Authors: Lizzie Lamb
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #General Humor
Romance and intrigue on the Norfolk marshes
Lizzie Lamb is now on my list of authors to look out for!
Boot Camp Bride 2013
E-edition published worldwide 2013 © Lizzie Lamb
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the Internet, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author and/or publisher.
The moral right of Lizzie Lamb as the author of the work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This book is a work of fiction. All characters and events featured in this book are entirely fictional and any resemblance to any person, organisation, place or thing living or dead, or event or place is purely coincidental and is completely unintentional and not intended by the author.
For Sir Roger de Bushby
A dear friend who is sadly missed.
Meet you at the Coal Shed, Thornham Staithe on the morning
of the high tide,
Charlee was listening to Amy Winehouse on her iPod in the large walk-in cupboard that doubled as a storeroom for copier paper, last year’s Comic Relief publicity material and those computers even the techno-geeks couldn’t fix. The sign on the door read ‘Photo Archive’. But looking round the room crammed with filing cabinets and office detritus - and with the sour smell from an abandoned mop bucket wafting towards her - Charlee decided that a spell in rehab was beginning to look an attractive alternative. Trying to keep her spirits up, she sang along with Amy at the top of her voice.
No one ever came down to the basement of
Magazine of their own volition and the photo archive was rumoured to be haunted. But Charlee guessed that was just a story put about by the post boys to scare her. She glanced once over her shoulder in the windowless twilight, shivered, and then continued with her task. Editorial wanted 'before/after' photos of celebrities whose facelifts had gone wrong. And, as a lowly intern who had seriously pissed off the fashion editor, Vanessa Lloyd, Charlee had been given the task.
Listening to the iPod was a small act of rebellion on her part. Out of sheer vindictiveness - and just because she could - Vanessa had banned the use of iPods and mobiles during office hours. However, Charlee’s defiance couldn’t compensate for the crumminess of the task. Or the fact that she’d been sitting in a cramped position for two hours, flicking through photos of lopsided celebrities, dying to use the loo.
Her - that is - not the celebrities!
Cutting-edge journalism? Hardly.
It all seemed far away from the heady day last summer when she’d graduated with a first in Modern Languages and Political Studies. Then she’d imagined herself reporting from a war zone above the rolling titles of a breaking news story on the Beeb. Instead, here she was, wondering if it was possible to get dowager’s hump from sitting hunched over a low desk for hours on end while all feeling left her lower limbs.
‘Montague,’ a voice growled. ‘Is that an iPod I see?’ A pair of hands clamped over her knotted shoulders.
In one well-practised move, Charlee put her hand up her sweater, pulled out the earphones and hid the wires from view. She spun round expecting to find Vanessa Lloyd standing there ready to give her a ticking off for not being on task. Instead, she found Poppy Walker - daughter of
’s editor-cum-proprietor - her best friend and confidante.
‘You’ve just shaved five years off my life, Walker, know that?’ Charlee said, now she could breathe easy again. Poppy ignored her, looking round the dinginess of the photo archive and wrinkling her nose instead.
‘What is that smell?’
‘I’ve been down here so long I’ve become immune to it. But I think it’s coming from that mop bucket over there.’ Charlee collected the ‘before/after’ photos together, making sure that she’d left markers in the filing cabinets to show where they’d come from. She knew exactly who’d be putting them back once Editorial had finished with them.
‘Poor Charlee,’ Poppy sighed. She reached into an oversized designer handbag, pulled out a bottle of perfume and sprayed a suffocating cloud of some exclusive, spicy scent in Charlee’s direction. ‘There, sweetie; that ought to stop dogs running after you in the street.’
‘Thanks, mate.’ Charlee put a sarcastic stress on the word, but the irony was lost on Poppy. She wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and was only kept on at
because her family owned the magazine. And no one - not even the almighty Vanessa - dared to complain to Sam Walker about his daughter.
Charlee regarded Poppy with fond exasperation.
Last summer, she’d written to every newspaper from
Pigeon Fanciers’ Weekly
in an attempt to get a toehold in the world of journalism - but none of them had bothered to answer her letters or emails. As the weeks stretched into months, Poppy had spoken to her father on Charlee’s behalf, brushing aside Charlee’s half-hearted protests that she was cashing in on their friendship. The result was a year’s internship at
during which time Charlee had to prove herself worthy of Sam and Poppy’s belief in her.
‘Why can’t you do this online?’ Poppy asked, waving a hand in front of Charlee’s face and breaking her dream.
‘That’s exactly what I asked - dared to ask - Vanessa.’
‘And your head is still attached to your shoulders?’ They exchanged a look of fellow feeling. Vanessa’s high-handedness with interns was legendary, but her dislike of Charlee verged on the pathological. It was Charlee’s avowed intention to make Vanessa review her low opinion of her and eat her caustic words. All she needed was a chance, an opportunity to show everyone her mettle. She had it in her to be a great journalist; she felt it in her water. One day her lucky break would come along and when it did, she’d be ready.
Dreaming of being handed the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, Charlee locked the door of the photo archive and put the key in her pocket.
‘I don’t know why you’re bothering to lock the door. I mean, you’d have to be a very desperate thief to break in at dead of night and steal a Windows 95 computer or a Betamax video recorder. Wouldn’t you? ’Bout time Daddy consigned half this junk to the techie-graveyard. I would tell him so myself, but he might give me the job of sorting it out.’ Poppy glanced at one of her manicured nails and pulled a glum face. ‘He says I’ve got to work harder or he’s halving my salary and some of the horses will have to be sold off.’
