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Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses: 'One needs variety in life'

Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses: 'One needs variety in life'

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Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses: 'One needs variety in life'

Longueur:
471 pages
6 heures
Sortie:
Sep 28, 2014
ISBN:
9781783065622
Format:
Livre

Description

Previously published by Quartet, Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses is being re-released in 2014 as a revised and updated second edition, adding greater depth to the story and racier scenes. With hints of Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins, this is a scintillating read packed with scandal and sex. Cara Brooks, a high-flying property developer, has everything she could possibly desire – apart from passion. Tired of her rocky relationship with husband David, she’s overwhelmed upon meeting Sirena, a young, beautiful woman, one evening in a Mayfair hotel bar. Cara knows she has to make life changes, but is unsure whether she can enter into a serious relationship with a woman, particularly when she knows David’s family secret – a secret she has promised to never divulge. While battling her conflicting emotions, she lies to those she cares about most. Her desire for true happiness will bring complications into her otherwise carefree life. But does she really know what she truly wants? Can she risk everything for her own pursuit of passion? Meanwhile, Elle Milne-Smith knows only too well that with her sultry beauty she can have anything she wants. She embraces her fulfilling family life with her second husband Makram and her two wonderful children. But she is also secretly involved with gorgeous twenty-something Lyra, who means more to her than she lets on to close friends. Makram and Lyra satisfy all her needs, but when a series of unexpected problems appear, her indulgent lifestyle is turned upside down. Cara and Elle appear to have it all behind the closed doors of London’s wealthiest addresses, but when is everything not quite enough? After all, one really does need variety in life... Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses is a gripping adult novel that sheds light on a part of society that generally isn’t covered in mainstream media, whilst reflecting today’s society and the more relaxed attitude to celebrities coming out. Lesbian relationships are rarely the central focus in mainstream novels – Sarah Bramley is the new face of women's fiction, heralding a new genre.
Sortie:
Sep 28, 2014
ISBN:
9781783065622
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

After completing a Business degree in Sussex, Sarah Bramley moved to London to commence a career in Marketing. She has always been drawn to fulfilling her dream in the arts and media and enrolled at the London Academy of Media Film and TV while working in London. As she decided what route to take, she found immense enjoyment in writing. Sarah has previously submitted a comedy sitcom manuscript to the BBC.

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Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses - Sarah Bramley

darling?!’

ONE

Two years later

‘Darling, are you coming?’ David called out to Cara on the landing of the second floor.

‘In a moment, David!’ Cara gathered her tousled golden brown hair to the side and clipped on her white gold pendant necklace. She then carefully picked up her matching pendant earrings and put them delicately on each ear. She was going to yet another party with David. They had become nearly always the same; the same people, the same conversations and, worst of all, the same assumptions that she was ecstatically fulfilled; although, the host of tonight’s party always entertained an interesting crowd. She stood up proudly in her silk dress, embellished with delicate beading and sequins with a front split. She looked at herself approvingly in the dressing table mirror. Regardless of how she felt inside, she always had an image to uphold and she did rather enjoy being seen and photographed at society events. She picked up her satin clutch bag and her heels before heading out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the entrance hall where David was now waiting.

‘We must leave now, Cara,’ David urged, standing proudly in a black dinner suit with his grey coat folded neatly over his arm. ‘We don’t want to arrive just in time for the dinner!’

‘I know,’ Cara replied with slight exasperation. ‘I told you I was running late.’ She bent down to put on her heels by the bottom step then stood up to slip into her long evening coat, which David held out for her. ‘Thank you.’ She turned to face him, appreciative of the pride showing in his face.

‘Do you think my dress is OK for this evening?’ she asked fleetingly.

‘Yes you look–’

‘Oh sorry, just need to check…’ She quickly rummaged through her clutch bag again to ensure she had everything she needed.

