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Authors: Anne Styles

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BOOK: Sins of Sarah
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'Christ! What else can you do?' demanded Charles. He didn't watch children's programmes, so he had never seen Sarah perform. 'Do you ride?'

'Yes, I do, and I tried to get out regularly until about four years ago when my job started to get in the way,' she replied.

'I've got a stable full of horses at Hastings - you can get a bit of practice in while you're down there,' Charles suggested.

'He's got etchings as well,' murmured Nick, grinning at Charles. He hadn't missed Charles's attraction to Sarah. 'I meant what I said about that jump. We can't let you do it,' he added, frowning.

'That's between you and Paddy,' she said. 'I'm sure you'll persuade him.' Like hell he would, she thought to herself. The imperturbable Paddy would suck on his pipe and ignore him.

'Can't you teach the kiddies something gentle instead - like tennis?' suggested Chris.

'You haven't seen me with a tennis racquet. I'm any-thing but gentle!'

'An all-round sporting challenge!' Charles was laughing. 'I'm going to enjoy having you as a house guest.'

'Might get some of that flab off,' teased Nick. 'You could be just what he needs, Sarah!' He didn't know how right he was, thought Charles, his eyes on the beautiful girl opposite.

It was like being part of a special club, thought Sarah happily. They were the focal point of the restaurant, she .noticed quickly, as much for the presence of Charles and Nick as for herself and James. She listened avidly as the three producers discussed budgets and distribution deals, talking in millions quite casually.

Nick explained to her how they had arranged their foreign sales by selling the rights independently to individual countries. 'It takes longer to arrange,' he told her, 'but it's worth it in the end. We've pre-sold the US rights for cinema, but we're still talking US TV rights.'

'I never realized it was so complicated.'

'Neither did I, really,' he told her. 'I always relied on the producers to do it for me. Now I'm a producer as well, I'm finding out just how difficult it is. Raising finance is a whole new world. I'm lucky to have such a good relationship with my old partner, Seth Waterston, and his distributors to finance this one, even though none of them were too keen to start with. This is a decidedly English film, and there were some doubts as to its suitability for the American market - and that's where the real money is made on a film.'

'Luck is nothing to do with it,' Chris put in. 'They know they'll get a bloody good product from us.'

'No one can really know that until it's made,' Nick corrected him. 'However good the script is, the finished product is down to me and the actors.' Oh, God, she thought, I hope I can cope with this. It was a lot easier just doing two Do or Dares a week. Caroline joined them then for coffee, with a triumphant grin. Oscar had bargained hard - he knew they were in a tight spot - but Nick was still paying less than he would have done for Harriet.

'An all-round good deal for everyone,' he commented quietly to Chris. 'Well done, Caro!' He turned to Sarah. 'I think you'll be pleased with Oscar.' It seemed like Monopoly money to Sarah. She hardly heard the conversation going on round her. After her TV salary it was a little like winning the lottery, and, as Nick had said, this was only the beginning. She swallowed her doubts about the love scenes and put them to the back of her mind. Above all, Sarah was a realist, and James was so nice maybe it wouldn't be quite so bad after all...

* * *

The party was beginning to break up. James had an appointment with the costume designer, the others were rushing back to the office. Nick offered to get a cab for her, but Charles stepped in quickly, he had already discovered where Sarah lived. 'I'll give you a lift,' he said firmly. 'I'm going roughly in that direction.' He wasn't, but anything to prolong the time with her. Nick gave him an amused look. He knew where Charles was heading, and it was not Chelsea.

'Well, I suppose you'll be safe enough with Charlie,' he commented. 'He's not usually known for pouncing on ladies in the back of cars!'

'He'd probably be mown down by a karate chop from what we know of this one!' put in James. He had no reticence whatsoever about kissing Sarah firmly on her mouth as a farewell gesture. 'We're going to have real fun, sweetheart, I promise you.'

