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First pages

-1-

They blew through Pennsylvania and Ohio but hit some bad weather in Wisconsin, missed the turnoff at Milwaukee, and were almost at Fond du Lac by the time they realized their mistake. They decided to hole up in a motel there until the white out conditions passed and when they resurfaced a day later the car had been stolen, along with one of Eleanora’s suitcases and the roll of cash she had hidden in it. She was relieved she still had some money tucked in her purse, though she doubted it would be enough to complete their journey. John Francis was morose about the car.

“I’ll call my parents,” she told him as they sat warming themselves over coffee in a diner on Main Street in downtown Fond du Lac. They sat in a booth by the steam covered window, listening to the cars moving up and down the street. John Francis had filed a police report but Eleanora kept her name out of it. She’d only been out of New York for a couple days and it had only been two weeks since she left home. They were not off to an auspicious start. She didn’t want to be found yet, though the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere didn’t appeal to her either. She stared across the table at her traveling companion. He had been positively chatty throughout most of their trip. This was the quietest she had seen him since they’d met in New York almost two weeks earlier.

“Don’t. You’re independent now, remember?” he said with a wry smile, his pale blond hair shining under the pendant lamp over the table. He assessed her, sitting opposite him in the booth.

“Do you have any money on you?”

“A bit, yes,” she said, brushing back a loose strand of unnatural yellow hair.

“What’s ‘a bit’?”

“About two thousand.”

“Two thousand? That’s ‘a bit’? Jesus, Eleanora, how much was in the suitcase?”

“Six. I just took what I had on hand. I should have thought ahead.”

John Francis laughed. “Two thousand will get us a car and on the road to Montana pretty easily. I can work there and pay you back. I can’t cover six grand, but I’ll pay you back whatever I can before you go to California.”

“It’s not your fault,” she said, not sure why he was laughing. Two thousand dollars wasn’t a lot of money, and she had left her credit cards back in Greenwich, an act of rebellion that at the time felt so righteous, but in hindsight had begun to feel reckless. “I can work too. I’m going to have to if I don’t want to call Mother.”

John Francis sneezed violently and then coughed into his napkin, clearing his throat.

“What’ll you do?” he asked after a moment.

“I don’t know,” she replied. She had her arms crossed in front of her, her hands on her stomach, and she pinched at her fat rolls absentmindedly, reassured by their substantive nature. “I can’t imagine there’s a lot of demand for fundraisers in Billings, but maybe I can find work in an office somewhere. There were always people in my office who were there to make copies and answer phones. I imagine they were paid. I can do that. As long as it isn’t in a place like this,” she said, moving a hand to the table and wiping at a smudge, showing him the dirt on the napkin, “then I think I can manage.”

“I’ll hit the car ads tomorrow. The interstate is clear. We can leave in a day or two. It’s worse west of here, I heard,” he said, coughing again, “but it’s only November, so I think the weather might be a fluke.” He looked pale and shaky, which Eleanora attributed to his being upset about the car, but later that night he spiked a fever.

 

Eleanora sat vigil at John Francis’s side, pressing a cold washcloth to his forehead until she finally fell asleep, but he was worse the next day. She left his side only to get food and bring it back to the room, and for that she hurried, hoping he wouldn’t need her while she was out. If he did need her, she would hardly be able to tell. He was passed out and incoherent, mumbling in his delirium about taxes and multi-purpose rooms. The motel housekeeper, a tall young man with dark hair, coal colored eyes, and a somber expression, encouraged her to take him to the emergency room.

“Is it that serious?” she asked, turning back to John Francis.

“Dunno,” the housekeeper, Mark, said, shrugging so that his thin shoulders almost reached his ears. “My Omi looked like that before she died.”

“What’s an ‘Omi’?” Eleanora asked, hoping it was a type of pet.

“Grandmother,” Mark said. He unfurled fresh sheets on Eleanora’s bed and tucked them in all around, replacing the blanket and coverlet and fluffing the pillows. “She had pneumonia. I’m not saying that’s what your boyfriend has, but I don’t think it’s good to have a fever for that long anyhow. Have you checked his temperature?”

