Authors: Anne Styles
He took her back to Regent's Park despite Sarah's protests, and dismissed Bill with a hefty tip. 'Will you be OK, miss?' Bill asked her quietly. 'He's a bit tiddly. I don't mind waiting for you.'
'I'll be fine.' Sarah tried to sound confident. 'He'll be asleep in a minute,' she added, crossing her fingers.
'Don't bank on it,' he warned, knowing Nick as he did. 'If you need to, ring me. I'll come back for you.'
'Cheer up. Bill.' Sarah could see Nick getting impatient. 'I'll get a taxi if all else fails.'
'What was that about?' Nick demanded as he guided her upstairs to the flat.
'Nothing. Just Bill worrying that you were drunk. Shall I make some coffee?'
'No, I don't want coffee.' He reached for her, pulling her towards him, and Sarah pulled away. He smelt of whisky and her disgust was obvious.
'Nick, go to bed,' she demanded. 'I've changed my mind. I'm going home!'
'Oh, no, you're not!' He seized her by the arms, yanking at the zip of her dress, forcing her to the marble floor of the hall. She fought him with all her strength, kicking and scratching as he struggled to hold her. No way, she decided, was he going to treat her like this, and she twisted frantically until she finally managed to drag herself away from him and pull her dress back on.
The telephone began to ring as she pulled at the zip, and, cursing. Nick got up to answer it. He could never leave an unanswered phone. Seth was on the other end, so there was no way he could slam it down then.
Frantic, Sarah grabbed her bag, and, flinging open the door, she raced down the stairs, struggling with the heavy street door before racing out into the night. Then she realized what a crazy thing she had done. Bill had taken her at her word and gone home.
It was raining, a steady downpour that left her soaked in minutes. She thought, regretfully, of her expensive dress as she struggled to get her bearings, knowing she would have to walk to Baker Street to have any chance of getting a taxi at that time of night. Then she realized that in her rush to get out of the flat she had forgotten to put her shoes back on. At least, she knew she had enough money in her bag, but she certainly didn't have Bill's phone number.
Terrified, she suddenly heard footsteps behind her in the empty park, and she froze, aware then of just how vulnerable she was. The next second Nick had caught up with her.
'What the hell are you playing at?' he shouted at her. He had raced after her within seconds of her leaving the flat, and was only wearing shirt and trousers, already soaked.
'I'm going home,' she retorted, trying to push him away again with no effect. He had her firmly by the arm, as she beat at his chest.
'Do you want to get us both arrested, you idiot?' he demanded as she struggled and the strap of her dress tore from its stitches. He ignored her protests and carried her back up to the flat, seemingly sobered up by the cold rain and fresh air.
Dropping her on the bed, he stripped off the dress, properly this time, and eyed it with regret. 'Go and have a shower,' he ordered her. 'You're frozen,' he added and threw the sodden dress on a chair. 'I think that has had it!' Sarah went, wanting to lock the door on him but not daring to provoke him. When she came back into the bedroom he was wearing a bathrobe and towelling his wet hair. Aware of her earlier distaste, he had cleaned his teeth and now seemed amazingly sober.
Smiling sweetly at her surprised face, he pulled the covers back on the bed. 'Get in,' he said. 'You didn't really think I was going to risk my licence driving you home, did you? You're just going to have to put up with me!' He was making no apology for his earlier behaviour, as he had so often done before. This was Nick at his worst, and though she hated it she knew she had no option. Mutinous, she rolled as far away from him as possible, but Nick pulled her back, kissing her set, angry mouth as she twisted her head from side to side, still determined to resist. She lay rigid under him, but it soon became a game as their two strong wills fought for supremacy.
He laughed with triumph as he felt her respond to his persuasive hands, hearing her moan with pleasure as she finally gave in, her body weak with longing as, at last, he moved gently into her. 'Oh, why do I always give in to you?' she sighed as he did so.
'Because you love me,' he told her. 'And I don't give up!'
In the morning, however, she had the upper hand when he woke up with a hangover.
