Read Francesca's Party Online

Authors: Patricia Scanlan

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #General

Francesca's Party

About the Book

After years of being the perfect wife and mother, Francesca Kirwan’s life is changed irrevocably one dismal autumn morning when her husband Mark forgets his mobile phone. In the space of ten minutes her comfortable, safe, uneventful existence is completely shattered. With her life turned upside down and an extremely uncertain future ahead of her, she has two choices…sink or swim!

Francesca decides to get a life, but first she must deal with razor-sharp international banker Nikki Langan. Super-babe is ten years younger and two stone lighter than Francesca. Sculpted, toned and dressed to kill, Nikki wants it all and she doesn’t intend to let anyone, least of all Francesca, stand in her way. But youth and beauty aren’t everything, and Francesca proves to be a far tougher adversary than the glamorous career girl had anticipated.

After a shaky start, Francesca’s life takes a decidedly upward turn. New job, new friends, new lifestyle – and when dishy journalist Ralph Casson shows more than a professional interest in her, Mark is not at all pleased.

Francesca decides to throw a party, and that’s when the fun really starts. Revenge is a dish best served cold…especially if you’ve been on a diet.

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Epigraph

Prologue

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

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

The Party

Chapter Fifty-Six

Après Party

Chapter Fifty-Seven

About the Author

Also by Patricia Scanlan

Copyright

FRANCESCA’S PARTY
Patricia Scanlan
I dedicate this book to Francesca Liversidge, whose constant encouragement, support, kindness, professionalism and integrity make her not only an exceptional editor but also a very dear friend. Dearest Francesca, thanks for everything.
Acknowledgements


Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith? All things are possible to him that believeth
.’

For sustaining my belief and making all things wonderfully possible, especially this novel and the ones to come, I thank you, Lord.

A reader wrote to me and said how much she enjoyed reading my acknowledgements and telling me how lucky I was to have so many friends. Dear reader, my family, friends and loved ones are the greatest blessings in my life and it is my honour to thank them. So, huge thanks to: my mother, father, Donald Hugh, Paul, Dermot and Mary; to Yvonne, Lucy, Rose, Catherine and Henry; and to my darling nieces and nephew, Fiona, Caitriona, Patrick, Laura, Rebecca, Tara and Rachel. Thanks for all the love and laughs and cherishing. And to my godmother, Maureen, whose talents cannot be counted.

Thanks to the dearest of friends who have been with me through thick and thin, especially to Joe, who has turned my gardens in Dublin and Wicklow into the most perfect, peaceful and beautiful havens … there aren’t enough thanks.

To the Wicklow Gang who feed and water me and celebrate with me under starry skies overlooking a corn field when a book is finished: Breda, Kieran, Gillian and Alison, Caitriona, Mark, Emma and Lorna, Helen, Liam and their gang … here’s to summer!

To Deirdre Purcell, Anne Schulman, Sheila O’Flanagan (and Drenda), Gareth O’Callaghan and all my writing
friends
who are only a phone call, and lunch, away.

To Annette Tallon, Debbie Sheehy, Anne Jensen, Margaret Neylon, Julie Dwane and John Carthy for all the love and light and encouragement they send my way.

To Catherine MacLiam and all my art class for our lovely Wednesday mornings.

To Aoibhinn Hogan, Anne Wiley and Margaret Daly whom I don’t see enough of … my fault.

To Sarah Lutyens, Felicity Rubinstein and Susannah Godman, more precious than rubies.

To Alil O’Shaughnessy and Tony Kavanagh, the best mates you could wish for. And to Terry Carroll who told me all I needed to know and
more
… about international bankers.

To two new readers, Sinead O’Flaherty and Linda Maher … keep reading!

To Ciara Considine, Edwin Higel and all in New Island Publishers, who do it so well and so professionally. It’s a joy to work with you.

To Sinead Burke of Marsh Financial Services and Eamon Leahy and Mary Burke of Leahy & Co, for all the sound business and financial advice.

To all in Transworld who have been exceptionally supportive and encouraging. The new adventure is just beginning. I look forward to it!

To everyone in the book trade who has helped my writing career all the way, a big thanks.

To all in Nikki’s Hair Studio, Mack’s Gym and Powerscourt Springs who spoil and pamper me.

To all the wonderful readers who wrote me such inspiring letters, especially Ronald Brown in Essex and Amella Sullivan in Hampshire, thank you so much: they make all the hours at the computer well worth while. Keep writing, they make such a difference. And to all who bought my books, I hope you enjoy this one.

