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Authors: Jean Saunders

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Unforgettable

BOOK: Unforgettable
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JEAN SAUNDERS

UNFORGETTABLE

Complete and Unabridged

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

A Note on the Author

1

Gracie's heart leapt with excitement as she looked at the newspaper advertisement again. The minute it appeared she had cut it out carefully and propped it up on the mantelpiece in the room she shared with her friend Dolly at Mrs Warburton's boarding-house. The words kept going over and over in her head, like the words of a favourite song.

Grand Opening of the new Palais
on Saturday night.

SPECIAL OFFER

HALF-PRICE
Entrance Fee for the
first Hundred lucky customers.

The fact that the new Palais had been built on the ruins of an old warehouse only made it sound more impressive. Though, according to Mrs Warburton, who didn't hold with two young female lodgers frequenting such a place unaccompanied, it was a danger trap, but nothing was going to stop them. Her book-reading lodger agreed, saying it was like the phoenix rising from the ashes, which made as much sense to Gracie and Dolly as
flying to the moon.

Dolly came into their room with her usual crash of the door.

‘Haven't you got your glad rags out yet, Gracie? I've been asking old Warby if we could hold the rent over till next week, but she wasn't having any, so we'll have to hope some nice gentleman will buy us refreshments.'

‘I told you it was a waste of time trying to get anything out of her! And I'm not sure that
nice
gentlemen are going to be buying drinks for the likes of us. It's more likely to be the other kind.'

‘Oh well, you'll have no trouble attracting 'em. You always get the sort you want, and I get left with the riff-raff.'

‘No you don't,' Gracie said with a grin. ‘You only have to make cow-eyes at the chaps and they come running.'

‘That's because I'm not so fussy as you,' Dolly said, openly envious of Gracie's naturally curly cropped hair, while hers was now Marcel-waved into the latest cut, which resulted in rigid corrugated waves marching over her head.

‘Sometimes I wonder about you, Gracie,' she added, serious for once. ‘You never let on what you want in a bloke. What do you really want out of life?'

‘Well, not to carry on working in that shirt factory for a start.'

‘Nor me. I just want to find a chap to take care of me and get married.'

‘And end up having six kids and getting fat and old before your time.'

‘What's wrong with that?' Dolly said.

‘For one thing I know you don't mean it. You don't want to get fat any more than I do, and I'm not getting married for years and years yet. I want to better myself first.'

Dolly hooted. ‘You and whose army? You've been watching too many Valentino flicks. You'll be stuck in that factory, same as me, unless you find a nice chap with oodles of dough. Anyway, it's time we were getting ready for the Palais. It's half-price for the first hundred customers, remember.'

She yanked open the door of the wardrobe they shared, wincing as it creaked on its hinges, and pursed her lips into a perfect Clara Bow shape.

‘Now what shall I wear, my pink or my pink?'

Gracie laughed. It was never worth staying huffy with her for long. ‘Why not? You look lovely in pink.'

‘No I don't. I look like a bleedin' fat blancmange until I strap myself in. It's all
right for you. You've got beestings, while I've got melons.'

‘Oh, stop being so gloomy. And I don't have beestings either.' She stuck out her bosoms to their full extent and they both collapsed laughing again.

From the floor below, the man who worked the night shift at the laundry banged his stick on his ceiling for them to keep the noise down.

‘Stupid old fool, it's only six o'clock,' Dolly grumbled. ‘The sooner we're out of here tonight, the better.'

Secretly, Gracie knew she had the same hopes as Dolly. Maybe she would meet Mr Right tonight as well. Providing he was a gentleman with Valentino's looks and charm, and was someone who would respect her.

* * *

They just made it among the first hundred, which was a relief, since it would have left them skint for the rest of the week if they'd had to pay the full entry price. The place was already crowded, and how it was supposed to cope with a couple of hundred more, they couldn't think. Still, more chance for a squeeze up to some good-looking chap, Dolly reminded Gracie, as long as he didn't paw
you to death under cover of being crushed. But Dolly wasn't too averse to that either.

Gracie knew she was too addicted to the Hollywood glamour-boys for her own good. But watching those movies where some dashing chap fell in love with an ordinary girl and made her into a princess was Gracie's ideal. Waltzing around the floor in someone's arms on some fabulous terrace in the moonlight, was her idea of heaven—even if Dolly preferred the latest jazz tunes that were all the rage.

It was a fair bet that the band tonight would play a good selection of dances. A new dance-hall had to cater for all tastes, and with all the publicity there were some big-wigs here tonight for the Grand Opening, gold chains and all. They wouldn't care to be seen dancing the Black Bottom …

She became aware that someone was looking at her. She had been gazing at the band without really seeing any of them, apart from the fact that they were setting up their instruments and preparing to strike up the first number.

