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Authors: Caro Fraser

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BOOK: A Calculating Heart
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He threw the car keys on to the hall table and went into the drawing room. She was there, as he had hoped she’d be, reclining in a position of innocent invitation, damp and sweet-smelling from a recent shower, nicking with the remote control through the channels on Leo’s wide-screen television.

‘Just what I need,’ murmured Leo, sinking on to the sofa next to her and slipping his hand into her bathrobe to find the comforting, voluptuous softness of her breast. She gave a small sigh of pleasure, arched her body slightly towards him, and then, just as Leo was about to kiss her, said, ‘I had a really horrible conversation with my parents just before you came in.’

‘Oh?’ Leo immediately felt depressed. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear at this particular moment. In an attempt to change the subject, he slid his hand down between her thighs.

But she merely wriggled with faint impatience and moved away. She wasn’t going to be deflected, he could tell. ‘What about?’ he sighed.

‘Moving in with you. They’re not keen.’

‘Why worry what they think? You’re a big, grown-up
girl. And a very sexy one, too …’ He bent his head to flick his tongue lightly over one nipple, which had the satisfactory effect of making her gasp slightly, but she moved his head gently away and carried on talking.

Leo gave up, closing his eyes to listen.

‘I don’t like doing anything that upsets them. I’m very close to them. They don’t like the fact you’re so old.’

‘You make me sound like bloody Methuselah. I’m only forty-six.’

‘It’s not just that. What happens when they put two and two together, and realise you’re the same Leo Davies who’s just had his name and face all over the papers?’

‘Mmm.’

‘They want to meet you.’

‘Oh, Christ.’

‘Well, what’s the problem with that? If we’re going to be married, you
have
to meet them.’

He was going to have to find a way to tell her that they should put the marriage idea on hold. Not that he didn’t love her … She was infinitely lovable, if only she would shut lip for a moment and let him get on with it.

‘I can’t meet them. Not this week. Not next week. Not next month, come to that.’

Why?’

‘You yourself brought up the subject of my
scandalum magnatum.
If the thought of you living with me appals them, they’re not exactly going to relish having me as a son-in-law, are they?’

She said nothing. Leo contemplated her, then pushed
the soft auburn hair away from her face. ‘Can we stop this conversation? I had hoped you were going to take my mind off things for a bit. Something I very badly need.’ He brought his mouth to hers, kissed her long and hard, and was gratified when she took his hand from her face and drew it down across her body between her legs, gasping faintly at his touch. Just as he was wondering whether his back could cope with a lovemaking session on the sofa, or whether he should take her through to the bedroom, the phone trilled next to them.

‘Oh, God …’ Camilla reached out a hand.

‘Don’t answer it.’ He kissed her again.

‘I can’t concentrate.’ She reached out and picked the phone up before he could stop her. He suspected she thought it might be her mother. He rolled away.

‘Hello?’ After a second she handed the phone to Leo.

‘Leo? It’s Rachel.’

‘Rachel.’ Leo sighed inwardly. His ex-wife had exquisite timing. ‘How are you?’

‘Not great. But I don’t suppose you are either.’

You saw the paper.’

‘Of course I saw the paper.’

‘It’s all rubbish.’ He glanced up as Camilla rose from the sofa, pulling her dressing-gown around her, and left the room.

‘Is it?’

‘Oh, Christ, here we go … Rachel, you
know
it is. The woman is a fantasist, an obsessive. I had to get an injunction to—’

‘No, my only concern is for Oliver.’

‘What’s Oliver got to do with it?’

‘I’ve had reporters outside the house all day! Beth couldn’t even take him out for a walk!’

‘That is regrettable. For that, I am very sorry. But I had no idea any of this was going to happen.’

‘Everyone else has to suffer for the appalling indiscretions you commit in your personal life—’

‘Rachel, did you ring me up just to have a go at me? I’m very sorry about the reporters. I’m very sorry your name got into the papers. I’m very sorry that she told such god awful lies about myself and Oliver. All in all, I’m very bloody sorry for myself right at this moment. Okay?’ There was silence at the other end. The old story, thought Leo. She had this need to provoke an emotional response in him. It couldn’t be love, so anything else would do.

‘What are you going to do?’ Her voice was quieter.

‘I’m not going to do a damn thing.’

‘But if it’s all as libellous as you say—’

‘Thanks for the “if.” Believe me, were I to issue proceedings, we’d all be sorrier in the long run. You, me and Oliver. As a lawyer, you should know that.’

