Lifelong Affair

By: Carole Mortimer


'I KNOW you've been having an affair with my husband! I've known about it for weeks now. And if you want him you can have him. I don't even like him any more!'

Morgan watched in horror as the bitterly angry woman let loose that tirade, her mouth twisting in derisive humour as the words became ones of bravado, laughing openly as the woman took off her wedding ring and threw it at her.

'Okay, cut—that's a take. Morgan, you're becoming so convincing as the supcrbitch that I'm beginning to wonder about you,' Jerry, the director, drawled dryly.

Morgan's laughter had faded at the word 'cut'. She had played this scene half a dozen times today already, and each time she became more disgusted with the way her character in this weekly soap-opera was developing.

Originally she had been signed for a three-month contract only, but the character of Mary-Beth Barker had become so popular with the public that she had signed a contract for another season. The character of Mary-Beth was so against her own nature that she wasn't sure she wanted to negotiate another one. She had certainly had plenty of other offers the last six months!

'Don't wonder, Jerry,' she advised wearily. Tt will be for nothing.' She came off the set, her hair long and gleaming, the colour of copper, a dark shadow over her sparkling green eyes, her lashes long and silky, her nose small and pert, her mouth wide and inviting, coloured with a brighter lip-gloss than she usually wore, the blusher on her creamy cheeks darker too, for the cameras. Her green dress was thin and silky, very provocatively styled, part of Mary-Bcth's wardrobe; her own taste tended to run to the casual and comfortable rather than fashionable. 'I'm nothing like Mary-Beth.' She stood next to him, a frown marring her smooth brow. 'In fact, I don't like where she's going at all. So far I've—she's—blackmailed her stepfather for his attraction to her, told her mother about it anyway, almost wrecked her sister's marriage, and now she's had an affair with a married man simply because his wife once slighted her at a party. What sort of woman is she!' she grimaced, running a hand through her perfecdy smooth and shining hair, instantly ruffling it into disorder.

'Beautiful,' Jerry leered lasciviously.

'And evil,' she said disgustedly.

'You bet,' he nodded with a grin.

'You wouldn't sound so happy about it if she'd decided to get her claws into you!' Morgan raised copper-brown brows at him.

The director shrugged. 'The excitement might be worth it. When you've been married to the same woman for fifteen years that's a quality that seems to be missing.'

Morgan smiled, her own naturally bright and friendly smile, the character of Mary-Beth discarded as soon as the scene ended. 'I'll mention that to Alyson when I see her next,' she teased, knowing Jerry had been happily married from the moment he and Alyson had been pronounced husband and wife,

'She'd kill me,' he grimaced. 'And you're supposed to like Mary-Beth if no one else does. After all, she pays your rent.'

She knew that, but it didn't make the public reaction to her personally any easier to accept. Soap-operas were entertaining, and there were half a dozen of them made at this Los Angeles studio alone, but until she actually appeared in Power Trap herself she hadn't realised that the viewing public really believed the characters existed. A lot of men admired the character of Mary-Beth, liked the danger she emitted, but normally women reacted in a hostile manner, treating her like an adversary, watching their husbands closely whenever she was about. Even some of her so-called friends had become a little wary of her, sure that she couldn't have developed the character of Mary-Beth the way she had if there weren't some of tic man-eating bitch really inside the straight-speaking Morgan McKay.

Over the months she had hardened herself against the insulting comments she received whenever she went out, although it didn't stop it hurting any less. When the new scries came out in the fall her reputation—or rather, Mary-Beth's—would be damaged irrevocably.

She went back to her dressing-room, switching on the television for relaxation as she changed into her own denims and orange silk blouse, tall and slender, dulling the make-up down to be less dramatic, brushing her hair free of lacquer and feeling it swing easily past her shoulders in its normal copper straightness.

'You were great today!' Sam Walters came into the room after a brief knock, and kissed her lingeringly on the mouth.

Morgan returned his kiss, glad to see him. Sam played her brother-in-law in Power Trap, and the two of them had been seeing each other out of work for the last four months. Tall and blond, with the body of an ex-footballer, Sam had to be every woman's ideal, his easygoing nature and strong sense of humour merely a bonus.

