Making your mind up, p.44

Making Your Mind Up, page 44

 

Making Your Mind Up
 



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  Still, he looked tall. And tall was good, tall was definitely what she needed right now. Failing that, a circus dwarf with a stepladder.

  Within seconds he’d crossed the lawn and was peering over the wall at her.

  “Are you a burglar?”

  In the pitch-blackness, Maddy couldn’t see what he looked like, but he had a nice voice. And she was hardly in a position to be choosy.

  “If I was a burglar I’d have a swag bag,” she told him. “And a striped jumpsuit and a mask.”

  “Sorry. Of course you would.” He sounded amused. “So…are you lost?”

  “I’m stuck. I jumped over the wall,” Maddy explained, “and now I can’t get back. There’s no other way out of this yard except through the house, and all the lights are off, which means the people who live here are either out or asleep. If they’re asleep, I don’t want to wake them up.”

  “Probably don’t want to have to explain what you’re doing in their yard either,” observed the man she was rather relying on to rescue her. “Out of interest, what were you doing in their yard?”

  Oh dear.

  “A gentleman wouldn’t ask.”

  “Get him to help you over the wall then,” he said lightly, beginning to walk away.

  Letting out a muted shriek of frustration, Maddy hissed, “Oh please, don’t leave me. Come back.”

  This time, she heard him laughing. Returning, he gestured for her to move away from the wall and the next moment had vaulted effortlessly over it.

  Now he was close enough, despite the darkness and her own myopia, for Maddy to be able to tell that this was no troll. Dark hair, dark eyes, good cheekbones, and a flash of white teeth as he smiled. She was about to be rescued—hopefully—by a rather nice-looking man. Blurry, but nice.

  * * *

  “OK. Come stand in front of me.” He beckoned to her. “No, face the wall, then I’ll lift you up.”

  “Er…I ripped my trousers jumping down. They caught on a nail.” Maddy’s hand moved protectively to the gaping hole at the back of her trousers; if he lifted her, he was going to see it—and her fluorescent orange panties—at close range.

  Smiling, he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll close my eyes.”

  He was impressive, she’d say that for him. One moment she was on the ground, the next his hands were around her waist and she found herself being whooshed up into the air. It was all very Torvill and Dean. Her own arms outstretched, Maddy made a grab for the top of the wall, raised one knee, and landed on top of it. Not very elegantly, she dragged her other leg over, wriggled to the edge, and dropped down on the other side.

  Oh, the relief.

  Impressively, her rescuer hauled himself over too, his feet landing with a soft thud on the grass.

  “I’ve just been saved by Superman,” said Maddy. “Thanks.”

  “No problem.” He sounded entertained. “Nice pants, by the way.”

  “It hasn’t been my night.” Twisting around, Maddy ruefully examined the rip in her white trousers. “I’ll have to go home now. God, they’re completely wrecked.”

  “You can’t rush off. I’ve only just rescued you. Come on, there’s a bench over there. We can stay out here for a bit.”

  They sat down on the bench. He was wearing a pale gray shirt with the cuffs folded back and black trousers that melted into the darkness. Breathing in, she smelled soap and the faint tang of aftershave, possibly Hugo Boss. Maybe the evening wasn’t going to be such a disaster after all. Cheering up, Maddy said, “So, Superman, what brought you out into the yard?”

  “Keeping out of the way of a jealous husband.”

  “Really? If he’s that jealous, why did you marry him?”

  He smiled. “His wife wouldn’t leave me alone. I wasn’t encouraging her, but she’s a bit drunk. Her husband was getting irritated so I escaped to the kitchen. Then, as I was looking out of the window, I saw a blond head bobbing up and down like a ping-pong ball over the wall at the end of this yard. Thought I’d come out and see what was going on.”

  “I’m glad you did.” Maddy shivered as the cool night air sank through her thin purple top. “I wouldn’t have slept well over there.” It struck her that as far as she could tell, she hadn’t spotted her rescuer at the party. “Have you been here long?”

  “Here at the party? Twenty minutes. Or did you mean here in Bath?” His eyes sparkled. “In which case, I grew up around here, then moved away years ago. I’ve been back a few months now, running a PR company. Callaghan and Fox.”

  “Really? I know it!” Brightening, Maddy said, “You’re on the top floor of Claremont House. I deliver sandwiches to the accountants on the first floor.”

  He tilted his head to one side. “Sandwiches. Good ones?”