‘You look absolutely beautiful and you have everything you need,’ David said hastily, reaching for the front door. ‘Come on – we always arrive late for this party so we must hurry.’ He held the door open for Cara while admiring her elegance as she walked out into the cold February evening. She was so beautiful he sometimes didn’t really notice what she was wearing.

They were on their way to an annual dinner party hosted by James Halpern, the founder and Managing Director of a prestigious property company, who liked to bring his closest friends within the property industry together. The party always presented a valuable opportunity to network and to be photographed for the reputable Living the Desire property magazine. David had co-founded a Mayfair-based hedge fund and had been involved with property, but it was Cara who had made it into a full-time successful career. She particularly enjoyed designing the properties in London to the taste of exceptionally wealthy and time-constrained foreigners, who simply wanted a base in London without having to do any further work to the property. David locked their front door at just after 8pm and walked briskly to his car. He held open the door to the passenger seat of his black Maserati for Cara.

‘I hope Giles behaves himself tonight,’ Cara said with concern as she stepped into the car. She wrapped her coat tightly around her to stop herself from shivering.

David quickly got in at the other side and nestled into his seat, rubbing his hands together before starting the engine. ‘I told him he mustn’t stay out late, but he knows he has to be alert for his tennis match tomorrow.’

‘OK good, yes he should know that and I do trust his friend’s father to drive him home on time as well.’

David smirked slightly. ‘Yes, although we may stay out rather late tonight.’ He pulled away from Wellington Square towards Eaton Terrace.

‘Look, if James asks us to stay over we must say no, David. I have a lot to do tomorrow: I have to help organise an exhibition for this weekend, then I have that launch party for the bar on Walton Street– ’

‘Darling it would be fun to stay over,’ he interrupted benignly. ‘We can sleep at his like last time?’

‘David, I’m not staying over again and I don’t recall sleeping at all last time!’ She glanced at him with slight exasperation showing in her face. She could see David’s jaw flexing and she looked away, facing the front again. They had been married for seventeen years but, despite their warm and familiar love for each other, she felt they were on the verge of a separation.

David finally glanced at her swiftly after a stiff silence. He concentrated back on the road. ‘Well you know he’ll ask us Cara, so I’ll leave it to you to turn him down on his big night.’

Cara looked at her husband again; he sounded annoyed. ‘Oh don’t be like that…’

‘You used to love staying over, that’s all.’

‘But when I didn’t have to be up early the next day! Whether we stay over or not won’t exactly make a huge difference to his night and I’m sure he’ll have others to drink into the early hours with. I do want to return home tonight, OK?’

*

They had met at a party at The Ritz after a fashion show, when she was just nineteen and he was twenty-eight. David had this charming look about him with his deep-set hazel eyes, dark thick eyebrows and stubble around his strong jaw. At five foot, ten inches, he used to have a nice muscled physique, although he had relaxed a little over the years and his once lean stomach was now rather rounded. His earlier strong jawline was also now hidden by the weight he’d put on around his face, although this made him look quite adorable. They had married a year after their first date and soon after Cara became pregnant with their only child, Giles, who was now sixteen years old. With her classically arranged features and elegant tall physique, she had done some modelling when she was in her late teens, but her parents, who were involved in the property industry, encouraged her to get into their field of work. She did so in her late twenties and never looked back, for property development utilised all her skills and passions, such as creativity, self-management and the ability to make a lot of money.

*

David gave his and Cara’s coats to the young presentable man in the expansive, marble-floored entrance hall. Thanking the man, he turned and spotted a friend across the hall, speaking animatedly with another guest. The genial, vibrant atmosphere in James’s home was always striking.

‘Darling,’ David turned to Cara, placing his hand gently on her back. ‘I need to use the bathroom quickly – do you mind?’

‘David, we’ve just arrived!’ she said, embracing the excitable air around them within the atmosphere they were now engulfed in. ‘Well, I’ll wait for you here, OK?’

