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Authors: Lucy Lord


BOOK: Vanity
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To my wonderful parents, Elizabeth and Christopher,
with all my love.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

‘Bollocks,' said the blushing bride, scrutinizing her crotch through her wedding dress in the floor-to-ceiling mirror. ‘It's too see-through in daylight, isn't it? I'm going to have to wear those bloody remedial granny pants.'

The pants in question were an exorbitantly expensive pair of sheer nude silk Myla boy shorts, hardly the passion-killing girdle the comment implied. But Poppy Wallace had set her heart on going commando on her Big Day.

‘Never mind,' said her best friend Bella, topping up their glasses with Veuve Clicquot. ‘Damian can rip them off with his teeth later.'

They both looked at Poppy's reflection. Transparency problem aside, she looked more beautiful than Bella had ever seen her, and that was saying something. The sheer white cotton voile dress, suspended from spaghetti straps
and embroidered with daisies at the hem and strategically
across what there was of her chest, skimmed her tiny body
and floated to her delicate ankles. Her streaky white/gol
d hair flowed loose, halfway down her bare brown back, crowned with a sweet-smelling garland of white and yellow
spring flowers. Her only jewellery was her vintage diamond-
and-emerald engagement ring and an anklet fashioned out of silver daisies. She was barefoot, and her lovely little face, all wide green eyes, small nose and perfect teeth, was glowing.

Bella's eyes filled with tears.

‘Oh, Pops, you look gorgeous. Can I hug you without ruining anything?'

‘Course you can, you silly arse. Come here.' She flung her little arms around Bella. When she released her, Bella could see that her eyes were suspiciously shiny too. Poppy only cried on the rarest of occasions (unlike Bella, who found herself gently weeping like George Harrison's guitar with embarrassing frequency now she was in her thirties. Sad news stories, soppy song lyrics, old episodes of
she'd seen a million times before – it didn't take a lot these days).

‘If it wasn't for you, Belles, I wouldn't be standing here today. So thanks, lovely. For everything.'

They downed their champagne and Poppy added, ‘Looking pretty gorgeous yourself, if I may congratulate myself on my exquisite taste. In friends

‘Such a pretty dress.' Bella dabbed at her eyes with her fingers, then licked them, trying not to get any watery black residue on her cotton voile halterneck bridesmaid's frock (she'd predictably forgotten to pack waterproof mascara). She and Poppy had spent ages choosing the exact shade of coral pink that most flattered Bella's dark hair and eyes.

‘Thanks for not putting me in lilac frills.'

‘It was touch and go, especially when you kept going on about having my hen do at School Disco.'

They both laughed.

‘Shit, look at the time!' said Bella. It wasn't hard to miss, a fluorescent LCD display projected against one of the whitewashed walls of the ultra-glamorous, ultra-modern villa. ‘Take one last look at yourself as a single woman, babe. No last-minute regrets?'

Poppy shook her golden head. ‘No last-minute regrets.' They both looked at her reflection again, different memories racing through each of their minds.

‘Let's go then. But you'd better put your knickers on first.'

Mark looked around the crowded beach and smiled broadly. What a way to get hitched, man. Playa des'Estanyol, a little sandy cove halfway up the east coast of Ibiza, was a bugger to get to, located at the bottom of a long and bumpy pine-tree-shaded track, but that hadn't fazed Mark. He'd relished bombing down in his hired jeep, sending up clouds of white dust, fucking up the tyres and making his girlfriend Sam squeal. And even his unromantic heart had thrilled at the beauty of the beach, nestled into warm yellow rocks and backed by the lush green forest. The scent of pine groves mingled with the sea air, and clear tourmaline water lapped the pale shore. Further out, where the ocean changed to navy, pristine white sails breezed across the horizon.

Nudists habitually basked on the rocks and in the crystal waters at the southernmost end of the beach, but today they'd kept away out of deference to the nuptials. Spoilsports. In Mark's experience, the more a nudist wanted to flaunt their bits in your face, the older and saggier they were (Scandinavians aside), but sometimes a young chick with a hot bod slipped through the net and he wasn't above a sneaky peek. Still, it was early season, only May, and, although it was a beautiful day, in the high 20s already, the sea was probably still cold enough to freeze your nuts off.

Arctic camouflage material fluttered above the stone-clad bar/restaurant area, giving a dappled shade to the tables that had been laid for the wedding feast. Sam had said it looked like crochet from a distance. Now she was ordering a drink at the bar, possibly unaware of the fact that every male eye on the beach was currently feasting on her.

That's my girl, thought Mark proudly, taking in her pretty little body in its short yellow dress, huge knockers threatening to burst through the thin floral fabric. Her long, straightened, henna-red hair was caught by the breeze as she noticed him watching her. A genuine smile lit up her sweet young face and she waved, tottering over the sand on foolish heels. Mark could have fucked her right there, in front of everybody.

