‘Tis The Season – Part 4








2.30 pm

APCO, 5th Avenue


“Thank you for helping me out at such short notice, Betsy darling,” Kylie said as she and Susan stood with the store manager.


“Well, anything for one of the boss’ favourites.  This is really your mother?”


“Oh yes,” Marina said, “most certainly.”


“We just need to find her an outfit that will fit in for tonight,” Kylie said as Kerry came out, looking at herself in the mirror as she stood in a dark green gown.


“Yeah – i think i can make this work.  What do you think Kylie?”


“If we find some heels, you can really carry that off darling – and my mother?”


As if on cue, Sami came out, wearing a silver strapless dress which barely covered her bottom.  Kylie and Susan looked at each other as she posed in the mirror, and said “Whatcha thing Kyles – pair this with some leggings?”


“If you were thinking of going to a disco party, then yes Mother, but not tonight,” Kylie said as she went to a rack.  “Do me a favour please Mother – go and try this on.  I think you will like it.”


“Well – alright,” Sami said as she headed back to the dressing room with Kerry.


“What are you considering Kylie?”


“Well, loath as I am to admit it, silver does suit her, so the off the shoulder number I gave her should satisfy.  It also has a more – appropriate skirt length.”


“Well, let’s – yeah, now that is better.”


Sami came out and looked at herself, the dress hugging her body and coming to her knees.


“All right, i admit it kid – you got a nose for dress,” she said with a smile.


“Excellent – that’s the first battle over,” Kylie said as her mother went back to the changing room.  “Now for the real fun?”


“And that would be?”


“Clothes look good when the person wearing them does not distract from them – the words of Mary Thomas...”





4.30 pm

Susan and Clint’s Apartment


“Right,” Kylie said as she looked at her mother, “I’m going to tell you what i was told, darling – makeup is best when it doesn’t look as if you need it.”


“Wot?  How’s a guy meant to see you if ‘e can’t look where you want ‘im to look?”


“Mother, darling, this is not the High Road on a Saturday night.  You do not want to stand out for all the wrong reasons, and you are not here...”  Kylie thought for the right words, and then said “you’re not here for a one night stand, darling.  You’re coming as my guest.”


“Kylie’s right, Sami,” Maeve said as Kerry looked on.  “This is a society party, not a lock in at the Three Bells.  You’re going to be in a group where the important thing is who you are, not how you look.”


“Or how you act – which means this is as good a time as any to bring this up.”


“Bring wot up?”


“Okay, ‘ere it comes,” Kerry said as she looked on.


“Darling, if you dare embarrass me by getting drunk and making a scene, then I will NEVER forgive you."  Kylie’s eyes blazed as she looked at her mother.

Sami looked on with an amused smile, before saying "Now would I do that?"

"You know very well you would Sami." Kerry looked hard at her cousin. "And I have another thought, how about tonight, just for one night, you go back to being Samantha?"

"No bluddy booze, call meself Samantha? You aint arf askin' a lot."

"Well Samantha is your given name."

"And it is a lovely name Mum." Kylie looked pleadingly at her mother.

"Can't you tell 'ow much this means to your daughter? Just try and behave for one night yer stupid cow."

"I'll try," Sami rolled her eyes, "That's the best I can promise, I'll bleedin' well try."

“Oh don’t worry,” Maeve said, “we’ll be supporting you all the way...”


"So returning to drink Darling,” Kylie said, “three glasses of champagne should be safe..."

"I aint allowed anyfing stronger?"

"Samantha I've seen you in pubs when you've 'ad stronger." Rose poked her head round the door. "I drink tea, and maybe you should as well."

"They are also serving a non alcoholic cider."

"Bloody pisswater? Are you tryin' to kill me Kyles?"

"NO, and that's another thing,” Kylie said, “if you could sound a little more respectable..."

"Wot la-di-dar like you?"

"No, just cut out all the expletives please Darling."


"And another thing Sami." Marina came in carrying some clothes. "Try not to be intimidated, or on the other hand get over gushy with the people you meet tonight?"

"Meanin' wot?"

"Meaning that a lot of the people at the party tonight will be celebrities. Don't be overawed darling, just be friendly and take your cue from how others behave." Kylie spoke.

"I bet they'll all be a lot of rich snobs...." Sami muttered.

"No they won't." Marina rolled her eyes. "We’re going aren’t we?  Barbara for example is a widow from Harlow bringing up her teenage daughter."

"And her daughter is disabled and in a wheelchair." Kylie added.

"Well,” Sami said, “that's sorta sad."

"What they aren't saying Sami is that the daughter is Jeannie Brewster...." Clint laughed.


"Clint darling you are not helping." Kylie looked daggers at Clint, who laughed as he said “All right, all right.  There’s a lot of people coming tonight who are receptionists, florists, building supervisors, work in public transport – ordinary working people, like us.”


“They are friends, Mother, so please...”


“All rite, all rite, I got the message...”  Sami smiled as she said “I will try and behave, Kylie darling...”


“Good,” Susan said, “let’s eat and then start to get ready...”



7 pm

Central Park West


It was a scene being repeated in buildings across New York City, women putting on their best dresses, men putting on their smartest clothes so as to go and celebrate the coming of the year 2016.


In a nice apartment on Central Park West, this meant yet another round in the unceasing battle between Katy Carter, and her mother over what was appropriate dress for a 13 year old.


“Mom,” Katy said as she looked at herself in the mirror, “you said yes when I showed you this dress before.”


“I know,” Jan said as she stood to one side, “but backless dresses can be deceiving when they are on. Butt cleavage is definitely not sexy.”


“Are you sure?” Katy giggled.


“I’m sure.” Janice sighed, “it means we just need to tape it I guess, so it fits more appropriately.”


“As long as I get to wear this I can live with that. I just want George to go WOW!”


“Oh I think I can guarantee that.” Jan broke into a smile. “Look if we tie the halter a bit tighter…”


“Then my real cleavage gets all but covered up.”


“Well we just need to find the way this works best.”


“I guess so.”  Katy pulled down the front of the dress a little, and turned from side to side, looking at herself.


“By the way,” Jan said, “what do you think of my dress?”


“It’s beautiful, that slit up the side shows that leg of yours to such advantage.”


“Yeah I thought it did too.”


“Are you two ready yet?”


“Just coming,” Katy said as Jan made one last adjustment, and then nodded as they walked into the main room.  Katherine was putting on a black coat over her dark velvet evening dress, while Adam was adjusting his bow tie.


“the car will be here in a few minutes,” he said as he looked over, and then looked again.  “My god...”


“Yes, you do look stunning,” Jan said as she kissed him, and took her coat.




A few blocks away it was the turn of Kylie Mitchell to be fussing over her mother.


“For gawds sake Kyles, what are you doing to me,” Sami said as she sat on a chair, a towel round her neck as Kylie worked with her make up.


“Just a minute more – there, what do you think Marina darling?”


Marina looked at the older woman and smiled as she said “Yeah – let her see now.”


“See wot,” Kerry said as she came in, smoothing down the skirt of her dress, and then stared at Sami.




“Show ‘er Kyles,” Kerry said, smiling as Kylie handed her mother a mirror.  She looked back at the woman in the glass, looking more her age than she had in years, the eye shadow subtle yet enhancing her look.


“Oh my...  Oh my gawd, I feel naked.”


“You look fantastic,” Maeve said as she came in, putting on her coat over her red dress.  Rose came in, wearing a green silk dress, and smiled as she said “You’ve done a fantastic job Kylie.”


“Well, I do think so as well Darlings – is April ready Susan?”


“Just about – Clint, do you have her bag?”


Sami stood up and looked down at the silver silk as it flowed to her knees, and then at herself again.


“Now, remember,” Kerry said, “no swearing, keep calm – and Maeve and I both have your backs, all right?  This is you night to show Kylie she can be proud of you.”


“Right,” Susan said as she put her coat on, “Diana’s first, then to the party.”



7 pm

Mary Thomas’ Townhouse


“All right you two,” Mary said as she came out of her room, “Let’s be seeing you.”


Erica came out of her room, nervously adjusting the capped sleeves of her black silk dress.  The neckline was cut to reveal some of her chest, but not too much, while the skirt flowed down and behind from her knees to the floor.


“I can’t thank you enough for letting me borrow this,” Erica said as Mary fussed over her, making adjustments to the way the dress was sitting.  She was wearing a green velvet gown with a high collar, and a pair of short green gloves.


“Well – how do I look?”


Mary and Erica turned round, as the young girl said “Mom?”


Denice had a new hairstyle, her hair cut short and framing her face, while her electric blue gown hugged her body like a sheath.  The skirt had a slit at the back, enabling her to move with ease as she hled her purse in her hand.


“What?  Have I got a smut on my nose?”


“No – you look amazing.  The new hairstyle?”


“Well, I fancied a change.  So, are we ready to go?”


“Ai – the car will be here in a minute, and we go to get Pippa and the others before heading round.”


“Before we go Mary,” Denice said, “any surprises we need to be aware of tonight?”


“Oh no – tonight has enough going on,” Mary said with a smile as she collected her keys, “Away with you then.”




7.10 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Kids your father will be here soon with the car.” Sandy shouted upstairs as she adjusted her bracelets.


“It’s nice that George is bringing Orlanda with him, we can make up a nice sized party in his limo.” Heather looked at herself in the large Louis XV mirror in the entrance hall and adjusted her hair.


