Who is playing chess with Tess Monroe’s life?
Tess Monroe sat at the triple mirror that dominated her dressing room, slowly brushing her smooth, pale hair. She had often thought the greenish glass rather sneered at her, but it was the only thing her husband ever had of his mother so she put up with it.
When her hair was sufficiently tamed she spun it into a complex knot at the nape of her neck which she secured with a pair of emerald-headed hairpins. Shrugging into a fantastically embroidered brocade jacket she picked up her tiny weeny evening bag and walked to the head of the stairs.
The sound of running feet made her turn her head and crouch down to the level of her approaching son. He stopped very still and looked at her for a moment, then his pink lips formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise.
“Mama,” he said reverently, “you look beautiful.”
“Why thank you, kind sir. Now come and kiss me goodnight because you will be fast asleep by the time I get home.”
He came closer and kissed her carefully. She touched his curly head and kissed a rosy cheek.
“Sleep well babbino caro.”
Philip junior, known as Pip, chuckled, and his teacher-stroke-bodyguard came forward to take one small hand in her own.
Tess straightened up and made her way downstairs to where a car awaited on the raked gravel outside. Her driver, Sylvia, jumped out to open the rear door. Tess smiled, understanding that she was supposed to sit in the back like a proper lady. As they pulled smoothly away, she settled quietly into her seat while the big car ate up the miles to her destination—a place she personally disliked. But she had been brought up to do her duty, however tedious.
This evening’s excursion was a rarity for Tess, as there are few social occasions that are improved by the presence of an extra woman. Tonight, though, the dignitaries of the county were entertaining representatives of a production company, which was filming some parts of a television series on the bleak shoulders of the moor, and she was summoned—no doubt to look pretty and keep her mouth shut.
The drive passed rather too quickly and at the entrance to the restaurant complex, a uniformed doorman leapt to attention. Her driver turned to smile.
“Drop me a text when you are ready to leave. I won’t be far away.”
Tess exited the car with the quiet grace she had perfected in her years as the wife of the man who had been touted as the next Prime Minister – until his life had been cut short in a motorway pileup two Christmas Eves ago. As soon as her feet hit the ground, a young man she vaguely recognised as a gofer for the local party chair bustled across. He made to take her by the arm, but she froze him with a glance.