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The battle lines are drawn . . .
Following the scandalous revelations about his love life, disgraced media mogul Harry Rose is searching for redemption. His daughters - bright, winsome Eliza and dark, difficult Maria - have taken over his beloved company and are making some major changes.
Guided by Harry, Eliza navigates life as Rose Corp's new queen. But Maria is standing in her way. And then there's the distraction of Eliza's childhood playmate, the twinkly-eyed Rob Studley, and the unresolved death of her mother . . .
After a stellar start, things take a turn for the worse and ultimately Eliza will have to make a choice: career, or love?
Loosely based on the turbulent reigns of Tudor queens Mary and Elizabeth, this is a scandalous tale of love, power and betrayal . . .
Praise for Olivia Hayfield:
'Ingenious and addictive' Francesca Hornak
'A delicious read' Renee Rosen
Release date: January 12, 2021
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Print pages: 448
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
Sister to Sister
King Henry VIII
Billionaire head of media giant Rose Corp (retired – in theory). Still a devilishly handsome charmer.
Fifth wife of Harry Rose. Kind and wise. Harry’s rock.
Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen
Daughter of Harry Rose and his second wife, Ana. English student at Oxford. Smart and vivacious with a jealous streak. Weakness for glamorous men, but won’t let them physically close.
Queen Mary I, Bloody Mary
Daughter of Harry Rose and his first wife, Katie. Acting CEO at Rose Corp. Strict Catholic; lacks people skills. Troubled.
King Edward VI
Son of Harry Rose and his third wife, Janette. Schoolboy at Eton. A fine, wholesome young man.
Eliza’s Oxford friends
Gifted English literature student. Active in Drama and Poetry Societies. A drama queen.
Studying English with Will and Eliza. Androgynous, wildly creative, enigmatic. In touch with his dark side.
Sir Francis Drake;explorer, first ship’s captain to circumnavigate the globe
Geography student. A keen sailor.
Sir Walter Raleigh;explored the New World, bringer of tobacco and potatoes
Economics student. Heavy smoker.
Rose staff and board members
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
Crony of Harry Rose; trustee of Eddie Rose. Ex-Army, has grand ambitions for sons Gil and Rob.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Editorial assistant at Rose Corp; childhood playmate of Eliza. Good-looking metrosexual; an exuberant, twinkly-eyed charmer.
Sir Thomas More
Fearsome editor of The Rack; long-time friend and colleague of Harry Rose. Takes a special interest in Eliza. Nickname: Cruella.
William Cecil/Francis Walsingham; chief advisor/principal secretary to Elizabeth I
Consultant and later Chief Operating Officer at Rose Corp. Reliable, all-knowing, wise, patient. Harry’s spy.
FRANCESCA ‘CHESS’ LISLE
Lady Jane Grey
Eliza’s cousin – daughter of Harry’s sister Megan; board member. Progressive, well-educated, feminist. Dating Gil Studley.
Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudely
Brother of Harry’s third wife, Janette; Eliza’s step-uncle. Trustee of Eddie Rose. Charismatic, with a dark side.
Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
Janette’s other brother; also a trustee of Eddie’s.
ANGELO ‘RIZZ’ RIZZIO
Adorable young production assistant at Rose Corp. Sings while he works.
MACKENZIE ‘MAC’ JAMES
Mary, Queen of Scots
Daughter of Harry’s older sister, Margot James. Strikingly attractive, strong-willed, ambitious. Questionable taste in men.
Margaret Tudor;married King James IV of Scotland
Humourless older sister of Harry Rose. Holds one-third of Rose shares. Lives in a Scottish castle; shoots things.
Mary Tudor;sister of Henry VIII
Harry Rose’s younger sister, married to his best friend Charles.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Harry’s best friend and brother-in-law. A retired banker.
Eliza’s cousin; second daughter of Megan Lisle; an artist.
