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Authors: Jacqueline Harvey

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BOOK: Alice-Miranda in the Alps
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Delphine Doerflinger sat in the lounge sipping her tea. From her vantage point in a high wingback chair, she could see everyone coming and going while she herself could not be easily seen.

‘There you are, my petal,' Otto said, looking over the top of her chair.

Delphine glanced up and found herself nose to nose with Gertie. ‘Get that creature out of my face,' she hissed.

Gertie growled and Otto clutched her closer to him. ‘Be nice to your mama,' he cooed.

‘I am not that beast's mama,' Delphine huffed.

Otto walked around the settee to join his wife. ‘You should have told me you were having afternoon tea,' he said. ‘I will join you.'

‘I'd rather you didn't,' Delphine said.

Otto looked wounded. ‘Why? Do I embarrass you so much that you won't be seen with me these days?'

Delphine sighed, her face softening. ‘Don't be stupid,' she said. ‘I am working.'

‘Oh, is it … what we spoke of yesterday?' he asked, grinning.

Gertie growled again.

‘Otto, take her upstairs. She should not be down here upsetting the guests,' Delphine sniffed.

‘She doesn't upset anyone. Do you, my little princess?' The man pursed his lips and made a kissing noise as the dog's tongue shot out towards him.

Delphine cringed. ‘Honestly, you will catch something from that mutt one of these days. Now, why don't you go for a walk? Then tonight we will celebrate.'

Otto's face lit up. ‘Will it be ours so soon?'

‘I am hoping so, but I cannot afford any distractions. Hurry up, Otto,' she instructed under her breath.

‘You are such a good wife. I will do as you wish. Come along, Gertie, we must get changed.' He held the dog and scurried away just as Delphine spotted her target.

She stood up and walked towards him, pretending to make notes in an open folder. He had his coat collar drawn up around his neck and wore a stylish fedora, which cast a shadow across his face.

Delphine spun around, almost bumping into him. ‘Baron, is that you?' she said, feigning surprise. ‘I nearly didn't recognise you with that hat on.'

He flinched and tightened his grip on the briefcase. ‘Frau Doerflinger, how lovely to see you.'

‘I hadn't realised that you were staying with us,' the woman said, smiling sweetly.

‘Oh no, I am just here for a meeting,' he replied as beads of perspiration formed on his brow.

‘Do you have time for tea?' she asked, gesturing to the lounge.

The man gulped and shook his head. ‘No, sadly not. I must be going.'

‘What a pity,' Delphine said. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw two men enter the room. One of
them was nudging five feet and dressed in a flamboyant navy pinstriped suit. His slick grey hair looked as oily as he did. The other, who was bald, wore a plain black suit and towered over his associate. ‘Well, I mustn't keep you,' she said with a note of finality.

‘
Auf Wiedersehen
, Frau Doerflinger.' The Baron took a deep breath and walked away.

With the slightest signal from Delphine, the two men nodded and followed him.

Sloane grinned as she clicked out of her bindings and picked up her skis. ‘That was awesome.'

‘You were amazing,' Alice-Miranda said.

‘I think I amazed myself,' Sloane said with a laugh.

‘Especially when you stacked into us,' Millie teased.

‘At least it only happened once,' the girl said as the rest of the group reached the bottom of the Chantarella funicular.

‘Well done, kids,' Hugh called as he and Hamish brought up the rear. ‘Who's ready for a swim?'

The children's hands shot up in the air as they jumped up and down yelling ‘me'.

Hamish chuckled. ‘Let's get moving then.'

Everyone carried their skis down to the roadway, where the shuttle bus was waiting for them. It was a short drive through the village, past the town square and to the hotel. Several doormen helped to unpack the gear and, despite the men's offer, Hugh, Hamish and the children insisted on carrying everything to the lockers themselves.

The group quickly changed out of their ski boots and charged back upstairs. Aside from the well-stocked ski shop two floors below street level, the hotel also boasted its very own subterranean shopping mall.

