The Heiress's Secret Baby

By: Jessica Gilmore

Travel to the Galapagos Islands

See the Northern Lights

Walk the Inca Trail

Write a book

See tigers in the wild

There, two achieved, three to aspire to and all perfectly respectable. Not a grain of sand in any place it definitely shouldn’t be...

The large luxurious town car drew to a smooth halt and jolted her back into the present day, away from dangerous memories. ‘We’re here, Miss Rafferty. Are you sure you don’t want me to take you home first?’

Polly looked up from her diary and drew in a breath at the sight of the massive golden stone building stretching all the way down the block. She was home. Back at the famous department store founded by her great-grandfather. She hadn’t expected to ever see it again, let alone to walk in as mistress of all that she surveyed.

She stared at the huge picture windows flanking the iconic marble steps, her heart swelling with a potent mixture of love and pride. Each window told a tale and sold a dream. Rafferty’s could give you anything, make you anyone—if you had the money to pay for it.

‘This will be fine, Petyr, thank you. But please arrange for my bags to be taken back to Hopeford and for the concierge service to collect and launder them.’

She didn’t want to set foot in Rafferty’s carrying her rucksack stuffed as it was with sarongs, bikinis and walking boots, no matter how prestigious the brand names on them. Polly had spent a productive night at a hotel in Miami turning herself back into Miss Polly Rafferty from Miss Carefree Backpacker—all it had taken was a little shopping, a manicure and a wash and blow-dry.

She was back and she was ready.

Petyr opened the car door for her and Polly slid out onto the pavement, breathing in deeply as she did so. Car fumes, perfume, hot concrete, fried food—London in the height of summer. How she’d missed it. She pulled down her skirt hem and wriggled her toes experimentally. The heels felt a little constrictive after three months of bare feet, flip-flops and walking boots but her feet would adjust back. She would adjust back. After all, this was her real dream; her time out had been nothing but a diversion along the way.

Polly lifted her new workbag onto her shoulder and headed straight for the main entrance. She was going in.

* * *

‘Hello, Rachel.’

Oh, it had felt good walking through the hallowed halls, greeting the staff she knew by name and seeing the new ones jump as they realised just who was casting a quick, appraising eye over them. Good to see gossiping staff spring apart and how everyone suddenly seemed to find work to do.

Good that nobody dared to catch her eye. There must have been talk after her abrupt disappearance but it didn’t seem to have affected her standing. She allowed herself a small sigh of relief.

But it was also good to go in through the Staff Only door, to be buzzed in by old Alf and see the welcome on his face. Alf had worked for Rafferty’s since before Polly’s father was born and had always had a bar of chocolate and a kind word for the small girl desperately trailing after her grandfather, wanting, needing, to be included.

And it was good to be here, back in the light-filled foyer where her assistant had her desk. Not that Rachel seemed to share her enthusiasm judging by her open-mouthed expression and panicked eyes, and the way her fingers shook as she gathered together a sheaf of papers.

‘Miss Rafferty? We weren’t expecting you back just yet.’

‘I did let you know my flight details,’ Polly said coolly. It wasn’t like Rachel to be so disorganised. And at the very least a friendly ‘welcome back’ would have been polite.

Rachel threw an anxious glance towards the door to Polly’s office. ‘Well yes.’ She got up out of her chair and walked around her desk to stand in front of the door, blocking Polly’s path. ‘But I thought you would go home first. I didn’t expect to see you today.’

‘I hope my early appearance isn’t too much of an inconvenience.’ What was the girl hiding? Perhaps Raff had decorated her office in high gloss and black leather during his brief sojourn as CEO. ‘As you can see I decided to come straight here.’ Polly gave her assistant a cool glance, waiting for her to move aside.

‘You’ve come straight from the airport?’ Rachel wouldn’t—or couldn’t—meet her eye but stood her ground. ‘You must be tired and thirsty. Why don’t you go to the staff canteen and I’ll arrange for them to bring you coffee and something to eat?’

‘Coffee does sound lovely,’ Polly agreed. ‘But I’d rather have it in my office if you don’t mind. Please call and arrange it. Thank you, Rachel.’

Rachel stood there for a long second, indecision clear on her face before she moved slowly to one side. ‘Yes, Miss Rafferty.’

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