HENRY ‘STU’ BLUNT
Henry Fitzroy/Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley)
Son of Harry Rose and his mistress Bennie Blunt. Grew up in Australia. A loose cannon – wild, drinks a lot and avoids work. A bitter man.
And the rest . . .
King Philip of Spain
Billionaire head of US Christian media company Hapsburg Inc. Right-wing fundamentalist. A snake.
Amy Dudley, née Robsart
Rob Studley’s sweet, shy partner. A nurse. Often sad.
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
A Scottish financier. Old friend of Mackenzie James. Corrupt, with shadowy contacts.
no Tudor equivalent
First wife of Charles Lisle; a recovered alcoholic. Runs a wellness retreat in Wales.
no Tudor equivalent
Russian billionaire and owner of Premier League football team. An evil man with no moral compass.
‘Bloody Maria,’ said Terri. She took a savage bite of her apple and frowned at a bunch of high-spirited students gliding past in a punt.
Eliza was about to ask what her sister had done now, when the punter, a tall, rangy young man with a mop of chocolate-coloured curls, spotted them picnicking under a willow tree and yelled, ‘Hey! Eliza Rose! Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and—’ He waved to attract her attention, lost his grip on the pole and fell over the side with a splash.
As the squealing girls hauled him back in, Eliza doubled over with laughter. ‘Oh my god,’ she spluttered. ‘That was so on purpose. He’s such a drama queen.’
‘ . . . rough winds do shake the darling buds of May!’ the young man finished. He shook his head like a dog, fished out his pole, stood back up and gave an elaborate bow.
‘Who the fuck was that?’ asked Terri as the punt drifted away down the Cherwell.
‘Will Bardington. He’s in my English tutorial group. I love him. Sorry, what were you saying about Bloody Maria?’
Terri regarded Eliza for a moment. ‘Part of me wants to just leave you in peace to enjoy your clichéd Oxford experience, even though it’s a load of balls and punts, but the other part thinks I should keep you up to speed with what your psycho sister’s up to. After all, you’re going to have to come and restore sanity at some point.’
‘What’s she done now?’
‘More on the tedious theme of cleaning up Rose publications, especially the women’s mags. Hooray!’s Hot Bod of the Month is no more. Shame. It was an institution. And this week she took issue with a Celebrity Cellulite Secrets piece. Labelled it “body shaming”, but it’s just an excuse to ban exposed flesh.’
‘But that stuff’s totally par for the course,’ said Eliza.
‘That’s precisely why she’s pissed off. She’s on a mission to change British magazine culture. It seems Rose will be spearheading the charge out of the cesspit of paparazzi crap. The Telegraph’s calling her the Clean-up Queen.’
‘Maybe she should have stuck with Human Resources,’ said Eliza. Before their father Harry Rose’s forced early retirement, Maria had headed up Rose Corp’s @People. Now she was Acting CEO.
‘Yup. Should never have been allowed near editorial policy. Gotta say, I miss your dad. He wasn’t a fan of sleaze, but he let the teams draw their own lines. Was very much hands-off. Apart from with your mum, of course. More hands-on with her.’
Eliza looked sideways at Terri, but she was gazing steadily ahead, her eyes hidden behind enormous sunglasses. She and Eliza’s mother, Ana, had been great friends, and Eliza knew Terri’s continuing mentorship was mostly to do with honouring Ana’s memory. Terri and Eliza also knew more than anyone else about the true facts surrounding Ana’s death. More, that is, apart from Harry Rose, and the Russian billionaire Andre Sokolov.
Eliza leaned back, supporting herself on her elbows. The May sun shone through the willow fronds, throwing dancing spots of dappled light onto the tartan blanket. In front of them, mayflies dipped into the water, creating tiny ripples and rings. Swallows swooped low, snapping up insects, and dragonflies zipped about and hovered.
From some distant ice cream van, the tinkle of ‘Greensleeves’ blew across on the breeze.
