‘There, that’s better—all you needed was a bit of colour.’
A hand absently rubbing the nape of her neck, Eve looked up as her friend applied a finishing flick of blusher to the older woman’s cheeks.
‘You’re p-pregnant, Mum. H-how?’ Two sets of raised eyebrows turned her way and Eve blushed. She was regressing; she no longer stuttered or blushed. ‘Well, I suppose that explains it.’
‘Explains what, Eve?’ Sarah asked.
Eve shook her head and thought why the rich scumbag Charlie Latimer had suddenly decided, not only to make his secret affair with his cook public knowledge, but to marry the woman who had been his mistress. It didn’t involve a sudden attack of respect or love for Sarah; it was all about the possibility of an heir.
Not that Hannah looked as though she minded the possibility of being disinherited—her friend looked delighted.
‘I knew it,’ Hannah said smugly as she dabbed the moisture from around her soon-to-be stepmother’s eyes. ‘Whoever invented waterproof mascara deserves a medal—not that you’d know about that, Eve.’ She flashed her friend, who had been blessed with naturally thick dark lashes that required no embellishment, an envious smile before turning back to Sarah. ‘I said to Kamel last night that I thought you might be but he said that just because I’m—’ She stopped and covered her mouth with her hand. ‘I wasn’t meant to say anything until Kamel has told his uncle because of all this protocol. You won’t breathe a word, will you…?’
‘Oh, Hannah, darling, Kamel must be thrilled!’ Sarah’s waterproof mascara was once again being put to the test as she reached up to hug Hannah.
‘We both are, but Kamel is acting as though I’m made of glass. He won’t let me do a thing, and the man is driving me crazy,’ Hannah confided with a laugh.
The expression in her friend’s eyes when she said her husband’s name made Eve look away feeling uncomfortable, almost as though she had intruded. Eve was prepared to like the prince her friend had married because he was clearly as potty about Hannah as she was about him, but the cynic in her wondered how long the honeymoon period would last.
‘You’re both having babies.’ Eve was still playing mental catch-up.
Looking mistily ecstatic, Sarah clapped her hands. ‘Isn’t that incredible? Our family is growing, girls.’
‘A real family,’ Hannah chimed in.
Eve cleared her throat. It was obviously her turn to respond, but what to say…? She managed a faint and unimaginative, ‘Incredible.’
She’d moved a long way on since she had lain awake at night wishing she had a real family. Eve had pretty quickly realised that not having a father, at least not one willing to acknowledge she existed, was actually a blessing, not a curse. Unlike the majority of her classmates she had been spared the trauma of seeing her parents going through an ugly divorce or separation.
Her mum had not even had boyfriends until she came to work for Hannah’s father. Hannah had caught on much sooner than Eve and she had been more concerned by the secrecy than the relationship itself.
For Eve, it hadn’t just been the secrecy, it had been everything, and the longer the affair had lasted, the deeper her anger had grown as she’d watched helpless to do anything while her mother allowed history to repeat itself as she had become what amounted to the plaything of man who treated her like the hired help in front of his rich and powerful friends.
Charles Latimer might not be married but in every other way he was her own father—a selfish loser who used and humiliated her mum. Of course, back then Sarah had been a young impressionable student on her first holiday job—easy pickings for her unscrupulous rich employer.
What Eve could not understand was how her mother could let it happen again when she was now an independent, intelligent woman. How could she allow herself to be used and humiliated like this…? Where were her pride and self-respect?
Did Mum realise that he was only marrying her because of the baby? Eve wondered. Well, at least he was one step up the evolutionary scale of slime from her own father, whose contribution when he had learnt of her had been to write a signed note that included the words get rid of it.