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  1. ILLICIT PASSION - Draft Prologue

    Lisette Marsh sank onto one of the few sofas left scattered in a ballroom at The Westin overlooking Times Square. The premiere of the Broadway musical Night Magic had ended with a twenty-minute standing ovation, and she’d been on her feet for over eight hours prior to the all-night party. Three of them had been spent on a gruelling, unscheduled rehearsal caused by a malfunction in the mechanics of a swing that needed her, not a stand-in, to test it. She’d overheard the set manager swearing at technicians and praying her understudy wouldn’t have to take over at short notice.

    Bart, one of her two bodyguards, winked and moved between her and the chattering groups. She smiled back and closed her eyes. It was March the eleventh already: less than two days to her twenty-first birthday and Grant Lincoln, and his wife, were laying on a party at Gramercy Park Hotel. Grant was Night Magic’s leading man and still the centre of attention, which took the pressure off her for a while. He was generous like that; he never failed to acknowledge her, his leading lady in the second musical running.

    ‘Lisette, long time no see, darling.’

    Her eyes shot open and she found herself staring into black ones she’d never expected to see again. Kevin Tyrone, the man who looked so like her famous father, Michael Marsh, but his complete opposite in every way that mattered. She swallowed  gasp. ‘What are you doing here? How did you get in?’

    ‘My sister, Kia, plays a minor role… Lisette, I came to apologise.’

    ‘Oh.’ Not the most brilliant of answers, but he’d astounded her. An apology over two years ago would have changed her life. He could have been an international star in the musical, Love without Chains, which had launched her career, and they might well have been married.

    He took her left hand in his and examined her bare ring-finger. ‘I embarrassed you and I guess that was unforgivable.’

    Bart tactfully kept his back to her, though a call would bring him instantly.

    Kevin persisted. ‘I understand how your father felt about me. I’d feel the same if anyone upset a daughter of mine.’

    Embarrassing her was the least of it. Kevin Tyrone had mauled and bitten her under cover of rehearsing a scene where she was naked, half-hidden in shadows. The lighting had been so low the director had noticed nothing.

    He gripped her whole hand. ‘Don’t you think Clement Fynn was harsh? He didn’t just sack me, he made sure I never worked in Britain again. It’s different in America, Lisette. His work is known but he’s one of many, and he’s dead.’

    Clement had been more than the director of Chains. He’d been the multimillionaire producer who wrote all his own librettos, and a friend. More than a friend. He’d been like an uncle to her. Was that why he’d done his best to scupper Kevin’s showbiz career forever? ‘Maybe Clement was tough on you but he loved me, and I loved him.’

    ‘I didn’t realise that.’ He shrugged. ‘I was hoping now you’re an established star in the States you’d put in a word for me. You must have contacts.’

    She did, and Grant had more. A word to him and Kevin would be on his way. ‘You’d be starting at the bottom, and this time you’d have to work.’

    ‘You could do better than that, darling. Kia says Grant Lincoln’s understudy has health problems. The man who replaces him will take the lead when you and Grant go with the show to Los Angeles.’

    Kevin Tyrone was looking for an easy way to the top, exactly as he’d done before when he’d done his best to seduce her because she had influence with Clement. ‘I’ll mention you to a few people, and that’s all. You could make your own way if you were prepared to work hard, like Kia.’

    His eyelids dropped over a brief glint of menace. ‘I never thought of Fynn as the father of your baby and he wasn’t, was he?’

    Her heart pounded and cold sweat chilled her body. Harriet, the chubby toddler with Michael’s black curls and her emerald eyes, had been born in secret and safely hidden as one of her mother’s twins for almost two years, until now. How had he known she was pregnant?

    ‘Lisette darling?’

    She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. Kevin was guessing: he could prove nothing. ‘If you want my help, apologise. If you don’t my guards will escort you out, related to a bit-player or not.’

    He moved closer. ‘Gossip about your relationship with your father was all over the press, until you conveniently disappeared for long enough to give birth to a brat.’ He peered into her eyes, his breath hot on her cheek. ‘I’m right aren’t I? You’ll do as you’re told, darling.’

    A brat: he could calculate dates but he had no way of knowing if her child was Harriet or Kit, and what difference did that make? She couldn’t risk danger to either of them, or to Lizzie who cared for Harriet like her own even though she knew Michael had been unfaithful to her with her eldest daughter. She wouldn’t put Michael in jeopardy either. She’d turned down two proposals from men she’d dated; they weren’t him.

    ‘You will obey me, darling. You’ll do everything I say…’

    The voice went on, almost unheard. Incest was a crime in the eyes of the law and the church. Tyrone could ruin the lives of everyone she loved, or to whom she owed silence. The doctor who’d delivered Harriet and supplied false papers, not to mention Gran and her brother, and the shock would kill Grandfather. He’d assumed Kevin was Harriet’s father, and he had a weak heart. She must stop this before Tyrone was sure he’d guessed the truth.

    ‘Kevin, Grant’s understudy strained his leg and he’s having physio. He could act now if he had to. The most I can do is ask around, and what can I say? You took a minor part in one of Clement Fynn’s less successful musicals, and that won’t impress anyone much.’

    ‘You will do it, darling. In the meantime, I have to live.’ He produced a card with the logo of one of New York’s top dress designers: printed below it was Tania Turner.

    Acting more even than onstage, she waved a dismissive hand. ‘You expect me to buy clothes from an unknown trying to make her name?’

     ‘You’ll commission every gown for occasions like this, and every costume for the concerts that promote your albums, from her.’

    Dare she have him ejected if he refused to give in? ‘I won’t have time for concerts for years. I’m contracted on Broadway for six months and then I’m going to Los Angeles with Night Magic.’

    ‘Then you will buy gowns for the future, but you will buy them. If you don’t, I have a journalist friend who’d be happy to resurrect the story.’ He tapped her hand with the card before he tossed in her lap. ‘I’m Tania Turner’s scout. It’s my job to persuade stars like you to buy from her, and I get fifty percent commission on every sale. Your choice, darling. Lots of lovely gowns, or your father in jail.’

    Blackmail, and absolutely no way of proving she’d paid him a penny. Luckily he was still a fool: he’d found a way of extorting money, but so little compared to her earnings and the income from Fynn Productions, the business that she’d inherited from Clement, which Michael ran for her. She raised her chin. ‘If I like her gowns I could purchase a few.’

    ‘All of them, darling.’

    She nodded. He’d never know how many she wore, if any. Buy enough to satisfy him financially and she could forget Kevin Tyrone.

     

     


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