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The Hotel on the Riviera by Carol Kirkwood Book

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The Hotel on the Riviera by Carol Kirkwood Read Book Online And Download

Overview: From Sunday Times bestselling author and the nation’s best loved TV presenter Carol Kirkwood comes a glittering escape to the French Riviera.

By the sapphire blue waters of the French Riviera, a decades-long secret is about to be revealed…

Wayward Greek heiress, Ariana Theodosis, inherits the Hotel du Soleil as part of a mysterious legacy. Captivated by its faded glamour, she hopes it offers her the chance to start again.

Hotelier Gabriel du Lac’s family have owned the hotel for decades – and he has no intention of giving it up for a beautiful stranger.

Madame du Lac has watched the rich and famous pass through the doors of the hotel for almost half a century, and she has kept its secrets too.

As the past finally catches up with them all, will this summer reveal a forgotten secret, and change their lives forever…?

The Hotel on the Riviera by Carol Kirkwood Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
The Hotel on the Riviera by Carol Kirkwood Book

The Hotel on the Riviera by Carol Kirkwood Book Read Online Chapter One

Ithos, April 2009

‘Papa!’ Ariana scrambled out of the chauffeur-driven Mercedes and threw herself into her father’s arms.

It was almost midnight and he’d come out to meet her, the palatial villa behind him illuminated against the blackness, the moon bright and full overhead.

Ariana was exhausted. She knew she looked far from her usual groomed and glossy self after the long journey from Los Angeles but was shocked by the change in her father. He’d lost weight, his handsome features hollowed out, and there were dark circles under his eyes. His once-dark hair was thick with grey, and it looked as though he hadn’t shaved for a week.

‘Yaya,’ Ariana blurted out. ‘Is she …?’ She trailed off, not daring to finish the question.

‘Your grandmother is very weak, but she’s still with us.’

‘Oh, thank God.’ Ariana collapsed against him with relief. ‘I was terrified I’d be too late.’

‘She’s been asking for you. Come, I’ll take you straight to her.’

A look passed between them, so many emotions and unspoken words, but now was not the time for questions. Those would come later. Instead, Demetrios Theodosis put his arm around his daughter and steered her into the house.

Shauna, Ariana’s stepmother, was waiting inside. Like Demetrios, Shauna looked shattered. Her thick, red hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, and she was dressed casually in lounge pants and a fitted T-shirt.

‘Ariana, it’s lovely to see you. I’m so sorry it had to be under these circumstances.’ Shauna enveloped her in a warm hug, then stood back. She knew this was a moment for Demetrios and his daughter.

Ariana followed her father through the house towards her grandmother’s wing. Her stomach was in knots as the memories came flooding back: running along these same hallways as a child, bare feet slapping against the cool marble floor. Then later, as a rebellious teenager, slipping off her Jimmy Choo stilettos and sneaking back to her room in the early hours after breaking her curfew.

Her heart was pounding as they reached her grandmother’s bedroom. Demetrios squeezed her hand and pushed open the door.

Inside, everything was calm and still and surprisingly peaceful. The curtains were closed and a low lamp burned in the corner, but there was no medical equipment as Ariana had feared; it still looked like her grandmother’s sanctuary, not an impersonal hospital room. Elana’s costume jewellery and perfume bottles were neatly arranged on the antique dressing table, while the familiar silver-framed portrait of Ariana’s grandfather, Aristotle, remained on the bedside cabinet. Only the baroque mirror had been removed – presumably to prevent Elana from seeing how she’d deteriorated. Two nurses were present, checking Elana’s vital signs and administering painkillers to make her more comfortable, but at a signal from Demetrios they left discreetly.

Ariana approached the bed, stifling a gasp as she glimpsed the tiny, shrunken figure beneath the sheets. She blinked away the tears, shocked by how frail her grandmother had become, the steely, venerable matriarch almost unrecognizable.

Tentatively, Ariana sat down on the chair at Elana’s bedside. Her grandmother appeared to be asleep, her eyes closed, her breathing shallow. Her face looked grey against the crisp, white pillowcase. Gently, Ariana reached for her hand; the knuckles were gnarled, the liver-spotted skin paper-thin over the criss-cross of purple veins. But as Ariana slid her palm into her grandmother’s, Elana’s eyelids fluttered open. Her once bright eyes were dull and filmy, as though the light had gone out of them.

‘Yaya,’ Ariana burst out, overcome with emotion. She dropped her head, bringing Elana’s hand to her lips, feeling the coolness of her grandmother’s skin. Despite everything, Ariana had always thought that by some miracle Elana might recover – that Demetrios had got it wrong, and this wasn’t the end. But now Ariana could see that her hope had been futile. She had to accept that her grandmother didn’t have long left.

‘I love you, Yaya,’ Ariana sobbed. ‘So much.’

Elana turned her head a fraction, just enough to see her beloved granddaughter. With what little strength she had left, she raised her other hand to caress Ariana’s cheek.

‘I love you too, Ariana. Always,’ she whispered, before falling back against her pillow, exhausted by the effort of speaking.

Ariana lay in her childhood bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. She’d barely slept for the past couple of days, what with the jet lag and spending most of her time at her grandmother’s bedside. Demetrios had employed a small army of nurses to care for Elana around the clock, and when they’d insisted Ariana should try and rest, she’d reluctantly agreed – although now the idea seemed impossible.

In the privacy of her room, Ariana had broken down and wept for the grandmother she adored, readying herself for the inevitable loss. She’d listened to the comings and goings outside – tyres on the gravel as friends came to say their final goodbyes; low voices in the garden as the nurses changed shift; the local priest making his daily visit to pray for Elana’s soul.

