Read Christmas at Tiffany's Online

Authors: Karen Swan

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women, #Holidays, #General

Christmas at Tiffany's

BOOK: Christmas at Tiffany's
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

To Aason

For starting over with such grace




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

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven


Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One



Kelly Hartford looked out of the taxi window and scanned the horizon for a landmark – a loch or a folly or a particularly tall tree – that might give some clue that they were heading in the right direction. It was exactly ten years to the day since she had last visited, and she’d forgotten how far
the back of beyond her friend lived. Apart from a few tiny crofters’ cottages on the moor, they’d not passed a house or car in over thirty miles. Kelly didn’t know how Cassie stuck it.

A sunbeam streamed in through the window, dazzling her momentarily, and she rooted around in her bag for a pair of shades. She had also forgotten how much longer the days were up here in the summer. It was the end of August and just coming up to seven o’clock, but the sky was still noon-blue. It would be nearer eleven before the sun doffed its cap for the day and dropped behind the hills.

The taxi took a left fork in the seemingly endless road. Stretching her thumbs out the way her physiotherapist had shown her, Kelly resumed her speed-texting. But not for long. The car started hitting potholes and she had to grab the headrest for support.

‘Jeez-us,’ she muttered as the overexcited suspension tossed her about. ‘It would have been smoother coming by camel.’

The dour driver said nothing, but she knew this pitted farm road was the landmark she’d been looking for. Up ahead, she could see the eagle-topped pillars and lodge house announcing the perimeter of the estate and the end of her long journey. She had been travelling for a full day now – having caught a connecting flight to Edinburgh at Heathrow – and she was desperate for a shower and a power-nap before the party kicked off. She knew she’d been cutting it fine catching the later flight. If she’d gone from Newark, she’d have landed three hours earlier and she could have rested all afternoon and caught up with the others, but who was she kidding? She was a JFK-only girl, and anyway, Bebe was going nuts trying to get the collection finished – she’d practically had a coronary when Kelly had insisted she really did have to leave her post to fly to Scotland for a
. They were in the final two weeks before the collections, and it had been the least she could do to stick around until the very last, hand-luggage-only, gates-closing minute.

The heather-topped moorland stopped abruptly at the gates as they swept into an avenue of towering Scots pine trees whose needles covered the ground like a carpet. Slowly the taxi meandered round high compacted banks of quivering maroon acers, purple rhododendrons and springy lawns of magenta clover. The sudden riot of manicured colour heralded the imminence of the great house, and as the car passed between a pair of gigantic domed yew trees flanking the drive, she thought it looked grander than she remembered – and pinker. Hewn from indigenous rock, it usually looked brown in the customary rain, but tonight, as it basked in the late-summer sun, it positively blushed with delight. Tall, with six gable ends as peaked as witches’ hats, it had a sweep of stone steps up to the front door and heavily leaded windows, of which the centrepiece was a massive picture window which ran across the central facade, flooding the inner hall with light and affording a sensational view of the Lammermuir Hills from the minstrels’ gallery within.

As the taxi slowed on its approach to the front steps, Kelly quickly turned the volume on her iPhone up to max – she didn’t want to miss any calls once inside the enormous house – and purposely dropped her shoulders a good two inches from her ears as she took a series of deep yogic breaths. Bebe would be fine without her. She’d be back on the plane tomorrow night and straight into the office for Monday lunchtime. Most people took longer bathroom trips than that.

The grandfather clock chimed seven times in the hall below, just as the champagne cork popped and Suzy poured them each a glass.

‘Cheers!’ Cassie beamed, her eyes glittering brightly as she tucked her legs underneath her on the bed. ‘To us.’

Anouk tipped her head to the side. ‘Don’t let your husband hear you say that,’ she teased in her silky French accent. ‘Strictly speaking it’s to you and him tonight.’

Cassie shrugged happily and sighed. Anouk was right, of course. They’d managed ten years together in a day and age when most couples couldn’t manage two, and to celebrate they were throwing a huge bash that was as big as, if not even bigger than, their wedding. But even though Cassie was proud of their achievement – not least because it meant she’d upheld her side of their ‘agreement’ – she was even more excited about the fact that it was the perfect opportunity to corral her best friends from their far-flung corners of the world. She knew that Suzy, Anouk and Kelly all hooked up reasonably regularly. After all, London, Paris and New York were practically commuter routes for them – but diversions up to the Scottish Borders? Not so much. This was the first time they’d all be together since her wedding – well, once Kelly got here.