Charlee laughed at her woeful expression. Poppy was an excellent rider, it was one of the things she excelled at. Despite
Magazine having been in her family for three generations, journalism came a very poor second to eventing, in her opinion.
‘Corners are being cut and sails trimmed, Miss Walker,’ she said with mock-severity. ‘We’re in the middle of a double-dip recession in case you hadn’t noticed. Apparently, we own the copyright to these photos, and have to use them instead of buying new ones from the usual agencies. Editorial’s budget has been slashed in view of last month’s disastrous sales figures.’
‘In view of Vanessa’s long lunches and fiddled expense account, you mean,’ Poppy added, before giving herself another squirt of perfume and returning it to her bag. ‘If there’s another cull in the office you can bet old Teflon Knickers will come out of it unscathed.’
As style editor, Vanessa was highly regarded because of her address book and contacts with the rich and famous. She kept an army of not-so-rich-and-famous waiters, hairdressers and stylists on retainer to ensure that she had first pickings of the juiciest items of celebrity gossip. She was almost untouchable, feared as much as revered. Her nickname: Teflon Knickers, referred to some of the less scrupulous things she’d done in pursuit of a scoop.
Magazine, the end, in most cases, justified the means. Its tagline said it all -
what’cha want is what’cha get!
‘So what brings you down here?’ Charlee prompted, wishing she could get a glance in Vanessa’s famous little black book. Just once.
‘Oh yes. Fear not, for I bring you glad tidings of great joy,’ Poppy said, waving her arms about and striking a pose.
‘Oh yeah?’ Charlee asked suspiciously.
She remembered Poppy peeing herself in excitement at their first nativity play whilst waiting to deliver the same line, but wisely didn’t remind her of it. Christmas was only a few days away and clearly Poppy was already in the party mood whereas Charlee’s Christmas spirit was languishing in the doldrums.
‘You are so going to love me for this, Montague. Most of Editorial’s gone down with the norovirus. Chief wants stand-ins for the book awards tonight. Sort of rent-a-crowd,’ she tailed off, perhaps sensing that her sales pitch wasn’t having the desired effect on its target audience.
‘And. You’re one of them. I got you a ticket. Ta-da.’ She gave a little twirl, clearly relishing her role as fairy-godmother-cum-archangel and waving the precious ticket under Charlee’s nose.
‘I don’t believe it,’ Charlee said, showing sudden interest.
’s Book of the Year Award was legendary and invitations were coveted, even among the rich and famous. It was the celebrity/style magazine’s token nod towards ‘The Arts’ and the prize money was so generous that even the most donnish professor was keen to be nominated. Apart from the money and the kudos, the winner was guaranteed mega sales and an appearance on all the major chat shows. Something not to be sniffed at when purse strings were being tightened.
Charlee had only been at
a few months but knew it was more than her life was worth to accept a perk like this. She had no illusions about her place in the pecking order: one step above the cleaning staff, but well below the boys who brought round the mail, sandwiches and takeaway cappuccinos from Pret A Manger. The only perks likely to come her way were a few bent paperclips and dried-up biros. Or, if she was lucky, organising Secret Santa or the sweepstake for the Grand National next year - always supposing she was kept on at the end of her internship.
Book launches? Champagne receptions?
She didn’t think so.
By accepting the invitation, she’d probably offend some old dinosaur who’d worked at
for at least a thousand years, and be bludgeoned to death with the lid of the photocopier for her temerity, her corpse hidden in the photo archive and -
Maybe that’s what the smell was. An intern who’d got above herself.
‘Thanks; but no thanks,’ Charlee sighed. ‘I’m going straight home. There’s an M&S chilli in the fridge with my name on it. I’m going to have a long bath with lots of candles, slurp a bucket of wine and then start writing Christmas cards.’ Even to her ears, it sounded dull, with a capital D.
‘Christmas cards? Are you mad - the last date for posting them was two days ago. Tonight’s for fun. You’re coming to this award ceremony, or I’ll get Daddy to stop your Christmas bonus.’ Poppy grinned to show she was joking. But judging from the way she was blocking Charlee’s access to the stairs, it was clear that she wouldn’t take no, or even maybe, for an answer.
‘Norovirus, you say?’ Charlee asked, her spirits lifting once more.
‘Synchronised - Projectile - Vomiting. ’ Poppy emphasised each word with a shudder. ‘But good news for you and the other little elves in Editorial.’
‘I’d be doing Chief a favour, then?’
‘It’s your duty to attend, Montague,’ Poppy said sternly. ‘And don’t tell me that you haven’t been sitting in that health hazard that passes for a stock room wishing for something - or someone - to whisk you away?’ Clearly sensing Charlee’s weakening resolve, Poppy walked backwards up the stairs, dangling the invitation and singing: ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’.
‘Okay, okay, I give in. On one condition.’
‘You stop singing or I’m going back into the photo archive.’
‘Very amusing.’ As Charlee reached out for the invitation, Poppy turned and ran ahead of her, openly delighted that she’d finally caved. ‘Be ready by seven o’clock. And Montague -’
‘Yes, Walker?’ Charlee caught up with her and snatched the heavily embossed invitation out of her hand.
‘Do something about that awful smell, sweetie.’
Then she ran up the stairs with Charlee close on her heels, threatening retribution.