Mistress to a Millionaire

By: Helen Brooks

CHAPTER ONE




DAISY breathed in and out very slowly to steady her quivering nerves and surreptitiously glanced at her reflection in the shop window. She looked good—she did—and she could do this. She had to do it. This was the start of the rest of her life, and she didn’t intend to begin it hiding in the shadows.

She took one more quick glance at the tall, slender image which—courtesy of a new hairstyle and new wardrobe—still didn’t look like her, and then dived out into the surging mass of humanity that populated the crowded London pavement.

Afterwards she told herself it was because she was concentrating so hard on appearing to be like everyone else—self-assured and poised and quite sure of where they were going—that she stepped straight off the pavement without looking, but that was much later.

For now there was a terrific squeal of brakes which made her lift up her head in horror just in time to see the car almost upon her. And there was nowhere to go. Nowhere. She just had to wait for it to hit her, her head up and her eyes wide with fear and shock. And then there was…nothing.



‘Daisy? Can you hear me, dear? Try and open your eyes, there’s a good girl.’

Daisy could hear the soothing, faintly motherly voice somewhere above her head, but it was remote, unreal, smothered by the enormous lead blanket that was weighing her down and making even opening her eyes impossible.

‘She is beginning to come round but it will be a slow process, you understand? And it’s quite likely she will have no recollection of the accident or even who she is at first. The mind tends to retreat in the aftermath of a nasty accident like this one.’

No recollection of the accident or who she was? Daisy wanted to tell them she remembered everything as a small surge of indignation made her fight against the heaviness in her body, but she was too tired. Much too tired.

‘Have you managed to trace her family yet? Or a friend, anyone? Someone must know her.’

This voice was male, deep and very masculine, with a slight twang of an accent that lifted it out of the norm. She knew she hadn’t heard it before; it was the sort of voice you remembered.

‘The police are working on it, Mr Eastwood, but her handbag contained very little in the way of identification, as you know. We aren’t even sure her name is Daisy; we only have the inscription on her bracelet to go by.’

‘I thought all women carried enough paraphernalia around with them to sink a battleship.’

His voice was slightly irritated now but the woman’s tone was quite unruffled when she said, ‘Well, this one doesn’t. She seems to be the original mystery woman, but I’m sure the police will get to the bottom of it soon.’

‘Your faith in their powers is stronger than mine.’ The last remark was deeply sarcastic, and for some reason she wasn’t quite sure of Daisy felt a surge of dislike well up in her. What business of his was it anyway, what she did or didn’t carry in her bag? she asked herself silently. And then she thought, as she slipped back into unconsciousness, He’s got a cheek, that man, whoever he is…

When Daisy next surfaced out of the thick fog all was quiet, and as before she lay for some time without moving or opening her eyes, wrapped in a feeling of inertia that was paralysing. But then gradually, through the exhaustion, she became aware that she was hurting. In fact it was painful just to breathe.

She opened her eyes slowly, very slowly; the light was bright and seemed to send a hundred little arrows shooting into her brain as her eyelids rose.

She was in hospital? Subconsciously she must have been prepared for it because it wasn’t a surprise to see the nurse sitting by the side of the bed, or to find herself attached to a drip which was positioned just within her eye range.

She moved her head slightly and immediately the action brought a groan from her lips, causing the nurse to raise her head sharply from the papers on her lap which she immediately put to one side as she rose to her feet. ‘You’re awake at last.’ It was the same motherly voice she had heard earlier. ‘How are you feeling, Daisy? It is Daisy, isn’t it?’

‘Yes.’ Her mouth was so dry it was difficult to get the word past her tongue which was sticking to the roof of her mouth. ‘Could…could I have a drink of water, please?’

‘Course you can, dear, but just a little sip at first, all right?’ The nurse helped her sit up in bed and adjusted the pillows behind her back before handing her a tiny glass, barely bigger than a thimble. The cold water tasted like the nectar of the gods and Daisy couldn’t remember tasting anything so heavenly before, but then she had never felt so thirsty before either, she reflected dazedly.

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