Many of my books are very character-driven; Lucky Portbraddon definitely is. It is the story of the Portbraddon family over one year, from the Christmas of 2015 when their beloved grandmother dies, over the next year when their family changes for ever.
Alex’s wife Alison leaves him for his cousin Antoine and the day they move in together he is obliged to look after their three little girls, Ella, Bella and Cressie. Helping him is his son by a former partner, Noah, and a woman he is very interested in but has no interest in him, Ismène. They take the little girls skating:
On the day Alison moved into Slake House, Grandma’s house… On that day…
… Alex didn’t know if Noah had organised the day himself or whether Ismène had lent a hand…. He’d driven to pick up his son with the little girls singing in the back of the people carrier, and Noah had told him – told him to drive to Ismène’s flat. She’d come out smiling and prepared for a day out and once she was sitting in the front seat, Noah directed Alex to the ice rink in Castair.
And it had been a great day. Alex and Ismène had skated with the children who screamed and shrieked at first but soon became almost dangerously confident. Ismène soon took charge of Cressie; towing her round the rink until the child needed an ice-cream. She was deposited with her brother who was sitting, possibly watching them, with shades on, cap low over his nose, phone to his ear.
As Ismène skated across the ice to him, Alex thought again at how striking she was. She was wearing tan trousers, a red sweater and had her hair held back by a scarlet band. Having her dark hair swept away from her forehead emphasised the oval shape of her face, her almond eyes and delicate dark brows. The exercise had brought a flattering glow to her cheeks and she grinned. Usually pensive and watchful, it was a revelation to see her open expression.
“Let’s see how fast we can go before we fall over!” she called to the girls as she came up to them, and with Alex and her on either side they began to speed round the rink.
Ismène had been amazed first of all that Alex had put on skates, was further astounded at how good he was. She glanced across the children’s heads to him and he grinned back, the sexy, dimpled grin she’d not seen since Alison left. The girls screamed with delight as they raced round, and Noah with Cressie on his knee spreading ice-cream over them both, took pictures on his phone, wishing he had the confidence to even try to skate, let alone fly effortlessly across the ice backwards as his father was.
He hated being here, sitting on the uncomfortable seats, the noise all around him, dire music pumping out of a multitude of speakers, the screams and yells and hubbub of voices…. He sometimes seemed like an alien, as if the mundane and ordinary were foreign and distant.
“Want a wee-wee!” Cressie said, pushing her sticky fingers into his ears. She and Ella were so alike, miniature versions of Alison and he could see nothing of Alex in their faces.
“Come on then, baby, let’s go find a toilet…” He adored his sisters and it grieved him that he rarely saw them now, thanks to fucking Antoine. Noah was convinced his father’s cousin was to blame… He could kill the man.
Alex slowed and faced forwards; he could have gone on, gazing at Ismène across the heads of the children, but it was impossible to talk with the racket of the music and the roar of the skates on the ice…
Chocolate? He called and the girls beamed up at him and his heart wrenched. Should he fight for sole custody? Perhaps Ismène … but no… She looked at him with shrewd discerning eyes and there was no flicker of attraction in her cool gaze. He was sure she’d got over James, and he’d heard she’d had dinner with Daniel Costello a few times.
As they swooped across the ice he remembered the time he’d walked in on Daniel and Ismène at his solicitor’s office. He’d never asked her about it… and he remembered suddenly that she’d never spoken to him about Silky…
They sat down and took off their skates, Ismène squatting to unlace the children’s boots, laughing at the funny things they said.
“Right everyone, hot chocolate with marshmallows… then what?” he slipped on his jovial, happy, buoyant façade and swung Cressie into his arms.
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