The Gatecrasher

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9780312381073: The Gatecrasher

The Secret Is Out!
Madeleine Wickham is Sophie Kinsella, and The Gatecrasher is just as delicious as her internationally bestselling Shopaholic series.

Everything's coming up roses for Fleur Daxeny, as she goes through more rich men than she does designer hats. Beautiful and utterly irresistible, her success at crashing funerals to find wealthy men is remarkable. Fleur wastes no time in seducing her latest conquest, the handsome and rich widower Richard Favour. His children are caught up in a whirlwind as their father's new girlfriend descends on the family estate. Fleur is not one to wear her heart on her Chanel sleeves, but she soon finds herself embracing Richard and his family. But just as Fleur contemplates jumping off the gold-digger train for good, a long-buried secret from her past threatens to destroy her new family.

Take a wild and marvelous ride with The Gatecrasher, whose clever, chic, and sassy style will leave you desperately wanting more wonderful Wickham!

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About the Author:

Madeleine Wickham is the author of several acclaimed novels, including A Desirable Residence, Cocktails for Three, Sleeping Arrangements and The Wedding Girl. As Sophie Kinsella, she has written a number of bestsellers including the Shopaholic series, Twenties Girl, Remember Me?, The Undomestic Goddess, and Can You Keep a Secret? Confessions of a Shopaholic was made into a major motion picture starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy. Born in London, Wickham studied at New College, Oxford. She lives in London with her husband and family.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter OneFleur Daxeny wrinkled her nose. She bit her lip, and put her head on one side, and gazed at her reflection silently for a few seconds. Then she gave a gurgle of laughter.’I still can’t decide,‘ she exclaimed. ‘They’re all fabulous.’The saleswoman from Take Hat! exchanged weary glances with the nervous young hairdresser sitting on a gilt stool in the corner. The hairdresser had arrived at Fleur’s hotel suite half an hour ago and had been waiting to start ever since. The saleswoman was meanwhile beginning to wonder whether she was wasting her time completely.’I love this one with the veil,‘ said Fleur suddenly, reaching for a tiny creation of black satin and wispy netting. ‘Isn’t it elegant?’’Very elegant,‘ said the saleswoman. She hurried forward just in time to catch a black silk topper which Fleur was discarding onto the floor.’Very,‘ echoed the hairdresser in the corner. Surreptitiously he glanced at his watch. He was supposed to be back down in the salon in forty minutes. Trevor wouldn’t be pleased. Perhaps he should phone down to explain the situation. Perhaps... ‘All right!’ said Fleur. ‘I’ve decided.’ She pushed up the veil and beamed around the room. ‘I’m going to wear this one today.’’A very wise choice, madam,‘ said the saleswoman in relieved tones. ‘It’s a lovely hat.’’Lovely,‘ whispered the hairdresser.’So if you could just pack the other five into boxes for me...’ Fleur smiled mysteriously at her reflection and pulled the dark silk gauze down over her face again. The woman from Take Hat! gaped at her.’You’re going to buy them all?’’Of course I am. I simply can’t choose between them. They’re all too perfect.’ Fleur turned to the hairdresser. ‘Now, my sweet. Can you come up with something special for my hair which will go under this hat?’ The young man stared back at her and felt a dark pink colour begin to rise up his neck.’Oh. Yes. I should think so. I mean...’ But Fleur had already turned away.’If you could just put it all onto my hotel bill,‘ she was saying to the saleswoman. ‘That’s all right, isn’t it?’’Perfectly all right, madam,‘ said the saleswoman eagerly. ‘As a guest of the hotel, you’re entitled to a fifteen per cent concession on all our prices.’’Whatever,‘ said Fleur. She gave a little yawn. ‘As long as it can all go on the bill.’’I’ll go and sort it out for you straight away.’’Good,‘ said Fleur. As the saleswoman hurried out of the room, she turned and gave the young hairdresser a ravishing smile. ‘I’m all yours.’Her voice was low and melodious and curiously accentless. To the hairdresser’s ears it was now also faintly mocking, and he flushed slightly as he came over to where Fleur was sitting. He stood behind her, gathered together the ends of her hair in one hand and let them fall down in a heavy, red-gold movement.’Your hair’s in very good condition,‘ he said awkwardly.’Isn’t it lovely?’ said Fleur complacently. ‘I’ve always had good hair. And good skin, of course.’ She tilted her head, pushed her hotel robe aside slightly, and rubbed her cheek tenderly against the pale, creamy skin of her shoulder. ‘How old would you say I was?’ she added abruptly.’I don’t... I wouldn’t...’ the young man began to flounder.’I’m forty,‘ she said lazily. She closed her eyes. ‘Forty,‘ she repeated, as though meditating. ‘It makes you think, doesn’t it?’’You don’t look...’ began the hairdresser in awkward politeness. Fleur opened one glinting, pussycat-green eye.’I don’t look forty? How old do I look, then?’The hairdresser stared back at her uncomfortably. