Authors: Jane Frances
Tags: #Australia, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Women television personalities, #Lesbians, #Fiction, #Lesbian
Copyright © 2008 by Jane Frances
Bella Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 10543
Tallahassee, FL 32302
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechan
ical, including photocopying, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper First Edition
Editor: Christi Cassidy Cover designer: Selena Webber & Susanne Tester
ISBN-10: 1-59493-122-4 ISBN-13: 978-1-59493-122-2
This one’s for you, Aline.
A huge thank you to Aline, who, in addition to delivering frequent cups of espresso to my desk, not only read every draft almost the moment it was thrust into her hands, but was also unceasingly patient in my appalling attempts to speak and write French. To Fleur, who gives her honest opinion whether I want it or not, and to all my usual suspects—many thanks for your ongoing advice and support.
Again, special thanks to Christine at Bella Books, my editor extraordinaire!
About the Author
The daughter of a teacher, Jane was brought up with books from as early as she can remember, and to this day continues her love affair with the written word and its ability to transport the reader to places unknown.
Jane was educated in the traditional fashion, taking the path directly from school to university and gaining a Bachelor of Business degree with major studies in Marketing. Her studies took her to the marketing department of a city-based educational institution where she spent over a decade working in a creative and supportive environment.
At the time of writing this novel, Jane was in the midst of a two-year sabbatical which took her across Europe, to China and a flying visit to the United States. She has since returned to Australia and her much-missed friends and family, hopefully a little wiser, but definitely with an expanded view of the world that we all occupy together.
Morgan Silverstone swallowed the yawn that would advertise her inattentiveness and pushed the venetian blind aside far enough to glimpse the landscape moving beyond the window. The last time she looked, which was not too long after the train pulled out of the gray and dreary East Perth station, they had been rolling through the Swan Valley, a wine region located right on the doorstep of Western Australia’s capital city. She’d watched the vines that marched in ordered rows across the plains of the valley as she munched on the not-too-bad but boring chicken and lettuce sandwiches that Kitty bought from the canteen in the diner car. Only two days ago she and her crew were filming in that very same valley, gathering footage to promote the region to the rest of the nation. A half-day had been spent at one of the more prestigious wineries, accompanying a tour that took visitors through the entire winemaking process, from the vine to the cellar. The tour ended with a gastronomic lunch at the winery’s restaurant.
Memories of the fabulous cabernet sauvignon that was served with her melt-in-the-mouth fillet steak made Morgan set aside the bad-verging-on-awful coffee Kitty had also plopped on the table next to the sandwiches. But only minutes later the wine was forgotten and the bad coffee downed as she, Kitty, Mark and Nick became engrossed in a preproduction meeting.
As expected, the meeting was long. Despite the groundwork already laid before they even boarded the train that would take them the 4,352 kilometers from Perth to Sydney, there was an endless array of items to finalize for the series of segments they would film over their three-day train ride.
Now, after it seemed they had nitpicked every detail possible, Kitty declared the meeting done.
There was a collective groan of relief from around the small table as, finally, they could escape the confines of Morgan’s “room.” The compartment was meant to accommodate two, cozy enough when containing the standard number of persons, but positively claustrophobic with four of them squeezed in.
The exodus of the three other members of their party was led by Mark, the only smoker in their group, who was now presumably charging toward one of the few designated smoking areas in the train, a glass-encased “capsule” with its own ventilation system.
Once alone, Morgan held her arms above her head, intertwined her fingers and stretched as high as she could. On release she let out a sigh, feeling an easing of some of the stiffness in her back that sitting in more or less one spot for the last four and a bit hours had caused. Her upper body again mobile, she wriggled her toes, flexed her calf muscles and tucked away the small foldaway table that had served as their workspace. She dug into her beauty case and drew the brush she found through her long auburn hair. She cleaned her teeth at the tiny wash basin, gargled with a medicated rinse, sprayed on some perfume and reapplied a smattering of lipstick.
A mirror check revealed she was presentable, so she grabbed her handbag, locked the compartment door behind her and went to explore the train. Filming would not begin until tomorrow, but before then she was charged with the task of finding fellow travelers who would be willing to be on national television. Since a great majority of people clamored to be on camera, especially for a show with such a high profile as theirs, getting takers was not normally a problem. What did present a problem was finding those persons who could be put in front of a camera
talk coherently once there.
Morgan turned to the questioning voice coming from behind her. As soon as she did a rather rotund woman clapped her hand to her mouth and gave a delighted squeal. She rushed forward.
“Oh, my God, Morgan Silverstone!” she gushed. “I thought it was you, but I can’t believe it actually is. I just love
. I watch it every week . . . honestly, I do. Bless you, dear, you look just like on television, only maybe not as tall.” The woman dug into her bag and pulled out a pocket camera, not missing a beat as she primed it to take a picture. “I can’t wait until I tell the girls at the club who I met . . .”
