"I'm standing in this evening. My parents run this hotel. I'm Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. Our maître d' is off sick."
She handed him a large menu and said, "Your waiter will be along in a minute. Would you like a drink?"
"No thanks. I'll order wine with the meal."
He watched Priscilla as she walked away. What a figure! And that beautiful bell of golden hair that framed her face! There was a remoteness about her which quickened his senses.
He made his meal last, watching while the other diners gradually finished theirs, hoping all the time for another few words with the beauty.
His back was to the window. At one point, he had an uneasy feeling of being watched. He turned round quickly, but there was no one there.
Priscilla at last came into the dining room and approached him. "Would you like anything else?"
"I would like you to join me for a coffee."
Priscilla looked amused. "I've just been hearing about you. You're Jock Fleming." She sat in a chair opposite him.
"Are you always here?" asked Jock.
"I work in London. I came up yesterday on holiday. I usually fill in for any of the missing staff when I'm here. It's a duty holiday to see my parents, and I find it can get a bit boring if I have nothing to do."
"I'd like to take you out one evening," said Jock. "Just friends," he added quickly, suddenly noticing she was wearing an engagement ring. "Where is your fiancé?"
"So what do you say? What about tomorrow night at that Italian place?"
"All right," said Priscilla with a laugh. "What time?"
"Eight o'clock suit you?"
"Fine. Now I'd better go and see how they're getting on clearing up the kitchen."
Outside, Effie scuttled off from her observation post in the bushes opposite the dining room. Who was that woman? Perhaps she was Jock's agent. She would need to find out.
Copyright © 2006 by Marion Chesney
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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