Authors: Lucy Diamond
Tags: #Fiction, #General
But hey. What did she know about love?
She walked through the station, remembering all the times she’d come here with her family to do their Christmas shopping. It had always been the big treat, coming in to the city for the day, seeing the enormous Christmas tree swaying with fairy lights in Albert Square, and eating hot chestnuts from one of the stalls.
The Malmaison hotel was only a minute’s walk from the train station – perfect – and Georgia strolled up to its grand red-brick building feeling apprehensive. She’d read that it had been an old warehouse many years ago, but now the keyword seemed to be luxury, if the light, glamorous lobby was anything to go by. Impressive. She walked across the chequerboard tiles, breathing in the scent of expensive perfume and casting an eye around for any of the Manchester footballers who might be checking in for a secret afternoon rendezvous.
She signed in quickly at the desk and took her key. Jake was in the Moulin Rouge suite apparently, and the paper had paid for her to have a room on the same floor.
, she hummed to herself as she went up in a gorgeous old wrought-iron-framed lift in search of her quarry.
Everybody needs good neighbours . . .
Her heart thudded under her shift dress as she wheeled her case along to her room.
Okay. She was here in Manchester. Jake was here in Manchester (she hoped – unless he’d already done a flit). She had a mission of reconciliation to accomplish, and, with a bit of luck, the
would sell another fifty thousand copies when she did the follow-up interview with them both. She could picture the headlines already: REUNITED!
‘We’re so in love,’ says Archer. ‘And it’s all thanks to Georgia Knight!’
Well . . . you know. She didn’t want to get ahead of herself or anything. She had work to do.
Georgia dropped her case off in her room – very nice – and eyed the minibar for a split second. Not yet. She’d save that for when she’d sewn up the article. She hoped. A quick freshen-up in the enormous limestone-tiled bathroom – mmm, lovely toiletries, they’d definitely be going home with her – and a last touch of lippy, and she was ready.
She felt like Davina McCall, hounding a
evictee: okay, Jake, I’m coming to getcha! Only this would be a slightly more private affair, naturally.
She squared her shoulders and looked at the reflection in the mirror. ‘No time like the present,’ she said to herself. And off she went.
‘Room service!’ She knocked on the door of the Moulin Rouge suite, adrenalin spiking through her.
Please let him be in. Please let him be in.
She had her camera behind her back at the ready, although she wanted to bide her time before flashing it in his face. That gave all the wrong signals, didn’t it?
The door opened. Jake Archer, unshaven and sexy, looking irritated at being disturbed. ‘But I didn’t order—Oh.’
She smiled sweetly and wedged a foot in the door. ‘Hi Jake, long time no see. May I?’
He looked down at her foot, a black strappy sandal with her toenails painted scarlet. Surely he wouldn’t slam the door over her bare toes, would he?
His head dropped. A beaten man. Good – just the way she wanted him. ‘I’ve been talking to Alice,’ Georgia went on before he could turn her away. ‘She’s tucked away in deepest Somerset, middle of nowhere. Ex-directory. Low profile. Although I’ve got her number if you’re interested.’
He sighed. ‘Georgia – not now, all right? I’ve got some thinking to do.’
‘Obviously I’ll be writing
about your split with Victoria,’ she breezed on, fingers tightening around her camera. ‘You’re a hot ticket right now, Jake. Everyone’s been trying to track you down. And you know what us hacks are like. If you don’t
me anything, I might just have to use my skill and judgement to cobble something together. Maybe I could run a story reminding readers about how you abandoned your pregnant wife, and how you’ve never met your baby daughter, and . . .’
She paused, leaving her words dangling. She was braced for him trying to push her away and slam the door on her, and was ready with her camera for an angry face shot, if need be.
Surprisingly, though, he opened the door. ‘Maybe you should come in, then,’ he said.
‘I could get used to this,’ Georgia said, settling herself on an overstuffed plum-coloured velvet chaise longue, adorned with silk and velvet cushions. ‘Very nice, Jake. You’ve done all right for yourself, haven’t you?’
He ignored the question and sat down in a huge wing-backed armchair, sipping a cold drink. He didn’t offer Georgia one.
