Sneak Peek - Flowers in Bloom - Chapter One

Flowers in Bloom

Prologue

 “Breathe. Just breathe,” she murmured in the split second before the camera went live. The moment was almost upon her and she didn’t know if she was terrified or excited. She hadn’t seen him in what felt like forever. The producer counted down in her ear, and then it was time.

“Welcome back to the red carpet coverage of the 2018 Academy Awards, live from the Dolby Theatre in downtown LA,” she said. “Over the last few hours we’ve brought you interviews with Hollywood’s elite and the ceremony is now just half an hour away.  We’re waiting for the last big name to arrive - a certain British Oscar nominee who is THE hot favourite for ‘Actor in a Leading Role’.

“The atmosphere is electric. Everyone is genuinely excited, and I can tell you from my own perspective that not only is it a privilege to be here, but also jaw-droppingly surreal!” She flashed a dazzling smile at the camera. “Stay with us and we’ll be continuing our exclusive coverage right after the wonderful Carole Kirkwood brings you the weather.”

“And you’re out,” the producer announced in her ear.

Everywhere she looked, stars were dressed up in their Oscar finery, their jewels matching the brilliance of the afternoon sunshine. The air was thick with gushy superlatives as the great and good of the movie world greeted each other on the way into the theatre, there to celebrate excellence and to applaud the triumph of the individual. It was a glorious technicolour fantasy that was both intoxicating and bizarre.

She heard a roar from the fans, tightly packed into viewing galleries with a great vantage point of stars rolling up in a never-ending fleet of limousines. She knew it had to be him. He was the only big name left to arrive. She gulped back her nerves and attempted to compose herself.

“You’re back in thirty seconds,” the producer said into her ear piece.

Suddenly, her skin prickled and the hairs on her arms stood on end. She could feel his eyes on her, burning through to her soul. She swung around and they came face to face.

“Why are you here?” he gasped. He bent down and brushed his lips against hers. She felt her knees buckle and gripped his arm to steady herself.

They were unaware of the commotion they were causing. Every television camera on the red carpet was now fixed firmly on them. Reporters from networks across the globe were commentating on a much-anticipated reunion and speculating on what it was that had driven them apart in the first place. It was complete pandemonium.

Oblivious of their surroundings, their eyes were locked in an unbreakable gaze. They hadn’t seen each other for months, but she instantly knew his feelings for her had not diminished in the slightest. In that moment, she realised how cold and painful her heart had been without him.

He whispered something in her ear, kissed her cheek and was quickly ushered towards the theatre.

She watched as he walked away, silently willing him to check his mobile phone before disappearing from view. He fished it out of his pocket at the very last second and stopped dead in his tracks as he read the text. He turned and sprinted back towards her.

“Seriously?” he asked breathlessly.

“Seriously!” she smiled.

 

Chapter 1

“You’re live in five, four, three, two, one,” Gerry whispered into Georgiana’s earpiece.

“Good morning from sunny SW19. I’m here at Wimbledon and it’s the big one. Yes, it’s mens’ final day. I, for one, am incredibly excited. I can hardly contain myself.” Georgiana grinned at the camera and millions of men across the United Kingdom swooned in front of their television sets.

“The sun is shining and there’s a tangible air of excitement running through the crowds who have poured in to witness what could potentially be one of the best matches in Wimbledon history. The top two seeded players in the world are set to slug it out on the marvellous Centre Court. It’s going to be totally awesome.”

Gerry Rees, producer of Georgiana’s segment, was grinning from ear to ear. Georgiana was gold dust as far as he and the rest of the BBC sport team were concerned. They loved her warm, engaging style of presenting, and she was single-handedly responsible for the ratings going through the roof.  In what was already a world-renowned event, with millions of people watching all over the globe, she had boosted the viewing figures by almost twenty per cent.

“I’m now joined on my little perch high above Henman Hill, Murray Mount – call it what you will - by the incredible talented, insanely funny, and downright incorrigible John McEnroe.” Georgiana turned to face John and grinned. “So, Johnny boy, what say you?”

