Authors: Jo Carnegie
Tags: #Chick-Lit, #Contemporary, #Drama, #Fiction, #Love Stories, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Romance, #Women's Fiction
‘Nothing.’ He smiled. ‘I just like it when it’s the two of us, that’s all.’
‘We still have to eat,’ she laughed. ‘They do amazing pints of prawns, you know. And I bet they’ll be cool about you being a hot shot film star.’
As if on cue, Rafe’s stomach rumbled. He looked at her and grinned. ‘You’ve won me over. Let’s go.’
Fifteen minutes later they were sitting in an enclave in the pub’s dining room. True to Calypso’s word, Rafe had attracted little more than a cursory look from the locals standing at the bar when they had walked in.
The middle-aged waitress came over and did a good job of pretending not to recognize him, too. ‘What can I get you both?’ she asked.
‘I’ll have a G and T please,’ Calypso said.
‘I’ll have the same,’ said Rafe. ‘What the hell.’ Normally he didn’t drink through the week.
‘Ice and lemon?’
‘Lime if you’ve got it. Thanks.’
The waitress left.
‘Special occasion?’ smiled Calypso,
‘Everything’s a special occasion with you.’
Calypso rolled her eyes, loving every moment.
Fifteen minutes later, two pints of succulent prawns were brought out. The pair started to work their way through them.
‘So what are your plans when filming has finished?’ Calypso asked casually, pulling the head off a prawn. It was already the middle of June and Rafe only had a few weeks left on the shoot. She hoped her voice hadn’t betrayed how much she’d been thinking about it.
‘I’m going to take a holiday!’
‘Oh right. Anywhere in particular?’ she asked.
He paused and looked at her. ‘Why, anywhere you fancy?’
Calypso flushed, was she that obvious? ‘I wasn’t assuming …’
‘I didn’t say you were,’ he smiled. ‘My parents have a nice place on the French Riviera, I was thinking of taking a trip out there anyway.’ He popped a prawn in his mouth. ‘Maybe you’d like to come with me?’
‘I’d love to!’
They ate in contented silence for a few moments, before Rafe started telling her about his day. Apparently Sophia had been difficult, and throwing histrionics.
‘That’s why I’m so late, we had to redo one scene until she was happy with it.’
Calypso didn’t ask if it was a love scene. She knew it was part of his job, but they never talked about it. Even though she’d told herself she was cool with it, the idea of Rafe running his hands over another woman’s body made Calypso feel alarmingly sick. ‘That’s a bit annoying,’ she said, instead.
‘You get used to it. At least it shows Sophia cares about what she’s doing, I suppose. She’s a total perfectionist.’
‘Camilla thinks Sophia has a crush on Jed,’ Calypso remarked. Her sister had told her they’d had a ding-dong about Sophia being in his office. Even though Calypso thought her sister was getting her knickers in a twist about nothing, she’d promised to do a bit of fishing.
To her surprise Rafe looked serious. ‘That’s not good.’
Calypso put her prawn down. ‘What do you mean?’
Rafe shrugged again. ‘Sophia has got a bit of a reputation. I believe she’s had quite a few affairs with people on set before.’ He seemed unwilling to pursue the subject.
‘Is there something you’re not telling me?’ Calypso asked.
Rafe looked across at her, eyes honest. ‘No, I’ve just heard a few rumours.’
‘Jed wouldn’t do anything like that, he loves my sister,’ Calypso said hotly.
Rafe put a placating hand over hers. ‘Hey, I don’t want to upset you. You’re probably right.’
He released her hand and they continued eating. Calypso suddenly realized she’d been spending so much time at Rafe’s, she hadn’t seen her sister properly for ages. She suddenly felt a bit guilty.
‘Are you still thinking about it?’ Rafe asked. ‘I don’t want to set a cat amongst the pigeons, I’m sure it’s nothing.’
Calypso looked up from her plate to see Rafe looking at her in adorable concern. It was physically impossible to have a long face around him. The waitress came to clear their starters. As she walked off, Rafe’s phone beeped. He looked surprised. ‘Sorry, I didn’t think we’d have reception here.’ He looked at the text message and pulled a face.
Calypso smiled. ‘Don’t tell me, work.’
He nodded apologetically. ‘Sorry, I just need to reply quickly. I won’t be a sec.’
Calypso watched as his eyes darted back and forth under his long eyelashes, concentrating. She did appreciate him warning her about Sophia, even though it was clear he felt uncomfortable talking about it. A swell of emotion swept up inside her, Rafe was so gorgeous, so honourable and principled …
Suddenly, Calypso had to tell him how she felt. ‘Rafe.’