‘So, how shall we do this, then?’ she asked conversationally, gazing around and noting everything for her copy. The bed was huge with fat white pillows and a rumpled silky purple bedspread. There was a vast claw-footed bath in another area of the room, plus a massive plasma-screen TV and music system. Heaven.
He didn’t answer and when she’d finished her sweep of their surroundings, she turned back towards him to see that he was staring at her. Not a pleasant stare – more a stare of contempt. ‘Georgia – why are you here?’ he asked. ‘Why are you so keen to stir things up between me and Alice again?’
She folded her hands in her lap. ‘Believe it or not, I’m actually trying to put things right, not stir them up,’ she told him. For the first time, she lowered her gaze. ‘I . . . I guess I’m having second thoughts about what I do for a living. It grinds you down after a while, this way of life. So I just thought, wouldn’t it be nice to . . .’
He snorted. Rolled his eyes. ‘You are so full of shit, did you know that?’ he said coldly. ‘Do you really expect me to fall for that crock? Jesus, I’m not a complete muppet. You didn’t come here to be nice, or put things right. You came here to sniff around for a scoop, get some dirt on Love-Rat Jake, or whatever you’re planning to call me. So fucking predictable, Georgia. You and the rest of the baying mob.’
‘Now, now,’ she said, trying to be breezy. Really, his words had cut her, though. ‘You’re not exactly being unpredictable yourself, mate. You lot are all the same – you love the media when we’re building you up, but then you turn into a diva and stamp your little feet when we don’t applaud your every move.’ She shrugged. ‘Alice would have done anything for you, you know. She adored you, worshipped the ground you walked on. And what? You just got too big and important for her, is that what happened?’
‘No—’ he started sulkily, but she hadn’t finished.
‘I think we’re more alike than you care to admit, Jake,’ she went on. ‘We both treated Alice badly. We let her down – you, her husband, me, an old friend. We should have known better, but we both got a bit too cocky, didn’t we?’
‘Have you quite finished your sermon?’
‘No. I haven’t actually.’ She crossed her legs, glaring at him. ‘Now, Alice can hardly bear to speak to me, she hates me, but I bet she’s still crying into her pillow at night over you. Don’t you think you should show her a bit of respect and do the decent thing, Jake?’ She was on a roll now, jabbing a finger at him, giving it all she had.
‘Decent?’ He snorted. ‘That’s a bit rich, coming from a gossip columnist, isn’t it? Since when did you get so high and mighty, anyway?’
Her eyes blazed. ‘Since I got my priorities straight, mate,’ she told him curtly. ‘Look, I don’t care what you think of me. I came here for Alice’s sake, not for you. Here.’ She scribbled down Alice’s phone number on a business card and thrust it into Jake’s hand. ‘Call your wife. You owe her that much, I reckon, Love-Rat Jake.’
She turned on her heel and was about to march off when she remembered her camera that she’d tucked into her handbag. Screw it. This interview seemed to have come to an end, so why not? She pulled it out of her bag and aimed it at his face. ‘Say cheese,’ she told him.
Back in the safety of her hotel room, she called Isabella. ‘I got him,’ she said. ‘Brief interview and a photo. I’ll file some copy straight away.’
‘Brilliant, Georgia,’ Isabella told her. ‘I knew we could count on you.’
Georgia poured herself a large gin and tonic before opening her laptop. Her fingers shook slightly as she began typing. She had to get this right. She had to make this article word-perfect. Just to show Alice that she
have a heart of stone. Just to show the world that actually, Georgia Knight was not the sort of person who would sell her own grandmother for a story.
HEARTBREAK FOR JAKE
We all know him as the
Leo Stone from BBC smash hit Flying High. But in real life, Jake Archer is a
, as we found out when we tracked him down to his
hotel hideout. Not only is he reeling from the recent
with co-star Victoria Hartley, we discovered that he is also racked with
for the way he treated his ex-wife, Alice Johnson . . .
Her fingers flashed over the keyboard, portraying Alice with sympathy, but not patronizing her, nor giving away anything too personal. The real thrust of the article was saved for Jake, a call to arms, a rallying cry for action:
. . . So come on, Jake! We’ve all seen what a man you are on the screen, now it’s time to show us that you can be a man in real life, too. You’re so good at flying to the rescue on TV – but have you got the courage to admit you made a mistake and fly back to your wife and daughter? We’re crossing everything that a happy ending’s on the cards for you – and your family . . .