“No,” Eleanora said. “How do I do that?”

Mark smiled an embarrassed half-smile. Eleanora felt stupid enough without the boy chambermaid’s condescension.

“I understand from your expression that I am supposed to know this,” she said as haughtily as she could on so little sleep, “but without a thermometer, I don’t know. Can you just tell me?”

“No, you just use a thermometer,” he said. “You have to get one. They have ‘em at the market.”

 

It was mid-day and it wasn’t freezing out, but the sky was cloudy and there were still piles of snow and slush lying around from the squall that had left them stranded days earlier, as Eleanora trekked to the nearest grocery store. She carefully picked her way across the parking lot and inside. She’d been to a supermarket once when she was in college. She’d had to compare prices of various grocery items for a project and she’d wanted to do it herself, instead of making a list and handing it off to Beth, the housekeeper, or Rekeyra, one of the housemaids, as she normally would. That had been a chichi market in Greenwich though, and it was vastly different from what she now faced, which was a neon lit, dingy, and outdated store, where the workers wore brown polyester and looked like the “before” pictures in an antidepressant ad. She wandered the aisles, wondering if horror stories had originated in Wisconsin, because the inspiration for them was everywhere. She ended up buying a six-dollar thermometer, a couple magazines, and a little bit of food to keep in the room. She checked out and impulsively reached for her credit card, then recollected its absence. She sighed and paid in cash. She was worried about money now. The restaurants were inexpensive, but having to eat out constantly was still a drain and she hadn’t counted on staying in a motel this long either.

She got back to the room and checked John Francis’s temperature. It was one-hundred and four. Not having anything to compare it to, she was stumped. Was that a high fever? She had no idea. She went out onto the balcony and scanned the area for Mark. She found him a few doors down cleaning one of the rooms.

“Is one-hundred and four high for a fever?” she asked. He was vacuuming and she had to repeat the question when she got his attention and he turned the vacuum off.

“I think so,” he said.

“I should take him somewhere, then?” Eleanora asked, looking for guidance. She didn’t know what an emergency room visit would cost but she had read somewhere that they were expensive.

“I would,” Mark said. “I get off in a half an hour if you want me to go with you,” he offered.

“That’s a good idea,” Eleanora said, turning to leave without saying anything else. She felt relieved to have even that amount of help. Everything felt overwhelming all of a sudden.

Mark didn’t have a car so he got a friend to drive them. An hour later they were waiting in the emergency room and two hours after that John Francis had been admitted to a room with a diagnosis of viral pneumonia.

Eleanora took a taxi back to the motel. She climbed into bed and flipped through the magazines she had bought earlier, hoping to be distracted. She wondered if she would see any names she recognized. She had a large extended family, not just the Beauchamps, but her mother’s side as well, and someone was always in the news somewhere, usually for attending a gala. If you shook her family tree, Eleanora thought, you’d be covered in sequins.

There was nothing in the first magazine, but the second one had a short piece on Sabrina. She had gone to a party and not looked sufficiently contrite. According to the tabloid headline, she was an “Heiress on the Edge.” Eleanora looked closely at her sister’s face. She was as beautiful as ever but she wore a troubled expression that was counter to her usually placid look, despite the headline. There was a short tidbit on her great-aunt Matilda as well, who had gone to a party. Apparently that was all required of an obscenely wealthy person to get press coverage; show up. Eleanora frowned at the photo. Matilda was over eighty, but Eleanora was sure she hadn’t aged a day as long as she’d known her. She was not a kind old lady. Matilda must have a portrait in her attic, Eleanora surmised as she cast the rag aside, that had grown as hideous as Matilda was still genteel, covered in wrinkles, pustules, and stubbornly un-dyable gray hair.