‘Dad still won’t talk about Mum,’ said Eliza, popping a grape into her mouth. ‘He always changes the subject when I ask about her.’
‘He’ll get there,’ said Terri. ‘But back to Maria. A word in her ear might help, before she does too much damage. Remind her she’s meant to be running the big picture stuff past you, as per the arrangement with Harry.’
‘Not sure she’d take a blind bit of notice, to be honest.’
‘Give it a try – otherwise I’ll have to speak to the board about reining her in. Mia’s considering resigning.’
‘Oh no,’ said Eliza. Hooray’s editor had been with Rose for decades.
‘She still hasn’t got over Harry’s departure,’ said Terri. ‘Any more of this and she’ll spit the dummy and leave. And you can be sure Maria would recruit a replacement who’d back her clean-up campaign. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with a bunch of 1950s Good Housekeeping clones.’
As Eliza enjoyed the bucolic scene, she couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for being back in London, even if only for a short while. Late spring in Oxford was so seductive. The ancient, venerable feel of it all – the mellow stone colleges, the dreaming spires, the water meadows; the spirits of all those great minds passing on the academic torch.
Terri was right – she was a cliché. But in a way, this made her appreciate her good fortune all the more. She was aware of how lucky she was to be living this life. Never before had she had friends who inspired her like her fellow students did. When she was with them, anything seemed possible; they could – and would – change the world. Friends like Will Bardington and Kit Marley from her tutorial group, bursting with creativity. Frankie Mallard (Geography) and Leigh Walters (Economics), her closest female friends.
Conversely, Eliza’s relationship with her half-sister, ten years her senior, was tricky at best, often fraught. If Eliza’s new friends were shining lights, Maria was a shadow.
‘Maybe Dad could talk to her.’ So I don’t have to.
‘I thought the idea was to keep Harry at arm’s length.’
Eliza sighed. ‘True.’
Harry’s daughters, and his wife Clare, had ‘persuaded’ him to step down from Rose Corp after revelations in the press about his affairs over the years, and his treatment of two of his wives. They believed he was at least partly to blame for Ana’s and Caitlyn’s deaths, and that he’d never clear his troubled conscience unless he accepted responsibility.
Harry and Clare were currently sailing the South Pacific on Harry’s super-yacht Janette. On his video calls home, Eliza sensed he was relieved to be out of the public eye after his downfall, but that his exile was hurting badly. Rose Corp was his life, his identity.
Tough. He still remained tight-lipped on the subject of Ana, particularly on her death, and Eliza couldn’t let it go. It felt unresolved; it niggled away at her, and she couldn’t help prodding it, like a person worrying a painful tooth. She loved her father dearly, but his refusal to open up on the subject of her mother was exasperating.
‘OK,’ she said. ‘I’ll call Maria tonight. And I’ll be back at Rose in the summer vacation. Maybe on The Rack again?’
‘Does it for me,’ said Terri.
‘Great! I love working for you.’
‘Christ, that’s a first,’ said Terri. ‘Must do something about my soft spot. Can’t be seen to be mellowing in my old age.’
Eliza knew it was all bluster. Terri Robbins-More’s management style was notoriously tyrannical, but to writers, editors and designers, a job on The Rack, Britain’s most-awarded magazine, was the stuff of career dreams.
Eliza wondered how old Terri actually was. She guessed about the same age as Dad – mid-fifties. When her hair had started to turn grey, she’d dyed her swept-over fringe white, and the rest back to her natural black. ‘Your mum called me Cruella,’ she’d told Eliza, ‘so think of it as a tribute to her.’
‘Your cousin’s starting at Rose this summer, too,’ said Terri. ‘Came in for an interview. Considering the silver spoon wedged in her entitled millennial mouth, she doesn’t seem too annoying.’
‘Chess?’ Francesca Lisle was the daughter of Harry’s younger sister, Megan. ‘She’s cool. Very smart. Maybe she could work with you?’
