“Makso. I can help your wife,” Mel began. “I can guide her. I’ve read everything there is to read about childcare. I’ve practised it and have written articles and been asked to lead seminars back in England.
“I also have compassion. If you let me help you and your wife you won’t regret it. I’m happy to handle your business affairs as your personal assistant. Once your wife and I get to know each other I can bring her out of her shell. I’ll work hard. Would there be any chance I could meet your wife?”
Grey eyes bored into her like they could see into her soul.
“Of all the candidates I have seen for this role, none has spoken like you. I lost hope the right person would come along. In fact, I think I have found her. Miss Sanderson, you’re hired as from this moment.”
He marched over to a bell in the wall, and after a moment Severina and Mihovil appeared.
“Please take Miss Sanderson to her accommodation.”
Mel felt her bottom lip tremble but fought to control herself. This was to be her new home, this luxurious house in this wonderful country, and there was work to be done.
She wanted to reach out, grab his hand and hold it. Instead she stood straight.
“You won’t regret it.”
“I hope not.” His expression was grave, troubles weighing heavy on his shoulders.
The phone rang and he turned, closing the door and leaving Mel to follow Severina and Mihovil.
It was only at that point that Mel realised he had ignored her request to meet his wife.
The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. Mel flew back to London, and sent off e-mails letting people know she was, for the foreseeable future, to be living in sunny Croatia.
Oscar was sweet as always, treating her to a farewell dinner, with Izzy looking so grown up. There were tears, but mainly of joy for her new beginning.
Before she knew it, Mel was back, and the Villa Lavanda had become her new home.
* * * *
Greg Brodie had been fixing loose tiles near the swimming pool. As he trowelled on cement, he strained to hear what was being said through the window in Makso’s study.
He’d watched a parade of hopefuls arrive only to be shown straight out. The small brisk woman in there now, though, had stayed for longer than any of them.
He couldn’t make out what she was saying, but she was feisty and, Greg decided, might be a match for Makso.
As Greg gathered his tools and stood up, he was just in time to see them shake hands, and Mihovil was called in to take her luggage upstairs.
So, he pondered as he made his way to the tool shed, there was to be another member of the household. Would that make his job easier or more difficult?
He locked the shed door and walked off. That would remain to be seen. He’d have to keep his eye on her.
* * * *
Mel woke with a start. She had left her curtains open and a glorious dawn was painting the horizon in raspberry ripple pinks.
She threw open the doors. On the first floor, with a balcony, it felt too good to be true. The breaking sun winked on the sea in the distance. The gentle sound of the swimming pool pump clicking into life was a million miles from London’s traffic. A perfect day beckoned.
Insomnia was something she had always had, but it didn’t worry her. She embraced it. For a woman who lived a busy life with children, these peaceful early hours were a bonus.
The rest of the household was unlikely to be up. What she fancied was a walk before the world got going.
She closed the French windows, got dressed, and made her way downstairs. Mihovil had shown Mel where to find the keys to the bike shed, so Mel pulled one out and started cycling.
“In this direction . . .” Mihovil had pointed south “. . . is the path through the olive and lavender fields to Makso’s private beach. The town of Fazana is in that direction. It’s half an hour to cycle there.”
“What’s Fazana like?”