‘Yes.’ She sounded even more subdued. ‘
Yes
, you’re right.’ He heard her sigh. ‘It’s so unpleasant. Everyone at work—’

‘I know. Believe me, I know. I haven’t had the best day myself.’

‘You still manage to find yourself a little feminine consolation, I notice.’

‘Rachel—’

‘Sorry.’ She was struggling with something. Tears? Anxiety? He had no idea. She always wound herself up by calling him like this, these futile exchanges … ‘Look,’ she went on, ‘can we meet up for lunch sometime soon?’

‘If you like. I intend to keep a low profile for the rest of this week, but perhaps we can do something the following week. I’ll have a look in my diary and let you know. By the way, I take it I’m having Oliver this weekend?’

‘Yes. Can you pick him up before ten on Saturday? Charles and I are going to France for the weekend.’

‘Right.’ Leo was momentarily surprised by this. ‘I thought you and he—’

‘That’s something I’ll tell you about when I see you.’

‘Fine. And look – I’m sorry about the publicity, this wretched woman. The last thing in the world I want is for you and Oliver to suffer.’

‘I know.’ She sighed. ‘It’s far worse for you. I only hope it isn’t going to damage your practice.’

From the maintenance point of view, I’ll bet you do, thought Leo. ‘No, I hope not. Bye.’

‘Bye.’

He hung up the phone and leant back, closing his eyes. He was aware of Camilla snuggling up next to him. He remained as he was, letting her unfasten his shirt, then the waistband of his trousers. ‘Shall we pick up where we left off?’ said Camilla, parting her robe and kissing him.

A few moments ago he would have thought himself
incapable of arousal for the rest of the evening, but he was wrong. She was turning into a delightfully skilful lover. Given how gauche and unadventurous she had been just a few weeks ago, Leo felt he’d done wonders with her. It was just a question of working out exactly what to do with her in the long run.

Rachel put the phone down. She stood for a moment by the desk, staring out at the glimmering summer dusk, then became aware of her own reflection in the panes, her pale face, dark, sleek hair around her shoulders, the strained and tense expression on her face. She made an effort to relax. She hated so much hearing another woman’s voice on the phone when she rang Leo. Another woman sharing his time, his bed, enjoying his company and his affection, all that she had lost.

Charles came through from the kitchen, stood behind her and kissed her neck, adding his reflection to hers. Maybe if he were a bastard, just like Leo, she would love him as much. But it was beyond Charles to be anything but kind and sweet.

‘How was he?’ he asked.

‘Oh, robust as ever.’ Rachel sighed. ‘Not going to do a thing about it.’

‘Did you expect there would be writs flying in all directions?’

‘Leo knows that would be worse for us all in the long run. Just imagine what a field day the media would have with a libel action, when it came to trial. No, he intends to
ride it out, so far as I can tell. Which is what we’ll have to do, too.’

‘Poor bastard.’

‘Please, don’t start feeling sorry for Leo. I know you like him, but I’ve no doubt this predicament is partly of his own making. He can’t be entirely blameless.’

‘Oh, come on. He’s going to have to suffer the fallout, professionally.’

‘I know. I can imagine a lot of potential clients will run a mile from instructing him now.’

In her 2,000-a-night hotel suite, Adriana Papaposilakis, somewhat late in the day, was reading a copy of
The Sun.
She nicked back through the pages and scanned once again the features of the QC who was at the centre of the scandalous story about this poor television presenter. Very handsome. Quite remarkably so. He was also apparently amoral and licentious to an extraordinary degree, if the story was to be believed, but given the average wronged woman’s propensity for vengeful hysterics, Adriana doubted if the portrait was strictly accurate. Accurate or not, to her such qualities weren’t without their attraction. Dangerous and challenging men were few and far between, in her personal experience. Her own power and wealth – and beauty, of course – seemed to have an emasculating effect upon them, rendering them soft, easy and ultimately tiresome. This man looked more formidable and interesting than most. How useful, too, that he happened to be a commercial barrister of the first rank. She wondered why she hadn’t come across
him before. He would be a thrilling change from the dry, boring lawyers who generally handled the affairs of her multi-million-pound Greek shipping line. Just the man to help her with the vexing matter of the insurers who were refusing to pay out on the loss of her yacht. She smiled, yawned, ruffled her blonde hair with a small and delicate hand, then reached for a pen to note down the name. Leo Davies.

