Driving as slowly as he dared, Jonathan glanced at his GPS. The hotel was somewhere in this street with its curved lamp posts illuminating the narrow Georgian houses, but he saw not a single parking space. The easiest thing would be to stop and run in to ask where the hell he could leave the car.
His stress levels were so high that he didn’t feel relief at having arrived; some perverse part of him wanted to carry on until he reached a hidden place where nobody would track him down.
Saying goodbye to Lesley this afternoon had left him in a confusion of anger and despair. Anger at her for giving in to this thing – whatever it was, whatever had caused it – and despair at his inability to help.
Now, knowing he’d be away from her for some time, he couldn’t help feeling that a watershed had been reached. This enforced distance would either help their marriage or prove fatal. Not having to witness Lesley’s changed personality would make things easier for him, but he felt terrible about leaving the kids.
He spotted a gap between two cars and managed to reverse into it. Access to someone’s driveway was now blocked by his car but he could put on the hazard lights to indicate an imminent return. Turning off the engine, he rubbed his eyes wearily.
Was it the right thing to have come to Brighton?
For weeks before accepting this job, he’d agonised over the decision. Certainly it would be an injection of income; where else would he get such a lucrative offer? There had been plenty of talk about lead parts in new dramas, but nothing concrete except a slew of reality TV proposals which he’d hastily declined. His career hadn’t sunk that low.
His agent, Mads, was certain what he should do. ‘Lovey, you can’t turn it down. There’ll be great things coming your way soon, but take this for now. A bird in the hand and all that.’
As soon as he’d accepted, his parents had offered to move in and look after the kids so Lesley could come to Brighton with him. He hoped the two of them might rent a little house and go for long walks on the Downs or the beach; Zac and Emma could join them at weekends. It would be a change, an opportunity for some real togetherness.
Togetherness? That was a joke, he thought glumly as he got out of the car and slammed the door. Straight away Lesley dismissed the idea, insisting she would stay in Derbyshire with the children.
After Mads had booked the Silver Lodge and he’d admitted Lesley probably wasn’t coming, the ‘probably’ was to make himself feel better, not because there was any chance of her accompanying him.
But this fortnight was just the start. Once the two weeks of rehearsals were up, he hoped Lesley would come down for the previews; after that he’d try and persuade her again to spend time here in Brighton. If she refused – no, he couldn’t let his mind go there.
Now, pushing open the hotel’s heavy front door, Jonathan felt his spirits lift as he stepped inside. Tasteful decor: lots of wood, a huge leather sofa, and thick rugs on the wide floorboards. There was a pleasing log fire smell in the air mixed with a spicy tang he couldn’t identify. Immediately he felt a sense of relief. Being here on his own wouldn’t be too bad.
His eye was caught by a flash of movement above and, looking up the wide staircase, he saw a tall, dark haired girl whose eyes widened with surprise when she saw him. For a moment they stared at each other.