Mel stared at the note. Please help me. Who could have sent such a cryptic message? Why was it on her balcony?
The household was stirring, and she had to be down at breakfast soon. Makso was going to brief her on her duties and he didn’t tolerate lateness.
She looked around her. There was no-one apart from Greg Brodie fixing the bike, surrounded by a paraphernalia of tools.
Part of Greg’s role was security. Should she tell him about the note? She wasn’t sure she could trust someone she didn’t know.
He looked up at her. The pool was surrounded by trees. Had he chosen to work near a break in the greenery so he could view her balcony? She shot back into her bedroom and drew the curtains. Surely he wasn’t watching her.
She grabbed her bag and put in a pad and pen. She wanted to be as efficient as possible. The crumpled-up note on the bed – she mustn’t leave it in plain sight. Someone had taken her into their confidence.
She put the note in her bag and ran downstairs, arriving at her seat seconds before Makso strode in. Severina bustled behind him, silver pots in hand.
“You slept well?” Makso drawled.
“Like a log.”
“Good. We have a busy day ahead. I am hosting a dinner party this evening and I want you there. My friends are interested in purchasing artwork. Some are knowledgeable dealers, others investors. You will chat to people, and encourage them to buy.”
Mel’s hunger vanished.
“I know nothing about the art world!”
Makso picked at figs and yoghurt.
“You’ll learn. You’ll spend today with books from my library and study the artwork I have on display. By this evening I expect you to hold a half-competent conversation.”
Mel opened her mouth to protest. Instead, she swallowed hard and made herself eat a croissant. He mustn’t know how inadequate she felt.
“I won’t disappoint you.” She shot him a dazzling smile. “I loved art at school, and it’ll be a pleasure.”
She surprised herself by sounding so convincing.
“I presume Mrs Yurcich will be helping you host the dinner?” she added.
“I have asked Hiroko. I doubt she will appear. She has not been up to hosting dinner parties lately.”
“Perhaps she and I could get ready together. Young mothers who have been out of the social whirl can find socialising difficult.”
Mel had been looking forward to helping Makso’s wife. Makso was absorbed in his business, and not making Hiroko a priority.
Mel had worked with mothers after childbirth. Helping them get back to their old selves was the best thing for their babies.
Makso stood up.
“Hiroko will appear when she’s ready. Severina will show you to the library.” He hesitated, considering. “Perhaps it is unfair of me to leave you alone with a pile of heavy books. Come with me to the library and I will give you a crash course on my most special pieces of art. Then I will select some books which will be of particular use to you.”
Half an hour later she felt better equipped for the task. When he left her, the room felt empty without his commanding and dominating presence. Mel had been terrified about tonight, but now she felt fired up for the challenge. She wasn’t one to give in.