'The story telling in this book is right up there with Nora Roberts, who is an expert at drawing you into a story' 5* reader review 'To say I loved reading this book would be an understatement! I simply couldn't put it down' 5* reader review What happens when you discover that your glamorous movie star mother could never have given birth to you? Fans of Lucinda Riley, Santa Montefiore and Rachel Hore will be gripped by Muna Shehadi's Hidden Truths. 'A really gripping book which is lovely and fast paced. I found it really hard to put down!' 5* reader review 'Such a beautiful story with the family drama that I love... It was my first book by the author but it definitely won't be the last' 5* reader review 'Brilliant novel' 5* reader review 'Fascinating...with an exciting group of characters' 5* reader review Eve Moore is in a rut. Stuck in a steady, predictable relationship, and a job where she's no longer challenged, Eve and her sisters are reeling from a recent discovery, years after their famous movie star mother's death, that Jillian Croft could never have given birth to any of her daughters... Embracing new horizons doesn't come naturally, but when the chance falls into Eve's lap to strike out on her own and test her architectural design skills, she sees it as the perfect opportunity for change - one that turns out to be further-reaching than she could have imagined. Planning to lose herself in work on Washington Island, Eve keeps stumbling into unexpected and complicated secrets. But she also begins to forge close emotional connections to her new acquaintances, and discovers that by bringing another family back together, she might be able to heal her own long-concealed heartache, and step into the future she chooses - on her own terms. D on't miss Muna's other enthralling novels , Private Lies and Honest Secrets : 'A wonderful read with evocative descriptions and enough family secrets to create a gripping journey of discovery' Woman
Release date: May 28, 2020
Print pages: 400
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September 4, 1970 (Friday)
I haven’t been writing as often because now I have Daniel and don’t need to talk to you so much, my dear diary. Yes, I’ve been cheating on you! Today, not only have Daniel and I been married exactly six blissful, wonderful months, but I’m also writing to mark the occasion because I, Jillian Croft, née Sylvia Moore, from the nowhere town of Jackman, Maine, have landed a part in a Steve McQueen movie! I even have a line: ‘Will that be all, sir?’ I memorized it already, as you can see.
I have an agent and am already getting so many auditions that I started feeling like I was spending all my time either in an airplane or in LA. Daniel and I love New York, but LA is the place for movies, and I’ve decided that’s where I want to make my career, then come back to the stage when I’m Someone To See. So we’re moving! Daniel is already looking for teaching jobs in theater. He’s so well known and successful I know he’ll get snapped up. Maybe UCLA or CalArts. I think he should open his own acting studio, but he says he’s not ready for that.
Next trip to California we are going house-hunting in . . . Beverly Hills! I still can’t believe it. Daniel says it’s better to buy a big house right away, because we’ll get a stinking lot of money for his New York apartment and should put it back into real estate to avoid taxes. He is so smart.
And I am so so so excited! I wrote to my parents, telling them I’d be moving and that maybe I’d come visit sometime. They didn’t answer. I guess I didn’t expect them to. They haven’t responded to my letters since I ran away. Two years and still no forgiveness, except from my sister? At times the pain chokes me. What kind of mother can wipe a child out of her life as if she never existed?
If I had a baby, I’m sure they’d want to meet him/her. I don’t know how I’ll ever make that happen with my deformed, barren body, but I swear to almighty God, someday I will figure out a way. I desperately need the chance to give my children what my mother never gave me.
I suppose we all live our lives trying to fix whatever went wrong in our childhoods.
‘Happy birthday!’ Eve echoed the voices around the blue-cloth-covered dining table brought into her father and stepmother’s retirement cottage on the occasion of her father’s eightieth birthday. Or, if you counted precisely, since Daniel Braddock had been born February 29, his eightieth year, but only his twentieth birthday. Eve and her two older sisters and their stepmother were hoisting champagne flutes to honor the family patriarch.
‘Thank you all.’ Their beloved tyrant had recovered much of the weight he had lost last summer, and his ability to speak had improved dramatically, but the stroke had clearly accelerated his aging. ‘I wasn’t sure I’d make it to this one.’
