Craving the ForbiddenBy: India Grey
‘LADIES and gentlemen, welcome aboard the 16.22 East Coast Mainline service from King’s Cross to Edinburgh. This train will be calling at Peterborough, Stevenage …’
Heart hammering against her ribs from the mad, lastminute dash down the platform carrying a bag that was about to burst at the seams, Sophie Greenham leaned against the wall of the train and let out a long exhalation of relief.
She had made it.
Of course, the relief was maybe a little misplaced given that she’d come straight from the casting session for a vampire film and was still wearing a black satin corset dress that barely covered her bottom and high-heeled black boots that were rather more vamp than vampire. But the main thing was she had caught the train and wouldn’t let Jasper down. She’d just have to keep her coat on to avoid getting arrested for indecent exposure.
Not that she’d want to take it off anyway, she thought grimly, wrapping it more tightly around her as the train gave a little lurch and began to move. For weeks now the snow had kept falling from a pewter-grey sky and the news headlines had been dominated by The Big Freeze. Paris had been just as bad, although there the snow looked cleaner, but when Sophie had left her little rented apartment two days ago there had been a thick layer of ice on the inside of the windows.
She seemed to have been cold for an awfully long time.
It was getting dark already. The plate-glass windows of the office blocks backing onto the railway line spilled light out onto the grimy snow. The train swayed beneath her, changing tracks and catching her off guard so that she tottered on the stupid high-heeled boots and almost fell into an alarmed-looking student on his way back from the buffet car. She really should go and find a loo to change into something more respectable, but now she’d finally stopped rushing she was overwhelmed with tiredness. Picking up her bag, she hoisted it awkwardly into the nearest carriage.
Her heart sank. It was instantly obvious that every seat was taken, and the aisle was cluttered with shopping bags and briefcases and heavy winter coats stuffed under seats. Muttering apologies as she staggered along, trying not to knock cardboard cartons of coffee out of the hands of commuters with her bag, she made her way into the next carriage.
It was just as bad as the last one. The feeling of triumph she’d had when she’d made it onto the train in time ebbed slowly away as she moved from one carriage to the next, apologising as she went, until finally she came to one that was far less crowded.
Sophie’s aching shoulders dropped in relief. And tensed again as she took in the strip of plush carpet, the tiny lights on the tables, the superior upholstery with the little covers over the headrests saying ‘First Class’.
It was occupied almost entirely by businessmen who didn’t bother to look up from their laptops and newspapers as she passed. Until her mobile rang. Her ringtone—’Je Ne Regrette Rien’—had seemed wittily ironic in Paris, but in the hushed carriage it lost some of its charm. Holding the handles of her bag together in one hand while she scrabbled in the pocket of her coat with the other and tried to stop it falling open to reveal the wardrobe horror beneath, she was aware of heads turning, eyes looking up at her over the tops of glasses and from behind broadsheets. In desperation she hitched her bag onto the nearest table and pulled the phone from her pocket just in time to see Jean-Claude’s name on the screen.
A couple of months ago she would have had a very different reaction, she thought, hastily pressing the button to reject the call. But then a couple of months ago her image of Jean-Claude as a free-spirited Parisian artist had been intact. He’d seemed so aloof when she’d first seen him, delivering paintings to the set of the film she was working on. Aloof and glamorous. Not someone you could ever imagine being suffocating or possessive or …
Nope. She wasn’t going to think about the disaster that had been her latest romantic adventure.
She sat down in the nearest seat, suddenly too tired to go any further. You couldn’t keep moving for ever, she told herself with a stab of bleak humour. In the seat opposite there was yet another businessman, hidden behind a large newspaper that he’d thoughtfully folded so that the horoscopes were facing her.