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Breathing in the scent of his daughter’s hair for a final second, aware of the hard knot of loneliness in his chest he rarely acknowledged, he lifted his eyes, his gaze drawn as if under the control of some invisible force to where the slim figure stood watching them. Kate looked shocked. Strangely, considering he was not a man inclined to trust, he knew at some deep unfathomable level that had nothing to do with proof or logic that the secret, that any secret, was safe with her.

‘Be good for...’ his eyes slid to the petite figure watching him with big golden eyes and the wordnannyjust wouldn’t come ‘...Ms Armstrong.’

He tipped his head towards Kate and the next second he was gone, leaving trails of energy that seemed almost visible in his wake.

‘Right, what shall we do now? Would you like to play?’

‘Read. I always read after snack time. I’m a very good reader.’

A few minutes into the reading session Kate was assailed by a suspicion. She tested her theory and her suspicions were proved correct. The little girl with the seemingly advanced reading age couldn’t read a word. She had simply memorised it all.


KATEPRIORITISEDTHEchanges she intended to make, always supposing she had the opportunity, and high on her list was the abolition of the strict adherence to a timetable, which was fine when it gave a sense of security but destructive when it became stifling and inflexible.

Testing the water, she had casually floated the idea of a slight diversion from routine, which had resulted in confusion among the staff and her charge. She knew she would require some tact, diplomacy and determination.

After yesterday she could not claim that tact and diplomacy were her strong points. Her strong point was that she possessed the determination that would see her through. There were some advantages to being considermule-stubborn.

On her second evening she made her first move. Kate waited for the two nursery maids who were on duty to appear after Freya had gone to bed.

When they did, she suggested that they might leave the collage-making messiness spread out on the table.

They had looked longingly at the pile of fabric scraps, leaves and gluey mess on the table, but they had worriedly gone along with her request, so Kate considered it a win, considering they had almost fallen down in a heap when she had asked them to call her Kate. They were baby steps but she would get there!

Returning to her own flat, she was contemplating a walk to orientate herself to the grounds. So far, she had only seen the area set out as an outdoor play area for Freya. The only piece of equipment that gave any hint of play was a swing. Kate intended to change that.

Her exit was delayed by the unexpected arrival of a visitor. The tap on the door made her heart thump. It would be just like Marco Zanetti not to recognise her off-duty time, but it would be very unlike him to tap. He was definitely not a tapping man—more a bang-and-demand or just-ignore-the-door man.

So by the time she had opened the door she was not surprised to find, not a six-four challenging figure, instead the plumply pretty figure of Lady Rosa with her head of dark, wiry grey-streaked hair.

The woman who had been Kate’s reception committee the previous night had an impressive-sounding job title, but then so did every other person in the place, but by this point they had all blurred into one, so she stuck to Lady Rosa.

The older woman didn’t stay long. She had just dropped by to see if there was anything Kate needed, any problems...?

There were, of course, but the problem in question was one that Kate knew she needed to discuss with Freya’s absentee father before anyone else. When, of course, he decided to put in another appearance.

The fact he hadn’t did not improve her opinion of him. Her slight thawing hardened into solid ice. Could he really not know that he had a child who was hungry for his attention? It made her want to shake some sense into him, though the effort would be wasted—the man was built like... Stomach muscles quivering, she sharply veered away from Marco Zanetti’s build.

His no-show was frustrating professionally. Personally she could have done without seeing him ever again! But she wasn’t going to allow personal feelings to get in the way of her doing her job well.

Her suspicions had not gone away and she had done her research. She was ready to present the facts demanded when he did decide to honour them with his presence. The lack of surprise at his no-show spoke volumes: no one was shocked. Everyone was sounderstanding. He was a busy man. Well, the photos in an old online article she’d seen had shown that he wasn’t too busy to escort beautiful women with interesting back stories!

She popped back into the nursery to tell the young women where they could find her if she was needed.

‘I’ve got my phone on me.’

‘It’s fine,’ one assured her cheerfully. ‘Nanny always used to have...’ She paused to straighten her apron and a wicked voice in Kate’s head filled in the gap with inappropriate suggestions...A gin and tonic... Afternoon sex.

She choked off a laugh and turned it into a cough.

‘She had a nap,’ the girl supplied. ‘Are you all right... Kate?’

‘Fine,’ Kate said cheerily. She didn’t need a nap or, for that matter, afternoon sex. With anyone, she added to herself, as a possible playmate for the latter option bounded lithely into her head unbidden.

She attempted to walk off her anger and general frustration in not being able to discuss Freya with her father. Since the storm had passed over, the weather on the island had reclaimed its reputation as a temperate paradise on earth.

She had explored only a fraction of the grounds, which, once you got beyond the formal gardens around the palace itself, were divided into a series of separate rooms. They were designed in such a way that you would be surprised by a sudden breath-catching view out over the city to the sea beyond and you could walk from a bog garden complete with dribbling fountains, springs and moss-covered statuary into a wild flowers meadow and then a walled kitchen garden smelling of herbs and greenhouses full of produce used in the palace kitchens.

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