His wife, Lauren, just turned sixty, took a tiny sip of champagne. She’d do that a few more times, then put the glass down and not touch it for the rest of the evening, claiming alcohol brought out the devil in her. Given her personality, Eve would expect maybe a minor imp – one who’d leave the last teacup unwashed.
‘You’re getting better every day, Daniel.’ Lauren patted his back. ‘Another few months, you’ll be your old self again.’
‘Another few months I’ll just be myself older.’ He raised his glass and nodded to the table. ‘Thank you for coming, girls. It’s nice to be together again.’
‘Hear, hear.’ Olivia, the eldest, beamed adoringly at her father. She looked thinner than usual, and tired, though impeccably dressed and made up as usual. ‘I bet you make it to your twenty-first birthday. Then you can drink legally.’
‘Looking forward to that.’ Her father chuckled fondly. ‘Rosalind, I keep meaning to ask, how is that young man of yours?’
‘He’s fine.’ Rosalind’s face glowed, brown hair in a flattering pixie cut that emphasized her pretty eyes. She’d stopped dyeing her hair bizarre colors, though her Rosalind-designed clothes still reflected her crazy patchwork take on life. ‘He’s working on sculptures of me.’
‘With clothes on?’ Her father managed to make the question a threat.
‘Of course, Daddy.’ She put on a cherubic, eye-fluttering smile. ‘I would never, ever let Bryn see me naked.’
The table erupted into laughter. Rosalind had always been strong, but finding her birth mother last fall and meeting Bryn seemed to have changed her strength from stoicism into an irresistible self-assurance. For once, the self-described hummingbird was the most settled and content of the three of them.
‘It’s not him seeing that worries me.’
‘He does very tasteful work.’ Rosalind reached toward her father’s hand on the table. ‘The sculpture will be PG-13 at worst.’
‘Hmph.’ Her father put down his glass and pointed emphatically. ‘I’d like to see you marry this one. Your mother would have approved too. She so wanted to see each of you happy and settled, with babies of your own. You all brought her so much joy.’
‘That’s sweet. Thanks, Dad.’ Rosalind’s expression tightened, mirroring what Eve felt on her own face and saw on Olivia’s. Not long after their father’s stroke, the Braddock sisters had stumbled over information revealing that their mother – Jillian Croft, the on-screen epitome of female sexuality – had been born with complete androgen insensitivity, which meant that she had no reproductive organs. In spite of three very public, and apparently fake, pregnancies, well documented in family photo albums and celebrity magazines, she could not have given birth to any of them.
Last fall, Eve had followed Rosalind’s brave journey to find her birth mother with interest, then with relief over how well it had turned out, but she still had no desire to search for her own. Olivia had bought a one-way ticket to planet denial and refused to talk about any of it, either then or since.
‘Olivia.’ Lauren looked across the room and back, a peculiar shy gesture, as if she couldn’t bear to make eye contact for long. ‘How’s the show going?’
Eve tensed. Olivia had recently admitted to her sisters that while her TV cooking show had at first drawn viewers curious about the offspring of their favorite movie star, lately ratings had been dropping like a failed soufflé – ha ha.
‘You know, I’m thinking of getting back into acting.’ Typically, Olivia revealed no vulnerability to her father, and especially to Lauren, whom she still hadn’t forgiven for daring to show up in her adored mother’s place. ‘My agent has me up for three parts. Cougar, old maid and a MILF.’
‘What is a MILF?’ Lauren asked.
Dad smirked. ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older.’
Olivia leaned forward, giving the impression of being right in Lauren’s face even from across the table. ‘It stands for “mother I’d like to—”’
‘Fondle.’ Eve smiled sweetly at her sister, whose teeth were still biting her collagen-plumped lip, ready to give the F-bomb plenty of punch.
Lauren’s pink face wrinkled in disgust. ‘That is horrible.’
‘Maybe.’ Olivia drained her glass of champagne and reached for the bottle. ‘But at thirty-eight, that’s what I get.’
‘Soon to be thirty-nine,’ Lauren said.
‘Oh, thanks.’ Olivia filled her glass, not meeting Lauren’s eyes. ‘Like I really needed a reminder.’