‘Look at those clothes,' Millie gushed, admiring the sparkling dresses in the window of the first boutique. ‘That cloth looks as if it's made from spun silver.'

Hugh spotted the figure on the price tag and let out a low whistle. ‘Whoa, for that many francs, you would want it to be.'

Millie's eyes bulged when she saw it too. ‘No! That can't say what I think it does,' she gasped.

Hugh nodded. ‘I'm afraid it does.'

‘Who wears a dress that costs more than a car?' Sloane said incredulously.

‘Even if I had that much money, I'd never spend it on a dress,' Millie said. ‘What if you sat on chewing gum or something?'

‘Because that happens all the time,' Sloane said with a grin.

Millie rolled her eyes. ‘You know what I mean.'

The group continued down the mall, past shops selling fine art and jewels.

‘Now, that's more like it,' Sloane said. She stopped to ogle the diamonds and other precious stones in the window.

‘When would you ever wear those?' Millie said. She eyed a pair of diamond-and-ruby earrings the size of small chandeliers.

‘Well, if I became a famous actor like Lawrence Ridley, I'd wear them to all those red-carpet events. Imagine how jealous my mother would be! She'd beg me to come along and I'd just say, “No, I'm taking Sep.”'

‘Really?' Her brother looked at her in surprise.

‘No, not really, but you were the first person that came into my head,' Sloane replied.

Everyone laughed as the group made their way up another flight of stairs and emerged into the hotel foyer, where they bumped into Otto Fanger and Gertie.

‘Hello there.' The hotelier smiled at them. ‘Did you have a good time on the slopes?'

The children nodded.

‘Yes, thank you, Herr Fanger,' Alice-Miranda said. ‘It was lovely. The snow was delicious.'

Herr Fanger's eyes widened in alarm. ‘You didn't eat it, did you?'

Alice-Miranda shook her head and grinned. ‘No, of course not.'

‘Thank goodness for that,' the man said. ‘There are far too many dogs in St Moritz. Sometimes the snow is yellow, if you catch my drift.'

The children nodded and giggled.

‘Where are you off to now?' Otto asked.

‘We're going for a swim,' Millie said.

‘A swim,' Otto sighed. ‘I was just about to take Princess Gertie for a walk, but perhaps we will swim instead.'

Jacinta cupped her hand and whispered in Sloane's ear. ‘I don't think I want to see Herr Fanger in his swimming trunks.'

Sloane nodded in agreement, green at the thought of it too.

‘Well, come along, Gertie,' the rotund man cooed into the creature's ear. ‘Papa will get your swimming trunks.'

None of the children attempted to pat the dog this time, having seen her reaction the day before. They waved goodbye and piled into the lift.

Alice-Miranda and her friends gathered outside their rooms, dressed as if they were on a summer holiday. Although it was below freezing outside, the temperature was almost balmy inside the hotel.

‘Daddy had a few calls to make and told us to go ahead without him,' Alice-Miranda said.

Millie nodded her head. ‘Same with my dad, though, knowing him he'll probably have a nap. He was yawning
a lot
.'

The children made their way down to the hotel spa. Lucas pushed open the heavy glass door into the humid room. The boy dumped his towel on a lounge chair and quickly stripped off his T-shirt and shoes and raced to the water's edge.

‘Last one in's a rotten egg,' he called out as he leapt high into the air and tucked his legs beneath him, showering water all over the place.

The others followed, diving into the steaming pool like missiles.

‘Oh, that chlorine's strong,' Alice-Miranda said as she came up for air, her eyes stinging.

‘Do you want to play Marco Polo?' Jacinta asked.

‘Yes!' Millie replied. ‘You're in.'

Jacinta pouted. ‘Why do I have to be in? It was my idea.'

‘That's why you're in,' Millie said with a nod before swimming away.

‘Whatever,' Jacinta huffed. The girl stood at the shallow end of the pool with her eyes closed, then spun around five times. She could hear the water sploshing and splashing and sensed that one of her friends was near. ‘Marco,' she called, pushing away from the edge.

‘Polo,' the children chorused.

