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Блейк Элли

Marriage Make-Over

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«Marriage Make-Over» - Элли Блейк

She was supposed to be «single and loving it»…Kelly works hard to love every minute of being single. She even started writing a column about it–but she harbors a secret she could never tell her readers…she's married!Instead she finds she's in love–with her husband!She hasn't seen her hubby in five years–until now! To her horror, her famed column has brought gorgeous Simon hotfooting back to Melbourne. Kelly thought this was a good opportunity to hand him the divorce papers…but Simon has something else in mind–a marriage make-over!
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Kelly turned to face her husband.

Kelly turned to face her husband.

Just as she’d feared—he looked movie-star gorgeous, and it took her breath away. Simon’s stylish black dinner suit and classic black tie radiated good taste and probably cost more than Kelly made in a month. He leaned in to place a kiss on her cheek and Kelly moved to accept it, catching a waft of expensive aftershave.

“You look beautiful, Kell,” Simon said, his subdued voice as disarming as his good looks.

“So do you.”

A soft smile touched his mouth. He was so beautiful. So elegant. So self-assured.

Who is this man? Kelly wondered as she tried to relate the sensations she was experiencing to those she’d felt so many years before. And found that she could not. This was different. This was adult. And this was fast spinning out of her control.

“How long have you been waiting?” he asked, his voice a caress in the dreamy darkness.

For you? For five long, lonely years.

“Not long,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

For better, for worse…these marriages were meant to last!

They’ve already said “I do,” but what happens when their promise to love, honor and cherish is put to the test?

Emotions run high as husbands and wives discover how precious—and fragile—their wedding vows are…but their love will keep them together—forever!

Ally Blake worked in retail, danced on television and acted in friends’ short films until the writing bug could no longer be ignored. And as her mother had read romance novels ever since Ally was a baby, the aspiration to write for Harlequin had been almost bred into her. Ally married her gorgeous husband, Mark, in Las Vegas (no Elvis in sight, thank you very much), and they live in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. Her husband cooks, he cleans and he’s the love of her life. How’s that for a hero?

Books by Ally Blake




Marriage Make-Over

Ally Blake

To Harry’s real life skipper, my little sister Suze, a girl

who can see the bright side of any situation and thus

makes life that much brighter for the rest of us.






















You’re a hit!’

That was the kind of talk Kelly had heard only in her dreams. But there she was, sitting at Editor-in-Chief Maya Rampling’s desk at Fresh magazine, hearing those glorious words for real.

Maya’s talon-tipped finger tapped the draft of Kelly’s latest magazine column, which lay on her desk. ‘This is your best effort yet. Your column has really touched a nerve. Barely a month on and we are getting more mail for you than any other regular writer. As such I would like to offer you a freelance contract here at Fresh.’

Single and Loving It!, her pride and joy, her week-by-week column about how to be a happy single, was now her ticket out of writing bridal announcements and obituaries in the local rags! And she would be able to pay the rent on time. Her heart almost burst at the thought.

A dead-straight strand of cocoa-coloured fringe slipped from Kelly’s straining ponytail and swung before her eyes. She had to fight the urge to blow the offending lock away as, knowing her luck, she would blow a raspberry rather than the smooth, perfectly aimed puff of air she would prefer. And she wanted to remember herself in this perfect moment as the epitome of cool. Well, maybe not cool so much as not blowing a raspberry at an inopportune moment. She could hope for at least that much.

‘We will offer you a three-month contract,’ Maya continued in the face of Kelly’s strained silence. ‘Work at your own pace. Here or at home. Just as long as your copy is on my desk every Monday afternoon at five, and the work and the reader response stay on track, you will be a welcome and regular member of the Fresh family. Come on, I’ll show you to your work-station.’

Maya stood and led the way. In desperate relief Kelly raked her hand over her hair, tucking the fringe back in place. There. Cool Kelly held her ground.

And then she saw her work-station and had to choke back a gasp of splendiferous happiness. It was her very own tiny three-walled cubicle amongst a dozen other tiny three-walled cubicles. The desk was so sparse it reminded her of the first day of school when every new pencil was sharpened and no book was dog-eared or scratched. The work-station housed a corkboard, a filing cabinet, a phone, an assortment of stationery and a computer, which was turned on and opened to a fresh, hopeful Word file.