While standing idly, Cara swept her gaze around the interior, hearing the sound of the guests and classical music. She moved further towards the arch doorway, which led to the gathering in the double reception room. An intimate seating area with shiny, reflective side tables looked rather sweet. The thread of opulence, which ran throughout this Belgravia home, was simply enchanting.

She turned and smiled at two guests who had just walked through the door.

Oh thank you…’ she said, taking the last glass of wine off a silver tray held by a passing pretty blonde-haired woman. She walked across the hall to the stairs and trailed her hand delicately along the spiral staircase banister, moving further away from the sounds of the guests. As she approached the bathroom along the wide hall, she could hear David speaking from behind the closed door. He was on the phone to New York again no doubt. She stood opposite a bronze-framed landscape painting, calming her excitable nerves, anticipating who James had invited to this year’s party. Her mood that evening had certainly picked up but the recollection of the words of a woman she’d met at one of James’s previous parties suddenly arose.

‘You know, before I met my husband, I’d been going out for years – meeting people at parties, friends of friends and so on. But it’s that spark, you know? I think, after years of trying to find love, one can become withdrawn from society. The constant disappointment of putting on a happy façade when the one thing one truly wants is possibly just non-existent after all.’

She raised her glass to her burgundy lips as the warm flow of red wine reinforced the memory of those words. Those words were not said light-heartedly and she could only dwell on them with a full-bodied drink in hand.

‘Oh Cara – sorry I had to take a call from New York…’ David walked towards her briskly.

‘David turn your phone off for the evening – close yourself off from work…!’ She slipped her hand into David’s and they headed back down the stairs to the entrance hall.

Walking through the arch doorway, the inviting warmth and glow of the large reception room engulfed them instantly. David’s eyes darted around for the host before homing in on the usual fabulous selection of canapés.

‘Darling, let’s line our stomachs,’ he beamed at Cara, whisking a glass of champagne off a passing tray. ‘Oh my…’ An old friend of David’s sprung out from a small group of guests, pulling them into the centre of the room, where he held onto David’s attention. Cara couldn’t resist the tantalising canapés any longer.

She approached the long, white-clothed table with rows of colourful looking canapés on silver trays. Putting a few seared tuna with crème fraiche canapés and a couple of beef and tarragon tartare canapés onto her plate for herself and David, she turned and took a moment to observe the room. A rather familiar crowd of about thirty-five or so guests stood engaged in conversation, all enjoying the food and drink brought to them by a dark and tall waiter and blonde waitress. She gazed around at the decor of the bright and busy room; James had an interesting way of combining contemporary design with antiques that amused her. In exercising her passion, her eyes skimmed across some young eager faces she hadn’t seen before, as they mixed with her well-established friends and acquaintances. One female acquaintance she spotted by the door had evidently taken more trips to Harley Street since last year’s party.

Cara!

Cara turned to see James, heralding towards her from the other side of the room. ‘James!’ She matched his vibrant tone and leaned in to greet him. She had known James for eleven years through his friendship with David. ‘You’re looking very well! How’ve you been?’

‘Amazing – I’ve been amazing across the board, but please may I just say,’ he paused with his hand to his mouth, trying to suppress a hiccup. ‘That you are absolutely as gorgeous as ever.’ He took a step back to look her up and down. ‘You are glowing tonight! May I ask what you’ve been doing to make you shimmer more than my chandeliers?’

Cara smiled a little bashfully. ‘That is most private, James.’ She contained her emerging smile and sighted his latest girlfriend, whom she had met once before, sashaying towards them. Her name was Daisy – twenty-six years old, slender and with sleek platinum blonde hair, which tonight was held up elegantly in a French twist.

‘It is so cold outside! Hello Cara,’ Daisy said politely, standing two inches taller in a patterned chiffon dress.

‘Good to see you again, Daisy.’ Cara moved forward to embrace with her, clasping her hands on the young woman’s cold naked arms.

‘Lovely to see you also…’ Daisy flimsily kissed Cara’s cheeks before leaning back and wrapping her arm protectively around James’s slim waist to lead him away, but he stood firm.