Frustratedly, Ariana threw back the covers and moved over to the window seat, staring out at the night sky. The Greek moon was full and dazzling, a panorama of stars splayed across the inky blackness. Below was Ithos Bay, the dark water dotted with pinpricks of light from the boats that sailed by, and the harbour aglow in the distance. Ariana opened the window, the fresh air cooling her hot skin, and inhaled deeply, the familiar tang of the sea bringing welcome solace. No matter where she was in the world, she loved to be by the ocean.

Ithos, and the family villa, held so many memories for Ariana. She remembered Yaya teaching her to bake, the two of them sticky with honey and nibbling on pistachios as they made baklava together. She recalled how, as a child, she’d watched, mesmerized, as Elana made herself up so elegantly every day, with pressed powder from Elizabeth Arden and a classic red lipstick. With her parents frequently away – her father travelling for business, her mother for pleasure – Ariana’s grandmother had been a constant in her life, the steady, loving influence she’d needed. Now the sands were shifting around her, and Ariana felt lost. She’d hoped to make Elana proud, but instead her life was one big mess.

Slamming the window shut, Ariana pulled a silk dressing gown over her La Perla slip and strode out of her room. The long corridors were silent and shadowy, the walls adorned with valuable works of art, but already the house felt different, as though her grandmother’s influence was slipping away like the woman herself.

She’d intended to visit Elana, but as Ariana passed her father’s study, she noticed light spilling out from beneath the closed door. Ariana hesitated. She knew that she and Demetrios needed to talk, but she was ashamed of the things she’d done and the way she’d behaved, scared of the confrontation that would inevitably follow. She also knew that her father was hurting right now, just as badly as she was, and that the two of them needed one another. She tapped gently on the door.

‘Yes?’ Demetrios’s voice was filled with alarm, and Ariana rushed to reassure him as she opened the door.

‘It’s only me, Papa.’

‘Oh, Ariana.’ The relief on his face was palpable. ‘I thought …’ He trailed off. They both knew what he’d thought – that it was the nurse, coming to get him for the final time.

Ariana took in the scene: after Aristotle had died, Demetrios had taken over his father’s study. He’d kept the same style – grand and imposing, all dark wood and leather-bound books – but tonight, rather than being in his usual spot behind the mahogany desk, Demetrios was sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of paperwork and overflowing boxes. A photograph album was open in front of him, and he was holding a glass tumbler that was almost empty, just a splash of amber liquid in the bottom.

‘Couldn’t sleep?’ Ariana asked softly.

Demetrios shook his head. ‘No. I didn’t want to disturb Shauna, tossing and turning all night, and I found myself here.’

Ariana sank down next to him, wordlessly picking up a photo. It was black and white, and showed her grandparents in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. They looked so young and in love; Elana in a stunning full-skirted dress that Ariana recognized as Dior and Aristotle handsome and distinguished in a three-piece suit and fedora. Ariana turned the photo over to see the date on the back: September, 1948.

‘They look incredible. Like movie stars,’ Ariana sighed, with a pang. She couldn’t help but wonder whether she would ever find a relationship like that, with a guy who was crazy about her, the way Aristotle had worshipped Elana. Ariana had been unlucky in love over the years, with a penchant for bad boys that led to broken hearts, and worse …

Demetrios smiled sadly as he gazed at the picture. When he spoke, his voice was thick. ‘Would you like a drink?’ He stood up and refilled his own glass with cognac from the bar in the corner.

Ariana watched him, struck by indecision. For the last few years she’d been living in LA, trying to make it as an actress. At twenty-six years old, she was still a long way from realizing her dream and, if she was being brutally honest with herself, she had little in the way of natural talent. What she was good at was having fun. Partying. She’d been drinking a lot – excessively, some might say. And it wasn’t just the alcohol. There’d been drugs too. But across the villa her grandmother was dying, and right now wasn’t the time for Ariana to address her issues.

She nodded at her father. ‘Make it a large one.’ She took a slug of the neat brandy, feeling the welcoming burn in her throat, and reached for another photograph.

The time slipped by, father and daughter sharing their memories of Elana, trying to pretend they weren’t about to lose her. Although Ariana idolized her grandmother, she recognized that she could be domineering at times, formidable and controlling. She knew that Elana had played a key role in her parents’ marriage – that it was merging dynasties, not hearts, which had made Elana push the union between Demetrios and Sofía Constantis. In doing so, Elana had separated Demetrios from his true love, Shauna O’Brien, and it had been almost twenty years and a world of heartache before the two of them had finally reunited. Yet, despite everything, Ariana knew that Demetrios adored his mother and would be devastated to lose her.

She picked up another album and a loose print fluttered to the ground. Aristotle and Elana were pictured with a glamorous couple – the woman petite and laughing, with expensive jewellery and thick blonde hair in Farrah Fawcett waves, the man sandy-haired and suave, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Robert Redford. They looked at least a decade younger than her grandparents, all four monied and carefree and clearly great friends. The bright, bold patterns of their clothing put the timeframe as the 1970s, the location likely the South of France, with its palm trees and golden light and distinctive architecture. The building behind them looked vaguely familiar to Ariana, but she didn’t recognize the couple.

‘Who are they?’ she wondered, turning the photo over to find the back was blank.

Demetrios frowned. ‘I don’t know. My parents knew many people, personally and professionally. Father had so many business interests it was sometimes difficult to keep track.’

‘Perhaps—’ Ariana began, but she never got to finish her sentence, interrupted by an urgent knocking. Her stomach lurched as Demetrios leapt up and opened the door to a sombre-looking nurse.

The woman’s voice was calm as she delivered the words they’d both been dreading: ‘You must come, quickly. It is time.’

Ariana scrambled to her feet, choking back a sob, and followed her distraught father out of the room, all thoughts of the photograph forgotten.

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