Secrets & Salvation
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They said that the female of the species was usually deadlier than the male. Libby didn't exactly hold with that theory, not after Simon had, a) not only put her bank balance in the red, but b) also succeeded in breaking her heart.
How he had managed to do the latter, she wasn't sure. All she knew was that you didn't instantly stop loving someone just because they said one morning over breakfast, 'Sorry this isn't working out,' before casually picking up an already packed holdall from the hall cupboard.
All right, the way he had finished with her had been callously sudden and there had been times during their relationship when he had been a little bit on the selfish side. But there had also been wonderful times and unfortunately these were the memories that plagued her sometimes late into the night. Why was the brain so stupidly selective? Why couldn't she just remember the bad times, or at least concentrate on the fact that because of Simon she was going to have to move out of her apartment, as, despite the fact that she had a good job in advertising, her bills had mounted up to the point where she couldn't afford to live in Merrion Terrace on her own.
And now to add insult to injury it seemed that Simon had run up another set of huge bills on her credit card.
'It was my card but a joint account,' Libby confided to her best friend Chloe as they met for their usual Friday drink in the wine bar after work. 'I suppose I should have cancelled it when he left, but I honestly never thought he'd do anything like this.'
'Have you talked to him about it?'
'Not yet.' Libby took a sip of her wine, her expression grim. 'He's not answering his mobile. But I'm having some time off work next week to go flat-hunting, so I'll try and track him down then.'
Although it was only five-thirty the bar was filling up as business people from the surrounding offices piled in for a swift drink before heading home. By eight the place would be deserted again; it was the same every Friday in this part of London.
Chloe leaned forward suddenly. 'Don't look now, but there's a man watching you from the next table. And he keeps leaning over as if he's trying to listen to what you are saying.'
'I'm not interested, Chloe. To be honest, the way I feel right now I think I am off men for life.' Libby didn't even bother to glance around.
'Nonsense. You'll meet somebody else and fall madly in love.'
'I don't even know if I believe in love any more.' Libby finished her wine and put the glass down firmly on the table. 'I really don't think I'd trust my heart to someone else again. In fact, next time if there is a next time I'm going to be ruled by my headgo for someone with loads of money.'
Although the words were said with firm resolution, Chloe wasn't convinced for one moment. She glanced over at her friend and laughed. 'Yeah, right, and this from the girl who would lend you her last penny and forget to ask for it back.'
'Well, this is the new me,' Libby said resolutely. 'Would you like another drink?' As Libby glanced towards the bar her eyes caught the giant TV screen behind it. The news was on and they were showing pictures of a man getting out of a stretched limousine. As the camera zoomed in on him Libby felt her breath freeze in her throat felt the crowds in the bar melt away.
It was Carl Sheridan herfather! But how could it be? Confusion and shock vied for position inside her. Her father was dead her mother had told her so years ago.
She stared at the screen doubting her own eyes for a moment, but even though she had only been seven years of age the last time she'd seen him she knew it was her father. He hadn't changed that much, same jet-dark hair and piercing blue eyes that Libby had inherited. What was her father doing on television? And where had he been for all these long years? And, more importantly, why had her mother told her he was dead?
'Libby, are you all right?' Chloe's voice seemed to be coming from a long way away.
'Not really no.' Libby shook her head and couldn't drag her eyes away from the TV. 'That's my dad!'
'Who?' Chloe followed her gaze.
'That man Carl Sheridan What are they saying about him?' Libby strained her ears, but it was impossible to hear what was being said on the TV over the noise in the bar.
'That's Carl Quinton He's an American movie star, Libby.' Chloe shook her head in puzzlement.
Libby looked back at her friend in surprise. Chloe worked in PR and she followed the media pages very closely. Usually she was spot on, knew exactly who was who. But this time she had got it wrong. 'I'm telling you, Chloe, he's my dad and he is not an American, he's a Londoner.'
Chloe frowned. 'Well, he is known as Carl Quinton now, Libby. I was reading an article about him just the other day.'
'And what did the article say?' Libby asked numbly.
'It said he started out in a made-for-TV drama for a local network in California and everyone loved him. Then he was offered a starring role on Broadway. And since then he's been a big hit in the States, but maybe not too well known in Europe yet. However, all that is set to change because he's really hit the big time now and is co-starring with Julia Hynes in a film called Family Values, which is about to premiere in Cannes.'
What Chloe was telling her was so completely mind-blowing that Libby couldn't quite take it in. 'Are you sure we are talking about the same person?'
'Absolutely. He's quite a personality in the States, lives in Beverly Hills and he's been married and divorced three times. There was no mention of any children, though.'
'Well, whether he mentioned them or not I am his daughter,' Libby said softly. 'And his real name is Carl Sheridan.' She transferred her attention back to the TV where he was still talking to a reporter. 'He and my mother split up when I was seven.'
'Excuse me.' The man at the next table pulled at the sleeve of Libby's jacket. 'Did I hear you say that Carl Quinton is your father?' Libby glanced around at the man; he was about her age, twenty-seven, and had thick blond hair, a pale face and sharply inquisitive grey eyes. There was something about the way he asked the question that was very unsettling.
'No.' Libby shrugged away from his hand.
But, not to be thwarted, the man moved to sit on the vacant stool at their table. 'My name is John Wright and I'm a freelance journalist. I'd be very interested to hear the inside story of Carl Quinton's life.'
'I don't know the inside story of Carl Quinton's life.'
'I take it you haven't seen your father for a while?' Although his tone was friendly, his manner was very insistent.
'Please go away and mind your own business,' Libby snapped.