‘Isn't this wicked?' she breathed in her husky voice as she reached him. ‘I can't wait to see Poppy's dress. And Bella's. I bet Poppy's got her something really nice to wear – they're such good mates. Not like when Karen made me wear puke-green satin.' She made a face to illustrate and Mark laughed.

‘You'd look gorgeous in anything, babe.'

Much as Mark couldn't believe his luck about Sam, he had long harboured threesome fantasies about Poppy and Bella: Poppy so fair, Bella so dark, both of them so fit. And he'd nearly had his wicked way with Bella a couple of times last year. But that was before she got together with Andy. And before he met Sam, of course.

Damian was doing the rounds, sweating slightly in his cream linen suit. He'd be glad when he could take the bloody jacket off. It was great seeing all their friends and family gathered on the beautiful beach, the result of months of excited planning. The planning had been amazing, without doubt the best nine months of his life. He'd nearly lost Poppy last year, in more ways than one, and the joy he'd felt when she'd surprised him with a proposal had been overwhelming. Relief had turned to magical excitement as they planned every last detail of what they hoped would be the best day of their lives, and he'd never felt closer to anyone. But by God was he nervous now. He was almost 100 per cent sure he was doing the right thing.

‘Not getting cold feet are you, darling?' asked Simon, his best man and fellow journalist on the men's style magazine
. ‘Here, have some of this.' He passed him his drink, an ice-cold White Russian.

‘Thanks, mate.' Damian took a swig. ‘And no, I'm not. Well – maybe a bit.' He laughed. ‘But only stage fright, not the till-death-us-do-part bit, I'm absolutely convinced about that.' He looked at Simon through his wraparound rock-star shades, fully aware of what most of his friends had made of Poppy's behaviour the previous year. ‘And I'm bloody hot in this suit.'

Il faut souffrir être beau
.' Simon's affected campery could be misleading sometimes. ‘Anyway, you're lookin' mighty fine, dude.' And Damian was. The cream linen set off his half-Indian, half-Welsh complexion beautifully, and the sharp cut emphasized his lean build. The shades, which he planned to take off during the ceremony, concealed soulful dark eyes that slanted down at the corners.

‘But maybe you should have taken a leaf out of that couple's book.' Simon was now laughing in the direction of an ageing pair of ravers in matching purple sarongs. The man was bare-chested, the woman improbably pert-breasted in a gold-and-lilac paisley bandeau bikini top. They were boogying barefoot in the sand to Moby, half pissed already by the look of it.

‘That's Bella's dad and his latest,' said Damian, laughing too now and waving over at them. ‘Hey, Justin, hey, Jilly.' They waved back, blowing kisses.

‘You don't mind them not making more of an effort?' Simon was very conscious of his own and others' sartorial standards. Today he was impeccably dressed in a white open-necked shirt under a similar suit to Damian's (only in a muted
café au lait
shade, so as not to upstage the groom).

‘Why do you think we're getting married on a beach, you twat?'

He just wished Poppy would hurry up so they could get this over with.

Natalia Evanovitch sipped her Cristal and surveyed the scene coolly from her hillside vantage spot. She would descend in her own time. She had only known Poppy and Damian since they'd been engaged, and in that time she had grown very fond of them; they were a good-looking, intelligent, fun-loving couple who were a great addition to her little black book. Hence the generous offer of her extraordinarily glamorous clifftop villa as both the reception after-party venue and somewhere for the wedding party to stay for the week.

Natalia was seriously loaded. As she looked down at the hipsters milling around the beach in their Alice Temperley frocks and designer shades, she reflected on the contrast between her new sunny, carefree world and her cold, dark past in Kiev. And they say that money cannot buy you happiness, she thought scornfully.

But if it wasn't for her past, the money almost certainly wouldn't exist. For a moment she gazed out over the sea, lost in thought. With an effort she snapped herself out of it. Across the pass, the wedding jeep was making its juddering way down the hill. Natalia adjusted her multicoloured silk minidress, checked her smooth platinum-blonde ponytail in the rear-view window of her state-of-the-art silver Ferrari and made a leisurely descent to the beach.

Justin and Jilly were having a whale of a time. They'd been nearly the oldest swingers in town at Pacha last night and snorted much of Colombia's finest. The Viagra-assisted screwing had lasted till dawn, so they'd only had around three hours' sleep.

She's not bad for an old bird, thought Justin, checking out Jilly's childless flat stomach and lifted tits. Even though he was at least ten years older than her, he was used to much younger totty, and his forty-five-odd years of experience as a fashion photographer generally guaranteed him access to it. But he was still smarting from the hideous events of the previous year. A young model he'd screwed had accused him of rape after he'd failed to get her picture on the cover of Italian
. Justin's moral boundaries were pretty vague, but rape? No way, José. He'd assumed she fancied him; he was still pretty buff, if he did say so himself. He thought he'd taken her to heaven and back.

BOOK: Vanity
3.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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