‘So you must have just arrived?’ James asked, finishing his glass then handing it to Daisy. He lifted an eyebrow towards Cara, which was as silky as his flicked back brown hair. ‘Unless of course you sneaked in through the back – keeping me on my toes!’ he tittered to himself.

‘Not quite James!’

‘Oh my princess; some strands have gone astray.’ He reached out, tidying the strands of his girlfriend’s hair and tucking them behind her cute small ears. Daisy’s soft cheeks were flushed and radiating. His appraising look was rewarded with a fling of her arms around his shoulders and a firm kiss on his warm cheek.

James and Daisy’s intimate touching diverted Cara’s attention to the people standing around them.

‘Sorry James.’ Cara rested her hand on his left shoulder, lifting her leg to adjust her heel strap, with a beautiful brunette-haired woman centred in her gaze. Her face tensed upon seeing her generous touches and kisses with a man. James placed his hand over hers.

‘Ah – to have a woman on either side…’

Cara stepped back and James commanded her full attention again while she now kept a look out for David’s whereabouts in the room.

‘So when did you arrive here?’

‘Oh over half an hour ago now…’ Cara said, glancing at her watch. ‘Enough time to realise you’ve redesigned this room since the last time I was here…’

‘Yes indeed I have, how efficiently observant of you. Made changes inspired by antique and fine art fairs, amongst other events!’ James beamed around at his dark wood furnishings and reflective surfaces, creatively woven into the interior to heighten a sense of space and opulence. ‘Do you like it?’

I love it, particularly your new paintings; the European landmarks match your sculpture collection very well…’

Daisy wrinkled her delicate nose silently.

‘You have more guests this year by the way,’ Cara continued as she gazed across the busy room. ‘Some people I haven’t seen before, which has somewhat excited me.’

James nodded proudly, casting his strong narrow-set eyes around the room at his numerous guests. ‘I’ll introduce you to the ones I’m particularly fond of. Oh, I’ve invited the eldest son of our friend Maurice – he’s over there by the window,’ James motioned discreetly. ‘He’s about to become a lot more involved in his father’s business.’ He lowered his voice. ‘But that’s one to discuss later, of course.’

‘Yah, of course,’ Cara smirked, diverting her intrigued eyes away from the fair young man.

‘And apparently he’s dating a much, much older woman you know… over twice his age I heard…’

‘Oh?’

‘Well I’m desperate to meet her but he hasn’t brought her along – annoyingly. I do think some women look better the older they become you know…’

‘Do you really think that James?’ Daisy intercepted, almost in a daze.

‘Yes, why we have an example here – I’ve seen photos of Cara when she was in her twenties and believe me when I say she’s come a very long way since then.’

Cara shook her head with a tight-lipped grin. ‘You’re certainly the perfect host.’

‘Cara my love, you know I’m teasing,’ James laughed, embracing lightly with her. ‘So where’s that suspect husband of yours hiding?’

‘He’s probably had to take a call from the States so I expect he’s found a quiet corner somewhere–’

‘Tell me, does David still play tennis at the Harbour Club?’ James jumped in, while feeling the slight, child-like tugs from Daisy.

‘He does, yes. Why, do you still go?’

James winced. ‘I’ve been meaning to get back into the game but I’ve been a bit lazy with my sporting activities lately, although I place all the blame with Daisy here.’ He motioned at Daisy by quickly tilting his head towards her. Daisy tilted her head away at a faster speed so he didn’t knock his head into hers.

Cara grinned slightly at the perfectly timed choreography. ‘Didn’t think you had it in you to be lazy James?’

‘I know.’ James turned to Daisy. ‘Maybe you could motivate me to play, princess?’

Daisy produced a smile. ‘Depends on what’s in it for me James, you know that.’

