Obviously she hadn’t been about to hang around to be insulted again, so she’d pretended Arlo was waiting and sneaked out through the front door.
And it had seemed fine at first...
Her case slipped sideways again and, scowling, she gave the handle a savage jerk.
No, no, no, no... This could not be happening.
One of the wheels had popped out of its socket and was spinning away from her across the cobbles. She watched in dismay as it was swallowed up in a rush of water. Now she’d have to carry her case.
But as she turned to pick it up she felt something change amid the chaos.
As if the sky had turned black...
Looking up, she felt her heart slam into her ribcage, panic strangle her breath.
A huge, curling grey wave was rising out of the sea, towering over her.
For a moment, the air around her seemed to thicken and slow. And then the wave was falling, and the earth shifted on its axis, and then she was falling too, her feet slipping beneath her, her scream drowned out by an infinity of water...
From an immense, unfathomable distance, as though it had reached through the storm clouds, a hand grabbed her shoulder. Suddenly she was on her feet again.
Spluttering, gasping like a landed fish, she squinted up at her rescuer.
Water was sloshing around his feet, swirling and foaming across the cobbles. She caught a glimpse of dark, narrowed eyes, and then he scooped her into his arms as if she was made of feathers.
‘Don’t let go,’ he shouted into her ear.
He turned back into the storm and the scream of the wind felt as if it was vibrating inside her bones like a shrieking banshee. Ahead, she could see nothing. The rain was like a curtain of water.
Her fingers tightened around Arlo’s neck and she felt his shoulders brace. Then he bent his body into the gale, pushing forward, the only solid object in a swaying world. Dragging in a shallow breath, she turned her face into his chest, felt the heavy curve of his arm muffling the noise and the pounding rain.
Salt was stinging her eyes, and it hurt just to breathe, but she was not alone. Arlo was here. And she knew that, whatever happened, he would keep on going until he reached where he wanted to be.
A dark shape loomed out of the rain. It was a car, and as her chest hollowed out with relief, Arlo yanked open the passenger door, tossing her and her case inside.
He wrestled with the door and for a moment the roar of the storm filled the car. Then the door closed, and he was clambering into the driver’s seat, and turning the key in the ignition.
‘Hold tight,’ he muttered. ‘This could be tricky.’
They inched forward, the furiously swinging windscreen wipers having no impact on the rain thundering against the windscreen.
She clenched her hand around the armrest as a gust of wind sent the car staggering sideways, and then the car stopped and Arlo jumped out. Seconds later her door opened.
‘Take my hand,’ he yelled over the howl of the wind, and then he was pulling her forward.
They stumbled into the house. The huge front door crashed shut behind them and the high-pitched shriek of the storm faded like a whistling kettle taken off the heat.
Constance was standing in the hallway, her face pale with shock. Arlo’s dark dog was beside her.
‘Oh, my dear... Thank goodness you’re all right. Come with me. There’s a fire in the drawing room.’
Arlo glanced away, over his shoulder, his profile cutting a broken line against the cream panelling. ‘I’ll get some towels.’
Frankie let the housekeeper lead her through the house. She was shivering so hard her chattering teeth sounded like an old-fashioned typewriter.