It was the third magazine that nearly gave Eleanora a seizure. She hadn’t bothered to read the headlines when she bought it but she did now and she quickly turned to page eighty-six, only to find her own face staring back at her. It was a terrible picture from her debutante party six years earlier. An inset was a grainy still from Sabrina’s sex tape. Eleanora never would have known it was Peyton in the video with her sister, she realized, if Caleb hadn’t told her. He was blurry and unrecognizable.

It was nearly three weeks now since the scandal broke, her fiancé and her sister. She checked her stomach to see how much she still cared. Other than feeling vaguely embarrassed, she didn’t seem to mind. The byline for the article was Matthew Lichter. She remembered the reporter who had come to the house that terrible day, his wire rimmed glasses and ash-grey eyes, his salt and pepper beard, and his total unwillingness to be impressed with the Beauchamps. Her parents had scheduled an emergency interview to show how little the affair had affected the family and Lichter had struck her as a real reporter, but here he was, turning out this tripe. Eleanora scanned the text first, but it was dense and she had to start over, carefully reading and digesting each word, turning the pages quickly if not eagerly. She soon realized this was no fluff piece about a socialite’s sex tape. It was a six-page expose of the entire Beauchamp family; photos of her parents with foreign dignitaries, politicians, celebrities, photos of Sabrina with various boyfriends, two of whom were in prison for some kind of fraud or other, and the one ridiculous picture of Eleanora in her white frilly dress from her coming out party.

She read the article through and then tossed it aside. Now her stomach was churning. It was awful. Sure, she was on the outs with her family, but she took no pleasure in their pain and she had no doubt this article would be painful for them. As wealthy as her parents were, they usually managed to stay out of the public eye, even as they were stalked and sued and envied and threatened. Now their most personal experiences were splashed across a magazine for any and all to witness, just because Sabrina had to take whatever Eleanora had. At least she herself was left out for the most part, Eleanora noticed, apparently too boring to mention, apart from being a cuckquean and a doormat. She was described as aloof and cold, which were fairly standard descriptives of her in the press, and of course, no mention of her would be complete without alluding to the large inheritance she would age into on her twenty-fifth birthday. She couldn’t figure out why her sad, adolescent photo was used as the face of the family though. It surely wasn’t a face that would sell magazines.

Cuckquean. She hated that word. She’d much rather be a ‘cuckhold.’ At least that had some historical literary merit, she thought. She couldn’t believe she’d put her graduate studies on hold to plan her wedding to Peyton. What a louse.

The phone in the room rang, disrupting her unpleasant reverie. It was the hospital calling to say they would keep John Francis for a few days. His lungs were battered and he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, and he was badly dehydrated. She knew better than to ask how much it was going to cost. She was too afraid to. She fell into a troubled sleep, seriously worried about money for the first time in her life.

 

Elle lamented their dire straits when she visited John Francis in the hospital.

“I’d rather be here than in New York,” he said. “Midwestern nurses are really pretty.”

“Unusually so,” Eleanora admitted.

“I’m going out with a night nurse when I get out of here,” he said. Eleanora doubted that, and she said so.

“You look just awful,” she informed him. “You’re so pale, you’re like an albino vampire on a hunger strike.”

“Ha!” he scoffed a little too hard and set off an intense coughing fit.

They mostly talked about getting to Billings, but Eleanora still didn’t know what she wanted to do after that, whether she would stay with him, travel a while longer on her own, or head home, having been gone so long already. The novelty of her journey had begun to wear off, and she was sure now that she was just being petty. She had called home a few times, when she knew her parents would be out, and left messages with the housekeeper, letting them know she was safe, but she knew that would only hold them off so long. It was only because of the way they had handled the sex tape debacle that they had let her stay away this long. It wasn’t a question of whether or not they would look for her, only a question of when. She didn’t want to go home yet, but without money, anything else seemed impossible.

-2-

“Good morning, Nora,” Letitia said, drying coffee cups and lining them up on the shelf above the Bunnomatic as Eleanora pushed through the double door of the diner, an icy wind behind her. Eleanora took off her coat and hung it up in the storeroom, then tied on her apron and straightened her nametag. It was a daily humiliation, the nametag, a reminder that she was unworthy of being remembered on her own merits.

