For the Love of a Devil

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For the Love of a Devil Page 4

by Margaret Carr

  ‘Come,’ a sharp voice snapped.

  ‘Miss Adams, Sir.’

  ‘Yes, yes, show her in.’

  The study was beautiful if a little austere, with its arched stone fireplace, two bare stone walls softened by carved pine book shelves. Demitri Vardos sat at a desk in the centre of the room and for the first time Selina noticed the hidden high tech equipment, disguised on the book shelves and to one side of the desk.

  ‘Miss Adams, please,’ he said, standing up and coming around to pull a chair forward for her. ‘Take a seat.’

  ‘Thank you,’ she murmured. If she strained her head a little to the right she could see trees and gardens through the windows. They must be on the edge of the walled town here.

  ‘Part of it,’ he said, as though reading her thoughts.

  That gave her a start.

  ‘You chose not to accept the car I sent for you?’

  ‘You didn’t say anything about a car.’

  ‘I’m sorry, I assumed that you would have been told. How did you come?’

  ‘By taxi to the gates then I walked.’

  He was trying to hide a smile as he walked back around the desk and sat down.

  ‘I take it as you have a car there must be a different entrance?’

  ‘Yes, you will see that as you leave. I have familiarised myself with your career and character to my satisfaction. I asked you here today so that I may satisfy any questions you may have about the job, salary, and anything else you may wish to know. Also I would like you to meet my daughter and my family.’

  So, she thought, the job is mine, the question is, do I really want it? ‘What is the little girl’s name?’

  ‘Isobel. My brother is Aristotle and his wife, Anna. Ari works in the head office of the family business in Athens, he is home only at the weekends. Anna supervises Isobel’s care but she takes on a lot of charity work which is why I think someone like yourself would be good company for Isobel.’ He named a generous figure for her salary and an allowance for Isobel, ‘for anything extra you think she may need’.

  ‘She attends a private day school five mornings a week. The car and Denys will take you and collect you every day of the term, other than that please check with my sister-in-law if you wish to leave the house. Is there anything else you wish to know?’

  ‘What is the time limit on this post?’

  She thought he looked surprised, then he shrugged his shoulders, ‘That is entirely up to you, Miss Adams.’

  ‘What if we don’t suit, what length of notice do you want served?’

  ‘Miss Adams, it is not you and I who have to get along, it is my sister-in-law and my daughter. One of the reasons I am employing you is because you strike me as the sort of person who can manage your affairs without constantly referring back to me.’

  Selina held his gaze as she said, ‘I knew someone once before like you. I’ll take care of your little girl, Mr Vardos, have no worries.’

  His glance had turned decidedly chill as he rose from his seat to indicate the interview was over. The same woman was standing at the door as he snapped, ‘Take Miss Adams to Madam.’

  The woman gave a nod of her head.

  ‘Goodbye, Mr Vardos.’

  The woman led her to the next door off the passage. This was a smaller room with chintz covered furniture and guilt framed pictures, a glass fronted cabinet housed a collection of expensive china ornaments and a large television occupied one corner. A small child was seated on a stool watching cartoons on the television. On her entry into the room the woman stood up and the child lost her concentration on the programme to watch them.

  Tall and elegant, Madam Vardos held out her hand. ‘Welcome to our home, Miss Adams.’

  Selina took the beautifully manicured hand in her own for only a second before it was swiftly withdrawn.

  ‘This is Isobel,’ she said, turning to the little girl still sitting on the stool. ‘Come along, Isobel, and welcome your governess.’

  Selina opened her mouth to protest, that she wasn’t here as a teacher but as a friend, when the little girl rose from the stool and recited word for word her aunt’s welcome. Selina smiled widely. ‘Thank you, Isobel.’

  Anna Vardos turned to the servant by the door. ‘This is Maria, she will show you over the house and explain the house’s daily routine. You have agreed with my brother-in-law a date to start work?’

  ‘My holiday ends tomorrow.’

