It is a warm summer’s day, warmer than ever, one of those rare warm days in the summer that sees everyone roaming the streets nearly naked, high forties in London but Franny never felt so cold. The sun worshippers, the revellers, the delightful squeals of children… it all feel so foreign to her, it felt like ash in her mouth. She bites her lower lip to hold back the tears that have been threatening to fall since she walked away from the meeting with Leila Sterling in Florence.


Logan tried Franny’s phone again, but it goes right to voicemail. She was only going out to get her favourite sandwich, but it’s been two hours and the shop was around the corner from the hotel. He was getting worried. He sent another text.

Hey, I’m officially worried. Where are you?

He called again but again, voicemail. He spoke to the hotel manager and immediately they swung into action getting the police involved, simply because of who Logan is. A Sterling. The carabinieri were helpful in searching for Franny but there was no sign of her in the sandwich shop or any evidence that she’d been. They were able to trace her movements on CCTV but that gave them no answers as to what had happened to her. Where she went or if she was safe.

Logan made dinner plans at their favourite restaurant, a little neighbourhood Osteria where she’d fallen in love with the food. Tonight the chef agreed to close out the restaurant for them, because he’d gotten the package from London this morning, they sent it to his hotel. The week in Cinque Terre was perfect, though he’d made up his mind a while ago, everything about their time away confirmed to Logan that he’d been in love with Francesca and wanted to make a life with her, their life together. He didn’t even tell anyone. He knew her mother had gotten married to her father, before his untimely death, at a church one hour from Florence, he’d called ahead and asked for the priest to bless them. Everything was planned but no Francesca. When they got back to London, he was planning on a more elaborate ceremony for them, his mother would have to fall in line, his siblings would support him, he knew they would love Francesca and that went a long way for him. It was all that mattered. Whether his mother approved or not it doesn’t matter.

But he waited. And waited. And waited. No sign of Francesca, the Carabinieri had a search party out looking for her, but Francesca was nowhere to be found.

Franny walked into the address she’d been sent via text, it was a private address to a rather swish apartment about a half hour drive from the hotel. Leila Sterling had requested her presence.

‘Francesca, its good to see you.’

‘I cannot say the same about you.’ Franny didn’t know what to think when she got the message from Leila, she had no idea why she was here.

‘Fair enough, I know our few interactions have not been pleasant so I will get right to the point. Sit please.’

Franny takes the seat at the dining table opposite Leila Sterling. The lovely wooden table provided enough distance.

‘I want you to walk away from my son.’

Franny’s laugh is mocking, she will give it to the woman though, she has balls.

‘Hear me out.’

Franny folds her hands, defensive but ready to attack.

‘Sterling leather goods is in trouble, my father is proving to do from the grave what he was unable to do when he was alive, run the company to the ground. He gambled away half of it and I have spent the last decade clawing back everything he lost. Logan is my only hope.’

‘How so?’

‘He has to marry someone else, he has to marry Jojo Von Hurst, her family will invest significantly into Sterling and help save my family legacy. I don’t do this lightly, I know how you feel about him.’


‘You love him. And he loves you too.’

‘Why does it have to be Logan? You have four other children.’

‘Brody doesn’t take my calls on a good day, the girls are both engaged to be married soon and Elliot is married. My children don’t like me very much. I have not been the best mother I could be to them.’

‘What makes you think Logan would agree?’

‘Because if you let him go, he just might.’

‘That’s a gamble.’

‘I’m a mother, I know my son. He will as long as he thinks you walked away from him after the time you spent in Cinque Terre-’

‘Are you having us followed?’

‘All my children come with security whether or not they want it or like it. They typically don’t so I have covert security on all of them.’


‘Because when Brody was ten years old, he was kidnapped and held for 15 days until he escaped. It would take us two years to catch his kidnappers, at first, we didn’t believe him because we thought he ran away, he’d done it once before.’ Leila’s smile was rueful, ‘he hates me, Brody. Elliot tolerates me, Logan is good, and kind and he loves so purely. I will tell him he needs to marry Jojo to save the family legacy, he is proud of Sterling that is the only reason he works for the company as the CEO, he was also closest to my grandfather who was more like a father to me. He would want to see the legacy of the man that meant so much to him, preserved.’

‘He’ll hate you.’

‘That he will too.’

‘And you’re willing to let him hate you?’

‘Time is a tool of forgiveness, and I am hoping one day he will forgive me too and see that what I am doing now is for his children as well.’

Franny sat shell shocked, trying to process all she had just heard, this was wild.

‘I understand you want to become a lawyer, you are working two jobs to pay for law school, take the bar exams and land a partnership at a law firm correct.’

‘Is this the part where you try to buy me off?’

‘It is.’

Franny laughed shortly at her gumption.

‘I have paid off the mortgage on your council flat, have paid your tuition to Harvard Law School and will pay for as long as you will study to be there and have guaranteed you a place is Harland and Rowe. I’m sure you’ve heard of them?’

Heard of them? They are only the top law firm in the country, number 1, and have been for the past two decades, they only employ two new intakes a year from the very best school, Harvard Law, or Yale, with the very best grades. And here Leila Sterling is handing it to her on a platter. All she has to do is pass her exams and that she can do.

‘Fuck.’ Franny whispers, her face buried in the palm of her hands.

I’m so sorry.

Midnight and a text came through to Logan’s phone. It was from Francesca. Logan’s heart sunk looking at those three dots dancing beneath the message that would spell out everything he feared. But a follow up never did come. What more can a person say when they confirm one’s worst fear.

Franny’s friends did not leave her on her own for a month, they took turns sleeping over at her apartment keeping an eye on her. When they got the call from her to meet her at Heathrow, they rallied, no questions asked. She still didn’t tell them the full story; they still don’t know who her boyfriend is, but they were there, no questions, giving their friend the time to grieve her heartbreak