‘I’m not going to beat around the proverbial bush, Ray but, making both main channels’ breakfast news and This Morning for something like this, well, it isn’t going to win you any BRIT awards any time soon.’
He blew out a breath then, realising that he did have to do something. But what? He put a hand to his chin, his getting-rather-bushy, completely undefined beard pricking his fingertips.
‘Ray…’ Deborah began again.
‘There’s no truth in it,’ Ray said, seriously. ‘There’s no truth in any of it, at all. That’s all I can say.’ He pushed his coffee cup away. ‘Come on, Deborah, you know me. You know I may drink a little too much. You know I have taken advantage of most of the excesses this opportunity has given me, but I would never do anything like these interviews are suggesting I would.’
‘So, Ida is simply lying to whichever hack will listen.’
‘Well…’ Even now he didn’t want Ida to be in the firing line. Even when it came to saving his own skin. What was wrong with him? His dad would say he was soft, weak, not the boy he had raised on greyhound-racing and belly-busting breakfasts. A belly-busting breakfast wouldn’t have gone amiss right about now.
‘Ray! Please! Give me something here!’ Now Deborah was raising her voice above Frank Sinatra’s dulcet tones and a young couple, holding hands over a frosted cupcake complete with a golden star on top, turned to look at her. Ray reached forward and clasped Deborah’s hands in his. His agent immediately withdrew, snatching her hands back with an irritated tut.
‘You asked me to give you something,’ Ray stated.
‘I didn’t mean another story for the press to latch on to that highlights any of the traits mentioned in this morning’s news.’ She doffed her head towards the steamed-up window of the café. ‘You know there are reporters across the road. They might be demolishing bacon baps right now, but when they’re done murdering the morning rolls, they’re going to be snapping shots of you in here with me.’
Ray wiped his hand over the condensation, looking through the constantly moving traffic to the adjacent pavement. There were definitely two journalist types, steaming cardboard-cup coffees resting on a frosty metal broadband cabinet, hands on cameras around their necks. He looked back to Deborah.
‘I can’t pay my rent,’ he admitted. ‘And my credit cards are maxed out.’
‘What?!’ Deborah exclaimed.
‘You know how it’s been,’ Ray continued. ‘The split with Ida and… the Sam Smith factor.’
‘You cannot blame your credit card spending on another singer’s success, unless you’ve been splashing the plastic with Sam Smith.’
‘He’s stopped returning my calls.’ Ray answered, forcing a grin. The truth was, his financial situation, even this situation with Ida, was not what was concerning him most. He had a hospital appointment that afternoon and he was still in two minds whether to turn up. Things came in threes and well, what you didn’t know couldn’t hurt you, right?
‘OK, I’m going to be really blunt with you now, Ray, because I’m not going to waste my day sitting here listening to you talk around the houses.’ Deborah puffed a sigh. ‘I’m going to deal with only cold, hard facts from now on.’ She inhaled through all her Eustachian tubes. ‘You have two choices here. You bury your head in the sand hoping all this will go away and face losing what’s left of your music career. Or, you make a statement, refute everything Ida has said and give your side of the story.’ Deborah picked up her tea. ‘I can get you on Loose Women.’
‘Loose Women,’ Ray said with a shake of his head.
‘It’s the perfect place for you to tell everyone there isn’t an ounce of truth in any of these stories. But you go at it from the right angle. Say that you respect Ida’s opinion of your relationship, but that she is… deeply troubled. Deeply troubledsays you are “caring” and “compassionate”, but it also eludes to Ida being “slightly batshit crazy”.’ She sipped at her drink. ‘And then you say you hope Ida reaches out for the help she needs. That will infer to everyone that she’s one step away from a psychiatric ward.’
Many true words were spoken in jest. Or in this case, in spin. But Ray’s gut was telling him this was all wrong. Ida did need help, but, in his heart, he knew this wasn’t the right way to go about it. Forcing her hand in the public arena might lead her to do something nuts and, despite whatshe was doing to him, he couldn’t have that on his conscience.
‘I don’t know,’ he answered.
‘You don’t know?’ Deborah replied. ‘You don’t know! Ray, if you don’t do something, say something, the world is going to draw its own conclusions based on The Sun and the Daily Mirror.’
He pushed the coffee cup away from him. ‘The one thing I do know, Deborah… is I am not going on Loose Women.’
About the book
Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever!
Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.
Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround. Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.
Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show. As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…
About the author
Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.
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