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Page 45 of Seduce Me (The Billionaire Banker 4)

How crazy life is. There I was thinking he is ashamed he is poor and it turns out he is ashamed that he is immeasurably rich.

I walk over to the wall and begin to take down the photos. One by one, the memories of where I had acquired them, when I put them up. God! How very silly I have been. I stand on a chair and pull down the highest one. I pick them up and put them on a pile on the bed. The wall is stained with Blu-Tack marks. I want to tear all the photographs into tiny little pieces and forget I was ever so mad and foolish, but I cant. I’ve had them for so long they are a part of me. They tell their own story. The story of how I allowed a crush to become an obsession.

I sit on my bed and realize that I must tell Vann everything. Everything. I can win him back. I won’t give up. I will go with him to Paris or Provence or wherever the light is best. He will paint and I will go to the open-air market for vegetables and fish and meat. We will have a wooden table where I will prepare everything. The windows will not be slash. They will open out; perhaps they will have shutters. I will cook and we will eat together and make love, and we will be happy. In winter we will light a big fire and watch the snow falling, making everything vanish in white.

My phone rings. It is Lana.

‘Hi.’

‘Yeah.’

‘What’s the matter, Jules?’

‘Nothing.’

‘You sound a bit down.’

A sob rises in my throat. I swallow it down. It remains a lump in my throat. ‘I’m all right, really.’ My voice sounds funny.

‘Look, Blake won’t be back for another two hours. Why don’t you come over? Do you want me to send Tom or would you rather take a taxi, my shout if you do?’

Now the tears are running down my face. ‘I’ll take a taxi, but you don’t have to pay for it,’ I blubber.

‘Oh, Julie. Would you rather I came to you?’

‘No,’ I sniff. ‘I’ll come over.’

I go to the mirror and watch myself cry. I am one ugly f**ker when I cry. The phone rings again and Lana says, ‘Don’t take a cab. Tom’s very close to Kilburn and he is already on his way to you. He’ll call you as soon as he gets to your block and you can go down to him, OK?’ Her voice is very kind and it makes me want to bawl.

‘All right,’ I sniff.

I don’t cry in the car. I simply sit staring out of the window. How strange that the one friend I seem to have in the world is the person I thought I hated. I arrive at the wide, tree-lined street, manned on either end by armed diplomatic Protection Group officers. Set back on the eastern side is Kensington Palace. Here, too, is where the Russian Embassy is located and where the steel magnate, Laxhmi Mittal, lives. This is London’s billionaire’s row, Lana’s new residence. Each mansion is white stone and surrounded by spacious gardens, but I don’t see anything. Tom drives us into the gated magnificent mansion that is Lana’s new home.

I get out of the car and Lana herself opens the tall front door. She comes down the steps and taking me by the hand leads me into the house. I look around me, dazed. It is as beautiful as a palace. Even in the daytime a massive chandelier, hanging from the lofty ceiling, is blazing with light, and the floor is gleaming like a mirror. She takes me into a sumptuous sitting room full of all the usual trappings of wealth, but I am too upset to pay any attention to them. Sorab’s toys and a coloring book are on the floor. As if he had been there moments ago.

‘Come sit down,’ she says.

‘Where’s Sorab?’

‘Gerry’s taken him outside for a bit. Thought you might like some privacy.’

I nod. A woman in a black and white uniform comes in. She smiles and nods in a friendly fashion.

‘Do you want anything to drink or eat?’ Lana asks me.

I shake my head mutely. Any food would make me hurl.

The woman nods silently and leaves. Lana guides me to a deep sofa and sits beside me. ‘What’s the matter, Julie?’

I look into her beautiful face, take a deep breath and say, ‘I’ve hated you for years.’

She moves back as if struck, her hands falling away from mine with shock.

I plough on. ‘And I’ve been envious of you for even longer. You see, I fancied I was in love with Jack but he only wanted you, so I was jealous, rabidly so. I think I also became a bit obsessed with you. When I was younger I even sometimes prayed that you would drop dead.’

‘Oh.’

‘And that’s not all. When I came to your apartment the last time, I looked at the notes beside your laptop, and on your wedding day I went into your room and read your diary. And I’m really, really sorry because I realize that you’ve never been anything but good to me and I‘ve been such a selfish, shallow bitch.’

She clasps her hands in her lap and for a moment says nothing, and then she looks up at me, her eyes are twinkling. ‘Did you read anything interesting in my diary?’

I smile tremulously. ‘I didn’t get a chance to read too much. You came back into the room.’

‘And you hid in the cupboard.’

I gasp. ‘You knew?’

‘A wisp of your dress was trapped at the bottom of the cupboard door. It could only have been you or Billie. I kinda figured it was you. Billie would have chosen to dive under the bed.’

I laugh then. Not a happy laugh, but a relieved laugh. I should have done this years ago. Unburdened myself. It feels so damn good. I finally feel clean.

‘Now tell me what is wrong?’

‘Just now, when you went to see Vann, I was not going, but coming. I sneaked in after you and listened to your conversation.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know. It was crazy but I thought you were having an affair with Vann.’

Lana stares at me speechlessly.

‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I know you love Blake to bits. Anyway, I confessed to Vann that I am in love with him, but he refused to believe me. He thought I was saying it because I had just found out he was a Barrington. He’d come upon us talking at your wedding reception, and heard me refer to him as a Barrington family servant so he refused to believe I could be in love with him if he wasn’t rich. But I swear it on my life, Lana, I don’t care whether he is a billionaire or hasn’t got a pot to piss in. I truly love him.’

‘When did you find out you loved him?’

‘I knew I was in love with him when I went to Jack’s mum’s house this afternoon and asked him to kiss me as an experiment… And felt absolutely nothing. What will I do, Lana? He says he’s going back to Paris.’

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