He looked up from his phone. ‘Uh huh?’
‘I think I love …’
But instead of looking at her, Rafe’s gaze travelled over her head instead. Instantly his face darkened. ‘There’s a photographer over there taking pictures!’
Calypso whirled round to see a greasy little man standing in the doorway of the dining room, furtively taking photos.
‘That’s not bloody on,’ Rafe said and jumped up from his seat. Calypso followed him.
The quick-thinking landlord had already cornered the man in the corridor.
‘This man was taking pictures of us eating dinner,’ Rafe told the landlord angrily. ‘It’s a total invasion of privacy.’
‘It’s a free country,’ whined the paparazzo. It had been total chance he’d popped in here for last orders and found the golden goose sharing a fishy starter with a stunning blonde.
‘Not when it’s under my roof, mate,’ the landlord
. ‘This is private property.’ He held out a hand. ‘Give me your film.’
‘Ow!’ protested the paparazzo, taking the film out of the back of his camera. He begrudgingly handed it over. ‘That’s a whole day’s work there, ruined! I should bill you!’
‘And I should call the police to tell them you’re harassing my customers,’ warned the landlord darkly. ‘Now, scoot.’ Muttering insults, the man slid out of the pub.
The landlord looked at Rafe. ‘You’re working on that film, aren’t you? I recognized you when you came in, didn’t want to say anything. You must get it all the time.’
‘You have no idea,’ said Rafe gratefully. ‘Thank you.’ He looked at the loops of film, in the landlord’s hand.
‘Can I take it anyway? You can never be too sure these days.’
The landlord deposited the trailing mess in Rafe’s hand. ‘Do what you want with it, mate. Sorry about the interruption, I’ll leave you folks to continue your dinner in peace.’
They sat back down. Rafe looked at Calypso. ‘Sorry, what were you about to say?’
The moment had been lost, but Calypso didn’t mind. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve got plenty of time to tell you.’
CAMILLA PRESSED THE
buttons for Jed’s number. It rang a few times before a male voice picked it up.
‘Hello, Jed’s mobile.’
‘Oh, who’s that?’ Camilla asked in surprise.
‘It’s Pete.’ Pete was one of Jed’s team, a short chunky capable man who was always smiling. Camilla liked him.
‘Hi, Pete, it’s Camilla. Is Jed around?’
‘No, I think he’s got an appointment. Must’ve forgotten his phone.’
Camilla frowned. Jed hadn’t told her about any appointment. ‘Do you know where he’s gone?’
‘Haven’t a clue, sorry.’
Camilla suddenly felt rather silly; as if she didn’t have a clue what her boyfriend was up to. Thanking Pete she put the phone down. Where was he? An idea struck her and she scrabbled round for the card he’d given her, finding it in the inside of her wallet. The phone was picked up after two rings.
‘Dan, hello, it’s Camilla Standington-Fulthrope here.’
Seraphina Inc.’s location manager seemed surprised to hear from her. ‘Hi, Camilla, is everything all right?’
‘Oh yes, it’s nothing urgent,’ she said. ‘Um, I know it’s a strange request but do you know if Rafe and Sophia are filming today? My grandmother wants to know for something.’ Camilla blushed at the lie; at least Dan couldn’t see her over the telephone.
‘No, they’ve both got the afternoon off. Can I help with anything?’
‘No, no, that’s all I needed to know. Thanks, Dan.’ Before he could ask any more questions, Camilla said goodbye and put the phone down. Paranoia and worry coursed through her. Was Jed off with Sophia? Or was she just going completely mad?
As the tears sprang from nowhere she rushed for the downstairs loo.
Frances sat in the driver’s seat, wondering what on earth she was doing. In front of her was a huge mock-Tudor house that looked like a bad-taste relic from the eighties. It had looked rather nice from a distance, but the closer she got the more it was like driving into an architectural nightmare. Gargoyles were dotted everywhere, sneering down on her unwelcomingly. As she peered up through the windscreen Frances saw that one of them was giving her the middle finger. She frowned; as she’d driven in she’d passed a letter box that was suspiciously close in shape to a woman’s vagina.
As she sat there summoning up courage, the front door opened. Devon waved at her, looking more rakish than ever. He had at least four strands of beads round his neck and his white linen trousers were rolled up to show bare brown legs and feet.
‘All right, Frannie!’ He came over and opened the door. They kissed rather awkwardly on both cheeks, noses almost banging in the middle. Devon looked back at the monstrosity.