Chris and Nick were more restrained, they shook her hand politely. Caroline smiled, and promised to be in touch later that afternoon, as Charles shepherded her out. She was not sure what to expect, but she was pleasantly surprised to find a chauffeur-driven Jaguar at the kerbside. Charles handed her into it himself, as if she were a precious piece of china, not waiting for the chauffeur.

'I'm going to wake up in a minute,' she told Charles wistfully as the car pulled out into the traffic. 'And I'll find everything is a dream!'

'No way!' he said firmly. 'This is real and everyone's delighted.'

'What if the money men don't like me?'

'Nick has full casting rights,' Charles assured her. 'The decision is his and his alone, and for once I think he's made the right one. I never liked Harriet.' Charles Hastings sat riveted to his seat and knew at that moment that he was looking at the biggest challenge of his life. He knew he wanted this girl as he had wanted no other, and Charles was ruthless under his amiable facade. He was determined from that moment on that Sarah would be his - as he had been in the heady days of wresting his first wife away from Nick in their university days.

It had been the longest-lasting quarrel that he and Nick had ever had in their long friendship, that one over Natasha. Nick had hated him for that manoeuvre for months - a hatred that had lasted until Natasha's death less than two years after her marriage to Charles. But Hastings needed another chatelaine, and in just a few moments Charles had decided he wanted this girl to be the one. Young as she was, in his eyes Sarah would be the perfect replacement for Natasha as she was still young and malleable enough to adapt to his needs and those of Hastings itself.

For her part, Sarah was still very much in awe of him. Baronets and City businessmen did not figure largely in her life, as they did in her brother's, but by the time they reached her flat she had decided that she quite liked him.

She had the intuitive feeling that Charles would be a good friend to her, and her smile was genuinely warm as she said goodbye to him. To her surprise he kissed her hand in farewell. It was an old-fashioned gesture, but beautifully done, and she gulped back the temptation to say something flippant.

* * *

The phone was ringing as she unlocked the door. It was Caroline, with a list of appointments for interviews and photocalls. Five minutes later Cressida Blake, the costume designer, called to arrange fitting times, followed then by the faithful Peter.

'Meet me at the club,' Sarah suggested. 'This phone is driving me mad and, I need a swim to bum off all the lunch I've eaten.'

'Good, I was going to suggest that. Shall we eat out to celebrate, or stay in?'

'I think I've probably eaten enough for today,' she laughed. 'But perhaps we'll go for a pizza.' She remembered her resolve of the day before. 'To hell with healthy living for once!'

* * *

They were happy that evening. It didn't turn out to be the quiet evening Sarah had planned it to be, but then their rare evenings out hardly ever did. 'A quick drink at the pub', in Peter's words, turned into a party. Several of their friends drifted into the bar a few minutes after they arrived, so, naturally enough, Sarah's new job had to be celebrated and discussed. They were all actors, and Sarah giggled with delight at the salacious stories they could all tell about the cast and director of her new film.

'James already thinks I'm into karate,' she told them, laughing.

'Keep it that way,' advised Johnny. 'Get Bruno at the club to update you on a few judo throws as well, in case Mr Grey cuts up rough!'

'Can you imagine me throwing a guy his size across the floor?' Sarah demanded.

'You did it to me once. Don't you remember?' Peter put in.

'That was different, it was all organized.'

'I still got dreadful bruises on my backside.'

'Well, we'll all look out for press pictures of Nick Grey on crutches, then. If she can throw Peter, she can throw him!' Suky chuckled. 'Did you hear the story about Judy Abbott catching James screwing Tamzin?' she added.

'Talk about fight!' 'Oh, God, yes!' cried Johnny. 'She caught them at it in his dressing room at Shepperton,' he explained to Sarah, 'and blacked his eye so badly that he couldn't work for two days!' 'She divorced him for it as well,' Peter added. 'And the poor guy got landed with Tamzin.' 'That lasted all of six months,' Suky said. 'Christ! What a bitch she is! I can't imagine why he married her.'

'I rather got the idea today that James is still paying for it,' Sarah confided, remembering the laughter when James had mentioned alimony.

