Be Mine Epilogue — Part 6
The hotel’s gleaming marble lobby bustled with activity. Blue-uniformed staff hurried to and fro while guests milled about. Aura let the glass entrance doors swing shut behind her and glanced around. None of the men in the lobby looked like Nathan.
She walked in further, her red heels clicking uncertainly on the stone mosaic floor. But no flash of yellow dress caught her eye. The blonde woman wasn’t there either.
Dammit. This was so obviously a wild goose chase. She looked back at the glass doors she’d come through. What had she expected though? That she’d see the couple as soon as she walked into the lobby?
Her gaze fell on the reception desk where a man and a woman in navy-blue uniforms were busy serving guests. Only one way to find out if Nathan was here or not, and she made her way towards the desk.
An older lady with white curls and wearing a stylish belted jacket was being served before her. Aura waited, and just then her phone buzzed in her purse, a reminder that she’d received a text message. Frowning, she fished out the phone.
Her PA, Sally’s message showed on screen. ‘Your New York tickets were cancelled. Not sure by whom. Will find out and let you know.’
What? Aura’s frown deepened.
Sally had sent that message five minutes ago. Aura tapped the screen to reply. She’d been so distracted by the car chase, she hadn’t even heard the message come in. But who on earth would cancel her plane ticket?
“Can I help you, madam?” The receptionist’s voice had Aura looking up.
The white-haired lady was gone, and the blue-suited woman behind the desk gave Aura a professional smile, ready to serve.
Aura dropped the phone back into her purse. The mystery of the plane tickets would have to wait a few minutes. “I’m looking for someone,” she said, going to the desk. “I think he’s a guest here. Mr Nathaniel Travers?”
The receptionist shook her head. “I’m sorry, madam. But our guest list is private,” she said in an accent that held only a trace of Italian. “Unless you were invited to visit by a specific person, I cannot help.”
“Look, I just want to know if he’s staying in this hotel. Even a simple ‘no’ will do.”
“I cannot help.”
Aura looked at her in exasperation. Most likely Nathan wasn’t even here in Milan, and all these people had to do was confirm he wasn’t here. Maybe it had to be a family emergency or something for them to give out even a ‘no’.
“I’m his wife,” she said, meeting the receptionist’s suspicious gaze. “And I need to speak to him. Straightaway.”
The receptionist cocked her head to the side with a questioning look. “If you are Mr Travers’ wife, then could you not call him?”
“I… I haven’t been able to get through to him all evening,” Aura admitted.
The suspicion in the receptionist’s eyes hardened.
“I’m not lying,” Aura said, and quickly rummaged through her purse for her passport. She always kept it with her whenever she left England. She passed the slim red booklet to the receptionist. “I am his wife.”
The receptionist flicked to the photo in the passport, looked at her, then back at the photo. “Mrs Aurora Travers?”
“That’s right.” Aura said with relief. Finally they were getting somewhere.
The receptionist handed back the passport. “Many people have the same last name. It isn’t good confirmation. If Mr Travers were indeed staying here, I would have to speak to him first.”
“Are you saying he isn’t staying here?” Aura asked, relief flooding back. Maybe this was her answer. The man she’d seen hadn’t been Nathan.
“I cannot confirm either way.”
Aura nearly screamed. Sure, they had to protect their guest’s privacy, but this was ridiculous. Now she had to phone Nathan and magically get him to answer her so he could tell them she was his wife. Really?
The idea came like a flash of light in the dark.
If they called Nathan’s company number, they’d be put through to Maria, and she would confirm who Aura was. It seemed a shame to disturb Maria’s night for something as silly as this, but the receptionist wasn’t giving much choice.
“Call the Astreca office in London,” she said quickly. “Nathan’s secretary knows me. But look, if he’s not here in your hotel, then just say so and save yourself the trouble.”
The receptionist smiled. “Excuse me. I will make the phone call.” And she went to the far side of the desk and a phone there. She dialled, and a few seconds later spoke, shooting Aura a quick glance in the middle of it.
Aura waited. But the more time ticked by, the more a voice inside her insisted that she’d made a mistake and Nathan wasn’t here.
The receptionist placed the phone down and came back to her.
“Well? Did Maria tell you who I am?” Aura asked.
“709, Mrs Travers.” The receptionist placed a black key card on the desk. “Top floor. Mr Travers booked an executive suite earlier today.”
Aura gripped the desk edge and stared. Nathan was here. He’d been in Milan all along, and he never came to her. But why put her through this? Her throat clogged like a ball was stuck in it, and she couldn’t force out a sound. She gazed down at the black rectangle with its luxury gold logo. Suddenly they were not only giving her Nathan’s room number but the keys to his room too. But now, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go up there.
