My new novel Picking the Right Heart is due to be released later this month. Here’s the blurb and first chapter to whet your appetite!
With the death of her grandmother, wealthy socialite Adriana Darrington is set to inherit a fortune. A fortune that will only be released when she delivers a letter to a mysterious woman named Edwina.
Adriana’s search proves fruitless until she tracks down Jessica – the striking granddaughter of the elusive Edwina. The attraction between the two women is instant and Jessica is equally intrigued by the mysterious letter. A letter that seems to bind their grandmothers together.
Both women embark on a journey that will uncover forbidden love, deep regret and teach them that true love should never be denied … ever!
Adriana gritted her teeth. Nothing annoyed her more than having her knickers halfway down her legs, and someone attempting to force the lavatory door open. As was happening right now. The thin plywood door rattled in its frame, this was then followed by an urgent tap, tap, tap in quick succession. To anyone with common sense, a locked door meant the toilet was either occupied or out of use. Adriana exhaled in relief, thankful she was just about finished, and flushed the chain. Sliding the lock across, she mentally geared herself up to give the eager beaver outside a piece of her mind.
‘Can’t you see it’s —’
Her rehearsed speech was cut short when the door was forcefully pushed open, and a pair of perfectly manicured fingers thrust her backwards, causing her to lose her balance and fall into a sitting position on the toilet seat with a thud.
Wedged tightly between the cistern and the intruder, Adriana shrieked, ‘Claudia what are you—’
Before she could utter another word, Claudia was upon her, lips and tongue pressing outside and inside of her mouth. Her frantic hands swept over Adriana’s chest and abdomen like a police officer frisking a criminal. Any attempt to extricate herself only resulted in Claudia pushing back hard, pinning Adriana’s arms either side of her.
Not only was it incredibly uncomfortable, there was zero sexiness about being mauled on a public toilet seat by a woman she’d shared a drunken snog with a couple of weeks earlier.
When Claudia’s hand slipped inside Adriana’s silk shirt and attempted to tweak her nipple between her finger and thumb as if she were honking a horn, Adriana decided enough was enough. With an almighty heave, she pushed up, becoming breathless as she forced Claudia’s body weight off her.
Claudia fell into a runner’s stance, ready to pounce again.
‘If you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to scream,’ Adriana said more out of annoyance than fear.
Claudia ran her tongue across her lips, which were now smudged with red lipstick, making her mouth resemble that of a clown. ‘Don’t be so melodramatic, we’re only having a bit of fun, darling.’
‘Fun?’ Adriana said tersely. ‘Do I look like I’m having fun?’
Claudia took a step towards her and Adriana held up her hand in mid-air. ‘Stop right there.’
‘Or what?’ Claudia eyed her so sceptically that Adriana knew there was only one way to make her see sense.
Adriana took a deep breath, closed her eyes and opened her mouth. The scream, when she released it, was so piercing Claudia covered her ears with both hands.
‘All right, all right,’ a wide-eyed Claudia shouted in order to make herself heard.
Adriana clamped her mouth shut, and with a wag of her finger indicated for Claudia to step aside, which she begrudgingly did. Adriana pulled the door open, stepped outside the cubicle, then turned back to Claudia. ‘That’s no way to treat a lady … darling.’
Adriana crossed over to the basin, washed her hands then with her head held high, as if it would give her more dignity, made her way back into Le Sacre Coeur’s jovial atmosphere.
Once seated at her table, Adriana shook off her irritation with Claudia and resumed entertaining her friends with shenanigans from her latest trip to Peru. All the while waiters, in one of London’s most expensive French restaurants, served lobster, crab and oysters by the dozen, all washed down with chilled bottles of Dom Perignon.
