Chapter Seventeen: Missing Him

Louise woke up feeling as if she'd just escaped a nightmare. Yet the late-night chat with Emma Cadbury was no dream. The dark-haired, long-legged French beauty hopped out of bed without waiting for her breakfast tray.

The long, windowless hallway was dark and cold. Louise shivered in spite of a robe and slippers. Turning a corner with her thoughts turned inward, she nearly collided with Alice, the upstairs parlor maid.

"That's right," the girl was saying in a low, hurried whisper. "Subject is still asleep. Yes, like a baby. No worries, chief."

"Good morning, Alice," Louise said, with a puzzled frown. "Why are you hiding behind that suit of armor?"

"Oh, bless you, miss! You did give me a fright just now." The perky blonde flashed a winning smile, but Louise noticed how quickly she dropped the small cell phone into her apron. "Just calling my boyfriend, I was. He's a lorry driver in London. Shall I run and get your breakfast? You must be near starving after all the excitement yesterday."

"Is Sir Dozy – I mean, is Sir Holland still asleep? I want to see him." Louise didn't like the feeling of being a prisoner. Being watched. Was Alice spying on her?

"I'm so sorry, miss," the maid said sympathetically, "but Sir Holland went out alone, first thing this morning. Said he had business in London. Would you care to wait for him in the study? I can bring you a bite to eat in front of the fire."

"That would be lovely," Louise replied, stiffly. Her stomach was growling. And the hallway was icy cold. But the spied-on feeling was stronger than ever.

"Dozy, where are you?" Two hours later, Louise was pacing back and forth in Sir Holland Dozier-Holland's plush study. She couldn't take being cooped up in here much longer! The morning had dragged by at a snail's pace. First she'd eaten a great big breakfast in front of a roaring fire, and read all the morning papers. Then she'd flipped through some magazines. And then she stretched out on the sofa to relax, feeling quite sleepy after putting away such a big breakfast.

Just then Alice clattered in to take her tray, chewing a big wad of gum while singing some annoyingly cute pop song from the radio. "Miss you, miss you, miss you, baby can't resist you, come back home so I can kiss you . . ."

"Shut that noise!" Louise growled, without opening her eyes.

"Oh! Right you are, miss." Alice skittered off, her shoes clack-clacking. Louise dropped off to sleep, but that damned song kept running through her head. Miss you, miss you, miss you . . . suddenly she was missing Mark Ryder. Kissing Mark Ryder. Louise sat up with a loud gasp, her heart pounding. But she was all alone. Abandoned. A prisoner.

Now she paced the study like a caged tiger, too restless to sit still. Emma was lying. Mark wasn't coming back. That was obvious. She had to escape . . . no! She had to help Sir Dozy. But how? How, how, how?

Suddenly another question popped into her mind. Not how could she help him, but how much did she know about him? Without facts she had to rely on whatever she was told, and so far that had led to nothing but disaster. Louise eyed the desk in the corner, really seeing it for the first time.

Of course she wasn't a business person, so the account books in the first drawer meant nothing to her. The second drawer was nothing but tapes, the old reel to reel recording type. Hard to imagine why Dozy needed those. But in the bottom drawer, Louise found something that gave her a real jolt. A faded photograph of a young woman and her baby.

"Ah, there you are!" A cheerful voice from the doorway nearly made Louise jump out of her skin.

"Oh, Sir Dozy! At last! Me, I have been going crazy here all alone!" Louise ran to hug her elderly guardian, kissing him on both cheeks. All the dangerous and frightening feelings that she had for Mark were totally forgotten in an instant. Sir Dozy made her feel safe. Protected. Almost like a daughter.

"Now, now, my dear, you can't fool me. You've been getting into mischief, haven't you?" Sir Dozy patted her cheek, his eyes twinkling. "What were you doing in my desk just now?"

"Oh, I was just . . . just looking for one of your cigars!" Louise laughed, and her guardian joined in at once. "But listen, Sir Dozy, there is something very serious I must tell you . . ."