This is how it began. My sister Anna, a brilliant and witty writer, suggested that we should try to write a romance novel according to the guidelines published by Mills & Boon. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. She created a finely judged opening paragraph and sent it to me. And, intoxicated by the stylistic possibilities that are simply not offered by my usual literary output of press releases on Bedfordshire’s latest social housing project, I have taken up the gauntlet. The idea is that we will take it in turns to develop the story, in full view of you, dear reader.

We are taking this project seriously, but I am already acutely aware that writing about simmering desire with one’s own sister might be possible only with tongue tentatively in cheek. We have agreed not to discuss our plot ideas, so the novel will unfold as unpredictably to us as to our readers. This could lead to trouble later on, but for now it seems a very liberating way to start.

Who knows where this project will take us? To the dizzying heights of publication by the world’s leading romance brand? Probably not. But wherever we end up, it should be fun getting there…

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Part 42 – In Which Topaz Regains Her Sparkle

I am entering decidedly female territory here. Not that romance fiction isn’t feminine terrain in itself, but at least the romantic urge is a universal phenomenon. Beauty treatments and designer clothes, on the other hand, are not; it should be Anna writing this bit.

But I think perhaps Desire Be My Destiny has too much grit and not enough glam, what with building sites, fly-blown hovels and broken limbs, and I don’t want to lose my girlier readers. Luckily, I am sufficiently metrosexual to know the difference between a jacuzzi and one of those tanks where fish eat your feet, so am risking an excursion into pink fluffydom for the benefit of those who like that sort of thing.

Part 42 (by Oliver)

The voice that answered, hissing slightly through the iphone, was so familiar, yet so strange; a voice from another life, Topaz thought, from when she was still a girl, not the woman that she had budded into, so swiftly, so thrillingly, over the past… could it really be just over a week?

‘Eden, it’s Topaz Eversleigh-Brinkworth.’

‘Topaz! So long time no see! Are you back in Marbella?’

‘Almost – Malaga at the mo. Can you fit me in tomorrow?’

‘Of course. What’s it to be – your usual Buff and Fluff Express?’

‘I’m, like, so in need of more than that!’ Topaz smiled ruefully to herself. Eden would not recognise her if she could see her now: nails ragged, hair unkempt, legs scratched and toes scuffed. ‘Can you give me the full works?’

‘You mean the Princess Pamper Package? Sure. Sounds like you’re out to impress someone!’

And, smiling again at the irony, Topaz clicked the iphone off.

Shortly after dawn, Topaz checked herself out of the hospital, invigoured by her new plans, her new start. Nervous now of cabs and their drivers, she hired a VW Golf on her father’s account with Malaga Executive Motor Solutions and drove the hour to Marbella in a zest of new-found freedom.

As the hot wind caressed her forehead, her lobes, her nape through the open window, part of her could not help swelling with the memory of other hot nudges in her secret places, other summer zephyrs that had played on her slim, taut body, albeit under skies of amethyst, not the lapis of today.

She pulled up outside the Garden of Eden heedless of parking restrictions and lurking wardens: there were some aspects of her old life that she was pleased to embrace once more. And there was Eden to greet her, to shepherd her swiftly into Marbella’s most ultra-chic spa and salon, away from the paparazzi who patrolled the streets outside with monotonous unpredictability. The marble floor felt cool under Topaz’s thin Manolo soles and the air conditioning sent chill fingers under the thin stuff of her Prada sheath, frayed now and rubbed rough on the hard-baked Spanish soil.

Facial first, then all-over deep muscle aromatherapy massage, hot pebble back re-alignment ritual and organic exfoliating body detox. Finally, Topaz’s favourite: Eden’s Blingertip manicure and pedicure special. Then, lightly fingering her platinum AmEx card, Topaz flipped the iphone to life once more and made a rapid few calls to her favourite Marbella boutiques. Eden, she knew, would let her view a selection from the Paris Spring collections in the private suite when the stores had sent her personal shoppers over with them.

Topaz leaned back in the cream leather recliner and pressed the frosted glass of chilled Pinot Grigio refreshingly to her breast. Before her, racks of Prada and Dior shimmered voluptuously; Juicy Couture and Dolce & Gabbana blinged lusciously against Eden’s calming taupe décor; Armani and Versace jostled for primacy in her fine-tuned vision. Deftly, Topaz drew together her new wardrobe: new not for the sake of novelty, as she had always shopped in the past; new for the new her, the new life that was, even now, opening like a bougainvillea blossom in the misty haze of a bright new dawn.

And she knew she had come home, to herself and to her vocation. Picking out the must-have designs, assembling ensembles that spiced decorum with daring was what she did best. Just a small step sideways to assembling rooms, interiors, homes in the same way. And where better to start than in Paradise Heights? Why should she not build the villa herself as a showcase for her own taste and flair, a calling-card for a new career creating the ultimate in opulent homes for the international jet set?

Topaz let her mind wander through the white rooms of Brinkworth Place, and she realised that her loving thoughts were not for the parents who lived there but for the exquisite furnishings that, for her, made the house a home: the life-size porcelain cheetahs that flanked the chrome fireplace in the den; the smoked-glass dining table supported by three gilded dolphins; the bronze Venus de Milo studded all over with 100,000 Swarovski crystals. With such a heritage, Topaz’s calling suddenly seemed pre-ordained. And for the first time in days, certainty surged through her.

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