Mistress Arrangements

By: Helen Bianchin


The public hospital system was excellent, but the waiting list for elective surgery was long. Too long to gamble with her daughter’s life. Carly didn’t hesitate. ‘Please.’

It took only minutes for the appointment to be confirmed; a few more to exchange pleasantries before the receptionist ushered Carly from his rooms.

She walked in a daze to her car, then slid in behind the wheel. A sick feeling of despair welled up inside as innate fear overruled rational thought, for no matter how hard she tried it was impossible to dispel the terrible image of Ann-Marie lying still and helpless in an operating theatre, her life reliant on the skill of a surgeon’s scalpel.

It will be all right, Carly determined as she switched on the ignition, then eased her car on to the street. One way or another, she’d make sure of it.

The flow of traffic was swift, and on a few occasions it took two light changes to clear an intersection. Taxis were in demand, their drivers competent as they manoeuvred their vehicles from one lane to another, ready to take the first opportunity ahead of city commuters.

The cars in front began to slow, and Carly eased her sedan to a halt. Almost absently her gaze shifted slightly to the right, drawn as if by some elusive magnet to a top-of-the-range black Mercedes that had pulled up beside her in the adjacent lane.

Her eyes grazed towards the driver in idle, almost speculative curiosity, only to have them widen in dawning horror as she recognised the sculpted male features of none other than Stefano Alessi behind the wheel.

Her initial reaction was to look away, except she hesitated too long, and in seeming slow motion she saw him turn towards her.

With a sense of fatalism she saw his strong features harden, and she almost died beneath the intensity of his gaze.

Then a horn blast provided a startling intrusion, and Carly forced her attention to the slow-moving traffic directly ahead. In her hurry she crashed the gears and let the clutch out too quickly for her aged sedan’s liking, causing it to stall in retaliatory protest.

Damn. The curse fell silently from her lips, and she twisted the ignition key, offering soothing words in the hope that the engine would fire.

An audible protest sounded from immediately behind, quickly followed by another, then a surge of power shook the small sedan and she eased it forward, picking up speed as she joined the river of cars vacating the city.

It wasn’t until she’d cleared the intersection that she realised how tight a grip she retained on the wheel. A light film of moisture beaded her upper lip in visible evidence of her inner tension, and she forced herself to relax, angry that the mere sight of a man she professed to hate could affect her so deeply.

It took almost an hour to reach Manly, yet it felt as if she’d been battling traffic for twice that long by the time she garaged the car.

Upstairs, Sarah opened the door, her eyes softening with concern at the sight of Carly’s pale features.

‘Sarah helped me draw some pictures.’

Carly leant forward and hugged her daughter close. Her eyes were suspiciously damp as Ann-Marie’s small arms fastened round her neck in loving reciprocation.

‘I’ll make coffee,’ Sarah suggested, and Carly shot her friend a regretful smile.

‘I can’t stay.’ Her eyes assumed a haunting vulnerability. ‘I’ll ring you.’ She paused, then attempted a shaky smile. ‘After eight?’

Entering her own apartment, Carly moved through to the kitchen and prepared their evening meal, then when the dishes had been dealt with she organised Ann-Marie’s bath, made the little girl a hot milky drink, then tucked her into bed.

It was early, and she crossed to the phone to dial directory service, praying they could supply the number she needed.

Minutes later she learned there was no listing for Stefano Alessi, and the only number available was ex-directory. Damn.

Carly queried Consolidated Enterprises, and was given two numbers, neither of which responded at this hour of the night. There was no after-hours number listed, nor anything connected to a mobile net.

Carly cursed softly beneath her breath. She had no recourse but to wait until tomorrow. Unless she rang Clive Mathorpe at home and asked for his coveted client’s private telephone number.

Even as the thought occurred, it was instantly dismissed. What could she offer as the reason for such an unorthodox request? Her esteemed boss would probably suffer an instant apoplectic attack if she were to say, ‘Oh, by the way, Clive, I forgot to mention that Stefano Alessi is my estranged husband.’

Tomorrow, she determined with grim purpose. Even if she had to utilise devious means to obtain her objective.

A leisurely shower did little to soothe her fractured nerves, nor did an attempt to view television.

Long after she’d switched off the bedside lamp Stefano’s image rose to taunt her, and even in dreams he refused to disappear, her subconscious mind forcing recognition of his existence, so that in consequence she spent another restless night fighting off several demons in numerous guises.

The next morning Carly dropped Ann-Marie at school then drove into the city, and on reaching her office she quietly closed her door so that she could make the necessary phone call in private.

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