Season of Desire: Complete Edition (41 page)

BOOK: Season of Desire: Complete Edition
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I rack my brains, trying to think about which of my friends might be passing information about me to the press. I suppose it’s not unlikely that one of my many acquaintances might be amusing themselves and earning a little money by informing on me. But only my closest friends know the latest news, and I trust all of them because they suffer from media attention almost as much I do. Why would any of them suddenly decide to start betraying me? ‘I can’t think who it might be. No one who knows my intimate business would want to spill the beans.’

Beth puts tea bags into the cups and says, ‘So this morning you find that information about your ex and you is all over the papers. Who knew about that?’

‘Only me and my father, some of our lawyers, our head of security . . . and, of course, Jacob and whoever he told.’

‘I see.’ Beth makes a face. ‘Tricky. It could be anyone. If the papers are prepared to pay well for information, there could be any amount of people who can get access to it.’

‘And even if they don’t have informants, they can find out anyway,’ I point out. ‘I was found by a photographer in Klosters even though no one knew I was there. Not even my family or closest friends.’

‘That
is
strange,’ Beth says, frowning.

‘Miles one day, Jacob the next. It all feeds the appetite for information about me.’ I take the cup of tea that Beth offers me and follow her down the hall to the sitting room. ‘And you can imagine what kind of trouble it causes – I’ve fallen out badly with my father over Miles, and my ex might be a greedy playboy, but he doesn’t deserve this, and neither do I.’

‘So you guys appearing in the papers is what’s made all this go so crazy – with Miles walking out on his job and all the rest of it.’

We sit down opposite each other on white sofas. I nod and sigh. ‘It’s unbelievable.’

‘I hope you can both sort it out, that’s all,’ Beth says fervently. ‘I’m afraid I’ve got no more news for you. Dominic was out when I got back this morning and I don’t know when he’ll be home. He could be meeting Miles right now, for all I know.’

I feel a prickle spread over my skin as I consider the possibility of Miles walking in through the door at this very moment. A deep hunger for him possesses me, something so fundamental that I feel as though I couldn’t go on existing much longer without him.

I say softly, ‘I just hope it hasn’t gone so far that Miles wants to bail on me.’

‘He’s not like that,’ she says adamantly. ‘I’m sure of it. You wait and see.’ A thoughtful look comes over her face. ‘I’ve just had an idea. No one but me knows you’re here right now. Why don’t you draft three or four different messages, each saying that you’re going to a different location? Send them to the people closest to you and see what happens. If the press pack goes to one of those locations, you’ll know that they’re the leak.’

I gasp. ‘That’s a good idea. But who shall I send them to?’

‘Send them to your most trusted first, so they can be eliminated. Then go through your address book until you find the source!’ Beth smiles triumphantly.

‘Okay,’ I say, enthused. ‘Let’s do it.’

We draw up a message that reads:

 

Hi, Flora’s flat here in Paris is surrounded by press, so I’m going to sneak off to the . . . I’m sure they won’t find me there. Speak soon. Love Freya.

 

We insert the names of six different hotels and send the messages off: to Jane-Elizabeth at home who always deals with my travel arrangements and passes on to my father whatever he needs to know, to Summer, to Flora (with the message altered to read ‘your flat’) and to my three closest girlfriends, Lola, Eugenie and Stephanie.

When the messages are sent, I sit back and say, ‘How long do you think it will take?’

Beth shrugs. ‘I’ve no idea. Hopefully the press pack will stay right where they are, or just disperse and not turn up at the other locations. That way you’ll know you’ve got a watertight inner circle of trust.’

We drink more tea and I get some replies to my messages, most just acknowledging the one I sent. Beth and I talk about Miles and about Dominic and the forthcoming wedding. She tells me some of the story of her own romance, with its rocky beginnings, and how her and Dominic’s lives are now more settled, although full of constant travelling because of Dominic’s work.

‘I’ve learned to adapt my own career to moving around. And if I need to, I can settle in London or New York for a while on my own. But we both hate being apart for too long. We need each other,’ she says simply.

