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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Rosie Thomas

From the bestselling author of The Kashmir Shawl. Available on ebook for the first time.For Bell Farrer, rising wine journalist, it was the break of her career. To interview both reclusive Baron Charles de Gillesmont of Chateau Reynard in Bordeaux and business genius Valentine Gordon of California's Dry Stone Wineries; compare Old World and New, passion and profit, centuries of tradition and the very latest technology.But suddenly Bell's career is the last thing on her mind. Because Charles and Valentine are not just opposites but enemies, locked in lethal rivalry by their only common bond, the women they choose to love. Once, Charles's wife now Bell.How can Bell, loving one, still feel the draw of the other? Yet only by throwing herself into both worlds in turn can she finally recognize her own…




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Love divine, all loves excelling … sang the choir. The hot afternoon sun struck through the rose window and illuminated the little church, all along its length to the chancel steps. It rested on the bride in her froth of white tulle and silk as she turned to smile at her bridegroom, and made pink and purple diamonds on his black coat as he tucked her hand under his arm.

Two tiny bridesmaids in forget-me-not blue stooped to pick up the corners of the bride’s train and the little procession moved out of the flower-scented brilliance of the church and into the dimness of the vestry.

The bride looked down and saw her left hand clenched around the bouquet of cream and yellow roses. On the third finger shone the plain, thin circle of gold, but she hardly glanced at it. She was much more surprised to see the tense whiteness of her knuckles. Very deliberately she made herself put the flowers down and pick up the gold pen. Her left hand smoothed the paper and the vicar’s finger pointed to the place.

She wrote

‘Annabel Elizabeth’

and then paused. The stuffy little room was silent, but outside she could hear the congregation crashing into the last verse of the last hymn. With an effort she concentrated on the register again and wrote her new name.


There, it was done. But it was hideously wrong.

There was no such person as Annabel Elizabeth Brooke, and there never would be. Impatiently she shook off the vicar’s hand. He was trying to take away the pen, but she hadn’t finished. Underneath the non-person’s name she wrote, in deep black letters that scored the page,

‘this is all a terrible mistake.’

Then she turned and ran. She tore off the horrible, imprisoning white veil, twisted up the long skirts to show her pale silk stockings, and stumbled away. All the way down the chancel steps and along the nave, between the rows of gaping guests, she could hear Edward’s voice calling after her.

‘Bell! Bell! For God’s sake don’t go. Come back. Come back to me.’

Her face was wet with tears and sobs were bursting in her chest, but she would never go back. Never, never, never.

The dreamer rolled over and flung her arm up to protect herself. She opened her eyes and immediately felt that they were wet. She was panting, and the suffocating fingers of the bad dream were still trying to pull her back, but she was struggling free of it.

‘It didn’t happen,’ she told herself in her calm daytime voice. ‘It couldn’t have happened.’ But then why, why did these dreams keep coming back to haunt and terrify her? What was she so afraid of?

Bell Farrer wearily pushed back the tumble of dark brown hair from her face and looked around the room. It was daylight, but still very early. The tranquil, creamy colours of her bedroom reassured her and reminded her of the ordered efficiency of her waking life. While she was awake she had everything under control. It was only at night that her unconscious fears could billow out and smother her. In reality there was nothing to run away from and nothing to hide.

In any case, there wasn’t anyone to hide anything from.

Bell looked down at the smooth pillow beside her own damp and wrinkled one. Edward wasn’t there, of course.

They didn’t live together any more, and he understood that she would never marry him. Just as he had always understood everything except the strange, perverse fear that had driven her to give him up. Yet he knew her better than anyone else in the world, knew the secret, vulnerable Bell that seemed well hidden from the rest of her friends. If she telephoned him now, she could tell him about the stupid dream, and they would laugh about it together.

Bell reached for the receiver on the bedside table, but then her hand dropped. She must remember that she was on her own now. She was living the life of the successful career girl, the life that she had always dreamed of, and there was no place in that scheme of things for ringing up Edward every time she needed comforting after a bad dream.