'Knowing Tam, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.' Johnny grimaced. 'Talking of bitches, the one you need to watch out for is Mrs Grey - the elegant Diaana.' He stretched the name to make it sound like a dirty word.

'Why on earth should I worry about Nick's wife?' Sarah wanted to know.

'Because, my darling, she gets very protective over her husband,' Johnny told her. 'Don't even try and get close to him. It doesn't pay to upset Diana Grey.'

'I think he'd be very difficult to get close to,' Sarah suggested mildly. 'Anyway, I didn't fancy him at all. He's very nice, but terribly . . . old - and upper class, and he wears glasses to read!'

'He is very upper class,' Suky said. 'I looked him up in Who's Who this morning. Daddy was a general, no less, and Mummy is a Duke's daughter. Bags of it there!'

'Better stick to good old working-class me then,' Peter teased. 'Now let's go eat. I'm starving!' A pizza and a bottle of wine later, Peter and Sarah walked back to her flat, joking and teasing, happily arm in arm.

The doorman called to her as they went in. 'These came for you, miss.' He indicated a huge basket of white flowers behind his desk which Peter had to carry, they were so enormous. Sarah ripped open the card on their way up in the lift. It said simply, 'Welcome aboard!' and was signed by both Nick and Charles.

'How sweet of them.' She smiled, but Peter was a little more cynical.

'Payment for pain to come!' he mocked as the scent of the flowers filled the flat in minutes.

Sarah fingered the card as she waited for the kettle to boil, then slipped it into her desk while Peter's back was turned. She didn't really want him to know she valued it. She had even carefully hidden her script so that he couldn't read it, well aware that, like her, he wouldn't like the idea of the love scenes. Since she refused point- blank to make love with him, she knew only too well that he would find it hard to take that she would be doing it on screen with someone else. That made her shudder violently, though whether it was pleasure or horror at the thought, she wasn't sure.

Even though he was touching her only lightly then, Peter felt it as he attempted to kiss her.

'My God! Reaction! What did I do right?' he teased cheerfully.

Sarah laughed and kissed him back. 'That would be telling! I think it's time you went, Lyngard. I'll see you tomorrow.' It took her a little persuasion and a cup of coffee, but in the end he went, disgruntled as usual.

She was not in love with Peter - far from it in fact. They worked together in easy harmony, but, if she was truly honest, she had drifted into the relationship needing friendship more than anything. Peter protected her from the attentions of the other men around her, and she was fond of him, but that was all.

Pondering over her new job, she made her way to bed. But now, too excited to sleep, she half wished she had asked Peter to stay. Her thoughts surprisingly turned to Nick Grey instead. There were so many taboos against him he was beginning to sound almost attractive. And Sarah loved a challenge - whether it was a parachute jump or a person ...





Her life was certainly different from then on. There just didn't seem to be enough hours in the day to satisfy all the demands on her time, and in the constant battles between Nick and Paddy she began to feel like a mere pawn in their games.

Nick had been adamant about the jump, and any other stunts on her schedule that he considered dangerous.

Paddy, as Sarah had guessed, quoted her contract to her, and reminded him that the television company had first call on her time and services. Sarah, herself, was totally on Paddy's side.

'Nick has no right to tell me what to do!' she told Paddy, firmly. 'My contract with him starts in six weeks' time, not now. Any time he has from me at the moment is because I'm prepared to do it. Just don't tell him, and I'll do the filming. If I break my neck, it'll be my fault, and I'll worry about that if it happens! Just reschedule showing the worst stunts for the last programme, then by the time he finds out it'll be too late. I'll teach the bastard to boss me around!' He was certainly losing his charm in her eyes with his arrogant demands.

However, Nick did back her up with the hairdresser. She met up with Ronnie at his offices and listened with astonishment as he discussed wigs and wig fittings. 'No!' she exclaimed. 'Why on earth should I need wigs? What's wrong with my own hair?'

BOOK: Sins of Sarah
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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