Cold, egotistical and a Foxton.
He tore my final performance to shreds with his pen, and embarrassed me for all the world to see.
But hate wasn’t what I felt for Scott Foxton when he touched me. Enemy wasn’t what I thought when he rescued me either.
I got lost in dreams and hope, and ignored the threats that would follow my own deceit.
For once in my life, family loyalty could be damned.
But then I saw the painting.
And now I can’t lie anymore.
The man I shouldn’t want is the one that holds my heart.
I just have to trust that he’ll still believe me when he knows the truth about Persephone Broderick.
Release date: May 10, 2021
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Charlotte E Hart
My eyes open slowly, hand brushing away hair that’s draped over my face. It isn’t mine, and the body lying next to me isn’t supposed to be here. It isn’t until I fully crack my eyelids to the continuing sound of my phone that I realise I’m not even in my fucking flat.
That fact alone makes me move swiftly to silence the phone, part desperate not to wake the form still wrapped up under the covers. She’ll be needy if I do and then start talking about dates and thinking she’s got some right to elongate whatever last night was. She doesn’t. I don’t elongate my one-nighters into anything other than that – one single night.
Feet landing on the carpeted floor, I peel out of her loose hold until I’m up and searching this place for the clothes I must have thrown in the heat of the moment. I can’t even remember getting here, let alone who the red hair in the bed belongs to. Tanya? Tina? Sounds familiar. Might be one of those.
She groans as I start pulling my trousers and shoes on, then mewls a little as I slide the shirt into place and start buttoning it.
“Scott?” At least she knows my name. Must have attempted talking with this one at some point. “Where are you going, handsome? I'm not finished with you yet."
I don’t answer her. Nor do I look as the covers start shifting around. I walk to the bathroom and do what needs doing before going back out into the bedroom to scour for my jacket instead. I haven’t got any intention of ever seeing her again, so conversation isn’t in the cards this morning. If it is morning.
Snatching at my phone, I look at the time – eleven thirty a.m. – and then slide it into my pocket rather than deal with the voicemail yet.
Hair roughed into shape, I walk for the main door, less than no energy in bothering to even say goodbye. Whatever last night was, I wouldn’t have been making any promises of more than this has been. Good genes get me laid when I need it. No chat up lines. No bother with conversation other than stating the obvious. It generally works. Women seem to be more interested in verbal honesty in London these days rather than actual courtship. And luckily for me, the hard jawline and dark blue eyes I’ve been gifted seem to make me appear handsome enough that dropping their underwear happens quickly.
The door slams behind me before she finishes, and I start taking the steps downwards sluggishly, rolling and rubbing my neck as I go. Feels like it’s been scratched, gripped too tight. Maybe she was riding me for kicks. Can’t remember that either.
And Christ, my head hurts.
“SCREW YOU, ARSEHOLE!” is screamed above me.
I half-smile and pat my jacket pockets, digging inside them the moment I find the flask I’m after so I can tip it to my mouth. Arsehole isn't uncommon where I'm concerned. I am one. Certainly since I've been back here. It's probably not changing anytime soon either, but this whisky slides in and goes somewhere close to making me ready for whatever day of the week it is. It doesn’t, however, prepare me for the spring sun that near bloody blinds me as I walk out onto the road.
Faltering backwards at the onslaught of it, I lean back into the door and hide in the recess of the shadows to drink some more. It doesn’t help with the glare that much, but it at least gives me a couple of minutes of waking up time. It’s then that it hits me that it’s Saturday and this place is nowhere near my neighbourhood.
Where the hell did I end up last night? Images of Soho flash through my mind, most of them laced with women touching me and lipstick. Lots of bright red lipstick. Still can’t picture the redhead I’ve just left, but that doesn’t mean much other than just another meaningless romp.
Pulling my phone out, I eventually start walking to the main tube at Southwark to get home. The voicemail kicks in too bloody loudly for my ears to process, but I get the gist and shove the fucking thing back in my pocket before stopping in the nearest coffee shop. Lissa’s sick. Can I get to the ballet this evening at the Royal Albert Hall and review that god awful heap of shit that everyone’s been fawning over this past year. And also, just to top off the delight, can I then deal with the interview for her.
I snatch the coffee out of the barista’s hand and storm back out into the street; any amount of calm I was falling into now gone because I’ve got to deal with a load of pretentious wankers for the night. Not that I had any other plans, but dealing with trivial crap like this was not on my agenda. Still, maybe it’ll be interesting to tear the thing to shreds and give it a real appraisal rather than the bland type of critique Lissa would have delivered. It’s not like I’m not good at it, irrespective of that being my chosen path or not. Slating anything is easy for me. Always has been.
Snorting at the thought, I sip some more coffee in the hope it’ll wake me up and then take the lid off the cup so I can pour the remainder of the whisky into it. Talentless. Everything is. Nothing inspires or intrigues me anymore. It hasn’t since Paris. I was pulled back here to this hellish place to deal with my father’s failure in business, and now all I’ve got is time I hate, a city I hate, and a job I fucking hate.
