“The luxury of living a lie.”
Title: The Double
Author: Alison Brodie
Genre: Women’s fiction, mystery, romance, chick-lit
Date released: January 19th, 2016
Length: 294 pages
Blurb: A night she can’t remember. A week she won’t forget.
Beth is mistaken for rock star Sonita La Cruz, and ends up on a billionaire-dollar yacht. As a shift-worker in Glasgow, Beth has only known hardship. Now she’s in a world of uniformed stewards, delicious French food and rows of gorgeous designer clothes. Beth keeps quiet about the mix-up, determined to wear every outfit in her wardrobe before she’s sent home. What’s wrong with a little play-acting? Beth takes to the role of rock diva like a duck takes to water.
Aleksandr, the captain, arrives and is astonished to see a beautiful raven-haired girl lying on deck issuing orders through a loud-hailer. After talking to Beth, Aleksandr realises what has happened. His smuggling buddies, knowing Aleksandr needs to speak to Sonita about a kid’s crisis, grabbed Beth by mistake. Aleksandr is desperate. To save those children, he needs money, but Sonita has disappeared.
Beth rises to the challenge. She looks like Sonita, so why not BE Sonita? Beth does a magazine interview for one million dollars, and ransoms herself for another million. Beth saves the kids … but can she save herself? Too late, Beth discovers why Sonita disappeared.
A love story set against the backdrop of a luxury yacht on the Côte d’Azur, a civil war in the Eastern Bloc, and a Glasgow housing estate.
Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side of the family. Alison was a photographic model, modelling for a wide range of products, including Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.
A disastrous modelling assignment in the Scottish Highlands gave Alison an idea for a story, which was to become Face to Face. She wrote Face to Face as a hobby and then decided to send it off to see what would happen. It was snapped up by Dinah Wiener, the first agent Alison sent it to. Three weeks later, Alison signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Subsequently, Face to Face was published in Germany and Holland. It was widely reviewed, ie: “Vain, but wildly funny leading lady.” -Scottish Daily Mail. It was also chosen as Good Housekeeping’s “Pick of the Paperbacks.”
Unfortunately, Alison then suffered from Second-Book Syndrome. The publisher’s deadline loomed and she was terrified because she didn’t have an idea for a story! She found the whole experience a nightmare; and this is why she cautions first-time authors to write more than one book before approaching an agent. She managed to finish the book – Sweet Talk – but it bombed.
While writing Sweet Talk, she moved to Kansas and lived there for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, their free-and-easy way of life, the history and the BBQs! Sadly, her visa ran out and she had to come back to the UK – although her dream is to one day live permanently in America. Now, Alison lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.
Alison has taken the exhilarating steps to becoming an indie author. Her second ebook, THE DOUBLE, is out on Amazon Kindle with some great reviews. “Excellent.” –San Francisco Book Review.
Alison writes contemporary romance. She aims for a strong plot line, set against the background of a world-changing event, coupled with touches of humour, sexual tension and character transformation.
She loves to hear from her readers.
Link to website: http://www.alisonbrodiebooks.com/#!the-double/c1253
It was early evening when Aleksandr leapt from his boat and onto the boarding platform of the Kazka. All around the sea boiled as the great engines roared. Why was the Kazka moving? he wondered. Had Gerrard found another captain to replace him?
He saw Gerrard at the top of the stairs and bounded up. ‘Are you sailing?’ he shouted to the butler.
Gerrard’s answer was lost in the roar. As the noise of the engines subsided, Aleksandr spoke again. ‘I’m sorry I’m late, I tried contacting you but my radio is dead.’
‘I have something to tell you Aleksandr.’
Hearing the grave note in his friend’s voice, Aleksandr stilled. Something was wrong.
‘We have a passenger aboard,’ Gerrard began. ‘A woman.’
Aleksandr nodded. So far, it didn’t sound too bad.
‘Her name is Sonita La Cruz.’
‘Sonita La Cruz?’ Aleksandr repeated cautiously.
‘That is correct.’
‘The American singer?’
Aleksandr gripped Gerrard’s arms. ‘My friend, you cannot believe how lucky this is! I have been desperate to speak to her and all this time she was here, as Karimov’s guest.’
‘She is not a guest of Karimov. As we speak, he is in Marseilles, detained by the French authorities and knows nothing of her presence on board. It was your friend, Boris Lazutin, who brought her here. He found her in Port Glasgow and-’
‘Stop!’ Aleksandr’s shoulders sagged with bitter disappointment. ‘She is an imposter. An American rock star would have no reason to be in Port Glas-’
‘It is her,’ Gerrard insisted. ‘Boris looked in her passport.’