“Good morning, Lettie,” she said finally, picking up a kitchen towel and starting her morning work. She was surprised at how used to the place she was already. The smell of the diner, a mix of coffee, frying oil, and ammonia, didn’t appear so strange to her now, and the chill that swept across her whenever someone opened the front door was hardly noticeable. She’d taken to wearing a cardigan over her uniform like Letitia did, though Eleanora’s was cashmere and had not been purchased at Kohl’s.

She’d been at the diner for two weeks and she had a routine; wrap flatware, freshen the condiments, make salad dressing, and then whatever side project she had time for before the morning rush began, all the while reciting the day’s specials in her head so she could memorize them before she had a customer. She hated to see servers looking at their cheat sheets at a table. Of course, these were her current standards. Her week-one standards had been much, much lower, consisting mainly of not crying in front of the customers. Letitia caught her at that once and had sent her to the storeroom. Now Eleanora knew to go right to the storeroom if she felt she was going to be dejected.

She was crying much less these days in general. John Francis was out of the hospital and starting to get his strength back and she no longer worried about him, at least. Money was still a concern, but if she could work enough, they could still afford to get to Montana when John Francis had fully recovered. California, which was where she really wanted to go, would have to wait. The main thing was not breaking down and calling her parents, as she had been tempted to do forty-seven separate times since they’d gotten to Wisconsin three weeks earlier.

 

She had stuck it out in the motel for the rest of the week after John Francis had gone to the hospital, but she realized, even at seventy-five dollars a night, that she couldn’t afford it for long. Eleanora was starting to feel desperate. She followed Mark from room to room those first days, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking his ear off so he had a hard time getting his work done, until he finally suggested she get a job there in Fond du Lac. She hadn’t considered this as a possibility and started to ponder it. What could she do there?

She had often been called “aloof” in the press, but the truth was, Eleanora suffered from a debilitating shyness. She had a fear of talking to strangers that had bordered on maniacal when she was a child and it had only gotten moderately better as an adult, so even the idea of walking in somewhere new to ask for a job sent her into a cold sweat and made her throat tighten. She finally worked up the nerve to go to an employment agency but the first thing they wanted was references, which she declined to provide. She was in hiding, after all; she couldn’t very well call her father’s assistant, Caleb, and tell him to be prepared for a call from Fond du Lac For Hire.

It occurred to her that any legitimate job could be problematic if she truly didn’t want to be found. As soon as her social security number was in use, her father’s people would know about it, or they could find out if they wanted to know. She wasn’t at all sure if he was actually looking, but she didn’t want to chance it. That didn’t leave many options. There was the other consideration too, of being unqualified for most work. The only job she had ever had was working for her father’s corporation doing fundraising for their foundation, and she had gotten mixed feedback about how competent she had actually been at it.

“How about the diner, then?” Mark asked as they Windexed the mirror in one of the motel rooms one day. Eleanora worked as best she could along Mark, to help speed up his rounds, but she had never had to clean before and she took too long to be actually useful. She did her best to follow his examples.

She hadn’t told Mark why she didn’t want to be found out, only that she didn’t want her family to know where she was. He seemed to fill in the blanks in his own way. He rarely asked questions. “My sister works at the diner,” he said. “I’m pretty sure you can work under the table. I think a couple people there do.” Eleanora shuddered at the idea of working at that place. It was bad enough eating there sometimes, but she couldn’t afford to be too choosy. The thought of working somewhere with so many people troubled her too. Though she could talk to strangers now without shaking, she was still nervous about it. She was in a cold sweat even now, scrubbing the sink, just thinking about waiting on customers, having to talk to whoever might walk through the door, whether she wanted to or not. Mark watched her with a befuddled look on his face.

“You can’t just drag the sponge back and forth like that. You gotta use elbow grease.”

