Lucy Gordon

A Convenient Wedding

© 2002


MERYL WINTERS had driven cheerfully and confidently in many of the world’s great cities, but New York was her home town, and something in its air gave her driving an extra edge.

As soon as the banks were open she swung her cheeky red sports car out of Broadway, into Wall Street, screeched to a halt, ignoring a ‘No Parking’ sign, and jumped out. Tossing the keys to the doorman, she swept on into the head office of the Lomax Grierson Bank. The doorman had just scrambled into the car when a traffic cop approached with an expression of doom. ‘You can’t book this car,’ the doorman protested, aghast. ‘It belongs to Miss Winters.’

The traffic cop hastily backed off.

Inside the bank Meryl strode on through the marble halls, knowing that all eyes were on her. She’d been an object of curiosity since she was fifteen and her father’s death had left her fabulously wealthy. Since growing up she’d also attracted attention because she was five feet ten inches in stockings, with a pencil-slim frame that any model would have killed for, racehorse legs, huge green eyes and long black hair. Heads turned. Male heads. That was fine by her. Masculine admiration was one of the great pleasures of her life.

But right now nothing was further from her thoughts. She was in a scorching temper and someone was going to die. Looking neither to the right or the left, she continued on up as far as the Chairman’s office.

The secretary was new, and didn’t recognise her, but she was instinctively in awe of this blazingly self- confident young woman. ‘Er-Mr Rivers is very busy,’ she ventured. ‘Do you have an appointment?’

‘Why should I need an appointment?’ Meryl asked in surprise. ‘He’s my godfather, as well as my trustee. Besides-I have something to say to him.’

‘Yes, but you can’t-’ She found herself talking to empty air. Meryl didn’t recognise the word ‘can’t’.

She flung the door open and stopped on the threshold, surveying the man inside. ‘So there you are,’ she purred.

Lawrence Rivers, a large, greying man with a jowly face, rose from behind his desk and smiled with implacable geniality. ‘Meryl, my dear-what a delightful surprise.’

Meryl raised one elegant black eyebrow. ‘You’re surprised that your outrageous letter brought me here? I don’t think so. Larry, how often do I have to tell you not to interfere in my private affairs?’

‘And how often do I have to tell you that the disposal of a large sum of money isn’t your private affair?’ he retorted.

‘I’m twenty-four years old and-’

‘And until you’re twenty-seven I can prevent you tossing money away as though it was going out of fashion. Your father knew what he was doing when he made that will.’

‘Dad was under your influence or he wouldn’t have thought of it,’ she flung back.

‘True. Craddock Winters knew everything about oil wells and machinery, and nothing about anything else, including his daughter. You were headstrong at fifteen and you haven’t grown any better. When you tell me you want to waste ten million dollars on a man of no account like Benedict Steen I know I was right to protect you.’

‘Benedict is not a man of no account-’

‘Well, I know what I think of a man who spends his life making frocks,’ Larry Rivers declared complacently.

‘He does not “make frocks”,’ Meryl said indignantly. ‘He designs high fashion, and he needs a backer to put him at the very top of the tree. It wouldn’t be a waste of money; it would be an astute business investment.’

‘Ten million dollars on a dress shop?’ Larry demanded. ‘You call that an astute business investment?’

‘It’s not a dress shop. Benedict needs proper premises-’

‘Surely he already has somewhere?’

‘Yes, a back room down a side street,’ she replied. ‘I want to see him in a decent place, in central Manhattan, where he can show a big collection and attract international clients.’

‘Ten million dollars,’ Larry repeated slowly, trying to get through to her.

‘He needs to take the collection to Paris, Milan, London and New York,’ Meryl explained. ‘He needs staff. He needs to advertise in the top fashion magazines. It all costs money.’

‘Ten million dollars!’

Meryl shrugged. ‘I like doing things properly.’

‘And when would you get it back?’

‘Who cares about getting it back?’ Meryl asked expansively.

‘Aha! Now we have the truth. So much for an astute business investment!’

‘OK, it’ll be fun. What’s wrong with that? I can afford it, can’t I?’

‘You wouldn’t be able to afford it for long if I let you be manipulated by a plausible charmer like Benedict Steen. I can see why you’re crazy about him. He’s handsome-if you like those kind of flashy looks-’

Meryl breathed fire. ‘Larry, I’ve told you till I’m blue in the face-I am not in love with Benedict. And may I remind you that he has a wife?’

‘A wife he’s in the process of divorcing. I dread to awaken one morning and find your engagement announced in the New York Times.’

‘Well, if I married him-not that I want to-at least you’d have to hand over my money,’ Meryl pointed out. ‘In fact, you’ll have to do that whoever I marry.’

‘Do you have a bridegroom in mind?’

‘No, but anyone will do. Larry, I’m warning you, I want my money freed from your shackles. And if I don’t get it I swear I’ll marry the next bachelor I see. Do I make myself plain?’

‘Certainly my dear. Now let me make myself plain. You will not-repeat not get me to release ten million dollars for this harebrained scheme. And that’s my final word on the subject.’

Meryl looked at him with smouldering eyes for a long moment, but, reading no relenting in his face, snapped, ‘You haven’t heard the last of this,’ before storming from the room.

If Larry had seen Meryl an hour later, standing half-dressed in Benedict’s work-room in a basement off Seventh Avenue, while he fitted a dress on her, addressing her occasionally as ‘darling’, he would have felt his worst fears confirmed. But Larry wasn’t a perceptive man, and he wouldn’t have noticed that Benedict touched her with the impersonal hands of a doctor, and his endearments were mechanical. He called every woman ‘darling’, especially the two devoted, elderly seam-stresses who made up his garments.

Meryl had been his goddess and benefactor since they were both fourteen, and had met at her expensive boarding school, where he’d been the gardener’s son, and she’d saved him from bullies. Thereafter she’d protected him and he’d run her forbidden errands into the nearby village.

‘You might as well talk to a brick wall,’ she sighed now. ‘I keep telling Larry that I’m not in love with you, so why won’t he believe me?’

‘Perhaps he’s heard of my lady-killing charm?’ Benedict suggested, turning her slightly. ‘Lift your arm, darling, I want to pin you just here.’

Meryl did so, smiling as she watched him work and saw the beautiful creation coming to life. She’d calmed down by now and her sense of fun, never far in abeyance, had returned.

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