Jacinta dove all over the place trying to find them. She came close to catching Sep but the boy was like a seal and zoomed to the bottom just in time.

‘Where is everyone?' she moaned after a while. ‘You're all being way too tricky.'

‘Stop cheating,' Sloane called.

Jacinta grinned. Her plan had worked – she now knew that her friends had all swum to the other end of the massive pool. She plunged under the water and swam as far as she could in one breath.

Just as she did, Otto Fanger arrived dressed in a long white robe and matching slippers. He already had on his white swimming cap and red goggles and was carrying Gertie, who was dressed identically, down to the cap and goggles, although hers were pink and looked to be dotted with diamonds.

Millie had to duck under the water to stop herself from laughing out loud.

Otto took off his robe to reveal a much-too-tiny pair of red-and-white striped swimming trunks and a thicket of wiry chest hair that would have put an old English sheepdog to shame. He set Gertie down on a sun lounger with her towel laid out, then took off her robe to reveal a one-piece swimsuit in the exact same fabric.

‘He can't be serious,' Sep whispered to Lucas.

‘Stay there, my princess, and watch Papa perform his aquarobics,' he instructed before padding over to the deep end.

Otto dipped his toe into the water and pulled it out again, mumbling to himself about the perfect temperature. Then he took several steps backwards, before he began a run-up towards the pool. The hairs on the man's chest parted down the middle as he propelled himself into the air, like an oversized squirrel in mid-flight. All the children, except for Jacinta, winced in anticipation. Their fears were answered when the man's enormous belly slapped hard against the surface, creating a tsunami.

‘Ooooh!' The children cringed in unison, diving under to avoid the rolling wave.

At that moment, Jacinta came up for air and copped a mouthful of chlorine. The girl sputtered and coughed, trying to catch her breath. ‘Where are you?' she whined. ‘I've been in for ages. It's not fair.'

She lunged towards Millie and missed, then sank under the water again.

Herr Fanger paddled to the shallow end of the pool, where he stood up and fiddled with his swimming cap. From somewhere underneath it he pulled out two earphones. Music blared into his ears
and he began to wave his arms in the air and stretch from side to side.

Jacinta burst through the surface. ‘Marco!'

‘Polo,' the children shouted.

Jacinta pushed off the bottom of the pool and pounced, grabbing hold of something huge and hairy.

Otto squealed.

‘Eew! What's that?' Jacinta screamed, opening her eyes to see she was clutching the hotelier's hairy arm. She immediately let go, her face flushing the same colour as the man's goggles. ‘S-sorry, Herr Fanger, I didn't realise you were here.'

‘It is all right, Miss Jacinta,' the man replied. ‘I am just doing my exercises.'

Millie and Sloane were treading water in the middle of the pool, biting their fists to stop themselves from howling with laughter.

‘Does Gertie go in the water?' Alice-Miranda asked, swimming over to the man. She gestured to the dog, who was now stretched out full-length on the sun lounger, fast asleep.

‘Oh, goodness no,' Otto replied. ‘She does not like to get wet at all but she loves to dress up.'

Millie rolled her eyes, imagining what the dog's groomers must go through.

‘Does Frau Doerflinger enjoy swimming?' Alice-Miranda asked.

‘My poor Delphine never has time to relax. She is so busy with the hotel and the chocolate factory and soon we will have another … Oops!' The man tittered and covered his mouth. ‘Anyway, soon we will celebrate.'

Alice-Miranda frowned, wondering what Herr Fanger was talking about.

‘Your eyes are really red,' Millie said, looking at her friend. ‘Do they hurt?'

Alice-Miranda nodded. ‘They are stinging a bit. I'll go upstairs and find my goggles and see where Daddy has got to,' she replied, swimming over to the pool's edge and climbing out of the water. ‘Bye, Herr Fanger.'

The man waved goodbye and put his earphones back in. He thrust his arms into the air and began to sing along with the music, perfectly executing every move to ‘YMCA'.

BOOK: Alice-Miranda in the Alps
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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