Dr. Daniel Dupont stared out the window of his Harley Street surgery and stuffed his hands into his crisp white lab coat. Lady Sybil Sinclair would soon be arriving, and the young miscreant was in for a surprise, a big surprise. When she walked into his reception area she’d find it empty. The nurse who was present at all consultations would also be absent, along with the office manager. The three women who served as his support staff had been given the afternoon off. Daniel had a very special treatment in mind for the aloof young lady, and the women in his office could not be involved. Of course it was entirely possible nothing would happen. He would have a chat with his patient, she would be given a choice, and she could very well walk out the door shortly after arriving.
One month before, the haughty young noble had waltzed into his office, eyed the decor with an air of superiority, then sat in front of his desk with a look of boredom. Daniel’s initial reaction? A sound spanking over his knee would probably cure most, if not all, that ailed her.
Lady Sybil Sinclair had been referred by another patient, a wealthy, mature businessman named Peter Barrett. Peter traveled in the circles of the well-heeled of London.
“She’s from one of those titled families who have prestige but no money, and I’ve sort of taken her under my wing,” Peter had declared. “All very confidential, if you get my drift.”
“I understand,” Daniel had assured him, “and of course anything you tell me will remain completely private. Whatever your relationship with this young woman, it is no concern of mine.”
He had assumed Peter Barrett had found himself a mistress, but Daniel wasn’t judgmental, and if Peter’s young girlfriend wasn’t feeling well, of course he’d do his best to help.
“I feel sorry for her more than anything,” Peter had said, “but I should warn you, she is a bit of a handful. Independent spirit and all that.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.”
“I have no doubt about that,” Peter had chortled.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Daniel had replied.
“You have a way about you, Dr. Dupont. Not anything I can put my finger on, but I have a feeling Sybil will listen to you.”
“Thank you, I think,” Daniel had replied, somewhat surprised. Was his dominant nature so obvious?
“It’s a compliment. You have a natural authority about you.”
“Why don’t you tell me her symptoms,” Daniel had said, eager to change the subject.
“She suffers from headaches, migraines I assume, and she gets very tired. I do hope you can find out what’s wrong with her.”
Daniel started all his patients with an interview in his office. It wasn’t the practice of most doctors, but he had faith in the process, believing it gave the new patient a sense of comfort and familiarity with him. When Sybil Sinclair had entered, though dressed in run-of-the-mill clothes, she was sporting what appeared to be a unique designer handbag, and as she’d sat down and gazed at him across his desk, in spite of her austere attitude, he had sensed a vulnerability, almost a sadness. Her almond-shaped brown eyes sat below a furrowed brow, and her full red lipstick-coated lips against her pale skin seemed to be set in a permanent pout.
“Just so you know,” she’d said wearily, “while I appreciate you fitting me in, I don’t think there’s anything seriously wrong with me. Peter’s just a fussbudget. I work late, and I get tired. No big deal.”
He’d leaned across his desk and eyed her intently.
“What do you mean, you work late?”
“Just what I said,” she’d replied with irritation. “I want to be a handbag and accessories designer. Leather accessories. All kinds of leather accessories, but I’m starting with bags. I have a studio and I’m there every night. I work until all hours.”
Her statement had sounded like a well-rehearsed speech, one she’d delivered a hundred times. He didn’t believe her, but decided to let it slide.
“Let’s start off on the right foot, shall we?” he began. “I’m the doctor. You’re the patient. I decide if there’s something wrong with you. Got it?”
He’d kept his tone firm, but his voice warm, and though she didn’t respond, her amazing eyes had stared back at him carrying an enigmatic expression he’d found impossible to read.
“I’ve looked over the paperwork you filled out,” he continued, “and outside of the headaches and fatigue, you have no other symptoms, is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“The first thing I’m going to do is draw some blood and get some tests run. You might have Epstein-Barr or—”
“I don’t have Epstein-Barr, or chronic fatigue, or anything else,” she’d said testily.
“As I said, I’m the doctor, you’re the patient,” he’d retorted, his voice sterner. “I’m under an obligation to do what I feel is necessary to determine what’s causing your less than sparkling energy level and your headaches. I’m going to do a blood profile. I work with an excellent lab and it won’t take long to get the results.”