I nod. I feel I understand, even though my own feelings for Miles are relatively new. When your world is centred around another person, what’s the point in being away from them?

The telephone rings suddenly and we both jump. Beth goes over to answer it and it’s clear at once that she’s talking to Dominic.

‘Yes, okay . . . I see. That’s fine. I’ll see you later, darling. Goodbye.’ When she’s put the phone down, she turns to me and says, ‘He’s with Miles now.’

My stomach spins over in a whirl of delight. Miles! ‘Will they be here soon?’

Beth shakes her head. ‘I don’t think so. Dominic says they’re stopping to eat before they come back here. I got the impression there are things they want to discuss in private.’

Now my excitement is turning to fear. ‘What things?’

‘Miles has got to think about his future, I suppose,’ Beth replies.

I don’t say anything, but I feel a veil of misery falling over me. I hate the idea that he might be considering a future without me. I don’t want him to discuss it with Dominic, I want us to plan a future together.

Beth can see my expression and she says in a comforting voice, ‘Don’t worry – you’re already assuming the worst. That doesn’t mean it will happen. Just wait and see.’

At that moment my mobile rings and I pick it up. Flora’s number is on the display. ‘Hi, what’s up?’

‘Well . . .’ Flora sounds bemused. ‘I know you’ve decided to stay somewhere else, but if you want to change your mind, you can. All the photographers have just left.’

‘Really? The press have gone?’ I raise my eyebrows at Beth. ‘Where do you think they’ve moved to?’

‘I’ve no idea, unless they’re at the George V. That’s where you are now, isn’t it?’

‘Er . . . yeah. Listen, I might come to you after all. But I’ll be a little while, all right?’

Flora sighs. ‘All this toing and froing is very confusing. Lucky for you I planned to be in today. Just come over whenever you like.’

I put the phone down and gaze at Beth, who’s staring back wide-eyed. ‘Did you hear that? The press have left Flora’s flat.’

‘So where have they gone?’ Beth says breathlessly. ‘We need to find out. Then we’ll know who’s behind the leaks.’

I feel excited but also bleak. I’ve sent my fictional whereabouts to my very closest contacts, including my own sisters. It looks as though one of them is a traitor. Beth and I pull up a map of Paris on her tablet and we note exactly where to find the hotels I’ve used as possible destinations.

Beth says, ‘We need to get to each one as quickly as possible to see where the press pack has gathered.’

‘Shall we split up? Look, I’ll go to the Hôtel George V, Le Meurice and Hôtel Le Bristol – they’re all fairly close to one another. You go to the others, and the first one to spot the press calls the other. I don’t think it will take long.’

Beth nods. ‘It’s the quickest way. You can borrow a slouchy hat so that you’re even less recognisable. Come on, let’s go right now.’

 

Ten minutes later, I’m striding down the Avenue George V towards the first hotel. Beth’s hat is covering me very effectively and my sunglasses lend another layer of concealment. I don’t think I can be recognised. Besides, it’s cold and the afternoon is darkening, which means I can walk along in the shadows. When I reach the impressive exterior of the huge Hôtel George V, with its grey frontage and rows of windows, I’m filled with relief. There’s no one outside – no shabby photographers with their ubiquitous mopeds, anyway. Flora is in the clear. I knew she would be. Just at that moment I get a text from Beth.

 

No one here. Summer is not the source. Heading to the next.

 

I take a turn to the right, heading towards Hôtel le Bristol on the rue de Faubourg Sainte-Honoré, a magnificent hotel in a classic Parisian building of plain grey stone with the high leaded roof broken by garret windows. It only takes about ten minutes from the Avenue George V before I see it in the distance. The light is fading now as I approach and I have to take off my dark glasses to see where I’m going. There seems to be something going on near the entrance, and I blink hard into the twilight to see what’s happening. A text comes through just then from Beth.

 

Your friend Stephanie hasn’t told the press – still no sign of them. Two down, one to go.

