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Authors: Ruthe Ogilvie

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BOOK: Cast An Evil Eye
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In spite of Zack’s trepidation over the whole matter, he couldn’t help being amused at her declaration. He turned his head so she wouldn’t see the look on his face. “Love seldom happens that fast, Courtney,” he chided her.

But Courtney wouldn’t be talked out of it, and she made an announcement that completely floored him. “I’ve invited him to join me at the theater tonight! Oh, I can’t wait!”

Zack remembered how excited Cammie was at Courtney’s age when she told them all that she was going to marry the man she thought was Count Francois Dubonnet II—now known as Gregory Wilcox, Jr. What a disaster that was! He cringed just thinking of it. He couldn’t yet put his finger on what was bothering him about this young man, but he was convinced that he was bad news. He’s after something. But what?

“What’s the matter, Uncle Zack?” Courtney asked. “You don’t look pleased. Did I do something wrong?”

Zack quickly recovered. I don’t have any concrete evidence, he realized, so I can’t say anything. Courtney would only resist if I tried to warn her. He thought for a moment before speaking. Then he posed a very pertinent question. “How do you think your mother and father will feel about this? Wasn’t this supposed to be just a family gathering tonight? Manny is a complete stranger.”

Courtney pouted. “But I’ve already asked him. I can’t un-ask him. Besides,” she tossed her head in defiance, “I don’t want to. I want him there as my guest. I have a right to ask anyone I choose, and I choose him!”

The announcement from the Captain came to return their seats to the upright position ready for the landing, and Zack decided to say nothing more for the time being.

The long, sleek limousine was waiting to take them to the Stuart Manor in Scarsdale. The parkways were fairly free from congested traffic at this hour, and twenty minutes later they crossed the Whitestone Bridge and entered the Hutchinson River Parkway that would take them into Westchester County.

As they rode along, the maple trees could be seen forming an archway over the road. The autumn leaves were just beginning to fall, leaving a path of brown, yellow, orange, rust, and magenta hues on the sidewalks. The bicycle enthusiasts in their brightly colored attire glided easily along the bike paths. The deep blue sky with its pillowy white clouds cradled the bright sun, the birds chirped their sweet songs, and it seemed good to be home in the States.

Soon they approached the gated entrance to Stuart Manor, the mansion that the Stuarts called home. The chauffeur pressed the button that opened the gate, and drove down the long driveway. He pulled up under the porte-cochere in front of the house.

The front door opened, and the butler came out, followed by one of the maids, ready to take their luggage up to their rooms.

As they entered the foyer, the sweet floral scent of magnolia blossoms floated up to them. When the house had been built some years ago, Jay had instructed the contractor to mix the perfumed scent into the cement before applying it to the floor. Even the red oak flooring that lay on top of it couldn’t quell the subtle aroma which escaped from between the wooden joints whenever anyone walked over them. This, combined with the sweet chirping songs of the two canaries in their cages, exuded an ambience that pervaded the whole house. Their collie dog, Angus, as soon as he heard Hildy’s and Jay’s voices, came running to greet them, his tail wagging and making welcome sounds in his throat. The harmony of the atmosphere was contagious, and no one entering could deny the huge lift it gave to one’s spirits. The terrible fear after hearing of the release of Gregory and Lilli had been left behind in Paris.

After a short nap they unpacked, showered, and dressed for the theatre, then returned to the library to enjoy some vintage sherry before going into the dining room.

Hildy wore an elegant, full-length black dress, which allowed her lovely blond hair to stand out in contrast. Her dress was adorned with rhinestones across the bodice, and thrown across her shoulders was a large, luxurious, pale gray cashmere stole.

Cammie looked as beautiful as she had years ago when she had stood in the reception line at the Chateau in Amboise, France, and greeted European nobility just before her sham wedding to the fake Count—now Gregory Wilcox, Jr. But instead of the deep burgundy attire she had worn on that disastrous evening, tonight she was dressed in a pale, lilac evening gown with a sequined belt. Thrown over her shoulders was a lovely, rich looking, lilac cashmere stole.

Jay, Jeremy, Count Francois I, Zack, and Andre were all dressed in tuxedos.

They sat there sipping their sherry as they waited for Courtney to make her appearance. It was almost time for dinner when they heard her light footsteps coming down the long, winding staircase.