‘And we should raise a glass to you, Lauren, for your sixtieth.’ Peacemaking was usually Rosalind’s job, but Eve decided to take this one on herself.
‘Which she spent by my bed instead of on the Mediterranean cruise we’d planned.’ Daniel glared at no one in particular. ‘I owe you, Lauren.’
‘All you owe me is to work on getting your strength back.’ Lauren gazed adoringly at her husband. ‘The Mediterranean will still be there.’
‘Didn’t you and Mom go on that cruise to—’
‘So, Eve.’ Rosalind very wisely interrupted Olivia’s bid to stir up trouble. ‘I want to know what the latest is with your big architect job in Wisconsin. Is it still happening?’
Eve felt the usual adrenaline rush that hit her whenever the subject came up. The chance to design a house – even a small one – and to work with a client instead of fellow students, then to see her vision built rather than simply graded, was thrilling. And overwhelming. Since she’d graduated from the Harvard School of Design and started work at Atkeson, Shifrin and Trim Architects, her design work had been frustratingly limited to hotel bathrooms and elevator shafts.
She accepted more champagne, knowing she’d probably had enough, but not in the mood to be sensible. ‘I don’t know. It’s been weeks since I’ve heard anything. Apparently Shelley was ill, and then—’
‘Then she ran into trouble getting financing for the project. Banks are so fussy these days,’ Lauren said. Shelley Grainger was a close friend of hers from Machias, Maine, where they had both grown up. ‘But I was saving this to tell you in person, Eve. Shelley called me a few days ago. She put in a new application and thinks this time the loan should go through. She’ll be contacting me soon with more details.’
‘Really.’ Eve lifted her brows, her thrill at the opportunity mixed with fear that she’d be in over her head. Shelley Grainger owned a six-bedroom family house on Washington Island, a little dot on the map off the tip of the Door County peninsula that pierced Lake Michigan like a nearly detached splinter. She wanted Eve to design a cottage she could escape to both when her kids and their families visited, and when she rented the big house to summer tourists to supplement her retirement income. She also had a friend who wanted a sunroom added to her own house.
Lauren had first mentioned the jobs to Eve last fall. Eve’s boyfriend Mike hadn’t exactly jumped up and down at the idea of her leaving for the weeks it would take to complete the designs, and her boss would undoubtedly have felt the same way. Eve had been excited by the idea of being able to design something substantial, but wasn’t sure she was ready. Then Shelley seemed to run into one delay after another, and Eve had been able to shelve the idea with guilty relief.
Now that the offers were back, there was a new complication. On Friday, she had been told her immediate supervisor was leaving, a post she’d been all but promised two years earlier when she was hired. Agreeing to the promotion, then asking for a month’s leave to travel out of state – not a great move.
‘It’s a great opportunity.’ Her father cut himself another slab of cake, ignoring Lauren’s disapproving look. ‘Especially for a beginner.’
Rosalind bristled. ‘Eve has worked in firms since high school and has a master’s from Harvard. I wouldn’t call her a beginner.’
‘What has she built? She is a beginner.’ Her father fixed his intense brown gaze on his middle daughter. While their mother had disciplined her children with words and volume, all it took from Dad was that look and his eternal threat, ‘. . . or else’.
He might be older and weaker, but he was still Daniel Braddock.
‘It would be a challenge,’ Eve admitted.
‘But challenge is good. That’s what you want.’ Olivia gestured to her. ‘You’ve been stuck in that firm arranging sinks and toilets since you graduated.’
‘That’s true.’ Eve toyed with her cake, heart thumping oddly. She hadn’t told anyone about the promotion – superstitious, but her right. Olivia wouldn’t understand her inadequacy fears anyway. Her eldest sister had been born anxiety-free. If she decided to do something, voilà, in her mind she was immediately qualified. That kind of confidence hadn’t come to Eve from whoever gave birth to her. She’d made strides in conquering her shyness, but it was a constant and insidious battle.
‘Well, ya can’t beat northern Wisconsin in early spring, eh?’ Her father’s voice was thick with a fake Wisconsin accent and sarcasm. ‘Everyone will still be ice-fishing or whatever it is they do there. Eating cheese.’
