The Heir From Nowhere(10)

By: Trish Morey

‘Madam?’ And she realised the maître d’ was waiting, holding out a chair obviously intended for her and again she wished desperately they could have gone somewhere more casual, somewhere that had swivelling white plastic stools bolted to the floor like she was used to. She swallowed and sat, reaching for her serviette in relief when she hadn’t managed to disgrace herself, unravelling its skilful folds only to realise another waiter was performing some kind of artful flick and drape into laps with the others. His hand hovered momentarily over the empty place hers should have been and she shrank down, wanting to hide. She did so not belong here in this upmarket world where even the waiting staff made her feel inferior.

Even the menu offered no respite, written entirely in Italian, so that she understood only the odd word. There were no prices. Angie blinked, mentally trying to work out how much eating here would cost. She’d been wrong in thinking it merely expensive. Diners here probably had to take out a mortgage.

And yet he came here often enough to be personally welcomed by the maître d’? How much money did he have that he could do that, let alone invite someone to eat here and not blink? What kind of work did this man do?

She looked longingly out of the window where ferries left white trails as they ploughed their way across the harbour and pleasure craft took a more leisurely approach, the moving vista a feast for the eyes, laid out beyond the glass like one more sumptuous course.

‘We’re in a hurry today, Diego,’ she heard him say. ‘Mrs Cameron has a train to catch.’

She turned in time for his nod. ‘I understand. Would you like to order now, in that case?’

‘Just my usual salad,’ the other woman said.

‘What would you like, Mrs Cameron?’

And she was faced with the question she’d been dreading ever since she’d looked at the menu. She was half tempted to say she would have the same as Simone except the only thing she did know was that a salad wasn’t going to do it for her. She needed something entirely more substantial if she was going to soothe the savage beast inside her any time soon. She looked up at the waiter uncertainly. ‘I don’t suppose you happen to do steak?’

Simone smirked. The waiter blinked.

‘The osso buco, I think,’ Dominic said, taking her menu and passing them both to the waiter. ‘Good choice. It’ll be quick. Make that two.’

She nodded dumbly, thankful beyond measure for his intervention and knowing that whatever he’d ordered, she’d eat it. And at least it didn’t sound like a salad.

‘Did you have far to travel?’ he asked.

‘Not too far. Just out to Sherwill.’

‘All that way?’ Simone said as if she’d said she’d come from outer space. ‘But that’s halfway to Perth! Why would anyone live all the way out there?’

Because it’s cheap, Angie thought, even if it is nasty with it, fully aware that everyone in Sydney would know of the outer western suburb given it featured on the nightly news so frequently. ‘It’s only an hour on the express.’ When the trains were running to time.

Dominic scowled, no doubt racking up another black mark against her, courtesy of the area where she lived. And then he surprised her. ‘Simone, I think I can handle it from here. You might as well go back to the office.’

‘But Dom, surely you need minutes?’

‘We’ll manage. See you back at the office.’

Dismissed, the other woman had no choice but to leave as a waiter appeared bearing crusty bread and sparkling water. Angie fell upon both gratefully. The bread was dense and chewy and divine when slathered with butter so good it must be real, the sparkling water cool and refreshing.

She was still chewing when two waiters swept in bearing steaming plates of food and for a moment Angie was too staggered by the sight in front of her to think straight. There were mountains of meat in a rich tomato and vegetable sauce over an equally generous serving of golden rice. It looked and smelt fantastic and nothing like the steak she’d been expecting.

‘This is what I ordered?’

‘Osso buco,’ Dominic said, as his own plate descended in front of him. ‘It’s actually veal, rather than steak. I think you’ll like it.’

‘It smells fantastic.’

‘It’s a classic Italian dish,’ he said, picking up his fork. ‘Do you like Italian food?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said honestly, contemplating her plate, wondering where to start. Shayne had never been one for anything fancy or spicy, so she’d given up experimenting long ago. And at least it hadn’t cost a lot to keep them in sausages and mash.

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