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. The truth was, he thought suddenly, that this incredible woman didn’t look any age. She seemed ageless, classless, indefinable. As he met her eyes he felt a thrill run through him; a dart-like conviction that this moment was somehow significant. His hands trembling slightly, he reached for her hair and let it run like slippery flames through his fingers.’You look as old as you look,‘ he whispered huskily. ‘Numbers don’t come into it.’’Sweet,‘ said Fleur dismissively. ‘Now, my pet, before you start on my hair, how about ordering me a nice glass of champagne?’The hairdresser’s fingers drooped in slight disappointment, and he went obediently over to the telephone. As he dialled, the door opened and the woman from Take Hat! came back in, carrying a pile of hat boxes. ‘Here we are,‘ she exclaimed breathlessly. ‘If you could just sign here...’’A glass of champagne, please,‘ the hairdresser was saying. ‘Room 301.’’I was wondering,‘ began the saleswoman cautiously to Fleur. ‘You’re quite sure that you want all six hats in black? We do have some other super colours this season.’ She tapped her teeth thoughtfully. ‘There’s a lovely emerald green which would look stunning with your hair...’’Black,‘ said Fleur decisively. ‘I’m only interested in black.’An hour later, Fleur looked at herself in the mirror, smiled and nodded. She was dressed in a simple black suit which had been cut to fit her figure precisely. Her legs shimmered in sheer black stockings; her feet were unobtrusive in discreet black shoes. Her hair had been smoothed into an exemplary chignon, on which the little black hat sat to perfection.The only hint of brightness about her figure was a glimpse of salmon-pink silk underneath her jacket. It was Fleur’s rule always to wear some colour no matter how sombre the outfit or the occasion. In a crowd of dispirited black suits, a tiny splash of salmon-pink would draw the eye unconsciously towards her. People would notice her but wouldn’t be quite sure why. Which was just as she liked it.Still watching her reflection, Fleur pulled the gauzy veil down over her face. The smug expression disappeared from her face, to be replaced by one of grave, inscrutable sadness. For a few moments she stared silently at herself. She picked up her black leather Osprey bag and held it soberly by her side. She nodded slowly a few times, noticing how the veil cast hazy mysterious shadows over her pale face.Then, suddenly, the telephone rang, and she sprang back into life.’Hello?’’Fleur, where have you been? I have tried to call you.’ The heavy Greek voice was unmistakable. A frown of irritation creased Fleur’s face.’Sakis! Sweetheart, I’m in a bit of a hurry...’’Where are you going?’’Nowhere. Just shopping.’’Why do you need to shop? I bought you clothes in Paris.’’I know you did, darling. But I wanted to surprise you with something new for this evening.’ Her voice rippled with convincing affection down the phone. ‘Something elegant, sexy...’ As she spoke, she had a sudden inspiration. ‘And you know, Sakis,‘ she added carefully, ‘I was wondering whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to pay in cash, so that I get a good price. I can draw money out from the hotel, can’t I? On your account?’’A certain amount. Up to ten thousand pounds, I think.’’I won’t need nearly that much!’ Her voice bubbled over with amusement. ‘I only want one outfit! Five hundred maximum.’’And when you have bought it you will return straight to the hotel.’’Of course, sweetheart.’’There is no of course. This time, Fleur, you must not be late. Do you understand? You-must-not-be-late.’ The words were barked out like a military order and Fleur flinched silently in annoyance. ‘It is quite clear. Leonidas will pick you up at three o’clock. The helicopter will leave at four o’clock. Our guests will arrive at seven o’clock. You must be ready to greet them. I do not want you to be late like last time. It was... it was unseemly. Are you listening? Fleur?’’Of course I’m listening!’ said Fleur. ‘But there’s someone knocking at the door. I’ll just go and see who it is...’ She waited a couple of seconds, then firmly replaced the receiver. A moment later, she picked it up again.’Hello? Could you send someone up for my luggage, please?’Downstairs, the hotel lobby was calm and tranquil. The woman from Take Hat! saw Fleur walking past the boutique, and gave a little wave, but Fleur ignored her.’I’d like to check out,‘ she said, as soon as she got to the reception desk. ‘And to make a withdrawal of money. The account is in the name of Sakis Papandreous.’’Ah, yes.’ The smooth, blond-haired receptionist tapped briefly at her computer, then looked up and smiled at her. ‘How much money would you like?’ Fleur beamed back at her.’Ten thousand pounds. And could you order me two taxis?’ The woman looked up in surprise.’Two?’’One for me, one for my luggage. My luggage is going to Chelsea.’ Fleur lowered her eyes beneath her gauzy veil. ‘I’m going to a memorial service.’’Oh dear, I am sorry,‘ said the woman, handing Fleur several pages of hotel bill. ‘Someone close to you?’’Not yet,‘ said Fleur, signing the bill without bothering to check it. She watched as the cashier counted thick wads of money into two crested envelopes, then tenderly took them both, placed them in her Osprey bag and snapped it shut. ‘But you never know.’Richard Favour sat in the front pew of St Anselm’s ...

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