auerbach?”


“Do you know, I think he did,” Mary said with a smile.



“And the word is,” Charlotte said as Piet checked his messages.


"So, that is confirmed - my family will fly in to London on Friday" Piet looked up from his phone, “they are booked into the Savoy as well."

"Excellent," Francesca beamed. "Now so I'm not surprised, tell me all about them Piet."


“Not much to tell really – Mum is a teacher, and Dad still works for the family business mainly.  They’re both in their late fifties.  I get the looks from Dad and the heights from Mum.  Then there’s my sister Sarina – she manages the vineyards, and is the really intelligent one.”


“They’re all taller than me, Mother – I am going to pretend I am Carina and ignore the height difference,” Charlotte said with a smile.


“Don’t worry – Anders will be there.  He’s the oldest, and married with two little girls – who I guess will end up being bridesmaids.  Also, Aunt Morag will be there.  She’s Mum’s sister, and a real small firecracker.”


“I like Anders, in the sense of I don’t have to stand on the box to talk to him…”


“They’re the ones I know of at the moment – we’ll see if Ana will make it, but she’s coming in the opposite direction.”




“She works in Brussels,” Charlotte said as she looked at her phone.  “Excuse me a minute – work call from Penny.”


She smiled as she walked into the lobby, and then said “Helga – what can I do for you?”


“Apologies for interrupting your celebrations,” Helga said, “but I thought you would like to know Hannah just came in with the rest of her group.”


“Excellent – so they take the oath tomorrow?”


“Hopefully – two teams still to come in, so all being well.  The important thing is we should be able to get her to London by the end of the week.”


"Helga,” Charlotte said quietly, “is she happy at the idea of working for my Mother?"

"Yes she is Little Mother."

"She knows that she will be basically a paralegal/legal secretary? In many ways she's grossly over qualified."

"I pointed that out to her, but as she said, she can earn an advocates license later.  How often does someone get to learn to the finer details of legal scholarship and opinion writing from people like your mother and Baroness von Manschen?"

"Well that should be true...I think the questions Sigi and mom get asked are worth university credit to anyone working with them."

"That was just what she said.  So she views it as an opportunity to serve in both ways."


“She does not know she will also be working with a Sister?”


“No – Shirley says she will operate at the same level as Mermaid.”


“Good – let me know when she is due to arrive, I’ll get Lily to offer her a spare room for the interim period.”


“Excellent – now go and enjoy the rest of your celebration.  I need to catch some sleep before the next…  Ah.”


“A group is coming in,” Charlotte said as she heard the singing.


“Yup – talk to you soon Little Mother.”


“May the Goddess bless you Teacher,” Charlotte said with a smile as she ended the call.







"What is this I hear that you might be actually going to spoil yourself George?” Tonia asked as she came over to him.

"Rumours travel fast I hear…  Well, I have had my eyes on this beautifully restored Jensen Interceptor that a dealer in White Pains wants to sell...”   Smiling, he said “my betting winnings today should just about cover it."

"Not an 'American Muscle' car eh George?" Kelly Rochermann smiled, “but its rather understated British equivalent...that somehow seems just right for you."

"And yes that was a compliment George," April joined in, "it's not flashy, it's not a well known car, but it is British and of the highest quality,"

"Just like you are George darling," Mandy drawled.


“Compliments are always welcomed,” George said with a smile, “excuse me ladies – the boss calls.”


“You know, we need to find him a good woman,” Mandy said as he walked off, “he deserves that…”


“True,” Tonia said as she waved across the room.  “Excuse us – Liz is here.”


“Of course, darlings,” Mandy said as she stood with April.  “And I wanted to talk to you anyway.”


“Oh,” April said, “about what?”

"Can we have a private chat with you and Grant on how we handle the engagement news darling?" Mandy asked April.

"Yes,” April said as she looked at Pepsi with Jack, “it’s time we put our heads together, and I think we also need to ask Adam and Jan, they do sort of have an interest as well."

"Agreed darling.  Shall we meet for breakfast tomorrow?”


“I’ll let them know…”






"Mother this is someone you maybe need to meet."


"Marchesa Francesca di Cambrello,” Charlotte said with a smile, “meet Judge Brooke Hatton."

