Until He Met Meg(8)

By: Sami Lee

‘Daddy, she didn’t even introduce herself when I asked.’

‘You didn’t ask, Phillipa, you demanded. There’s a difference, as I’ve told you more than once before. When will you learn to be polite?’

‘Polite,’ the girl muttered derisively, as though he were suggesting she eat Brussels sprouts. ‘I don’t have time to dawdle.’

Before Bryce could admonish his daughter again — although she deserved some admonishing and a lot more — Meg walked back to where Phillipa stood. ‘Forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is Meg Lacy.’

‘Miglasee?’ She wrinkled her pert nose. ‘What a strange name.’

Meg smiled despite the girl’s outright rudeness. She certainly was a spirited little thing, she had to give her that. ‘It’s no Phillipa Carlton but I’ve had it all my life and it suits me fine. Why don’t you just call me Meg?’

Phillipa eyed her outstretched hand as though it were something that had just scuttled out from beneath the fridge, so Meg pulled it back with a shrug. ‘Suit yourself. But I introduced myself.’

Ignoring the hint, Phillipa turned back to her father. ‘She’s not another nanny is she Daddy? She’s not right at all.’

‘Speaking of nannies,’ Bryce said, neatly sidestepping the issue of who or what Meg was to him. ‘I would like you to explain to me why Miss Windsor felt a need to escape so pressing she resigned without notice.’

The little girl shrugged, all innocence. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Why do I think you do know?’

Guessing that Phillipa would loathe to be upbraided in her presence, Meg interrupted. ‘Perhaps I should make that phone call now.’

‘Of course. The den is the room behind you, to the right.’ Bryce told her. Meg left him facing his daughter, his stern expression seeming to have little effect on the child’s haughty attitude. As she found the room Bryce had directed her to and stepped across the threshold, she heard Phillipa huff a breath and offer an explanation. ‘I didn’t know she’d get so upset. It was just a little food colouring. I thought her hair would look nice green…’

Much to Meg’s dismay, there was no answer at her flat. She had Jessica’s mobile phone number stored in her own phone, so she’d never had to learn it by heart. With the phone sitting dead in her handbag she couldn’t look it up. Sadly, she hadn’t been in Sydney long enough to get to know anyone else very well. Casual employees didn’t tend to stay long at the department store where she’d worked up until last week. Not surprising, given her former supervisor’s proclivity for harassing the female staff.

Holding on to hope that Jessica was in the shower and hadn’t heard the phone ring, Meg decided to wait a few minutes and try again. Remaining in the study seemed the best option. All the better to avoid her ‘host’ and his precociously impudent daughter.

Meg shrugged out of Bryce’s jacket, letting out a moan of regret when the cold seemed to infiltrate her flesh anew. She slung the garment over the back of a chair and surveyed the room with open curiosity, rubbing her arms to ward off the chill.

The large work desk was fashioned from heavy timber and sported a state-of-the-art computer. Gold pens were lined up neatly on the desk blotter. Meg could vividly picture Bryce Carlton leaning back in the leather executive chair, placing calls to New York or London with as much nonchalance as she might call a girlfriend. There was a fireplace flanked by matching burgundy leather armchairs, the mantelpiece lined with silver-framed photographs.

Curiosity got the better of Meg and she tiptoed over to take a peek. There were numerous pictures of the little girl Meg had just met, from baby photos to recent snapshots. There were just as many goofy candid pictures as there were studio portraits, and she sensed Bryce’s love for his daughter in the pictures he’d chosen to display. Among the photos of Phillipa was one of a couple who looked to be in their late forties, a handsome man with greying hair and a chic, serene-looking blonde. Meg lifted the picture and studied it.

‘Find anything interesting?’

Startled, Meg almost dropped the frame as she spun around. Bryce Carlton was standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest, looking none too impressed to find her nosing around his study. Hastily, Meg put the photo back where she had found it, feeling her cheeks wash with heat. ‘I’m sorry. I was just…’

‘Snooping?’ he filled in as he crossed the room to glance at the photo she had been looking at. ‘My parents, if you must know. Lawrence and Margaret.’

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