Private Lives, страница 1
Tasmina Perry is the author of the huge Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers Daddy’s Girls, Gold Diggers, Guilty Pleasures, Original Sin and Kiss Heaven Goodbye. She left a career in law to enter the world of women’s magazine publishing, going on to win the New Magazine Journalist of the Year award, edit numerous national publications and write on celebrity and style for titles such as Elle and Glamour. In 2004 she launched her own travel and fashion magazine, Jaunt, and was Deputy Editor of InStyle magazine when she left the industry to write books full time. Her novels have been published in seventeen countries. Tasmina Perry lives with her husband and son in Surrey, where she is at work on her next novel and a screenplay.
For the latest news, competitions and much more, log on to www.tasminaperry.com.
Praise for Tasmina Perry’s novels:
‘Takes you to the most glamorous corners of the globe while keeping you on the edge of your seat’ Glamour
‘Gripping and exciting. . . We loved every page of it’ Heat
‘Exotic, decadent, sexy and full of surprising twists. . . Irresistible’ Closer
‘Tasmina Perry just gets better and better. Utter bliss’ InStyle
‘For glamour, escapism and a glorious cast. . . The perfect beach read’ Daily Express
‘No one crafts a mystery with the same panache or glittering prose as Tasmina Perry’ Madison
‘A sizzling summer read’ Marie Claire
‘Pure glittering escapism’ She
Copyright © 2011 Tasmina Perry
The right of Tasmina Perry to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2011
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5847 2
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
To my brothers, Digs and Dan.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Praise for Tasmina Perry’s novels
She looked around the flat and smiled to herself. Silk drapes and tall windows looked out on to an iconic view: Tower Bridge and the slick black ribbon of the Thames glistening in the night. Sometimes she wanted to hug herself with excitement; just being here, in her own luxury flat, surrounded by all her nice things. Who’d have thought that someone like her would live in such a smart flat in the centre of one of the most exciting cities in the world?
Walking over to the kitchen, she poured herself another large glass of wine from the open bottle. Would he still come tonight? The thought of their last conversation jumped into her head, but she shook it away. No, of course he would still come, he always did. She admired herself in the mirror: the long legs, the high breasts. Even in leggings and a T-shirt she looked fantastic. No, he’d come. She knew he’d come.
She sank back into the sofa then flicked through her favourite celebrity magazine. In her more honest, introspective moments she knew it was her obsession with magazines like this that had led her to choose this career path. Not that she could imagine Miss Davies, her careers adviser at school, calling what she did a career. But what was wrong with wanting to be rich and famous? She’d bet Miss Davies didn’t have a flat like this one.
Tossing the magazine to one side, she knew she should get ready in case he did drop by. A bottle of nail polish was on the coffee table and she held it up to the light. Scarlet. He always said he loved it when she painted her toenails red. Slutty, that was what he meant. Well, she was happy to oblige in that department, especially when they’d be making up tonight.
One toenail had been painted when the doorbell rang. Flustered, she put down the polish and went to the door. She peered through the spyhole, expecting to see flowers or some small, tastefully wrapped box clutched in his hand. Instead she saw an unfamiliar man in a suit, his face stretched and bulbous in the fish-eye lens.
‘Who is it?’
‘It’s Jack. Jack Devon. I’m a friend of Peter’s.’
She frowned. Who was he? Had Peter sent him? Attaching the chain, she opened the door and looked through the gap. The man was about forty. Smartly but conservatively dressed, like an accountant. Pale watery eyes blinked behind small rimless glasses.
‘What do you want?’ She hadn’t meant to sound rude, but it was past nine o’clock and she wasn’t used to strange men turning up at her door, no matter what other people might say about her.
‘It’s about Peter.’ He glanced behind him. ‘Do you think we could talk inside?’
She felt a jolt of panic. Was he hurt? Was something wrong?
‘Is he okay?’ she asked.
‘Under the circumstances,’ replied the man.
‘I think it’s best if we discuss this inside.’
She wavered for a moment, then slid back the chain and opened the door. He walked into the apartment, looking nervous, uncomfortable.
‘I’m sorry to have to visit you so late,’ he began. ‘I don’t enjoy this any more than you do.’
