A Night, A Secret...A ChildBy: Miranda Lee
NICOLAS moved with uncharacteristic slowness as he alighted the cab outside his apartment building. He felt dog-tired and strangely lacking in the buzz that finding and promoting an exciting new talent usually brought him.
Admittedly, standing in the wings of a stage and watching someone else perform had never given him the same adrenalin rush as being out there himself. But being the man behind a successful star or show had come a close second this past decade.
Tonight, however, his pulse rate hadn’t risen when his latest musical protégée had brought the highly discerning New York audience to its feet more than once. He was happy for her. Of course he was. She was a nice girl and a brilliant violinist. But he just hadn’t felt anything like what he normally did. In truth, he hadn’t given a damn.
Maybe he was entering a midlife crisis: next year he’d turn forty. Or perhaps he was reaching burnout. Showbiz was a wearing career, both on the performers and the promoters. Lots of highs and lows. And lots of travelling.
Nicolas had grown to hate hotel rooms very quickly. That was why he’d eventually bought apartments in New York and London. His friends called him extravagant. But Nicolas knew he’d chosen well and would never lose money on his purchases. His New York apartment had already tripled in value in the six years he’d owned it. His London town house wasn’t quite as spectacular an investment, but he certainly hadn’t lost money.
‘Everything go well tonight, Mr Dupre?’ the night doorman asked as he opened the door for Nicolas. There was a note of concern in his voice. Obviously he’d seen the weariness in Nicolas’s body language.
Nicolas flashed the doorman a warm smile. ‘Very well, Mike. Thank you.’
The doorman nodded. ‘That’s good.’
Nicolas might have given him a tip if Mike would have accepted it. But Mike refused to take money from the residents, only guests and visitors. Nicolas always slipped him a card and a nice fat cheque at Christmas, claiming he would be offended if Mike refused to take his Christmas present. Nicolas suspected Mike probably gave most of the money away to someone he considered more needy than himself; he was that kind of man.
The young man on the front desk glanced up as Nicolas entered the foyer. Chad was a third-year law student who worked nights to pay his way through college. Nicolas admired anyone who worked hard and had given Chad more than a little something last Christmas as well.
‘There’s a letter here for you, sir,’ Chad said.
Nicolas frowned as he walked up to the desk. He never received mail these days. All his bills and bank statements were redirected to his accountant. If anyone wanted to contact him personally they did so by phone, text message or email.
The young man smiled. ‘The mailman brought it in this afternoon after you’d left for the theatre. Have to confess we had a bit of a chuckle over it. You’ll know what I mean when you see the way it’s addressed.’ And he handed over a bright pink envelope.
On it was written:
Mr Nicolas Dupre
‘Good Lord,’ Nicolas said with a wry smile.
‘Nice to be famous,’ Chad said.
‘I’m not all that famous.’ Not nowadays. It was mainly the entertainers who were interviewed on the talk shows, not the entrepreneurs. Nicolas had had one television interview a couple of years back, after one of the musicals he’d produced had won heaps of Tony awards, but nothing since.
‘It’s come all the way from Australia,’ Chad said, and Nicolas’s heart missed a beat.
Something—some inner instinct—warned him not to turn the envelope over and look at the sender’s name…. Not till he was safely alone.
‘Looks like it’s from a lady,’ Chad went on, obviously dying to know who.
Nicolas, however, had no intention of satisfying the younger man’s curiosity.
‘An old fan, I imagine,’ Nicolas said, and slipped the envelope inside his breast pocket. ‘Someone who doesn’t know I stopped performing years ago. Thank you, Chad. Good night.’
‘Oh…er… Good night, sir.’
Nicolas made it into the privacy of his tenth-floor apartment before he extracted the envelope and looked at the back flap.
His stomach churned as he stared at the name of the sender. It wasn’t from her. Had he honestly expected that it would be? Had he been hoping against hope that Serina had finally come to her senses and realised that she couldn’t live without him?
Once he got over his dismay, the letter did, however, evoke considerable surprise and curiosity. Because it was from Serina’s daughter, the child whom Nicolas had once briefly thought could be his, but wasn’t. Felicity Harmon had been born ten months to the day after the last time he’d slept with Serina, and exactly nine months after her marriage to Greg Harmon.