‘What do you think to my digs?’
‘I don’t quite know what to say, Devon,’ Frances replied. At least she was being truthful.
He studied her for a second and laughed. ‘Minging, isn’t it? I don’t think Snorkel has been back here for twenty years. He lives on a two hundred foot yacht in the Caribbean these days. Likes the free life, does old Snorkel.’
Frances got out of the car. ‘What does Mr, er, Snorkel do?’
‘Big time record-producer in the seventies. Been living off it ever since.’
‘I assume with a nickname like Snorkel, he’s a keen fisherman?’
‘Er …’ Snorkel had actually got the moniker from the amount of muff-diving he’d done over the years, not that Devon would ever dream of telling Frances that. ‘Something like that. Come in, I thought we’d have lunch al fresco on the terrace.’
Inside, the house was even more garish: six-foot statues of naked women with huge boobs, a velvet couch in the shape of a red-lipsticked mouth. Frances
up to study a collection of charcoal illustrations on the wall only to discover they were in fact more vaginas.
‘Snorkel is a big collector of erotic art,’ said Devon, hurriedly steering her away.
He led her through the rest of the house – bypassing the room dedicated to vibrators through the ages – and out on to a sweeping terrace. A table with a white tablecloth had been laid out, a bottle each of Dom Perignon and San Pellegrino chilling in an ice bucket. A vase of what looked like flowers that had been hand-picked from the garden stood in the middle. And, with their backs to the house, they could take in the stunning uninterrupted views of the Cotswolds.
‘Oh, Devon, how lovely!’ Frances said. ‘You’ve gone to all this trouble for me.’
He grinned. ‘You’re worth it. Come and sit down, I’ll get us an aperitif.’
They sat there savouring the views, Frances with a glass of champagne and Devon with his sparkling water.
‘Is Nigel not back with you?’ she asked. Nigel was Devon’s extremely efficient PA.
‘He’s gone to Europe for a few weeks, some dusty sightseeing tour. He sends his love, though.’
Frances had a sudden pang of longing for the discreet, loyal Nigel who had cooked them wonderful meals when she’d gone over to see Devon at Byron Heights.
‘Are you hungry?’ Devon asked. ‘I’ve got some lovely smoked salmon in the fridge.’
Actually Frances’s stomach was full of butterflies, but she smiled politely. ‘Sounds wonderful.’
As Devon busied himself in the kitchen Frances took a sip of the ice-cold champagne, looking out over the lawns. When Devon had texted her, asking if she’d come for lunch, Frances had agonized over it for hours. But in the end, she had always known she’d go.
This was so wrong, yet it seemed so right
, she thought,
so comfortable and domesticated
. She couldn’t remember the last time she and Ambrose had shared a glass of something on Clanfield’s terrace: he always preferred a glass of whiskey in his stuffy study at 6 p.m. Frances hated whisky.
A few minutes later he returned with the smoked salmon on a silver platter. It was dressed simply with cracked black pepper, lemon wedges and cucumber strips.
‘This is delicious,’ Frances said, delicately helping herself. Devon held up his glass.
‘Cheers, princess.’ He forked up some smoked salmon. ‘So how’s life been treating you since I saw ya?’
‘Fine, I suppose.’
Devon raised an eyebrow. ‘Just fine?’
‘All right then, wonderful, sparkling, fantastic,’ she said wrily. ‘As you so perceptively put it last time, I think you know how I feel at the moment.’
Devon put his fork down and looked at her. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know,’ she admitted.
‘Are you going to leave him?’
There was a long silence. ‘I don’t know that either.’
‘Run away with me,’ Devon urged, but he was only half-joking.
She smiled. ‘Is that why you’ve really come back, to come and sweep me off my feet like Prince Charming?’
He conceded with a grin. ‘I’d give you a fantastic life, Frannie, think of all the things we could do together, all the places we could go!’
She laughed. ‘Are you suggesting I become one of your groupies?’
Devon reached across and took her hand. ‘I’d like you to be a lot more than that, Frannie.’
Frances found she couldn’t speak.
Suddenly Devon leaned across the table. ‘I’ve been wanting to do this since I saw you,’ he said softly and kissed her gently on the lips.
Frances found herself melting helplessly into the moment. How many times had she had thought about this happening since he had left? She pulled away, heart hammering in her chest. ‘Devon, I …’
He stroked her face. ‘Sorry, princess, I came on a bit strong. I just couldn’t help myself, you look so beautiful and elegant and fresh sitting there.’