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Authors: June Francis

A Daughter's Choice

BOOK: A Daughter's Choice
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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by June Francis

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Acknowledgements

Copyright

About the Book

Seventeen year old Katie is about to discover a devastating family secret...

Katie is the apple of her mother's eye and is being groomed to take over the family business. But when Celia, her natural mother, re-enters her life, her world is turned completely upside down.

Tormented by her divided loyalties, Katie is plagued by a question Celia refuses to answer – who is her real father?

(Note: Originally published as
Somebody Else's Girl
)

About the Author

June Francis was brought up in the port of Liverpool, UK. Although she started her novel writing career by writing medieval romances, it seemed natural to also write family sagas set in her home city due to its fascinating historical background, especially as she has several mariners in her family tree and her mother was in service. She has written twenty sagas set in Merseyside, as well as in the beautiful city of Chester and Lancashire countryside.

Visit June Francis's website at:
www.junefrancis.co.uk

Also by June Francis:

A Mother's Duty

Dedicated to my sister Irene May Holmes
who was the first to say
‘Tell me a story.'

‘What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice,

That's what little girls are made of.'

Chapter One

Katie Mcleod was aware of eyes watching her: almond-shaped ones and liquid brown in dark faces, as well as blue and grey in pale faces. This part of the city had long been multi-racial even before the cry had gone out to the Commonwealth that Britain needed more workers. Katie tried to hurry but could only take tiny steps, her hips swaying seductively, as she crossed the street which had once been the boundary between old Liverpool and the hunting park of Toxteth.

She reached the comparative safety of the pavement in Hope Street, on one side of which lay the old cemetery of St James's. Her heartbeat slowed but she opted to walk on the other side where the four-storey houses of Gambier Terrace showed lights. At the far end of the terrace were the buildings of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and clubs for seamen.

A car glided to a halt a few yards in front of her, and a woman who had been standing against a wall applying lipstick, clicked her compact shut and walked over to it. There was a murmur of voices then she slid into the car and it drove off.

Katie swayed on. She felt very alone now the woman had gone and tried to put on a spurt – only to collide with a man who stepped out of the shadows. Her heart jumped as he steadied her and said in a foreign accent, ‘I come with you and we have a good time?'

‘No, thanks!' said Katie in alarm, freeing herself and smoothing the sleeve of her jumper.

‘I have money.' He touched her hair. ‘Preety colour.'

‘Nice of you to say so but I've got to get home.' She walked on but he fell into step beside her. She eyed him warily. A sickly scent clung to him, and when he smiled he reminded her of a minor villain in a black and white film. She turned the corner into Sandon Terrace but he was still sticking with her. ‘Will you go away?' she repeated, turning on him. ‘You're not my type.'

He frowned. ‘What do you mean? You play games with me?' He grabbed her arm and she stamped on his foot. His expression turned ugly and he kicked her in the shins.

‘You pig!' she gasped, incensed, and began struggling like a wild thing as he seized her other arm.

The roar of a car coming up the steep hill shattered the evening calm. It came to a halt with a squeal of brakes. The next moment the man was being dragged away from her and there was a flurry of fists as blows were exchanged before her attacker tore free and ran down the hill.

Her rescuer turned and said in a slightly breathless voice, ‘You're forrit, Katie! Ma's going to kill you!'

‘No, she won't,' drawled a woman's voice from the car. ‘You all ruin that girl.'

Katie ignored this and took hold of her half-brother's arm. ‘I think he thought I was one of them women … you know.'

‘Serves you right,' said Ben Ryan, gazing down at her. ‘Look at the muck on your face, and that skirt's too tight.'

‘You're an old square, Ben.' She scowled at him as she fingered her shin gingerly.

‘When you two are finished,' interrupted that cool female voice again, ‘we're supposed to be going for a drink.'

‘Coming, Sarah.' Ben turned towards the car where she sat in the driving seat, tapping scarlet-tipped fingers on the steering wheel.

Katie pulled a face but allowed him to hustle her over to the car. She would rather walk than accept a lift from Ben's girlfriend but knew he would yell blue murder if she even suggested it. Besides, her leg was hurting and Ma was going to have something to say about that!

Ben lifted her over the low door of the open-topped pre-war sports car and climbed in after her. Sarah nudged Katie in the ribs as she gave the car its head and it roared along Hope Street as if it had all the Keystone Cops after it. Katie looked at Ben and he winked.

She returned the wink and thought how nice-looking he was, with eyelashes she envied. His hair was dark gold and curled about his ears. He had Ma's blue eyes and determined chin, was stocky in build but all muscle. He was thirty-two and could have married years ago but it seemed he had never met anyone who could quite match up to the wayward, quick-tempered, vivacious but lovely Sarah O'Neill, as the family still called her, despite her having married a Yank and been widowed.

The car screeched to a halt as it reached the crossroads by the Philharmonic Hall. Ben and Katie winced and exchanged looks. ‘Mick phoned after you went out,' she said as they crossed Hardman Street.

