Sapphire Skies

Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra Read Free Book Online

Book: Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra Read Free Book Online
Authors: Belinda Alexandra
was more serious and considered than my own good-humoured father. I was more determined than ever to become one of his esteemed pilots.

Moscow, 2000
    A fter the meeting with the advertising agency, Lily worked on a promotional brochure for the hotel’s restaurant. She read the brief from the French chef, in which he waxed lyrical about ‘the scientific study of deliciousness’, and wondered if she should use his term molecular gastronomy to describe his dishes.
    ‘What do you think?’ she asked Colin.
    He swivelled on his chair and looked thoughtful for a moment. ‘Leave it in,’ he said. ‘The Yanks will love it. And if you can get the word gastrophysics in there as well, you’ll get the Germans on side too.’
    Lily wasn’t sure if he was serious, or whether he was still in a bad mood from the morning’s traffic. She’d ask him again later to see if his answer was the same.
    When five o’clock came around, Lily printed off Betty’s email, picked up her bag and headed towards the door. Kate and Richard were discussing a new rooftop sushi bar they wanted to go to that evening with Kate’s fiancé, Rodney, and some other staff friends.
    ‘Would you like to come?’ Richard asked Lily.
    She shook her head. ‘Thanks, but I’ve promised to do something else tonight.’
    Kate grinned. ‘A date? You’re so secretive, Lily!’
    ‘I know,’ agreed Richard, winking at Kate. ‘She’s a woman of mystery!’
    Lily wished them a good time and headed towards the reception area, dodging an American tour group with their trolley loads of Italian-designed suitcases and tote bags. As she stepped out into the street she pondered her colleagues’ perception of her. A woman of mystery! What would they say if they knew what she was really going to do later on?
    When she reached Pushkin Square, Lily looked around for the woman with the dog but couldn’t see her. It was possible what the drunk had said was true and the dog was a ploy to elicit money from people. But Lily thought the woman had sounded desperate.
    She made her way to Tverskoy Boulevard, a park set between two lanes of traffic and bordered by the former mansions of the aristocratic class. The ladies walking their Pomeranians and dachshunds in the dappled shade of the lime trees, and the Versace-clad patrons eating French confectioneries in the newly opened Café Pushkin, added to the fashionable atmosphere. She passed a busker playing a bayan , a Russian piano accordion, and stopped in front of an Empire-style mansion with buttercup-yellow walls and a white colonnade. It wasn’t the grandest building on the boulevard but the arched windows and the pair of heraldic angels on the pediment made it elegant. It was the house where her maternal grandfather, Victor Grigoryevich Kozlov, a colonel in the White Russian Army, had lived before he’d fled to China after the Civil War. Lily sat on one of the park’s wrought-iron benches to admire the home. She pictured her grandfather as a young man coming out of the door with his two sisters to promenade along the boulevard with the other noble families.
    After the Civil War, her grandfather’s family were arrested and never heard from again. The year before Lily arrived in Moscow, the house had been converted into luxury apartments. A real estate agent had shown her around and explained that after the building was requisitioned by the Soviets ‘for the people’, it had been turned into a communal living space. The stained-glass windows were vandalised and the carved oak windowsills ripped out and used for firewood. The property developer had restored the exterior but Lily was disappointed to discover that the apartments inside were ultra-modern with open-plan living spaces, chrome finishes and recessed halogen lights. She had no desire to go inside the building again; she preferred to sit opposite it, close her eyes and imagine herself inhabiting her grandfather’s body. She would stroll into the ballroom with

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