Authors: Rebecca Chance
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Praise for Rebecca Chance’s debut novel
‘A bright new star in blockbusters, Rebecca Chance’s
sizzles with glamour, romance and revenge. Unputdownable. A glittering page-turner, this debut had me hooked from the first page’
‘I laughed, I cried, I very nearly choked.
Just brilliant! This has to be the holiday read of the year. Rebecca Chance’s debut will bring colour to your cheeks even if the credit crunch means you’re reading it in Bognor rather than the Balearics’
Also by Rebecca Chance
Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating
First published in Great Britain by Pocket Books, 2010
An imprint of Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Rebecca Chance, 2010
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
Pocket Books & Design is a registered trademark
of Simon & Schuster Inc.
The right of Rebecca Chance to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-84983-184-0
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Typeset by M Rules
Printed by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX
To my gorgeous Greg, who’s been forced to accompany me to a series of luxury destinations for settings in this book. Thanks so much for sacrificing so many weekends to my research, darling.
My agent Anthony Goff has been an absolute tower of strength as always and I’m really lucky to have him and his whole team behind me. Maxine Hitchcock and Libby Yevtushenko – your editing skills, constant encouragement and wholehearted enthusiasm for this book have been a joy, and I feel just as lucky to have you as my publishers! It’s been a total pleasure working with you, ladies. Rob Cox and Emma Harrow have been working so hard and creatively to make sure my books reach as many readers as possible – huge thanks for that.
Katharine Walsh, blonde bombshell and PR extraordinaire – thanks so much for introducing me to the Intercontinental Park Lane, the St James Hotel, and the utterly fabulous Bovey Castle: the books sparkle because of your glittering five-star touch! Kirsten Ferguson, you were a star for answering all my questions about the Intercontinental and for organizing the Spa Boudoir experience. And everyone at the Ca’ Maria Adele hotel gave us one of the most exquisite visits to Venice that we could possibly imagine.
mber was swimming in a sea of vodka with Vicodin islands floating in it, big white oval pills like inflatable boats. The pills looked lovely from a distance, but when she got close they were hard and slippery; her hands kept sliding off them when she tried to clamber aboard. Her mouth tasted metallic and dry, like lead. She was wearing a silk nightdress, which was plastered to her body by the vodka. Maybe she was doing an underwater photoshoot? Amber loved underwater shoots; the feeling of weightlessness, her hair streaming behind her, the serenity of being completely submerged. She never wanted to come up.
But right now, she didn’t feel serene at all.
She started to thrash around in panic, trying to swim up to the surface, to breathe. The vodka was thick and viscous, weighing her down. Amber was pushing it away with her hands, a clumsy, ugly breaststroke that would have had her sacked from an underwater shoot immediately. Desperately she tried to open her eyes; her lids were as heavy as if she was wearing ten pairs of fake eyelashes. She turned her head, shaking off the vodka, managing to lift her face a little, to peel open her eyelids, even though her lashes felt glued together.
Light. Daylight. No water. Soft around her. Silk on her body: her peach La Perla nightdress. Silk pillowcase; she always slept on silk pillowcases to avoid wrinkles. And a quilt on top of her. More than just one. Quilts, blankets, enough layers for an Alaskan winter. Or not blankets – books, maybe. Solid things with corners, heavy.
What were a lot of
doing strewn all over her legs?
She heaved herself back on her pillows, eyelids fluttering, her hair matted around her face. Her skin was clammy with sweat. The quilt on top of her smelled of vodka; she managed to get one hand out from under the layers and push back the quilt, shocked by how damp it was. A bottle rolled across the bed and dropped onto the floor beside her with a crash.
And someone laughed. A woman, standing close to her, laughed.
Amber’s head was stuffed full of cotton wool. Cotton wool soaked in vodka. She flailed around with her hand, grabbing anything she could reach, frantically searching for clues to what was happening to her. The glossy pages of a magazine crumpled into her palm and she dragged it towards her, craning to see what it was.
Herself. Herself in
, wearing a Hervé Léger bandage dress and Galliano ankle-wrap shoes.
She closed her hand on the corner of a book and pulled it into view. A Helmut Newton retrospective, open to a double-page spread of her at sixteen, standing with her legs apart, shot from below so she looked ten feet tall, a beautiful Amazon in a one-piece black belted swimsuit, her expression sulky to conceal the terror she’d felt all the way through the shoot.
The next thing her fingers touched was a vial of Vicodin, transparent yellow with a white plastic lid. That was when Amber really started to panic – when she realized the vial was empty. And what was Vicodin doing anywhere near her? She’d cleaned up! She hadn’t had any pills for over a month now!