She read her words through again, her heart thumping. Was it too much? Would it make him dig in his heels? Would it piss
off, dragging her name into it?
‘Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ she said to herself, and hit ‘Send’ before she could change her mind.
There. Job done.
job done, anyway. There were still a few more left to tick off on her list . . .
She rang down to the hotel reception. ‘Could I book a taxi, please?’ she asked. ‘To Stockport.’
By the time Georgia finally got into her luxurious hotel bed that night, she was feeling pretty good. She’d hopefully engineered the foundations for some bridge-building between Alice and Jake. She’d paid a surprise visit to her nan, who was sitting up in bed, looking pinker in the cheeks, and flicking through
Magazine with her specs on. ‘Look!’ she’d managed to tut, jabbing a finger at Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie out on the town, and opening the packet of Crunch Creams Georgia had brought her.
A lump had risen in Georgia’s throat at the comment. That was definitely a good sign, if Nan was enjoying slagging off the Z-list again. Like grandmother, like granddaughter, she’d thought, joining in happily.
Then she’d turned up at her parents’ house to a squeal of delight from her mum and a huge bear hug from her dad. ‘What a lovely surprise!’ her mum had trilled, eyes shining with happiness. ‘Oh, that’s made my day, that has. Come in, love, come in! Kettle’s just boiled.’ Georgia was surprised how nice it was, popping in like that. For the first time in years, it felt as if she was home.
The only fly in the Germolene was the fact that she hadn’t been able to see Owen while she’d been in the hospital. ‘Sorry, pet, he’s not in today,’ a mumsy-looking nurse with curly hair had told her.
‘Can I . . . Is it possible for me to get a phone number for him?’ Georgia had tried. ‘Or find out when his next shift is?’
The mumsy nurse had gone all strict on her at that. ‘No, afraid not,’ she’d said at once. ‘We can’t give out information like that to the public.’
Georgia had guessed as much, but still couldn’t help a wrench of disappointment. She hadn’t realized until she’d got there how much she’d been hoping to see him again, to make him realize she wasn’t the bad person he seemed to think she was. For the first time since her mad chemical attraction to Harry all those years ago, she had felt fluttery at the thought of being in his presence again. Fluttery . . . and now flattened.
‘Could I leave a note for him, then?’ she tried, batting her eyelashes and trying her best to look sweet and nice and not at all mad-stalkerish.
The mumsy nurse pursed her lips. ‘Go on, then,’ she said. ‘I can’t promise anything, mind. The NHS employ me as a nurse, not flaming Cupid.’
‘Thanks,’ Georgia said, grabbing her notepad and pen. Mumsy Nurse was standing there waiting, big arms folded over her big chest. Blimey, talk about feeling under pressure to write the perfect note. She could almost hear the
clock ticking down on her with its irritating background music.
Sorry not to see you here – I popped in to surprise my nan. I was hoping you’d be around so that we could clear the air.
She paused to think, but Mumsy Nurse was sighing and rolling her eyes skyward so she hurried on before her Cupid changed her mind.
I just wanted to say . . .
She paused again. This was really hard. Mumsy glanced at her watch. ‘Sorry, pet, I’m going to have to go. You can leave a note for Nurse McIntosh at the ward desk if you want, all right?’
‘Thanks,’ Georgia said gratefully. She’d have a quick coffee, she decided. It was late afternoon by now and she’d had no lunch. Her adrenalin had kept her going all this time, but she was suddenly feeling jaded, and in need of a caffeine boost.
She made her way down the long windowless corridors to the café – and then froze in the doorway. Okay. Change of plan. Lightning-quick change of plan. There was Michelle Jones, her old enemy, sitting at a table, her head in her hands, sideways on to Georgia. She’d know that profile anywhere, that sheaf of dark hair, the slightly-too-large nose, the cruel eyes. But today those eyes were full of tears. Today, Michelle Jones didn’t seem to have an ounce of fighting spirit left in her.
Georgia hesitated. Her instinct had been to flee, but now her journalist’s curiosity had been provoked. Why was Michelle so upset? Who had managed to break the Stone-Hearted Bitch from Hell? This needed investigating. Very carefully.