After dating the hottest man on the planet, Dillon O’Hara, Libby Lomax has come back down to earth with a bump. Now she’s throwing herself into a new relationship and is determined to be a better friend to best pal, Ollie, as he launches his new restaurant.
Despite good intentions, Libby is hugely distracted when a newly reformed Dillon arrives back on the scene, more irresistible than ever. And when another unwelcome guest turns up on her battered sofa in the form of Marilyn Monroe, Libby would willingly bite her own arm off for a return to normality.
But while she hasn’t been watching, someone else has filled the Libby-shaped hole in Ollie’s life and she realises she could be about to lose something that means everything to her. Libby doubts that Marilyn is the right person to offer her advice, but perhaps she should listen up, before it’s too late…
Extract from Chapter One
I mean, I know it’s just about the last thing he wants to do with his weekend: schlep all the way up here to Ayrshire, where Phoebe originally hails from, just to keep me company at my father’s wedding. It’s not as if, what with his restaurant opening at the end of this coming week, he doesn’t have plenty to be getting on with in his own life.
And I suppose I could always have asked Adam to accompany me. Given that he and I really are a couple.
But Adam and I have only been an item for about eight weeks. Yes, things are going terrifically well between us – I mean, seriously well – but it still feels a bit soon to be subjecting him to the cauldron of awkward encounters and complicated emotions that are guaranteed to mark Dad’s wedding for me. Anyway, Olly agreed to come with me today as soon as I mentioned the surprise (OK, shock) arrival of the invitation, three months ago, and there’s not a person in the world I’d rather have as my wingman.
(Not to mention the fact that I’ve been keeping quiet about the fact that Adam and I are, to put it in nice, clear Facebook terminology that never quite translates to real life – not my real life, at any rate – ‘in a relationship’. I haven’t even mentioned it, yet, to Nora, my other best friend and Olly’s sister. As I say, it’s still really early days and . . . well, the last relationship I had ended in such unmitigated disaster – quite literally – that I’m a bit wary of announcing that I’ve headed down that route again, even if it is with a man who’s the polar opposite of my ex, Dillon.)
My gratitude to Olly, though, however much I thought I’d already realized it, was made even more obvious to me when Dad walked back down the aisle with his brand-new wife, Phoebe, roughly fifteen minutes ago.
I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly felt this massive lump in my throat, and not in a wedding-y, happy-tears sort of way. So it was lovely to be able to reach to my right-hand side and fumble for Olly’s hand to grab on to, and even lovelier to realize that I didn’t need to do much fumbling, because he was already reaching for mine.
It’s a good thing that Grandmother, who was on my other side, didn’t notice our brief-but-meaningful hand-squeeze, because I’m pretty sure she’s already getting all kinds of ideas into her head about me and Olly.
And now I’m absolutely sure she’s getting all kinds of ideas, because we’ve all just milled from the orangery, where the ceremony took place, into the sunny-but-chilly grounds of the hotel for an alfresco drinks reception, and she’s just this very minute seized my arm and said, ‘Libby, darling, your Olly is absolutely wonderful.’
‘I know.’ Thank God Olly has just taken his absolutely wonderful self off to find a glass of champagne for us all, so I don’t have to make I’m really sorry faces at him and hope Grandmother doesn’t see. ‘But he’s not my Olly, in fact, Grandmother. He’s just a friend.’
‘Oh.’ Her face, miraculously unlined for her eighty-odd years (and, fingers crossed, another thing I’ll inherit from her apart from her veil) falls slightly. ‘That’s a pity. I remember him from your grandfather’s funeral. And he wrote me the sweetest condolence letter afterwards. So if he’s just a friend, tell me: what’s wrong with him?’
‘Nothing. God, absolutely nothing at all! He’s just . . . we’re not together,’ I explain. Or, to be more accurate, I barely explain. So I go on. ‘Do you remember my friend Nora? We came to stay with you for a week one summer when we were fourteen or fifteen? Well, Olly’s her brother.’
Grandmother thinks about this for a moment. ‘Just because he’s somebody’s brother,’ she replies, tartly, ‘doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make a more-than-acceptable boyfriend.’
Which you can’t argue with, I suppose. And certainly I wouldn’t dare to argue with Grandmother, who – for all her Grace Kelly wedding attire – is actually a little more along the lines of one of her other screen idols, Katharine Hepburn, when it comes to spikiness. In fact, she’s dressed rather like Katharine Hepburn today herself, in splendid cream silk palazzo pants and a black kimono jacket and – I’m touched by this, given that we’re not as close as we could be – the beaded lariat necklace I made and sent her for her eighty-fifth birthday a few months ago. (I’m a jewellery designer, I should say, so this isn’t as home-crafty as it might sound.)
‘Anyhow, he couldn’t be any more unsuitable than . . . what was the name of that chap you’d just stopped seeing the last time I spoke to you?’ Grandmother asks. ‘The one who abandoned you in Mexico in the middle of an earthquake.’
‘It was Miami. And it was a hurricane.’ I can’t, unfortunately, correct her on the ‘abandoned’ part. ‘And his name was Dillon.’
‘Yes. Why should this nice Olly be any worse for you than a man who lets you face natural disasters on your own? You wouldn’t let Libby face a natural disaster on her own,’ she demands, of Olly, who – talk about timing – has just reappeared with three glasses of champagne, two of them impressively balanced in one hand, ‘would you?’
‘Sorry, Mrs Lomax?’
‘You wouldn’t leave Libby in Malaysia with a tidal wave approaching.’
‘Of course he wouldn’t,’ I say, hastily, before Olly twigs that we’re talking about Dillon. Because Olly and Dillon are not, in any way, shape or form, simpatico. ‘Thanks for the champagne, Ol. Can he get you anything else, Grandmother?’
‘No. But he can dance with me.’
She’s pointing an imperious finger in the direction of a very small octagonal dance floor that’s been laid down on what must usually be a patio. Music, from three exceptionally bored-looking members of a jazz trio, is emanating from right beside it.
‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Grandmother . . .’ Because I really don’t want her bearding poor Olly in her den and demanding to know exactly why it is that we aren’t a couple. He didn’t sign up for the third degree when he agreed to be my ‘date’ today, after all. ‘Nobody else has started dancing yet . . . and maybe Dad and Phoebe want to have a dance before anyone else...’
‘Well, I wanted a son who wouldn’t put me to shame by neglecting his duties as a father,’ Grandmother says, sharply, which is the very closest she ever comes to referencing the Great Unmentionable that is Dad’s history with me. ‘But we can’t always get what we want, Libby, can we?’ She hands me her champagne glass and turns to Olly. ‘So, shall we dance?’
Olly looks part-amused, part-terrified, but either way he doesn’t say no. He puts his own champagne glass down on one of the nearby trestle tables that feature the cold buffet nibbles, shoots me an eyebrow-raise, then extends his arm in a gentlemanly fashion for Grandmother to take as they stroll to the dance floor.
The Night In series consists of A Night In with Audrey Hepburn, A Night in with Marilyn Monroe which are both available now and the final book in the series A Night In with Grace Kelly will be published next Summer.