‘And bratwurst,’ Olivia announced. ‘And pasties.’
‘What’s a pass-tea?’ Rosalind cut herself a third nearly transparent sliver of cake.
‘Spelled like pasty. Pronounced pass-tee. It’s a meat and vegetable turnover. They originated in England – in Cornwall – invented for miners so they could hold lunch in their hands.’
‘Thank you, Miss Food Encyclopedia,’ Eve said.
‘You’re welcome.’ Olivia beamed sweetly at her. ‘Would you like to know about chicken booyah?’
‘I definitely would not.’
‘How about fish boils?’
Eve made a face. ‘Is that a dish or a skin disease?’
‘Gee, Olivia, you’re selling this hard,’ Rosalind said.
‘Just doing my job, ma’am.’ Olivia proffered the bottle. ‘Who wants more champagne? Dad?’
‘I think he’s had enough.’
‘Do I not have a working tongue?’ Daniel glared at his wife. ‘I would love more, Olivia.’
Lauren shook her head, I give up. ‘You’ll fall asleep at the table.’
‘I will do no such thing. It’s my birthday and I am going to enjoy it.’ He held out his glass defiantly. Olivia poured him a healthy dose.
Ten minutes later, he was snoring over his half-eaten cake and had to be woken to go to bed. The girls wished him happy birthday one more time, then Lauren took charge of him while the sisters cleared up, chatting and laughing. But even when the last dish had been loaded into the dishwasher, the last flute washed and dried, Eve was not remotely ready for the evening to end. As the family’s biggest introvert, she was usually the first to retreat.
‘This was so fun,’ Rosalind said.
‘It’s not even nine yet.’ Eve dried her hands. ‘Want to get a drink at Marlintini’s? Even if it’s coffee?’
‘Absolutely.’ Olivia snapped off her rubber gloves, which she’d used to protect her manicure. ‘But screw coffee. It’s only six in LA. Time to get started.’
‘Rosalind?’ Eve raised her eyebrows hopefully.
‘I’m in. For coffee.’ Rosalind held out her hand. ‘And the car keys.’
They bundled up and drove the short distance – every distance in Blue Hill, Maine, was short – Olivia complaining about the cold weather, when the real problem was that her coat wasn’t warm enough for winter. Eve didn’t even make fun of her, just told her to turn up the heat in the car.
They pulled into the restaurant parking lot, carved out of the forest of birch and evergreen that blanketed the state. Emerging into the frosty air, Olivia rubbed her arms, then spread them to embrace the scenery. ‘Look at this! Trees, trees everywhere. I never realize how tired I am of brown hills, drought and palms until I come back east and everything is so green! Even at this absolutely horrendous time of year.’
‘Such a California girl. You should visit us more often.’ Eve was surprised to find herself meaning it. She and Olivia had been remarkably friendly this visit. At Christmas, the family gathering had included significant others, with fairly disastrous results. Rosalind’s boyfriend Bryn had been an immediate favorite with Dad, but Olivia’s husband Derek and Eve’s boyfriend Mike had never made Daniel’s Good List, so he’d not had one pleasant thing to say to either of them.
Therefore, it was hard for either Derek or Mike to say anything pleasant back.
Therefore, everyone was horribly tense during the holiday, and exhausted after.
Therefore, the men had stayed home this weekend.
‘I wish I could visit more. Sometimes I regret we sold the house on Candlewood Point.’ Olivia whirled in a blissful circle. ‘I love this state!’
‘What state?’ Eve grinned at her sister’s uncharacteristic goofiness. ‘Maine, or champagne buzz?’
Olivia scowled back, hands on her hips. ‘So very not—’
‘Race you to the door!’ Rosalind took off for the restaurant.
Eve followed at a sprint, her longer legs overtaking her sturdy sister just as they reached the front door of the low brown building, brightened in front by a row of white-silled windows. Panting, they turned back to see Olivia laughing wildly back by the car, in a hopping struggle to remove a high-heeled shoe that seemed not to want to come off.
Eve draped an arm around Rosalind’s neck. ‘Look at her. She’s crazy.’