Adriana didn’t believe in doing things by half when it came to dinner parties. The bill for the evening would probably be in the region of £3,000, but who cared? At twenty-two, Adriana was the only granddaughter of the wealthy Beatrice Colfield, and apart from the very generous monthly allowance she received, Adriana had several bank cards linked to Beatrice’s account. Which meant she had the means to treat her friends to lavish dinner parties every evening if she wished.
‘Can I bring you another bottle of champagne, madam?’ the waiter asked as Adriana slurped down an oyster.
‘Enzo, I think you’d better make it two, my friends are thirsty by the looks of things.’
‘At this rate they won’t have any champagne left, Addy,’ Imogen, her childhood friend announced cheerfully, raising her glass in appreciation.
Adriana and Imogen had been friends since boarding school, and they still remained close, seeing each other weekly, despite Imogen recently becoming second in command of her father’s multi-million pound textile company.
Soon Enzo was back with two bottles of champagne, and Adriana rose to her feet and addressed the table. ‘A toast. To the good times and an eternal fountain of champagne!’
With that, Adriana swooped down and theatrically kissed Anne, the cute blonde woman seated next to her, full on the lips. Her friends gave a heartfelt round of applause, all except Claudia, who shot her a killer look before abruptly turning away to talk to Maxi and Penelope. Adriana thought it rude and unbecoming for Claudia to be upset with her because she had rejected her advances. Not to mention it being very disrespectful to hit on her when she knew Anne, Adriana’s date for the night, was sitting outside.
‘You are so fucking hot. I can’t wait to get you alone,’ Anne whispered in Adriana’s ear when she sat down. She shifted closer and discreetly slid her hand between Adriana’s warm thighs.
Heat crept into Adriana’s cheeks and her erect nipples strained against the lace material of her bra. Adriana’s eyes searched from left to right, double checking that no one could tell where Anne’s hand was, but Maxi’s eagle eye had noticed something was amiss.
‘Hey, you two, cool your jets. There’ll be plenty of time for bedroom gymnastics later.’ Maxi playfully threw a piece of bread at Adriana.
‘Food fight!’ Penelope shouted as if they were once again kids at boarding school. Soon there were pieces of bread flying across the table in every direction.
It didn’t take long for Enzo to appear at Adriana’s side, speaking in a low diplomatic voice. ‘I’m sorry to disturb you, mademoiselle, but some of the other diners are complaining about the … ahem … behaviour of the guests at your table.’
‘Please give my sincerest apologies and a glass of champagne to each guest for any inconvenience caused,’ Adriana said slipping Enzo a fifty-pound note.
Enzo gave a slight bow. ‘Thank you, madam, that’s very generous of you.’
‘It’s the least I can do,’ Adriana said before asking her friends to tone their banter down a couple of notches.
Enzo thanked her for being so understanding and slipped the money into his trouser pocket before retreating.
Adriana sipped her champagne while people watching in the crowded room. She couldn’t help but notice how the glamorous women dripped in diamonds and the men, though less obvious in showcasing their wealth, still managed to expose their Rolex watches when their sleeves rode up their arm every time they knocked back an expensive glass of wine.
Adriana smiled wryly to herself. It was a world she felt comfortable in. After all, she too came from money and she was a firm believer that the only way to enjoy money was to spend it. And spend it she did, with the complete blessing of her grandmother. Beatrice was the true matriarch of her family as she’d inherited all of her husband’s wealth after he’d passed away fifteen years ago. Though Beatrice still kept a very firm grip on family matters and liked to know what was coming in and out of her account, that didn’t mean she wasn’t generous to a fault. Because she was, not only with money, but love and affection as well. Adriana adored Beatrice from the tips of her toes to the ends of her long silky grey hair that she loved to brush tenderly, even now as an adult. Sometimes if the truth be known, Adriana thought she actually loved Beatrice more than she did her own mother.
‘No matter what your circumstances, always remember to stop and smell the flowers along the way,’ Beatrice would remind Adriana when she was flapping around like a headless chicken trying to get a million things done at once. And she also encouraged Adriana to enjoy her life one day at a time. Not to dream about how happy she was going to be some day in the future, but to live in the now.