“Which bottle is that in?” she asked, turning toward the supply bucket.

“Mark?” Eleanora asked when he ignored her, digging through the bucket. “Why do you clean rooms? Can’t you find other work?”

“What’s wrong with cleaning rooms?” he asked, flushing the toilet and watching the suds spiral downward.

“Nothing. You appear smart and able bodied though. I’d think you might want more for yourself.”

He shrugged in his exaggerated way, his bony shoulders punctuating the air. “Work’s work,” he said.

She hoped she hadn’t insulted him.

“Um, I wonder if you know of any inexpensive apartments as well, short term,” she said after she told him she would apply to work at the diner. She disliked the word “cheap” and intentionally avoided using it, but it was really what she meant in this case. Mark shook his head.

“I dunno, but you could stay with me and my brother, if you wanted, for a little while. I wondered how long you would stay at the motel.”

“It would be John Francis too,” she said, too surprised to say yes or no. She hadn’t expected an invitation.

“That’d be okay. If you get a job you can kick in a few bucks, not much, help us out a little, and you could have your own room. Not your own-own, but one for you both to share.

 

Mark and his brother, Cody, lived in a trailer park just south of town, along the road to the interstate. It was a blue trailer, but the paint had gone pale and rust stains marked the edges of the windows. Mark gave up his bedroom, furnished with green bunk beds and a mismatched set of drawers, and slept on the floor in Cody’s room, except when he fell asleep on the couch in front of the television, which was most nights. Eleanora did her best to hide her shock at her new surroundings. The first few nights she locked the bedroom door and put a chair under the doorknob as she had seen done in the movies, not at all sure about Mark and his brother now that she was living under the same roof with them, but they were both quiet, nice young men, and kept to themselves.

The biggest surprise for Eleanora wasn’t that people lived like this, in homes on wheels with fake wood paneling and natty carpets, but that people like Mark and Cody did. They were some of the most real people she had ever met, whereas everything about their home seemed artificial, like a set for a movie about poor people, from the strange linoleum in the kitchen to the thick, dingy plastic window slats in the bathroom. It was clean enough, but the rooms were small and shabbily furnished and devoid of the homey details Eleanora was used to. Nothing matched. Everything seemed liked its best years were behind it.

 

After work, Letitia drove Eleanora home. Letitia never came in to see her brothers, but Mark would often come out if he was home, to talk to her for a few minutes before she went home to her husband and kids. It was especially cold that afternoon and Mark just waved from the window.

“Did Lettie say what she was doing for Christmas?” Mark asked when Eleanora came in, shaking the snow off her shoes. It was December now. Eleanora frowned. She’d already spent Thanksgiving at the diner, serving open-faced turkey sandwiches and gravy with cranberry gel circles. Her birthday passed much the same way. Now she would miss her parents’ annual holiday gala and probably Christmas as well. There would be dress shopping this weekend. I could be home in eight hours.

“She didn’t say anything to me,” Eleanora said. She shut the door and went to her room, expecting to find John Francis reading or resting, but he wasn’t there. She took a hot shower and changed into a track suit. She’d lost so much weight since she left home that she was having a hard time finding things that fit her anymore among the clothes she had brought. She’d lost ten pounds those first two weeks in New York, which she attributed to the stress of the scandal, but she’d lost almost fifteen more since she came to Wisconsin. It was true, she didn’t eat rich foods like she used to, and the portions and frequency with which she ate had decreased, never mind that she walked three miles to work most mornings, but she was still surprised to find her clothes fitting so loosely. She’d already gone down two uniform sizes at work, but she was at risk now of having to buy new clothes altogether. She went into the kitchen and found Cody with his head in the refrigerator.

“Should we cook?” Cody said. He popped the top off a beer and drank half of it still standing in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open.

“I can’t cook,” Eleanora said, skirting behind him to get a glass of water, careful not to touch him.

“I know. I’ll make chicken,” he said. “You can do one of those salads. You’re good at those, and that dressing with the lemon.”