‘Nepotism may be accepted practice at Rose, but I prefer to choose my team based on talent and experience, not on who their bloody uncle is and how many shares they have.’
‘But you didn’t mind having me around?’
‘Any complicity in that arrangement was down to your dearly departed mother’s memory. Although I’ll grant you’re acceptably talented. But my benevolence does not extend to cousins. So no. Cousin Chess can look elsewhere. And maybe you should park yourself with Maria, keep an eye on her extremist tendencies. Offer to be an extra PA, or something.’
‘She wouldn’t want that.’
Eliza and Maria’s work relationship was built on eggshell-thin foundations. They’d rubbed along during Eliza’s recent stint at Rose, thanks to a shared need to demonstrate to Harry and others on the board that they were capable heirs to the business. Eliza had been right behind Maria’s equality and ethics goals, although, from what Terri was saying, those goals seemed to have shifted significantly, from worthy to reactionary.
But Eliza suspected the lean to the extreme had always been there, waiting to emerge like a bug from a pupa, the minute the counterweights of Harry and Eliza were removed. She didn’t trust Maria’s motivation. There was far too much emotional baggage and religious conviction involved. Not ideal drivers for business strategy.
On a personal level, Maria still seemed to regard Eliza as little more than a painful reminder of the event that had wrecked her childhood – Harry’s desertion of Maria and her mother, Katie. Eliza was the ‘bastard child’ (actual words) of Katie’s usurper, Ana Lyebon, the conniving seductress who’d forced Harry to divorce his saintly, devoted wife of many years.
Until Maria could move past that, there was probably little Eliza could do to improve their relationship. Although it might help if their father displayed less admiration for his ‘genius’ daughter in front of his ‘worrisome’ one.
‘Eliza, love,’ said Terri, touching her arm. ‘Your sister’s living proof that deeply unpleasant people with zero empathy should not be allowed to step into an important job based entirely on the “who’s yer daddy?” principle of business. If we can’t put the brakes on her, there’ll be nothing for it but to bring back Harry. Like I said, I miss the old bugger, but it’s probably best if he stays in the back seat. This is a girl power moment – the men have had their turn, now it’s yours. Girl power singular, preferably. Far be it from me to conspire to treason, but Rose’s future should lie with you, Eliza. Only you.’
Harry Rose picked up his laptop and moved into the shade. Even at this early hour, the Pacific sun beat down with the ferocity of an angry wife.
The ever-cheerful Timmo, an Aussie crewmember with an uncanny ability to appear at the exact moment Harry needed something, placed an espresso in front of him. ‘Thought you might be in need, Harry.’
‘Indeed I was. Thanks, Timmo.’
Harry smiled inwardly. He loved the South Pacific vibe. The yacht’s crew was largely composed of Australians and Kiwis – excellent sailors, and so laid-back it was surprising none of them had fallen overboard.
‘Sorry about the cricket, Harry. Still, only a warm-up, eh?’
‘England are on form, Timmo. The World Cup will be wending its way home come July, you mark my words.’
‘Small wager, Harry?’
‘A hundred of your Aussie bucks says England for the win.’
‘Shake on it, mate.’
‘Seriously,’ said Harry, ‘if business was this easy, I’d be a billionaire by now. Oh, wait . . . ’
Timmo grinned. ‘Can I get you some breakfast to go with that coffee, Harry?’
For a moment Harry fantasised about a full English. But Clare would be up soon, and sausages and bacon were strictly off-limits. It was a bore, but her fruit and fibre breakfasts had helped return him to his former glory (number eight in Hooray’s recent Hottest Top Ten), following his mid-life dive into drug addiction and overeating. He owed it to his beloved fifth wife (sixth, if his brief online marriage to Anki counted) to stay on track.
‘Fruit, thank you, Timmo. And perhaps one smallish croissant.’
