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Authors: Christina Courtenay

The Soft Whisper of Dreams

BOOK: The Soft Whisper of Dreams
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The Soft Whisper of Dreams

Christina Courtenay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Copyright page

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

Epilogue

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Christina Courtenay

Published 2014 by Choc Lit Limited

Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2AB, UK

www.choc-lit.com

The right of Melanie Hudson to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1P 9HE

ISBN-978-1-78189-147-6

 

Chapter One

 

‘Now then girls, as you’ve probably guessed, your parents’ will doesn’t contain any surprises, except for ... What I mean to say is that you will, of course, share their assets equally. There’s no question about that.’

Mr Parker, the family solicitor, was perched on the edge of the sofa, his papers spread out before him on the coffee table in neat little piles. Madeline Browne and her younger sister Olivia occupied the two armchairs facing him, and they waited in silence for him to continue.

‘Yes, and …?’ Olivia, impatient as always, prompted when he didn’t immediately go on.

‘Well, there is one small detail which I am obliged to disclose to you,’ he said finally, ‘although it won’t make any difference to the will itself.’ He looked extremely uncomfortable and cleared his throat twice.

A fly buzzed at the window, attempting to escape to the freedom outside and Maddie wished she could do the same. She swallowed down the tears that threatened to spill over once again. This is beyond awful.

‘Your parents added a codicil to the effect that, uhm, I have to tell you ... er, in short, they thought you ought to know that you’re not sisters by blood.’ He managed to spit it out at last, and added, ‘Maddie, you were adopted.’

Maddie drew in a sharp breath and stared at the solicitor. ‘Adopted?’

‘Yes, that’s right.’ Mr Parker nodded for extra emphasis and shuffled a pile of papers which were already perfectly aligned.

‘But what …? Why, I mean …’ Maddie couldn’t believe she was hearing this and had trouble making her brain process the information. There was a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach, as if she had swallowed an ice bag and her entire middle had gone numb. She’d known the reading of the will would be painful, but this was totally unexpected. How could Mum and Dad have kept that a secret for so long? And why on earth hadn’t they told her? She was twenty-seven, not a child any more.

As if he’d heard her thoughts, Mr Parker said, ‘I’m afraid I don’t know why they didn’t want to tell you before now. Perhaps they thought it was for the best?’ He shrugged. ‘They didn’t confide in me about that matter.’

There was another silence, this one distinctly more uncomfortable. Mr Parker shifted nervously on the sofa and leaned forward to re-shuffle his papers yet again. Maddie sat transfixed, unable to move a muscle, but her sister’s next words broke her trance.

‘If Maddie’s not my real sister, why should she have half my parents’ money?’

‘Olivia!’ The solicitor’s eyes opened wide in scandalised surprise at this blunt and callous question, but Maddie herself didn’t bat an eyelid. In fact, she almost smiled for the first time since receiving the news of her parents’ car crash. The question was entirely in character with the way Olivia’s devious and selfish mind worked. No one knew that better than Maddie.

‘As your parents’ adopted daughter, Maddie has just as much legal right to inherit their assets as you do, Olivia. The paperwork is all in order.’ The solicitor’s mouth had settled into a thin, uncompromising line and his brows drew together into a formidable frown of disapproval, but Olivia wasn’t fazed. Her thinly plucked eyebrows rose over heavily made-up eyes, attempting a look of injured innocence.

‘But if she’s no blood relation, shouldn’t I at least have the larger portion?’ Olivia’s face was cold under the thick layer of foundation, her expression one of clinical detachment. There was no grief for their parents’ passing. No sign of guilt at wanting to deprive her sister of her inheritance. Nothing to indicate that she even understood the cruelty of what she was saying. Mr Parker’s mouth fell open in disbelief.

‘Really, Olivia, this is beyond anything!’ He turned to Maddie with an apologetic gesture, clearly floundering in the face of this unexpected turn of events. He began to fidget with an elegant silver fountain pen, capping and uncapping it. ‘I’m at a loss for words,’ he added unnecessarily.