Cassie watched as Suzy carefully lifted up a pale blue box with chocolate-brown polka dots from the far side of the bed. ‘Well, the champagne may be for you and Gil,’ she said, grinning, ‘but
are for us.’ Inside were four overscaled cupcakes, all frosted with the palest lemon icing and topped with a white rose.

,’ Anouk sighed, leaning over to pass one to Cassie.

‘Oh my God – they’re so cute,’ Cassie squealed, holding hers up to the sunlight. ‘They’re like baby bunnies.’ Dundee cake was a far cry from the chichi delectations that flirted from the bakery windows in Pimlico, Cassie mused.

passion fruit
?’ she asked, spraying crumbs everywhere.

Suzy nodded. ‘You like? I’ve been developing the recipe with the bakery for a wedding I’m doing. It’s taken for ever to get it right – one lot was too gloopy, the next not tangy enough. But I think it’s there now – don’t you?’

Cassie swooned in agreement.

‘Is the bride behaving herself?’ Anouk asked, reclining against the pillows and eating her cupcake in tiny little pinches.

Suzy rolled her eyes. ‘Do they ever? Just about the only thing she hasn’t changed her mind about is the groom – and with a month to go, there’s still time.’

Anouk giggled, shaking her head. ‘I don’t know how you put up with it. All that stress you’re absorbing.’

Suzy eyed her rounded tummy. ‘Well, I could do with absorbing a lot more. Why is it that my brides always lose at least a stone for their weddings, but I only ever seem to put it on? I mean, I’m the one with all the hassles – dealing with the florists, double-booked venues, unreliable bands, coked-up DJs, truculent vicars . . . You name it, I’ve dealt with it. You’d think I’d be the one losing weight.’

Cassie sighed. For as long as she’d known her – which was since birth – Suzy had been permanently on a quest to make herself smaller. Already five foot ten by the age of twelve, with a build that had been athletic even at her thinnest, she’d always felt like she took up too much room, and the adolescent desire to conform had never left her – particularly, it seemed, as she now worked with diminishing brides on a daily basis.

Still, whatever Suzy felt about her weight, Cassie thought she looked better than ever – younger than her thirty years, for a start, with her velvety, rosy-hued complexion, her dark brown ‘Bambi’ eyes and a layered style she’d settled on that made the most of her too-fine dark blonde hair.

Anouk, on the other hand, was Suzy’s opposite in every way. Dark, petite, knowing. Her thick chestnut-brown hair was expensively cut in a long tousled bob that cut in perfectly beneath her pronounced cheekbones, her nose was straight and fine, and her full pout was tantalizingly offset by a hint of overbite. Compared with Suzy, she looked older than her thirty years, though not because of wrinkles or anything as bourgeois as ageing – Cassie well knew that the contents of Anouk’s bathroom would out-stock Space NK and that she had a beauty regimen that would put Cleopatra to shame. Rather, she had a worldly air, a sophistication that was rarely worn on such dainty shoulders but was more often seen on women ten, even twenty, years her senior.

‘Honestly, I think living in these cities is bad for your health,’ Cassie said reprovingly. ‘From what I can see, it makes you all neurotic about your figures. No one thinks twice about things like that up here.’

‘Why not?’ Anouk asked. ‘What’s wrong with looking after yourself?’

‘But that’s just the thing. It’s
looking after yourself. It’s denying yourself. All of you always seem to be starving yourselves to some ridiculously low weight that just isn’t sustainable. Everyone should just relax and . . . enjoy cupcakes,’ she sighed, taking the last remaining bite.

‘That’s what’s so hateful about you,’ Suzy snarled. ‘You’re slim without even thinking about it. At least I can take comfort in the knowledge that Anouk and Kelly suffer terribly to stay thin.’

‘I do
suffer,’ Anouk pouted, looking insulted that she should ever be thought to do anything so inelegant.

BOOK: Christmas at Tiffany's
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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