Instead she pushed back the covers and padded into the kitchen to make a big pot of coffee. Half an hour later, in her thinking clothes of jeans and the scarlet sweatshirt emblazoned ‘Weehawken Majorettes’ that Edward had brought back from a business tour of America, she was at her desk. On top of a pile of notes lay Cocks et Féret, the ‘bible’ of Bordeaux, and Michael Broadbent’s The Great Vintage Wine Book. Bell opened the Broadbent and flipped through the pages to Bordeaux. Then she ran her finger down the columns looking for Château Reynard.

At twenty-seven, Bell Farrer was the wine and food editor of a national daily paper. She had worked her way up from being the most junior of trainee reporters. Her editor, hard-nosed Henry Stobbs with his determinedly northern antecedents and loathing of the London smart set, had taken a lot of convincing that his paper needed a wine and food writer at all. But Bell was quite out of the ordinary run, and Henry Stobbs was always good at spotting talent. Bell’s name was becoming familiar to her own generation who had money to spend and no patience with outmoded conventions. They read what she wrote, then ate at the restaurants and ordered the wine that she recommended.

They also bought her newspaper, so Henry Stobbs was happy too.

At her desk, Bell found what she was looking for and began to read a list of dates and tasting notes, frowning with concentration. Tomorrow was the start of her biggest single assignment, and there was a lot of homework to be done first. Bell had been invited to spend a few days at Château Reynard in the Haut-Médoc, to write about the making of one of the world’s greatest wines. As she thought about it, she felt a nervous churning sensation in her stomach. Baron Charles de Gillesmont, her host, had a reputation for being withdrawn and difficult, as well as very hostile to the press. Bell had been flattered and excited when the invitation arrived exclusively for her. None of her press colleagues had been invited, yet now she began to wish that she was going with the usual cheerful set of wine writers for company and camouflage. She squashed the thought at once.

‘Come on,’ she told herself impatiently. ‘This is a coup, so make the most of it. They can’t eat you, it’s only three days, and somehow you must make some copy out of it that Stobbs will approve of.’

She bent over her book again, but the phone rang beside her.

‘Hello. Tell me if this isn’t a welcome call and I’ll hang up right away.’ Bell’s face split into a smile that showed the dimples at the corners of her mouth.

‘Edward. Do you know, I dreamt about us?’

‘Oh.’ The voice was guarded, the response of someone who had been recently hurt and was quick to defend himself. Bell winced, then let the words tumble on.

‘I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter. What are you doing, this lovely Sunday?’ Outside her window she could see the summer sunshine catching the tops of the trees in Kensington Gardens.

‘Wondering if we should see each other this evening before you go off on your travels. I could come round and have a quick drink with you, then take you to Les Amoureuses. Mary and Elspeth might join us.’

‘Fine,’ said Bell, a little blankly. She remembered his voice calling after her in the dream. Don’t go. Come back to me. But she had wanted her freedom, wanted it so badly that she had hurt them both in disentangling herself. Now she was free, and she had no claims on him any more. Certainly no right to his exclusive attention. But she missed it, even more than she was willing to admit. An evening sharing him with their friends would be better than not seeing him at all and staying in alone.

‘See you about seven, then?’ He rang off.

Bell tilted backwards in her chair, chewing on the end of her pen. When she felt confident, being alone suited her.

At the best of times she was sure that she could take on the world and win, single-handed. She loved her job, and she had plenty of friends. She had planned it carefully, imagining herself getting steadily more successful, travelling and writing and meeting new people. There would be lovers along the way – yes, of course there would. But she was sure that she didn’t want a husband. Her thoughts shied away from that ominous truth. She didn’t want to think about why, not just now. It was too bound up with her guilt about her panicky retreat from Edward, and the fears that gave her those horrible dreams about weddings. And with other things, too.

Work was the thing to concentrate on. Her career was what mattered, after all. Just so long as she could keep going. Keep doing it right. Keep writing what they wanted to read.
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