When one door closes, another opens …

Chapter One

‘IDIOT!’ MARK KIRWAN
swore and pressed his fist on the horn as he accelerated the BMW and overtook an ancient Volkswagen that was crawling along at a snail’s pace. ‘Stupid doddery old fool,’ he snapped as he glanced in the mirror and saw an elderly man behind the wheel.

‘Don’t be so aggressive, Mark. He looks as if he’s lost,’ Francesca remonstrated with her husband. She hated driving with him. He was terribly impatient.

‘If he doesn’t know where he’s going, he shouldn’t be driving in rush-hour traffic, holding everybody up. I’ve a flight to catch! It was bad enough with the damn taxi not turning up. I’ve had it with that lot. They’ve screwed up once too often. I’m giving the account to someone else.’ He drummed his fingers impatiently against the steering wheel. ‘For God’s sake, would you look at the traffic up ahead? I’m going to miss the damn flight, I’m telling you.’

‘You’ll catch it,’ Francesca soothed. ‘Have you ever missed a flight yet?’

‘There’s always a first time!’

‘Well, today’s not that day.’

‘How do you know?’

Francesca scowled. ‘There’s no need to be so tetchy, Mark!’

‘Sorry. Sorry. I feel a bit under pressure.’ Her husband flashed her a quick smile but she could see as he turned away from her that it was merely automatic. His eyes were focused on the airport roundabout. He was miles away.

Francesca sighed. What was it about men that made them feel that life revolved about them and them alone? Her two sons, Jonathan and Owen, displayed the same traits – to a far lesser degree, but it was there, despite her best efforts. It was an inbred trait in males and in Mark’s case it was more pronounced than most.

He got it from his father. Gerald Kirwan was the most selfish, cranky, self-centred old buzzard that ever existed and Francesca loathed him. He had been part of her life for the past twenty-two years and he was the bane of her existence. She shopped for him, often cooked for him, endured his company for a lengthy sojourn Christmas after Christmas, and for two weeks every year when he came on holiday with them. His own daughter, Vera, would have nothing to do with him, which was very convenient for her, Francesca thought wryly as Mark turned left into Dublin Airport and inched along in the heavy traffic.

‘Don’t forget to collect my suits from the cleaners, and when you leave the car into the garage tell Ed that I’d like him to check out the air conditioning. There’s a slight knocking in it that shouldn’t be there. And
don’t
forget to ring Lulu Kavanagh and tell her that we’ll come to their dinner party.’ Mark rattled off a list of instructions as he pulled up outside Departures. ‘I’ll ring tonight.’ He leaned over, kissed her perfunctorily on the cheek, got out and took his luggage from the back of the car. He didn’t look back or wave as he strode towards Departures, his black Burberry flapping in the wind.

He’d overdone the aftershave a bit, Francesca thought as she eased herself over to the driver’s side and adjusted the seat to accommodate her shorter length. Mark spent more time on planes than he did at home. She shook her head. The joys of being an international banker.

This hadn’t been the plan at all today. She’d miss her book-club morning at this rate. By the time she drove home through the rush-hour traffic and took the car into the garage for its service and got a lift home from there, she could wave goodbye to at least two hours. And Mark hadn’t been a bit gracious about her giving him a lift. He could at least have said thank you, she thought crossly. She indicated and slid out into the lane of traffic. It had started out as a bummer of a day; she hoped it would improve.

Mark glanced at his watch as he hurried towards the automatic doors to Departures. His lips tightened. He was late. Of all the mornings to be late. He’d nearly done his nut in the traffic. That bloody taxi firm had cocked up
again
. They were history. He loosened the knot of his tie a fraction as he held up his luggage for scanning. Stress like this wasn’t good for him. Dick Morris at work had had a heart attack
the
previous week and he was only forty-one, four years younger than Mark.

The airport was manic. It didn’t matter what time of the day you went there now, it was always bedlam. His eyes raked the monitors looking for his flight number. Delayed. Mark heaved a sigh of relief … there was a God. For the first time that morning he felt his tension ease. He was here now. He hadn’t missed the flight. He hurried over to the information desk to collect his ticket, anxious to get to Check-in.


Would Mr Mark Kirwan pick up a courtesy telephone, please. Mr Mark Kirwan please pick up a courtesy telephone
.’ The Tannoy message echoed through Departures.

Mark grinned. He knew
exactly
who was at the other end of the phone.

Francesca leaned across the dashboard to switch the CD player on and cursed as she saw Mark’s mobile phone plugged into the recharger. He’d go ballistic without his phone. He’d been in such a tizzy this morning. It was most unusual for him, he was usually so organized about things.

She sped back in a semicircle. Maybe, if the security man was sympathetic, she could park on the double yellows outside Departures and catch Mark before he went airside.

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