“Did Curt arrive safely?”


“He did – he and Jo went out for dinner, and they’ll come on to the party from there in time for the showdown.”


“Well, talking of Orlanda, even nannies deserve to have fun on New Years Eve.”


“We do.” Heather laughed as she picked up her purse.  “It was good of Diana to offer her place as a crèche for the night.”


“Well with everyone chipping in lover, the cost per family has been reduced a lot.  It also means Cassandra can leave the kids, and come with Rick and her parents.”


“Well, do I pass inspection?”


“George my darling you get handsomer every day.” Sandy put her arms round her son, as he came to the bottom of the stairs and fixed his cuff links.


“Thanks Mom.”


“Oh dear Goddess!”  Everyone was distracted by the sight of Sands descending in her sea foam green evening dress.


“That good eh?”


“Sands you look amazing darling.” Sandy shook her head.


“Heather I can’t get my white gloves done up at the wrist, can you do it and help with my bracelets?”


“Of course.”  Heather fastened the buttons and then put the bracelets on.


“That sounds like your father,” Sandy turned round as a horn honked. “Everyone get your coats on. Remember it’s cold out there tonight.”



7.15 pm

The Village


“Hello Mrs Brand – won’t the three of you come up,” Ama said as she stood to the side, allowing Grace, Sarah Nightingale and Harriet Craig to walk up, their coats buttoned against the cold.


“Hey Harriet,” Caroline said as she put in her earrings, “how was the UK?”


“Damp and cold – one of these years it might snow there.  I hear you all had a great time over here?”


“We did indeed,” April said as she stood with Grant and Pepsi.  “So where is this car, Caroline?”


“and where’s Annie?”


“She’s coming with Carina and the rest of the family.  Ama, do you need anything else?”


“No Mom, I am ready,” Ama said as she put her fox fur jacket on over her red evening dress, looking at Pepsi in her black dress.


“Well, I think the car will be here soon – and then on to the party...”



7.30 pm

The de Ros Mansion


“She should settle now.” Carina looked at her daughter, now happily playing with Jennifer.


“Thank you miss,” the nursery nurse smiled.


“Well with our daughter settled we can now go enjoy ourselves.” Annie looked at her watch.


“We all have plenty of time.” Diana said as she looked round, checking everything was in place. “The hired car will be here in a few minutes.”


“Well at least it means none of us has to worry about drinking tonight…”


“Speak for yourself Klaus…remember one of us is on damn diet sodas.”


“Sorry I meant to say with the exception of poor Annie here.” Klaus replied.


“So where is Edith tonight?”


“As always, she is spending New Year’s Eve with her sister,” Diana said.  “Remind me - how old again is Sigi’s eldest?”


“Thirteen,” Klaus said, “but he’s already towering over his mother.”


“That sounds promising Klaus,” Diana said with a smile, “for a certain Miss Richmond.”


“Mother don’t go playing matchmaker.” Abby reprimanded her parent. “If they like each other then all well and good.”


“So who is going with whom?” Juliette came in from the kitchen and asked.


“Well...”  Diana started to count off on her gloved fingers.  “You, me, Abby, Tony, Klaus, Adam, Ingy, Carina and Annie, are all in the car I hired.”


“Leaving your father and Valeria, my aunt and uncle, Tasha and Willy, plus Sigi, Dieter and Erik to leave from Tasha’s home.”


“You’ve got it right Carina darling.” Diana smiled again. “By the way how is that weather doing?”


“It’s freezing.” Adam looked out the window onto the avenue. “you’ll be glad you are all wearing fur ladies.”


“Right,” Klaus said as he looked out, “the car is here.  Shall we?”


7.30 pm

Vanessa Richmond’s Apartment


“You look harassed dear brother.” Nessa looked over as her brother shook the snow off his topcoat.


“No just cold,” he smiled back. “Can I beg a brandy before we proceed onwards.”


“Oh I think I can offer that.”


“Nessa darling you are a true angel,” the priest said as he kissed his sister on the cheek.


“Did I hear you needed a brandy sir?” one of the West Point cadets said as he offered Alex a glass.


“Very much so, young man.” Alex accepted the glass, and then kissed the young lady in her dress uniform.  “Miranda dear, did you have much trouble rounding up some volunteers this year?”


“Funny enough Father,” Miranda Jones said, “after the stories of last year, I had more offers then I thought possible to come with me.”


“I can guess why,” Alex replied with a twinkle in his eye. “I bet you are glad to have your great coats for tonight?”


“Oh don’t you know it,” Miranda said, “they may not be as glamorous as fur, but they do keep you warm.”


“May I introduce myself Sir?”   Another cadet joined the conversation, saying “my name is Todd Verducci, I understand my grandfather played alongside you at Notre Dame.”


“Indeed he did young man,” Alex said, “how is Rusty?”


“He died this past summer sir.”


“Oh I’m sorry to hear that,” Alex looked saddened, “Is the lovely Glenda still with us?”


“Oh yes my Gran seems to get younger Sir.”


“Well she was always beautiful, you know Rusty beat me to ask her out by just two hours…”


“What might have been different?” Nessa laughed. “Now if everybody is ready, the car is downstairs.”



7.30 pm

The Brewster Brownstone


“Now that is a stunningly different look.” John appraised his granddaughter as Barbara wheeled her in.


“Isn’t it just?” Jeannie looked at her reflection, checking out the salmon pink long evening dress with the oyster shells hand painted on the silk. “You know this dress is really a museum piece?”


“It is?”


“Granddad don’t you know a Schiaparelli original when you see it?”


“A what original?”


“It was made by the great Elsa Schiaparelli in 1938…”


“Dad even I knew who she was,” Barbara broke in as she put on her pearls.


“She was the great enemy of Coco Chanel who famously described her as that Italian artist who makes clothes.”


“Alright, I may not know fashion history, but I do know a beautiful dress…where did you get it from darling?”


“It was a gift from Carmen, she’s had it for over 60 years, but she thought I’d get a kick out of wearing it. Schiaparelli based it on a Dali painting, and gave it to him, he gave it to Carmen.”


“Well just remember it’s not yours, so don’t spoil it.”


“That’s just what I’ve been telling her dad.”


“Okay – car’s here.  So let’s move out...”



8 pm

Park Avenue


“May I say you look absolutely radiant tonight,” John said as he handed over a glas of champagne.


“Thank you Uncle John,” Maisha said as she stood in a floor length black silk dress, “it was very kind of you and Aunt Shirley to purchase it for me.”


“Well, you are growing up,” Shirley said as she came in, fastening her diamond earrings into place and then looking at the young woman, her hands on her shoulders.  “And it is only right and proper you show that.  I imagine Ama is feeling much the same as you now.”


Maisha nodded as Maddie and Emma came in from the kitchen.


“Well, everything looks fantastic,” Maddie said as she looked round, “want to place bets on who will be first.”


“No bets are necessary – I know who is coming first,” Shirley said as the apartment doorbell rang, and a maid went to open it.


“Welcome,” Shirley said as Mary came in with Denice and Erica, “thank you for coming a little earlier than the others.”


“It’s our pleasure,” Denice said as the maids took their coats, “but I don’t quite understand why you asked us to.”


“Well, i had my reasons – Lady Ashley, it is a pleasure to welcome you to my home.  And you must be Margaret Harker – I’m Shirley Xavier.”


“A real pleasure,” Margaret said as they shook hands.  “I’ve seen your name in the business pages, but it’s nice to finally meet you.  You have a wonderful apartment here.”


“Thank you – may I introduce my partner John Hammond, and my ward Maisha.  Would you look after Mary, Pippa and her family for a moment John – I wish to show both Denice and Erica something.”


“Of course – may I get you something to drink,” John said as Shirley walked Denice and Erica towards the den.


“There is someone who is anxious to see you both before the party begins, which is why i asked you to come earlier than the others.  Ama and Pepsi are already on their way over, so you and young Poppy will not be alone for too long.”


“Oh?  Who is it,” Denice said as Shirley opened the door to her den, and showed them in.




Denice and Erica stopped as they looked at the red headed woman, standing in a blue silk evening dress, smiling as she looked at them.


“TRACY!”  Erica ran over and hugged the dark skinned woman, as she said “What are you doing here?”


“Funny story – just after you moved from the Heights, I got a job working for Xavier International in their offices.  Somehow, Miss Xavier heard about what had happened to you, and how I had helped out, so she invited me and my friend Beverly here to the party tonight.”


“Hi,” Bev said as she sat in the leather armchair, wearing a red off the shoulder dress.


“It was my small way of both thanking her for the help she gave you in that difficult time, and also my way of making sure you got the chance to properly thank her – your move was so sudden she was unable to say goodbye at the time,” Shirley said as she smiled. 


“Wow – my one regret was that Erica never got the chance to say goodbye, and I never got the chance to thank you properly,” Denice said as she walked over and hugged Tracy.  “You were a real tower of strength back then.”


“I’ll leave you all to get re-acquainted – come and join us when you are ready,” Shirley said as she stepped out, in time to see Caroline as she arrived with the others.


“Welcome,” she said as she kissed Caroline, “Thank you all for coming tonight.”


“Thank you for inviting us,” Ama said as she took her coat off, and walked over with Pepsi to where Maisha was standing. 