Daisy and James laughed in sync, although she still looked anxious to pull him away. Cara knew why – James had a reputation of being a playboy and clearly Daisy saw her as competition. As well as being married, James really wasn’t her type, although he could certainly be considered handsome with his firm features and a glowing smooth, clean-shaven face.

‘Well, tell David I’m on the lookout for him won’t you. Listen Cara darling, I’ll catch up with you both later at dinner – a lot to catch up on!’ He trailed off with a wink as he allowed Daisy to happily lead him off.

Cara picked up a canapé and placed it delicately into her mouth, taking a moment to appreciate the ambience of the room. James had Ravel’s Bolero playing throughout the property, and had brightened the room with new yellow-patterned curtaining for the two front aspect floor-to-ceiling windows. The current classical piece only reminded her, however, of a time when she’d had it playing in her bedroom, and she’d spotted one of those long-legged spiders on the door handle, meaning she’d been trapped in her room for a good hour or so. She suddenly lit up as the beautiful woman she’d spotted earlier now walked towards her, smiling generously.

‘Hi,’ Cara grinned.

‘Hello,’ the woman said gracefully. She quickly chose a couple of canapés to put on her plate. ‘Bye,’ she beamed softly.

Cara watched the woman immerse herself back in the crowd. The brief interaction made her suddenly feel alone as she stood away from the centre of the buoyant conversations and composed greetings as she waited for David to return. Drinking from her glass, she watched the slim brunette-haired woman check her appearance in the antique mirror above the fireplace, which reflected the light from the central chandelier. She was stunning in her lamé kaftan gown. That combination of shimmering black and gold was so elegant while the draped kaftan silhouette was fabulously exotic. She probably wears that on fine sand beaches, Cara pondered brightly within. It was a sensual alternative to a traditional evening dress and she certainly stood out.

Cara glanced away, locking eyes with a dark, enchanting-looking man as he spoke with a friend of hers under the central chandelier. She exchanged a friendly look with him and averted her eyes away. Oh how the crowd this year were unexpectedly tempting.

It was the sparkling of David’s deep-set hazel eyes and gentle features which had allured her when she’d glanced at him as he brushed past her in the crowded room. After that evening of meeting, he’d bombarded her with attention – sweeping her away to exciting places around the world. He had fallen deeply in love with her, creating a bubble of affection around her, and the first time they’d made love had been full of emotional warmth and excitement. His affection and attention had been overwhelming and she’d fallen in love with him.

She lifted her glass to her lips again. Meeting Alessandra however, had ignited a feeling she’d never quite experienced before. She’d bedded her as soon as it was possible. She’d always yearned for that instant lightning of sheer lust and she’d experienced it for the first time with Alessandra, but their relationship had led her down the rockiest of roads. So it was ridiculous really, knowing that the sort of love she’d felt with Alessandra had made her the unhappiest, yet it was still the sort of love she yearned for above all. Meeting eyes with a friend, Beatrice, Cara started to walk towards her.

‘Cara – there you are.’ David approached her, diverting her attention. ‘Sorry about that – another important call. You must have seen the main man?’ He twisted his mouth to the side, casting his eyes across the glasses on the table. He had to refrain from drinking too much, unless they stayed over.

‘He came up to me a minute ago – before Daisy dragged him off to her private garden,’ she quipped, smiling with her eyes.

David looked bemused, swirling his champagne delicately. ‘So how is he? I should find him…’

‘Seems very happy… said he would look out for you but I expect he’ll be back any second.’ Cara waved at Beatrice who smiled cheerily back from across the room.

‘I should think so.’ David raised his glass to his lips and looked proudly across the room. ‘He should have greeted us on arrival, don’t you think Cara?’

Cara nodded lightly and reached for a canapé. He looked at her quizzically. She appeared deep in thought but, as usual, he had no idea what she could possibly be thinking about. ‘I’ve noticed a lot of the other guests looking at you tonight,’ he complimented, in an attempt to snap her out of her own mysterious world. ‘You know, I was surprised to come back and find you standing alone!’