  “Excuse me! Completely brilliant ones. We do baps, bagels, baguettes, cartons of rice and pasta and salady things, homemade cakes, everything you could want.” Spotting an opportunity, Maddy said innocently, “And very cheerful service. Everyone says we’re the best.”

  “Do they now? And you’re reliable?”

  “If we weren’t reliable, everyone wouldn’t say we were the best. Who does yours?” asked Maddy, although she already knew.

  “Blunkett’s, the place on Armitage Street.” Her rescuer pulled a face. “They’re OK, but sometimes they get to us late and all the best stuff has gone.”

  “That must be so annoying. We make to order. One of our clients is pregnant and we take her chicken and banana baguettes with spring onions and Marmite. I just feel sorry for the baby.” Maddy shivered as another gust of wind sliced through her; it might be June, but this was England and everyone with an ounce of sense was inside.

  “You’re cold,” he observed. “I’d lend you my jacket if I was wearing one. Look, take this.” Digging his wallet from his back pocket, he pulled out a business card.

  “It’s not going to keep me very warm.”

  “Come and see us on Monday morning. Maybe it’s time for a change.”

  Yay, result. Maddy tucked the card in her pocket, delighted by the happy turn this evening had taken. Not only a nice-sounding man but a potential addition to her client list.

  “Excellent.” Rising to her feet, she felt a draft as the L-shaped tear at the back of her trousers flapped open.

  “Around eleven o’clock. Is that OK? You’ll be there then?”

  “I’ll be there. Just go to the reception desk and ask for—”

  “I know.” Maddy patted the pocket containing his business card and broke into a grin. “Ask for Superman.”

  * * *

  Kate was going home. Back to England, back to Ashcombe. Not because she wanted to, but because she didn’t have a lot of choice. New York was no longer her kind of town. Swish Park Avenue hotels weren’t interested in employing a receptionist with a scarred face; her appearance didn’t fit with the ambience. Basically, she was a bit of a turn-off.

  Kicking up an almighty fuss and threatening to sue them might have been an option, but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to do it. She was sick of being treated like a freak anyway. Every time she ventured out onto the streets, there were another million or so New Yorkers ready to point and stare at her. After a while it really got you down.

  Turning away from the window of her loft apartment in East Village, Kate caught sight of her reflection in the oval mirror on the wall opposite. Even now, almost a year later, an unexpected glimpse of herself—That can’t be me! Oh God, it is me—still had the power to give her a jolt.

  There was no getting away from it—she was now officially ugly. Oh, how everyone in Ashcombe would laugh when they saw her. Not to her face, maybe, but certainly behind her back. She was under no illusions about that. It wasn’t a comfortable thing to have to admit, but if anyone truly deserved their comeuppance, it was her.

  “How’s it going with the
packing?” Mimi, her barely-there roommate, poked her head around the bedroom door. Honestly, Mimi spent so little time at their apartment it was a wonder sometimes that Kate recognized her.

  “Slowly.” Kate picked up a pair of Calvin Klein pink denims and halfheartedly folded them into one of the cases lying open on the bed.

  “We’re off to the movies. You’re welcome to come along if you want.” Mimi flashed the kind of overbright smile that signaled, Look, I’m saying it but I don’t actually mean it.

  “No thanks. I’d better get on with this.” Kate wondered what would happen to Mimi’s smile if she’d said, “Oh yes please, I’d love to!”

  “OK. Have a nice da-ay,” Mimi sang out and swiftly disappeared before Kate could change her mind.

  The apartment door slammed shut and Kate slumped down on the edge of the queen-size bed, angrily brushing away a tear. She was glad to be leaving New York, so why should she care?

  Except she already knew the answer to that one: going back to Ashcombe would undoubtedly be worse.

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  Acknowledgments

  I’ve never used this page to thank my agent and editor before, as it always seemed a bit of a teacher’s pet thing to do. But after so many books the time has definitely come to thank Jennifer Unter, my U.S. agent, and Deb Werksman and Susie Benton, my Sourcebooks editors, for all their wonderful help, advice, and hard work on my behalf. And while I’m at it, everyone else at Sourcebooks too—particularly the amazing Dominique Raccah. You’re all fantastic and an absolute joy to work with!

  About the Author

  With over ten million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell is also one of the hottest selling authors of women’s fiction in the UK. She lives with her partner and children in Bristol and writes full-time. Actually, that’s not true; she watches TV, eats gumdrops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the Internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write.

 


 

  Jill Mansell, Making Your Mind Up

 


 

 
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