Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford
“I wish you
goodnight too, Luke,” she said to the screen.
She froze the
frame and studied his face. His dark hair was prematurely greying at the temples,
but it only served to make him look sexier, if that was possible. He had grey eyes
with thick lashes, but he was all man, cut from the same cloth as old-time
movie stars like Clark Gable. She tried to fathom what his home was like, who
he would have dinner with tonight, and who he loved.
seen him in person for more than five years. When he called her to say he was
getting an award, and would she like to organize the party for him, it took almost
an hour for her to stop trembling after she’d hung up. Life had made her tough,
but there was something about Luke Thompson that made her knees turn to jelly…when
she was eight. And now at thirty.
drink with your lover, I see.”
jumped out of her chair.
standing in the doorway of the bedroom, watching her intently.
“Mikey! You nearly
gave me a heart attack. What are you doing here?”
“Well, I was
sleeping until you turned on Captain America.” Mikey looked at the face frozen
on the television screen. “Who would’ve ever guessed he’d end up on TV?”
wanted to be a newscaster,” Hayley exclaimed, sounding annoyed.
through the refrigerator and settled on a piece of cold pizza. “Wanting and
doing are different things. I wanted all kind of things,” he said through
mouthfuls of food.
anything you want, if you just worked at it.” She went to the kitchen and gave
him a piece of paper towel to use as a napkin.
He stuck it in
his pocket and used the back of his hand to wipe his mouth, studying the
screen. He threw himself down in Hayley’s chair, sprawling in it. “Did old Luke
ever get married? Or is he waiting for you?”
disgusting.” Hayley's voice was harsher than she had meant it to be. “And no,
he's not married. But we’re not that kind of friends.”
“If you say
“Would you get
out of my chair! You're going to get pizza sauce on it.”
queen’s throne!” He playfully pretended to wipe his hands on the chair.
him, but couldn’t help smiling. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
“I quit. Night
watchman is a joke job. I need to get something that suits me better. Maybe I’ll
be a TV star, too.”
“You got fired,
didn’t you?” It was a statement, not a question. Hayley knew him only too well.
to get fired than quit. I keep telling you that. Then you can collect
“What am I
going to do with you?”
asked…can you lend me a few bucks to hold me, till my unemployment kicks in?”
“Mikey, I just
gave you five hundred dollars.”
stricken. “That was a week ago. I know you’re a penny pincher. Well, I guess I
can get a loan. I know some people.”
went to find her bag. “Stay away from those guys. They charge a hundred per cent
interest, and you know what happens when you don't pay. I’ll give you what I
the money. It was a hundred and twenty dollars. “Maybe you could cash a check?”
“Out! Go home
before I take that money back.”
lifted her up and whirled her around. “Thank you, big sister.” He indicated
Luke, whose face was still frozen on the television screen. “I’ll leave you two
Mikey blew her
a kiss, and let himself out. Hayley collapsed in her chair. She stared at the
screen and smiled. “You were right, Luke. I’m a patsy. But he’s so damn
loveable I just can't help myself.”
She snapped off
the television set and poured herself another glass of wine. After a moment she
locked and chained the door and moved to the desk near the window. She unlocked
the bottom drawer and pulled out an ancient scrapbook full of clippings and
photos. Handling it with care, she took it with her to the giant chair and
The book was
all about Luke Thompson. There were school pictures of him when he was eight
and nine, old clippings about his sports triumphs, and a catalogue of his
progress from roving reporter to anchor of his own national television show on
a major network. After a moment, she found what she was looking for. It was a
yellowed letter in a child’s hand, which Luke had written to her shortly after
she got the scholarship to Miss Porter’s.
It's boring here without you. Mrs. Barrett in the next room still snores
like a rhino. Remember when you sneaked in and put a clothes pin on her nose? I
think Dad got a job, so maybe we’ll be moving on to our own place soon. Do you
like your school? If those snotty rich girls give you a hard time, let me know
and I’ll come up and take care of them for you. No one’s going to mess with my
girl. That’s all for now.
P.S. Your brother got sent to the principal’s office again yesterday. I
hear he got caught smoking in the teacher’s bathroom.
Hayley smiled wistfully, carefully refolded
the letter and put it back in the envelope. She held the scrapbook to her heart
as if it were a sacred relic.
Or the chronicle of the man she loved.
was tearing through her closet, wishing that she had Hayley’s talent for saying
no to people. She had an hour to change and then meet the famous Mr. Luke
Thompson at Penn Station. She had already visited with the committee hosting
the award dinner, and had worked out most of the details. But, as guest of honor,
Luke was entitled to a courtesy meeting to approve the plans.
scheduled the meeting at the office for four o’clock today, but then Luke had
called a few hours ago with a change of plans. Something had come up, a lead on
a story he was working on. He had to take the 4 p.m. Acela, the express train
to Washington, D.C., for a meeting at the State Department. He would then leave
for Thailand in the morning. If she cared to ride along on the train, they
would have two hours and forty-eight minutes to work out all the details of the
award evening. He would be happy to send her back by plane, and she would be in
New York later the same evening.
The last thing
Fiona wanted to do was sit on a train for three hours, but this was Hayley’s
friend and she felt she had to say yes. Besides which, she’d been wanting to
see the new photography collection at the National Gallery. She could stay in
D.C. overnight, see the exhibition, and fly back in the morning. It would all
work out if only she could find something suitable to wear, and get to the
station in an hour.
with a voluptuous body and long shapely legs, Fiona evoked a strong reaction
from men and women alike. Today she didn’t want to draw attention to herself,
so she dressed to downplay the curves, especially for a business meeting.
