A Christmas Night to Remember(8)


MELODY hadn’t seen a photograph of the hotel; with most of the ones she had tried being full for Christmas it had been a case of beggars couldn’t be choosers. Now, as Zeke pulled up in front of the somewhat shabby exterior of the building situated in a side street off the Bayswater Road, Melody took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said painfully, ‘I really am. But one day you’ll see this was for the best. Thank you for meeting me today but I think it’s better if we communicate only through our solicitors from now on.’

Zeke said nothing, exiting the car and walking round the bonnet to help her out, his dark face grim.

It was a less than elegant emergence onto the pavement due to her damaged legs and as unlike her normal natural poise as was possible to imagine. Knowing Zeke’s appreciation of grace and style, Melody cringed inside, before telling herself it was all to the good. This was reality, and if he was repulsed by her clumsiness it only underlined the sense of what she had been saying: that they had no possible future together.

She glanced at his face as he shut the passenger door, but the inscrutable features could have been set in stone and revealed nothing. When he extracted her case she reached out a hand for it but he ignored the action, taking her arm as he steered her towards the hotel’s glass doors.

Once inside the lobby—which wasn’t half as bad as she’d expected from the exterior of the building—she said firmly, ‘Thank you,’ as she extended a hand for the case once more. ‘I can take it from here.’

‘Sit down.’ He deposited her on one of the plump sofas the lobby held as he spoke. ‘I’ll check you in and get the case sent to your room and then we’re going to lunch. Is there anything in the case you need before it disappears?’

Melody shook her head. Her medication was in her handbag. ‘But I don’t think—’

‘Good. Don’t think,’ he said with grim sarcasm. ‘For once in your life just listen.’

She stared at his back as he walked over to the reception desk and muttered several words under her breath. Her head was spinning, her legs were hurting and her back was aching like mad. When she’d been cocooned in her little room at the hospital her proposed plans for this momentous day—her emergence into the big bad world once more—had seemed straightforward. The doctors had warned her it would be tiring after the weeks spent in bed or sitting in the chair in her room, and she had imagined taking a cab here and then retiring for most of the day and using Room Service if she wanted anything to eat. She hadn’t expected to feel quite so weak and wiped out, though, but perhaps that was due more to seeing Zeke than her physical condition.

He was back in a couple of minutes. ‘All taken care of,’ he said with annoying satisfaction, ‘and they’re serving lunch in the restaurant in an hour so I’ve asked the concierge to park the car. They have a few spaces reserved for staff but they were very helpful. Very helpful indeed.’

She didn’t doubt it. Money had a way of smoothing out such issues and Zeke was always generous.

‘I thought you’d prefer to eat here than elsewhere,’ he continued, sitting down beside her. ‘You look tired. And I’ve ordered coffee while we wait.’

Melody felt herself bristling. How dared he take over like this, and what did he mean by saying she looked tired? That she looked haggard and unattractive? Well, she didn’t need him to tell her that. Her mirror did a perfect job every morning. She hadn’t slept well since the accident and when she did nod off her dreams were mostly nightmares.

After glaring at him she turned to look out of the window next to the sofa. Big fat flakes of snow were settling on the ground and already rooftops were covered with a glistening mantle. It was going to be a white Christmas for sure. Last year they had spent the holiday skiing in Switzerland, returning to their wonderful little lodge each night and spending the evenings wrapped in each other’s arms in front of the blazing log fire drinking hot toddies. She had been due to be involved in a big production in the West End in the New Year, likely to run for a good while, and life had been sweet. They had talked about having a family one day, of course, but not for years. Most dancers had to finish their career in their mid-thirties and Zeke had been content to wait until she was ready.

As though he could read her mind, he said quietly, ‘Looks like we wouldn’t have to chase the snow this year like last. It’s come to us instead.’

Helen Brooks's Books