Jesus Christ. Nearly forty years old and less than no enthusiasm for anything. I stop and glower at the busy oncoming traffic I'm trying to navigate my way through, downing more whisky coffee as I do. I shouldn’t be here critiquing others. I should be out there, showcasing my own work and making my way on my own. But Foxton gets what Foxton wants, that meaning my bloody father.
Bloody press. It’s all shit. And it’s all I do now. I run around critiquing other art in the hope that my own name remains current in some way. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was successful as a paper, but it isn’t anymore. It’s as trivial as the damn ballet I’m going to go to and as fucking dull.
The phone rings again as I barge my way over the crossing towards Lambeth, and this time I answer it.
“Oh, thank God, Scott. You’re there,” Lissa Thompson says. The grunt that comes out of me is the only acknowledgement I’m willing to give. “Are you alright for tonight? I’m so sorry, but I’m throwing up left, right and centre, and I can’t deal with it.” Probably banging another bloke behind her boyfriend’s back. “Scott? There’s a press pass at your place. I’ve slipped it through the letterbox. I was hoping you'd have nothing on and–”
“Fine. But you owe me.”
The gushing thanks coming across the line gets switched off before she finishes, and I head down the steps to the tube. I can’t deal with her voice any more than I have to. Couldn’t when I was the one she was fucking behind her boyfriend’s back either. She was good at it, though. Fair play. Until she started talking about leaving him for me. I wanted that about as much as I want this fucking life I now live.
The taxi moves like the rest of London does on a Saturday night—slowly. Knocking the Perspex between us, I pay the driver for the journey so far and get out to run the rest of the way. By the time I get to the Royal Albert Hall, there’s barely any room in the lobby to squeeze past the crowds trying to get in. I grumble through the masses of ludicrous outfits and garish colours, and flash my press pass at the security who’s holding up the rooms for VIP’s.
He opens the barrier to let me through after scrutinising the damn thing, and I’m eventually shown to the one remaining seat squeezed into the arena. Knees knock against me as I weave into place, most of the other press apologising for being in my way as I apologise for getting in theirs. Ludicrous British protocol. Half the time we’re apologising for something that’s not our fault, and the rest of the time we’re getting arsey about people not apologising for things that probably aren’t their fault anyway.
I finally sit and get my notepad out, ready to offload some of this irritation that’s done nothing but build all day. Paris was better. The Parisians don’t give one fuck about apologies unless they’re earnt. They don’t suffer this sort of shit either. Just like I shouldn’t be doing. I might fuck Lissa again just so she remembers the type of man I am rather than try this crap with me. Help her out? Last time I helped her out it was outside my fucking door, with her bag thrown after her.
My glasses get pulled out and slipped on, pen balanced in my fingers, ready to do some serious damage.
“Scott Foxton? What are you doing here?”
The overly jolly sound of Andrew Biston pisses me off instantly, as does the feel of his hand on my shoulder. I turn and look at the principal theatre critic for Broderick Media and try not to glare. It clearly doesn’t work because his hand slips off quietly, eyes blinking rapidly. “Sorry, mate. I was just wondering where Lissa was.” Maybe she’s fucking him now as well.
“She’s sick. I’m filling in.”
“Righto. How’s life?”
Shit, thanks. How's yours, you pompous dick?
Thank God for the hushed sound of the orchestra’s practise coming to an end and the lights dropping around us. It gives me a chance to turn away before having to actually engage in conversation with the wanker. Anything associated with the Broderick name, in general, is a pain in the arse, but throw in Andrew Biston’s holier-than-thou fucking attitude, and my patience for this whole night would have been obliterated. It also gives me a few minutes to scan through the information about whoever this ballerina is. Apparently, it’s her last crack at Giselle tonight as she’s chosen a new path in life. Seems odd to me, given she’s so young, but who cares.
Actually, I do, considering it’s me reviewing this thing and my by-line. The thought makes me pick up the brochure, my gaze focusing on the reasonably fine form of her poised position for the marketing. Christ knows what stance it is, but she sure is tight in it. Stretched. Taut. She's probably flexible. Lithe. Useful in bed, I should think. Can't see her face in any clarity because of the positioning and shadow, but it seems pretty enough. The half I can see anyway.
I throw the brochure to the floor, disgusted by the art world's need for apparent perfection in bodily form. The ugly ones are never picked for the headline acts, regardless of talent. Same in vocals. Same in acting. Pretty face, pretty limbs. That's all they need. And she's probably screwed her way to the job, too. Another norm these days. Most women do.
Having annoyed myself further with the thought of talentless crap, I dig a little more thoroughly through the diatribe of information on my phone as the lights dim further. There's not much to her detriment, to be fair; most still sing her praises until I finally find some answers worth acknowledging behind the sycophantic drivel. Looks like she’s probably been dropped. See? Talentless. Either that or the director's moved onto screwing someone else.
Both things I can work with.
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