'Look, I couldn't help overhearing that you are a bit strapped for cash at the moment. I'll pay you for the story,' the man continued briskly. 'And pay you very well'
'I don't want your money.' Libby stood up. 'Chloe, I've got to get out of here.'
Libby couldn't remember leaving the bar. But it was a relief to be outside even though the rain was bouncing off the London streets.
They were both soaked through by the time they flagged down a taxi and climbed in. 'What did that man give you?' Chloe asked.
'He didn't give me anything.'
'Yes, he did.' Chloe leaned over and tapped her hand.
Libby uncurled her fist and was surprised to see a card there. It said 'John Wright Investigative Journalist' and there was a telephone number.
Libby scrunched the card up and shoved it in her pocket. 'All he wants is to rake through the mud.' And there was a surprising amount of mud to rake through as well, she thought angrily.
Leaning her head back against the seat of the taxi, she shut her eyes. She was shivering uncontrollably, but whether it was with cold or shock she wasn't sure.
Libby remembered how much she had loved her father; she also remembered the close bond they had once shared. Even now she could remember the way he had lifted her up in his arms, teasing her and flying her through the air making her giggle uncontrollably. And how some nights he had been the one to tuck her up in bed, read her a story and kiss her goodnight; she could still remember the scent of his cologne. But her most poignant memory was the day he had left.
'I have to leave, sweetheart, but it doesn't mean I don't love you.'
She remembered begging him not to go, tears rolling down her face.
'I have to, sweetheart. But I'll come back.' She tried to hold onto him, but her mother pulled her away.
'Daddy please please ' She struggled and escaped to run after him, but reached the door just as he closed it behind him.
Even remembering that moment now upset her. Her father had never returned. And she hadn't heard anything from him since that day. Every birthday and every Christmas she had waited for some contact from him, but none had ever been made.
Then just before her tenth birthday her mother had gently pulled her to one side and told her he was dead. Why had she done that? The frustrating thing was that Libby could no longer ask her mother, as she and her stepfather had died in a train crash twelve months ago.
Up until now she had thought she had no family left.
'What will you do now?' Chloe asked curiously.
Libby opened her eyes. 'I'm going to find him, of course.' Her voice was filled with husky determination. 'I need answers to questions. I need to see him.' chapter two
The South of France sparkled in the afternoon sun and as the plane turned and banked ready for landing Libby had a perfect view over thickly wooded hills and a bay where millionaires' yachts bobbled peacefully on turquoise water. As they came even lower she could see Nice shimmering on the Bay of Angels. Despite the fact that she was feeling apprehensive about the prospect of seeing her father again after all this time, Libby felt a burst of happiness. It was hard not to feel good when the sky was so clear and the sea so blue. Everything would work out, she told herself firmly. Her father would meet her while she was here and. And what? she thought in sudden panic. All the pain of losing him for twenty years would disappear? It was unrealistic to expect that. She was just going to have to take this a day at a time and not expect anything too much. For all she knew her father might not even turn up, might not want to see her.
Getting in contact with him had been harder than she had thought. First she had tried to get in touch with him through his film studio in California, but one person after another had given her the run-around on the phone and she could tell that they didn't believe she was Carl Quinton's daughter, but just thought she was some crazed fan. So in the end she'd had to use Chloe's contacts in the PR world to find out who her father's agent was so she could contact her dad through him.
She had been a bit surprised to learn that his agent was Marc Clayton, one of the most powerful and influential moguls in the business. Her father really had hit the big time to have Marc Clayton batting in his corner because anybody who was anybody wanted to be represented by him and he could pick and choose from the cream of celebrity lists. He had the reputation of being a ruthless businessman, but he always got the best deals for his clients, his company handled all their publicity, and in the process he created megastars. He had also made himself a millionaire by the age of thirty-three and was something of a celebrity himself.
Libby had seen him on TV at premieres and she had seen his picture in the paper. There had even been pictures in glossy magazines of his wedding to the beautiful film actress Marietta and more pictures when they'd had a baby a few months later. But although they had seemed to be the perfect golden couple the marriage hadn't worked, and twelve months later they were divorced. No reason had been given for the split and neither had married again. From what she could gather his ex was still hotly pursuing her career in Hollywood, while Marc spent more and more time in Europe where he had opened a number of new offices.
When Libby had sent him an email with an attached letter for her father she had expected to be given the same run-around that the film company had given her. So she had taken the initiative and booked herself a flight to the South of France and a hotel room for seven nights. She knew her father would be there for the Cannes film festival so if she couldn't contact him indirectly she would track him down in person, even if it meant hanging around outside the convention centre night and day.
There had been no reply to that first email so Libby had sent a second telling Marc Clayton her plans and making it very clear that she would see her father with or without his help. She had been surprised to receive an immediate response from him apologising for not getting back to her sooner.
He had told her that he had passed on her message and that her father was very much looking forward to seeing her in Cannes, but due to prior commitments would not be arriving in France until two days after her. However, in the meantime would she do him the honour of having dinner with him on the night of her arrival?
The plane touched down on the runway with a thud. She had to admit that not receiving a direct reply from her father had been disappointing. The dinner invitation from Marc Clayton had been a total surprise. Even now as she gathered her belongings she couldn't help but wonder why her father's agent would want to have dinner with her. It didn't take long to collect her luggage and make her way through customs and out into the terminal.
Harlequin; August 2011
192 pages; ISBN 9781459216686
, or download in
Title: Secrets & Salvation
Author: Kathryn Ross
192 pages; ISBN 9781459216686
, or download in
Title: Secrets & Salvation
Author: Kathryn Ross
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