"Oh it’s very good to meet you judge...on which bench do you sit?"

"The Federal Bench for the Southern District of New York...and you I understand are Sigi's latest business partner?"

"It looks that way,” Francesca said with a smile, “as long as I can set up shop alright in London."

"Well hopefully you should."

"Shirley has found a very bright young lady from South Africa to be my number two, so I just some routine office staff and i might be good to go."


“Well, Sigi is a well know advocate, so I am sure you will be an asset to her,” Brooke said with a smile.



"So who do we add to the non-virgins list?" Shawnee whispered to Liz.


“The word is Erica is on our side now,” Liz whispered back.  “I’ve taken Laura off the target list however – when she thought it through, she realized she wasn’t ready yet, and I agree.”


“Yeah – it was only after I realised how comfortable this would not make her feel.”


“I saw the Judge talking to her though,” Liz said as she smiled.  “She seemed to want to hear what she had to say.  What about Sands?”


“Oh, now she has really gone a ways,” Shawnee said.  “But more than that I am not sure.  She certainly got Uncle Fergus on his own.”


“She did?  Where has she been hiding all this time?”  Lis giggled as she said “What about the west coast?”


“Not sure – but the Irish contingent is proving very interesting.”




“Seems Sands may not be the only girl lover in our group, if what I overheard between the Gaunts was right.”


“Really?  What about Orion?”


“Oh no – her aunt is watching her very closely, but you never know…”


“Well, it is a start – where are the Clarke girls anyway?”


“In their room – want to slip out and see them?”


“I’ll let Katy know…”



"Well are plans still go for The Senior Prank?" Abigail whispered to Letty.


“Everything is ready to go,” Letty whispered back.  “A week on Monday, we give St Angela’s a day they hopefully will never forget.  Pepsi’s mum delivered the feathers yesterday, and the costumes are all prepared.”


“I presume none of the teachers know?”


“Nope,” Letty said.  “I did debate whether or not to tip the wink to Miss Kelly – Annie.  I mean, she is due to drop any day now, and it may be the thing that tips her over the age.”


“I did wonder – but we cannot tell her or leave her out.  Ama has managed to say nothing – so can we.  But we will keep an eye on her for the day.”


Nodding, Letty said “all right – but when her turn comes, it is light duties only.  Agreed?”


“Agreed – now let’s have some fun.”




"That evening dress that Holly has on is so tight she can't be wearing any underwear beneath it." Carina said as she shook her head, "even though we have virtually identical figures, I'm not sure I could wear that."

"You mean the floor length mermaid number?" Bats whispered.  Holly’s dress was held up by a halter neck, with the skirt hugging her legs until it flowed out to the floor, the black gloves covering her lower arms.


"Well wait till you see Sands, hers is also floor length, and if anything tighter."


The woman looked at the young teenager, wearing a similar dress in black, with elbow gloves and sparkling bracelets, a necklace reflecting the light.

"They must look like a pair of Vegas showgirls?" Annie asked. "I cannot wait till I can again wear something that sexy."


“Not long now hopefully,” Carina said as she put her hand on the bump.


“Oh boy,” Annie said suddenly as she held her back.


“Kicking again?”


“Yeah – I’ll be back in a minute,” Annie said, Carina watching as she headed for the rest room.


“The baby kicking again,” Karen said as she came over.


“Yes – we were discussing the younger generation.”


“Indeed – excuse me a minute,” Mandy said as she went to join Angel.




“Yes, Karen?”


"Do you have backup plans for Annie in New York Carina?"

Nodding, Cari said "We do think we will need them?"

"I'd not give you odds on her making it to Munich beforehand."


“I’ll let Helen know…”





"Francesca,” Klaus said as he approached the Marchesa, “I hear you are looking for a place to live in London?"

"I am Klaus...any ideas?"

"Well,” he said with a smile, “if you can put up with living north of the park, and a good walk from Harrods, then I might just have what you are looking for."


"It was my rather roguish cousin’s place, where he kept his mistress..."

"A house of ill repute eh?" Francesca laughed.

"Slightly...Anyway on his death it came to me. It's a three bedroom apartment in Lancaster Gate with a view over Hyde Park."