Although she wasn’t aware of it, her efforts did not work. She had the kind of allure
and beauty that were impossible to disguise.
Finally she settled
for cream-colored slacks and a short-sleeved lavender sweater. It was spring,
but weather in mid-April was quixotic on the East Coast. And Washington could be
a steam bath, even at this time of year. Layers, she reminded herself.
She went back
into the closet and found a fitted blue jacket trimmed with bone buttons, and selected
a vintage Hermès scarf. She slid her feet into beige patent L.K. Bennett pumps,
the ones favored by the Duchess of Cambridge, and examined herself in the
mirror. With her cream-colored trench coat she would be ready for any
eventuality the day offered.
Or so she
thought. But then, no one could have predicted what this day had in store for
She sat at her
dressing table and studied her face. She had the creamy complexion of her
English ancestors, wide-set blue
eyes and straight blonde hair that Hayley, always fighting with her wild mass
of curls, openly coveted.
On a whim, Fiona opened a drawer, took
out a cosmetic pouch, and emptied the contents onto the table. She began to apply makeup,
something she rarely did. She was basically a soap-and-water kind of girl but now,
she decided, she would gild the lily a bit.
What is wrong
with you, Fiona Chambers? she thought, staring back at herself. You’re meeting
a client. Why are you acting like a school girl going on her first date?
She wiped her
face clean, purposefully put her makeup bag back in the drawer, and pulled her
hair into a severe pony tail. She was annoyed with herself.
For a reason
she could not explain, when she had called to arrange the meeting and had heard
Luke’s voice, butterflies seemed to take flight in her stomach. This unbidden
thrill of anticipation was completely inappropriate but she was powerless to
Are you becoming
star-struck all of a sudden? she asked her reflection. It was not as if she
hadn’t had to deal with celebrities in her work. And she was going to join Luke
Thompson on the train from New York to Washington, D.C., not the mysterious Orient
Express to Istanbul.
She had made her
reservation at the Jefferson, her favorite D.C. hotel, and now all she needed to
do was to throw a few things in an overnight bag, then call Hayley to let her
know the plans had changed. She did not need makeup.
flustered and she did not like the feeling. Why wouldn’t Hayley go to see Luke?
Couldn’t she make an exception to her hard and fast rule about not meeting with
clients? Luke was, after all, her oldest pal. Fiona couldn’t understand it. But
that was Hayley: solid as a rock one moment, jumpy as a squirrel the next.
I’m not much
better than that today myself, she thought, forcing herself to focus. She was
going to miss the train if she didn’t hurry.
She put the
last few things in her bag, and tried Hayley one more time. Again her call went
right to voicemail, which was unusual.
matter. Hayley had already made it clear she wanted no part of this meeting. Fiona
left a message, telling her friend what was going on, and headed for the door.
She was determined to dispatch the uninvited butterflies, and behave like the
professional she was.
phone lay on the polished counter covered with bits of blue hair. She had never
felt so uncomfortable in her life and was silently castigating herself for
making this appointment. God only knew what it was going to cost.
She finally found
the courage to look in the mirror, and then sneak a peek over her shoulder
where the master was plying his trade. Frederick, hair stylist to the rich and
famous, was a blur of flying hands and scissors. Hair fluttered everywhere in a
cloud of multicolored curls, and was immediately swept up by an assistant
dressed all in black.
flanked by two more black-clad assistants, hands behind their backs, leaning
this way and that with his every move. They could have been watching a tennis
match, she thought.
He was finally
behind her. Ready to do her hair. “If you must have blue hair in future, please
promise me you will have a professional color it for you. You are lucky not to
could manage was a nod. She was grappling with the image in the mirror. She
hardly knew herself. The blue tint which she had so carefully applied to her
hair was gone, replaced by her own color, auburn. She hadn’t seen it in years.
tangle of messy hair that she thought of as her trademark was gone. In its
place was a pixie cut, which one of the assistants was now coaxing into place
with a round brush and a blow dryer. Anne Hathaway on a bad day, she decided, thinking
of the actress. She was also fighting the urge to burst into tears and run away
from this place.
Very you,” the famous hairdresser said, although Hayley had never met him
before, and he had no idea who she was.
fingers were flying through her hair now that the assistant had finished his
work. He smoothed it, then spiked it, then messed it up completely, and called
something special to do today, yes?” the hairdresser asked.
In spite of
herself, Hayley blushed. “Maybe. Yes. I’m going to see a friend, a man. I haven’t
seen him in a long time.”
“You love this
man.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Oh, no!” Haley
was adamant. “Nothing like that. He’s a friend, as I said.”
He laughed. “I
am French. I know such things! And when he sees you today, he will love you
back.” Frederick made a little bow, and, trailed by his entourage, floated off
to the next client.
Hayley had frequently
Googled Luke and knew he was still single, knew he had no significant
relationships. She stared at herself in the mirror and dared to hope.
was late. She had left the brownstone in Gramercy Park, where she lived, in
plenty of time and, miraculously, a taxi was just dropping off a passenger on
Her luck ended
there. Bumper-to-bumper traffic was everywhere. Her driver crawled up and down
side streets only to be greeted by another snarl of cars.
Finally she thanked
him, stuffed twenty dollars into his hand, and jumped out of the cab on Sixth
Avenue and 32
Street. She ran the four long blocks to the railway station,
her overnight bag banging against her leg.
into the 34
Street entrance, her pony tail flying. Penn Station
was crowded even at three forty-five in the afternoon. She breathlessly asked
the first person she saw where the Krispy Kreme Donut Shop was. Luke had
suggested they meet there, because every employee in the station would know
where it was.