For the entire hour of the show Georgiana and John engaged in a tennis match of their own, banter flying back and forth. John’s style of presenting complemented Georgiana’s perfectly. It was compelling viewing.

“And we’re out. Great job you two,” said Gerry. The show had gone without a hitch and his bosses were delighted.

Georgiana removed her microphone and earpiece and high-fived McEnroe. “That was so much fun,” she grinned. “Gotta go. I’m doing a pre-record with Boris in twenty minutes. Thanks, John.”

She grabbed her iPad and flew down the steps in search of former Wimbledon champion and all-round good guy Boris Becker.

Georgiana Bloom had been working for the BBC for almost four months, and she had quickly made her mark with her quirky style and ability to make her interviewees feel at ease.  Even the most obnoxious and ego-driven sports stars were putty in her hands. She was honest, funny, genuine, and most importantly, knowledgeable about sport.  That’s what made her a rising star at the BBC. She was incredibly versatile and could hold her own in any situation.

The younger sister of world number one golfer Sebastian Bloom, Georgiana had not set out to become a star in her own right.  In fact, quite the opposite.  She had seen what fame had done to her brother, who’d been both darling and demon of the international press since he turned professional. She didn’t want to be in the spotlight but it had come around so unexpectedly that she had been swept along by the excitement of it all.

It had started when Georgiana and her sister-in-law, Sebastian’s wife Olivia, had accompanied him to the first golf Major event of that year – the US Masters. She had been accosted by the BBC’s production team, short of a presenter struck down with food poisoning, to ‘get behind the scenes’ for the live Facebook feed they wanted to air during the tournament. She knew all the golfers, their caddies, agents, managers, and wives or girlfriends, and effortlessly delivered the requested content. She was an instant hit and had been inundated with work ever since.

She was young, just twenty-three, energetic and stunningly beautiful, and in contrast to her brother at well over six feet tall, she barely nudged five feet two.  They shared the same olive-toned skin and defiant expression, as well as the rare condition of heterochromia – different coloured eyes – one a rich dark brown, the other a dazzling green, set under long, thick lashes.  Her glossy raven hair tumbled down her back, and she was slim and toned from an athletic, outdoor life.

During her first broadcast, the BBC’s Facebook page had gone into overdrive, receiving more ‘comments’, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ than at any previous sporting event. Georgiana was on her way to becoming a star.

Georgiana sighed with contentment as the village of Appleton Vale appeared in the distance.  This was her beloved home, tucked away in a sleepy corner of West Chesterton about thirty miles south of Bath, and a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of London.  

She was happiest surrounded by her family, her horses and her devoted whippet, Lady. She cherished the peace and quiet of the countryside, which was in complete contrast to the life she led in London with her burgeoning television career.

She wound her way down the hill, through the rolling fields and meadows of Appleton Vale, and turned into the village. She sighed again. She never tired of the simple beauty of the chocolate-box cottages and pristine green. The moss-covered church of St. Saviour’s and its ancient oak tree were at the heart of the village, and the pretty Tearooms, shop and post office, and the Riverside Inn, all backed onto the River Candle that wound its way through the county.

The sight of her friends and neighbours going about their business made her smile, and she waved to Dee Dee and Jane as she passed their Tearooms.

Driving through the electric gates and stone pillars that marked the entrance to the Bloom estate, she made her way down the sweeping, tree-lined driveway with horses grazing in the post and rail paddocks on her left. On the right was manicured parkland studded with ageing trees at their most magnificent in the summer heat.

Her ancestral home, Appleton Manor, was a four-hundred-year-old stone-built mansion. It was vast but not forbidding, impressive but not overwhelming - a tremendous sense of history poured from the building.

She pulled up outside the main entrance to find Hattie overseeing the safe delivery of some unexpected guests. Hattie Banbridge was the family’s long-standing housekeeper. She had practically raised Sebastian and Georgiana when their mother died and their father, William, had left them in search of his spirituality. 

She was an integral part of the family. Almost sixty years old with greying hair, she was short and plump, warm and charmingly sensible, and also fiercely protective of both Sebastian and Georgiana.