Henry came into chambers especially early the next morning to oversee the smooth settling in of the new tenants. On the steps outside he encountered a small number of journalists and photographers, clamouring for information about Leo.

‘I very much doubt if Mr Davies will be in chambers today,’ Henry informed them sternly, ‘so you can get off my steps and stop wasting your time.’

When he peered out of the waiting room window half an hour later, they were still there.

‘They’ll probably wait out there all day, on the off-chance,’ remarked Felicity. ‘Nothing better to do.’

‘Has anyone spoken to Mr Davies since yesterday morning?’ asked Henry.

‘He rang late yesterday afternoon and said he wouldn’t be in for the rest of this week. Asked me to rearrange his cons, and would I look at his diary and see if he could manage—’ Felicity
stopped suddenly, picked up her papers and turned away.

Henry, surprised by the abrupt truncation of their conversation, looked round to see a tall, sharply dressed man in his early thirties coming into the clerks’ room. It was Peter Weir, the new clerk who was joining chambers with the tenants from 3 Wessex Street, and Henry was very glad to see him. Not only had they badly needed a new pair of hands for some months, but Henry also hoped that Peter’s confident, assertive manner would be good for business.

‘Morning,’ said Peter cheerfully. He and Henry shook hands.

‘Good to see you,’ said Henry. ‘We’ve got a desk all ready for you. Here we are …’

It didn’t take long for Henry to familiarise Peter with the computer system and take him through the working set-up of the clerks’ room, but while doing so he was conscious that Felicity was studiously avoiding any contact with Peter. She hadn’t even said hello to him. When Peter eventually went off to take some papers to the new tenants and acquaint himself with the layout of chambers, Henry turned to Felicity. ‘What’s got into you?’

Felicity looked at him, stony-faced. ‘Nothing.’ She picked up a bundle of faxes and left the room.

‘Will someone tell me,’ Henry appealed to Robert, ‘what’s going on?’

‘According to Sarah—’ At that instant, Robert’s phone began to ring. A blonde girl came into the clerks’ room, and Robert gestured in her direction. ‘There’s Sarah. Ask
her about it. She knows.’ He picked up the phone.

‘Good morning, Henry,’ said Sarah Coleman breezily. ‘I see the gentlemen of the press are decorating the front steps.’ Sarah was one of three pupils in training at 5 Caper Court – though in Sarah’s case she had already decided that the amount of time and effort involved in being a barrister was far from worth it. She had only taken up the pupillage because of Leo, with whom she had a long-standing and unorthodox relationship, and because it had seemed an amusing thing to do at the time. Now she was counting the time until her pupillage ended in September, and casting around for other things to do with her life.

‘I wish they’d bugger off,’ said Henry peevishly. ‘Tell me – what’s the problem between Felicity and the new clerk, Peter? Robert says you know.’

Sarah smiled. Poor old Henry, doggedly devoted to Fliss, and always the last to know what she was up to. She raised her eyebrows. ‘I must say I was surprised when I heard you’d taken Peter Weir on. Clearly you had no idea.’

‘About what?’

‘He and Fliss were having a bit of a fling until recently. I don’t think she’s exactly thrilled that you’ve recruited him. In fact, I suspect she’ll be looking round for another job very soon.’

Henry was stunned. Felicity and Peter Weir? So he was the mysterious man whom she’d been seeing, who’d made her look so radiantly happy all those weeks.

‘But he’s married.’

Sarah shrugged. ‘These things do happen.’ She sighed. ‘Pity you didn’t realise sooner.’

Henry sat down at his desk in dismay taking it all in. He had no illusions about Felicity, had never really harboured any hopes that she might reciprocate his feelings, but he had always thought better of her than this. An affair with a married man, one with a family, too … Not that he wished to sit in judgment on anyone. He just couldn’t help feeling disappointed. And miserably jealous, if he was honest. For all her coarse language and immodest dress sense, he loved Felicity. The thought that Peter Weir had –

Felicity came back in at that moment, stopping that particular train of thought. Henry regarded her with a heavy heart. Leaving aside his own feelings, as head clerk he couldn’t tolerate an atmosphere. It didn’t do to have any animosity in the clerks’ room, otherwise things couldn’t run smoothly. He went over to Felicity’s desk.

‘Can we have a word?’ Felicity glanced up at him and nodded moodily. ‘Let’s go and get a coffee,’ said Henry, and she got up and followed him out to the privacy of the small kitchen.

