Little Pink Taxi

By: Marie Laval

Acknowledgements


I would like to thank my family for their support, and my lovely daughter in particular, for her patience and encouragements as I mulled over the plot for Little Pink Taxi in our favourite local café over too many cups of black coffee (for me) and glasses of apple juice (for her). She may not be old enough to read the story yet, but just by listening to my ramblings she helped me see things more clearly.

I would also like to thank Choc Lit for believing in Little Pink Taxi and my brilliant editor for her wonderful advice and suggestions.

Thank you also to the Tasting Panel who read this book and passed it for publication: Elaina J, Sigi, Jo L, Hilary B, Margaret M, Isobel J, Jenny M, Jo O, Catherine L, Rachel D, Caroline U, Elaine R and Alma H.

Merci beaucoup!





Chapter One


‘I believe you’re waiting for me. I’m Petersen.’

Startled by the deep voice with the hint of a French accent, Rosalie spun round, and tilted her face up to meet a pair of serious grey eyes.

‘Welcome to Scotland, Monsieur Petersen.’ She gave him what she hoped was her most dazzling smile, but Petersen only looked down at her and said, ‘I was expecting McBride.’

Rosalie tucked the heart-shaped board on which she’d written Petersen’s name in pink under her arm. ‘I’m afraid Geoff was taken ill. I shall be driving you to Raventhorn.’

Petersen frowned. ‘I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it’s nothing serious.’

It was nothing that a cup of tea, a couple of headache tablets and a few days away from the malt whisky wouldn’t cure, but Rosalie couldn’t tell him that.

‘A head cold, that’s all. He will have recovered by this evening, I’m sure.’ Her cheeks grew warm. Lying had never come easily to her, but it was even harder when a giant of a man with eyes as cool and uninviting as the winter sky stared down at her.

She pointed at his leather holdall and laptop case. ‘Would you like me to carry your bags to the cab?’

Arching his eyebrows, he gave her a sardonic stare, which made her feel even smaller than her five foot one. ‘No. I don’t think so.’

‘Ah. Very well. Shall we go then? The weather is horrendous today. At least I found a space near the terminal so we won’t get too wet.’ Her last words were drowned in gusts of icy wind and rain as the terminal sliding doors opened. She pulled her key fob out of her pocket and strode towards the cab. ‘Here we are.’

‘Is this McBride’s idea of a joke?’ Droplets of rain clung to Petersen’s dark blond hair and the broad shoulders of his navy coat. He gestured to the bright pink metrocab on which Love Taxis was painted in large letters, then to her matching anorak.

‘I hope you’re not planning to take your clothes off and squirt whipped cream all over me.’ Although his voice was quiet, there was a steely edge to it that made his French accent more pronounced.

She started to laugh. ‘Take my clothes off, in this weather? No thank you! You don’t seriously think I am one of those strip-o-grams people hire to embarrass their colleagues at birthday parties, do you?’

He didn’t smile. No spark of humour lit his eyes. He’d meant what he’d said. The laughter died on her lips, and she pulled the zip of her pink anorak right up to her chin.

‘You have the wrong idea about me. I’m your taxi driver, nothing else. And for the record, the only way I like my whipped cream is on a chocolate brownie or a very large ice-cream.’

Although she tried to sound blasé, her face felt like it was on fire and she stumbled over the last words. ‘Now I suggest you put your bags in the boot and get in before we both get soaked. You’ll have to sit in the front.’ She gestured towards the boxes piled up in the back. They were filled with bottles of Geoff’s favourite whisky, which she had just picked up from a distillery on the outskirts of Inverness – not that Geoff would get to sample any soon, if she had any say in the matter. He had drunk more than enough whisky the night before.

Without giving Petersen the chance to reply, she opened the door of the taxi and slid behind the wheel. How dare the unpleasant man mistake her for a strip-o-gram! She glanced in the rear-view mirror. In his conservative coat and suit, his laptop case in one hand, the leather holdall in the other, he looked every inch the stuck-up, pompous businessman as he put his bags in the boot. What could he possibly be coming to Raventhorn for?

He opened the passenger door and sat next to her, and immediately the cab felt small and crowded. Sliding the car park ticket between her teeth, Rosalie started the engine, but as she pulled the handbrake down, her hand brushed against his leg and the contact gave her such a jolt she took her foot off the accelerator pedal. The cab stalled, they jerked backwards and the whisky bottles rattled in the boxes at the back.