Aleksandr scoffed: ‘Sonita La Cruz permitted Boris Lazutin to look in her passport?’
‘She did not give permission, because …’ Gerrard took a visible breath. ‘There was chloroform in the shipment they picked up …’
Aleksandr felt the first stirrings of unease. ‘And?’
‘They abducted her.’
‘No.’ Aleksandr shook his head emphatically. ‘Boris would never do such a thing.’
‘It was Igor.’
‘Igor!’ Aleksandr balled his fists. This, he could understand. His old cell-mate had the morals of a barbarian, and what had he, Aleksandr, said to him back in Odessa? ‘How I wish I could speak to Sonita, if only for five minutes.’
The Chechen, ever loyal, had given Aleksandr his wish. But at what cost?
‘She must have been terrified!’
Gerrard reared back in affront. ‘Pas de tout! Boris and Dimitri showed her a message, in English, reminding her of the children and immediately she understood what was happening. She even sang for them and signed autographs.’ Gerrard swept out a hand. ‘And her time with us has been most pleasant, I can assure you. She has been quite content to wait for your arrival … until last night.’ Gerrard sighed. ‘If only you had arrived earlier, this debaçle would never have occurred.’
‘What happened last night?’
‘She wanted to go ashore to make a phone call. When I told her she could not leave the ship, she became wild with fury.’ Gerrard held out his palms. ‘But I could not allow her to make that call. Her intentions may be good, they may be bad, but I cannot risk police investigation, especially at this time.’
‘Yes, yes, of course.’
Gerrard continued: ‘She believes her abduction was part of a game.’
‘Mais, oui. The rich become easily bored; it is a curse. They need always to search for fresh amusement. She talked of James Bond and hunting micro-chips that would save the world. Perhaps, she believed a friend had taken her. When she realised this was no game, she accused you, Aleksandr, of masterminding her abduction. She also began to insist that she is not Sonita La Cruz.’
‘She has been shunted from boat to boat like a barrel of beer. Is it any wonder she wishes to be anyone but herself?’ Aleksandr raked his fingers through the stubble of his hair. There had been a glimmer of hope that this one woman would help them but … now?
‘Where is she? Take me to her.’
‘No. You are dirty and unshaven. You must scrub yourself, first.’
‘No more delay!’ Aleksandr marched off. ‘I brought photos and a video recording to show you – now I can show them to her. And when she sees the suffering, she will forgive everything.’
Gerrard put a hand on the big man’s arm. ‘For the sake of privacy, she has asked me to use her alias, Mademoiselle Skiffington.’ He hurried to catch up with the big man. ‘My friend, you will be disappointed. This woman will not help you. The means by which she has been brought here have cancelled out the good intentions she may have had.’
‘But I must try.’ Aleksandr had to shout as, once more, the ship’s engines began to roar. ‘Why are we moving?’
Gerrard waited for the noise to subside before answering. ‘Mademoiselle has given the order to turn the Kazka around.’ He shrugged helplessly. ‘She wishes to view the sunset without having to move from her chair.’
Aleksandr gazed at Gerrard in astonishment. He was now aware of classical music. The clarity of the sound system was astounding, as if a live orchestra was performing. He walked onto the open deck. It was a live orchestra; the musicians dressed as angels.
Beside him, Gerrard muttered, ‘She has been making outrageous demands of me. An orchestra dressed in wings. Cocaine. Even peanut butter! It has been a nightmare. She keeps saying, “You want a rock star, pal, well that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”’
As the ship’s engines began to grow in volume, a woman’s voice filled the sky.
‘STOP THE BOAT – YOU’RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!’
Then he saw her.
She reclined on a sunbed, holding a loudhailer to her mouth. A small white animal sat on an ornate gold chair beside her. Because the rock star was angled away from him, he could not see her face, only the veil of long black hair cascading over a crimson gown, and a slim brown leg, bent at the knee.
At her command, the engines subsided, leaving only the music. The loudhailer swung to the orchestra. ‘MOZART PIGFART! FUCK OFF!’ She tossed the loudhailer to the deck in childish bad-humour. ‘Gerrard!’ she called peevishly. ‘I need an aspirin.’
‘Immediately, Mademoiselle,’ Gerrard replied before hurrying away.
Aleksandr hesitated. Was this the woman who had written to him promising her help? He strengthened his resolve against his growing sense of dread and walked forward.
As he drew to a halt beside her chair, he saw a scarlet bikini against brown silken skin and a diamond-studded belt around slim hips – a belt which seemed to be an exact replica to the collar around the animal’s neck. She held a silver teaspoon to the creature’s mouth, watching as the tiny tongue licked the caramel-coloured paste from the spoon. Aleksandr had never been interested in the music scene, but he couldn’t deny this surge of ‘teenage’ excitement that he now stood before someone so famous.