  ‘Very well, you may move in tomorrow. Your first duty will be to collect Isobel from school at midday. Now if you will go with Maria and I will see you again tomorrow. Goodbye for now, Miss Adams.’

  Short and to the point, Selina thought, never having been asked to sit down or allowed to talk with the child, she nodded her head, murmured ‘goodbye’ and followed Maria from the room.

  The sour-faced woman, while not actually acknowledging her, introduced her to the four other reception rooms, then taking her into a different part of the house pointed out Isobel’s bedroom, bathroom and playroom, all beautifully done out in pink and cream.

  Next door was a suite of rooms for herself. Luxury indeed. Three large sunny rooms that overlooked the gardens, all decorated in shades of blues and greens. Selina couldn’t help the small gasp of admiration that left her lips.

  When the tour was finished, Maria escorted her back down a different stone staircase to the lower floor and indoor courtyard. Here they sat by an open doorway and were served with tall cold drinks, of what Selina could only guess, but it was very pleasant and she began to think Maria might have a nicer side to her nature.

  ‘Miss Isobel has siesta from one until three, after which she is allowed to play until six when she must do her homework. At eight she has her evening meal after which she is allowed to read until bedtime.’

  ‘What happens at the weekends?’

  ‘In the mornings, Madam takes her to visit friends. After the day is the same.’

  ‘Does she get any time to visit her father?’

  ‘He is a very busy man. When he is home he makes time to take her out . . .’

  ‘Visiting friends,’ Selina nodded.

  Maria frowned at the suggested criticism.

  Smiling, she thanked Maria for her time and standing up was shown the real entrance. Denys was waiting for her alongside the BMW. He glanced at his watch and ushered her straight into the back seat before sliding smoothly into the driving seat and letting go the already running engine. Gravel scattered beneath the wheels and she could see now that the drive ran along the outside of the town walls of which the house was part.

  ‘I move in tomorrow,’ she told Clifford later that afternoon as they sunbathed in a tiny cove they had discovered on a previous visit. He seemed thoughtful and remained silent as she went on to tell him all about her interview. When she had finished and he still hadn’t made any comment she asked him what was wrong.

  He turned on his side to look at her, a frown between his brows. ‘I’ve been making enquiries too. Did you know for instance that his wife was suspected of being murdered only they never could prove anything. She was found in a disused part of the house at the bottom of some stone stairs.’

  Selina shivered. ‘I think I know the place.’

  ‘He’s very rich, rich enough to cover up anything. Please think again, Selina, I don’t like the sound of the place at all or the people in it. If someone there did murder that woman, they’re still there, don’t you see, it could be dangerous.’

  Selina laughed. ‘Now you’re just being melodramatic. Why would anyone want to murder me? Besides, I think that little girl needs me. What kind of nurse would I be if I walked away from someone who needed me?’

  He jumped to his feet, scattering sand as he did so. ‘I’m for a swim, are you coming?’

  ‘Try and stop me,’ she cried, getting to her feet and racing him down to the sea.

  A strong swimmer, she had out-distanced him in no time at all. When she turned back she looked around for him, but he w
as nowhere in sight. An arm rose above the water not far from the shore line, disappeared, then rose again. Panic filled her as she forged forward with a strong stroke. The distance seemed never ending, then suddenly a hand grabbed her ankle and pulled her under.

  Spluttering and sneezing they surfaced together. Clifford’s arms were tight around her and his lips came down hard on hers. Kicking free it took only a few strokes before their feet were on the bottom. Standing waist deep in the water Selina stared into his eyes and had the sinking feeling that this relationship was going nowhere.


  The car called at eleven o’clock the following morning. Clifford wasn’t flying until the afternoon so was at the hotel to say ‘goodbye’. Selina handed him some letters to post on his return to London. There was her resignation for the hospital and one for Caroline explaining the situation and asking her to see to the cancelling of the flat and storage of her belongings.