‘Coming right up.’
Harry looked at the clock on his laptop. He needed to FaceTime Eliza, but it was still the weekend in the northern hemisphere and she might be out. Maybe on a date. He hoped so – it was about time. As far as he was aware, she hadn’t ever had a proper boyfriend. And to think people said she was just like her father!
In some ways, yes. He’d seen how men looked at her, and her response to that. She was quite the flirt. But while she enjoyed the attention, she never let men close. And he had a nagging suspicion that might have something to do with him.
Was Eliza’s famous stance on virginity, reported in Terri’s 2018 opinion piece on Harry, and quoted in almost every article about his daughter since, a response to his own relationships over the years? In particular with her mother? Had she sworn off romance because she’d witnessed the damage it could cause?
Harry’s conscience pricked him. He still had some way to go to win back Eliza’s trust, following the revelations about Ana’s death. All these years on, he knew he had yet to properly face up to what had happened to his second wife. Eliza was forever turning the subject of conversation round to her mother – and he was always deflecting her questions. It was time to be honest, to fill in the gaps. She deserved nothing less.
And the bigger issue remained, always there, often haunting his dreams. How could he make reparation for letting Ana down? For not seeing what had been coming? Could he really expect redemption without putting things right? For Ana’s sake, as well as Eliza’s.
Andre Sokolov’s face appeared in his mind’s eye. One day, he’d make that man pay.
But for now, he’d focus on Eliza. Harry was enormously proud of her achievements – straight As so far this term – but he worried there was too much work and no play. And zero romance. In many ways, Eliza displayed a maturity beyond her years, but in others she was inexperienced, unworldly, perhaps naive. He wished she’d let her hair down a little, gain some life experience.
She was driven; focused on her studies to the exclusion of almost everything else, apart from her involvement with the Dramatic Society. And even that had a purpose; she’d told him she was learning all she could about drama production as this was an area she wanted Rose TV to expand into.
It wasn’t a bad idea, and he knew she wouldn’t take it forward without a feasibility study. Eliza was nothing if not thorough, and was naturally cautious. However, when she was determined, she let nothing stand in her way. It seemed she’d inherited the steel backbone that had enabled his father to grow Rose Corp from a small Lancashire publisher into a national media giant. If Eliza wanted to expand Rose’s production arm, he knew it would happen.
‘There you go, Harry.’ Timmo put down a small, disappointing plate.
Timmo pulled a face. ‘I ran into Clare.’
‘Ah. How does she do that?’
‘Fuck knows. I’ll try the other stairs next time.’
Grimacing at the slices of melon and papaya and other wholly unappealing fruits with a scattering of seeds, Harry returned his thoughts to Eliza.
At the age of twenty-one, her grasp of business was astonishing. This was, of course, an inherited trait, but at his insistence she’d backed up her first-rate genes with a sound grounding in corporate strategy and management.
Harry had wanted her to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics, as he had, but she’d dug her heels in. ‘I’ll be a businesswoman for the rest of my life, Dad,’ she’d said. ‘Let me have this time studying English, just for the love of it. And we’re a media company – it’s all about words, right?’
As with most things in life, he’d let her have her way – on the condition she gained a sound business education during her gap year. So her time working with Terri in The Rack’s offices had been interspersed with periods in the finance, legal, marketing and production departments, backed up with a top-notch online course in Business Administration.
Harry had every confidence in her abilities, but life at the top would be tough, and she’d need his help to survive, at least at first. It was time for some one-on-one coaching on how to be ruthless, when occasion demanded. Like . . . now. Thanks to Maria, this couldn’t wait until next year, when she finished at Oxford.
Eliza was Harry’s natural heir, and he fully intended to put her on the throne. Maria would have to go – quickly, before she did lasting damage – while Eddie was still years off being able to play an active role.