‘Today is the only day we’ve got, so live it like it’s your last,’ was another of Beatrice’s expressions, and Adriana memorised every word as if they were her own thoughts.
Adriana’s parents often remarked that Adriana had Beatrice’s heart beating in her chest, and that’s why she was such an adventurous woman.
Growing up, Adriana’s favourite activities had been rock climbing, scuba diving and sailing; that was until she was taken skiing for her fifteenth birthday. Ever since then, skiing had become somewhat of an obsession for her, and she had finally managed to persuade Beatrice to buy a ski lodge in the Swiss Alps. Although Adriana had wanted to live there permanently and become a ski instructor, Beatrice had begged her not to as she would miss her too much. Not wanting to break her heart, Adriana had given up on her dream and stayed in London, only breaking away to ski over the holidays. The rest of the time, Adriana helped run the family’s investment accounts, which didn’t take up too much of her time and left her with ample opportunity to hang out at glitzy restaurants and nightclubs in London.
The rowdy dinner party might well have carried on into the early hours of the morning was it not for the fact that the restaurant had a strict policy of closing at midnight.
‘Thanks for a great night,’ echoed around the table before her friends got up and left, talking animatedly amongst themselves as they exited the building. All that remained was Anne and Imogen who were still sipping their drinks.
Enzo appeared at her side and presented her with the bill.
‘Add a 20% tip for yourself,’ Adriana said, placing her credit card on the silver tray.
Enzo’s eyes widened. ‘Are you sure madam? That will be a tip of just over £600!’
‘Mmm you’re right, I am being a bit stingy … make it £700; you’ve looked after us well this evening, Enzo,’ Adriana said with a wink.
‘In that case, thank you very much.’ Still grinning from ear to ear, Enzo slotted her credit card in the card machine and handed it to her for her to type in the pin number.
‘I love a generous woman,’ Anne said snuggling up against her.
Adriana absent-mindedly tapped the keypad while her eyes briefly glanced furtively at Anne’s exposed cleavage. She couldn’t wait to get her home and get her hands on those ….
‘I’m sorry, madam, but there seems to be a problem. I’m sure it’s just a technical glitch, but your card has been declined,’ Enzo said quietly and handed her back her Platinum credit card. Adriana frowned slightly but took it in her stride and pulled another card out of her purse.
‘Try this one, and add another £100 for your trouble.’ Adriana gave what she hoped was a reassuring smile at a perturbed Anne.
‘I’m sorry … I really don’t know what’s going on, but this card has also been declined,’ Enzo said a minute later.
Adriana looked up in genuine surprise, but now there was a real note of concern in her voice as she handed Enzo yet another card. Enzo repeated the process only to shake his head again.
‘This one has also been declined.’
‘You know baby, I’m feeling tired,’ Anne said slipping into her jacket. ‘I think I’ll catch a taxi home. I’ll see you around.’
Adriana was so flummoxed she was speechless. All she could do was watch in total incomprehension as Anne hurried towards the exit and soon disappeared.
‘What a bitch, running off at the first sign of trouble,’ Imogen said with a shake of her head.
‘She’s the least of my worries.’ Adriana frantically searched her purse for another card. What the hell was going on? She couldn’t have spent that much money already, it was only the first week of the month.
Imogen in the meantime had handed Enzo her credit card. ‘Here, use mine.’
Enzo nodded gratefully and inserted Imogen’s card into the machine, and within seconds, his face broke out into a smile.
‘Thank you, madam, your card has been accepted, and the bill has been paid.’
‘Thanks, Imogen. I really don’t know what’s going on,’ Adriana said as they walked out of the restaurant side by side.
‘Seems your grandma finally woke up to your ways and cut you off,’ Imogen joked, but Adriana felt panic flash through her mind as she wondered if Imogen could be right.