Cody was about Eleanora’s age, but he had aged differently somehow. Partly, she thought, it was because he always had five o’clock shadow, as though his razor had a special “disheveled” setting, and it made him look older, but there was something else too, something in his eyes, like a perpetual disappointment or exhaustion. He was wearing a dark blue Dickies uniform from the factory where he worked. He was cute in a rugged everyman kind of way, Eleanora thought, but there was something so sad about him at the same time, it was hard to look at him without feeling a little depressed.

“Do you know if Lettie’s doing something for Christmas?” Mark asked Cody from the sofa. He was watching a car show on cable with the volume muted. Cody scowled.

“How would I know?”

“Just thought, maybe,” Mark said, shrugging. Cody sighed.

“Man, she wouldn’t tell me. She’d be afraid I’d show up for it.”

“You and Letitia don’t get along?” Eleanora asked, pulling produce out of the fridge. Cody grunted, which Eleanora took to mean ‘no,’ but she didn’t press. They heard a car on the gravel outside and a moment later John Francis came in with something under his arm.

“Fish!” he said. “I went fishing!” He emptied the bag into the sink and a good sized walleye fish slid out, its head already cut off. Eleanora flinched.

“I can do with fish,” Cody said, putting the packet of chicken back into the fridge.

 

“You shouldn’t have gone out there,” Eleanora scolded John Francis as she was getting ready for bed. “It’s too cold. You’re just getting over pneumonia. We need you to get healthy at some point.” Eleanora brushed her hair and put it in a loose braid. She wanted a haircut. The braid fell all the way down her back. John Francis lay on his back on the top bunk, examining the car ads in the newspaper.

“What about a truck?” he asked. “We could get a decent one for about eighteen hundred.” His chin rested on his chest as he looked at the paper, his choppy blond hair stuck up in unruly peaks. He was pale, but Eleanora couldn’t tell if it was a residual effect from his illness or if it was his usual pallor. He wasn’t as pink as he used to be, she was sure.

“Whatever you’d like. It not as though I’m going to be the one to drive.”

“The fish was good, right? I went with this guy, Larry. He works at the tackle shop. I just went in to see what they had - I like those places, they have the neatest gadgets - and he offered to take me out. It was so cool. You should definitely try it.”

Eleanora laughed. “Ice fishing? Me? I doubt that.” She lay down and looked up at Cassiopeia. “Do you think Cody and Mark have the same father? They look really different than each other.”

“No, Mark’s mom is a native lady,” John Francis replied. “Ho-chunk. Cody’s mom is Norwegian, I think he said. Local Norwegian, I mean, not actually from Norway.”

“What about Letitia?” Eleanora asked, surprised. It hadn’t occurred to her that the brothers would have different mothers. She wondered where they both were. And what “Ho-chunk” meant.

“I think she has the same mom and dad as Cody. What about a Jeep?”

“I told you, I don’t care what you get as long as you can drive it and we can afford it. Are their mothers still around?”

“They never said,” he replied, shutting out the light above the bed. Eleanora snuggled under the covers and watched the glow of the stars affixed to the bottom of the bunk above her. She wondered if it was Mark’s constellation or Cody’s that she was going to sleep by.

“Nora?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you. For not freaking out when I got sick and calling it quits.”

Eleanora smiled. She was exhausted from working so much, from the long walk to work in the mornings and the long shifts, but she hadn’t had to call her parents and she was proud of herself for that.

“John Francis?”

“Yeah?”

“What is Ho-chunk?” she asked.

“Native American,” he said sleepily.

“Oh, Ind-”

“No, Eleanora. Jeez,” he said.

