BY ELEVEN TWENTY-FIVE, I’m sitting on a brown uphol-stered chair in the green room. I’m
Dressed in a midnight-blue Jasper Conran suit, sheer tights, and a pair of suede high heels. What with my
Makeup and blown-dry hair, I’ve never looked smarter in my life. But I can’t enjoy any of it. All I can
Think of is the fact that in fifteen minutes, I’ve got to sit on a sofa and discuss high-powered finance with
Luke Brandon on live television.
The very thought of it makes me feel like whimpering. Or laughing wildly. I mean, it’s like some kind of
Sick joke. Luke Brandon against me. Luke Brandon, with his genius IQ and bloody photographic
Memory – against me. He’ll walk all over me. He’ll massacre me.
“Darling, have a croissant,” says Elisabeth Plover, who’s sitting opposite me, munching a pain au
Chocolat. “They’re simply sublime. Every bite like a ray of
golden Provençal sun.”
“No thanks,” I say. “I. . . I’m not really hungry.”
I don’t understand how she can eat. I honestly feel as though I’m about to throw up at any moment.
How on earth do people appear on television every day? How does Fiona Phillips do it? No wonder
They’re all so thin.
“Coming up!” comes Rory’s voice from the television monitor in the corner of the room, and both our
Heads automatically swivel round to see the screen filled with a picture of the beach at sunset. “What is it
Like, to live with a gangster and then, risking everything, betray him? Our next guest has written an
Explosive novel based on her dark and dangerous background. . .”
“. . . And we introduce a new series of in-depth discussions,” chimes in Emma. The picture changes to
One of pound coins rain-ing onto the floor, and my stomach gives a nasty flip. ” Morning Coffeeturns the
Spotlight on the issue of financial scandal, with two leading industry experts coming head-to-head in
Is that me? Oh God, I don’t want to be a leading industry expert. I want to go home and watch reruns
Of The Simpsons.
“But first!” says Rory cheerily. “Scott Robertson’s getting all fired up in the kitchen.”
The picture switches abruptly to a man in a chef’s hat grin-ning and brandishing a blowtorch. I stare at
Him for a few moments, then look down again, clenching my hands tightly in my lap. I can’t quite believe
That in fifteen minutes it’ll be me up on that screen. Sitting on the sofa. Trying to think of something to say.
To distract myself, I unscrew my crappy piece of paper for the thousandth time and read through my
Paltry notes. Maybe it won’t be so bad, I find myself thinking hopefully, as my eyes circle the same few
Sentences again and again. Maybe I’m worry-ing about nothing. We’ll probably keep the whole thing at
The level of a casual chat. Keep it simple and friendly. After all. . .
“Good morning, Rebecca,” comes a voice from the door. Slowly I look up – and as I do so, my heart
Sinks. Luke Brandon is standing in the doorway. He’s wearing an immaculate dark suit, his hair is shining,
And his face is bronze with makeup. There isn’t an ounce of friendliness in his face. His jaw is tight; his
Eyes are hard and businesslike. As they meet mine, they don’t even flicker.
For a few moments we gaze at each other without speaking. I can hear my pulse beating loudly in my
Ears; my face feels hotbeneath all the makeup. Then, summoning all my inner resources, I force myself to
Say calmly, “Hello, Luke.”
There’s an interested silence as he walks into the room.