“Fine, whatever. Stick the needle in and release me.”
He’d drawn the blood himself, not something he often did. He had hoped to start a conversation and learn something about her life, but she’d answered all his questions with monosyllabic answers, and when she’d left she’d barely said goodbye, but in spite of her offhand attitude, he found her lingering in his thoughts, and when the tests came back he was eager to view them. They had shown nothing of note, but an idea had come to mind. She might simply be run down because of late nights and a poor diet. The proverbial burning the candle at both ends with nothing to sustain her. He had called her and instructed her to keep a diary of what she was eating and drinking. She had agreed, but when she’d returned for her follow-up appointment, she had nothing to give him.
“Miss Sinclair, why did you come back here if you didn’t have the food diary? I don’t understand.”
“I, uh, thought I could just tell you. I mean, I have a pretty good memory.”
“Go ahead then, tell me about the last three days,” he’d said patiently, but as she’d talked, he had the distinct impression her failure to fulfill her assignment had been purposeful. That she had an agenda.
“That’s not much help,” he’d said. “I need you to write down what you eat, when you eat it, the times that you feel fatigued, and the times you have energy. Can you do that for me?”
She’d nodded, smiled at him, and left the office.
Now she was due for her third appointment, and even if she had the diary in hand, it would not be the main topic of conversation. The good doctor, quite by accident, had uncovered the truth behind Lady Sybil’s symptoms, and as he stood gazing out the window at the damp, drizzly day, he knew exactly how he was going to proceed.
His vigil came to an end when a taxi rolled to a stop in front of the building. Daniel watched his duplicitous patient step out and hurry up the steps. Taking a deep breath, he moved into his reception area. He’d inherited the practice from his father, a French man who had followed a bright English girl he’d met holidaying in Paris, all the way back to London. Determined to make her his bride, he had settled in the city so he could court her. His resolve had paid off, and they were still happily married. Daniel loved the story of his parents’ romance, and though he’d had several relationships in his life, he’d not found a woman for whom he had the kind of passion he’d seen between his parents, and he refused to settle for anything less.
He had always liked the old-world look of his father’s surgery, and though he’d modernized the decor when he’d taken over the practice after his father retired, he’d left the white marble fireplace in the reception room exactly as it was. It was an original Victorian mantel and it gave the space a warm dignity and a sense of history. As he perched on the arm of one of the overstuffed armchairs waiting for her, he smiled as he stared at it, recalling one of common treatments doctors would administer to their female patients in the infamous Victorian days. They would masturbate a woman to orgasm. Melancholy, aggression, muscle pains, and many other maladies were referred to as female hysteria, and it was considered helpful for a woman to have a hysterical paroxysm.
“Where is everyone?”
Daniel had been so lost in his thoughts of the bygone era he’d not heard Sybil enter the room, and slightly startled, he rose quickly to his feet.
“Sybil, please come in.”
“Where is everyone?” she repeated.
“Out,” he replied, and opening the door to his office, he ushered her inside.
“Do you want to see my diary?” she asked as she sailed past him. “Do you really think what I eat can make a difference? Will you take any more blood after you look it over? Where are your receptionist and your nurse?”
Her flurry of questions surprised him. She was usually reserved and disinterested.
“Please, take a seat,” he offered, pointing to his couch on the far side of the room.
It was an inviting, intimate area, with an armchair at each end of the couch and a coffee table between them.
“Why do you want me over there? I usually sit in front of your desk.”
“You have so much more energy this afternoon,” he remarked, “and so many questions.”
“For all the good it’s doing,” she frowned. “I’m not getting answers to any of them.”
“Would you prefer to sit in front of my desk?”
“I don’t care,” she mumbled as she walked briskly across the room and flopped down on the couch.
Sitting in the armchair nearest her, he studied her fidgeting. Her eyes stared back at him, then she unexpectedly yawned. Whatever had made her edgy and full of energy was waning. Lady Sybil was about to crash.
“How much coffee and tea have you had today?” he asked, leaning forward and studying her pupils.
“I don’t know,” she replied, her gaze unwavering. “Maybe two or three cups.”
“Were they large cups of coffee filled with sugar, or shots of espresso? What about Coca-Cola, or Pepsi?”
“Why do you care?” she grumbled, her happy expression suddenly changing.