Maddie decided it was time to come to his rescue. While listening to Olivia’s questions, a quiet fury had begun to build up inside her. It wasn’t something which had come on suddenly, she realised. The anger had been increasing steadily over the years, but she had always reined it in out of respect for their parents. Now there was no longer any reason why she shouldn’t let it out and the rage gave her the strength to deal with this now, once and for all.

‘Don’t worry, Mr Parker.’ Maddie leaned forward to lay a soothing hand on his sleeve. ‘This has all come as a huge shock to me, as you probably guess, but it’s made me see one thing clearly – Olivia is not, and never has been, a sister to me. No matter what I did the two of us couldn’t get on. I’ve always wondered why, because I wanted us to be close, but today you’ve given me the answer. Thank you.’

‘Always playing the saint,’ Olivia sneered under her breath. ‘Nothing ever changes.’

Maddie didn’t rise to the bait. She’d had years of practice at ignoring her sister’s barbs for the sake of a peaceful existence and in order to spare her parents grief, as they had hated confrontations of any kind. Besides, there was no point in retaliating. Olivia had skin thicker than an armadillo, and somehow, in the end, she always had her way.

‘Your parents adopted you because they didn’t think they could have any children,’ the solicitor interjected. ‘I have known them for years and they loved you as if you were truly theirs. That fact didn’t change when they were blessed,’ here he hesitated slightly and cast a doubtful glance at Olivia, ‘with a natural child.’

‘I know, Mr Parker.’ Maddie held up her hand to stop him. This was all too new, her emotions were still very raw, and she would rather not discuss it. All she wanted was to escape from this room, this house and Olivia’s presence. ‘I agree, I couldn’t have had a better mum or dad. They gave me what I needed most when they were alive – their love. I don’t want anything else from them now. Let Olivia have it all. It doesn’t matter.’

‘But Maddie, of course it matters. We’re talking about a substantial sum here.’ The stunned expression had returned to the man’s face.

‘No, I’m serious. I know her better than anyone.’ It was Maddie’s turn to glare at Olivia. ‘And I can see that she’ll stop at nothing until she has her way.’

Olivia turned away to study her immaculately painted talons, as if the discussion had nothing whatsoever to do with her and she hadn’t been the one to set the cat among the pigeons in the first place. Maddie clenched her teeth together hard.

‘There is nothing Olivia can do,’ Mr Parker protested. ‘It’s all legal.’

‘I don’t care. I don’t ever want to see or hear from her again, so if you would be so kind as to help me remove a few personal items and keepsakes, she can have the rest. You’ll take care of the paperwork, right?’ Maddie was seething and she could feel the red-hot lava of emotions bubbling up inside her, waiting to erupt, but she was determined not to give way. She could cry later, when she was alone. For now, she’d leave this place in a dignified manner and never look back. Never come back. It was the only way.

Olivia, who had been listening to this exchange with a small smirk of satisfaction playing about her mouth, suddenly frowned and looked at Maddie suspiciously. ‘What are you taking? You’re not having Mum’s best ―’

‘Olivia!’ Mr Parker barked out the name this time in a voice which reminded Maddie of a headmaster speaking to a naughty child. If only Olivia’s real parents had tried that approach occasionally, she thought, they wouldn’t be having this conversation now. ‘I suggest you count your blessings,’ the solicitor continued with a withering look at Olivia, ‘and let Maddie choose whichever items she wants. If not, I have a good mind to force her to accept your parents’ bequest. Don’t believe for a moment that I couldn’t do it. Or even, if need be, retain it in trust for her children. Do I make myself understood?’ He looked sufficiently fierce for his words to have the desired effect and Olivia nodded in simmering silence.

‘Don’t worry, Olivia,’ Maddie gave a brittle little laugh, ‘we’ve never had the same taste so I’m not likely to want any of the things you like.’ She stood up and headed for the door.

‘We’ll see,’ Olivia muttered as she followed her former sister out of the room, arms crossed belligerently over her chest.

Mr Parker brought up the rear, anger and disbelief still written all over his face. As he caught up with the sisters, Maddie saw his confusion and whispered, ‘Really, this is the best way. Now I can be free of her for the rest of my life. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.’

Mr Parker would have to take her word for it.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

‘Kayla! It’s so good to see you, and thank you again for having me to stay at such short notice.’

BOOK: The Soft Whisper of Dreams
10.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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