Authors: Kathryn Freeman
Tags: #General, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Copyright © 2014 Kathryn Freeman
Published 2014 by Choc Lit Limited
Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2AB, UK
The right of Kathryn Freeman to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1P 9HE
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
ISBN 978-1-78189-103-2 (epub)
ISBN 978-1-78189-104-9 (mobi)
ISBN 978-1-78189-102-5 (epdf)
To my men. My sons, who put up with their mother’s weird desire to write about romance. And my husband, who didn’t laugh too loudly when I said I wanted to give up work and write. He told me to go for it.
This book is your fault!
My mum insists she always knew I’d become a writer one day. Her belief in me, based on the tenuous evidence of scribbled letters rather than any great literary prose, says a lot about a mother’s blinkered love. Thank you Mum (and Dad because I know you watch over me).
Of course writing is one thing. Writing a story that others might want to read is something else. There were many dark days when I thought this would never happen, so a huge thanks to the rest of my family for keeping me going – David and Jayne, my other Mum and Dad, my lovely Northern relies from Fleetwood. You all rock! And I will never forget the support from friends (Charlotte, Priti, Jane, Lisa, Fiona, Sonia, Gill, Anissa, Bee, Janet, Michele, Sheyline, Laura, Tara) and from work colleagues (Stockley Park, Bagshot, Zurich and North America). You all rock, too.
Do Opposites Attract?
would not have been the book it is today without the insightful advice from the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme or the guidance of my wonderful editor. Thank you to them, and to writers everywhere who have been kind enough to welcome me into this exciting world.
Finally, a huge, heartfelt thank you to my publisher, Choc Lit, for being brave and kind enough to take a risk on an unknown author. This book is your fault, too!
The ballroom was dazzling. The jazz band played, diamonds glittered. Waiters strutted round with silver platters filled with canapés and the finest champagne. Wealthy men in their handmade tuxedos danced with glamorous ladies in eye-wateringly expensive silk dresses. It resembled a scene from the nineteenth century, when girls in their finery would set out to snare a rich husband. Two centuries later it looked like very little had changed – bar a reduction in simpering and an escalation in blatant flirtation.
Brianna was so bored, she wanted to scream. She didn’t want to spend yet another Saturday night in the company of these pampered, idle rich. Not with men who seemed increasingly dull, or with women who cared about nothing but spending money and looking good. Her greatest fear was that she was fast becoming one of them.
Across the sea of black tuxedos and vibrant designer dresses, Brianna caught sight of Melanie. She smiled as their eyes locked. Melanie had been her best friend from school; was her best friend now. She too had more money than she knew what to do with. With an understanding borne of years of friendship, they simultaneously moved towards the exit.
‘When are you going to dance with me, Brianna?’
Her escape temporarily halted, Brianna turned to find Henry Doherty following her. He was attractive, if you liked men with bland, even features. Brianna didn’t.
‘Maybe later,’ she replied, giving him a cool smile. ‘And maybe never,’ she muttered under her breath, gliding quickly through the hotel and into the welcome fresh air of the London evening.
‘I see you’re much in demand again.’ Melanie had followed her out and was looking furtively up and down the street to check nobody was watching them. With a nod of satisfaction she delved into her satin evening bag and proceeded to light two cigarettes.
Brianna didn’t smoke. Neither did Melanie. At least not when they were sober. In fact, Brianna hated it with a passion and refused to go out with any man who smoked. But every now and again, when she’d had too much to drink, or was feeling low, a cigarette was just what she needed. Tonight it was a combination of both.
Taking a deep drag she rested against the cool wall of the hotel. ‘I didn’t see you standing around like a wallflower either,’ she remarked as the nicotine slowly seeped into her veins, relaxing her.
‘One of the privileges of being your friend is that I seem to acquire the men you reject.’ Melanie grinned and rested against the wall next to her. ‘Of course the downside of that is they always know they’re getting second best.’
Brianna emitted a very unladylike snort. ‘What a load of bull. Look at you with your shiny blonde hair and baby blue eyes. You could never be second best.’
Melanie shook her head, though she was still smiling. ‘And look at you, Brianna Worthington. I might be the cool blonde, but it’s the sexy brunette the men are desperate to meet.’
Brianna took another drag from her cigarette. ‘Bollocks. It’s my trust fund they’re chasing, not me.’ As the sole, fourth generation heir to the Worthington family business, being fabulously wealthy was something she’d grown up with. ‘Still, who cares? Far easier to be the one being chased than the one doing the chasing.’
‘Speaking of your trust fund, how is life in the family emporium? Found a job you actually enjoy yet?’
Brianna snorted again, a sound totally at odds with her appearance. ‘Sure. Running a chain of shops is exactly how I see my life unfolding.’
‘Good heavens, only you could call the illustrious Worthington department stores a chain of shops. If your father heard you, he’d disown you.’
