Billionaire's SecretBy: Chantelle Shaw
SO MUCH FOR modern technology, Sophie thought as she pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the engine. Despite following the satellite navigation system’s directions she was hopelessly lost. The rolling landscape of the Chiltern Hills was spread out before her, but there was not a farmhouse or even a barn in sight, let alone an enormous stately home.
The country lane she had been sent down was so narrow that she shuddered to think what would happen if she met a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Sighing, she reached for the map on the seat beside her and climbed out of the car. At any other time she would have enjoyed the view of the English countryside in midsummer. The fields were lush and green beneath a cornflower-blue sky and the hedgerow on either side of the lane blazed with a colourful profusion of wild flowers. But Sophie was not on a sightseeing trip. Christos had sent her to Buckinghamshire to carry out a specific task and she was impatient to get on with it.
When she had set out from London two hours ago the weather had been beautiful. But now, although the sun was still shining, the air was strangely oppressive. Glancing over her shoulder, her heart sank when she saw ominous dark clouds on the horizon. Terrific! A storm was all she needed when she was stuck in the middle of nowhere. For a moment she thought the rumbling sound she could hear was thunder, but to her relief she saw a tractor trundling up the lane towards her.
‘I’m looking for Chatsfield House,’ she spoke to the tractor driver as he was about to turn into a field. ‘I think I must have gone wrong somewhere.’
‘Keep on going along the lane for another half mile or so and you’ll come to Chatsfield, miss.’
‘Along this track?’ Sophie looked doubtfully at the road that disappeared into dense woodland.
‘The road stops being a public highway from here and is privately owned by the Chatsfield family. But they don’t bother to maintain it.’ The man looked up at the darkening sky. ‘There’s rain on the way, and the potholes in the lane are deep. Be careful you don’t get a tyre stuck down one, or you’ll be stranded.’
‘Thanks,’ Sophie said drily as she slid back into the car.
The farmer gave her a curious look. ‘You’ve got business up at the house, have you? Not many visitors go to Chatsfield. The family left a long time ago.’
‘But Nicolo Chatsfield still lives there, doesn’t he?’
‘Aye, he moved back some years ago, but he’s rarely seen in the village. My wife’s sister works as a cleaner-up at the house and she says he spends all his time on his computer, doing some sort of financial stuff that has made him a fortune. It’s a pity he doesn’t spend a bit of his cash in the village pub. The King’s Head is in danger of closing down because of this here recession.’
The man stared at Sophie. ‘Don’t expect a warm welcome from Nicolo. And mind his dog, it’s the size of a bloody great wolf.’
Things were getting better and better! Sophie grimaced as she restarted the engine. She was tempted to turn the car around and drive straight back to London, but the idea of admitting failure to her boss was unacceptable.
Christos Giatrakos was the new CEO of the Chatsfield Hotel chain and had been appointed by the head of the family, Gene Chatsfield, to restore the once-famous brand name to its former glory. When Sophie had become Christos’s personal assistant she had realised that the only way to deal with his formidable personality was to stand up to him and show him that he did not scare her. The rest of his staff might treat him with kid gloves, but not her. Few things scared Sophie. Facing her own mortality when she had been a teenager had given her a different perspective on life. She was proud that Christos had picked her from hundreds of other candidates who had applied for the position of his PA, and her pride refused to admit defeat.
The trees lining the track were so overgrown that they formed a dark tunnel, and the faint light filtering through the leaves cast eerie green shadows. Any second now she would find herself in Narnia! Impatient with her overactive imagination, she carried on along the lane and drew a sharp breath when she rounded a bend and Chatsfield House came into view.