‘He did?' Ben frowned at the mention of his eldest brother who had been in the Royal Navy since the onset of the Second World War. Now, eighteen years on, he was coming home for good.

Sarah's head turned. ‘When's he arriving?'

‘Look where you're going!' yelled Ben as they narrowly missed hitting the pavement outside the Hope Hall cinema.

The car turned into Mount Pleasant where the Arcadia Hotel was situated and Sarah repeated her question.

‘Tomorrow,' said Katie. ‘He's quite old really is our Mick.'

‘Seven years older than me,' said Ben.

‘Why d'you think he never got married?'

Ben paused and lit a cigarette. ‘Don't ask me,' he murmured. ‘He's had enough girlfriends in his time.'

‘Never found the right one,' said Sarah with an odd note in her voice, bringing the car abruptly to a halt. ‘Out, kid,' she addressed Katie. ‘We've wasted enough time chasing after you.'

Katie stuck out her tongue at her, climbed over Ben and out of the car. She blew a kiss at him before limping across the pavement and into the hotel.

Kitty Mcleod, past sixty and starting to feel her years, flung the offending tight skirt into a corner of Katie's bedroom and said, ‘You'll unpick all those stitches, my girl! And I'll think twice before letting you go out to that so-called friend of yours again!'

‘It's not her fault!' Katie sat on the bed with her bare legs stretched out in front of her. ‘It was me who wanted to do it, and I knew if I did it here you'd kick up a fuss.'

‘Too right I would!'

‘See what I mean? I'm going to be seventeen soon and it's time you allowed me more freedom.'

‘I gave you your freedom this evening and look what happened – you got molested!' Kitty shook her head and pressed the plaster down hard over the cut on the girl's leg, not wanting to think what might have happened if Ben had not gone looking for her. All her dreams were wrapped up in this girl whom she loved passionately. She remembered Katie entering her life as if it were yesterday …

It had been May 1941 and the Luftwaffe had been hellbent on wiping Merseyside from the face of the earth. For seven nights running they had rained down destruction and on the last night Celia Mcdonald had turned up, heavily pregnant and in need of shelter. She had laboured through the night, convinced she was going to die, and begged Kitty to bring up her baby if it survived. But Celia had not died. Instead she named her daughter Katherine, after Kitty, and then disappeared.

After four sons it had seemed like a gift from heaven and Kitty had brought the girl up to believe she was Kitty's own daughter. It had not always been easy, though only a few people knew the truth but Kitty still lived with the fear that one day Celia might return and claim her beloved girl.

She smiled down at Katie and slapped her leg lightly. ‘Into bed with you now.'

Katie pulled down the skirt of her nightgown and yawned. She really was very tired and her stomach still quivered when she thought about what might have happened if Ben had not come along. He had always been there to protect her for as long as she could remember. She snuggled beneath the bedcovers, thinking of the others. She imagined Mick coming up the Mount tomorrow; she remembered his previous homecomings had always been something to look forward to because he'd always brought her presents. There had been dolls in foreign costume, embroidered fans, a fringed shawl, a music box which tinkled a lullaby or a waltz with a ballerina figure turning on tiptoe. His last voyage had taken in all the far-flung corners of the Commonwealth and she was hoping for a boomerang but guessed she was in for a disappointment because this family never forgot she was a girl.

In fact, it was her being a girl that her brother Jack seemed to hate most. Her senior by seven years, when she was born he was in Ireland staying with the O'Neill family on their farm where his parents had sent him at the beginning of the war, so they had not set eyes on each other until the war ended. They shared the same birthday and she had been prepared to adore him.
He was her full brother after all!
They were Mcleods! Mick, Teddy and Ben were the sons of Kitty's first husband Michael Ryan, who had died way back in the early thirties. She had not been able to understand it when Jack tore off her ribbons and hung her teddy bear by the neck from the light fitting in her room. He had taunted her, saying she was a spoilt baby and a rotten girl, and had nearly drowned her in Cornwallis Street baths. She had not split on him because she felt that would be sneaking, but one day she had come home barefoot because he had buried her shoes in the sand at New Brighton and she had been unable to find them. Ma and Pops had come down on him like a ton of bricks then and afterwards he seemed to hate her even more. When he was eighteen he left home for Edinburgh to study medicine. Since then she had seen little of him, but it still hurt that they had never been friends.

Teddy was the middle one of the Ryan brothers but she had never seen much of him because he had married before she was born and now lived in Oxford with his wife Jeannie, who was Pops' daughter from his first marriage and so was Katie's half-sister, and their two children. Relationships in the family could sound kind of complicated when trying to explain them to outsiders.

It was Ben who was her favourite and she hated the thought that one day Sarah might completely supplant her in his affections. For a moment she thought what she would like to do to Sarah, then drifted into sleep.

BOOK: A Daughter's Choice
13.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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