Twisting, flailing like a fish in a net, weighed down by piles of fabric and paper, she writhed upright enough to get an overview of her bed. It was covered in photographs of herself. Tearsheets from magazines. Her model cards. Polaroids from shoots. Victoria’s Secret catalogues – lots and lots of VS catalogues. Huge hard-backed coffee-table books; no wonder she was weighed down. Magazines from her glory days, some almost as heavy as the books:
s from all over the world, advertising and editorials. Amber’s beautiful face, Amber’s statuesque body, selling watches and diamonds and shoes and perfume and handbags and lingerie.
And then something across the room caught her attention, something incongruous, something that shouldn’t be there: she had to look up. Though her head felt as if it weighed fifty pounds and her vision was so blurry white spots danced across her retinas, she managed to tip her skull back and stare, horrified, at the white wall opposite, on which was scrawled, in what looked like dark brown lipstick: ‘I’M NOT BEAUTIFUL ANY MORE’.
The woman standing next to her reached out one hand and pushed Amber back down to a prone position.
‘Go back to sleep,’ she said, holding Amber down with the press of her fingers on Amber’s forehead. ‘Don’t try to move. Just go back to sleep.’
Amber’s lips moved, but no sound came out.
‘Help me,’ she mouthed desperately. ‘Please, help me . . .’
Because if she did as the woman said, and passed out, she knew she would never wake up again.
mber Peters was used to being the most beautiful woman in the room. Even if there were other stunning models present – if she were sunbathing on the deck of a yacht moored off Capri, for instance, or at a cocktail party for the Paris collections – Amber would still be the one everyone’s eyes returned to, full of envy or desire. Her beauty wasn’t currently fashionable: she’d never be booked for French
, which preferred editorial models with pale skinny limbs, big bug-eyes and jutting collarbones, girls who hunched their backs awkwardly to look like broken-down dolls. Though she was half English, half Slovak by birth, Amber’s beauty was the American dream; in her photos, she was either laughing, showing her perfect teeth, or pouting, sultry-eyed, at the camera over a glossy, suntanned shoulder. With her slanted green eyes, endless legs, and mane of tawny hair, Amber was the girl that every woman wanted to be, and every man wanted to be with.
Since she was fourteen, Amber had made her living from being the incarnation of sexiness. Grooming had been drummed into her till it was as automatic to her as breathing. Currently, as always, she was flawless: her teeth were perfect and pearly, her skin smooth, glowing and lightly tanned, her eyes framed by thick tinted lashes, and her hair cascaded down her back in layers of gently styled curls.
And this was only breakfast time.
‘No one here can take their eyes off you, honey,’ gloated Tony, smiling at her proudly. ‘You look stunning.’
Sure enough, every head in the lavish breakfast room of Bovey Castle Hotel snapped away as soon as Amber glanced around, the unmistakable indication that the other guests had all been staring at her; she was so used to it by now that she took it for granted. The waitress, setting down Amber’s cappuccino, blushed and averted her gaze, overwhelmed.
‘I don’t fit in here,’ Amber said, embarrassed.
The clientele were dressed in cords and sweaters, suitable wear for the English countryside; not a jet-setter among them.
‘I know! But hey, I don’t fit in here either!’ Tony said cheerfully. ‘This is old-school English, baby. Isn’t it cool?’ His brow furrowed. ‘Don’t you like it?’ He leaned across the table and took her hand. ‘I know it’s not the usual kind of place I take you to, but you’ve got the spa, don’t you? And the swimming pool?’
‘Yes! I’m fine!’ Amber said, smiling back at him. ‘I just feel too glitzy.’
She glanced down at her skinny cream jeans, tucked into knee-length suede boots, the silk T-shirt, and the aquamarine silk and cashmere cardigan knotted at her waist. Form-fitting, showing off her long, slim body, her high, round breasts. Perfect for LA or Monaco, but not for a sporting estate in the heart of Devonshire.
glitzy, babe,’ Tony pointed out. ‘I’m from Houston, Texas. We like things big and shiny there. And you’re an international supermodel – that’s the definition of glitz!’ He grinned widely, his teeth a superb example of American dentistry.
Amber was about to respond, but instead she squealed in shock as an enormous bird landed on the sill of the leaded window next to her chair. It was the size of a small dog, its eyes huge and yellow, staring directly at her through the glass.
‘Oh my God!’ Amber panicked.
‘It’s the giant owl! Cool!’ Tony said happily. ‘Remember, from the hallway?’
Amber stared at him blankly.
‘Honey, you need more coffee,’ he said, beckoning the waitress. ‘Remember, in the hallway just now we walked past the guy with the giant owl on a stand? With the black Lab lying at his feet? He’s taking me out this morning to do some hawking?’
I walked past a giant owl just now, Amber thought, baffled, and I don’t remember?
The owl was still staring at her. She was more thankful than she could say that the leaded panes were between them. It hopped from one huge clawed foot to another, squeaking urgently. Tony reached out and tapped on the glass, and, surprised, it opened its wings, the span at least four feet, and flapped away.
‘You scared it,’ Amber said sadly, but Tony was already jumping up, throwing his linen napkin on the table.