Stepsisters Laura and Bibi hope to lose themselves in London to escape their terrifying past. Sixteen year old Bibi, with her spectacular singing voice, dreams of fame and fortune, while older sister Laura dreams only of keeping ahead of the law and a roof over their heads. Desperate for money, she takes work in a London nightclub as a paid hostess, and soon finds herself involved in a very different occupation.
The club's owner also needs to lose himself for different reasons and in his absence, younger brother Julian takes over the running of Ferriby's. Former music-producer on a popular TV talent show, Julian soon discovers that his brother has been running much more than just a nightclub and his findings plunge him into grave danger, involving both Laura and Bibi.
Julian needs to outwit a professional ring of drug dealers in order to safeguard his club, but will he discover what really happened to his brother as well as keeping Laura and Bibi safe from their past?
Julian left the Inner Sanctum and let himself back through the office and into the club. A few cleaning staff were still at work, vacuuming the acres of blue carpet and wiping down tables, but Lucy-Laura sat huddled at a side table, fully dressed now, her body language clearly speaking her dejection. She looked very different from the delicious creature who'd danced in his arms to song after song last night.
'Hi,' he said, sitting down opposite her.
'Hi to you, too, Mr Manager. So you work here, Julian, just-call-me-James.'
'Yes Laura, my-name-is-Lucy, or at least, I will do so as from Tuesday.'
'All the girls here change their names, for obvious reasons. But I didn't know the staff went around tricking them into talking about the club for their own sneaky reasons. It isn't fair.' She gave a little aggrieved sniff, which made him smile.
'I know it was a shabby trick, and I'm sorry, but I wanted to get a holistic feel for the place. You didn't talk yourself out of a job, if that's what worries you. I was impressed by your honesty and discretion, actually.' And quite a lot more besides.
'Thank you. But why did you choose me… or did you just ask Loz to bring you any girl?'
'He has a bit of a soft spot for you, you do realise? But yes, I did ask for you. I saw you with Ken Featherstone the other night and thought that if you could charm that old lush, you must be worth getting to know.'
She smiled for the first time and he liked the way this lit up her face. 'Then I'm sorry if I disappointed you. I have no idea what to make of Ken. When Loz took me to his table on my first night, he was with another woman. I presumed she worked here, but she left after a while, seemed to be going on somewhere by herself, and I haven't seen her since. I don't know why he asks for me when most of the time he's too drunk for coherent conversation and when we dance, I practically have to hold him up.'
He laughed. 'Well you'll soon build up your upper body strength that way. He must weigh twenty stones.'
Laura gave a little giggle. 'And some. And the other night, he kind of slumped down on my arm and then—can you believe this—he bit me.' She pulled up the sleeve of her T-shirt and displayed an angry, deep purple bruise on her upper arm.
Julian stared at the welt in shock and disgust. He stretched out his hand and touched it gently with his finger. 'He did that to you? You could have him arrested for that. You should have reported him.'
'To whom? I'm probably the one who would have been shown the door. He's a valued customer, I'm just… the hired help.'
'He's not that valued. Not after this. I'll make sure he doesn't come back.'
'No, please don't. He's not a bad man; he just drinks too much and loses control. I know he wouldn't hurt someone otherwise. I'm sure he's a lovely person when he's sober. He's probably just one of the lost and the lonely.'
He gave her a quizzical look. 'Lost and lonely? That sounds very sentimental, maudlin, even.'
She gave him a little smile. 'My stepmother had this favourite song. If she wasn't playing it, she was forever singing it. It was about some woman in a nightclub singing songs "for the lost and lonely". That's how I think of him. I'm sure he must have a good reason for drinking himself into oblivion. From what I understood the other night, he holds quite an important post in some government health agency.'
Julian shook his head. 'I think Mel's right. You do belong in church: Lucy-Laura, Little Miss Do-gooder. Well, he's certainly going to receive a strong warning that if he gets too drunk, he's out.'
'Now that's a far better idea, James-Julian, Mr Do-gooder. So you're going to manage Ferriby's Nightclub and sober up all your customers? That's a novel way to do business. You told me you were in the music industry. Were you telling the truth?'
'I was, and still am, since I won't be abandoning it entirely. If you can juggle two jobs, I'm sure I can. Now, are we still friends?'
She smiled up at him looking sweet and trusting. Dammit, he thought, don't get involved. But something stirring within him told him he already was.