Out November 2nd 2023!
Please enjoy the following excerpt of Her Secret Rival, copyright 2023, Jo Rees
If there was one thing that Savannah Hudson was good at, it was making an entrance. And tonight, at the industry’s holy of holies, boy was she going to make damn sure it was a good one.
Her face ached from smiling as she walked into the circus ring arena where the plush dinner tables were laid out below the high trapeze. It was a typically over- the-top venue for the awards ceremony, but a fittingly dramatic one.
Bright spotlights crisscrossed the excited crowd, but fell on her as she walked towards the Hudson Corporation’s table in its prime position next to the stage. She felt a gratifying shift in the atmosphere – a hiatus, as everyone realized that the most talked-about guest of the evening was finally here.
Holding her head high, she strode towards her team, her famously bright smile eliciting smiles in return from everyone she passed. The Hudsons had always been the kind of people that others loved to hate, and Savvy was used to causing a stir. Posing, greeting, tripping off those witty soundbites for the press and being the shining center of attention was what she did best.
Savvy kept her smile tight and wide. Tonight, this was all one great big façade.
She might be making fairytale copy, but the truth? Christ, she hardly dared think about the truth. Because the truth was that she was living a nightmare. And there wasn’t a goddam soul in the whole world she could tell about it.
Which meant that she couldn’t let her guard down for even a second.
She smoothed the chiffon of her long dress before taking her seat at the head of the table. The white Grecian-style piece was actually a wedding dress – a freebie from one of the designers this morning. After the week she’d had, there’d been no time to find another show-stopping outfit. With her blonde hair piled high and bound with thin golden rope, Savvy hoped she’d pulled off the look.
After all, every move she made, every detail of her appearance, every mannerism, would be scrutinized by her colleagues, admirers and enemies alike. With admiration? Animosity? She hardly cared any longer.
She needed a cigarette so badly, she thought, as another photographer flashed his camera in her face, but there’d be no let-up until the awards ceremony was over and the winners were announced. She stared at the glass on the table in front of her, wishing it contained something stronger than water. When she reached out for it, her hand was shaking.
But she would have to see this through. No matter what. Because it was all about reputation and nobody, nobody, was going to know that she was anything other than supremely confident.
The future was bright for the Hudson Corporation. That was her message. They were the best. Her presence here tonight proved it. She would win the coveted Best Casino award. She’d memorized her acceptance speech already.
But what if . . . ?
She glanced over at the other top table. Roberto Enzo, her father’s greatest rival, was in rude good health, even at seventy. He looked like a member of the original Rat Pack, his Italian American good looks only enhanced by age, with his mane of silver hair swept back from his distinctive tanned face.
And beside him, as always, was Lois Chan. The woman who’d made Savvy’s ultimate success so elu- sive. Her rival.
Lois’s long, shiny black hair was piled up into a glossy chignon and she was wearing a dress of heavy red silk. She looked every inch the formidable Asian business- woman she’d become.
She watched as Roberto Enzo put his hand over Lois’s and laughed delightedly at something she said.
Savvy felt her heart swell with jealousy. They looked so united on their table. So together. So much a team. Deliberately so, Savvy guessed. Despite everything that had happened in China in the last few weeks, they’d come out fighting.
But that was why Savvy was here. To fight back. Tonight’s awards would prove it. They had to. Because this business was her life.
It was all she had left.
(end of excerpt)