Rosalind sighed. ‘I worry about her. She’s way too skinny. I think she’s in trouble.’
‘Me too. But you know her, she’ll have to collapse completely before she admits she needs help.’
‘Just like Mom. They’re practically identical.’
‘If I didn’t know for sure Jillian couldn’t have given birth to her . . .’
They watched in silence as Olivia finally got her shoe off and speed-walked toward them in her stockinged feet. ‘Total humiliation. I always used to win.’
‘Brought low by Manolo Blahnik.’ Eve rubbed her shivering sister’s bony back. ‘You makes your choices, you pays your price.’
‘A helluva price if they’re Manolos.’ Rosalind opened the door and ushered them inside.
In the crowded bar area, the women managed to grab a just-vacated table. Olivia ordered a glass of Pinot Noir, Rosalind a decaf coffee and a glass of water. Eve hesitated, then went for a draft Sam Adams. She didn’t need more alcohol in her system, but she was feeling reckless, worked up. Maybe the prospect of a promotion. Maybe finally having to decide on the jobs in Wisconsin. Maybe she was just having a great time with her sisters. Lately, at home in Boston, great times had been in short supply.
‘Dad seems to be doing well.’ Rosalind pulled off her pink and purple scarf, taking a look around the bar. ‘Even better than at Christmas.’
Eve nodded. She was still upset by the changes in him, but given that he’d nearly died and could have remained seriously impaired, she was also incredibly grateful. ‘We’re lucky he’s come back as far as he has.’
‘The doctor says he’ll recover further.’ Olivia was using her eldest-knows-best voice, which had driven Eve crazy since she was old enough to recognize it. ‘The biggest improvement is in the first year, but even for years after that he can get better. It’s only been five months.’
‘Six,’ Eve said. ‘Late July to late February.’
‘Okay, six. The point is, he’ll still get a lot better.’
The waitress brought their drinks and left the tab.
‘That is the point, you’re right.’ Eve lifted her glass, wondering when she’d last conceded anything to Olivia. ‘Here’s to Dad.’
The three toasted together, then sipped their drinks and put them down nearly in unison, Eve’s in the exact middle of her coaster, a silly superstition she’d adopted as a kid, telling herself that if she set the glass down too far from center, the earth would tilt.
‘Olivia, are you really going to try acting again?’ Rosalind looked at her elder sister in concern. ‘You were so miserable doing it before.’
‘Ah, I don’t know.’ Olivia let her chin fall on to her hands, long chestnut hair spilling over her forehead. ‘Honestly, things are worse than I made it sound. The ratings stink, and I have no idea what to do differently, nor does anyone else. And I’ll tell you, but only because I’ve had so much champagne, that it absolutely sucks to be the daughter of the most successful woman in showbiz history and be a failure.’
‘You are not a failure.’ Rosalind shook her finger at her sister. ‘You only think you are.’
Olivia straightened, simultaneously tossing back her hair, a signature move Eve could try a thousand times and look cool maybe once. ‘You’re just trying to cheer me up.’
‘No, no, she’s right. You have to look at what you have accomplished, instead of what you haven’t. None of us is going to be Jillian Croft.’ Eve forced a laugh, the familiar resentment resurfacing. ‘Which is a good thing.’
‘That wasn’t kind,’ Olivia snapped.
‘Come on, Olivia.’ Eve knew better than to argue, but she didn’t seem to care. ‘Our mother had demons that made other people’s look like Disney princesses.’
‘Yes, okay, that’s true.’ Olivia followed her surprise retreat with a dramatic sigh. ‘If I could just get pregnant, I’d feel I’d achieved at least one goal in my life.’
Eve’s annoyance vanished into sympathy. She’d been hoping for good news this month, but even though every test Olivia and Derek took showed no obstacle to pregnancy, it didn’t seem to be happening. ‘You will.’
She wished she could sound more sure.
‘Maybe if you stopped worrying about it so much?’ Rosalind said. ‘A lot of people have kids once they give up trying.’
Olivia snorted. ‘Yeah, I don’t think it works when you tell yourself you’re giving up just so you have a better chance of getting pregnant.’
‘You’re right.’ Rosalind looked miserable. ‘I’m really sorry you’re having to go through this.’
