Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore

Only...was Harry right? Was something wrong with her? Because she had had her own little romantic adventure this Christmas, but, unlike her friends, hers had ended when the clocks struck—well, not twelve but five a.m. It had been her choice to creep out of the hotel room without leaving as much as a note, let alone a glass slipper, but she couldn’t imagine Jack or Lukas or Finlay leaving a stone unturned if their women simply disappeared without a trace. But although her heart gave the odd unwanted leap whenever she saw dark hair above an expensive suit—which in Chelsea was about thirty times a day on average—the last she had seen of Marco Santoro had been his naked, slumbering torso, dimly lit by the light of the bathroom as she had gathered her belongings together.

And okay, she hadn’t looked for him either, not even when she’d confessed her one-night stand to her friends just a few days ago. Not only was Marco Santoro out of her league in every way, but Sophie had allowed infatuation to cloud her judgement before. She wasn’t foolish enough to mistake lust for anything deeper, not again.

Although it had been an incredible night...

The sound of the buzzer interrupted her slide into reminiscences just as she was picturing the curve of Marco’s mouth. Sophie shivered as she pushed the all too real picture away and picked up the answerphone. ‘Yes?’

‘Sophie, it’s me, Ashleigh.’ Her old friend’s unmistakably Australian tones sang out of the intercom and Sophie’s spirits immediately lifted. So all her friends would be married to insanely wealthy, influential and hot men? It wouldn’t really make a difference, not where it counted most.

‘Come on up.’ She pressed the buzzer and looked around wildly. Was it possible to clear a space in just twenty seconds? There was a knock on the door before she had managed to do more than pick up several scraps of material and, with them still clasped in her hand, Sophie opened the door to discover not just Ashleigh but Grace and Emma as well, brandishing champagne and a thick white envelope.

‘Surprise!’ they sang out in chorus, surging into the room in a wave of perfume, silk and teetering heels. The dress code for the Snowflake Ball was white or silver, but blonde, tall Emma had added red shoes and accessories to her long white silk shift, Grace, glowing with happiness, was sultry in silver lace and Ashleigh had opted for a backless ivory dress, which set off the copper in her hair and the green in her eyes. They all looked gorgeous. Sophie tried not to look over at her black waitress’s dress, ironed and hung on the back of the door.

‘How lovely to see you all.’ She narrowed her eyes at Grace. ‘You must have called me from just around the corner.’

‘From the taxi,’ Grace confirmed, her eyes laughing.

‘Congratulations again. Finlay’s a lucky man and I’ll tell him so when I finally meet him. I’d hug you, but I don’t want to crease your dress.’

‘Where are the glasses?’ Emma, of course, was already at the counter optimistically known as a kitchenette looking in one of the three narrow cupboards allotted for crockery and food. ‘Aha!’ She brandished them triumphantly, setting them down before twisting the foil off the bottle. It was real champagne, Sophie noted, a brand well out of her price bracket. Funny to think just a few weeks ago they would have happily been drinking cheap cava from the off-licence at the end of her street. So the divide between her lifestyle and her friends’ had begun. Just as it had ten years ago when she had opted for paid work and domesticity while her few friends went to university.

She pushed the thought away as the champagne cork was expertly popped. ‘Not for me, Em. I can’t. You know what Clio says about drinking on the job and I need to be at the hotel for staff briefing in an hour.’

‘Now, that,’ Ashleigh said triumphantly, ‘is where you are wrong. We’ve asked Keisha to cover your shift and you, Miss Sophie Bradshaw, will be going to the ball! Here you are, a formal invitation.’ She thrust the envelope towards Sophie, who took it mechanically.

‘I’ve always wanted to be a fairy godmother,’ Grace said, holding out her hand to accept one of the full glasses Emma was handing out.

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