Kelly took off her faded denim jacket and fluffy pink scarf and hung them over the back of her very own bouncy office chair. She took a seat, swung back and forth and imagined dozens of happy snaps plastered over her corkboard, her ‘I Hate Working Wednesdays, They Really Cut Into My Weekends’ mug resting amidst a ring of stale coffee, and assorted funky knick-knacks balanced atop her monitor. Yep. This was her dream come true.

‘So how does that all sound?’ Maya asked.

As if the angels were singing her song!

‘Sounds fine, thanks,’ cool Kelly responded.

‘Great. First things first: your next column. You have touched on something very deep and given it a voice. So, of course, I want you to hit that vein deeper and deeper every week. Our female readers love you so, in my infinite wisdom, I have decided reader feedback will become a huge part of your page. We will start with a whammy. In amongst your legion of new fans, there was one reader who was not convinced.’

‘Just one?’ Good one, Kelly, real cool and confident!

Maya smiled indulgently, her sharp, preternaturally smooth face breaking into a zillion telling wrinkles at the unfamiliar movement. ‘One juicy one who made an interesting point. So maybe you could respond to this beauty in next week’s issue.’

Maya flicked a one-page letter onto Kelly’s desk as she left. ‘Have fun, and welcome to the Fresh family.’

Have fun? This was turning out to be the best day of her life! The best she cared to remember, anyway. She now had a real job doing something she utterly loved, her very own quasi-office with her very own bouncy chair, and lastly a real pay-packet, a regular pay-packet. How she wished she could have stapled her mother to the wall to have listened to everything Maya had said. Then her life would be perfect.

Kelly picked up the letter.

She unconsciously fiddled with the corners of the folded piece of baby-blue paper.

Truth be told, Kelly was surprised there was only one not convinced. The Single and Loving It! idea had come about around a month before after a Saturday Night Cocktails session with her flatmate, racy Gracie, and her landlady, classy Cara, during which they had bitched and moaned about their conglomerate of ex-boyfriends. How they’d thrown every ounce of their energy into the relationships whereas the guys had seen them as a step above cricket practice but not so important as Mum’s home cooking. Was that love? they had asked. Was that as good as it could be?

So Single and Loving It! was born. Kelly had written her first attempt the minute she had trudged home. It had been three a.m., there had been no coffee in the cupboard, as she had not been able to afford it, so she had plied herself with chicken Cup-a-Soup. She had sold the story to Fresh within the week and had been writing weekly follow-ups ever since.

She glanced down at the letter. In her fidgeting hands lay the first piece of fan mail she had ever received. Well, except for that one old guy who once had been determined she was the only one he would allow to write his obituary (first job after uni—bad office, bad pay, bad news).

She rubbed her fingers over the fine paper, memorising the touch. She took a deep breath and dived in.

Dear Kelly

Men and women are meant to be attracted, but not for ever, you say. They come together to fill in space, time, and the void left by their parents, you say. Well, dear Kelly, I don’t believe a word of it.

I believe you are a woman who has loved and loved deeply. I believe you have convinced yourself there is no such thing as love so that you do not have to feel you have failed.

And the thing is, dear Kelly, I believe love is alive and well out there. Especially for you. You just have to be willing to lose yourself to find it.

Simon of St Kilda.

Kelly dropped the letter to the table as though it had scorched her fingers. She hastily looked over her shoulder to make sure no one had seen the words on the paper, the words she wanted nobody else to believe, as no more potentially damaging words had ever been written.

How did the writer know? How? Then out of the red mist before her eyes swam the most telling part of the read. She picked up the letter between two fingers and re-read the name at the bottom of the page.

Simon of St Kilda.

No, it couldn’t be!

If she thought her fingers felt hot before, that was nothing compared with the storm of heat that radiated from her flushed face at those words.

Kelly knew a Simon, but that had been a lifetime ago. And the last she’d heard he lived in Fremantle, on the other side of Australia. Not in Melbourne and certainly not in St Kilda. Not in the same suburb as her.

