“Boot Camp Bride” by Lizzie Lamb
Blurb: Take an up-for-anything rookie reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back! Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a boot camp for brides in Norfolk (England) to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova looking less than perfect. At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancé, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Colombia. He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership – and fake engagement – will be terminated, too. Soon Charlee has more questions than answers. What’s the real reason behind Ffinch’s interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Colombia? In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger. And, as the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from gorgeous Rafa without a backward glance.
No, No, No
Charlee was listening to Amy Winehouse on her iPod in the large walk-in cupboard that doubled as a storeroom for copier paper, last year’s Comic Relief publicity material and those computers even the techno-geeks couldn’t fix. The sign on the door read ‘Photo Archive’. But looking round the room crammed with filing cabinets and office detritus – and with the sour smell from an abandoned mop bucket wafting towards her – Charlee decided that a spell in rehab was beginning to look an attractive alternative. Trying to keep her spirits up, she sang along with Amy at the top of her voice.
No one ever came down to the basement of What’cha! Magazine of their own volition and the photo archive was rumoured to be haunted. But Charlee guessed that was just a story put about by the post boys to scare her. She glanced once over her shoulder in the windowless twilight, shivered, and then continued with her task. Editorial wanted ‘before/after’ photos of celebrities whose facelifts had gone wrong. And, as a lowly intern who had seriously pissed off the fashion editor, Vanessa Lloyd, Charlee had been given the task.
Listening to the iPod was a small act of rebellion on her part. Out of sheer vindictiveness – and just because she could – Vanessa had banned the use of iPods and mobiles during office hours. However, Charlee’s defiance couldn’t compensate for the crumminess of the task. Or the fact that she’d been sitting in a cramped position for two hours, flicking through photos of lopsided celebrities, dying to use the loo.
Her – that is – not the celebrities!
Cutting-edge journalism? Hardly.
It all seemed far away from the heady day last summer when she’d graduated with a first in Modern Languages and Political Studies. Then she’d imagined herself reporting from a war zone above the rolling titles of a breaking news story on the Beeb. Instead, here she was, wondering if it was possible to get dowager’s hump from sitting hunched over a low desk for hours on end while all feeling left her lower limbs.
‘Montague,’ a voice growled. ‘Is that an iPod I see?’ A pair of hands clamped over her knotted shoulders.
In one well-practised move, Charlee put her hand up her sweater, pulled out the earphones and hid the wires from view. She spun round expecting to find Vanessa Lloyd standing there ready to give her a ticking off for not being on task. Instead, she found Poppy Walker – daughter of What’cha!’s editor-cum-proprietor – her best friend and confidante.
‘You’ve just shaved five years off my life, Walker, know that?’ Charlee said, now she could breathe easy again. Poppy ignored her, looking round the dinginess of the photo archive and wrinkling her nose instead.
‘What is that smell?’
‘I’ve been down here so long I’ve become immune to it. But I think it’s coming from that mop bucket over there.’ Charlee collected the ‘before/after’ photos together, making sure that she’d left markers in the filing cabinets to show where they’d come from. She knew exactly who’d be putting them back once Editorial had finished with them.
‘Poor Charlee,’ Poppy sighed. She reached into an oversized designer handbag, pulled out a bottle of perfume and sprayed a suffocating cloud of some exclusive, spicy scent in Charlee’s direction. ‘There, sweetie; that ought to stop dogs running after you in the street.’
‘Thanks, mate.’ Charlee put a sarcastic stress on the word, but the irony was lost on Poppy. She wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and was only kept on at What’cha! because her family owned the magazine. And no one – not even the almighty Vanessa – dared to complain to Sam Walker about his daughter.
Charlee regarded Poppy with fond exasperation.
Last summer, she’d written to every newspaper from The Times to Pigeon Fanciers’ Weekly in an attempt to get a toehold in the world of journalism – but none of them had bothered to answer her letters or emails. As the weeks stretched into months, Poppy had spoken to her father on Charlee’s behalf, brushing aside Charlee’s half-hearted protests that she was cashing in on their friendship. The result was a year’s internship at What’cha! during which time Charlee had to prove herself worthy of Sam and Poppy’s belief in her.
‘Why can’t you do this online?’ Poppy asked, waving a hand in front of Charlee’s face and breaking her dream.
‘That’s exactly what I asked – dared to ask – Vanessa.’
‘And your head is still attached to your shoulders?’ They exchanged a look of fellow feeling. Vanessa’s high-handedness with interns was legendary, but her dislike of Charlee verged on the pathological. It was Charlee’s avowed intention to make Vanessa review her low opinion of her and eat her caustic words. All she needed was a chance, an opportunity to show everyone her mettle. She had it in her to be a great journalist; she felt it in her water. One day her lucky break would come along and when it did, she’d be ready.
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