“So who else is here,” Pepsi said as she accepted a drink.


“Erica’s around somewhere,” Poppy said, “Shirley took her off to – ah, here she is now.”


“Hey there,” Erica said with a big grin.  “Sorry – Shirley had invited a special guest, and she wanted Mom and me to talk to her first.”


She smiled as she saw Tracy and Bev come in and join Caroline.


“I heard you were both in town,” Caroline said as she sipped her champagne.  “Nice shadowing job.”


“Thanks – and I got to do a bit of unfinished business,” Tracy said with a smile. 


“Well, you’re not off the hook yet – Kylie’s bringing a couple of extra guests.”


“Who – oh no, don’t tell me...”


“I need to update you on things,” Caroline said as she took them into a corner.


“Well, this is an amazing place Gray,” Pippa said as she joined Grace with Sarah and Harriet.  “You can tell she’s one of the richest women around just by walking in.”


“And yet she’s so down to earth,” Sarah said as she looked round.



“Hello John – are the others here yet?”


“Not yet.  You two are nice and early,” John remarked as he took Joanne’s coat, revealing her gold gown.


“Well we had early dinner reservations, and unlike so many other women, my lover here thinks being early is being on time,” Curt said as she removed his overcoat.


“Don’t you know it’s a ladies prerogative to be late Jo?”


“Not with my coach it isn’t John,” Jo said with a smile.  “If she says training is at 4, she expects you to have been there since 3.30 and be fully warmed-up and ready to go.”


“Luckilly I played only in the early days of intensive training in rugby,” John said, “so I never faced that problem.”


“Are you talking sport with Jo?” Shirley walked over and kissed her guests.


“No I think it was more about timing.” John smiled.


“Curt was saying that I’m usually unfashionably early.”


“Well I personally think that is a positive virtue Jo.”


“Thank you Shirley.”


“Oh wonderful – you got here before us?”


“For once O wonderful sister I did,” Jo said as Curt kissed Heather. 


“My, you do look dashing tonight, George?”


“Me or Dad,” Little George said as Orlanda looked round, wearing a long green gown.


“Both of you, and as for you young Sands...  Where did the pit crew from Richmond Carter racing go?”


“I think we’re all here now,” George said, his eyes wide open as he saw Katy come in.




“Oh my gawd,” Kerry said as the maid took their coats, “who lives in a place like this?”


“My boss,” Susan said, “so best behaviour, please.”


“Susan, welcome – and this must be Kylie’s mother and aunt.”


Both Sami and Kerry looked at the tall auburn haired woman, with her deep voice, as she said “I’m Shirley Xavier, and this is my apartment.”


“Shirley darling,” Kylie said, “allow me to introduce my mother Samantha, and my Aunt Kerry.”


“A pleasure,” Shirley said as she shook their hands.  “Please, feel free to mingle and talk to people.”


“Rose, Maeve,” Katherine said as she came over, “let’s go and have a natter over a cup of tea.”


“Let me introduce you to one or two people,” Susan said as she took Sami and Kerry in a different direction, as Alex and Nessa arrived with the cadets.




“Hey Doc,” Pepsi said as Anna came over, “how are you feeling tonight?”


“Tired already – Missy has had me at shoots to see what happens,” Doc said as she looked at Jeannie, who was been lifted into a chair by her grandfather.  The group went over as she said “Hey Jeannie – how was London?”


“Busy – I’m glad to be back here,” Jeannie said with a smile.  “I hear Missy’s had you shadowing all week.”


“I’m told you have to do it,” Doc said with a smile as Poppy looked to the door.


“Speaking of returning travellers – hey Jess.  When did you get back into town?”


“Last night – to find the invitations waiting,” Jess said as John and Shirley talked to Juan and Amelia Murchado.  “So how was Christmas?”


“Apart from the Mass?  It was good thank you – I’m sorry I wasn’t here for your party Anna.”


“Oh you missed a classic there,” Pepsi said as she looked at the others.


“Missed what,” Becca said as she came over in her black dress.


“Doc’s party.”


“Oh yeah – seeing Tom and Mick sing It’s Not Unusual as Mary Thomas sat with them...”


“Tom...  Tom Jones?  Mick Jagger?  At your party?”


“Oh yes – and that was just the beginning...”




“Well do we have any surprise star guests coming tonight Shirley?” Madeline asked as she tried a cup of tea.


“Depends on your definition of those terms?”


“Oh like Mick Jagger and Tom Jones, singing for their suppers.”


“Oh - you heard about that did you?”


“Yes, and my wife was more then a little jealous of Vanessa.”


“Well I don’t think either can make it tonight, though I did ask Merlin to invite both.”


Looking round, Maddie smiled and said “I need to corner some of the real estate people.”


“Oh?” Shirley’s eyebrow lifted.


“Yes I’ve…I mean we’ve decided, that we need a little second place here in New York.”


“Well it sounds a good idea to me…Any ideas where?”


“Somewhere down in the village we thought, convenient for entertainment, friends, etc.”


“Well it definitely sounds like an idea to me.” Shirley paused a second. “Elaine Colman is who you need see.”


“Was she the agent who found you this place?”


“She was, and she was so very efficient in what she did.”


“Alright, she sounds just like my sort of person.”


“I’ll point her your way – Cassandra, I’m so glad you and your parents could come.”


“Thank you for inviting us,” Cassandra Stone said as Eve and Steven Stone handed their coats to the maid.


“How is the filming going?”


“We have the location filming almost complete, so it’s back to Tinseltown after the holidays to do interior and other shoots.”


“For which I am eternally grateful,” Rick said as he kissed Shirley.


“So who else is here yet,” Eve said as she looked round, and then smiled.  “Grace my girl, you look amazing.”


“Not as amazing as you,” Grace said as she looked at the Irish supermodel.  “How is Steven?”


“Good today – I think Jack has tapped him for a judging role tonight.  On which note – where is the leprechaun?”


“Oh he’s on his way...”




“Did you make sure that room was stocked for the police, security, and drivers darling?”


“I did Shirley my love,” John nodded. “I’m glad that we do that, this is a terrible night not only to be working on, but also to be out in this cold.”


“Well Adam and also Barbara’s father initially recommended it to me, and I certainly think it works better then the open bar in a pub, that Barbara did for Halloween.”


“Yes,” John said with a smile, “I heard that got a little rowdy.”


“And cost her more for repairs after the fight then she paid for the food and drink.”


“That I heard too.” John kissed Shirley on the cheek.


“You know it’s already midnight in Britain, Shirley said, “we could tell everybody your little secret darling.”


“No, let’s wait till midnight our time here, it just somehow seems more right.”


“Well midnight it is then, just let me get my camera when you make the announcement.”


“All right – Klaus, Juliette, welcome.”


“Thank you John,” Juliette said as she kissed him on both cheeks, the others handing their coats over.  “The party certainly seems ot be getting going.”


“And that is before Diana and the others get here,”  John said with a smile.  “Go on through – we’ll join you in a few minutes.”


“Hey Monster Momma,” Carina said, “want to dance?”


“Oh yeah,” Annie said as they went in, and two family groups arrived.


“Ah, our combatants are here,” Shirley said as Tracey van Roon arrived with Gus, Paulie and the rest of the family, Mandy and the rest of the Fitzstuart clan right behind them with the MacNally’s.


“Jude!  Over here!”


“Hey you two,” Judy said as she kissed Bobbi and Carina, “where’s the elders and betters?”


“Talking over there – is Holly coming tonight?”


“I think she and Tony are coming from another party...”





"John, George, it's lovely you could both make it."

"Well thank Coco, she was the one who made sure we got here."  John Jacobs smiled as he straightened his jacket.

"And she has laid strict rules that we aren't to bore other people talking about antiques and horses." George added.

"With all your racing partners here George that might be a little hard to achieve."

"Yes that's true Shirley." Coco laughed quietly.

"George, John, do you want to come see what I have in the study?"

"Now what is your John doing so surreptitiously Shirley?"

"Oh he has a couple of bottles of Bunnahabhain 25 year old single malt whiskey in there."

"Oh dear," Coco laughed again, "it's going to be one of those parties is it?"

"Not if I can help it,'" Shirley smiled, "I feel like dancing and no men are just going to vanish into corners etc, tonight."




“Valeria, you made it.”


“No thanks to the traffic, Sandy,” she said as Guy handed their coats off, Willy doing the same for Natalya.


“Hello Father, Valeria,” Diana said as she arrived with the other party, “and this must be Erik.  Welcome to New York.”


“Thank you,” the young man said as he stood over Sigi, Dieter smiling beside him.


“Come with me,” Ama said as she took his arm, “let me introduce you to some of the others...”


“He’s nervous,” Sigi said with a giggle.  “His first big party.”


“Oh don’t worry,” Juliette said as she looked at Pepsi and Katy talking to him, “I think he’ll be just fine...”





“This is quite a gathering,” Juan said as he and Amelia stood with Pippa, Grace and Maggie.


“Indeed – Mother is in her element,” Pippa said as she watched Lady Ashley talking to Valeria and Natalya.


“Who is the thin woman over there,” Maggie said as she looked at the two women with Kylie.


“I believe that is Kylie’s mother and aunt,” Grace said.


“It is,” Rose said as she walked over.


“Juan, Amelia, this is Rose, Susan’s mother.  Rose, these as Jess’ parents.”