"That sounds nice.  And not too far from Carlotta either."

"No one’s lived in it for 20 years so it will need refurbishing..."

"It means I can add my own touches," the Marchesa laughed softly.

"But if you are interested I can get Shirley to give you the keys, and you can look next week."


“It is a deal, Klaus…  It is Mr Clarke isn’t it?”


"Marchesa I'm told you can make even lousy dancers like me look good," Dave Clarke asked nervously, "can I beg this dance?'

"You can Mr. Clarke," Francesca smiled, "so how do you fit into this group?"

"Mary Clarke...she's my daughter."

"Oh the girl with the amazing cheekbones?"

"Yes...and I have three other daughters, and my three boys here as well." "Dave shivered a little nervously, "we only know a few folks here, but Carina Huntingdown insisted I ask you for a dance."

"Well I must thank Carina."




“Well hello there Uncle Fergus.”


As he turned round, Fergus gulped as he saw Sands standing there, her hips thrust to one side as she said “Have you missed me?”


“Well, yes – I thought you had gone to bed,” he said as he looked at her.


“Oh no – not yet anyway, or had you forgotten we had a little arrangement now, Uncle Fergus?”  She placed her had on her chest, and said “Holly and I will be waiting outside in thirty minutes – don’t be late…”


She smiled as Fergus looked at her, and then walked off, grinning as she moved her hips from side to side.


“You don’t mind if I borrow Simon for a dance, do you Erica,” she said as she took the hand of Erica’s partner.


“No – but I want him back,” Erica said as she and Poppy watched.


"She's jailbait Willi," Natalya laughed as Sands wiggled as she danced with Simon Lodge, her long black kid gloved arms round his neck holding him tight.

"I know....but you know back in my day, when I was that age, girls somehow didn't quite look like that." The Baron shook his head.


“True,” he said as Holly watched, and then went to the restroom…



As Sands came in, she looked round and then closed the door, locking it behind her.


“I know you’re in here Holly – we’re alone.”


The door to one of the stalls opened, and Holly came out, smiling as she said “So finished with young Simon?”


“Oh yes – he is Erica’s now.  We have a few minutes before we go to meet Uncle Fergus,” Sands said with a grin.


"You know blackmail is a crime Alexandra?"

"So is molesting little girls like me," the young seductress smiled, "and I think his being a paedophile trumps us blackmailing him."

"I must admit,” Holly said with a smile, “the thoughts of being totally bad do turn me on."

"Well hold those thoughts lover,” Sands said as she put a gloved finger to Holly’s lips, “remember you need do something for me, as well as what we are going to do to him...You know I'm dying to have the feeling of you fingering my cunt."

"Oh I won't forget you hot little slut," Holly pulled her young lover close and initiated a long, lingering, kiss.

“Hmmm – nice,” Sands said as they parted.


“A taster for later,” Holly said with a smile.


"Everyone thinks Katy is the hottest piece of jailbait in town," Sands looked lustfully at Holly, "but you wait till they see me strut my stuff."


"Just to get you ready darling…" Holly lifted one of Sands’ breasts out of her tight dress, and was delighted to hear the youngster moan with pleasure as she fingered her tit, feeling it harden to her touch, seeing her young lover close her eyes with pleasure."

"Do you know how many dreams that I've had of you doing just that?" Sands moaned.

"Lots I bet."

"Oh yeah," Sands moaned again as the ripples of pleasure washed over her.  “I am so looking forward to that, but first, Uncle Fergus…”




"I'm safely on the pill Holly darling...tonight 'Uncle' gets a very special present from his 'niece'..."

"Alexandra,” Holly said as she put her hands on her shoulders, “you are terrible."

"Aren't I just,” Sands said, “but it’s true - tonight he gets to fuck me...and then keep fucking me."

"Men can't keep going like we can you know?"

"Oh I think I know enough to keep getting him interested in fucking me..."

"Hey what about me? You don't think that I won't need his dick inside my cunt as well?"

"Well we can take it in turns," Sandy giggled, "but I want you to give me a great sex education watching you...You've done it lots, this will be my first screw."


“Then watch and learn, young Padwan, watch and learn…”







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