How stunning she looked attired in a bright red gown, red shoes to match, and a white, jeweled evening bag! In her other hand she held a large, pure white cashmere stole which she tossed casually over one shoulder. Her lovely blond hair had been combed back and up, making her appear older than her twenty years.

“Hi, guys!” she greeted them. She hesitated, suddenly shy. “Do I look like a composer?” she asked timidly.

“You look perfect!” Hildy assured her.

They rose to go into the dining room just as the dinner gong rang. It was five-thirty, leaving plenty of time to get to the theatre before the curtain went up.

The cook had prepared a delicious meal of Duck L’Orange, garlic mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots, complemented with a dessert of luscious New York cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce and whipped cream. It was enough to whet the appetite of the most dedicated anorexic! A light pink Zinfandel wine from California was served with the meal.

Courtney had mixed emotions. She was anxious to see her musical, “Déjà Vu,” being performed, but at the same time, in spite of the great reviews, self-doubts crept in.

She glanced at Hildy. How can she be so calm? she wondered. I’m a nervous wreck! Then her thoughts strayed to the young man she had met on the plane, and her heart pounded even faster, if that was possible. I’ll never get through tonight, she thought! Maybe I should stay home. No, I asked Manny to meet me there. If I don’t go I may never see him again!

“What’s the matter, dear?” Cammie asked her. “You’re not eating much.”

Courtney put down her fork. “I don’t feel very well,” she announced.

Cammie and Hildy gave each other a knowing look.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, sweetie,” Hildy asserted.

“You’ve just got the jitters. It will pass as soon as we walk into the theatre.”

Disbelief was written all over Courtney’s face. “How can you say that? You can’t possibly know what I’m feeling!”

Zack burst out laughing, and the others joined in. “Courtney,” he said, “have you forgotten the many musicals your grandmother has written? She’s been through exactly the same thing you’re going through right now. And how about your mother? Do you think she didn’t get nervous before every performance?”

Jeremy smiled fondly at Courtney. “Honey, just think about the wonderful reviews. That should settle you down.”

Count Francois I left his chair and embraced Courtney. “My darling granddaughter,” he said as he kissed her cheek, “I only wish my beloved Vivienne could be here to see your success. She would be so proud of you!”

“You’ve been very fortunate to have the best director and choreographer on your musical,” Jay spoke up. “You have nothing to be concerned about. But be prepared! Once they find out the author and composer is in the audience, they’ll probably ask you to come up on stage and take a bow!”

With a gasp Courtney put her napkin over her mouth and fled from the room.

“You’d better go and try to calm her down,” Jeremy told Cammie. “We have to leave shortly.”

The others rose to leave the dining room as the maid entered to clear the table. “Do you want me to tell the chauffeur to come around?” she asked Jay.

“Yes, please,” Jay answered. “But not for a few minutes. We have a nervous artist on our hands. Wait till my granddaughter comes back.”

Ten minutes went by, and Jay became concerned. It was time to leave. He was just about to call the others when Courtney made her appearance, all apologies.

“I’m sorry, Sir Jaybird. I’m okay now. Let’s go.” She reached out for her jeweled purse and white cashmere stole and headed for the door.

Hildy nodded to Jay, and he tactfully avoided saying anything more.

The limousine pulled up under the porte-cochere by the front door. The visor-capped chauffeur helped them into the car, and they were on their way to the theatre to see Courtney’s hit musical, “Déjà Vu.”


he chauffeur drove the Stuart family along the parkway headed toward New York City. The white moon in the early evening sky soon became yellow gold as the sun disappeared and the sky turned to a midnight blue. The air was balmy, and the stars twinkled gaily, as though they had been put out just for this joyous occasion.

Courtney felt a leap of excitement as they exited the parkway and began the long, slow drive along Broadway. No wonder they call this the Great White Way! she marveled. The bright lights from the marquees seemed even brighter than usual, acknowledging their excited approval of what they were about to see. Hordes of people were gathered at the various theatres, but the largest crowd was hovered around the theatre whose marquee bore the name, “Déjà Vu!” And underneath, in bold letters, was posted, “A Musical By Courtney Stuart Dubonnet.” The line of people stretched for three blocks. Courtney stared in awe and wonder. They’re waiting to see the musical that I wrote! she thought. Me! I can’t believe it! Oh, I hope they’re not disappointed!