“Pleasure,” she said as she shook their hands, a tea cup in the other.


“A tea lover?”


“More the only drink I can safely take,” Rose said with a smile as they all heard Jess shout out “WHAT!!”


“Now what has made Jess call out like that,” Amelia said as she looked over.


“I suspect,” Grace said, “she has just been told what Caroline bought Ama as a Christmas present?”


“And that was?”


“A trip next Spring Break to Madrid – and some time in the Bernabau...”


“Ah – that would explain it,” Juan said with a smile.




"Problems with Katy did I hear Jan?" Heather said as she passed the sandwiches.

"For once not really,” Jan said as she took one, “it was more getting her dress to hang right."

"Oh I see." Heather ate a bite, "yes I can that isn't the easiest dress in the world to wear."

"Well we have it taped in places, and pinned in a couple of others, so hopefully she will not have any accidents."

“George certainly likes it,” Heather said.  "Now your dress is stunning...If i wasn't taken already I'd be hitting on you Miss Carter."

"I take that as a compliment Heather."

"You should," Adam grinned as he arrived with a tray of drinks. "Heather is a connoisseur of beauty."

"And not just in great art." Jeanne interrupted.

"Hello Jeanne, I see you are taking it careful like Annie?"

"I am," the Interpol woman looked in disgust at her diet coke.

"So is your father here?"

"Yes he and Janine are over there somewhere."





"Jack old son...Thank you." John laughed as he took the bottles of old whiskey from his friend. "we were already trying some..."

"Jack Linklater I might just as well kill you, I've already had trouble separating men from whiskey." Shirley looked daggers.

"See I warned you not to bring it." Luke spoke as he hung up his and Jack's coats.

"That kilt is more respectable then the last one I saw you in Jack?" Shirley tried changing the subject.

"Well hogmanay brings out the Scot in me, what more can I say?" Jack laughed.

"I don't mind the Scot, it's the scotch that worries me."


“Is that Jack Linklater out there,” Steven called from the den, “get in here, I want to know what you’ve roped me into tonight.”


“Five minutes, honestly,” John said as he took the two photographers in, Shirley shaking her head as she watched them.


“Ama, Maisha,” she said as they walked past, “would you be able to act as hosts for a few minutes?”


“Of course Aunt Shirley, where will you be?”


“Rounding up the rescue squad,” she said as she headed into the room.


“Something tells me Uncle John may have some explaining to do,” Maisha said as the doorbell rang, and she opened it, allowing in a tower of a man and his wife.




"Dr. and Dr. Boyd, it's good to see you again."

"Hello Maisha, how are you?" Karen asked as Ama helped her friend take coats.

"Rather better this year than last..."

"And she's far more comfortable speaking English now." Ama interrupted.

"I could tell...so how did you get greetings duty?"

"Aunt Shirley and Aunt Coco have gone to separate Uncle John and his cronies from something called 25 year old single malt..."

"Maybe I should go help?"

"Ken Boyd, you are not deserting me to go drink old whiskey."

"And you aren't either Duncan."  Alice McKinnon spoke as Maisha took her silky smooth sable coat.


“As if I would – hello you two,” Duncan said as he kissed them both.


“So are Tufty and Face here?”


“They most certainly are,” Karen said as she looked into the room.


“Right you two – we are going to dance,” Karen said as Ken and Duncan looked at each other, before they were dragged in.


“We have more guests,” Maisha said as she opened the door.


"Hello Letty, Hello Mrs. Kinman." Ama smiled, and i'm sorry I don't know your name?"

"This is Jason – he studies at Cornell," Letty said as she held his arm.

"It's nice to meet you." Maisha smiled politely. "I'm Maisha, Miss Xavier's ward."

"It's nice to meet you as well Maisha," Mercy replied. "Do you live in London?"

"Mainly, but we spend a lot of time here in New York as well."

"Hello Maisha, Hello Ama," Elaine Colman spoke as her family arrived.

"Hi Nikki, Hi Mr. and Mrs. Colman." Ama grinned.

"Thank you for taking over greetings girls," Shirley arrived back looking slightly harassed.  “Elaine, before you go in, can I introduce you to a friend of mine?  She’s looking for a small property near the village.”


“Well,” Elaine said, “I am off duty, but introduce me, and we can arrange to talk tomorrow...”



“So how are you coping,” Maeve said as she stood alongside Sami and Kerry.


“It’s tuff,” Sami said as she sipped her glass of champagne, “but I’m amazed at all the people here, and how easily Kyles mofes wif ‘em.”


“Oh yeah,” Kerry said as she watched Kylie talking to Maggie and Jo, “I mean, look at ‘er.”


“This is her life now, her world,” Marina said as she stood beside Sami, “look at her and tell me honestly, Samantha – would you want her to lose all this?”


“No – No I wuldn’t,” Sami said as Clint came over.


“Would you care to dance?”


“Wot – to this music?”


“Follow my lead,” he said as he took Sami’s hand and led her onto the dance floor.


“Now that is nice.”


Kerry turned to see Tracy and Bev standing next to her.


“Well now – why are you two here?”


“We’ve been playing babysitter – hey Marina.”


“Hello you two – fancy meeting up with me and Kylie for lunch tomorrow?”


“Sounds good,” Bev said as she watched Sami nervously dancing with Clint.





“So that’s your mother Kittycat,” Doc said as she and Kylie watched.  “What happened to the muscle?”


“I did – and then Helen did Kitten,” Kylie whispered back.  “The last I heard, he was flying back to London.”


“At Helen’s request.”


“At her insistence,” Kylie said with a smile.


“Oh – sorry,” they heard Sami says as she tripped, and Clint held her.


“What did you do?”


“What happened to me, and to Rose darling – strip down to the bare basics, and give her the opportunity to prove herself.  Which reminds me – Karen darling, may i have a word?”


“Of course, Kylie,” Karen Boyd said, “what can I do for you?”


“Well, it’s more what i hope you can do for my mother...”





“Well now, fancy meeting you here?”


“I most certainly did,” John said as he stood next to Rose, “thank you for the present.”


“You’re most welcome – and thank you for yours.”


“Did you like it?”


“I’m wearing it,” Rose said as she lifted her skirt a little.


“How nice – who’s that with Clint?”


“Believe it or not,” Rose said, “that is Kylie’s mother.”


“Her mother?  Did she come for a visit?”


“Rather unexpectedly...”




“THERE you all are.”


“Sorry, John said as he kissed Shirley, “we got talking and...”


He was silenced as they were taken onto the dance floor by their husbands and partners, Coco taking John Jacobs and Susan pulling George on, as the band played on.


“You’re very quiet Maggie.”


“Am I,” she said as she looked at Pippa.


“Yes – suspiciously so.  Have you told Mum yet about the by-election?”


“I suppose I should,” Maggie said with a smile, “if she has seen the on-line editions of the papers, but i happen to know she hasn’t.”


“Oh – how can you be certain?”


“Trust me,” Maggie said as she looked at Erica dancing with Erik, “you would know if she had seen.”


Pippa looked at her, and said “What are you not telling me?”


“Patience, Pippa – you’ll find out soon enough,” Maggie said with a smile.


“What is Maggie so happy about,” Grace said as her fried’s aunt walked off.


“I have no idea,” Pippa said, “no idea at all...”





“I still can’t believe it,” Jess said, “you’re going to Madrid for spring break – and it’s REAL you go to visit?”


“As with many things,” Ama said with a smile, “we must agree to disagree on this one.”


“You are aware your wonderful gift is going to cause much discussion between Jess and Ama,” Amelia Murchado said as she stood with Caroline.


“Life is full of such opportunities,” she said with a smile.


“I understand a week Sunday is also a special day for young Ama?”


“It is indeed - I hope you can attend?”


“Of course - who will be her supporters?”


“She hasn’t chosen yet.”


“And I understand she will be sixteen a short while later.”


“Yes indeed – and I have that already in hand,” Caroline said with a smile.




"Wot is she upta now?" Samantha asked Susan as she saw her daughter sit down with Alice MacKinnon.

"From the way she's sketching on that napkin,” Susan said, “I'd guess she is showing Alice an idea she has had."

"That's the boss of APCO she's with?"

"It is."


"Well Alice loves Kylie's thoughts and ideas, and she's been better than good on giving Kylie credits for her designs and royalties on them."

"So that's how Kylie can afford to buy such nice fings?"

"In part, it does give her a bit of her own money, other then the allowance she gets." Susan sipped her drink and smiled as she thought of Kylie’s other means of income.

"Well I bleedin' never." Sami shook her head.  “My little Kyles a designer...”


“Look,” Susan said, “we could increase the payment if you wanted, but if we did, I think Kylie would want conditions – such as you sobering up and settling down.”


“I know,” Sami said quietly, “I look at Rose – and i really am sorry for my crack the other day.  Maybe it is time I got me act togefer.”




“That is an amazing outfit you have on, young Katy.”


"Well, I took a risk and I just hope it DOESN'T come off," Katy giggled.

"It's a great dress, but I can see the problems." Angel looked appraisingly. "If it isn't held in place just right then the whole effect is spoiled."

"I once literally did come out of a dress just like that darling." Mandy drawled. "I'm not sure Jean-Paul ever forgave me - my 'accident' garnered more publicity then his collection."

"So what are you talking about dearest?" Will said as he kissed his wife.