Cara smiled a little. The disbelief in his tone was entertainingly exaggerated, but surely he wouldn’t be surprised knowing how alone she’d been feeling inside. ‘Well you’ve always liked surprises,’ she said finally.

He nodded in agreement. ‘Have you been standing here alone, all this time?’

Cara picked up her glass, suddenly bewildered with the slight impatience pushing through in his voice. ‘No, of course not. Let’s speak to Beatrice, she’s here with her husband this time,’ she replied distractedly, fixing her gaze on the couple across the room.

David followed her across the room to their mutual friends. He hoped his wife would be in a more vibrant and flirtatious mood with him that night, despite their current delicate situation. She had to speak to him.

David!’

‘Oh there you are!’ David beamed at James. He turned to Cara but she’d become engaged in a conversation with another friend.

‘Well, they say the very best parties stay in the memory for years to come, so my late greeting is irrelevant!’ James planted a kiss on David’s cheek.

‘Oh James!’ David grimaced, locking eyes with a bemused Daisy. ‘I do have to say that the best parties are always the result of the host who has given special thought to the smallest of details, in order,’ he paused, pushing a floppy James away, ‘to delight their guests.’ He glanced down at a dollop of what appeared to be crème fraiche on the floor. ‘Can you explain that, James?’

‘David, you know I don’t think one could,’ James said, focusing downwards.

James lowered his knees slightly to inspect, resting his hands on his thighs. ‘Oh thank heavens – I thought I’d run out. Have a couple more blinis to add to the next tray now.’ He scurried off, speaking into the ear of a waiter and motioning him towards the mess.

With a deep breath of amusement at David, Cara’s gaze returned to the woman in the lamé kaftan gown, watching as she laughed with some of the other guests she recognised but hadn’t particularly made an effort to get to know. The woman’s jaw tensed as her hand grazed over the back of a burly man. Her long loose curls, which flowed down her back, just fired Cara up inside. Cara stiffened her own jaw at the sight of those long lean legs, teasingly revealed by the gown, which would certainly fold around her very nicely.

‘… And that’s why the market value has gone up,’ a debonair man no taller than Cara’s shoulders, persisted.

‘Yes, but the only way was up really,’ Cara replied, catching onto an acquaintance’s last words before walking over to Beatrice. She gave her friends her full attention for the rest of the night until David, quite reluctantly, managed to drive them back home just after one-thirty. He opened their front door and Cara walked in briskly from the cold air. She rested her clutch bag on the console table.

‘Giles hasn’t returned any of my calls so I hope he’s in bed asleep. I’m going to check, OK…’ She took off her heels and headed to Giles’s bedroom on the second floor.

David put his shoes to the side and pulled off his cashmere scarf and coat. He climbed up the stairs after Cara, running his hand roughly through his hair.

Softening her expression, Cara gazed at Giles, asleep in his room, and quietly shut the door. She turned to walk back to her marital bedroom on the third floor and nodded at David as he walked along the corridor towards her. ‘He’s asleep,’ she said quietly, motioning at him to walk back towards their bedroom.

‘Good party, wasn’t it?’ David took off his tie and flung it onto the bed.

‘James wouldn’t ever allow one of his parties not to be,’ Cara smiled with a flicker of amusement in her eyes.

Picking up her patterned lace chemise from the bed, she walked into the en-suite to get some time on her own. Her head was just feeling heavy with thoughts about her marriage to David. Placing her chemise and both hands onto the marble countertop, she balanced herself and let her gaze wander around all the body lotions and fragrances lined up. She had watched and rather envied couples at the party who just seemed so in love with each other – the passion in their eyes was as clear as the sparkle of the diamonds on her bracelet. And that beautiful woman – she’d reminded her so much of Alessandra. Standing straight again, she removed her bracelet carelessly and it dropped to the tiled floor. She groaned and ignored it. She’d had enough of her inability to change things for the better and knew that she had to make big decisions, which she would finally stick to instead of going around in circles. But she had been with David for so long, which just made it difficult emotionally for her to really move on with someone new. After ten minutes of deep thought, there was a sudden knock on the door, which startled her.