The letter was typewritten, including the name, so that was no clue. She sniffed at it. It smelled like paper and not like a wood fire at the beach, which was the smell that always reminded her of Simon. She looked closely, checking to see if any letters sat higher than any others. What that would prove she had no idea, but it was the first thing they looked for in any good detective movie.

Who was she kidding? She did not need any fancy fingerprint kit to know that the Simon she knew wrote the letter. She could feel the timbre of his voice in every syllable. She knew his language so well it made the hairs on the back of her neck tingle as though he had whispered the words in her ear.

Simon of St Kilda was Simon Coleman. Her Simon Coleman, whom she had not heard from in five years. Since a week after her eighteenth birthday. Since, for some unknown reason that she had never been able to figure out, he had been spooked and sent dashing from her, never to return.

But now he was back. And writing to her of love.

Her face burned, not from embarrassment but from a deep and abiding anger. How dare he even write the words much less about her? He was the last one to accuse her of any denial when it came to her feelings. She had always made her feelings known without restraint. She had poured them out in print to millions, had she not?

‘So what do you think?’ Maya asked as she passed by Kelly’s desk.

Kelly flinched so violently her chair continued bouncing for several seconds. ‘Hmm?’

‘The letter,’ Maya said. ‘Do you think you can explain yourself to him? Can you tell that guy where to go?’

Ooh, yeah. And you wouldn’t even have to pay me to do it.

‘I would be happy to. But didn’t you say there were nice ones? Lots of nice ones? Ones that agreed with me? Ones that said I was brilliant and should be bronzed this minute?’

‘Sure. But who wants to read those when you’ve got this guy just asking to be put in his place?’

Me! I do!

Kelly shrugged. ‘Nobody, I guess.’

‘Exactly. So, dear Kelly,’ Maya said with a twinkle in her wise eyes, ‘write me a blinder. I want it bigger and better and more controversial. I want Simon of St Kilda in the picture.’

Ha! Give me a time machine and I’ll give you my life with Simon in the picture.

Maya patted her on the shoulder and left to rouse another writer.

What did he want? Why was he back? And how on earth could she keep herself together if and when she saw him? The mental image of her wringing his beautiful neck gave her a small thrill.

She shuffled the computer mouse onto the internet icon, looked up the local phone directory, and found only one S. Coleman listed in St Kilda. Her hand shaking, she picked up the handset of her very own phone that only minutes before had given her such ridiculous pleasure, and dialled.

Because even if Maya had not insisted, she would still have to see him.

He was her husband.

Kelly stood on the sidewalk with feet of lead. Her eyes were locked on the third storey of the swanky St Kilda apartment building. The window was open, and white gauzy curtains flapped in the seaside breeze. Somebody was home. And it had to be S. Coleman.

After dialling and hanging up the phone several times that morning she had given up on the idea of calling. She had to see that it was him. She had to meet him face to face.

So, first things first, she had spent hours making her work-station homey before finally making her way to the address written on the piece of paper clasped in her clammy hand. It wasn’t cowardice that made her delay this moment. The decorating project was imperative. After all, a happy working environment did a happy worker make!

Now, in the late afternoon, devoid of denim jacket and scarf, which she had thoughtlessly left on the back of her chair, she felt a shiver rack her body. A cold change was coming. In the five minutes she had been dithering outside, the sky had gone from clear to grey and a chill breeze now whipped about her. It would rain within a Melbourne minute.

The front door opened from the inside. A young woman was pushing it open with her bottom as she dragged a pram over the threshold behind her. Kelly leapt to grab the door to give her a hand.

The woman looked up, and her face broke into a beaming smile. ‘Thanks!’

‘No problem.’

Only once Kelly had watched the woman bounce the pram lightly down the steps did she realise she was still holding the door open. And it seemed wasteful to go through the whole intercom rigmarole when the main objective had already been achieved. She stepped inside and let the door swing shut behind her.

The foyer was spacious and elegant. Her high-heeled boots clack-clacked on the smooth marble floor. One solitary lift faced her. She pressed the up button, the down must have been for a hidden parking garage, very luxurious indeed in a city where all-day street parking was scarce.

