Staying at Daisy's(7)

By: Jill Mansell



‘Mr and Mrs Cross-Your-Heart-Bra,’ Hector replied gravely. ‘And she needs a good-sized one, I can tell you. Sturdy straps, reinforced elastic, all that palaver.’ Hector wasn’t much of a one for political correctness either.

‘My father, the dinosaur.’ Daisy rolled her eyes. ‘Funny how he’s never remarried.’

Tara tried again. ‘Did you say Cross-Calvert?’

‘That’s right.’ Daisy was nodding absently, her attention on the letter she had just opened.

‘Dominic Cross-Calvert?’ This time she heard her voice as if the words hadn’t come from her own mouth.

‘Dominic, that’s it, that’s the fellow.’ Intrigued, Hector straightened up. ‘Know him, do you?’

‘I do.’ Idiotically, Tara realised that she sounded as if she were making her wedding vows. That was what you said, wasn’t it, when you promised to cherish your husband for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death did you part? Or was it ‘I will’? Never having made that particular pledge, she wasn’t actually sure. Men thought she was pretty and a great laugh, and they were especially fond of her oversized chest, but none of them had ever offered to marry her.

‘Ha! Look at your face,’ Hector exclaimed. ‘He’s one of your exes, isn’t he? Some long-lost soul from your sordid past. Come on then, you can tell us. Who dumped who?’

As loftily as she could manage, Tara announced, ‘I do not have a sordid past.’ Which was, obviously, a big lie. Worse still, Hector knew it.

‘Which means he dumped you.’ Hector was triumphant. ‘My darling, I’m riveted. Right, that’s it, put that silly vacuum cleaner away and come and tell us all about it.’

She wavered. ‘I’m supposed to finish the stairs.’

This was both the good and the bad thing about Hector. His irreverent approach to owning and running a hotel meant he was wonderful to work for. On the other hand, the job still had to be done. On the other other hand, she was longing to find out more about Dominic.

Hector gestured dismissively at the staircase. ‘Bugger the cleaning, let’s have a drink! Daisy, are you coming to hear this?’

Daisy was engrossed in the contents of her letter. She wasn’t listening. Honestly, and she called herself a friend.

Tara said, ‘When’s he getting married?’

‘Two weeks’ time. January the tenth. Ninety-six guests, three wheat allergies, two lactose intolerants, seventeen vegetarians, and,’ Hector’s lip curled in disgust, ‘a vegan.’

‘And this girl he’s ... um, marrying?’ Tara did her level best to sound casual.

Hector, not fooled for a moment, spoilt it all by throwing back his head and roaring with laughter. ‘Her name’s Annabel. Big girl, like I said. You and Daisy together could squeeze into her wedding dress.’

Tara was well enough acquainted with Hector’s tendency towards exaggeration to guess that this meant Annabel wasprobably a curvy size fourteen. A voluptuous size fourteen.

‘Yes, but is she pretty?’ Not that she could imagine for a moment Dominic marrying someone who wasn’t. Far too infra dig.

Hector clapped an arm round Tara’s shoulders as he led her through to the bar. ‘My darling, she’s not a patch on you.’

‘Walking in a winter wonderland,’ went the song in Daisy’s head as she made her way down the hotel’s drive. It had been playing on the radio when she’d woken up this morning and had stuck in her mind ever since, which was no hardship because it was a song she loved, so Christmassy and jaunty it couldn’t fail to lift the spirits. If there could have been real snow to go with it, that would have made it better still, but you couldn’t have everything. And frost was beautiful too, Daisy thought loyally. Particularly when the sun was out, as it was now, and everything sparkled like one of those glittery snowstorm things you picked up and shook.

Even without snow, the hotel was looking gorgeous. Having reached the end of the drive, Daisy hopped over the honey-coloured Cotswold stone wall to her right and took the short cut through to the churchyard. There was nobody else about as she headed for Steven’s grave.

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