‘Who are you?’ she asked, fold
The man shrugged as they moved into the open-plan living space. ‘It’s not what I want. It’s what Peter wants.’
She didn’t like the direction this conversation was taking. ‘And what’s that exactly?’
He pushed up his glasses and rubbed his eyes. ‘He wants you to start acting reasonably.’
Her heart was beginning to hammer in panic, but she was determined not to show it. ‘So who are you? His lawyer?’
‘No, not exactly,’ he said. ‘But that might be next. Blackmail is a criminal offence, after all.’
‘Blackmail?’ She almost laughed. ‘Is that what this is about?’
Okay, so she had applied a bit of pressure, told him she wasn’t prepared to wait any longer, maybe said a few things she shouldn’t have. But that was hardly blackmail, was it?
‘Does Peter know you’re here?’
‘Of course. He simply wants a solution that works for both sides. We really don’t want to have to involve the police.’
She snorted nervously. ‘You and I both know that Peter is not going to go to the police.’
The man blinked at her, then nodded. ‘Indeed. Which is why I’m here.’
He moved over to the table and opened his leather briefcase. He pulled out a chequebook and held it up. ‘How much?’ he asked.
She glanced at the chequebook, then looked out of the window. ‘I don’t want his money,’ she said.
The man allowed himself a small smile. ‘Really. And who paid for all this?’ He glanced pointedly around the apartment.
‘I don’t want money,’ she snapped, trying her best to sound indignant. ‘What I want is Peter.’
‘Well, I’m afraid that’s not an option any more,’ he said flatly.
‘We’ll see about that.’ She strode to the coffee table and snatched up her mobile. ‘I’m phoning him.’
He shook his head, that half-smile again. The bastard was enjoying this.
‘I don’t think so.’ He peered at his watch. ‘It’s two a.m. in Uzbekistan.’
‘Uzbekistan? He’s supposed to be here.’
‘Just us here,’ said Devon, gesturing with the chequebook again. This time her eyes followed the book, unable to look away.
‘So give me a figure,’ he said, sitting at the table.
She grabbed her glass of wine and took a fortifying sip. ‘I’ve told you, this isn’t about money. This is about Peter and me.’
‘How much is it going to take?’ he asked, taking a fountain pen from his inside pocket.
‘How much would you suggest, Mr Devon? How much would you say a relationship is worth?’
‘In this case, nothing, because your relationship is over.’
His words were simple and stinging, their impact cruel because she knew they were true. Perhaps she had pushed Peter too far, overplayed her hand. And now he had sent a lackey to mop up his mess. A thickness filled her throat and her vision blurred in a cloud of tears.
‘I think you’d better leave.’
Devon remained seated. ‘Believe it or not, I’m here to help you.’
She hated the note of sympathy, the pity she could hear in his voice.
‘Take my advice,’ he said slowly. ‘Accept the money, move somewhere new, forget what’s happened and just get on with your life. It’s the smart thing to do.’
‘It’s never that easy though, is it?’ she said, her voice cracking. ‘Not when you love someone. Now please, just go.’
Devon hesitated, then put his chequebook back in his briefcase and stood up. ‘Very well,’ he said. ‘Could I just use the bathroom?’
She nodded without looking at him. ‘Upstairs.’
Her bedroom was on a mezzanine platform over the living space below. She watched him disappear towards her en suite, his sensible brown shoes clumping up the glass staircase.
His briefcase was still on the table. How much would he have paid? A decent amount, that was for sure. And Devon was right, it was the smart thing to do. Her own money wouldn’t last long in this place. A person could quickly get used to expensive linens, parquet floors and stainless-steel kitchens. Nice things. Pretty things. Things that made her feel safe, secure, smart, successful. This was the life she’d always wanted. Still . . . for once, she had been telling the truth. It wasn’t about the money this time. All she wanted was him – and she couldn’t have him. No amount of lovely sheets would make up for that.
She rubbed her eyes with the palms of her hands to stop the flow of tears. Taking a few deep breaths, she tried to compose herself. Maybe she would call Peter herself, apologise for what she’d said, explain that he’d taken it all the wrong way. Yes, that would do it, she thought, feeling a little better. Maybe this was a test; when Mr Devon reported back that she had turned down the money, he would see that she truly loved him, not his credit cards.