‘I shouldn’t have brought it up. We’re here to continue Dad’s celebration.’ Olivia waved the subject away, eyes wandering toward the bar, then back. ‘Let’s talk about something else. Politics?’
‘No!’ Rosalind and Eve objected in unison.
‘Okay, not that.’ Her eyes darted to the bar again. ‘How about . . .’
‘How are the Allertons, Rosalind?’ Eve couldn’t resist teasing Olivia – she couldn’t renounce hostilities totally. Their conflict was too deeply ingrained.
Olivia’s attention came back to the table. ‘Who?’
‘My other family.’ Rosalind sent Eve a disapproving look. ‘Half-sister Caitlin and birth mother Leila. The ones you don’t want to hear about.’
‘You’re right. I don’t.’ Olivia pushed back her chair. ‘While you talk, I’m going to the restroom, then I’m going to hit on that adorable guy over there.’
Rosalind gasped, even while turning to look. ‘You are not going to . . . Ooh, is he cute.’
‘No kidding.’ The preppy look wasn’t Eve’s type, but she still snuck another peek.
Olivia grinned and tousled Rosalind’s hair as she passed. ‘Wish me luck.’
‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘You’re right. Though Derek doesn’t deserve me.’ She wiggled gracefully over to the bathroom for their benefit, in the process catching the eye of the guy at the bar. Of course. Olivia slayed them in packs. Always had. Eve attracted plenty of interest – when Olivia wasn’t around – but thanks to her mother, she’d had expert lessons at keeping unwanted people at a distance, a talent many celebrities cultivated. Except Jillian had embraced her fans and used the technique on her family, her youngest daughter in particular.
‘The Allertons are fine, thanks for asking.’ Rosalind finger-combed her hair to smooth it after Olivia’s attack. ‘Caitlin’s going to business school in the fall. Her ex-fiancé is still touring on his motorcycle. He’s stopped texting her so much. Fingers crossed she can move on. Leila’s singing with the Princeton Opera this summer and in Seattle in the fall. She’s happy. I’m happy. Life is good.’
‘I only need to look at you to know that.’ Eve reached across the table to squeeze her sister’s arm, squelching a flash of envy. ‘I’m thrilled for you. Think there’s a proposal in your future?’
Rosalind shrugged, but her enormous smile and shining eyes gave her away. ‘Early days yet.’
‘I’m betting yes.’
‘Maybe.’ Rosalind buried her nose in her coffee in an utterly failed attempt to hide her joy. ‘What is going on with you? My spidey sense is telling me you’re still not happy. At Christmas you said Mike’s depression was better after he got into therapy. But you’re not jumping on the jobs in Wisconsin. Mike isn’t still being an ass about that, is he?’
Eve hesitated, wishing she hadn’t confided to Rosalind last fall that Mike was convinced she was considering the work only to get away from him. A deep and frightened part of her worried that was true. ‘He’s still taking it personally.’
‘Are you trying to get away from him?’
Irritation flashed. Maybe. ‘No, of course not.’
Rosalind’s eyes narrowed. ‘So . . . what is your instinctive response?’
‘Confusion.’ She didn’t want to talk about this. She didn’t want to talk about anything real or serious. She wanted to get up and dance. ‘There’s no right or wrong involved, it’s just two possibilities, go or don’t.’
‘Maybe.’ Rosalind took a careful sip of her coffee and made a face. ‘Why did I order decaf?’
‘Didn’t want to stay up all night?’
‘Hardly worth it.’ Rosalind put the cup down. ‘You know, Bryn helped me realize that I was avoiding moving forward out of fear. Do you think you’re afraid?’
‘Afraid this isn’t the best time or place for my first solo jobs, yes.’ Eve replaced her beer in the center of the coaster. ‘And don’t you think it’s a little weird that Shelley has enough money to build an entire house, but she wants a totally inexperienced architect to design it?’
‘She’s seen your portfolio, right?’
‘Yes. But I mean . . . I’ve never done anything like this on my own.’
‘I think you’re being paranoid. And too down on your talent.’
