A Sample of Ainslie Paton's Detained

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Darcy stood in the entrance hall of the suite with her mouth open. This was Shanghai, not Shangri-La. A city of twenty-four million people, not an exotic mystical paradise. But so far everything about China was an unearthly dream.

She’d been detained in a room inspired by arctic blandness. Released suddenly with no explanation or apology, and now she had a suite that was bigger than her rented Surry Hills terrace. She’d arrived in a chauffeur-driven top of the range Audi after spending five hours with a man she’d bantered with, shared dinner with, danced with, and who gave her the most erotic experience of her life.

Her adult promiscuity had gotten the best work-out it’d had in years.

And she didn’t even know his name.

Of course she’d asked his driver, a man of indeterminate age and no apparent English. She might as well have asked him for the secret to eternal life. He’d have smiled at her the same way, like he had all the answers, but she was unworthy of receiving them.

Tara had to be behind the suite. The paper had flown her cattle class and the only reason she was booked under the paper’s name in this five-star hotel at all was because it was walking distance to Parker’s head office on the Bund. They’d have had her in a laundry room if that was the cheapest possible option. So when the clerk on reception mentioned she’d have her own butler, she knew a mistake had been made.

Much confusion, rapid computer screen toggling. No mistake. The Palace Suite had been fully paid for. Her butler had drawn a bath and awaited her instructions about unpacking and refreshment.

Men you meet in visa irregularity detention didn’t normally go around arranging suites for fellow detainees, did they? They didn’t normally make you writhe with sexual tension and give you a rolling series of body rocking orgasms either, did they?

They certainly didn’t do all that without expecting something back.

Darcy ordered a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and a pot of Irish Breakfast tea, and watched to see if her butler would flinch at the ordinariness of the request. His expression made her ready to believe he thought her taste in food, cheap crumpled clothing and grubby battered luggage was the essence of privilege and good breeding.

She wandered around the suite barefoot on thick, creamy carpet. You could wander, that was the right word for it. It had a dining room that would seat eight easily. In another room a baby grand piano stood ready to play. There was a dressing room. In the expansive wardrobe her paltry clothing was already arrayed on four padded coat hangers. The butler had even hung t-shirts, placed her work shoes in a special rack. Somewhere in this room he’d stowed her wheelie bag. There were so many cupboards and storage spaces she might never find it.

The bed was frighteningly big for one person, bigger than a king—a whole royal family of a bed. The bathroom was black marble. The huge bath sunken in front of the floor to ceiling windows faced the Huangpu River. She could see the Pearl Tower and the lights of the economic zone of Pudong.

She opened the doors to the balcony, grinning into the heat of the midnight sky at the sheer luxury, the absolute inappropriateness and the fait acompli of it all. She shouldn’t be in this room, but she had no way of finding the man from Tara to issue a protest. If he thought he could buy her he was in for a surprise.

So for tonight she’d play princess. Tomorrow she’d have them shift her to an ordinary room and swap his credit for hers. This might get tricky when it came to claiming her expenses, though Mark was unlikely to care if they were less than budgeted for. There’d be one night’s less accommodation to pay for.

When she stretched out in the jasmine scented bath she recognised the tune in her head was Green Day. The song she’d once thought in a dark mood of sarcasm to be her deflowerer Ben Tucker’s theme song. Now it seemed to be a signature tune for her Shangri-La experience.

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