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The scene that culminated in him standing in front of an empty bed covered in crumpled blood-stained sheets. He always remembered the weight and warmth of the baby in his arms, her big accusing blue eyes looking up at him, before she was whisked away and the doctor appeared, the news he was there to break written in his compassionate eyes.

The weight of the crushing guilt Marco felt at that moment had never lessened. It was always with him. He wore it like a second skin. It was no more than he deserved.

Like his own father, he had failed as a husband. It seemed inevitable that, like his own father, one day he would also fail as a father. To be on the receiving end of his daughter’s love would make him feel like the fraud that he was, not the grieving loving husband the world thought of him as.

Was he even capable of loving?

The self-contemptuous curl of his lip flattened as his assistant appeared. ‘Luca.’

The young man, knowing his boss’s impatience with small talk, fell into step with him and launched straight into the requested update without preamble as the two men walked together towards the entrance of Marco’s personal apartments.

They reached the pillared doorway. ‘So, the new nanny has arrived?’ It was an afterthought.

There was the faintest of pauses before the younger man responded. Marco noted and filed away the information. ‘Her flight was delayed, but yes, she’s here.’


‘But I’m afraid the anticipated handover won’t be happening. Miss Fitzgerald’s sister has been admitted to hospital back home.’

‘So where is nanny now?’

‘Which one...? Oh, I see... Miss Fitzgerald is in Cork. I put her on a private jet...arranged for someone to meet her on the other end and escort her. Oh, and I sent some flowers to the hospital for her sister... I assumed that you would want...?’

‘Of course.’ Marco dismissed the unnecessary question with a flick of the long fingers of his left hand, light catching the gold wedding ring he still wore.

So the new nanny would be thrown in at the deep end. He shrugged. He hadn’t interviewed her personally but on paper she’d been the best candidate by far—an experienced teacher who had been deputy head in a school of five hundred could look after one small five-year-old. And if she didn’t make the grade, the solution was not a difficult one.

Her six-month trial could be terminated at any point and there was a small army of nursery nurses who had learned their trade under nanny Fitzgerald who could fill the gap. He did not foresee a problem, so he moved on to the next issue.

‘Luca, could you send over the details of the eco-friendly start-ups who applied for the new sponsorship fund?’ Before becoming a father, investing in firms that were intended to address some of the world’s environmental challenges would not have been on Marco’s radar, but now he was passionate about making the planet’s future a safe one for his daughter.

‘I already have. There has been quite a response, even after the business team filtered them for obvious duds, though I shouldn’t really be surprised. The kudos of having your name and “royal” associated does bring the sort of brand awareness that any start-up—sorry,’ he tacked on, stifling a yawn.

Marco felt his guilt stir.He had to be hell to work for.Just because he could not manage more than four hours’ sleep it didn’t mean his staff couldn’t have a life outside the office.

‘Take tomorrow off.’

The younger man looked startled. ‘Oh, but the—’

Marco shook his head, the smile staying in his grey eyes and not altering the sensual line of his firm lips as he reiterated firmly, ‘Go home, Luca, and thanks.’

The startled look again and Marco made a note to self to express gratitude where it was due more often. Luca was a really excellent aide and he would be sad to let him go, but the young man had outgrown his position long ago. He deserved some autonomy. The post Marco had in mind for him would give him that.

His own rooms were on the ground floor, his bedroom opening directly to a private quadrangle. Two floors above him was the tower room that he had had equipped as a private gym. Very useful for an insomniac. Choosing between his bed and the treadmill, he selected neither. Instead, he entered the hallway where the stairs led up to the nursery wing.

The need to see his daughter was a physical ache. She would be sleeping but she often was when he chose to visit her. It was easier than when she was awake. Pain flickered across the strong contours of his face. Her eyes were so like her mother’s, the woman he had not loved.

Her eyes accustomed to the dark now, Kate looked around the unfamiliar room and the unfamiliar objects from her position in the high canopied four-poster.

She was really here, and in the process of getting here she had burnt all her bridges. Her stomach tightened as she was seized by a deep visceral longing for all things familiar: her tiny home snuggled between an antique shop and a tea room, her classroom...Stop it, Kate,she told herself sternly,look forward not back!

Her thoughts were slow to react to the reprimand and lingered on the image of her parents’ hurt, guilty faces when she had confronted them...

‘You lied to me, all my life you lied, my entire life has been a lie. I need to get away.’

They thought she’d been talking about a holiday. Good idea, they’d said, suggesting a week somewhere warm.

Then she’d seen the online ad.

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