‘I reckon you've made a conquest already, gel,' she heard Dolly shriek in an effort to be heard as they were pushed and shoved on all sides.

Gracie doubted it. Her best blue frock with
the bit of glittery embroidery around the neck and hem was already starting to feel tacky, and Lord knew how it would feel by the end of the evening. Even her long strings of shiny beads began to feel heavy, but she'd been unable to resist wearing them. Nor the cream-coloured button-shoes with heels a bit higher than usual, to make her look taller than she actually was.

‘Don't be daft,' she yelled back. ‘Nobody's noticed either of us yet.'

‘Well, for a start the saxophone player ain't been able to take his eyes off you ever since you came in.'

Gracie's heart missed a beat. She'd noticed him too. You couldn't help it, really. He was the best-looking chap in the band, which was why she thought it highly unlikely that he'd give a second glance to a factory girl. Not that she looked like a factory girl tonight, of course …

Nobody could tell how many hours she worked at her machine sewing shirts, and how she'd had to give the ends of her fingers a damn good soaking in olive oil to restore them from their usual pricked appearance.

She risked taking another look at the saxophone player. He wasn't looking her way now, so she could study him more. He had slicked-back hair, very black and shiny with
grease which gave him a really sophisticated air like all the band players. They wore white jackets, a flashy little green dickey bow, and black trousers with a green stripe down the outside of each leg. Their shoes were black patent leather. Her dad used to call them ‘co-respondents' shoes', until she'd got him angrier than usual by saying he should go to the flicks more, because everybody knew that co-respondents' shoes were two-tone black-and-white.

Her heart missed another beat, because the saxophone player was looking right at her now, and he was smiling, showing the whitest teeth she had ever seen. She gulped, and felt Dolly nudge her arm.

‘Smile back, you ninny. Told you he fancies you!'

‘Not likely. He'll only think I'm fast. I'm going to get some lemonade.'

Nerves got the better of her. She wasn't fast, and she didn't want to appear to be. She knew what happened to girls who were fast. Boys took advantage of them and the next thing you knew you were up the duff. A couple of girls at the factory had got caught out recently, and it was whispered that they'd been sent away to some sort of detention centre for their own good.

Gracie shivered. She didn't want that to
happen to her, nor to Dolly, either. She was no goody-goody-two-shoes, but one of them had to be sensible, especially on a glamorous night like this when the whole place seemed to be sparkling with colour, and the great ball of lights in the ceiling twinkled like a thousand stars.

‘You are a ruddy spoilsport sometimes, Gracie,' she heard Dolly grumble beside her as they fought their way to the refreshment area.

‘No, I'm not. If he asked me to dance, I'd say yes, but it's not very likely if he's playing in the band all evening.'

‘I s'pose not,' Dolly said, her mind already elsewhere as she saw the two brawny chaps coming their way. ‘Aye aye gel, it looks as if we might not have to buy our own lemonade after all.'

The young men wore ill-fitting suits as if they were unused to dressing up. They had red faces and a coarse outdoor look about them—and Gracie knew she was being a snob, when she had no earthly right to be. She was annoyed at her own instinctive reactions, and made her smile all the brighter.

‘Hello gels, out for a night on the town, are we?' the first one said. ‘Fancy a dance later?'

‘Might do,' Dolly said. ‘That depends.'

He sniggered. ‘Your friend don't look so
sure. Got a bad smell under your nose, have you, ducks?'

‘Of course not,' Gracie said, wondering how he could have seen through her so quickly. ‘I'm here to enjoy myself, same as you.'

He chuckled, pushing his mate forward. ‘This is yours then.'

‘You'll have to buy us a drink first,' Dolly said smartly. ‘I can't dance until I've had a drink, and nor can Gracie.'

‘Gracie, is it? Very Hyde Park. I'm Jim and this is Billy, so what's your name, little lady?'

‘Dolly. So do we get that lemonade or not?' she said flatly.

Gracie felt her toes curl with embarrassment. She didn't want to dance with either of them. Jim was a match for Dolly any day, but Billy looked uncomfortable and very out of place. The collar and tie around his neck seemed to be chafing him and Gracie felt a moment's sympathy. But no more than that. If he hadn't wanted to come here, he shouldn't have come.

Her sympathy fizzled out at the way the other one was looking her up and down. Despite her lowly job in a shirt factory she knew she could sometimes appear stuck up—and she sensed that this was one reason why Mrs Warburton had let them have the
room at the boarding-house. One look at Dolly, and she knew she'd thought her common—or no better than she should be, whatever that was supposed to mean.

BOOK: Unforgettable
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