My father tilts his head so his washed out blue eyes can peer over the tops of his glasses. ‘Hello, pet,’ he welcomes genially.
‘Daddy, I’ve done something rather dreadful.’ I clasp my hands in front of me
He lowers his paper and narrows his eyes. It is amazing how different his eyes now appear.
‘Sit down,’ he orders.
I walk over to the chair opposite him, making sure my face is troubled and unhappy.
‘Well?’ he prompts.
I look down and twist a black pearl on my bracelet. ‘I found out that Blake was keeping a woman. A horrible woman from a council estate.’ I stand suddenly and move a few feet away. ‘He was paying her.’
My father wisely says nothing. I glance at him. He is watching me carefully.
‘Anyway, I went to see her and it was awful. Just awful. Ghastly woman. There she was in all the designer gear that he had bought her, and she was so arrogant about it too. She challenged me to take him away from her. I was so desperate I offered her money to leave him.’ I turn around and look him directly in the eye.
My father’s face is deliberately expressionless. ‘Did she agree?’
My voice is instantly hard and cold. ‘Of course. I had Martin draw up the papers and I transferred the money from my Gibraltar account. I’ve checked and she’s gone. Left the country.’
‘It appears you’ve taken care of your little problem. What do you want me to do?’
‘Daddy, I love Blake, he is a good, strong man, and I know that once we are married he will be a good husband and a fine father. I can forgive him for this little indiscretion.’
My father nods carefully.
‘But I know that he will never forgive me for interfering with his affairs if he finds out it was I who offered her the money. Mummy had a brilliant idea. She thought it would be better if you tell him that it was you who offered her the money. Surely, he will be able to see what a little tramp she is to leave him while he is still in hospital.’
‘But that will surely ruin my relationship with him.’
‘Does it really matter? You will still be his father-in-law and in time he will come to recognize that you did it for his own good.’
‘You are certain you want this man?’
‘I have never been more certain of anything in my life.’
He turns away from me and looks out of the window. ‘Do you have a copy of her signature?’
He nods. ‘Of course, the contract.’ A thought occurs to him. ‘What about a sample of her writing?’
He raises a bushy, enquiring eyebrow.
‘I have a copy of her application form from the temporary agency she used to work at.’
He smiles. I can tell he is impressed. ‘Give them both to me. I will work something out with Jason.’ I have never met Jason, but I know of him. He is a master forger.
‘Thank you, Daddy,’ I say and running up to him snuggle my softly perfumed cheek against his. My father’s arm comes around my shoulder and he gives me an affectionate squeeze.
‘Oh, my pretty, pretty little viper—what that man doesn’t know about you!’
I move away from him and look up into his eyes.
‘Is it very wrong what I have done?’
‘You should have left it alone, Victoria. He is a man and men, my dear, have needs, but these needs do go away.’
‘He took her to the Crafts ball.’
My father’s eyes narrow to slits with disapproval. Immediately I feel bad that I told him that. I want my father to think well of Blake.
‘He’s a good man, Daddy. He’s just a bit lost. She has bewitched him. He has never done anything like this before.’
My father says nothing but it is obvious he is unimpressed.
I cannot leave it alone. ‘Are you angry with me, Daddy?’ I ask, my eyes misting over.
‘Of course not. You did what you thought was best, but there is a very important lesson that a woman can learn from a dog. When a dog finds another dog’s scent on his master, he does not panic, feel threatened or hurl abuse, but merely finds it interesting. If you can cultivate that habit you will have a very happy marriage.’
When my daughter leaves, I look out of the window at the rolling green fields of my estate and the beautiful Van Gogh clouds in the sky. Shame Victoria had not been born a boy. I could have used her at the helm of the family instead of being a tool of consolidation.
I have known about Blake’s woman. Seen photos of them together. Something about the pictures make me worry that this might not be the end of the matter. Still, my daughter is an intelligent, cunning little viper. And to date there is nothing she has wanted that has eluded her.
To be continued…