"We were talking about Katy's dress darling."

"Isn't that like the one you flashed..."

"Yes my darling, and that was precisely what I was saying."

"We have food for everyone," Harry Cameron said as he and George brought over a tray of canapés.

"You know darlings,” Mandy said as she selected a vol-au-vent, “Shirley's parties really are so beautifully catered."

"Agreed Mother." Angel smiled. "We really do need up the standard of our offerings at Ordford."

"I was thinking just that myself." Will revelled in the taste sensations. “I really do need find out if these people can recommend someone back home."


“Now where have my brothers got to?”


“Apart from David – try over there...”


“Here comes something,” Maeve said as Jack came over with his brothers.


"Ladies - might we ask for a dance again this year?" Jack bowed slightly.

"Well it did us no harm last year." Katherine smiled, as she Maeve, and Rose stood up.

"Who's that dancin' with Rose and the uvvers?" Sami asked Susan as she looked at the three couples.

"The Fitzstuart boys," Susan said with a smile.

"And who pray tell are they?"

"Jack, David, and Billy."

"They are pretty good looking boys."

"I guess so." Susan looked hard. "I think they get that from their mother rather than from Will."

"They have nice manners." Kerry said as she looked at the three young men dancing with the older ladies.

"Hold on, I'll introduce you to their parents. Mandy has had an influence on Kylie you know."

"Oh 'ow?"

"You'll hear Sami." Susan giggled as she took the two other women towards Will and Mandy.


“Oh hello Susan,” Will said as he turned round, “how’s April?”


“Getting bigger every day, thanks Will.  I wanted to introduce you to some people.”


“Of course – and you are?”


“Sami...  Sorry, Samantha Mitchell, and this is my cousin Kerry.”


“You’re from North London – you’re not related to Kylie by any chance are you?”


“Actually,” Sami said with a blush, “she’s me daughter.”


“Really?  Mandy, this is Kylie’s mother.”


“Indeed – a real pleasure to meet you darling,” Mandy said in her slow, languid drawl as she shook Sami’s hand.


Will and Susan looked at Sami as she stood, her mouth open as Mandy shook Kerry’s hand.  “You must be incredibly proud of your daughter, Samantha darling – she is a real credit to Susan and to you.”


“Yes – yes I am,” Sami finally said, “I really am.  It is a real honour and pleasure to meet you, Mandy.”


“Likewise darling.  Susan, I think Shirley was looking for you.”


“And I am looking for you,” John Hammond said as he came over.  “Time to get ready Amanda.”


“Ah yes – if you will excuse me,” she said as she walked off, her body swaying as Will went with her.


“I don’ f...”




“Sorry – I don’ belief it.  That is who she has modelled herself on?”


“Yup,” Susan said as Kerry finally spoke, saying “Wha’ jus happened?”




“You made it,” Adam said as Tom and Gale Callaghan came in, “baby safely deposited?”


“Indeed – and I need to thank Diana for setting that up,” Gale said as Jan handed them a glass of champagne each.


"So how was Baltimore Tom?"

"As it always when my family gets together...”  Tom took a sip and said “loud."

"Did you have a good time though?"

"Actually we did.”  Tom looked at Gus and Tracey as she said “Allan got fussed over by everyone Gus. He behaved like a gentleman and slept well, and my father convinced himself the way he threw a ball that he at last has a grandson will pitch for the Orioles."

"Well I've heard of stranger predictions coming true." Gus laughed. "And what about you Gale?"

"Well without offending my husband, i was glad to get back to the peace and quiet of Manhattan."

"Peace? Quiet?"

"Tom wasn't fibbing about the noise. He has eleven brothers and sisters, they all are married with children, put everyone together and i was yearning for the tranquility of Times Square."


“Oh dear,” Tracey said as Adam came over.


“Tracey my dear – it’s time?”


Looking at her watch, she smiled and said “oh dear – see you all later?”


“Time for what,” Gale said as she saw Tracey walk off.


“The rematch...”



“Enjoying yourself,” Susan said as she found Kerry.


“I am actually – and Sami’s behaving ‘erself.”


“Yeah – Kylie is really glad of that.”


"Well without blowing my cousins little brain Susan - how well off are sum of these people?"

"You want an honest answer Kerry?"

"Yeah,” she said, “after I take a sip of this champagne to brace for the shock."

"Well," Susan giggled gently. "I'm not sure who exactly is richer, but given the state of the real estate market here, Gus van Roon and Nessa Richmond are probably in the world’s Twenty Richest people."

"They are wot?"

"Well,” Susan said quietly, “between them they own a substantial part of this island you know?"

"No I didn't," Kerry shook her head, "but go on."

"Well all the van Roon's are individually wealthy, the same with the other Richmond's." Susan sipped her drink. "Klaus wouldn't be short of money, but most though is tied up in trusts."

"Wot about your boss?"

"Oh, Shirley is doing very well for herself, but in her case it's earned, not inherited, wealth.  She’s been in her line of business for over twenty years now."

"Just fink of all that, people back 'ome would fink I'm lyin' I told 'em 'oo I spent New Years wiv."


“Kerry, trust me – you have no idea...”




“So, Mother darling, how are you coping?”


“Awl right,” Sami said as she looked at Kylie, “youf good real good friends ‘ere Kyles.”


“Yes I have,” Kylie said with a smile as they looked at Miranda and some of her colleagues, talking to Pussy and Freida.


"So who are the toy soldiers?" Samantha asked Kylie.

"Cadets from the military academy at West Point darling. Miranda was at school with Carina, Judy, Bobbi, etc, and Shirley asks her each year to bring some cadets along who can't get home for the holidays."

"Those grey uniforms look funny."

"Oh those are just their dress uniforms.  Normally, so Miranda tells me, they’re in greens or combat gear.”

"It's nice though of Shirley to invite 'em."

"Well it brings in a group of men for girls like me to dance with. We Sinners rather outnumber the Saints."


"Just a little joke mum darling, I'll explain it later."





"We need to have an RCM Racing meeting sometimes in the next couple of days or so and start making plans for our 2016 campaign." Sandy was speaking to Henri, Roy, and Clint in a corner.

"Agreed." Roy nodded. "How about everyone comes to my place one evening and we can work on the schedule, budgets, etc."

"It sounds like a plan to me mon ami." Henri nodded.

"Well the guys are coming over tomorrow for a meeting about Saints and Sinnerz,” Roy said, “but other than that I think I'm free."

"I'll circulate round the room and see if I can get agreement on a date." Sandy nodded as she looked round.

"Changing the subject are you guys thinking of buying any more horses as a syndicate?"

"We are thinking about it Clint...Thinking very seriously.” Roy sipped his drink as he said “Grant has been doing his research and he's identified a couple of horses at least in the early sales that he thinks maybe we ought to at least look at."

"That sounds good Roy." Clint nodded.



“Barbara, can I introduce you to Kerry.  Kerry, this is Barbara Brewster, Jeannie’s mother.”


“It’s a real pleasure at meet you,” Kerry said as they shook hands.


“Oh-ho, someone from your end of London Susan?”


“Indeed – Kerry came over with Kylie’s mother to see her for New Year.”


“Susan tells me you come from ‘Arrow orginially?”


“Yes – we moved out last year, when – well, you’ve seen Jeannie I’m sure.”


“Yeah – she looks even more beautiful in real life.”


“She’ll love you saying that,” Barbara said as Kylie walked round the room with her mother.


“You really modelled yourself on that Mandy woman?”


“Oh yes, darling – she is a true hero.  And here are two more.  Joanne, Curt, this is my Mum Samantha...Mum this is Jo Smith and her boyfriend Dr. Curtis Richardson."

"Doctor?" Sami queried.

"I'm a Phd, not an MD Samantha, I teach at a college upstate, and it's Curt please."

"Curt teaches at Hobart/William Smith where i'm a student," Jo said as she looked tenderly at Curt.

"And no I don't actually teach Jo." Curt laughed.  “Rules and all that.”

"So wot do you teach Curt?"

"Criminal Psychology is my speciality Samantha."

"You'd 'ave a field day wiv sum of my friends back 'ome then," Samantha said as she shook her head.

"So Kylie and Marina have told me - they spoke to me about your part of North London.  I have studied the South London of the Krays in the sixties, but yours is a different world."

"Curt wrote an important book on prison and other forms of punishment Mum." Kylie spoke.

"Well it was academically well received,” Curt said with a smile, “but I'm not sure it had much in the way of influence..."

"Oh I wouldn't say that Curt," Tom Morse interrupted, "I made sure everyone on the House Justice Committee got a copy,"

"And I certainly read it with great interest." Brooke Hutton said as she handed her mink to the maid, and joined the conversation.

"Well before we talk more about the book. Mum,” Kylie said, “can i present Congressman Tom Morse of New York, and Judge Brooke Hutton, newly appointed as a federal judge for Southern New York."

"It's a pleasure to meet you." Brooke kissed Sami, after which Tom repeated the procedure.

"My name's Samantha, and I must admit i never fort I'd be 'ere tonight chatting wiv a judge, a congressman and a professor."

"I'm not a professor..."

"Yet," Jo smiled.

"But he is slow in doing his duty," Brooke smiled, "Curt I've been here a whole five minutes and you haven't offered me a glass of champagne yet."

"Whoops!" Curt laughed, "I'll be right back your honor."

