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TitleUp Close and Personal
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Total Pages224
Table of Contents
                            Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Document Text Contents
Page 2


Up Close and Personal

Leonie Fox is a former magazine journalist. She has written two novels, and , both of which are published by Penguin. She lives in Kent.

Page 112

all classics: , ,
. They looked like originals and, Dante supposed, would probably be worth

something to a collector.
He pushed the frames back against the wall and walked over to the wardrobe,

which seemed an obvious place to start hunting for potential costumes. There
was a brown felt Stetson hanging on one of its polished wooden doorknobs.
Almost without thinking, Dante picked it up and put it on his head. To his
disappointment, there wasn’t much inside the wardrobe – some long evening
dresses, covered in transparent plastic sheaths, a mink coat, a tailored tweed
riding jacket, some well-worn jodhpurs and, hanging at the end of the rail, a pair
of soft leather chaps. Lifting the chaps off the rail, he held them against his legs,
checking them for size. He looked over at Jess, who was wrestling with
something behind one of the packing cases.
‘What have you got there, girl?’ he called out.
At the sound of his voice, Jess emerged from behind the crate and came over

to him, dropping her find at his feet. Dante bent down and picked it up. It was a
large stuffed teddy bear. Jess had all but chewed one of its legs off and both its
button eyes were hanging by a thread. ‘I sure hope this isn’t a family heirloom,’
Dante said, as he inspected the damage. The bear was dressed, somewhat
incongruously, as a Red Indian in a fringed suede waistcoat and a red-and-white
feather headdress which, miraculously, had escaped Jess’s attack relatively
unscathed. As he set the bear on the windowsill, out of harm’s way, he caught
sight of a Zorro-style eye mask, hanging from the catch of the sash window. He
picked it up and looped the elastic over his finger.
‘You know what, Jess,’ he said, breaking into a smile. ‘I think I’ve got an


The rest of the costume was easy. Dante already had jeans, cowboy boots and a
denim shirt, and he managed to find a red scarf in one of Juliet’s drawers that,
when folded double, made a good neckerchief. Together with the chaps and the
Stetson and the mask, he looked every inch the Lone Ranger. Jess, meanwhile,
was a canine version of his trusty sidekick Tonto. Amazingly, the teddy bear’s
fringed waistcoat fitted her lean body perfectly, while the feathered headdress
only required a length of string, tied to her collar, to stop it slipping off her sleek
As he left the drawing room with Jess, both newly outfitted and bound for the

terrace, Dante couldn’t help chuckling to himself as he imagined his wife’s
reaction when she saw them. He hadn’t told her he was entering the competition,
wanting to surprise her instead.

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Juliet clasped her hands together in delight. ‘That’s brilliant news! I’m so
pleased for you two.’
‘To be honest, I don’t think I’d be able to cope on my own,’ Yasmin said.
Nicole looked at her in surprise. ‘I never thought I’d hear those words coming

from mouth.’
‘Yeah, well, I’ve changed a lot over the past year.’ Yasmin smiled at Rob. ‘I

fell in love, for one thing.’
Nicole turned to Bear, who was sitting in an armchair cradling a sleeping Tilly

in his lap. They’d been a couple for six months, and living together for three.
Long enough to have a rhythm, but new enough that her palms still tingled
whenever he walked into the room. As she looked at him, Bear caught her eye
and smiled.
‘You’ll be going on maternity leave soon, won’t you?’ said Dante to Yasmin.
‘Next week,’ Yasmin said. ‘But I won’t be going back to the .’
Nicole frowned. ‘I thought you loved your job.’
‘I do, but I guess my priorities have changed. I’m going to take six months off

and then I’m going freelance. That way I’ll be able to work from home.’
‘I’ve told her she’s being hopelessly optimistic,’ said Rob. ‘She doesn’t

realize babies spend the first six months of their lives crying.’
‘And sometimes it goes on even longer than that,’ said Nicole, looking

pointedly at Tilly. ‘Poor Bear’s been trying to finish his piece on greenhouse
gases for three days now. Still, at least he can go and work in the caravan if the
noise gets too much.’
Dante raised an eyebrow. ‘You’ve still got the Airstream, have you?’
‘She’s parked in Nicole’s back garden,’ Bear replied. ‘The old girl and I have

been through so much together I don’t think I could bear to part with her.’
‘I just hope he feels the same way about me,’ Nicole said wryly, prompting

much laughter from the others.
‘And how’s job going, Dante?’ Rob asked.
Dante grinned. ‘I love it. The kids are fantastic. We’re taking them on a

camping trip next weekend. I can’t wait.’
‘It’ll be good practice for him,’ Juliet remarked.
‘Good practice for what?’ Nicole asked innocently.
Juliet smiled and put her hands on her stomach. ‘I’m pregnant.’
‘What!’ Yasmin cried. The next minute she and Nicole were on their feet and

throwing their arms around Juliet.
As Juliet looked over their shoulders at Dante, she saw that his calm blue eyes

were filled with tears. She knew then – as if she had ever doubted it – that she
was in love with him. Not smugly or sloppily, but just with a thumping great
visceral certainty.

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