‘Now,’ said Henry, when he had poured them both some coffee, ‘I don’t want to know the ins-and-outs of whatever was going on with you and Peter Weir—’ Fliss made a face and sipped her coffee, ‘—but I think we need to sort the present situation out. I can’t have you going around not talking to him.’

‘What d’you expect me to do? How can I behave decently towards someone who did what he did? I’d never
have gone near him if I’d known he was married – and with kids. Bastard.’

‘You didn’t know?’

‘Course I didn’t. I’m not some kind of home wrecker.’ Felicity’s eyes grew moist. Henry’s ever-tender heart tipped a little. ‘I wish you’d told me you were thinking of taking him on,’ added Felicity. ‘It might have spared us a lot of trouble.’

Henry was about to say something suitably pompous about it being the head clerk’s place to make decisions without reference to junior clerks, but he thought better of it. He sighed. ‘Perhaps. I’m sorry. He seemed a logical choice. He knows this new lot, and he’s very able.’

‘Oh, yeah. Sure.’

‘Look, I don’t want bad feeling in the clerks’ room. I can do without that. We all can. I’m asking you to make an effort to be polite to him. Can you do that?’

Felicity shrugged. ‘Dunno. For as long as I have to, I suppose.’

‘What does that mean?’ Henry felt a hollow sense of apprehension. He had often consoled himself with the thought that, even if his love for Felicity was doomed to remain forever unrequited, at least he got to see her every day. If she were to go, his life would become barren, meaningless.

‘Henry, I don’t think I can stand having to see his smarmy face every day. I might start looking round for another job.’

In that moment, as in so many moments, Henry wished he could take his courage in his hands and tell her how he felt, let a torrent of true and passionate feeling pour forth. But of course he wouldn’t. She already knew, anyway – he
could see it in her eyes. It wouldn’t change the situation. Probably make her more likely to leave, if anything.

‘Well, I hope it won’t come to that. I value you. Very much.’

Felicity looked at Henry’s sad eyes. God, he was a nice bloke. Nicest she knew. She hated to see him look so miserable. ‘Don’t worry.’ She laid a light hand on his shoulder and gave his cheek a quick peck. ‘I’ll try to be civil to the bastard in the meantime.’ She picked up her coffee and went back to the clerks’ room.

Later that afternoon, most of the inhabitants of 5 Caper Court drifted in to Inner Temple Common Room for afternoon tea. It was a quaint and useful ritual, a way of relaxing and chatting with people with whom one might normally exchange only the briefest of greetings, in spite of sharing the same chambers.

Marcus, who had spent the day trying to arrange his new room to his exacting tastes and prepare for a three-week hearing corning up the following Monday, looked in on Ann Halliday en route to tea. She was still in a muddle of books and boxes, jacket on the back of her chair, papers spread out before her. Marcus noticed that so far she hadn’t made any attempt to brighten the room up with personal belongings, such as pictures or plants.

‘How’s it going?’ he asked.

She looked up and sighed. ‘I haven’t had a minute to sort things out. Peter’s landed me with a new joint-venture case. They want the opinion first thing tomorrow.’

‘Don’t tell me you’re too busy to come to tea. Wouldn’t look good on our first day. Got a duty to be sociable.’

‘I suppose fifteen minutes won’t make any odds. I’m going to be here all evening, anyway.’ She closed her books and left chambers with Marcus.

Maurice Faber was comfortably ensconced in one of the armchairs, holding forth to David, William, and Stephen Bishop. Already the centre of attention, thought Marcus.

Roderick Hayter, the head of chambers, came in with Simon Barron and two pupils, a quiet, nervous young man and a girl with dark hair and watchful eyes, both of whom, new and raw, merely sat with their tea on the fringes of the group, listening to the conversation.

Maurice stirred his tea and eyed Roderick Hayter. The word was that he would be a High Court judge before the year was out, and 5 Caper Court would need a new head of chambers. The job was not an easy one, and therefore not to the taste of many barristers, but ever since childhood and the first competitive flush of prep school, Maurice had had an appetite for positions of pre-eminence. The same spark of aspiration which had driven him to be form captain, head of house, head of the debating team, captain of the First XV (but not quite President of the Oxford Union – Maurice had no political inclinations and gauged carefully the likely return on any expended energy) had made him a thrusting and aggressive lawyer, one of the youngest QCs in his year, with an appetite for success. The fact was, Maurice liked to come top. He never asked himself whether it might
be some sense of inadequacy which made him so keen to be acclaimed and recognised, or whether his parents might have done better to set less store by the badges and honours and form prizes. He simply strove, from morning to night, as he always had done, eager to win. Cases, women, arguments …