“Excuse me?” he asked, surprised by her sudden mood swing. “I’m your doctor, remember?”
“You’ve been worried that I’ve been tired. Now you’re worried I’m not.”
“Let’s get back to the question, shall we?” he said calmly, not rising to her provocation. “How much coffee, tea, and soda have you consumed today?”
“Very well,” she sighed. “I was working late last night and I felt totally wiped out when I got out of bed so yes, I’ve downed a bit more caffeine than usual.”
“That’s still not an answer,” he said patiently. “Let’s try again. Specifically, how much coffee, tea, and soda have you had to drink since you woke up?”
“Oh, wait, it’s in my diary. What’s wrong with me?” she exclaimed, pulling it out of her bag. “Let’s see,” she murmured as she opened it up. “I had two mugs when I got out of bed, and that was regular coffee with a couple of lumps of sugar. Then I met a friend around eleven and I had two espressos, then two cups of tea at lunch, and here I am,” she said, yawning again, then added, “and I don’t know why I’m suddenly so tired.”
“You’re crashing, that’s why. What about lunch? What did you eat, and don’t tell me you had a salad with chicken and almonds, because I won’t believe you.”
“I don’t think you’ll be very happy about it,” she replied.
“Go ahead, tell me.”
“I had a piece of cheesecake,” she muttered.
“I see,” he remarked grimly. “You’re right, I’m not very happy. What about last night, how late did you work?”
“I got back to my place around two-thirty a.m.”
“Did you design a fabulous handbag?”
“Yes, I suppose,” she mumbled, dropping her eyes.
“So you can do two things at once?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, feeling her face flush red.
“When I saw you, you were swilling champagne and dancing up a storm on top of a table at the Bijou.”
“You were at the Bijou?” she exclaimed, her eyes darting up.
“When I left around eleven, you were so drunk you could barely stand up.”
Her face was burning, and she dropped her face into her hands.
“I suspect your fatigue and your headaches are simply an endless string of hangovers. Over the last few weeks you’ve insisted there’s nothing wrong with you and you were right, you just didn’t tell me why,” Daniel declared. “You didn’t tell Peter Barrett the truth either. You’ve wasted my time and Peter Barrett’s money.”
“Fuck,” she repeated.
“Do you even have a studio?”
“Yes, I have a studio, well, of sorts,” she mumbled. “My flat doubles as my studio.”
“I’m sure Peter Barrett doesn’t frequent clubs like the Bijou, so you didn’t have to worry. You told him you were working, but you were actually drinking and carrying on.”
“It’s not like that,” she said defensively. “You don’t understand. You’re making assumptions. Are you going to tell him? You know what, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. Tell him if you want.”
“I can’t,” he assured her. “You’re my patient, but I fully intend to exert my authority as your doctor.”
“What do you mean, exert your authority?”
“You need discipline, Sybil, a spanking, to be precise, then a thorough examination.”
“Excuse me?” she gasped, staring back at him with wide eyes.
“You heard me, and I hope you’ll cooperate. It will be to your benefit, I can assure you.”
“Cooperate? You think I’m going to cooperate? The hell I will. I absolutely refuse, and I’m leaving!”
He watched her jump to her feet, but as she turned to walk to the door he saw her teeter. Leaping forward, he managed to grab her just as she was about to fall, and as she leaned against him she let out a low groan.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said softly.
“I’m fine,” she protested, though her voice was weak, and he knew she was still giddy.
“You’re not fine, not by a long shot. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I want to help. I mean that, Sybil.”
As he spoke the words, he suddenly realized he meant them, and his concern went beyond his worry as her doctor. It was an odd moment, but his attention was snapped back as she staggered a second time.
“You have no idea,” she said as she gripped his arm. “No idea at all.”
“You’re right, I don’t, so why don’t you tell me?”
“If you keep this up, you’re going to end up in real trouble. You need to tell me what’s going on, and you’re not leaving here until you do.”
“You can’t stop me,” she said, raising her head and staring up at him.
“You’re right, your fainting will,” he frowned. “You need to sit down. When you feel better, if you want to leave, be my guest, but I would much prefer that you stay. I’ve grown quite fond of you, Sybil, and my desire to help you is completely sincere. It has nothing to do with Peter Barrett or anything else. It has to do with you, and you alone.”