The limousine stopped at the entrance and they all got out. Courtney looked around to see if she could catch a glimpse of Manny. So far she hadn’t seen him. Maybe he’s not coming! she lamented. He has to! If he doesn’t I’ll just die! she silently declared with all the dramatic conviction of youth in the throes of a first love.

As they began their entrance into the theatre, someone in the crowd recognized Hildy and Jay. With shouts of “There they are!” they rushed over, demanding autographs.

Zack stepped forward and waved them away. The curtain was scheduled to go up in five minutes, and they needed time to get to the box especially reserved for the Stuarts.

The lobby was swarming with people having a last minute cocktail or a glass of wine. Tuxedos and jeweled evening gowns were everywhere, and happy voices tinged with excitement filled the air.

As they made their way through the lobby, Courtney looked around again, but Manny was nowhere in sight. Dejected, she followed Cammie and Jeremy to the elevator that would take them up to the balcony level.

There was no mistaking the expression on her face. Once they were in the elevator Zack put a protective arm around her shoulder and whispered in her ear. “Maybe it’s for the best,” he murmured. “You don’t really know him. Maybe you’re being protected.”

This was the last thing Courtney wanted to hear. She mentally stamped her foot in aggravation. I don’t want to be protected! she stubbornly declared to herself. I just want to see him again! Why is that so wrong?

As they got off the elevator and headed toward their box, one of the ushers approached them.

“Sir,” he said, addressing Jay, “there’s a young man here who says he was invited by the composer of ‘Déjà Vu’ to be her guest. Is that true?”

Courtney squealed with delight as she spied Manny waiting at the entrance to their box. “Manny!” she exclaimed as she rushed up to him. “You came!”

Manny smiled a most engaging smile. “I said I would,” he assured her. “I hope you don’t mind,” he addressed the others. “I don’t wish to intrude. Courtney invited me to join you tonight.”

Zack stared at him. Courtney seemed unaware of his dismay, but there was no masking his feelings from the rest of the group.

There were only eight seats in the box, and the usher left to get another one for Manny. Courtney moved to the back of the box to be beside him, her face glowing with happiness. Not only was she about to see the fruits of her labor unfold on the stage, but Manny was here to enjoy it with her. This is the happiest day of my life! she exulted. It can’t get any better!

They were no sooner seated when the orchestra began the overture. The whole theatre echoed with the beautiful melodies from Courtney’s first musical. The haunting strains literally bounced off the walls and out into the foyer where latecomers could hear it and enjoy it as they entered the auditorium.

Hildy and Cammie had hard work to hold back the tears at the grandeur of Courtney’s music, which was every bit as beautiful as anything that her beloved Grandy Hildy had ever written. Jay and Jeremy didn’t say anything, but their pride showed on their faces. Courtney shivered. I wrote this? she thought in awe. She had never heard it played by a full orchestra. It’s beautiful! Grandy Hildy was right. Her eyes filled with tears of joy.

Without looking Zack handed her a tissue.

When the curtain came down at the end of the first two acts, the applause was thunderous. Shouts of “Author! Composer!” rose from the crowd, and it was only intermission. The producer, a man by the name of Glen Macdonald, walked on to the stage and raised his hands to silence them.

He was an unusually handsome man. Tall, slim, and young. He smiled, and audible sighs could be heard from the women in the audience.

Something about his presence arrested Courtney’s attention. Her heart beat a little faster. This puzzled her. Her interest was all for Manny. She shrugged it off and reached for Manny’s hand.

“You’ll have plenty of time after the third act to meet the author and composer, Courtney Stuart Dubonnet,” the producer announced. “As you all know, she’s the granddaughter of Lady Hilary Simone Stuart, who has composed many of the musicals you have enjoyed, and Lord Jay Stuart, who has produced them. Courtney is the daughter of Countess Cameron Stuart Dubonnet, famous for her singing and acting, and Count Francois Dubonnet II of Biarritz, France. Courtney is here in the theatre tonight, and she’ll be coming up on stage at the end of the performance. In the meantime, enjoy the intermission. Curtain will go up again in fifteen minutes.”

BOOK: Cast An Evil Eye
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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