"Hold on I'll come with you and get some sparkling cider for mum and me."

"Well if you are going, bring food as well please Kylie." Brooke was already enjoying herself as she looked round.

"You know my Kylie looks great," Samantha mused quietly as she and Curt walked towards the bar.

"She really is a lovely girl." Tom smiled again.

"You must be terribly proud of her."

"I guess I am Brooke." Sami tilted her head and watched her.  “But why are they clearing the dance floor?”


“Oh my,” Claire said as she joined Tom, “I think it’s almost time.”


“Time?  Time for wot?”


“The Danceoff,” Jo said, “let me explain Samantha...”






The partygoers looked on as John Hammond came into the centre of the dance floor.


“First of all – thank you all for coming tonight!  Second of all, those of you who were at a certain Halloween party will remember that there was a competition between two close friends as to who could do the best dance on the night – a dance that ended in a draw.”


“But a fun one,” Roy called out, earning him a stern look from Tonya.”


“At any rate, the time has come for – the re-match!  Please welcome your judges for tonight, Jack Linklater, Luke Heller and Stephen Stone!”


The audience clapped and cheered as the judges took their seats on three stools.


“The order was decided a few moments ago by a toss of the coin – so first up tonight, please welcome dancing to a song from Moulin Rouge, Tracey van Roon!”


John stepped off the dance floor as Tracey came out, wearing a pale pink gown with silver hearts on both breasts, held up by thin spaghetti straps across her shoulders, and long white gloves with sparkling bracelets on her wrists.   The skirt of the dress was made to resemble ostrich feathers, barely covering her crotch at the front and going to floor level at the back. Her legs were covered in light pink tights, while she wore a pair of white high heels.


“Have you ever seen the film,” Kerry whispered to Sami.


“No – but the way she’s dressed, she looks like one o those ladies of...”


The band started to play the version of Music of the Night from the film, as Tracey danced round, shaking her chest as she turned round and brushed the feathers of her dress against the men standing around the edge.


“All right,” Abi said as she stood next to Blair and Cari, “where did she learn the technique?”


“Aunt Tracey?  She may have been taking part in some events at the Belmont Burlesque,” Blair said with a smile.


“Ah – good place I’m told,” Ally said as she and Nell watched, Tracey peeling the long white gloves off and throwing them into the crowd to the sound of cheers.  “How good did she get?”


“A standing invitation to perform when she wants to,” Blair said as her aunt slipped the straps of her gown down, and then unfastened the back, stepping out as it fell to the ground to reveal her white basque.  She continued to dance round, raising cheers from the crowd as she spun and shook.


As the song came to an end, she dropped to the floor, doing the splits as she raised her arms in triumph.


“Have you ever been tempted to dance in that style,” Marina said as she stood with Helen.


“Not in public, no,” Helen said with a smile, “but what I do in private is my business...”


“Ladies and gentlemen, Tracey van Roon,” John said as August and Blair came and helped her out.  “And now, the other contestant.  Please welcome to the floor, all the way from Ordford, and performing to Let Me Entertain You from Gypsy, Mandy Fitzstuart!”


“And where has she been practising,” Pepsi said as she stood with Jack.


“A little place in Covent Garden called the House of Burlesque.”


The room clapped and cheered as Mandy came out, her hair done up, and wearing a gold gown with elbow length sleeves, the skirt splitting at the front as she walked into the centre of the dance floor.  She was also wearing long white gloves, as well as a long scarf over one shoulder.


The song started to play as she danced round, and posed with one leg in front of the other, the skirt of her gown falling round it.  She then twirled round, smiling as she unfastened the waist band and removed her skirt, revealing her body suit as she threw the skirt towards Will. 


“Thanks darling,” she called out as Will caught it, and she kept dancing round, her long legs reaching and kicking as she blew kisses, and then released the hidden catches, peeling away the top of her dress to leave her in a gold basque with the white gloves.


She threw the jacket into the crowd, Susan smiling as Clint caught it, while Sami and Kerry looked at Kylie.


“Do not ask me darlings, I wasn’t at this particular party,” she said with a smile as Mandy kept dancing round, taking a set of feathers from John as she reached behind her back, and placed the feathers in front of her.


“Oh my gawd,” Sami said, “is she...”


“Oh yes,” Kylie said as the gold garment was thrown to the side.  She moved round the floor, using the feathers to cover her modesty, before she walked off the floor and out of the room – the feathers thrown back in as the music stopped.


“Excuse me a moment,” Angel said with a grin as she left to the sound of the applause for her mother’s dance.  Sami shook her head, then turned and looked at Kylie.


“Oh no darling,” she said with a smile, “that is not something I would do.”


“Weren’t they fantastic everyone,” John said as Tracey and Mandy came back in, now wearing dressing gowns.  “The judges are now deliberating...”


“So who do you think Cherie,” Diana said as she stood with Klaus and Juliette.


“I cannot tell – they were both excellent in their own way.”


“Then perhaps,” Juliette said as she looked at Klaus, “we should ask your father, Diana?”


“Once, perhaps.  Now, I suspect he was not paying that much attention.”


“I agree,” Klaus said as he looked at Guy talking to Grant and Roy, “I do not think he was even watching that much.”




“Ladies and Gentlemen,” John said, “Our judges have reached a decision.  Jack?”


“Both women gave a fantastic performance tonight,” Jack said, “and it was a close call, but the judges have given the win to...”


Both Tracey and Mandy looked on as Jack grinned and then said...




“Thank you darlings,” Mandy said as the room applauded, “I will not accept the winnings however – to me, it was a honourable draw.”


“You did win however,” Augie said, “so who do I make the cheque payable to.”


“This year’s Debutante Charity – Abigail will provide the details.”


“Done,” Augie said with a smile as Tracey hugged Mandy.


"Can I also suggest,” Mandy said as she looked round, “that all of you with side bets that were made similarly donate your winnings to charity darlings?"

"That is an idea I heartily endorse." Tracey smiled. "And can I add that preparing for this has been amazing fun, and that I will be continuing to do burlesque in some form or another in the future."

"As will I darlings." Mandy winked. "This as Tracey has said isn't just fun, but it's actually great exercise as well..."

"And a form of exercise ladies your husbands can equally enjoy."

"Oh DEFINITELY! Will has really loved seeing the moves I learned."




Judy laughed as David stared at his parents.


"Well in addition can I say something." Juliette spoke up. "Dita has been kind enough to agree to do a spread for CS called Lady of Burlesque posing in evening wear reminiscent of the great years of burlesque after World War Two. She has suggested that both Mandy and Tacey might also like to model for it with her?"

"Oh I accept straight away darling."

"But I've never modeled," Tracey looked in shock at both of them.

"Oh I think you can do it," Mandy embraced her erstwhile rival. "Ju count us both in."




“I didn’t see you come in Missy,” Juliette said as she kissed her old friend.


“None of you did – I was just in time to see the show.”





"Well I never fort I'd see the day such 'igh class ladies did striptease." Sami shook her head.

"Well burlesque is not really modern striptease Mum, it's about suggestion, not flashing everything you have at punters in some seedy club."

"Well I might investigate some classes back 'ome if it means I can trim me body down so it looks like theirs."

"And I'll come with yer Sami." Kerry nodded. "I just can't get that they are both older then us wiv grown kids."

"I know Ker, we 'ave definitely gotta start lookin' after ourselves better."

"And does that include the booze and the pills Samantha?" Marina broke in.

"Yeah i guess it bleedin' does." Sami thought for a few seconds. "I've got a daughter to be proud of, I guess I orta start makin' 'er proud of me as well."




Sami turned round to see Rose standing with a tall blonde woman.


“Sami, I’d like you to meet Karen Boyd.  She was kind enough to tell Susan of some people who helped me.”


“You must be the doc Kyles wanted me to see?”


“That’s right Samantha – perhaps we can meet for breakfast tomorrow, you, me, Rose and your friend.  Let me help you take the first step.”


“Sure – we’re at the ‘Oliday Inn.”


“Excellent – I’ll see you there tomorrow.”




As the band started playing again, and Shirley went on the dance floor with John Jacobs, Alex walked over to where Jeannie was sitting, looking round.


"You haven't danced yet Jeannie?"

"Well,” she said with a smile, “with no House here Father Alex..."

"It doesn't stop you dancing with other gentlemen I hope?"

"No...but..." Jeannie laughed as the priest lifted her up and held her in his arms.

"See,” Alex said with a smile, “Winston is not the only person who can do this."

"I can see," Jeannie laughed softly as they moved round the floor.






"Hello Denice," Liz Lodge said as she kissed the black woman on the cheek.

"Hey to you too."

"Quite a party,” Liz said as she took a drink.  “Well, I see Simon and Erica are more equal on the ballroom floor now?"

"Oh if only you'd have seen all the hours she has had me and Mary practicing with her so she could get to this standard."

"They look good together out there though."

"Yes they do." Denice smiled.

"Are you coming to our Super Bowl party?"

"Are we invited?"

"You should be,” Liz said, “I asked Simon to invite you both earlier."

"Oh is that what he was trying to say earlier, he got a bit nervous and tongue tied."

"Are you coming though?"

"Oh definitely, providing nothing comes up with my new job or with RCM."

"Which reminds me, are you looking forward to Sebring?"