‘Sometimes I think that might be a good thing,’ Brianna admitted quietly.
Melanie shot her a look of disbelief. ‘You’re kidding me. Then you’d really have to work for a living.’
‘So? You don’t think I’ve got the stamina to do a nine to five, five day week?’
‘Stamina, yes, boredom threshold, no. You’d be tearing your hair out after a fortnight.’
‘Only if I chose the wrong job.’
‘And what, pray, would be the right job?’
The conversation was becoming way too serious for a Saturday night. ‘Okay, you win. I can’t imagine anything I’d want to do seven hours a day, five days a week.’ She shuddered. Taking a final puff of her cigarette, she crushed the stub under her five inch silver Jimmy Choo’s. ‘Come on, my friend. Let’s go back and party.’
Grabbing Melanie by the arm, the pair of them strode confidently back into the hotel, oblivious to the envious glances of other women and the frankly lustful gazes of the men. They both lived in a world where they were used to being pursued and adored.
On entering the glittering ballroom once more, Brianna paused. There was Henry again, his eyes scanning the room. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she guessed he was looking for her. Bugger. She liked him well enough, and had certainly
him long enough because their mothers were great friends, but it didn’t mean she wanted to spend the rest of the evening with him. Especially as he seemed to be angling to move their relationship on from friendship to something more. It simply wasn’t going to happen. He might be good-looking, but romantically, Henry left her cold. What was it about rich men that made them dull? Maybe they didn’t feel the need to try. Or maybe their lives were so empty it left them with nothing interesting to say.
‘Henry’s on the prowl for you,’ Melanie whispered, nodding her head in the man’s direction.
‘Which is why I’m about to make a run for it.’
Her friend chuckled. ‘Coward.’
‘I prefer to think I’m being kind.’
‘Abandoning me is kind?’
‘Not giving Henry grounds for false hope is kind. Abandoning you is a necessary step, but one I know a best friend will forgive.’
Not allowing Melanie a chance to reply, Brianna darted out of Henry’s line of vision, offering her friend a silent apology when his gaze fell in her direction. Feeling every inch the coward she’d been accused of being, Brianna sneaked round the outside of the room and headed for her mother’s table.
Dull and rich. The words haunted her as she walked. They applied just as easily to women, too, and were exactly what she feared was happening to her. It was all very well being rich and pretty, but really, what did she actually
? What was her purpose? If she wasn’t careful, she was going to end up being a bland, rich lady. One of those who lunched, played tennis and waited for their equally boring partners to come home.
It was a sobering thought, sobering enough to dim the champagne high she’d been slowly cultivating all evening. Time to head to the refuge of her mother.
Approaching her table, she found her deep in conversation with Henry’s mother, Abigail.
‘I’m sure it won’t be long before Henry and Brianna get together,’ she overheard her mother saying. ‘They make such a lovely couple. And I wouldn’t have to worry about my in-laws coming for tea.’ The two ladies chuckled.
Anger fizzed up Brianna’s spine and her first instinct was to pull the two women apart and announce that hell would need to freeze over before she’d ever contemplate marrying Henry. But mid-stride, she halted. She was twenty-six years old. Old enough to have learnt to curb her temper. Well, almost. So instead of rushing in with both feet, Brianna hung back, accepted a drink from a passing waiter and let her anger cool.
All her life she’d done as her parents had asked, sometimes going against her own wishes. She’d trooped off to ballet lessons when she’d rather have been learning to salsa. She’d struggled with the classical piano, although she’d wanted to rock the electric guitar. She’d even spent endless hours perfecting her topspin forehand, whilst enviously watching the girls from the local school play football. But marrying Henry was a step far too far. How could her mother think that someone like him was right for her? For marriage, she needed love. And for love she needed someone far more exciting than Henry.
Abigail started to make a move and Brianna took her opportunity and sidled onto the now vacant chair next to her mother. ‘Mum,’ she greeted her, landing a kiss on both her cheeks. ‘What have you and Abigail been plotting?’
Her mother had the grace to blush. ‘Plotting? Don’t be ridiculous. We were just having a chat.’
Brianna narrowed her eyes. ‘You were discussing me, Mum. Apparently I’m going to marry Henry. Which, I have to confess, is news to me.’
She’d expected embarrassment, but a broad smile lit up her mother’s face. ‘Well, what do you think? Wouldn’t he make an ideal husband?’
‘Ideal how, exactly?’ She was trying to curb her tongue, she really was.
‘Isn’t that rather obvious, darling?’
‘Not to me.’
A faint crease lined her mother’s brow, her one and only sign of annoyance. She didn’t do big scenes. Didn’t shout or rant, which drove Brianna mad, as she did both, frequently. ‘Your father and I both think Henry would make the perfect husband for you. We’ve known his family for years, he’s independently wealthy, and has charming manners.’