As his shadow fell over her, she waved him away. ‘I am TRYING to look at the sunset.’
He stepped to one side. ‘Miss Skiffington-’ he began.
‘Where’s my aspirin?’ The sunglasses glanced in the direction of his hands. ‘What do I have to do? Writhe around on the deck in agony?’ With her attention on him now, her gaze travelled sharply up and over him. ‘Oh my God!’ She sat straight. ‘How dare you stand there … dirty. Look at your fingernails – they’re black!’
‘It’s not dirt. It’s engine oil.’
‘Engine oil!’ She recoiled; pulling her scarlet robe tight around her as if fearful he would mark it. ‘What are you doing outside the engine room? Go back in, immediately.’
He pulled up a chair from the table and sat down.
‘I am not a mechanic,’ he said. ‘I am Aleksandr Shtcherbatsky Zhivago.’
Beth didn’t give him a second glance. She lifted her chin and shouted across the deck, ‘Gerrard, I am not stupid!’ God, she thought, Gerrard must be desperate to pacify me if he has to dig up a man from the engine room and palm him off as Zhivago.
She carried on feeding Pookie, smiling indulgently as she watched the tiny tongue licking the peanut butter off the spoon. She’d expected some big greyhound-type and had been surprised and delighted to receive this little bundle of fluff. Tonight, at dinner, she would clip diamond ear-rings on his perky ears.
The mechanic still hadn’t budged. She shouted again: ‘GERR-ARD!’
‘I am Aleksandr Shtcherbatsky Zhivago,’ the man blustered.
‘Look, sunshine, I know you’re not, so take a hike.’
‘Why do you say this? Why do you believe I am not him?’
‘Because he’s short, fat and ugly and you’re …’ Needing the relevant description to finish the sentence, she inspected the man from over the top of her sunglasses. He sat with his big hands gripping his knees, heavy black eyebrows converging into a frown. Despite the oil marks, dirt and bruises, he was strikingly handsome, if a little wild-eyed, ‘… not.’
She turned her attention back to Pookie.
‘Short and fat?’ the man echoed.
She sighed. ‘His photos are all over the boat, so I know what he looks like.’
‘Ah, that is Yakov Karimov. He is the owner of the Kazka. I am the captain.’
She wasn’t going to let him think she was listening but she was, her eyes narrowed suspiciously behind her sunglasses. Was she being led to believe that instead of being abducted by a suave and sophisticated billionaire, she had in fact been abducted by a man who reeked of diesel?
He took out a wallet. ‘This is my captain’s licence.’
She saw his photo stamped with an official seal and the name: Aleksandr Shtcherbatsky Zhivago.
‘Zhivago!’ She spun on her bottom and planted her feet firmly on the deck between them. ‘You! You had me kidnapped!’
Startled, he held out his palms against her accusation. ‘Please, Miss La-’ He quickly corrected himself, ‘Miss Skiffington. I knew nothing of it. I have come from Odessa on my own boat, with no means of communication. This was the fault of Igor. He knew how desperately I wanted to talk to you, but there is no excuse for what he did.’
The man hoisted a satchel onto his lap. ‘I have video recording and photographs that will prove my honesty. Five minutes of your time is all I ask. If, after that, you do not wish to involve yourself, I will gladly escort you from the ship.’
The words, ‘But you’ve got the wrong woman!’ had been on the tip of Beth’s tongue but his suggestion struck her dumb.
Escort you from the ship.
But she didn’t want to be escorted from the ship!
She lay back on the chaise-longue, her thoughts flustered and indignant. Pierre was making her favourite pudding tonight: Charlotte Malakoff aux Framboises. And the fur-trimmed, copper-coloured gown – which she knew to be extra-special because she’d discovered it in a refrigerated wardrobe – was now hanging ready in her dressing room.
Of course, she wanted to leave, had to leave, but this was all too … sudden.
‘A launch is waiting,’ Zhivago added helpfully. ‘You can be back in Glasgow by midnight.’
She thought of Andy’s twisted, angry face; the smell of urine on the stairs; the cacophony of televisions and wailing babies. The flat with its low-ceiling and box rooms with no space to move, to breathe, to think. She gazed towards the horizon seeing the pink feathery clouds that the sun had left behind; the heart-melting blue of the sky that went on for ever; the silence, the space, so much glorious space, it made her feel she could spread her arms and fly.
‘Your aspirin, mademoiselle.’ Gerrard bent towards her, holding a tray.