  ‘If you have any problems or any kind of trouble at all I’m only on the end of a phone,’ Clifford said, as he handed her baggage over to the driver.

  ‘I know, thank you. I’ll give you a call as soon as I’ve found my footing. Please tell Yvonne “goodbye” for me.’

  He nodded, a scowl marring his good looks as she drove away.

  When she arrived at the house she had half-an-hour to unpack her things before going to collect Isobel from school.

  The car slid to a halt in front of the school. Electric gates between a waist-high wall topped by a hedge that hid a tall spiked fence. The school building itself looked new and before Selina could climb down from the car Isobel and a tall man left the building and came out towards them. The gates opened at the press of a button.

  Selina moved across the back seat to let the little girl in. The tall man stooped down to say something to the driver then they were moving smoothly away. Isobel turned sideways to look at her. ‘You are Miss Adams, my governess, what is a governess please?’

  Smiling down at the little girl, Selina said, ‘Please call me Selina, and I am not a governess, which is a live-in teacher, I am just a friend.’

  ‘Whose friend?’

  ‘Yours I hope. Do you think you might like me as a friend?’

  Dark brown eyes widened in surprise. ‘I’ve never had a grown up friend before. Aunt Anna said you were my governess.’

  Tread carefully, Selina thought. ‘Aunt Anna misunderstood, your daddy asked me to be your friend.’

  She looked thoughtful for a moment, then cocking her head on one side she peered up through heavy lashes and asked, ‘Did he?’

  Selina’s mouth was dry and she cursed Demitri Vardos for his lack of attention to his small daughter. ‘He most certainly did.’

  Then the little girl said a strange thing. ‘Aunt Anna won’t like that.’

  ‘Why ever not?’ she cast a quick glance at Denys and wondered if he reported back any conversation he overheard.

  The little girl ignored her question and asked instead if she played chess.

  Selina smiled, a five-year-old chess player. ‘I’m afraid not.’

  ‘Never mind, I’ll teach you.’

  With no time for lunch before the car had collected her from the hotel her stomach growled hungrily as she lay down to rest that afternoon after watching Maria settle Isobel for her sleep. Half-an-hour later there came a tap on the door and Maria entered with a tray of soup and a crusty roll. Selina could have kissed her, but the stern woman simply nodded her head and left without a word.

  At three o’clock Selina had a quick wash and went along to Isobel’s room to see what play time consisted of. The curtains were drawn to keep out the hot sun. But Isobel was not in the room. The en suite was also empty, so Selina crossed the bedroom to the door that led into the play room. The child was sitting on the floor in the centre of the room and something about her stillness kept Selina silent. Then she heard the whispered voice saying softly, ‘It’s a secret, no one else shall ever know, you must never tell or you too will fall.’

  Some slight sound must have warned Isobel that she was not alone for she jerked around and saw Selina. At that moment Selina saw the doll the little girl had been talking to. She smiled warmly and asked, ‘Can I play?’

  Isobel shook her head. ‘Grown ups don’t play silly childish games.’

  ‘This grown up does, what are you playing?’

  ‘Melissa is my friend,’ she said, picking up the doll. ‘I tell her all my secrets and she tells me hers.’

  ‘And what is today’s secret?’

  She climbed to her feet and shook her head. ‘She doesn’t have one today.’

  ‘Oh dear. Well can I tell you mine?’

  This caught Isobel’s immediate attention. ‘Do you have secrets?’

  ‘Oh yes.’

  ‘Who do you tell your secrets to?’

  ‘I don’t have anybody, that’s why I would like to tell you.’

  The little girl came across the floor and taking Selina’s hand led her to a settee on the far wall. Making them comfortable, the doll between them, Isobel announced, ‘Now you can tell me.’

  Selina could have laughed, for Isobel had all the makings of a miniature psychiatrist, but the girl was sincere so she started to tell her a story about a beautiful lady and a little girl who longed to be loved.

  ‘That was very sad. Don’t you have anyone to love you?’