He sat weighing up the other likely contenders. Stephen Bishop? Not a chance, too easy-going, probably wouldn’t even put himself in the running. Jeremy Vane? A possibility. Jeremy liked nothing better than swanking about, being top dog. Not that he was much liked. Leo Davies? He was a dark horse, universally liked and admired in spite of everything one heard … Maurice suspected Leo couldn’t care one way or the other about being head of chambers, but that was just the kind of quality one had to watch out for. Still, in the light of this recent scandal, Maurice couldn’t see even Leo being a popular choice. If and when the time came, Maurice felt he’d be in with a fairly good chance. It wouldn’t be easy, being so new to 5 Caper Court, but Maurice liked a challenge. He had a few months to make his mark.

As Roderick sank into a chair next to him, placing his tea cup carefully on the table, Maurice remarked, ‘I was surprised you didn’t take the opportunity to take out an ad in
The Times’

‘Sorry?’ said Roderick.

Maurice waved a hand in the direction of Ann and Marcus. ‘Expanding chambers. Plenty of chambers seem to seize the chance to advertise. You know the
kind of thing. A big box in Legal Appointments pages: “Five Caper Court is pleased to announce, et cetera, et cetera.”’

‘Sounds like something in the births columns,’ said Michael Gibbon. ‘I’m not very keen on that kind of self-publicising. Not quite our style.’

Bristling at the implied criticism in this remark, Maurice replied swiftly, ‘I suppose you prefer the other kind of publicity? The kind Leo Davies has been attracting?’ He raised an eyebrow.

There was a brief, embarrassed silence. ‘No one’s much enjoyed that,’ said Simon. ‘Least of all Leo.’

At that moment Sarah came into the common room with David Liphook, her pupilmaster. She glanced across at the other tenants as she collected her tea. The dark-haired guy next to Roderick must be Maurice Faber. Interesting. She liked the dark, Mediterranean looks, the liquid eyes. Bit old, though, forty at least. Leaving Leo aside, old guys were a bit of a drag. Her gaze shifted to Marcus. His ebony features seemed to stand out amongst the other pallid faces in the common room. Dead, white males, thought Sarah. Just about summed up the Bar. Compared to them, Marcus really was something. At that moment Marcus looked up and met Sarah’s gaze. He returned it for a few cool seconds, then looked away. A touch supercilious, perhaps, thought Sarah, but she liked that. She liked something to work on. She smiled as she picked up her tea and followed David over. Maybe this new bunch would make her last couple of months in chambers a little more interesting.

She sat down next to Camilla, who was nicking through a newspaper.

‘No further scandal about dearest Leo?’ said Sarah. Camilla gave her a cold glance and said nothing. She had no wish to talk to Sarah about anything, particularly Leo. ‘I suppose yesterday was bad enough. I don’t blame him for going to ground.’ Sarah sipped her tea. ‘Still, at least now you know just what kind of a person he is. You wouldn’t hear it from me.’

Camilla folded up the paper. ‘You don’t think I believe that woman’s pathetic story, do you? Nobody does, Sarah. Nobody in their right mind.’

Sarah crossed her legs and sighed reflectively. ‘You mean that you don’t have the least – how do we lawyers put it? – the least lurking doubt? Come on, Camilla. There had to be something going on. You know what he’s like. Nothing is ever what it seems with Leo. Your trouble is you’re too ready to believe anything he says. At least I know better than that. But then, I
do
know Leo. Properly. In ways you never will.’

Camilla got up and left without a word. She’d let Sarah drip enough poison in her ear in the past. She didn’t want to hear any more. Anyway, she told herself as she crossed the cobblestones of Mitre Court, Sarah was merely jealous. She couldn’t stand the idea that Leo should bother with someone whom Sarah no doubt regarded as her inferior. For Sarah, life was about looks, clothes, possessions and being seen in the right places with the right people. She didn’t understand how things were between herself and Leo. He
wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. All right, he was no saint … He’d been frank with her from the start, told her about the kind of life he lived, the things he’d done, the way he was … Camilla had to admit that wasn’t quite true. He would never have told her about Anthony, if Sarah hadn’t. She didn’t want to think about that. Leo and Anthony in bed together. No, she wouldn’t let her mind go there. She would concentrate on the positive things.

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