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‘Hi.’

‘Everything all right?’

‘Great.’

I walk up to him and kiss him. His kiss belies his casual attitude. It is the kiss of a man who is drinking sweet water from a fountain before a long journey into the desert. My hands entwine in his hair. I want the kiss to go on and on but my brain will not allow me to. Now that I have proof that walls have eyes and ears I cannot be myself. I withdraw my tongue slowly, work my hands down to his chest and give him a slight push.

He looks down at me, his eyes darkened and wild.

‘Can we go out for dinner tonight?’ I ask, forcing a smile.

‘Sure. Where would you like to go?’

‘That Indian place you took me to last year. I forget its name. The one named after the thieves’ market.’

‘Ah, Chor Bizzare.’

‘That’s the one.’

‘We’ll drop Sorab off at Billie’s.’

‘Shall we call Mrs. Dooley instead?’

‘No,’ I snap, and then quickly smile to take away the sting. ‘Billie was just complaining that she never gets to see Sorab anymore.’

‘OK.’

‘Hey, I’ve always been curious. When you get your reports from your spies what do they tell you?’

‘Just a list of your movements.’

‘Have you received your report for today?’

‘Yes, as I was on my way home.’

‘What did it say?’

‘Why?’

‘Just want to know how it works.’

‘OK. Today you stayed indoors until 3:50pm when you took Sorab out in the pram to the coffee shop around the corner. You had a cake and coffee and were back by 5:00 pm.’

I try hard to keep my face neutral. I never left the house!

Then it hits me. A look-alike lures the spy away and the father enters the building and comes to see me. When the father leaves the look-alive re-enters the building. Now I know. Now I know. Blake cannot protect me, or himself, from his father.

His father has outsmarted him.

Thirty

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

—John Swinton, Head of Editorial Staff, New York Times,

at a banquet thrown in his honour, 1880

Blake’s father is true to his evil. The Independent and the Guardian are the first to report that the CEO of the International Monetary Fund, Sebastian Straus Khan, has been implicated in a scandal. A Burmese maid working at a hotel in New York has accused him of rape. He has been apprehended at the airport. The BBC runs the story at lunchtime. By evening every TV channel is running the story. There appears to be no investigation. Simply a story that is repeated almost word for word by all the different news feeds. Each one gleefully convinced of his crime.

That night when Blake comes home, I have painted my face and dressed in the sexiest outfit Fleur sent. The tight pink leather pants that Billie said, made my bum look all trapped and ripe and in need of rescuing, and a little top that leaves my shoulders and back bare.

His eyes light up. ‘Wow, what’s the occasion?’ he breathes against my ear.

‘We’re not spending the night here,’ I tell him. ‘I’ve booked us into The Ritz.’

He smiles slowly. He has no idea. Inside I am dying. It is our last night together, a night I will never forget. We have dinner, I taste nothing, and then we go upstairs. There is champagne waiting in a silver bucket. I did not order it. Compliments of the house. I don’t drink. I don’t want anything to be fuzzy. I want to remember every last detail.

That night I am insatiable.

Again and again we make love until he says to me, ‘Go to sleep, Lana, I don’t want you falling ill on me again.’ Even then I reach down and take his big, beautiful penis in my mouth and mumble, ‘Use me for your pleasure. You have paid for this.’

And he looks deep into my eyes and says, ‘Consider the debt paid in full.’ The irony stabs me in the heart. He has no idea.

When morning arrives, I pull him close and whisper, ‘I love you. I’ll always love you.’

And when he is leaving, he says, his voice husky with emotion, ‘I’ll miss you terribly until I see you again…tonight.’

And I almost break down. He will never see me again. Tears blur my eyes.

‘Hey,’ he calls very softly. ‘Nothing can keep us apart.’

A sob breaks through. He does not understand.

When he is dressed and leaving, I hold on tight. He looks at me with strong, sure eyes. ‘Nothing can keep us apart,’ he says again. And then the door closes behind him and I sink to the ground. I cry as if I will break apart. When I am all cried out on the floor of The Ritz hotel, I rise numb, but ready. This is for him and Sorab. This will keep them both safe. I get into the lift, between my legs sore and the tips of my br**sts singing from being sucked and bitten all night. Tom is waiting in the lobby for me. My thick coat is folded over his arm.

‘Mr. Barrington had me get this from the apartment for you. It’s a cold morning.’

Again I am struck by how carefully and thoroughly Blake’s mind works. Always he is one step ahead. Except for the most important thing of all. I take off my light coat and get into the coat Tom has brought for me. I turn my head and notice a man looking at me. Our eyes meet. He does not drop his. I look away. The world has changed for me. A few months back I would have assumed that he found me attractive; now I am not certain if he has not been paid to watch me.

Outside an icy wind hits me. I am glad for the coat.

In the car I stare out of the window. I am actually in a state of shock. The thought of leaving Blake is so painful I refuse to think about it. It is almost as if I am on autopilot. There is an accident ahead and Tom takes the longer route through South Kensington. We pass an old church. The door is ajar and I jerk forward.

‘Stop the car, Tom.’

Tom brings the car to a stop by the side of the road.

‘I’m just going into that church.’

Tom looks at me worriedly. ‘I can’t park here.’

‘I won’t be long,’ I say, and quickly slip out of the car. I go through the Gothic wooden doors, and it is as if I have stepped into another dimension. It is cool and hushed, the sound of the street outside strained out. The stonework is beautiful. I see the holy water, but I do not cross myself with it as my mother used to. I follow the gleam of candles into the belly of the church. There is no one else there. My footsteps echo in the soaring space. I go to the front of the church and sit on a wooden pew.

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