Adriana glanced at her watch after seeing off Imogen in a taxi and saw that it was 1.30 a.m. She knew her parents were going to be annoyed with her, but she simply needed to know what was going on. Adriana fished her phone out of her bag and turned it off of silent. Before she had time to dial her mother’s number, she saw that there were ten missed calls from her.
Seeing this made her slightly nervous. It can’t be that bad, she would have left a message if anything. Trying to reassure herself all was well, Adriana dialled her mum, Alice’s number, as she knew that her dad would never be awake at this hour.
Alice always answered her phone, no matter what time it was. She picked up straight away.
‘Hi, Mum. Sorry to phone so late, but all of my bank cards were declined at a restaurant tonight … I was just wondering what’s going on?’
‘Adriana, I was trying to get hold of you earlier.’ Alice gave a muffled cry.
Adriana’s head tingled, and her fingers trembled as she gripped the phone tighter. ‘Is Dad—’
‘It’s not your dad, it’s … your granny. She passed away.’
‘Oh, no … Mum don’t say that. Please, no.’ Adriana sank to her knees beside her car. She’s never going to come to Paris with me to see Crazy Horse. Tears spilt down her cheeks. The news of her granny’s passing was a big blow to her, and suddenly she wished she would have spent the day with her instead of rushing off after lunch thinking she would see her the following day. That we had time.
Guilt overwhelmed Adriana knowing that she could have been there with Beatrice. Held her hand and told her how much she loved her. Just to have one more second to say goodbye.
‘She didn’t suffer, darling. The doctor said she wouldn’t have felt a thing, she just … fell asleep ….’ the sound of her mother’s voice floated up from where she’d dropped the phone on the floor.
Adriana picked the phone up and pressed it to her ear. ‘Where is … she now,’ she could barely get the words past the lump in her throat.
‘I don’t want to hear anymore,’ Adriana sobbed. She didn’t want to imagine Beatrice’s body anywhere but at her ridiculously elegant penthouse apartment which was filled with crystals and pendants she believed had special energies.
‘I’m sorry darling, but don’t worry about your credit cards; the entire estate has been frozen until the solicitors can sort out all of the financial stuff in the morning.’
‘I don’t give a damn about my credit cards or anything else, I just want … my granny back. I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tomorrow … And Mum?’
‘I’m … I’m so sorry for your loss.’ Adriana disconnected the call before her mother could reply.
Climbing into her car, Adriana rested her forehead on the steering wheel, her heart in her mouth as she pictured the day Beatrice had presented her with the Ferrari she was now sat in. Although Adriana had been thrilled with her present, it wasn’t the car that had made it such a joyous occasion. It was seeing the expression on Beatrice’s face, which had been one of bliss. Her laughter had been contagious as they belted up and whizzed around London. It had truly been one of the best days of Adriana’s life.
Leaning back, she pulled up a photo of Beatrice on her phone. She had taken it on her 80th birthday four months previously and it was Adriana’s favourite and most treasured by far. Beatrice’s eyes sparkled back at her, her smile wide. Adriana remembered the day as if it were yesterday. As a birthday treat, she had taken Beatrice to a new Spanish restaurant that had just opened on the King’s Road in Chelsea, and Beatrice had been delighted with each of the spicy tapas dishes she ate. She had even gone as far as saying she was glad she had lived long enough to experience it. Thinking about that statement now, Adriana couldn’t help but wonder if Beatrice had somehow known her days were numbered.
Her vision blurred with tears, Adriana realised that she’d just lost the most important person in her life. Rest in peace, Granny.
Adriana felt the warmth and love from Beatrice’s gaze seep into her soul as she kissed her picture. A final farewell.
‘I know you’re walking through the countryside somewhere,’ Adriana whispered. ‘Just remember to stop and smell the flowers along the way.’
Copyright 2017 by Jade Winters
All rights reserved. This short story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.