Page 37 of The Secret Father

Sam was speaking now, but Lindy was aware of the sound rather than the content of his words. He had that special talent which made every person listening think he was speaking directly to them. Sam’s career had begun on television and, in years gone by, he’d been the recipient of some of these awards. Tonight he was a co-presenter. A reluctant one, if Lloyd was to be believed, but getting the new film mentioned on coast-to-coast TV was worth a few sacrifices—at least that was Lloyd’s view. Lindy was no longer in a position to know what Sam thought. And I care less, she thought with a spurt of defiance.

The programme proceeded pretty much to the formula of those glittery occasions, but who received the prestigious prizes was lost on Lindy. She sat, unable to tear her eyes from the screen until the last credits had rolled. Then, mentally and physically drained, she sank back into the soft leather upholstery and closed her eyes.

It was easy intellectually to dismiss Sam as a shallow, egocentric, selfish monster, but the feelings that churned in her belly didn’t originate from her brain, not the sane part anyway! To be able to look at him without pretending not to, without keeping her expression blank, had been a major indulgence. She despised herself for the weakness that made her wallow in the luxury. As tough as it was to see him most days, it was, she suspected, going to be harder when she had to go cold turkey in a week’s time.

Wearily she ran her fingers through her fair hair; the black ribbon that secured the ponytail slithered free, but she made no attempt to retrieve it. What will I do? she wondered, filled with self-derision. Allow myself two videos a week and gradually wean myself off? In those videos he was usually making love to other women so that would prove a cold comfort, she thought.

I’ve got to pull myself together, she told herself sternly. He has! If the gossip on set was true the divine Diana Hardcastle, who had co-presented with him tonight, had been seen several times with him during the past two weeks. Lindy had seen them for herself on set—a very tactile lady, Diana Hardcastle, and Sam hadn’t appeared to mind in the least when she’d draped herself all over him at every opportunity. No, Sam hadn’t wasted any time!

She glanced at the clock on Lloyd’s desk. She’d have to slip away back to her room soon. Like Cinderella, she reflected, only, unlike Cinderella, she was running away before the ball and she didn’t have a ballgown either. With a wry smile she looked down at the vanilla-coloured silk shirt she wore tucked into the belted waist of a pair of toffee linen trousers. The activity which had thrown the house into chaos was for a post-award party Lloyd was throwing. It was a good opportunity to network and push the film, he’d explained. Lloyd lived to network! Sam would be there, Hope had warned her, and Lindy had hated the sympathy in her eyes.

It hadn’t been a lie when she’d told Lloyd, ‘It’s not my sort of thing.’ Hope, of course, would blend in perfectly with all the glittering, beautiful people. She’d gone along tonight as Lloyd’s partner, just to perpetuate the deception, and she’d looked like a glorious, exotic flower in a red silk designer gown.

Lindy rotated her head to release some of the tension in her neck. I’d have hated having to be Sam’s consort on occasions like this, she told herself practically. What a lucky break it was that I discovered he was a rat.

You just had to look at a situation from the right angle to see the silver lining! she reflected stoically. Sam would be far happier with a trophy girlfriend whose goals were as self-centred as his, she decided scornfully.

Sam timed his exit to make sure nobody noticed his retreat. He closed the door and the party noise became a low hum. He walked over to the bureau beside Lloyd’s desk and pulled out a bottle of Scotch. He covered the bottom of a heavy crystal glass with the pale fluid and, after loosening his tie, swallowed it back in one gulp. He looked with irritation at the game show on the TV screen, but didn’t bother switching it off. Couldn’t be bothered just about covered his present mood.

He’d done his duty for one evening. He’d exchanged bitter words with Lloyd when he’d been presented with a fait accompli about tonight. Next he’ll be asking me to open shopping malls and judge baby shows! he thought. He gave a short, ironic laugh. And I’ll probably agree, he admitted. It was all very well to lose yourself in work. The problem was that outside work he couldn’t seem to make himself give a damn about anything.

Unlike Lloyd he wasn’t a natural publicist. He preferred to be involved with the creative side of things rather than marketing, which was probably why his association with Lloyd worked out so well under normal circumstances. At least something in his life was working! Sam slammed the glass down with unwanted force, a bitter, brooding expression on his face. A pile of papers slithered to the floor. With a muttered curse he bent down to pick them up. Something caught his eye—a pair of brown leather loafers, one still attached to a foot—a small narrow foot. Dropping the papers, he walked over to the leather sofa. He caught his breath sharply, even though he’d been half prepared for what he’d find there.