Authors: Sara Craven
BY SARA CRAVEN
From back cover:
Philippa Roscoe needed a large sum of money and she needed it fast-her father's life depended on it. Wealthy French businessman
Alain de Courcy needed a wife-purely for business reasons. Alain was only too happy to provide Philippa with the funds she required. In exchange he demanded marriage and not just in name only. There was little Philippa could do; she had to agree to his terms. She hadn't agreed to fal under Alain's charismatic spel . But could Philippa keep herself from fal ing in love or had this marriage of convenience become a desperate act?
'BUT this treatment is totally revolutionary! The specialist says it
could make all the difference to Daddy—that it might even cure him
permanently. But it's expensive, and it's in America, and we just don't have that kind of money.'
Philippa Roscoe leaned forward, her hazel eyes fixed pleadingly
on her former stepmother's unresponsive face. 'Monica, you're the
only one I can turn to. Help us—please!'
'It's quite impossible.' Lady Underhay shook her head with
finality. 'I haven't access to unlimited funds, Philippa, and I certainly can't ask Lennox for money to go to my ex-husband.' She flushed,
looking self-conscious. 'He's always been—a little jealous of Gavin.'
'They were business partners once.'
'But that was some time ago. And anyway, Lennox feels the
board was more than generous when Gavin left—deserted them in
that absurd way to go off and paint.' Monica's lips became set.
'Deserted me, as well.'
You were the one who left! Philippa wanted to cry out. You were
the one who wouldn't risk your lifestyle to let Daddy fulfil his dream.
And now here you are, once more, living in the lap of luxury.
But she said none of it. Across the years, she could remember
her father's face, haggard with the strain, his voice telling her huskily,
'You mustn't blame
Monica, sweetheart, and you mustn't be bitter either. I'm trying
not to be. She loved us, in her way, but she can't do without money
and comfort. She needs it as other people need air to breathe. And,
inevitably, she'll go where money is. Lennox will treat her well. They have a mutual regard for material possessions and security.'
Looking round the elegant drawing-room, Philippa could well
believe it. The sale of any of the pictures and antiques it contained would have paid for Gavin Roscoe's treatment.
'Anyway, I understood that your father had been quite
successful at this precious painting of his. Can't he produce a few
more pictures—pot-boilers or something, to finance his own
treatment?' Monica looked restively at her watch.
Philippa shook her head, thankful that Gavin couldn't hear her.
'The disease—or rather the virus that caused it—attacked the muscles
on his right side first. He has—difficulty using his hand, so he can't paint any more.'
Monica bit deeply into the coral curve of her lower lip. 'I—see.
Well, that is tragic, but of course, if he'd remained with the firm,
there'd have been private health insurance to cover this kind of
eventuality.' She shook her head. 'I'm sorry, my dear, I really am, but there's nothing I can do.'
Philippa's hands twisted together in her lap, the knuckles white.
'Monica, I've got to get that money somehow. I've got to make sure
Daddy has this chance before it's too late. The specialist says if there's any more muscle wastage...' She paused, her voice breaking. 'I'll do
anything—agree to any terms you offer. I'll pay the loan back, if it
takes the rest of my
life, but I've got to have it. If you ever cared for Daddy at all,
please help me to think of some way.'
Monica flushed again. 'Naturally I cared. But what you ask is out
of the question.' She paused. 'Have you approached some financial
'I tried, but I had nothing to use as collateral for a loan. I can't
even guarantee there'll be a lasting cure, or that Daddy will ever be able to paint again.'
'What a pity Gavin didn't make some provision for the future
before throwing up his business career in that crazy way.' Monica's
tone was short.
'He couldn't know he was going to be ill,' Philippa protested. 'He
was so well up to that winter—happier than he'd ever been...' She
stopped guiltily, aware that her words were singularly infelicitous, and saw by the tightening of Lady Underhay's facial muscles that she
thought so too.
'I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave,' she said,
getting to her feet. 'Lennox will be home at any minute, and I'd as
soon he didn't find you here. We're entertaining this evening—the
head of De Courcy International, as it happens—and there are things I must do.' She paused. 'I'm sincerely sorry I can't help, Philippa, but there's really nothing I can suggest.' She hesitated again. 'Surely there must be similar treatment available in this country on the National
Health Service, for instance?'
'No, as I've told you this is completely new. In fact, it's still at the experimental stage,' Philippa said tonelessly, rising in her turn. 'I'm sorry to have troubled you. You were my last hope.'
As she turned to the door, it opened and Lennox Underhay came
in. He checked at the sight of her.
'Philippa, isn't it? How are you?' His smile was polite but
unenthusiastic, and the look he threw his wife was questioning.
'She has to rush away, darling,' Monica intercepted hastily. She
put her arm through Philippa's. 'I'll see you out, my dear.'
Her lips were compressed when they reached the hall. 'No doubt
he'll want to know what you were doing here,' she said snappishly. 'I don't want to seem uncaring, Philippa, and I feel for you in your
distress, but you do make things very awkward sometimes.'
'I wouldn't have come here if I hadn't been absolutely
desperate,' Philippa said quietly. She handed Lady Underhay a scrap
of paper. 'This is the telephone number of my hotel. If you do happen to think of something—some way in which I could raise the money,
you can reach me there over the next couple of days.'