‘Darling, are you OK in there?’

‘Yah David, I’ll be out in a minute.’ She bent down to pick up her bracelet from the floor and placed it on the countertop. The next time she found true passion with someone, she was certainly not going to drop it again.

After a further fifteen minutes, she finished freshening up and walked back out to join David.

‘I used the other bathroom while you had a sleep in there,’ he smiled, resting his arms above his head.

‘That’s proactive of you?’ she quizzed jokingly. Lifting the corner of the duvet, she climbed into bed with him and pulled the white duvet over her so it reached her chin. ‘Good night – sleep well,’ she yawned.

David glanced over at her but she had her back to him. She was only in the mood for sleeping that night, although he had become used to this over the months.

‘Well I enjoyed the party – food was fantastic as usual and James was looking very well wasn’t he?’ he pushed for a conversation.

‘Yah, he was. We must invite him over for dinner soon.’

‘I was thinking that actually. I do like his girlfriend Daisy as well.’

Cara rolled her eyes. ‘We’ll invite her too. Let’s talk about it tomorrow darling – good night,’ she said tiredly, stroking her right foot fleetingly over his.

*

‘Goodness,’ Cara muttered with a yawn. Her hands swept down her face and rested back over the duvet. Alessandra still being the first person she thought of on some mornings was just becoming a nuisance. It was over – in the past. She glanced to the side cupboard where her alarm clock was yet to sound. She much preferred waking before it did. It was nearly seven-thirty and David was snoring lightly beside her. She frowned slightly. She felt guilty for pulling him away earlier than usual from the party, but she really did need a good night’s sleep for a constructive day. She quietly got out of bed and walked to the en-suite to freshen up. She was meeting her friend, Elle Milne-Smith, at 9am at Duke of York Square, where the charity art exhibition was going to be held the next day. She climbed back into bed for a few minutes’ rest. David had awoken.

‘Good morning,’ he murmured tiredly.

She turned over and looked at him with affection. Even though she no longer felt passionate towards him as she once did, there were times when he looked exceptionally endearing. She stroked his black ruffled hair and kissed his broad shoulder.

‘Did you sleep well?’ David yawned.

‘I did actually. I was just thinking about the party. It was nice to see everyone wasn’t it? Felt more vibrant than last year.’

‘James knows how to put on a good show! I had a great time last night.’

Cara smiled softly at David’s tired, yet cheerful face. When she had got into bed she had gone straight to sleep when she knew that he wanted to discuss the party and prolong the night. She stroked his hair again and kissed him gently on his cheek. ‘And you’ll have a great time this morning,’ she said tenderly. She gently pushed him onto his back – she would make last night up to him that morning, regardless of how she felt about their relationship.

The moment of enthused passion from Cara as she brought him to climax had engulfed him in a mix of pleasure and the usual perplexity he’d felt with her more recently. David’s eyes narrowed slightly at her. Her gently heaving body close beside him was the only comfort as her mind just seemed to be elsewhere when they made love. She turned over with her back to him, sighing seemingly happily. He stroked the back of his hand along her arm, blind to her eyes closing tightly.

Cara rested her face onto her right hand, nestled into the pillow. In the intimate silence with Alessandra, she’d realised how possible it was to just sense the feelings of two people in love; the exciting knots in the stomach and the deep beating of hearts. Sensing such delights so profoundly with Alessandra had made her realise that passion was like no other in the world and that her love for David had been different from what she felt for Alessandra. She opened her tired eyes. Only life itself would decide when to respond to her questioning – was she right, to remain married to David?

*

Cara finished writing her personal message in the card and placed it into the silver envelope. Two evenings later, after James Halpern’s party, she and David were attending a wedding anniversary party in Bletchingley, Surrey. Cara sealed the envelope and placed it on top of the white gift box, with a pink ribbon tied around it.

