Paradise Palace-June 1920

It is just before dawn when the car makes its way down through the familiar gates and down the long path to the country estate…the palace they like call it, Paradise Palace. But Carla Gordon thinks it's rather suited as a prison over anything else.

The driver stops at the front of the house, it was a "Vanderbilt house", it used to be neo-classical but Antony insisted it he wanted to present himself and his family as a little more modern and cater to American sensibilities. He so badly wanted American investments. Carla is taken aback because she had been holed up in London for nearly four months and the changes to the Estate are remarkable.

Her driver gets out quickly and opens the door, "Here you are Mrs. Gordon."

"Thank you Edson. You'll collect my bags I hope."

"Yes Miss right away."

It is raining and her driver opens up her umbrella shielding her from the down pour making sure her Coco Chanel coat doesn't get wet. Once she got to up the steps all the house staff was waiting for her and greeted her with great formality.

"Mrs. Gordon, we weren't sure when to be expecting you. We certainly weren't expecting until the day after tomorrow," said the housekeeper Libby.

"My husband sent a telegram, told me I had to come back today." Carla stared at her housekeeper with hollow eyes. She did not want to give any more information away. The help had a knack for scandalous gossip. Carla knew without a doubt that the horrendous state of her marriage had spread around the country like wild fire as it had in the London high society.

"Shall I leave the bags here Mrs. Gordon?" asked Edson the driver.

Carla spun around looking at him with her piercing green eyes, "Yes, and put them down gently Edson you won't want to wake the whole house. Someone will be along sure enough to take them to the drawing room."

"Yes of course Mrs. Gordon."

"Where is my husband Libby?" Carla asked her housekeeper a plump old woman with gray hair. She began to sweep through the grand hall, as though she was walking on clouds. Carla had a way of making things always look so easy, ever since she was a little girl her parents expected nothing else less then her effortless perfection. She glided through the main hallway with its marble floors and many tapestries. The servants were bustling past her polishing candle stands and carrying various items to other destinations of the house.

"He's in the study ma'am."

"At this hour?"

"You know your husband Mrs. Gordon. He's been very stressed with the practice and then there are the business ventures. He needs more backing and his father won't foot the bill this time."

"I thought it fell through with the Americans?"

"Oh it did ma'am but he found somebody else much more suitable, if you ask me."

"I didn't ask."

Libby looked visibly stunned before continuing, "They're the old Connor family. Had a few ancestors who were Barons or baronets can't remember. Anyways they are coming today the two shipping heirs, brothers Paul and Liam."

"Hmmm," said Carla. It all made sense now. The only reason Tony asked her back at the Country home was so he could use her in his games to secure more money and investments. She had heard rumors of her husband looking into investing in businesses while she was in London. He hadn't bothered to tell her the news himself in the countless letters he wrote begging her to come home. He always kept things secret; Carla wished he would just focus on his practice. He was the heir by birth to a great diamond fortune but a doctor by trade. She pushes open the big oak doors to his study and he looks up at her immediately.

"You're back and so early, didn't think you had it in you to make the journey." Tony looks at Carla with a sneer enveloping his normally handsome features.

"Yes," says Carla stiffly.

Like she had a choice in the manner. Her parents made it perfectly clear she had outstayed her welcome at there townhouse in the city. Her mother practically made it seem like Carla's presence was ruining her faux salons and her father lectured her on duty and sensibilities required of a lady of her standing. Her parents would not have her ruin the family name and create scandal across the London society. No one cared how Carla felt, or that wanted out. She held all these thoughts in here mind like she usually did, biting down on her tongue and drawing blood. He wouldn't even offer her a seat like a proper gentleman.

"So you decided to finally give up your little games, get your priorities straight, come to your senses?'

"Yes Tony." Carla tries not to make eye contact with her husband. She knows immediately that she has already messed up. He will only have perfection and nothing else.

"You know I don't like it when you call me that Carla." His voice was in a deadly whisper.

Carla stiffened her body immediately, she felt like a child around him more then she ever had a wife.

"Yes Antony."

"Good. Do you like what I've down with the place? The outside my architect tells me it gives the place more of a modern look. And I'll have the designer in here soon enough to liven things up."

"I thought the servants were just tidying up for the visitors today, the Connor brothers?"

"Oh that, yes they are. But I have them packing some of our stuff to. I don't want the designer to think the estate is too cluttered. Speaking of the Connors, everything must be perfect today. I don't want any scenes Carla. If we're going to make this work you have to conduct yourself in a fashion befitting your station. I don't need you spending another five months away from me again. And besides there's Giulia to consider."

Giulia was there daughter of nine years aged. She was the splitting image of Carla, although she had her fathers temper. When Tony had last hurt her, she packed her bags and that of their daughters. But Tony had made it clear that Giulia was not going to be going anywhere with her mother. Tony didn't even particularly seem to care for his daughter; he only viewed her as pawn to be used in his game against Carla. Sure he could be affectionate, but that was on rear occasions. He never really made time for her outside of the time the servants brought her forth from the nursery in the mornings.

"I care about Giulia very much Anthony you know that."

"Frankly I couldn't really care what you care about darling. But it will make for a useful case against you, should you ever decide to pull any more that crap you did five months ago. I know for a fact the lawyers in that petition for the divorce you so courageously filed would be interested to hear all about it.. Do I make myself clear?"

Tony had removed himself from the comfort of his chair and walk towards Carla. She flinched as she saw him coming forward praying he would not hit her again. She had to be prepared if he decided to punch her in the side of her head, and try and keep her balance. He seemed to hit her even when she did nothing wrong, instead he grabs for her arm lightly at first.

"Do you understand? Tony whispers in her air, his voice tyrannical. When Carla tries to step away he grips her elbow and drags her in to him. She is caught in her husbands grasp, his fingernails like talons, he wants to leave his mark.

God she thinks, as she smells the faint scent of cognac on his breath, please don't hurt me already. I just came back please don't bruise me…

"Antony please, it hurts. You've been drinking; you wouldn't be saying this if you hadn't been drinking. Oh it hurts."

"Say you understand and it won't hurt go on say it. You know I don't like games. If you just behaved then we wouldn't have these problems, I wouldn't have to drink."

"I understand Antony I understand," Carla is close to tears. Tony wears the most triumph face imaginable.

"Well that was easy wasn't it? I really don't why you always have to make it so difficult, its like pulling teeth." Tony's eyes are illuminated and he gives out a final smirk before adding, "Take off that dreadful Coco Chanel coat and have bath, you smell like the city stench."

"Yes Antony," Carla says slowly backing out of the room facing him. She does not want to risk the very real chance that her husband may have the urge just to throw something at her backside just for the shear joy of it. He has done it before, and it has drawn blood. Bowing her way out, she quickly closes the door and races for freedom past the servants up the grand staircase. She feels almost like a child, if she survived this perhaps he would settle down and she could survive the other stuff to. Of course Carla is also angry at herself for not having more courage, but then she hears the rustling of a child coming from the nursery as the servants bid her morning and she thinks perhaps the time for courage will have to wait. The courage she had shown five months ago had gotten her nowhere. She only felt more alone then ever and her parents made it perfectly clear she would not be permitted a divorce. Right now all she wants to do is hold her daughter, her only reason for being here, and she can now because Giulia has risen.