The following morning, Celia’s wake-up call brought her to with a pounding head. She probably shouldn’t have ordered that second bottle of red to be brought up to her room. But she wasn’t going to waste the joys of room service while she was on expenses.
She propped herself up on the thick, downy pillows, swigged some water, washed down a couple of Ibuprofen and surveyed her room. Before she went out to eat the night before – to a restaurant recommended by the handsome young waiter – she had performed her usual trick of using the little key she always carried with her to turn off the radiator valve. She went out and enjoyed a fine – if solitary – supper of foie gras, red deer and a chocolate, quince and honey dessert which she washed down with a fruity bottle of Cotes de Blaye.
Upon her return – which was late enough to ensure that no engineer could be called out – she had complained that her room was too cold and made a bit of a fuss about it. It was a bit of a bother, but this tactic invariably resulted in an upgrade, and last night had been no exception: she now had a two-room suite with a massive, luxurious bathroom, Aveda toiletries and, she was delighted to find, complimentary slippers and bathrobe.
She was, after all, worth it, and this room was a far cry from the Travelodge her publishers usually put her up in when she was up for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. But there was no time to enjoy the suite if she was to give the hotel Full Yorkshire breakfast a run for its money before she had to get on that bloody bus again.
Checking on her schedule, she saw that she was going to Harewood House. She loved a bit of grandeur, and, as the house was closed to the public for the winter, she was going to be given her own, individual tour. Perhaps, in all that silent finery, she might find the inspiration for something really nasty to write about.
She took her iPad down to breakfast to do a bit of research on Harewood. As she tucked into a fine slice of black pudding, she read that the current house was built in the late 1700s and the famous neoclassical architect Robert Adam had played a great part in its design. More exciting to Celia was the fact that it contained a famous fine art collection, including some celebrated 18th Century Sèvres porcelain. Celia had a modest Sèvres collection herself – mostly small pieces ‘in the style of,’ rather than genuine pre-Revolutionary stuff. As she gazed at the photographs of the work on the Harewood website – she was particularly taken by the rose pink Mme de Pompadour bowl – she wondered if there were any small pieces in the house. She decided then and there that, instead of the dashing tartan cape, she would wear her Jaeger coat for the day – the one with the capacious pockets.
Twitter informed her that she had a direct message, so she stroked the screen to bring up her account. When she saw that it was from her handsome correspondent, she felt a little flutter of excitement in the base of her stomach – unless of course it was the black pudding on its way down.
Indeed. Let’s meet up, Celia. You name place and time.
She checked her schedule. The only gap appeared to be after Thursday lunch at Fountains Abbey. Having done no research at all for her trip, she had no idea where or what Fountains Abbey was. But it was local, and so was @RiponOff44. And it sounded rather a romantic venue for a meeting with a handsome man, ostensibly about tales from a bus.
Fountains Abbey? Thursday? 2pm?
Instantly, @RiponOff44 replied:
Marvellous. Anne Boleyn’s Seat?
Sounds intriguing. See you then!