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STAYING AT DAISY'S
by Jill Mansell

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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“Oh please, you have to believe me, I swear to God I didn’t do anything wrong, it was him, not me!” 

Daisy, perched on the edge of her desk, was so angry she could barely speak. Tara was pacing agitatedly around the office, her eyes red-rimmed, her movements jerky, and her hair sticking up like a parakeet’s. She may only have known Tara for three years but they had become close friends in that time and although she might be many things, Tara wasn’t dishonest. Daisy knew all about the less salubrious aspects of her past. If anything, Tara was too naïve and too trusting for her own good. She certainly didn’t lie.

“Look, sit down, of course I believe you.’ Tara’s frantic pacing was beginning to make Daisy feel dizzy. ‘But we have to figure out some way to sort this out. Annabel’s upstairs refusing to come out of her room. She’s insisting the wedding’s off. Bloody hell, why couldn’t that deranged sister of hers have kept her big mouth shut? If she’s so convinced you’re the one to blame for all this, why did she even have to tell Annabel what she’d seen? If Dominic’s innocent, why does Annabel want to cancel the wedding? God, who’s that?” she sighed as a knock came at the door. “Please don’t let it be Jerry Springer.”

Or the bride’s mother, thought Tara fearfully. Or a troupe of furious relatives all snarling like Rottweilers and baying for blood. 

Daisy opened the door and Tara almost fainted with relief. It was the Feather man, the one she had bumped into in the corridor outside the Gents, the one who had smiled and teased and flirted with her so deliciously earlier. And now it looked as if he was something to do with the wedding, which could only be good news. He would be bound to take her side. 

Daisy, who was more au fait with rugby than Tara, recognized him immediately. 

“I’m Dev Tyzack.” Briefly, he shook Daisy’s hand before shooting a cool glance in Tara’s direction. “I was meant to be the best man at this wedding. Right, we officially have a fiasco on our hands and it needs sorting out. I assume you have already sacked Mata Hari here.”

“Would it help if I told you I had?” said Daisy. 

His dark eyes flickered over her. “It would be a start.”

“Really?” She slid down from the desk. “Well, I haven’t. Tara told me what happened and I believe her. Your friend Dominic appears to be the one at fault here.”

“Oh, come on, you aren’t serious, I saw her in action myself,” Dev Tyzack shot back. “She tried it on with me, for God’s sake, literally seconds before she clapped eyes on Dominic. She made all the running, I can tell you. This girl is no shrinking violet. Dominic came here today to get married and she knew that. I’ve spoken to Dominic and he’s told me everything. She dragged him out to that summerhouse and—“

“I did not!” Tara shrieked. “I didn’t drag him anywhere. He was desperate to talk to me about something and I just thought the summerhouse would be the best place to go because I didn’t want anyone seeing us together and getting the wrong idea!”

Dev Tyzack drawled, “And didn’t that work well.”

 

“Would you mind not talking to a member of my staff like that?” Daisy was having to force herself to keep her temper. 

“You mean you’d like me to be really honest?” he flashed back. 

“This isn’t fair.” Tara’s voice shot up another couple of octaves. “I didn’t do anything wrong! It was Dominic, not me. He told me how much he’d loved me and said I was perfect and then he just launched himself at me on that bench. I had no idea he was going to kiss me… I didn’t want him to kiss me…” 

“But I gather you did manage to show him your bra.” Dev Tyzack feigned surprise. “The very same one you revealed to me not ten minutes earlier. I’m telling you, that bra must have been viewed by more people than the Oscars.”

“The buttonhole on my uniform is loose,’ shouted Tara. ‘It just kept popping undone.”

“I’m sorry.” Icily, Daisy addressed Dev Tyzack. “But you aren’t helping matters here. In fact you’re being downright obnoxious. If we’re going to sort this out, you need to calm down and stop throwing wild accusations at my staff. As far as I’m concerned, your friend Dominic is the guilty one around here. Has it even occurred to you to fling any accusations in his direction?”

Oh God, thought Tara, petrified. Daisy was losing it; she was going way over the top now. Her eyes were bright with fury, her fists clenched at her sides, and she looked as if she wanted to punch him. She was going to get into the most terrible trouble, the repercussions could be horrendous.

This had evidently occurred to Dev Tyzack as well. A derisory smile twisted the corners of his mouth, the very mouth Tara had earlier thought so attractive. Well, she didn’t anymore. 

“Not a very professional thing for a hotel manager to say, is it?”

“Maybe not,” Daisy shot back, “but I am being truthful. If you’re going to be obnoxious, I’ll tell you you’re being obnoxious.”

“Not worried that you might end up looking for another job?” Dev Tyzack raised a mocking eyebrow.

“I won’t get the sack for this, I can promise you. I have the owner’s full backing.”

“Really? Aren’t you the lucky one. Who is the owner, might I ask?” Having affected surprise, he now allowed his gaze to come to rest on a framed photograph on the desk. It was a group photograph featuring Daisy as a teenager, doubled up with laughter between her parents. Tanned and healthy, the three of them had been celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Cayman Islands and it was Daisy’s all-time favorite photo. “Oh, I see,” said Dev Tyzack. “The owner of this hotel is Hector MacLean and he just happens to be your father. Now I understand how you got the job.”

Tara couldn’t bear it. Her stomach was churning like a tumble dryer. She was innocent but she felt guilty. And what if she wasn’t as innocent as she thought? Maybe she was just making pathetic excuses for herself to avoid having to admit that she should never have gone with Dominic to the summerhouse in the first place.

What’s more, Daisy was looking more homicidal by the second. And there was a big brass letter opener on her desk, not to mention a ferocious-looking stapler that fired staples like a Kalashnikov.

Praying that Daisy wouldn’t actually start firing it like a Kalashnikov, Tara clapped a hand to her mouth, muttered ‘’Scuse me, think I’m going to be sick,” and made a bolt for the door…