The lift opened, she stepped inside and felt her last chance to run for her life slip away as the doors closed before her.

The mirrored walls reflected back a slim young woman of average height, shivering slightly in a slinky black barely-there halter-neck dress and knee-high black boots. Her long, thick dark hair, with month-old blonde streaks, was slicked back in a low ponytail, the wayward wisps of a growing-out fringe had been caught by the wind and now rested on her cheeks. Big sad brown eyes, her most striking feature, were rimmed in dark liner and lashings of mascara making them that much more dramatic.

The last time she had seen Simon she’d had short spiky hair, which she had chopped herself during her rebellious teens. She had been about a stone heavier, with enviable curves. She’d called it puppy-fat; he’d called her adorable. But living away from home, paying her own rent, with only sporadic pay cheques, had meant that certain luxuries, such as dinner, had been missed on the odd occasion. The puppy-fat had long since gone and she looked thin. Would he think too thin?

Who cares? she thought, standing up straighter, puffing out what little remained of her once ample chest. The reason she was there was to tell him that whatever he thought he should damn well keep it to himself.

The lift binged, and Kelly’s heart slammed against her ribs. Her image wavered and split apart to reveal a small private foyer with a carved white door. It was ajar and Kelly could hear kitchen noises from inside. She sucked in a deep ragged breath, tucked her hair behind her ears, and walked in as if she owned the place.

It was beautiful. Polished wood floors led onto thick cream carpet, modern furniture, soft leather couches. Very opulent and worth a fortune. It was a place in which her parents would feel more than comfortable, so on the flipside it made her feel completely out of place. She was worried about leaving dirty tread on the carpet and wondered for a moment if she should have left her boots at the door.

A homely woman with grey hair tucked into an old-fashioned maid’s cap poked her head around a doorway. ‘Hello there.’

‘Hello,’ Kelly said back, hoping her facial features were forming a confident smile and not the odd grimace she imagined. ‘Is…Simon home?’

‘Nope, sorry. Friend of Mr Coleman’s, are you?’

A friend? Hardly. And it must be Simon’s place—the cleaner had not said ‘Simon who?’ The woman watched Kelly carefully, and the broom in her hand seemed a ready weapon.

‘Actually, I am his wife.’ It felt odd, saying it out loud, but it was the only way she could think to avoid the humiliation of having to dodge a projectile broom handle as the woman became more suspicious by the second.

The woman raised her eyebrows in disbelief. ‘I’ve heard nothing about a wife.’

‘We have been…estranged.’

The woman nodded in sudden and all-too-ready understanding. ‘That explains it. But now you are back. Glad to hear it. This place could do with a woman’s touch. You wouldn’t think Mr Coleman eats in; the kitchen is always so perfect. Make him a good meal. He needs one.’

Kelly nodded, though she had to suppress a smile. Her version of a home-cooked meal would be two-minute noodles.

The cleaner grabbed up her bits and bobs and headed for the front door. ‘He should be home soon enough. Do lock up after if you’re off first.’ And she left, closing the door behind her with a soft click.

Kelly couldn’t believe her luck, having time to case the joint, to get her bearings, to familiarise herself with all exits.

She walked about the apartment, trying to find signs of the boy who had stolen her heart when she was eleven years old, the teenager who had shared her first magical kiss at fourteen, and the young man who had married her in a secret ceremony on St Kilda beach at midnight on her eighteenth birthday.

No photographs lined the walls or side tables. No ornaments or collectibles showed signs of travel. There was simply no sign of the Simon Coleman she knew. Nothing of the sculptor, nothing of the sailor, nothing of the free spirit. She suddenly felt wary that this was not him. This guy with the cool, personality-free apartment could not be her Simon.

Hearing the jingle of keys at the front door, she spun on her heels. The world turned in agonising slow motion. The door banged lightly and the handle jiggled. Finally it opened and she stole a head-to-toe glance at the owner of the apartment: Simon of St Kilda.

And without a hint of a doubt Kelly knew she looked upon her husband.


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