-3-

Eleanora lay awake in bed, listening to John Francis’s rough breathing in the dark above her, her eyes resting on some long-ago placed glow-in-the-dark stickers that were roughly in the shape of Cassiopeia, wondering what the hell she was doing. She no longer kept a chair jammed under the doorknob, but she still slept lightly. She missed her room at home, as spacious as this one was small, as tasteful as this one was tacky. It would take her less than a day to get to Chicago, fly to New York, and get a towncar home. She could be home by dinner time. She fantasized about going shopping with her mother along Fifth Avenue and buying a new wardrobe, now that she had lost some weight, and then running into Peyton and having him beg for her forgiveness, which she would offer, of course, though she would never take him back.

She turned her thoughts to John Francis. She had only met him the week before they left New York. He had been bartending at Dale’s Wine Bar in Manhattan the night she came in looking for refuge after that reporter had come to her house, after the sex tape and her total public embarrassment. John Francis was empathetic and a good listener and she ended up staying most of the night there, listening to his stories more than talking, though she sensed his chattiness was intended to put her at ease, distracting her from her unpleasant realities. She had checked into a hotel around the corner so it was easy enough to go back to Dale’s the next night, and there John Francis was again, only this time it was like they knew each other.

“Hey, I was hoping you’d be back,” he said, setting a glass on the bar in front of her and pouring from a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

“What label is that?” she asked, sitting down and leaning forward. He shrugged.

“It’s got a frog on it,” he said, scrutinizing it. “It’s from California. Does it matter?”

She laughed. Of course it mattered. He was clueless but she found it endearing, especially since her second day as a cuckquean had been as miserable as the first. Her phone would not stop ringing and her name was trending on the internet, along with #RichGirlProblems. She was grateful for two things: a hotel where no one had thought to look for her, and this bartender, who knew who she was, but seemed to like her anyway.

“You don’t need to be so label conscious,” he said, looking at the bottle again. “It’s wet and alcoholic, and acidic, according to the description. Damn, it’s like they bottled my ex-girlfriend. You sure you don’t want a beer?”

“Certainly not,” Eleanora said. She felt a draft from the door and pulled her coat a little closer to her. She was wearing a black tracksuit, not something she would normally go out in at night, but desperate times, she reasoned. Besides, it was Donna Karan. Her coat, a Moncler puffer that she’d had made to order in her size, came down to her knees and covered most of the velvet track suit anyway.

“You talk a little funny,” he said, coming back to her after he’d helped someone else. It was slow and he was at his leisure.

“In what way?” she asked, sipping her wine delicately. It was a soft wine with a buttery finish and was rather good.

“Uptight, you know? Like you’re English, but without the accent.”

“I used to wish I was English,” she said. “I would pretend I was.”

“My sisters and I used to do that too. Mary Kate would be the nanny and Tara and I would be the orphans taken in by a rich relative and she would have to improve us.”

“What an odd thing to pretend, that you’re orphans.”

“What did you play?”

“I was prime minister and I had a huge row with the members of parliament. I would make grave threats involving the Tower of London and certain medieval torture techniques until they blindly obeyed me, allowing me to transfer the crown to my own head, making me queen and prime minister at once.”

“So, kind of the same thing,” he said.

“Not remotely,” Eleanora countered. “Why, if you’re dreaming, would you pretend to be destitute and orphaned? Why not imagine something wonderful?”

“Hardship can be wonderful,” John Francis said. “A challenge that you overcome? That’s more interesting to me than bossing people into making you queen. But, different strokes, I guess.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Sophia Jane Farrier is a mother, a writer, and an avid coffee drinker.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I enjoy romance and love stories for many reasons, but mostly because love is a paradoxical emotion, both simple and complex, and I enjoy exploring love in its many forms. I particularly like the "slow burn," the tension created by unfulfilled desire, and the ultimate resolution of that desire.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I can't imagine not writing. It's something I've always done, even when it's just in my head as I drive somewhere, making up dialogue and carrying on imaginary conversations between imaginary people. I have my life, my story, and it's fun for me to get inside someone else's for awhile.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
I wanted a cover reminiscent of the pop graphic covers of the 1960's and 1970's, and that hinted at the characters and setting of the story, but without being overly descriptive. I prefer for the reader to supply the specific imagery.

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