‘And that’s all it takes? Money, a pedigree and a few basic manners? Mum, we’re talking about my life here, my future,’ Brianna snapped, exasperated. So much for curbing her tongue. ‘There’s no way I’m going to let you and Dad determine who I’m going to marry. God knows you’ve chosen everything else in my life, but not this. Never this.’ She pushed her chair back and stood up. ‘What about love, Mum? Am I not allowed to marry for love?’
‘Of course you are, my darling.’ Instantly her mother was by her side, an arm draped around her shoulders, hugging her tight. ‘Love is the most important thing. But you can learn to love the right person,’ she added quietly, ‘rather than someone who might be unsuitable. Who might want you for your money.’
‘Don’t you trust me enough to find that person by myself?’ Brianna replied sadly.
‘Oh shush, of course we do. I was just trying to help, that’s all. Give you a push in what I thought was the right direction.’ Gently she pulled Brianna back down onto the chair. ‘What is it, my love? Your father and I are worried about you. You don’t look happy any more; you haven’t done for a while. That’s why we started talking about Henry. We thought maybe you were ready to settle down, but not sure who to settle down with.’
Brianna sighed and leant back against the chair. ‘Oh, Mum, I’m far from ready to settle down, and especially not with Henry.’ She toyed with the stem of her wine glass. ‘I feel restless. I’m halfway through my twenties and I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I don’t just want to get married and have babies. In time, yes, but not now. I want to do something useful, something worthwhile. Not become yet another spoilt rich kid.’
‘I thought you were going to work with your father?’ her mother prompted cautiously. ‘Make use of that business degree you worked so hard for.’
Brianna let out a deep chuckle, releasing the last of the tension between them. ‘Very tactful, but you know as well as I do that I haven’t exactly excelled in that direction so far.’
‘I know that buying and finance weren’t your forte,’ her mother replied generously. ‘But I thought you enjoyed the marketing section?’
Brianna thought back to her time in the Worthington family business, affectionately known as the big W due to its single letter logo. Yes she’d enjoyed looking at ways to improve the branding and promotion of the company, but it hadn’t lit any fires in her. Running a chain of shops – sorry high end department stores – simply wasn’t what she wanted to spend the best part of her life doing. ‘It was fun,’ she replied slowly, ‘but I’d soon grow bored of it.’
Her mother squeezed her arm. ‘Brianna, you’re beautiful, smart and determined. You’ll find your path in life, my dear.’ She considered her daughter for a moment. ‘You know I think you should talk to Margaret. She’s here this evening. You’ve met her before, I think?’
Brianna nodded, recalling being introduced to a feisty, grey-haired lady at the last charity ball her mother had coerced her into attending. ‘Yes, she runs the charity tonight is in aid of, doesn’t she? She’s one scary lady.’
Her mother laughed. ‘She’s not so scary, at least not when you get to know her. Mind you, she has to have a certain amount of pluck to be able to do her job. I was wondering if maybe spending some time working with a charity, a cause you feel is worthwhile, might help you determine your direction. Margaret heads up Medic SOS, a charity I’m rather proud to be the patron of.’
Brianna looked guiltily at her mother. ‘I haven’t really paid much attention to your charity work, have I? I should have done. What do they do?’
‘Well, Margaret can tell you more, but in a nutshell they provide immediate medical help to any place in the world struck by a natural disaster of some sort. I came to know about them when they saved the life of my friend, Tilly. Do you remember how she was caught up in the tsunami disaster in Thailand? The local medical services were hopelessly overburdened, but she was lucky enough to be taken to a Medic SOS tent when she started to have trouble breathing. It turned out that she’d fractured a rib, which then punctured her lung cavity. The team operated on her there and then, and literally saved her life.’ At that moment, her mother glanced up and waved. ‘Look, here comes the lady herself. I’ll ask her to have a chat with you.’
Over the next ten minutes Brianna listened attentively while Margaret described the work of Medic SOS. The more she listened to the older lady’s rather gruff tone, the more Brianna started to feel a spark of interest. Maybe her mother was right. Perhaps it was time she considered a new direction, something far removed from traditional business. Goodness knows it hadn’t exactly captivated her so far.
‘We’ve got a team out in South America at the moment,’ Margaret was saying. ‘They’ve been there for two days now, dealing with the aftermath of a destructive tornado. If you’re interested you could fly out and see for yourself the work they do.’
‘Really?’ Nobody was more surprised than Brianna when the word shot out of her mouth.
Or when Margaret actually cracked an answering smile. ‘Yes, really. Just contact the office on Monday and we’ll sort everything out for you. Mitch McBride is the lead doctor down there. He’s our most experienced medic. You couldn’t ask for a better person to demonstrate the practical side of what we do. I’m sure he’ll be happy to show you around.’