‘I don’t want it.’
Gerrard straightened. ‘Mr Shtcherbasky Zhivago has explained everything, I trust?’
She nodded sullenly. She knew she was behaving like a petulant prima donna but she couldn’t help herself. Anyway, it was their fault. They’d given her a mega cruise-liner, a battalion of servants, diamond tiaras and designer frocks; and now they were throwing her back to where she’d come from as if she was a rag doll.
‘I am relieved,’ Gerrard said. ‘Now, I hope, you can forgive me for keeping you here?’
She refused to look at him.
‘Let me bring you a beer, Captain Shtcherbatsky Zhivago.’ Gerrard moved off. ‘And I will fetch water for Pookie.’
Beth looked at her little dog. She couldn’t take him back to Glasgow. How thoughtless of her to demand an animal. But it wasn’t her fault! It was these people who had made her so angry she’d been unable to think straight. Now, Pookie would have to go back to the breeders. And she would have to go back to Glasgow.
She scowled at Zhivago. I will stay one more night, she decided. I’m owed that much. After that, I don’t care if they think I’m Sonita La Cruz or King Kong.
She paused in thought: Had Sonita promised to help with this children’s hospital? If so, was she, Beth, hindering the project by continuing this farce? But, surely, one more night wouldn’t make any difference. She turned to Zhivago. ‘I just want to get a couple of things straight. Why have you brought me here?’
‘To discuss building a children’s hospital.’
‘And you’re not holding me to ransom?’
He looked appalled. ‘No! Please believe me, no.’
She did believe him. With her eyes obscured behind her sunglasses she was able to study him openly. He was dark, rather tensely drawn with a swarthy gypsy-look. Although he looked like some un-neutered tom-cat, there was a reassuring sincerity about him.
‘OK,’ she announced. ‘I will stay one more night.’ Watching how he fell back in his chair, she could almost see the tension flow from his body.
‘Thank you,’ he whispered.
She carried on feeding Pookie, distancing herself from the man’s obvious relief. ‘So, where’s the owner while all this is happening?’
‘Yakov Karimov? He is in Marseille.’
‘And you’re the captain?’
‘Briefly, yes. I am to sail her back to her home port of St Tropez.’
Although she continued to look at the man, her inner eye gazed beyond him, imagining herself at the prow of the Kazka with Pookie in her arms as the crème de la crème of the Riviera looked up from their aperatifs, watching them in awe.
‘When does the Kazka leave?’ she whispered, feeling her throat choked with tears.
‘Tomorrow.’ The man leant forward, misconstruing her silence. ‘I know this has been difficult for you.’ He removed a manila envelope from his bag. ‘But once you see the evidence, you will understand and forgive.’
Beth wasn’t interested in his envelope. She continued to stare into space, wistfully choosing the gorgeous outfits she and Pookie would have worn if they’d had the chance to sail into the most glamorous port in the world. She snapped from her reverie, aware of a lip-smacking sound. Pookie had peanut butter stuck to his upper palette and was trying to dislodge it with his tongue.
The man nodded. ‘What is it?’
‘Peanut butter. Crunchy.’
‘No, the animal. What is it?
‘What is that? A cat, a dog?’ The man tilted his head to one side. ‘A rabbit?’
‘A dog,’ she answered tartly, watching him suspiciously for signs of mockery.
Gerrard appeared and handed the Zhivago a glass of beer before placing a bowl of water on the deck. ‘Would you like your cocktail served now, Mademoiselle Skiffington?’
Startled, she realised the light had faded from the sky. ‘Absolutely not! I can’t possibly take my cocktail looking such a mess.’ She saw Zhivago’s expression and chose to ignore it. Slipping her feet into scarlet sling-backs, she scooped Pookie up from the bowl of water and stood straight. Courteously, Zhivago rose with her, increasing alarmingly in height.
‘Are you joining me for dinner?’ she asked; conscious of his dirty hands and loathe to think he might touch her.
‘That would be an honour, but do not worry, I will first scrub myself clean.’
She nodded her approval. Dressing up for oneself was fun, but not as much fun as when a man was there to appreciate it. And the fact that the man believed himself to be in the presence of a sex goddess added a delicious piquancy. She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head to give him a clear-eyed look; then she bathed him in a dazzling smile, turned and sashayed away.
She would be Sonita … for one last night.
‘Give any girl a billion-dollar yacht, a mile of pretty frocks and an army of manservants and she’ll turn into Cleo-sodding-patra!’ – The Double quote
“She saved the children. But who will save her?”
“Her dream came true but her nightmare is just beginning.”
“Only someone this bad could be this good.”