She glanced up the stairs, frowning. He’d been a long time in the bathroom.
‘Mr Devon?’ she called. ‘Is everything all right up there?’
There was no reply. Shrugging, she walked up the stairs towards the mezzanine platform. ‘Mr Devon?’
At the top, she tapped on the bathroom door but couldn’t hear a sound inside. ‘Are you all right? Mr D—’
The door opened and Jack Devon stepped out. ‘Yes. I’m fine.’
‘Oh, good,’ she stuttered, flushing with embarrassment as she turned to walk back downstairs. She felt a hard push from behind and her body jerked forward. Instinctively she reached for the banister, but she was moving too fast and momentum carried her on, her head slamming against the wall. Her body twisted as she fell, her shoulder cracking into the glass steps, her torso pinwheeling over, snapping her neck, her body landing splayed and broken like a puppet with the strings cut. It had been mercifully quick. Aside from one moment of air-sucking terror as her hand missed the rail, she had felt nothing.
She lay there staring up, her body motionless except for the faint flutter of her eyelids, barely aware as Jack Devon walked slowly down, and stood over her, watching the life ebb out of her body. He took a pair of latex gloves out of his pocket, put them on and moved methodically around the house, making sure everything was in place for whoever found her. Sometimes he had to create a story: the jilted lover who had taken their own life, the break-in gone wrong, but here she had done the job for him. The half-empty bottle of wine. A simple case of a tragic accident, slipping on the steps after too much alcohol.
Satisfied with his work, he pulled out his phone and made the call. ‘It’s done,’ he said simply, then hung up. Removing his glasses and putting them in his pocket, he picked up his briefcase and let himself out. Out of her flat, on to the street, as if he’d never been there.
Six months later
As the man in the white leotard dangled from the trapeze and poured Krug into the top saucer of the champagne fountain, Anna Kennedy realised she had never seen a party quite like this. Not in the movies or in the pages of Hello! magazine. She had certainly never been to anything this grand, so spectacularly over the top she didn’t know whether to get drunk and enjoy it or just stand there and watch it like she would a Tim Burton movie or the Cirque du Soleil.
She took a gold macaroon from a waiter on stilts and popped it in her mouth.
A little celebratory soirée, that was how her friend, the Russian businesswoman Ilina Miranova, had described the party to her. Just a few close friends, nothing too extravagant.
Ilina’s definition of extravagant was certainly different from most people’s – no surprise if her collection of ‘close friends’ was anything to go by. Her Holland Park home was packed with the great and the good: royals, billionaires, celebrities, at least one hundred of them milling around the house and the manicured gardens in couture and diamonds.
If I threw a party at three days’ notice, I’d be lucky to get my best mate and a groceries delivery from Ocado, thought Anna, smiling to herself.
Across the pool someone waved at her. Anna waved hesitantly back, although she didn’t recognise the handsome man in the navy suit. Was he a client? Or another lawyer perhaps? Maybe he was even calling her over for a drink. She was wearing her best black trouser suit after all, Italian, expensive, more expensive than she could afford.
The man turned as one of the butlers walked past, taking a glass of champagne from the tray.
Of course, she thought sheepishly. He thinks I’m a waitress.
She slipped off her jacket and let her dark hair down from her businesslike ponytail. Better, she thought, checking her reflection in a mirrored water feature, although she accepted that she was never going to compete with the exotic creatures drifting past her. At a party like this she was invisible. Not that that was a particularly bad thing; it meant she could have the mother of all people-watching sessions: the married celebrity necking with the model who was most certainly not his wife, and the high-profile lord who appeared to be preparing to snort a large amount of powder from a marble mantelpiece.
I assume that’s snuff, she smiled, reminding herself that it was her job to be discreet.
Her mobile began ringing angrily in her bag. Reluctantly putting her flute of bubbly down, she scrabbled the phone out. Dammit, work, she thought, peering at the screen. Wasn’t it always?
‘Anna? Where the hell are you?’
It was Stuart Masters, the head of the media department at her firm.
‘I’m at Ilina Miranova’s celebration party,’ said Anna, raising her voice to be heard over the banging music.