“What will you do if I stay?”
“After you almost passed out on me, nothing, not today, except…” he paused, studying her.
“Except I am going to take you around the corner to a very nice café and feed you. This is not personal, it’s strictly professional. You need a proper meal. Tomorrow, though…”
“What about tomorrow?” she asked as he managed to sit her back down.
“You have a decision to make,” he began. “If you want me to help you, I mean really help you, you’ll have to agree to a proper spanking.”
“You clearly lack discipline, Sybil. You need authority, someone to answer to, someone to help you. Tell me I’m wrong.”
She sat silent, staring back at him, then shook her head.
“You’re not wrong,” she whispered.
“You don’t have to make up your mind right now. Think about it, and if you decide to come back you’ll know what to expect. Arrive around five-fifteen. If you don’t come I’ll understand, but right now I am going to buy you that meal. That’s not up for debate.”
“Why are you being so nice to me?” she asked softly, gazing at him.
“I like your bag,” he grinned. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The café was warm and inviting, and when they sat down he suggested his favorite entrée: chicken breast in a creamy rosemary sauce with a side of vegetables. She nodded her agreement, and when a basket of hot rolls was placed before them she devoured two of them, one after the other. She was clearly hungry and it made him wonder. Had she eaten just a piece of cheesecake for lunch because it was all she wanted, or because it was all she could afford? Surely she wasn’t that hard up, or was she?
“Tell me about your family. Do you have brothers and sisters? Do your parents live in London?”
“They live in the country. I have a brother, he lives there too,” she replied. “I don’t have much to do with them.”
“But you’re of noble birth.”
“For whatever that’s worth,” she replied. “Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure. Is it difficult, what you’re trying to do? Become an accessories designer?”
“Difficult? Difficult is finding a taxi when it’s pouring with rain,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Trying to get a boutique to stock a new handbag is like climbing a mountain, and of course I only get a check when they make a sale, which they do; I mean, my bags sell. It’s just making enough of them to earn a living.”
“I see. That’s tough,” he frowned. “That bag, the one you have with you, is that one of yours?”
“Yes, it is,” she said, perking up, her pride in her work clearly evident.
“I don’t know much about bags, but it’s eye-catching. You’re very talented.”
“Thanks. I’ve sold quite a few of that one,” she said, smiling a rare smile as she laid her knife and fork on her empty plate. “That was absolutely delicious. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, and I can see some color coming back to your cheeks.”
“I do feel better,” she admitted.
“Sybil, will you do me a favor and stay home tonight and go to bed early?”
“I, uh, okay,” she said slowly, “yes, I can do that.”
“When, or rather, if, you come back to see me tomorrow, I’ll have some vitamin supplements for you.”
“Thank you, but what if I decide not to come back?”
“I’m a great believer in vitamin therapy, and I’m sure I’ll have no problem dispensing them to my other patients.”
“That’s so kind of you.”
“How about some apple pie and custard?”
“That sounds divine,” she nodded. “I’d love some.”
When they left the café Daniel hailed her a taxi, and over her protestations he handed the driver a twenty-pound note, enough to cover just about anywhere she might need to go in Central London.
“Remember, an early night,” he said as she climbed in the back seat.
“Dr. Dupont, you’re a really nice man,” she said softly. “Thanks for everything.”
Closing the door, he stood back and watched the taxi head off down the street, then turning up the collar of his trench coat, he headed to his car park, then changed his mind and started back to his office. She was a mystery, but he wasn’t comfortable asking Peter Barrett about her. If she was Peter’s mistress, the man wasn’t taking very good care of her, or did she not want Peter’s care or generosity? It was an intriguing puzzle.
Reaching his surgery, he moved quickly through the reception room, into his inner sanctum, and directly to his filing cabinet. The women in the office were amused by his old-fashioned ways. They did all their work on a computer. Pulling open the cabinet, he flicked through the files and found Sybil’s folder. Opening it up, he stared at the address she’d provided. It was a post office box, and there was no street address listed. Glancing through the paperwork she’d filled out, he found no other clues about her life.
“I’ll just have to wait and see if you return tomorrow,” he muttered. “I hope you do. I know you’re in trouble of some kind, and I truly want to help.”