"In the worst way, I've gotten a taste of being part of the team and I just want to see how it feels to be in the pits at a world level event."

"Well my company is signing up as an additional sponsor for the team," Augie van Roon brought the ladies fresh drinks.  “so we’ll be there as well.”


“So how long until you move into the new apartment?”


“Two weeks according to Sandy,” Denice said, “and wonderful as it is to live with Mary, I can’t wait to have my own place again.”





On the balcony, a group of four old friends were looking out at the city.


“It’s an amazing sight, isn’t it darlings,” Kylie said as she sipped the cider.


“How does it compare to Hong Kong though Kylie?”


“Completely different, Beverly darling.  I love them both, as I love London.”


“So do you think your mum’s gonna be all right,” Tracy said as she sipped from her glass.


“Oh I think so – provided that brute is kept away from her.”


“You may settle your mind on that score,” Helen said as she came to join them, “I made the situation very clear to him, and the consequences if he ever approached Samantha again.”


“Well, I’m sure we’ll be keeping an eye on your mum, Kyles,” Tracy said.


“I know – Rose has told me she’s willing to act as her sponsor, so that should help as well.  The main thing is, she’s not going to take me away from all this – and i am so grateful for that.”


“Well, we’ll head back with her and Kerry – on the same flight anyway.”


“Thank you – thank you all,” Kylie said quietly.


“Do not thank me yet – I wish to see you both at nine tomorrow morning for a session,” Helen said with a smile.




“Well, fancy meeting both of you here.”


Gale smiled as she walked over to where Carina and Natalya were standing in a corner.


“It is good to see you as well,” Natalya said with a smile, “Motherhood suits you.”


“I know – it is an amazing experience.”


“And how are you cousin,” Cari said quietly.


“Well and content – our new life needs our protection, but I feel I must feed soon.”


“I understand – we will talk in a day or two, all three of us...”




"Miss Xavier I need to thank you on behalf of all of us for allowing us to come to your party." Todd Verducci said as he stood and saluted.

"Oh enough of that silliness young man," Shirley smiled, "It’s enough reward to see all you young people having fun."

"Oh I think you can tell that we are."

"I understand that your grandparents were friends of Alex's many years ago?"

"Yes,” he said with a smile, “my grandfather played next to Father Richmond on the line at Notre Dame."

"And went on into the NFL to play for the Chicago Bears." Gus van Roon said as he joined in the conversation. "Rusty Verducci was a great player."

"You look like a former player yourself sir."

"Oh I played at Harvard young man, but I was never in the class of your grandfather. Changing the subject just slightly I did meet your grandparents on a few occasions, and I hear that Glenda is still with us?"

"She is sir, Gramps death knocked her back a bit, but she's bounced back."

"So how come you aren't at home with the family Todd?" Shirley asked.

"My parents have taken Grams to New Zealand on vacation."


“Well, tell her Gus and Paulie were asking after her when you next see her,” Gus said as he looked at his watch.  “Good lord – ten minutes to midnight already?”


“Is it?  I must find John,” Shirley said as she walked off...



"Marina can I introduce James Razmov? James is a colleague of ours at NYU." Frieda introduced the pencil thin man with unruly blonde hair.


"Hi I'm Marina." the London girl held her hand out.


"I tse pryyemno zustritysya z vamy, yak dobre." 


"Moya sim'ya etnichni ukrayintsi, ale ya naspravdi narodyvsya i vyris u Moskvi."


“Okay,” Freida said with a smile, “take pity on a poor German...”


“Sorry,” Marina said, “Just slipped into Ukranian for a moment there.  Would you like to dance?”





“Okay folks,” Shirley said into the microphone, “it’s nearly time, so charge your glasses please.”


“And if you dare go to another room,” Carina whispered to her mother.


“Not this time,” Juliette said as their glasses were filled.


Looking to the band leader, she smiled as John joined her on the stage, she said “and in Ten...






“Seven...  Six...  Five... Four...”










As the band played Auld Lang Syne, the party goers hugged and cheered each other.  In one corner, Adam and Jan kissed each other, as did Katy and George.


Heather and Orlanda hugged each other before Heather kissed Sandy, and the Huntingdown-Furstenheim clan kissed each other.


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” John Hammond said as the crowd died down, “as you may remember, this time last year we had the announcement from Klaus – do you have any news to share with us, Your Highness?”


“Only my best wishes for everyone for 2016,” Klaus said with a laugh.


“Well, then, I guess it falls to me to make the shock announcement,” John said as Shirley held his hand.


“Oh no, don’t tell me...”


“No – NO,” John said with a laugh, “we already have two big weddings this year.  No – Shirley and I have something to tell you.”


“Do you know what he is going to say,” Ama said as she stood with Maisha and Caroline.


“I do,” Maisha said with a smile.


“A few weeks ago,” John said, “I received a letter from Buckingham Palace.”


“Oh yes – Philip finally wants his revenge on you for the portrait, does he,” Jack called out.


“No – at least, I don’t think so, and if this is his idea of revenge, I’ll accept it.  No – the New Years Honours list was published earlier tonight in London, and if you look closely,” John said as he looked round, “you’ll see that Her Majesty has bestowed a further award on me.”


“Oh yes,” Stephen Stone called out, “What is it?  The C?”


“No Stephen – the K.”


“The...  Sir John Hammond?”


“Well – yes,” Shirley said, “so join me in a toast to John.”


“JOHN!”  The partygoers clapped and cheered as Stephen, Jack and others came forward.


“Actually – may I?”


“Maggie?  What are you doing,” Lady Ashley said as Maggie went up to the stage.


“I was going to tell the family only, but – well, first of all, congratulations to Sir John.”


The crowd applauded again before Maggie said “if you read that list, you’ll also see that John Wentworth, MP, is been made a Lord, and as such cannot be the MP for the area I live in any more.  So there is going to be a by-election – and I will be standing as the Conservative candidate.”




“Sorry, Amelia, but that’s true – and there is one other thing I need to tell you.”  Maggie smiled at Pippa, Poppy, Amelia and Grace, before she said “John is not the only person in this room who has been awarded a knighthood in this year’s honours.”


“You as well,” John said as he looked at Maggie, who blushed and nodded before he kissed her on both cheeks.


“Folks, I give you Dame Margaret Harker,” John said, Amelia for once speechless as Pippa and Poppy clapped.


“Well Amelia,” Grace said with a smile, “you must be very proud.”


“I’m...  I need a drink,” was all she could say.






"So tell me about Glenda Verducci?" Shirley asked as she, Paulie, and Nessa stood watching the celebrations.

"For Alex she was the one that got away." Nessa slowly sipped her champagne.

"We all thought he was deeply in love with her, but she really only had eyes for Rusty." Paulie sighed.  “They were the greatest of friends, but Alex really did have strong feelings for her.”

"I think if she'd just given him hope,” Nessa said as she watched him talking to John, “then my brother would have got his military deferment, then played in the NFL, and hopefully have married her."

"And never become a priest?"

"Precisely Shirley." Paulie shook her head. "At first Gus thought that his bravery in Vietnam was almost suicidal, that he almost wanted to be killed."

"And despite what he says about getting his calling in Vietnam, I still think that pining for Glenda was one of the reasons he entered the seminary."

"To say i'm surprised to hear that is an understatement Nessa." Shirley shook her head.

"Yes just think - it might have been him running the Richmond Trust all these years..."

"That sounds a little bitter Nessa?"

"Oh not really Shirley, but Alex was running away a bit, and i was saddled on top of everything with responsibilities that might have been his."

"Well I have to say the priesthood does seem to fit him like a glove."

"That's only because you've known him only as a priest Shirley. For those of us who knew him before...well let's just say he was radically different."


“Oh?  In what way?”


“Well, he remember how he talked of how he felt towards Hughson?”


Shirley nodded as Paulie said “It was Alex who stopped him from escaping from the party that night.  From what Gus told me, he really did threaten to kill him.  I guess in a way, Vietnam cured him of the angry side of his personality...”


“So what do you think would happen when he meets her?”


“Who knows,” Nessa said, “who knows...”







“I am so proud of you,” Amelia said as she stood with her sister, “to be honoured in this way.”


"Well the knighthood was actually not a political one," Maggie blushed as people kissed her and shook her hand.

"It was for your championing of the rights of abused mothers and their children?" Grace asked.

"Yes,” Maggie said, “but I think Central Office thinks it was a great publicity boost ahead of the by-election."

"Well I'll certainly vote for you.  I think I’m still on the electoral roll over there..."

"Why didn't you tell us Aunt Maggie?" Pippa popped a bottle of champagne as she stood there.

"Because as John will also tell you, it has to be kept secret.  So sorry Sis – even you could not know."

"Well I'm very happy for you Aunt Mag," Poppy threw her arms round the older woman.

"So as an elected official myself Dame Margaret what are your election chances?" Tom Morse asked.

"Well by modern Tory standards I'm an extreme moderate Congressman."

"Didn't I hear you sit on your local council?"

"Yes as an Independent."

"So why were you asked to be the Conservative candidate?"

"That’s the question I asked when they approached me.  In one word...UKIP." Maggie drank a little champagne. "Essex is prime territory for them, and I think that given my history of cross-party support in the community, I'm seen as someone can garner votes from across the spectrum and hold them off."

"Well here's to the next MP," Tom clinked glasses.