Morgan thought as the flash from the camera made her blink.
I think I can safely cross you off my list of would-be stars.
The woman introduced herself as Marge, who lived in Adelaide and had been in Perth to visit her sister who had taken a bit of a turn on the stairs but, bless her, was on the mend now. Marge was taking the train for the return journey because it was one of those things one really must do, wasn’t it, despite the fact it meant being away a bit longer from her husband, Fred, who, bless him, was probably starving by now as he couldn’t even boil an egg, even though she had left plenty of meals in the freezer and clear instructions for reheating them in the oven . . .
Morgan had been heading toward the front of the train, to the common areas designated for “Red” passengers, that is, those in second-class sleepers such as hers and those unfortunates committed to an upright seat for the entire journey. Marge was also heading that way, so Morgan pretended she had forgotten something in her compartment and hurriedly turned the key in the lock. She rustled around noisily for a moment, poked her head outside and found Marge beaming at her, taking a deep breath as if to begin speaking again.
“It was lovely meeting you.” Morgan wrapped her hands around Marge’s and flashed the television presenter smile that had sent the hearts of many of her male audience—and no doubt some of the female viewers too—beating wildly. “But I do have an appointment”—she pointed in the direction of the “Gold” carriages—“down there.”
“Of course, of course.” Marge bobbed her head up and down. “You must be awfully busy. Life isn’t just one long
, is it?” She laughed loudly at her own joke and beamed when Morgan politely laughed along.
Morgan nodded an assurance she would of course visit seat twenty-seven in carriage three just as soon as she had the chance, then turned and walked with what she hoped looked like an “I’m late for an appointment” purpose toward the end of the corridor. She passed through another sleeper car similar to her own before coming to a sign that read
Gold Class Passengers only beyond this point
. Despite—with the exception of Kitty—their lodgings being in Red class, Morgan and the rest of the television crew had access to all the passenger areas of the train, so she had no hesitation in pulling on the handle and stepping into what was no doubt a different world.
Courtesy of the waistcoated and bow-tied bartender, she exited Gold class two hours later, a vodka and cranberry juice under her belt and a short list of potential ringins in her mind. Top of her list was a gregarious retired Scottish woman who was steadily working her way through what were popularly known as the “Great Train Journeys.” Each year for the past eight years she had taken a different voyage. Last year she had traveled the Paris to Istanbul route on the famed Orient Express. The year prior she traversed Canada from Vancouver to Nova Scotia.
“Hey.” Morgan switched her attention from thoughts of the Scotswoman to Mark, who was approaching from the opposite direction. “How’s it going?”
“No worries my end.” Mark grinned laconically. “Nick’s having a bit of a fit though. He’s just discovered his camera’s as dead as a dodo and after tearing our room apart he’s come to the conclusion he must have checked his spare battery packs and charger with the rest of his luggage.”
“So, what’s the big deal?” Morgan shrugged. “We don’t start filming until tomorrow.” Cameraman Nick, despite having the steady hands required for his job, had a nervous disposition and was prone to making mountains out of molehills. A complete contrast with sound recordist Mark, who, until the urge for nicotine got the better of him, was as laid back as they come. “He can just get them when we make the stop at Kalgoorlie tonight.”
Mark leaned up against the window side of the corridor, hands behind his back and one sneaker-clad foot flat to the wall. “Easier said than done. Apparently checked luggage is not accessible for the entire journey. Kitty’s ‘in conference’ with the chief guard as we speak, trying to get him to make an exception.”
“Of course they will.” Kitty, as the producer, had dealt with much bigger problems than a dead battery. The weight of the show’s reputation alone would be enough to sway any decision. The train management surely wouldn’t keep the checked baggage under lock and key at the expense of missing out on national television coverage. Morgan waved the issue away as unimportant and changed the subject. “I thought I might check out the Red passengers. Do you want to come?”
“Looking for a Lady in Red?” Mark deadpanned.
Morgan shot him a withering look. “Very funny. Come on. We’ve less than two hours until they start serving dinner. We’re booked in for the first sitting and I sure don’t want to miss any of it.”
“Gold?” Mark asked hopefully.
“Damn right.” Morgan nodded happily. Although they would shoot a segment of Morgan eating in Red, their
access all areas
privilege also gave them dining rights in the Gold restaurant car. It was another perk of the job. So goodness knew why Kitty had made them suffer through their lunch of canteen sandwiches and burnt coffee. Probably for the same reason that, back in February, she had convinced the executive producer it should be Morgan who was sent underwater in a sharkproof cage for a segment on diving with the Great White shark. This was despite Morgan’s terror of the creatures and despite the fact that Troy— one of the show’s team of six presenters and an extreme sports enthusiast—was champing at the bit for the opportunity. Kitty did such things just because she could.