'Serves you right!' she taunted with a grin. 'I take it you won't want any breakfast?' Nick hit her with a pillow and pulled the covers over his head. He really did look rough. Sarah relented, and fetched him some Alka Seltzer, collecting the papers and her shoes from the hall as she did so.
'Good job you didn't ruin those as well,' Nick commented, seeing the Emma Hope label in them as she dropped them to the floor.
'The dress will clean, I'm sure,' she said hopefully. 'But I shall have to borrow something of yours to go home in.'
'I'll find you some clothes in a minute,' he promised. 'Right now, I'm going to stand under the shower and hope for the best,' he added, wincing as he stood up.
Laughing heartlessly at his discomfort, Sarah sat on the bed, sipping orange juice and flipping through the pile of newspapers. Their success was popular with the Press and their photographs were well used in most of them. She was pleased until she got to the Unicorn. The photos were on the inside page, as usual, but she stared at the prose with growing panic. This time there were no holds barred, and the whole had Max Moreton's byline.
Director Nick Grey kisses his lover Sarah Campbell after they both won BAFTA awards in London last night. The couple, whose affair has been the talk of the film industry for months, came out in the open at the prestigious awards ceremony - a close friend confirmed to our reporter that the couple are crazy about each other, and that the long-time married director is on the point of leaving his heiress wife for the beautiful young star! If only, thought Sarah miserably, knowing that this could well be the end of everything. For the first time their relationship had been openly described.
'"Heiress wife"! That'll be the day! Old man Mackenzie is on the verge of bankruptcy most of the time; he'll never leave Diana a penny!' commented Nick, looking over her shoulder. 'Damn! That bastard swore he'd get me, and I think he just has!'
'What on earth are we going to do?' Sarah asked, panic- stricken. 'Can we sue them?'
Nick gathered her into his arms, cradling her head against his damp chest. 'We can't sue them for telling the truth, darling, and they know it's true. I've never told you this, but I had a conversation with Max after the last salvo. One of their reporters watched us making love at Hastings, in the garden that time. If we protest too much he'll use it somehow, I'm sure of it. There's sod all we can do about it, except deny we're getting married.'
'Oh, God, Nick, how can they do this to us?' Sarah raised tear-filled eyes to his.
'Vengeance can do very nasty things to people,' he admitted. 'It's me he wants, not you. I think you'll be safe enough. It's Diana I have to worry about. We had a steaming row about you yesterday, which was one of the reasons I got so drunk, I guess. It's not going to be an easy ride, darling.'
'Would it be so ridiculous? Do we have to deny it?' she asked hesitantly.
'Getting married?' Nick shook his head in defeat, though the thought had occupied him for weeks. He had to sound casual and even uncaring until he had worked out the best way to save the company. 'Sarah, I have told you before, I am married - to a devout Catholic -and apart from that I know I'm far too old for you, long-term. Look, don't worry. I'll think of something. Get dressed - I'd better get you out of here before the Press find out you are in my bed or Diana comes storming in. Though I don't suppose she's even up yet!' Sarah knew he had a hangover, but she found it difficult to understand his swift dismissal of her question. Lots of people had affairs and got married, she thought angrily as she pulled on one of his sweaters and a pair of tracksuit trousers, why not them? Because - she remembered Ronnie's words - Nick always went back to that stuck-up little wife of his.
Smouldering with resentment, she sat beside Nick in the car as he drove her back to Chelsea, cursing his headache as he did so. It was rush hour and she slumped low in her seat, watching his frowning profile terrified of being recognized. His face only softened as he leant over to kiss her goodbye.
'I'm going to the office,' he told her. 'If you have any problems with the Press, ring me there.' He knew she had a performance that night, so she couldn't go off to Guildford as she had done before, and she was aware that now he definitely had to go to Oxford that evening. He dropped her at the garage entrance to her flat so that she could slip in the back way, even the soft clunk of the car door jarring his throbbing head.
He walked into chaos at NGA, with reporters all over the foyer. Sandy was frantically trying to deal with them single-handed. With a few choice epithets Nick strode through them. 'Call the police. Sandy, if they're not out of here in ten seconds!' he threatened, and swept into his office.