'Thanks, she smiled up at him, her arms about his neck as he held her close. 'How about going to your beach-house tonight?'

'Sounds good,' he nodded. 'Barbecue dinner?'

'Lovely, she agreed, turning to pick up her purse.

—and it's now known that Glenna McKay and her husband Mark Hammond were on the aircraft that crashed late last night on its way from London to Los Angeles. There are thought to be no survivors from the crash, now believed to have been caused by engine failure. The television newsreader then went on to another topic of news.

But for Morgan the world seemed to have stopped. Glenna and Mark .. .! It couldn't be, there must have

been some mistake. And yet Glenna had insisted she wanted the baby born in the States, and she was in her

seventh month now. God, the baby too . .. No !

'Steady, honey!' she didn't realise she had spoken out loud until Sam answered her, sitting her down in one of the plush armchairs in the room.

'Sam, did you hear—Did she say '

Tes,' he confirmed heavily, frowning his concern of her paper-white face. 'I heard it too, Morgan.

'My God—Glennal she choked, too shocked to cry yet, too numbed by the horror of hearing on the television of her own sister's possible death.

Possible .. .! Who was she kidding, there were hardly ever survivors from those sort of disasters. Her parents! They would have to be told

'We'll call them in a minute,' Sam soothed as she once again spoke out loud without being aware of it, kneeling beside her to comfort her in her distress.

Glenna. Her elder by two years, her fiery hair matching her equally fiery nature—she couldn't possibly be dead! Air crashes happened on television, to other people, other families, they didn't happen to young fun-loving couples like Glenna and Mark, certainly not to unborn babies!

She couldn't believe this was happening, that her sister could actually have been on the plane that had crashed late last night. She had heard the first reports of it early this morning, had felt saddened for the families of the people on the plane, never dreaming that she would be one of them!

Glenna had been a successful actress herself until two years ago she had married Mark Hammond, an English businessman she had met and fallen in love with in Florida. The marriage had been far from idyllic—had been? Heavens, already she was talking in the past tense, as if she accepted that Glenna and Mark were dead.

She and Glenna had been born and brought up in the States, had always lived here apart from a few holidays abroad, and having to give up her career as a successful actress to go and live in England with her husband had not been something Glenna accepted without a fight. And she had continued to fight, had hated living with her in-laws at the Hammond house in southern England. The Hammonds were almost part of the aristocracy, something Glenna's mother-in-law had taken great pains to point out to Glenna any opportunity she could. Morgan could just imagine how her sister had reacted to that! In fact, she knew how Glenna had reacted to it; she had spent hours talking to her sister long-distance—calls her sister had made, claiming the Hammonds could more than afford the telephone bill. She knew from those calls that Glenna had been far from happy, had longed for her career and the physical, if not emotional, freedom she had always had in the States. The Hammonds had put restrictions on her behaviour and her social life, restrictions Mark had seemed happy to accept for his wife.

The one stipulation Glenna had made when she had had her pregnancy confirmed five months ago had been that the baby be born at her home and not Mark's. In the face of strong family opposition, mainly Rita Hammond's, Mark had finally agreed, and the two of them had flown to their deaths.

'I have to call my parents,' said Morgan in short jerky gasps. 'If they should hear the news in the same way.. .I'

They probably already have, Sam soothed.

Oh God, this was a nightmare! Her mother had probably collapsed, her father would be bottling his emotions inside him as usual. He wasn't a man who found it easy to show his love, although she and Glenna had never doubted his love for his family. But this was something no one had expected in their wildest nightmares!

'I have to get home '

'I'll drive you,' Sam instantly offered as she stood up agitatedly.

'My parents' home,' she pointed out. 'They're going to need me.'

'I'll still drive you,' he insisted.

'You still have a scene to shoot this evening,' she reminded him calmly, thinking logically despite the panicked racing of her brain. 'Jerry was only complaining yesterday that we're behind schedule.'

Sam shrugged. 'So we finish shooting mid-September instead of the end of August,' he dismissed. 'The network can't complain, not with the ratings we're getting. I hear we're very popular with the English audience. Hell, what am I going on like this for?' he muttered. 'What do you care about the reaction of the English audience at a time like this! I'll just go and tell Jerry we're leaving.' He gently touched her cheek before going to talk to their director.

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