Olivia joined them at the table, flinging her hair behind her shoulders in a gesture startlingly like their mother’s. ‘Why paranoid?’
‘Thinking it’s weird that this Shelley Grainger and her friend would be willing to hire someone like me.’
‘I don’t think you’re paranoid at all.’ Olivia picked up her glass. ‘I wouldn’t hire you.’
Eve pointed at Rosalind, who looked exasperated. ‘See?’
‘Seriously.’ Olivia moved wine around in her mouth and swallowed. She made everything she did look sexual. ‘Not that I don’t think you can do it, I know you can. But if I were her, I’d want someone who had plenty of experience, plenty of recommendations, plenty of everything you haven’t got.’
‘Exactly.’ Eve thumped a triumphant fist on the table. ‘It’s weird.’
‘How many architects could there be on the island? You’re being paranoid. Do it, Eve. I’ve been saying that since this came up last fall.’ Rosalind pushed her coffee away. ‘You need a change. Mike needs to get over himself.’
‘That is definitely true,’ Olivia said.
Eve bristled. ‘Lay off Mike, or I’ll get Rosalind to do her Derek imitation.’
‘No one can imitate my husband better than me.’ Olivia pulled her hair back tightly from her face and let her beautiful features relax into dullness. ‘“Are we outta beer? I can’t get another one, it’s fourth quarter. Please? Just this once, baby? Pleeeeeeeeeease?”’
Eve and Rosalind dissolved into helpless laughter. Olivia had nailed his deep, slow voice and inflection perfectly.
‘He’s not that bad,’ Rosalind said.
‘Of course not. Good imitation, though, huh?’
‘Right on.’ Eve lifted her hand for a high-five, even though she hated high-fives. It was that kind of evening.
‘Oh my God.’ Olivia put on one of her TV smiles, speaking through it without moving her lips. ‘He’s coming over.’
‘How do you do that with your mouth?’ Eve stared in fascination.
The smile remained undisturbed. ‘Years of practice cussing people out while I’m on camera.’
‘Who is coming over?’ Rosalind turned to look.
‘The cute guy from the bar.’
Eve got a chestful of adrenaline and a great view of him headed to their table, staring directly at her.
‘Hey.’ The guy was clean-cut, dark-haired, probably in his late twenties. As he reached the table, he turned to Olivia. Eve was used to that. Her sister was not only a knockout, but took care to emphasize that fact. Eve dressed down to minimize her looks, wore subtle makeup, kept her long blond hair in a ponytail and didn’t stick her half-covered boobs out at every opportunity. ‘I’m Chez.’
Of course he was. No doubt his Beemer was parked outside.
‘Hello, Chez,’ Olivia purred.
Chez directed a stunning grin at Eve, who remained cool, shocked at the scattering of sparks his interest produced.
‘Listen, uh . . .’ He turned back to Olivia. ‘This sounds like the oldest line ever, but you look familiar . . .’
‘Ah.’ She put a modest hand to her not-modest chest. ‘Given that I’m internationally renowned, I’m not surprised.’
Rosalind and Eve let out simultaneous snorts of amusement, making Chez glance over again. ‘Yeah?’
‘Nope.’ Olivia’s TV smile turned natural. ‘Making it up. I’m Olivia.’
‘Olivia!’ His face lit. ‘Olivia Croft. From Crofty Cooks.’
Olivia’s expression dropped into astonished delight. ‘You must be from LA?’
‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m here visiting friends.’ He tipped his head toward the bar. ‘My girlfriend’s family actually. She loves your show.’
‘Oh, that’s so nice.’ Olivia scanned the room. ‘Is she here?’
‘Actually . . . no. I’m kind of in the doghouse right now.’ He gave Eve a sheepish look. ‘Can I buy you a drink? Uh . . . I mean all three of you.’
‘Of course you do.’ A touch of acid in Rosalind’s tone. She was a beautiful soul, but it was Eve and Olivia who had always attracted the male attention. Men were fairly shallow creatures.
But this particular shallow creature was making something a little wild bloom in Eve’s chest, an urge toward recklessness she thought she’d left behind in her mid twenties. What would one drink hurt?
‘You know, Chez, that is so sweet, but we were
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