‘Lift your arms.’

I obey and he soaps me under my arms. His touch is light and unticklish. He swipes the soap along my shoulders and then down to my br**sts. Here he is rhythmic and meticulous. The mounds get much attention. So much that I long to have him take my ni**les in his mouth.

The soap travels downward. To my stomach and lower still to my bare-skinned sex. He doesn’t have to ask. Willingly, I spread my legs and the soap slides between them. The water sluices through his hands.

‘Turn around.’

I turn. The soap slides sensuously along my back and down my spine to my hips and finally enters the crack of my bottom. I feel him kneel to wash my legs down to the soles of my feet, which he lifts and does one by one. Then he stands. In my line of sight I see him return the soap and pick up the shampoo bottle. I hear it squirt into the palm of his hand.

Then he is washing my hair.

The bubbles run down my body and heat collects between my legs.

He moves closer until I can feel his hard body slipping and sliding against mine. My legs begin to tremble. He turns me around and sucks my ni**les while his hands slide down my stomach and boldly without warning grab my hips.

I gaze into the storm clouds in his eyes. His jaw is clenched tight. He lifts my body and penetrates me. I curl my legs around his hips and cry with animalistic pleasure. The deeper he buries himself inside me, the more my body cleaves to his.

Afterwards he carries me to the bed and dries me carefully.

I look up to him. ‘What are you thinking of?’

‘Your body.’

‘Hmm.’

‘Why did you walk so far in the rain?’

I stare into his eyes. They are unreadable. ‘I like the rain. I’ve always walked in the rain.’

‘But the rain in England is cold.’

‘I don’t know any other type of rain.’

He brings the hairdryer and a brush and sits on the bed with them beside him. Then he calls me to sit on the floor against the bed between his knees and begins to towel dry my hair. He is careful not to rub hard. Afterwards, he runs his fingers through my hair and gently untangles any knots he finds. Only then does he switch on the hairdryer and begin to dry my hair.

When he switches off the hairdryer I say, ‘You can’t cook but you can blow dry hair.’

‘I used to dry my sister’s hair for her.’

I swivel my neck around. ‘You don’t have a sister.’

Firmly he turns my head to face away from him. ‘I’ve told you before, don’t trust everything Wikipedia says.’

The brush glides through my hair in long, slow strokes. ‘Why is she not known to the public?’

‘She was born with a genetic anomaly. She’s not like you and me. She lives in her own world. Most great families have such relatives—they just don’t acknowledge or advertise them. It’s an unfortunate effect of interbreeding.’

‘So she is locked away?’

There is a pause. ‘Something like that.’

‘Do you still see her?’

‘No, she is in our Buckinghamshire property. She has a whole wing and sectioned off grounds. Nurses and servants to care for her twenty-four hours a day.’

‘What’s she like?’

‘A four-year-old child. She communicates by pointing and smiling.’ His voice is sad.

‘Why did you stop going to see her?’

The brush stops for a second, then starts again. ‘The last time I saw her was when I was twelve. I was brushing her hair and my mother walked into the room. She was horrified. “Are you going to become a great man like your father or a sissy like your great uncle George?” He is another family member that we all pretend doesn’t exist. I never went back after that.’

I turn around and catch his wrist. ‘I don’t care what anybody else says, you are a good man,’ I say.

‘Don’t fool yourself, Lana. We’re all no good. Don’t trust any of us. Not even me.’

‘Is there no one you trust?’

‘No.’

‘Not even your dad?’

‘Dad?’ he repeats sarcastically. ‘My father’s a sociopath.’

‘Isn’t he a great philanthropist?’

‘Naïve little Lana. My father’s a trillionaire. And there is no such thing as a philanthropist trillionaire. Do you know what one has to do to become a philanthropist trillionaire? Spend your whole life crushing as many people as possible for profit and then donate a library? I don’t trust him and neither should you. It would cause him the same grief to obliterate you if you stood in his way as it would if he trod on an ant in his path.’

‘Do trillionaires exist?’

The brush stills mid-air. ‘Think, Lana. What is the debt of the United States alone? Who are all those lovely trillions owed to?’

‘The Federal Reserve?’

He laughs. ‘And who do you think owns that? The Federal Reserve is a private company just like the Bank of England, and every central bank throughout the world. Through a network of holding companies, the old families own vast controlling portions of not only their stocks, but all the too-big-to-fail banks that you hate so much.’

I frown. I need time to think about the true meaning of what he has revealed to me. ‘What about your mother?’

‘My mother threw us to the wolves a long time ago. My brothers and I grew up in stifling conditions.’

I shake my head. ‘And there I was, wishing I was rich, while I was growing up in stifling conditions.’

‘You don’t understand, Lana, and perhaps you never will. We are different. We are not merely rich. We don’t own tracts of land, we own countries and politicians. We have different responsibilities. We have an agenda.’

Then his face closes over.

Twenty nine

Blake Law Barrington

Your hands are inside my heart.

I stand on the embankment watching the water rushing by and think of Lana… and feel confused. There is a room inside her that I cannot enter. It is like the room inside me that she is not allowed in. It is where she keeps all the hurts I have caused. There are other things in that room, too. She has secrets now. I try to imagine what else could be hidden there.

A man talking loudly on his cell phone in some European language intrudes on my musings. I glance away from the water and see the tramps sleeping rough. For the first time in my life I perceive them as people. People who have fallen on hard times because of the things that my family is doing. They are not the real parasites. Lana was right that night when she accused us of being the real parasites. Of course, I have always known that we are the disease that they are ill from. You have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to see that. I just never cared before.

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