“Did you know about this?” she asked Georgiana.

“Oh yeah. Sorry. Forgot to tell you they were coming today.” She grinned cheekily and was instantly forgiven.

The driver nodded his greeting and proceeded to unload a pair of flea-bitten and undernourished donkeys. 

“Oh, goodness.” Hattie was shocked at their appearance.

“Don’t worry. A month or two with me and they’ll be back to their best,” Georgiana smiled and took their lead ropes from the driver. She rummaged around in her bag for a packet of polos and was pounced upon by her greedy new charges.

“I’ll be off then,” said the driver as he hopped back into the horsebox. 

“Thanks,” Georgiana shouted as he drove away.

“So, do they have names?” asked Hattie as she gave one a scratch on his neck.

“This one is Bray Davis Junior,” Georgiana grinned and nodded to the brown donkey. “And this is Kong. As in Donkey Kong,” she explained when Hattie looked confused.

“Oh. Right, then.” Hattie took a lead rope from Georgiana.  “Best get them to the yard. I don’t know why he had to deliver them to the front door.”

“Well, these little darlings are here now so let’s get them into a lush paddock and introduce them to everyone else.” Georgiana was quite taken with Bray and Kong.

“By everyone else I assume you mean the ones with four legs?” Hattie smiled. “It’s always the animals first with you.”

After they had settled the new residents in their field and introduced them to the horses either side of the fencing, Georgiana and Hattie linked arms and made their way back across the estate to the house.

“What time’s the happy couple back?” Georgiana asked. Sebastian and Olivia were hopelessly in love and expecting their first child together.

“Sebastian said around six o’clock,” Hattie replied, looking at her watch. “I hope Liv is ok. What possessed her to get on a plane when she’s eight months pregnant is beyond me.”

“It’s called a babymoon,” Georgiana grinned. “Their last hurrah before their lives change forever.”

“Well I still say they shouldn’t have flown.”

“It was only the South of France and they had the jet on standby the whole time. A perk of being loaded,” she laughed, and pushed open the door leading to the Manor’s kitchen. She was greeted by her Whippet Lady who wound herself around and through Georgiana’s legs, delighted that her mistress had returned.

A second later she was ambushed by Ace and Hector – her brother’s Great Dane and Olivia’s Golden Retriever – who came skidding into the kitchen and almost sent her flying.

“Bloody hell you lot,” she cried, steadying herself on the table.

“They’ve been running around like lunatics all day,” Hattie rolled her eyes.

“That’s because they know we’ll have a full house tonight. All of us under one roof.” She bent down and threw her arms around all three dogs and was rewarded with slobbery kisses. “Right, I’m off home to sort a few things out and I’ll be back before six to help you with supper.”

Georgiana had moved into a cottage on the far side of the estate when Olivia and Sebastian had married. It was her own little piece of heaven and she loved living there.

“Ok darling, see you later,” Hattie called as Georgiana swept out of the door with Lady hot on her heels.

Minutes later she was inside her two-up two-down Victorian cottage, renovated by Sebastian the previous year. It had stood empty for over a decade and had needed a complete overhaul. She and Olivia had gone to town on the interior design and furnishings, and both had felt a little guilty about how much of Sebastian’s money they had spent.

It had been worth every penny. Georgiana had selected a sleek grey kitchen fitted with all mod cons, and there was under-floor heating installed throughout. Sebastian had added a huge oak framed extension to the back of the cottage, which was where the kitchen was now housed. Tri-fold doors and floor-to-ceiling windows flooded the room with light that warmed the honeyed oak frame and beams.

She kicked off her boots and settled down on the vast leather sofa as Lady snuggled her head into the crook of Georgiana’s arm, sighing contentedly.

“Shall we have a little snooze, darling?” she asked Lady who was already half asleep. “I’m shattered. Three weeks away from you is three weeks too many.” She kissed her and was asleep in seconds.

Flowers in Bloom will be on sale in the coming months. Follow me on social media for regular updates and more sneak peeks!