Since David had returned home at five-thirty, after driving Giles to a friend that afternoon, she hadn’t heard anything from him. It was now nearly seven-fifteen. She walked down the staircase with her embellished heels in hand and peered into a couple of rooms before finding him in the study, slouched behind the desk.

‘David!’ she said in relief, standing at the door. ‘There you are – what are you doing in here?!’

‘Yes!’ he exclaimed, waving his glass into the air. A few drops of red wine flew out onto the papers on his desk, which he ignored.

Cara’s face changed. ‘What?

‘Yes I know we have a party to attend – don’t worry I’ll be ready,’ he slurred.

Cara followed his gaze along her new lamé kaftan gown. ‘Do you like it?’ she asked flatly.

He nodded, brushing his hand through his hair. ‘Yes,’ he said more earnestly.

She drew in breath and exhaled heavily with disappointment. His white shirt was unbuttoned to his stomach and his sleeves carelessly gathered around his elbows. His flies were probably down too, for whenever he got drunk at home, he somehow felt too claustrophobic around his waist.

What? I’m going to get ready,’ he said, more firmly.

‘Well then you should put that glass down.’ Cara glared at him before walking out of the room.

‘Cara!’ he called out to her.

‘David – what is it?’ She returned and leaned against the door frame. His face had softened.

‘I have a…’ he squinted, placing his glass down onto the desk with more decorum. ‘I mean I have to get ready now…’ He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk and rubbing his creased forehead wearily.

Cara hid her growing angst. ‘David the taxi’s going to be here in about twenty minutes and you really need to get changed into your tux…’ she said stiffly, fighting back any quivering in her voice.

‘Oh stop telling me what to do,’ he shot. ‘Arrange for the taxi to arrive in an hour. I need to get a few things done first.’ He shuffled through some papers.

Cara looked at him, almost with envy that he still had the energy to create arguments out of nowhere in their tired relationship. Any tender moments they shared were too often blighted by an argument, which arose most sporadically. This had become David’s way of putting the passion back in their relationship as he avoided addressing the ways in which they had been growing apart over the years. But a separation would surely lead to greater happiness for them both.

‘David, when you’ve had enough of causing fights – come and speak to me. I’ll see you when I’m back from the party.’

Cara threw a steely glare at him and walked out.

David put his papers down and leaned back in his chair. Sullenness left his face and he looked towards the partially open door. His expression softened slightly before his face collapsed into his hands with a groan escaping through his lips.

Cara walked briskly along the hall and up the stairs. She pushed open her bedroom door and shut it firmly behind her. She let the full weight of her body rest against the door as if the pounding of her beating heart was trying to knock her over. She just couldn’t force feelings with David which had disappeared so long ago. And he knew it.

But what he was doing was working. To fall in love was so wonderfully special, but staying in love with that burning desire had been a challenge for them both. And now, to rekindle such feelings they once had, he was firing up her emotions. He was making her angry and she was going to make concrete decisions, which would be for everyone’s benefit.

TWO

Nine months later

Sirena Marquez laughed courteously with her new colleague as he insisted on humouring her with what it was like working at Lion Star PR; the agency she had joined two weeks ago in early November. Amidst the jaunty, young crowd that crammed into the spacious bar just off Oxford Street after office hours, she was already feeling immersed in the five-day routine. Although since she’d graduated two years ago, and had been working in her home town of Reigate in Surrey, she was still in an awe-stricken state over her first move into London. She had been trying to get into PR for fashion publications, but with little experience in PR itself she ended up at Lion Star, located on Oxford Street, whose clients were within the consumer food and drink sectors. She saw this as a valuable stepping stone nonetheless, and intended to sign up for a weekend or evening course at the London College of Fashion, which was conveniently located close to her office.

‘So, I bet you’re glad you accepted a job with us now that you know

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