Somehow mustering a small smile of thanks for the receptionist, she took the key card with an unsteady hand and then made her way to the bank of elevators at the far end of the lobby. Her every step seemed to be dragging her towards something she dreaded to see.
* * *
The elevator doors opened on the royal-blue carpeted top floor.
The square hallway she entered was bright and spacious with cream walls and panelled dark wood doors. A suite door stood to either side of her, and a third one straight ahead. The door to Nathan’s suite.
Aura tightened her grip on the black key card. If Nathan was in his suite, then the blonde woman he’d come to the hotel with would be in there with him. What were they doing right now?
She approached the door, her steps slow and quiet on the thick carpet, and her mind spinning like she’d stepped into an alternate reality. Yes, she and Nathan had argued yesterday, but in the four years of their marriage they’d never had eyes for anyone but each other. How could this be happening now? How could Nathan give up on them so much he’d rather spend his night with another woman?
Image after image of Nathan together with the woman rushed to her. Aura shook her head, willing her restless mind to stop jumping to these torturous thoughts. She quickly swiped the key card before she could think more.
A faint click, and the door opened a notch.
She took a breath, and splaying her fingers on the dark wood, pushed the door open and stepped inside. Nathan’s barely there scent of musk and sandalwood greeted her, stirring her senses. The living area she entered was ultra-modern, all dark wood and cream furniture. The lines were simple and clean, leather and fine wool. Understated luxury. Very masculine. Very Nathan.
Aura silently closed the door behind her and walked further into the room. Nathan preferred this modern decor over the ornate-style hotel room she’d booked for herself in Milan. Too flowery, he’d say about her suite. How can anyone think with all the scrolls and drapes clogging their vision? But she liked a touch of antique elegance. It was a beautiful experience in its own right. And she was the only one Nathan had ever bent his preference for. But he was making no such concession tonight.
Light piano music floated out from behind a half-open door to her left. She followed the soft music, and hand trembling, opened the door. The sight that met her stopped her cold in the doorway.
Gentle light flickered from candles on the side tables, glinted off a bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket, and landed on red rose petals strewn over the rumpled bed.
Aura’s breath caught, her gaze riveted to the white bed sheets that had been pulled aside as if someone had just got out of bed. Lilting piano music played through hidden speakers, a gentle melody for her thumping heart. She glanced from the bed to the pearly shine coming from a nearby armchair. A cream silk nightdress lay there.
With a disbelieving shake of her head, she took a numb step forward. This couldn’t be happening. Couldn’t be. But the cream silk gleamed remorselessly, mocking her. And clenching her fist, she rushed to the armchair, dropped her purse and key card, and snatched up the short nightdress. The cloth was soft and fine, and the lace of the generous bra cups was hand embroidered. It was beautiful, and expensive, and not hers. Who did it belong to? The woman in yellow?
The sound of running water came from a closed door nearby, and Aura’s heart thudded up a level. Someone was in the en-suite. The silk nightdress fell from her hand. More than one someone?
She went to the en-suite and grasped the door handle.
“Oh!” The woman’s startled voice had Aura spinning around to stare at the bedroom doorway.
The blonde woman she’d seen with Nathan stood there clutching a bouquet of red roses.
To be continued tomorrow…
Hey, don’t forget Miss Paws!
Guess who else loves Valentine’s day?
That’s right, your pet.
Obviously, no animal is going to appreciate chocolates or roses, but there are a ton of other things you could do to make their Valentine’s Day special.
Take your dog for a long walk.
He’ll be all over you with gratitude. And I know February can be a chilly month in some places of the world, but hey, what’s a little cold if a walk will put a smile on your dog’s face? So, lace up your boots, wrap up warm, and bravely step out.
Besides, dogs seem to care a lot less about a bit of chill compared to us wimpy humans (and I admit I’m one of the biggest cold-phobes this planet has ever seen). Dog’s just appreciate being outside anytime, everytime.
Treat your cat
A brisk walk isn’t going to impress your feline companion, he/she is going to prefer some one-on-one playtime with you.
Keep cosy with them in the warm indoors with a new toy they can leap and chase and scamper after. And trust me, you’ll be rewarded with oodles of purring affection.
Treats can be edible too
Don’t forget that yummy goodies are always welcome gifts on Valentine’s Day. There’s such a variety, like peanut-butter muffins and ginger-snap biscuits.
Whip up your own if you’re feeling adventurous, or buy some from a pet bakery (there are online ones too).
So what other things do you lovely creative folk do for your pets on Valentine’s Day? Let me know.