Oceans Between Us Online - Helen Scott Taylor Page 0,3

down his meat, then sauntered out again as though he owned the place.

In the dining room, Maria set the table in the bay window, the one with the nicest view, and put out the various breakfast cereals and fruit juices. She checked the contents of the fridge to make sure she had all the ingredients to cook a full English breakfast. Mr. Rossellini was bound to be ravenous as he hadn't come down for dinner the previous night. When she was ready for him, she prepared herself some toast and coffee. Then she waited.

The kitchen was at the back of the house, but she had a view down the corridor past the office to the dining room. She leaned against the kitchen counter, sipping coffee and watching for the Italian. She tried to read a novel but couldn't concentrate. Every noise made her gaze jump from the page. Then water gushed down the pipe outside the back door. As Mr. Rossellini was the only person upstairs, it meant he must be showering.

Abandoning her book, she switched on the coffee machine and checked the kettle was full. Then she paced. This was crazy. She and her mum and dad managed twelve rooms full of guests, but this one man had Maria in a spin.

The phone rang, and she was so wound up she nearly jumped out of her skin. She muttered a rude word and grabbed the handset.

As she started to answer, her sister Christine's voice cut in. "Mari, can you do me a huge, huge favor and look after the girls for an hour this afternoon? Eric's hurt his back, and I need to take him to the chiropractor."

Maria had intended to start decorating the upstairs rooms once the carpet layers finished, but she had four weeks before her parents came home, so it wouldn't matter if she missed one afternoon. "Okay."

"You're a gem. I'll see you later," Chris said.

Maria turned to glance out the window. A few streaks of blue sky had broken through the clouds. If the rain stayed away, she would take her nieces down to the beach. At that moment a door slammed. She pivoted around, wide-eyed. Typical, she had looked away for a second and missed her guest. She dashed along the corridor to the front hall.

She'd left Mr. Rossellini's leather jacket over the chair in the lobby. It was gone. But he wasn't in the dining room. She wrenched open the front door and raced out, just in time to see him striding away down the lane towards the village. Why hadn't he eaten breakfast? Perhaps he didn't know it was included in the room rate. But surely he would have asked? He'd missed two meals now. She watched his tall, lean form disappear around a corner and bit her lip.

Apart from worrying about him missing the meals, she was disappointed she hadn't managed to chat with him. She had wanted him to move his car so the carpet van had more room to turn. She wandered over to his sleek black BMW. A Hertz sticker in the window identified the car as a rental. Surely he hadn't come all the way from Italy?

Her breath hissed out in frustration and she returned to tidy the kitchen. Now she wouldn't have a chance to ask him what he wanted for dinner. If he wanted anything at all! Perhaps he didn't think the food in the guesthouse would be up to his standards. Catering for one guest was definitely more difficult than catering for a houseful.

Just in case he did deign to try her cooking, she prepared boeuf bourguignon and put it in the slow cooker while she waited for the carpet delivery. She also called the wife of one of the local fishermen and asked if they could deliver some of today's catch, so her errant Italian had a choice of menu. Anything he didn't eat, she would freeze or eat herself.

At nine thirty, the carpet delivery van arrived. She watched as the two men hefted the huge rolls upstairs. All four of the bedrooms due for redecorating were off-limits this morning. Two were being carpeted, and the other two were temporarily stuffed with the displaced furniture.

While the carpets were laid, she gathered cleaning materials and went to service room twelve. Visitors usually left belongings around their rooms, giving them a lived-in look. Mr. Rossellini was either very tidy or he hadn't unpacked. She vacuumed, made the bed, and restocked the tea and coffee tray,