A Christmas Night to Remember(3)

Katie, who was also trying for the lead female dancer’s role, had unwittingly confirmed her thoughts when she’d said, ‘Darling, you’re a sweetie, you really are, but I wouldn’t have kept Zeke James waiting if my dear old mother had kicked the bucket in front of my very eyes this morning. You have to look after number one in this world because no one else will, take it from me. It’s dog eat dog.’

One of the other dancers had chipped in at this point. ‘And we all know you’d step on any one of us, Katie, if it gave you an edge in getting what you want, never mind an old lady and her cat.’

‘Too true.’ Katie had grinned, completely unabashed. ‘And the only difference between me and you is that I admit it up front. You’d do the same, Sue. And you, Christie. We all would except perhaps Melody, our own little angel of mercy.’

It was only at this point that they had become aware of Zeke James, the dance director and the producer standing having a cup of coffee some distance away. That the three men must have been able to hear their conversation became apparent when Zeke strolled over a few moments later, his face deadpan as he murmured softly, so no one else could overhear, ‘It’s the first time I’ve played second fiddle to a cat, Miss Brown. A novel experience.’

He had walked on before she could retaliate, and when she had glanced over at Katie something in the other girl’s face had made her suspect Katie had known Zeke James and the others were within earshot all the time.

Ten minutes later they were all called back on stage. She had got the part of Sasha and Katie was her under-study. And when she had left the theatre later that day Zeke’s black Ferrari had been waiting for her…

Enough. Melody shook her head, forcing the memories back into the little box in her mind where they remained under lock and key most of the time. Today, though, she didn’t seem able to prevent them escaping.

Flicking her silky, shoulder-length strawberry-blond hair—which just missed being Titian—free from the collar of her coat, Melody reached for her suitcase. Her hands were trembling. Taking several deep breaths, she composed herself, and when she studied them again they were steady. A small victory, but heartening.

She was going to be fine. She nodded to the thought. Her plans had been carefully made. All she had to do was take it a day at a time now. The hospital thought she was going to stay with friends, but once she’d known she could leave the day before Christmas Eve she had phoned numerous London hotels until she’d found a room, reserving it for a full week. Due to a mix-up with her paperwork her departure had been delayed for a day, but the hotel had kept her room when she’d let them know she would now be arriving on Christmas Eve instead. The room had been expensive, but with it being the holiday period she’d been lucky to find one at all. It would give her the breathing space she needed and that was all that mattered. She nodded again.

Once in the main ward Melody was touched by how the nursing staff gathered round, despite her having said her goodbyes earlier that morning, but then at last she was free to leave and make her way to the lifts. She hadn’t expected to feel so shaky and overcome, and as the lift sped her downwards to the hospital lobby it was as though she was venturing into hostile alien territory. When it stopped and the doors slid silently open she had to force herself to move.

A large robust man brushed past her on his way to the lift, and although the action was slight it was enough to knock her off balance due to her injuries. Melody stumbled, the weight of her bulging case hampering her regaining control, and to her horror she knew she was going to fall. She had firmly resisted all suggestions of a stick or crutches, but walking the length of the ward and pacing her room was very different from negotiating a crowded hospital foyer.

And then suddenly a pair of strong arms was holding her, steadying her, and the next moment the suitcase was taken out of her hand.

‘Hello, Melody.’ Zeke’s voice was expressionless, his ebony eyes unreadable as they stared down into her startled green ones.

‘What—?’ She was so surprised her brain wouldn’t compute. ‘How—?’

‘Questions later.’ He was leading her towards the huge automatic doors with a firm hand at her elbow and she had no choice but to walk with him. ‘For now let’s get out of here.’


IT was the impact of the freezing air outside the hot-house warmth of the hospital that jolted her out of her shock. Her wits returning along with her voice, Melody jerked her arm free, stopping dead as she faced him. ‘What are you doing here?’ she bit out hotly.

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