Jane was trying to answer two phones at once and looked close to tears. Swiftly Nick put both phones back onto the hook. 'Never mind those,' he said. 'Just get me a coffee, please, Jane, and some aspirin or something.'
'Hangover?' She was more sympathetic than Sarah had been, but then he hadn't treated her as badly as he remembered treating Sarah.
'You could say that!' he groaned, and picked up a phone. 'Don't put any calls through Sandy till I ask you.'
'Diana rang,' Jane told him, as she put the coffee down. 'She said to tell you Max had rung her.' Nick put his head in his hands.
'This isn't going to be my day!' he said thickly.
Too right it isn't, Jane thought grimly. She had been fielding Press calls since eight o'clock that morning. But she adored Nick, and she hated seeing him in such a state.
'It's my own fault,' he told her, seeing her sympathetic face. 'I don't often get drunk, but I certainly did last night, and I handed it to Moreton on a plate. Now be a good girl and give me five minutes to speak to Diana.' His hand was shaking as he pressed the button on his phone for the Oxford house, using the private line since he was sure Diana would have switched the main phone onto the answering machine. 'Hi, it's me,' he said, as calmly as possible, and then held the phone away as his normally calm wife screamed abuse at him. 'It's only Maxie being vicious,' he reasoned hopefully, but knowing Max had surely told Diana about Hastings he knew that he was well and truly caught in his nasty little plot. 'I'll be home this evening,' he promised. 'We'll discuss it then.'
* * *
He was too calm. Diana threw the phone down in disgust and paced the room in a frenzy. 'Little bitch!' she muttered angrily. 'I'll sort her!' And she raked through her desk, searching for Nick's copy of the unit list for the film. Sarah's number was listed on it, and she dialled with trembling fingers.
Sarah answered the phone quickly, hoping it was Nick, and recoiled as if the receiver was hot when her worst fears were realized. Suddenly it all came home to her as she heard the obvious anguish in Diana's voice. Nick's wife was no longer a distant being; she was there at the end of the phone, and she was hurting - probably more than Sarah was herself at that moment.
Regret and real remorse filled her mind as it swept through every suddenly illegal detail of her life with Nick while she listened to his unhappy wife. Her parents would have been horrified, and she realized then just what she had done. She had let them down and made a dreadful mistake. Nick was Diana's husband. He would never be hers. But oh. God, she wanted him still.
'There's no point in denying it, Sarah,' Diana said at last, coldly. 'I know all about you and Nick. Max Moreton told me a great deal this morning.'
'I wouldn't dream of denying it.' Sarah hesitated, then said tentatively, 'What do you want, Diana?'
'I want you to stop seeing my husband right now, you little slut!' Diana's voice was suddenly cool and level, as if she had gathered herself together. 'I'm not going to divorce him; I can promise you that. And if he leaves me I assure you he'll lose NGA. He knows that and he certainly won't run that risk, however much you think he loves you!'
'It's very sad that you can only hold onto your husband with threats,' Sarah retaliated, though she was shaking as she listened. 'But I think that's up to Nick, don't you? I don't think we should discuss it. I'm sorry, Diana, I didn't want things to turn out like this, but they have, and it's his decision over what happens now.' Nick was as much to blame as she was - surely? Or had she led him on? Provoked him? It had, after all, been she who had offered herself that first evening at Hastings, hadn't it?
She hung up before, she let herself down by bursting into tears. The phone rang again immediately and she answered it, trembling. 'Oh, Charles, thank goodness!' He insisted on taking her to lunch, despite her protests. 'Hold your head up, Sarah,' he told her firmly. 'You have nothing to be ashamed of! We'll go to Antons. I'll pick you up at twelve-thirty.' He arrived on the dot, guiding her through the knot of reporters outside the flat, ignoring their questions as he helped her into the car. Sarah was rigid with fear, for as they walked into the restaurant, expensive though it was, the clientele all seemed to look at her and be discussing her as Charles guided her to their table.