He pondered on his elder daughter for a moment. How had he and sweet, gentle Katie produced this humourless harridan intent on enforcing her archaic values throughout Rose? Terri’s latest report had been deeply unsettling.
It was time to push back, and Eliza would be his weapon.
Eliza phoned Maria that evening. Her half-sister didn’t do Skype or FaceTime, or social media. In fact, she didn’t really do social.
‘Hi, Sis! How’s things!’ Eliza cringed at her own hearty tone.
‘Why are you ringing on a Sunday?’ came Maria’s gruff voice.
‘Oh, just to find out how things are going. I hear you’ve launched an attack on sleaze.’
‘You saw the Telegraph?’
‘Terri visited today. Hey, it’s great that—’
‘We had a lovely picnic by the river.’
‘Eliza, are you ringing about work?’
Well, it’d hardly be for a girly chat.
‘Partly. It’s just . . . I’m feeling rather out of the loop. I don’t seem to be getting copies of your emails. I thought I’d better check—’
‘I don’t work on Sundays; I don’t even think about work. You should know that by now. I’m leaving for evening mass shortly.’
‘I have to go. Goodbye.’
Eliza sighed as she pocketed her phone. Maria was impossible.
Her earliest memories of her half-sister were from her visits to Wales. She’d been sent to stay with Katie and Maria on two occasions. She had no recollection of the first, which had followed Ana’s death, but her memories of the second were vivid. She’d been nine years old, and she and her baby brother Eddie had stayed for several weeks following the death of Harry’s third wife, the sweet-natured Janette.
Katie had been a great comfort after the loss of her step-mother. But Maria, in her late teens, had treated Eliza like something with a bad smell that had been deposited on the stone steps of the rambling old house. When Katie’s back was turned, she’d called Eliza creative names based on the theme of bastard, and the vocabulary she’d used to describe Ana had been savage. Whore. Witch. Godless. Slut.
Finding Eliza sobbing in the garden, Katie had attempted to explain her daughter’s behaviour – how difficult it had been for Maria to see her beloved father with another woman, and another daughter, and the effect his abandonment had had on the two of them. She’d told Eliza about her own prolonged periods of depression, during which she’d been unable to properly care for her daughter. It wasn’t surprising she was a complicated teenager, prone to resentment and anger.
Maria’s behaviour was less ferocious now – snide, rather than overt – but there was still enough friction for regular sparks.
‘Why is your sister even working in a media company?’ asked Leigh, when Eliza returned to the common room. Eliza’s despondent expression must have said it all. ‘I mean, why doesn’t she just become a nun or something?’
Eliza slumped down beside her friend. ‘You can’t change society if you’re not part of it, I guess. Last year she was still finding her feet. Seems she’s not only found them, she’s really putting the boot in. Steel-toe-capped ones. Terri says Maria’s determined to “lift the moral landscape of the media”. She’s dreaming – that ship sailed decades ago.’
Leigh had been idly scrolling through her phone. She put it down. ‘In a company that size, one person can’t have that much power. What about the board – checks and balances?’
‘Yep, we might have to bring them in,’ said Eliza. ‘She’s like Trump. Step one: “You’re fired”; step two: replace with a yes man.’
‘She sounds terrifying.’
‘She’s just pulled a piece on celebrity cellulite when she’d decreed the women’s mags should avoid body shaming.’
‘Well, actually . . . how’s that a crime?’
‘She’s got to be more subtle, Leigh. She’s going in like a flamethrower. Women’s magazines thrive on our insecurity. Ten pages of ads featuring stick-thin women photoshopped to look even thinner, followed by how to smooth your curly hair, curl your straight hair, cover your blemishes, iron out your wrinkles; an article on celebrity weight-loss secrets – oh, and their cancer scares – and finishing with five decadent chocolate recipes you won’t be able to resist. Why should readers feel bad about themselves?’
‘Jesus. How exploited are we? So . . . you gotta be in favour of what she’s doing?’