Monica accepted it with a reluctant sigh. 'Very well, but I'm
Life was so unfair, Philippa thought bitterly as she rode home on
the Tube. Monica had simply exchanged one luxuriously cushioned
setting for another. If leaving Gavin after five years of marriage had caused her any real grief, she'd kept it well concealed. But it had
probably been outweighed by her sense of injury at his decision. When Monica was getting her own way, no one could be sweeter. But when
she was crossed...
Philippa grimaced inwardly. Gavin, a widower for some years,
had indulged and cosseted his second wife, and she'd revelled in it.
When Gavin had first announced his intention of giving up his City
directorships, his home in London and country house
in West Sussex in order to be an artist, Monica had treated it as
a bad joke, then as a temporary aberration. When she'd realised he
was not only serious, but absolutely determined, she had become
angry, and Philippa still shuddered when she recalled the scenes and
tantrums, all of which Gavin had borne patiently.
Anyway, Monica had fallen on her feet, firstly with an over-
generous divorce settlement, which she seemed conveniently to have
forgotten, and later with Lennox Underhay, who had always admired
her chic blonde prettiness.
But, at first, everything had worked out for Gavin too. Instead of
starving in some foreign gutter as Monica had confidently predicted,
he had found a ready and high-paying market for his landscapes, and
he and Philippa had enjoyed several heady years of travelling round
the Dordogne and Provence together as he worked. Gavin Roscoe, as
one critic had said, had a unique ability to express in paint the
intensity of heat and shade the southern regions of France could
It had seemed as though it would never end, Philippa thought,
biting her lower lip until she could taste blood. Perhaps it was as well that neither of them had realised how little time there really was.
I'm not going to think like that, she castigated herself. I'm going
to get the money, somehow, and Daddy's going to America for this
But how could she get rich quick? she wondered, leaning her
aching forehead against the train window. There were so few avenues
I've tried all the conventional ways, she thought. Maybe I should
consider more desperate measures.
High-class call-girls earn a lot, it's said, and it's tax-free. She
turned her head a little, studying her reflection in the glass. Only a supreme optimist would think the punters were clamouring for skinny
nineteen-year-olds with small breasts, straight hair and very little
Let's face it, she thought. No experience at all.
She was thankful her father had no idea what she was
contemplating, even in joke. He thought she was trying to sell the last painting he'd produced before the muscle wastage became too
But even that had been hopeless. The man at the Orbis Gallery
had been very kind, very understanding, but the painting had been
almost unrecognisable as Gavin Roscoe's work. It had been unrealistic to think they might take it.
I'm going to need a miracle, Philippa thought.
She was stretched on the bed in her tiny single room a few hours
later, trying to interest herself in a detective story she'd bought at the station, when the phone rang.
It was probably reception checking when she was leaving, she
thought as she lifted the receiver.
Instead, her stepmother's voice said curtly, 'Can you come over
to the house right away? There's something I want to discuss with
'Something about the money.' Philippa's heart skipped a beat.
'You mean you've thought of a way?'
'But that's wonderful! What is it?'
'It's not something I care to talk about on the telephone,' Monica
returned frostily. 'As for it being wonderful—well, that remains to be seen.' She paused.
'It would help if you came looking reasonably presentable.' She
replaced the receiver.
Presentable, Philippa thought with bewilderment, reviewing in
her mind the details of the scanty wardrobe she'd brought with her.
There was little there that would fall within Monica's stringent
She compromised with clean jeans, and a cream full-sleeved
shirt, brushing her brown hair until it shone, then fastening it behind her ears with two tortoiseshell combs.
She took a cab to Lowden Square. She found Monica alone,
standing by the marble fireplace in the drawing-room, brandy glass in hand. She turned as Philippa was shown in, and her lips thinned. 'My
God, I said presentable, and you turn up looking like some art
'Which is exactly what I am,' Philippa returned, lifting her chin.
'Anyway, do my clothes really matter so much? I'm not going to be
offered a modelling contract, surely?'
'There's no guarantee you're going to be offered anything at all,'
Monica said with a snap. 'When he sees you, he may well have second
thoughts, and who can blame him?'
'He?' Philippa frowned. 'Just who is he?'
'He is Alain de Courcy,' Monica said shortly. 'As I think I
mentioned, he's the head of De Courcy International, and he has a
proposition to put to you. If you're as desperate for money as you
claim to be, you'll listen to him, although I find the whole thing totally incredible—unthinkable.' She drank some of her brandy. 'He's waiting
for you in the library, so I suggest you don't keep him waiting any
Philippa walked the few yards to the library, her mind whirling.
She had rarely seen her stepmother so on edge—not since the time
she'd first learned Gavin's plans for the future. Obviously the
important dinner party hadn't gone precisely to plan.
She'd heard of de Courcy International, of course. Who hadn't?
But what on earth could anyone connected with such a vast and
influential organisation want with someone as insignificant as herself?
As Monica had indicated, it made no sense.
She paused outside the library door, wondering whether she
should knock, then, deciding against it, turned the handle and walked into the room.