  Selina had fallen silent and at Isobel’s words, she checked her thoughts, and gave a wavery smile. ‘I don’t have a daddy or aunt and uncle like you, no.’

  ‘Well never mind,’ she said, climbing down from the settee. ‘I’ll love you.’

  Selina watched her cross the floor to a cupboard on the far side of the room. She felt her heart swell with feelings for the child, her training had always taught her never to let herself become personally involved, yet here she was and her heart told her that it would be impossible to care for Isobel and not love her.

  On Friday evening when Selina came down to dinner, a man of medium height and square build with dark skin and black hair was talking to Anna Vardos. They both turned at her entrance and Anna introduced her husband, Aristotle Vardos. He was nothing like Demitri who was tall and slim in comparison and while his skin betrayed his Greek origins it was nothing like this man’s sallow podgy face.

  ‘Please call me Ari,’ he said, coming forward to take her hand and kiss her cheek. ‘You make a wonderful addition to our little family, Selina.’ While it was a pleasure to have conversation at the table instead of Anna’s occasional stiff comments when the two of them ate alone, nevertheless Selina took an instant dislike to Uncle Ari.

  He was pleasant and his conversation, of multi-national business with a scattering of famous and well known names, interesting. There was just something about the man Selina did not feel comfortable with. After dinner he quizzed her about her relationship with Isobel.

  She answered politely as best she could and had the feeling that this then was the real interview, but as far as she was concerned it was the elder brother who had employed her and she was answerable only to him. However, he had warned her that her job depended upon her relationship with this couple. In the day that followed Selina grew more and more frustrated at the restrictions placed on her and her charge.

  ‘I can understand the need for security, she is the child of a very wealthy family. But I can’t help feeling that her lifestyle is unhealthy. Her routine is strict, there is no variety, no spontaneity. I have never seen anyone hug her or kiss her, she may as well be living in a bubble for all the emotion in her life. I just feel so helpless.’

  Yvonne had cut loose from her parents and with their help had taken over the lease on a beauty salon in the foyer of a large hotel in the centre of Rhodes new town. They had taken to spending their weekend time off together, and Selina was cross because yet again she had been denied permission to take Isobel with her.

  ‘I mean, what is to stop Denys from coming with us and sitting at another
table, or sitting around the pool and watching us swim, I’d love to bring her with me, you would love her, I know you would.’

  ‘Yeah, well they won’t let you will they, so what do you reckon we do later?’

  Selina was a little disappointed at Yvonne’s reaction but smiled anyway and they decided to go shopping.

  When she returned to the house Isobel was nowhere to be found though it was her playtime. When she asked Maria for Isobel’s whereabouts she was told that the child was with her father.

  ‘He was concerned that she had been left behind.’

  Selina’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

  She had sat down to write to Caroline later that afternoon, when Isobel knocked and entered the room. Her cheeks were flushed with happiness and she carried in her hands a small parcel.

  ‘It is for you, Selina, a present for my most favourite friend.’

  ‘Why Isobel,’ Selina took the little box and opened it, expecting to find some small gift Isobel had bought with her pocket money, instead she found a beautiful opal brooch.

  ‘It changes colour like your eyes.’

  ‘I don’t know what to say, darling, it’s beautiful, but . . .’

  ‘The money was her own but she did ask my permission,’ said Demitri.

  ‘Daddy said we should get one to match your eyes. Don’t you like it?’ Selina could hear the hesitation in her voice and fearful of disappointing her took her into her arms and hugged her. ‘I love it, thank you so much.’

  Happy now that her present had been well received she skipped off to her own room, leaving Selina to face Demitri Vardos. He glanced around the room taking in all her personal bits and pieces until his glance came to rest on her desk and the letter she had been composing.

  ‘You have bonded well with Isobel. Nevertheless I was rather disturbed to find her alone in the house except for Maria on my return.’

  ‘Saturday is my day off, Mr Vardos, and your sister-in-law assured me she would take care of Isobel.’


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