 

I click off the message, my heart sinking. I can see that a doorman is outside the hotel remonstrating with some photographers, a couple of whom I recognise from earlier in the day. He’s asking them to leave but they evidently have no intention of doing so. I stand as near as I dare on the pavement and watch, the familiar sick feeling curling in my stomach. I can’t stand the sight of these men, with their cameras and their utter ruthless devotion to getting that shot. But this time, it isn’t them causing my nausea.

I reach for my phone. Beth picks up on the second ring.

‘Freya?’

‘They’re here. I’ve found them,’ I say through dry lips.

‘Oh no. Oh my God. Where are you?’

‘I’m at the Bristol.’

There’s a pause as Beth takes this in. ‘But that means . . .’

‘Yes. It’s Jane-Elizabeth. She’s the leak. No wonder they’ve been on my tail so fast. She knows everything, everything about me.’ My hands are shaking and now I feel truly sick, as though I want to throw my guts up right there on the street.

‘Oh my God. I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I say hopelessly. I feel as though my world is turning on its head. Jane-Elizabeth is the closest thing I have to a mother. How can she betray me like this? I’m too shocked and appalled to cry.

‘I’ll meet you back at the apartment,’ Beth says. ‘If you want to come back to our place, that is? Or do you want to go back to your sister’s?’

I open my mouth to reply, but before I can, I’m grabbed from behind, as a blunt-nosed object is pressed into my back, and a voice hisses in my ear, ‘There you are, you bitch. I knew you’d come here.’

‘What?’ I cry, startled. ‘Who are you?’

‘Shut up,’ orders the voice. ‘Don’t open your mouth again.’

I hear the faint sound of Beth’s voice coming from my phone but I’m being hustled to a waiting car and I can’t lift the phone to my ear. The next moment I’m thrown on to the back seat, the door is slammed shut and we’re driving off.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Fear is coursing through me. I have no idea where I’m being taken and I’m too scared to look at the man sitting to my left. He’s clearly anxious from the sound of his breathing and the way his limbs are fidgeting. Then, slowly, as my own agitation subsides, I realise that I know this person. His presence is familiar to me. I slide my gaze over and catch a glimpse of his profile against the window.

‘Jacob?’ I say wonderingly.

He turns towards me at once, his eyes glittering dangerously. ‘Shut up.’

‘Where are you taking me? What is this?’ My fear subsides a little as I realise that the man who has forced me into this car is my ex-boyfriend and surely he can’t mean to hurt me. But in answer Jacob shoves viciously with whatever it is he’s been pointing into my side. ‘Ouch! That hurt!’

‘You heard me! I said shut up!’ he shrieks. ‘Don’t try and talk to me – you
will
regret it, I promise.’

I’m startled by the sudden pain he’s inflicted on me, and by the fact that I’ve never seen Jacob like this before. He looks different – wild-eyed, pale, sweating. He’s not the smooth-faced playboy, swaggering about in his designer clothes and showing off his credit cards and fast cars. Not at all.

I glance down at my phone. The screen is blank, my call to Beth ended somehow in the tussle to get me into the car. I don’t think I can contact anyone without attracting attention. The screen will light up in the darkness and be instantly noticed. In fact, I should hide it in case it rings and Jacob remembers that I have it. I slide my phone underneath my thigh, hoping that’s enough to muffle the sound if it should ring. Surely Beth must be wondering what’s happened to me?

I want to ask Jacob where we’re going and what he wants me but the wild note in his voice means I take seriously his order not to speak to him. Instead, I try to work out where we’re going but the darkness outside means I soon lose my sense of direction and have to keep alert for landmarks that will help me. Jacob leans forward and mutters to the driver and we keep on going through the falling night. I wonder if I can jump out when we stop at lights but I have a feeling that the doors are centrally locked and I don’t want to try and fail.

I feel the phone vibrate before its ring fills the air but there’s nothing I can do to stop the sound. As soon it rings, Jacob stiffens. He holds out his hand, his expression like nothing I’ve ever seen before. ‘Don’t answer it! Give that to me,’ he barks.

BOOK: Season of Desire: Complete Edition
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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