“Oh that’s by no means a certainty, but I can only try.”





"Not tempted to become Lady Hammond Shirley darling?"

"Oh titles aren't that important to me Mandy, anymore then you think of yourself solely as Lady Ordford."

"That's true." Jack smiled as he brought over more drinks.

"Now I on the other hand would love to be Lady Millingham..." Pepsi smiled.

"Is that a hint dear?" Jack kissed his girlfriend.

"No, I'm too young to get engaged, but as an American I do think the idea of a title is Dolls."

"It soon becomes boring...I can tell you." Carina shook her head.

" And 'ow do you know that?" Samantha who was on the edge of the group asked.

"Because Cari is Her Serene Highness, the Princess Carina Huntingdown von Furstenheim." Abby called out as she and Tony brought round more food.

"And it's friends saying that which makes it boring." Cari sighed.

"Oh gawd!" Sami exchanged, "So Klaus your dad is..."

"The prince...yes. As is Henri."

"Carina darling,” Mandy drawled, “there was a reason you know Kylie asked we used no titles tonight."

"Oh Shit, now i 'ave to ask, 'oo else 'as a title 'ere?"


“Do you really wish to know Samantha darling?”


“Know what darling?”


“The cat is out of the bag Kylie – your mother knows I’m a princess, and was asking who else has a title.”


“Ah – well, if you promise to keep calm and quiet mother darling...”


Samantha nodded as she said “Well, standing here with us now, Amanda, Lady Ordford.  Carina you know, but we must also include her sister Princess Ingrid.  We also have Abigail, Countess de Ros, and her mother Diana and grandmother Valeria, both Countess de Ros.  Her grandfather is Guy, Duc du Grechy, as is her uncle Willy, so his wife is Natasha, Countess de Grechy.”


“I fink i need to sit down,” Sami said as she shook her head.


“That might be a good idea,” Kylie said as she took two glasses of champagne, “I will allow you the last one now...”


“Awl right – who else?”


"Well, Sigi and Dieter are the Baron and Baroness von Manschen. Carina's uncle and aunt are the Count, and Countess von Buchenwald. Henri and his daughter are the Prince and Princess de Aucigny, Shall I continue Mother Darling?"

"Oh my Gawd! Did you hear all that Ker?"

"Actually Marina warned me in advance."


“Now let me balance that.  You’ve met Barbara – yes, she’s Jeannie’s mother, but she works in the records office of a hospital, and Barbara’s father is the chauffer for Nessa Richmond.  April is really a florist in the village, and Grant works for the Transit Authority.  Elaine Colman is a receptionist, and Denice Burton until recently worked as a data entry clerk at Colombia University.  Honestly, Mother, in this room these people, it’s not the title, it’s the person that matters.”




"Well what were we saying about Karl and Sands?" Heather looked across the room to where the young German was dancing with her charge, as well as Poppy and Stevie, the son of Cassie Stone.

"I know," Sandy nodded in agreement, "she does seem to like him."

"Is it too soon to ask about her inheritance?" Sigi asked lightly.

"Far, far too early." Sandy laughed.

"Still he does like her, at home he rarely dances." Dieter spoke.

"I got the impression he was a shy boy when he asked me earlier for permission to dance with Sands." Sandy took another peek at the young dancers.

"Very nice German manners." Heather sipped her drink.

"Well he didn't get them from me," Sigi giggled, "those are my mother-in-laws influence."

"Well, Sands is a shy girl I think as well." Dieter looked happily at his son and heir and the pretty young blonde.

"Oh yeah she is VERY shy." Katy laughed as she and George joined their elders.

"Unlike some girls..." Sigi grinned cheekily at Katy.

"Hey I am who I am." Katy laughed aloud.

"Are we missing a good joke?' the older George asked as he and Orlanda joined the group along with Adam and Jan.

"I think the Baroness was saying I'm not backwards at coming forward." Katy sipped her cider. "And was comparing me to Sands."


“Please do not take this the wrong way,” little George said, “but you and Sands are very different, Katy.”


“I hope that Jennifer will look as beautiful when she is that age,” Orlanda said as she watched.


“I am sure she will,” George said quietly as he smiled at Sandy, “I am sure she will.”



"Von Manschen's are bankers, just like my family," Simon held his arm round Bobbi's waist. "I suspect young Karl's future was plotted out for him at birth, the same way as mine was."

"You say that like it was such a bad thing." Tommy sat on the chaise with Holly and looked at his friend.

"Well her father is a banker as well." Holly looked at the young dancers.

"It's still unfair though in a way to expect us to follow in generations of family footsteps."

"I have to say I agree with Simon." Judy nodded, "we should chose our own lives."

"Well as a second son I have that freedom," David joined the talk. "It's Jack who will end up running the estates."

"And has anyone asked him if he wants to?" Simon asked.

"I agree with Simon, it's one advantage I have, I'm not expected to maintain a family tradition." Tommy answered.


“And I’ll not be a MD like my dad,” Holly said quietly.  “Which is fine by me, I prefer what I’m doing anyway.”




“So, my dear Shirley, congratulations are in order,” Coco said with a smile. 


“They certainly are for John,” Shirley said, “and for Margaret of course.  I shall offer her what support I can.”


“Which i am sure will be considerable in its own way.”


“And besides,” Shirley said, “they are not the only knight and dame in the room, are they?”


“Now Shirley,” John said as he came over, “you know these are onlt truly official within the confines of Ruritania.  Nut I have to see, knowing I am Ritter Jacobs and I am accompanied by Ritterfrau Aldington does add a certain – formality to the occasion.”


“But as always, it is never spoken of in public, correct?”


Both John and Coco nodded as they rejoined the party, Shirley smiling as she walked over to where Juliette, Sandy and Diana were standing.


“Well, another wonderful party, Shirley.  How will you top this?”


“Oh I’ll think of something,” she said as she looked around, “I’ll think of something.”


"Madam there is a Mr Sporetti on the telephone asking after you?" one of the maids whispered in Shirley's ear.

"Alright I'll take the call in my den," Shirley finished her champagne, in all the celebrations she had not expected business to crop up at this time of night.  “Please make sure everyone has what they need.”

Inside her room Shirley sealed the door and flicked on the electronic device that disguised her voice.

"Victor how lovely to hear from you."

"I'm sorry to disturb you Madame, especially tonight, but I have rather bad news to pass on, eight of my boys got rubbed out last night...two separate shootings, each time by broads wearing men’s suits and masks over their faces."

"Well my commiserations Victor, but how can I be of help?"

"I think they was members of the Pussycat gang Madame, and I'm calling in that favour you owe me and asking for your people to get my vengeance for me."

"Oh crap," Shirley took a deep breath, "and what makes you think it was the Pussycats Victor?"

"I'm thinkin' it because they've been trying to muscle in on my territory for weeks now...Capiche?"


“Victor, I understand your concern, and I will honour my promise.  I ask merely time to confirm they are indeed responsible – it would not be the first time they have been held responsible for something that was not their fault.  You will be attending on Monday?”


“I will be.”


“Give me until then to use my own sources to investigate.  We will talk then and, if you still wish to ask me to do this for you, I shall do.”


“I thank you Madame, we will talk on Monday.”


“I look forward to it Victor,” Shirley said as she ended the call, then rubbed her eyes.


“Shirley, you in there?”


“My apologies John,” she said as she came out, “a call that could not wait.”


“Some of the guests were starting to leave.”


“I wonder if you would say goodbye for me,” she said as she saw Juliette, “I wish to have a word with some of the ladies.”


“Of course,” John said as Shirley walked back towards her friends.


"Juliette dear you haven't been doing some naughty things without telling me have you?" Shirley whispered.


"Because a mafia boss in Buffalo wants me to rub out the Pussycat gang for trying to take over his business."

"He what?" Juliette looked surprised and shocked.

"Don't worry, I know you and the girls better, but someone upstate is using your bad name and reputation to get a major chunk of organised crime."


“And when was this meant to have happened?”




“The last time this happened, I almost lost Carina – I may not be so forgiving this time.”


“I agree – gather the ladies in the den.  I wish to share a fine brandy with you.”






“And what will you be doing while we talk?”


“While you men talk?  We ladies will sample some fine brandy just as you gentlemen have been sampling fine whiskey all night." Shirley laughed as she ushered her friends into the den and locked the door.

"Alright Shirley what is all this shit about?" Sandy looked angry.

"Cherie you know very well armed robbery is our game, we have never got into the rackets as you call them." Diana glared at Shirley.

"I know that and you know that,” Shirley said, “but Vincent Sporetti is convinced that it was you ladies took out 8 of his boys earlier tonight."

"But you know we were all here." Heather looked puzzled. "Virtually every Pussycat has been at this party."

"Which makes this all the more intriguing." Juliette looked at each woman.  “Someone obviously wishes us to be the patsies.  They need to discover that is a very bad idea.”


“So what do we do about it?”


“For now, we need to see what exactly happened.  I will ask Dom to take a drive down later and find out what she can.  Heather, can you see what you can find out about recent events?”


“I’ll ask Jan what she can find out through her contacts,” Heather said.  “Sheila, forgive me, but i need to ask the obvious question.”


“No – not us, I guarantee that.  Anna goes to Buffalo on Monday, doesn’t she Juliette?”


“She does – why?”


“I may ask her to do a favour for me.  Now – that brandy...”






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