Billie holds out her hand. ‘Come. I’ll take you home.’

‘I don’t want my mum to know.’

‘It’s OK, we’ll go to mine and you can clean up there. We don’t have to tell anyone.’

‘Remember when you said you didn’t know whether you would share your lottery money with me if you ever did win?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Now you know, don’t you?’

Billie smiles sadly. ‘Yeah, now I know.’

Thirty

Victoria Jane Montgomery

I walk up to the nurse.

‘Good afternoon, Miss Montgomery.’

‘Good afternoon. How is he today?’

‘He seems better. I just looked in on him a few minutes ago and he was asleep, but he was conscious for a few minutes this morning, and seemed desperate to know if someone called Lana was all right? It would be good to reassure him that she is all right.’

I can’t stop the pure rush of shock that invades my body. I shutter my beautiful green eyes and smile. ‘If he asks again, tell him not to worry about her. She is fine.’

‘I certainly will, Miss Montgomery.’

I nod politely and walk down the corridor. My heart feels as if it is breaking. I enter his room and shut the door behind me. It is quiet and full of flowers. My eyes move to his face. His eyes are closed and he is very still. I walk up to his bed and stand looking down on him. He looks so helpless and pale under his dark tan that I feel an odd rush of emotion inside me. I know it is very dull of me, but I love this man. I can’t even care that my friends call me Sticky Vicky behind my back.

‘Oh, darling,’ I whisper. ‘What a perfectly awful fright you gave me.’

I take his big hand in my small dainty ones and caress the inside of his wrist. Ever since I met him at my garden party when I was ten years old I have loved him.

‘I’m going to marry that boy,’ I told my father.

My father threw back his head and laughed, but his eyes had gleamed strangely. He approved. And over the years he had quietly encouraged my total dedication to ‘that boy’. When the families decided that it would be a perfect match I celebrated quietly. While Blake indulged in his meaningless affairs and liaisons I laid low. Of course, my father did not and would never know about the drunken one-night stands.

Those don’t count.

I let my finger trace a vein. There is nothing I will not do for this man. I bend down and kiss that straight mouth—his lips feel cool and dry—and I remember that other time I pressed my lips to his. Then, he was fifteen. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand and looked at me scornfully. ‘You’re just a baby. Lip kisses are for grown-ups,’ he chided.

Very gently I push back a piece of hair that has strayed onto his forehead and smooth it down. I know he is not in love with me. But I can live with that. I will take him on any terms. I want his seed in me. I want to see him in my children’s faces. I want to watch the gray appear in his temples. I want to sit out in my father’s French seaside villa when we are both old and gray watching the sunset together. But for now a fond look, an affectionate smile, a caring touch from him will be enough for me.

For a long time, I am content to simply sit with my cheek pressed against his hand. Eventually, there is a noise at the door and Marcus enters. He stands awkwardly in the middle of the room for a moment.

‘Hello, Marcus,’ I greet with a smile.

‘How are you?’ he says politely, and coming over to me, lightly kisses both my cheeks.

‘I’m fine, thank you.’

He nods distractedly. ‘The nurse told me he regained consciousness for a short while. Were you here? Did he say anything?’

I shake my head. ‘I wasn’t here.’ He’s never going to know about the slut Blake has installed in a penthouse in St John’s Wood. ‘How did it happen?’ I ask instead.

‘I don’t know…exactly,’ he says evasively, and moves to the other side of the bed.

Ah, so he knows something that he doesn’t want me to know. Blake’s accident must have something to do with that whore! I feel a new clutch of pain in my heart. All this while I thought it was not serious, that it was a strictly sex thing. I saw the contract, after all. The pain is so strong I feel like howling.

‘I guess I’ll come back in the evening,’ I say. My voice sounds strange.

I close the door and quickly walk along the corridor. I hate the smell of hospitals. It always reminds me of the many months my grandmother spent in her sick bed before she died. As I round the corner I come to a dead stop. The nurse at the desk is talking to Blake’s tart and a ghoul-like creature covered in tattoos.

Anger bubbles inside me. These low class people. How dare they? How dare they show up at this hospital where my father could very well come to? The cheek of it. I hear the nurse very firmly enforce the instructions I left.

‘I’m sorry but I have very strict instructions not to let anyone in, but the family members on this list.’

For a while it appears as if the ghoul would fight it out but Blake’s tart takes a step back and the ghoul says loudly, ‘You’re right, Lana, lets leave these stuck-up, la di da shits to get on with it.’ Then she grabs the slut’s hand and pulls her away. They do not see me.

Now I know. Something has to be done.

Thirty one

Lana Bloom

The doorbell rings and I start with surprise. There is always somebody at my mother’s door wanting to borrow a hairdryer, a pen, red lipstick, a sparkly handbag, or something. But here? None of my friends are allowed to visit. Besides…unannounced by Mr. Nair?

I walk to the door and look out of the eyehole.

There is a woman standing outside. She looks to be in her early twenties. Her skin is very good, her lipstick is pale, and her glossy brown hair is held back by a black velvet band. She is dressed as if she is going to a lawn party. In an elegant linen dress and black pearls.

I know who she is.

I open the door and, oddly, note that I would never have thought to combine black pearls with such an outfit. From every pore of her flawless skin she exudes good breeding and finishing school class. She is pure style.

You can live in a fine home, wear the right clothes and even go to the right parties but you will never be one of us, her very being seems to say.

Her mouth curves into a smile. ‘Hello, I’m Victoria. May I come in?’

I cannot stop staring at her. So this is the woman that Blake is going to marry. This is the woman who will have his babies and live with him.

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