‘To some extent, yes. She’s just going about it the wrong way. She’s got no connection with people, she doesn’t try to understand them. She’s making herself so unpopular. Sheesh.’
‘What else has she done?’
‘Banned editors from dealing with the paparazzi. Authorised press only from now on.’
‘Also not such a bad thing?’
‘And, apparently, no alcohol at work. No more Fridaynight drinks.’
‘What? Now that is unacceptable.’
‘I know, right?’
‘What does your dad think about all this?’
‘Not sure he knows what’s going on. Though . . . somehow he always seems to. He won’t be happy. But I want to try and rein Maria in myself. Show Dad I don’t need to go running to him every time there’s a problem.’
Leigh’s grey-green eyes, so striking against her dark skin, misted over. ‘But lovely to know he’s there if you need him. Imagine, Harry Rose . . . ’
‘Oh god, not this again.’ But Eliza couldn’t help smiling.
All through Eliza’s life, women had turned to mush over her father. Even now, in his fifties, he still regularly made the top ten in those hottest-men lists Maria was probably busy banning from Rose publications. His questionable record as a husband, along with revelations about his philandering, didn’t seem to have dented his appeal.
‘Talking of hot dudes . . . ’ muttered Leigh.
Will Bardington was striding across the room towards them. Following him was Frankie Mallard, the third of Bard’s Babes, as Will called the three of them.
‘Dried out, Will?’ Eliza called.
‘Eliza That-Which-We-Call-A-Rose. I was dazzled by the sight of you reclining on the riverbank and my pole took on a life of its own. ’Twas ever thus. What were you two so deep in conversation about?’
‘My sister,’ said Eliza.
‘Ah, the Clean-up Queen. I was reading about her in the paper. Sounds like fun times at Rose. How are you two related? You’re like day and night.’
‘We might have been talking about her dad too,’ said Leigh. ‘A far more appealing topic of conversation.’
‘Oooh, Harry Rose.’ Frankie always looked mildly surprised, thanks to her wide-set eyes and arched eyebrows. ‘I love a man with a big boat. Where is he at the moment?’ Frankie was a keen sailor, with ambitions to take part in the round-the-world Ocean Race.
‘My punt didn’t do it for you?’ said Will, flopping onto a seat and crossing one leg over the other with a flourish. Could Will not do anything without behaving as if he were on stage?
‘Somewhere in the South Pacific,’ said Eliza. ‘Last time Dad FaceTimed, he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. It wasn’t pretty.’
‘But that is,’ said Frankie, looking over Leigh’s shoulder. ‘My god, he’s not fair on a girl.’
‘Or a boy,’ said Will.
Kit Marley was making his way over. Across the room, books were lowered and cups of tea paused en route to mouths.
Kit was spectacularly beautiful, in an androgynous, undernourished way. His unkempt blond hair fell over his eyes, which were the colour of autumn leaves, and on past his shoulders. And he had this walk, as if he knew everyone was looking but couldn’t give a toss.
But Kit wasn’t just an unfeasibly pretty face. Eliza had recognised his genius from their very first English tutorial. His rambling critiques were difficult to follow, but undoubtedly brilliant. He got Shakespeare like nobody else.
Eliza had immediately pegged him as a future Rose recruit. She was going to bag that brain, use it to drive her vision for the company.
She’d need to work out how, though. Kit shied away from doing anyone’s bidding, preferring to go his own sweet way. Sometimes he disappeared for days at a time, no one knew where.
Although she and Kit had been friends for more than a year now, he was still an enigma to her. Eliza liked to understand what motivated people, what made them tick. But with Kit she had no clue. She didn’t get him at all. She’d need to figure him out if she was going to make him hers. Correction: Rose Corp’s.
But as she watched him approach, Eliza conceded that her growing compulsion to understand this boy was perhaps coming from a place that wasn’t all about being his future boss.
She chided herself. Kit was not
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