Jessica Hart

The Honeymoon Prize

Release Date: 2002

Freya is determined to sort out her life before she hits thirty – if only to prove to her best friend, Max Thornton, that she’s perfectly capable of meeting a suitable man! Freya has the ideal candidate in mind: gorgeous hotshot reporter Dan Freer. Max isn’t impressed – not least because Freya is staying in his penthouse. Freya has always been impulsive, but even Max is surprised when Freya decides to fake her own wedding to claim a honeymoon prize! And who, exactly, is she expecting to walk up the aisle with her?


Max’s tactic of moving the time forward half an hour had obviously worked, for Lucy and Steve were already ensconsed at the table when they arrived at the restaurant. As soon as she spied them, Lucy jumped excitedly to her feet and gave them both a warm hug.

‘So, when’s the wedding?’ she demanded, standing back to beam at them.

Taken aback, Max and Freya glanced at each other. ‘I thought you hadn’t spoken to her?’ he said, raising his eyebrows.

‘I haven’t. I didn’t say anything.’

‘I knew it!’ Lucy crowed to their surprise. ‘I knew it! I thought there was something going on when I saw the two of you together.’

Beside herself with excitement, she turned triumphantly to her husband. ‘Didn’t I say, Steve? I said, I think Max and Freya might be falling in love, didn’t I? When I saw the way you looked at each other when you kissed that night, it was like a light went on and it suddenly seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d never realised before how perfect you are for each other!’

Barely pausing for breath and oblivious to the appalled expressions on their faces, Lucy threw her arms round Max. ‘I’m so happy for you, Max! Freya’s exactly what you need. Does Mum know?’ she added excitedly.

Noticing Lucy’s shrieks and exclamations, the manager of the restaurant glided over. ‘Some champagne for signor?’ he suggested with an unctuous smile.

If Freya hadn’t been so aghast, she would have laughed at Max’s expression as he struggled to disentangle himself from his sister, beat off the manager and make himself heard.

‘No, we do not want any champagne,’ he snarled, removing Lucy’s arms from round his neck.

‘Of course we do,’ said Lucy and turned her beaming smile on the manager. ‘A bottle of the best champagne you’ve got!’


The entire restaurant stopped talking, and turned to look at them in the stunned silence.

‘Why don’t you say it a bit louder, Max?’ said Freya waspishly. ‘I think there are a few people in a restaurant at the other end of the street who didn’t quite get that!’

Oblivious to their interested audience, Lucy was staring in disbelief. ‘You mean you and Freya aren’t …?’

‘No!’ A muscle was jumping savagely in Max’s jaw, and he spoke thro

ugh gritted teeth. At least it was several decibels lower this time. ‘Oh.’ Lucy looked from Freya’s hot face to Max’s extremely irritated one, and put a guilty hand to her mouth. ‘Oops,’ she said.

‘Oops?’ Freya repeated furiously when she finally managed to drag Lucy off to the Ladies. ‘Is that all you could say?’

‘Well, how was I to know?’ Lucy countered reasonably. ‘First Max rings up all mysterious and suggests dinner with the two of you, and then you start talking about weddings –‘ ‘You started talking about weddings!’

‘OK,’ she acknowledged, ‘but then you looked at each other like that … you’ve got to admit that it was an easy mistake to make.’

Freya wasn’t inclined to admit anything of the kind. She banged the door of the cubicle shut, wishing she couldn’t remember Max’s expression when he realised that Lucy thought he was in love quite so vividly. He had recoiled in horror from the very idea, and when she thought of the look on his face, a knife seemed to twist inside her.

Lucy was washing her hands when she came out. ‘I don’t know why you and Max are both so cross,’ she said, glancing at Freya as she squeezed out extra soap. ‘I’d have expected you to laugh if I’d got it that wrong. It’s not such a big deal to have someone think that you’re in love – unless you really are, of course,’ she added slyly. ‘That was some kiss you two had the other night. You don’t think you were both a little too convincing?’

‘We were acting!’ Freya turned the tap on so forcefully that water sprayed everywhere, soaking the front of her T-shirt.

‘In that case, you’ve missed your vocation.’ Lucy handed her a paper towel to mop up the worst of it. ‘If I were you, I’d give up my job tomorrow and audition for RADA.’

Turning round, she leant back against the sink and watched Freya washing her hands with fierce concentration. ‘Go on, Freya,’ she said persuasively, ‘you can tell me!’

‘There’s nothing to tell.’

Lucy looked dissatisfied. ‘Are you sure there’s nothing going on between you?’ ‘Of course I’m sure!’

‘It’s just that there’s a sort of … something … between you. I noticed it at dinner the other night, and it’s there again tonight. Even Steve noticed! I mean you are living together …’ Lucy trailed off suggestively.

‘So?’ retorted Freya, retreating behind a hostile façade.

‘So … why not? I think you’d be great together, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t … you know … is there?’

‘Apart from the fact that we’re both in love with someone else?’ Freya stuck her hands under the dryer and hoped Lucy wouldn’t notice that they were shaking.

‘Well, there’s Dan, I suppose,’ Lucy conceded, ‘but you’re not exactly committed to him yet.’ ‘And Kate. She and Max make a great team.’

‘If she’s so special, why hasn’t he invited her to meet us?’

‘He wants her to come to this pretend wedding,’ Freya pointed out.

‘Yes, that’s a bit odd, don’t you think? I mean, even if I knew it wasn’t for real, I wouldn’t like to see Steve pretending to get married to anyone else and kissing them while I was watching.’

‘Kate understands why Max is doing it. I don’t think he would have thought about it if it hadn’t been for her. She’s very committed to Roads for Africa, and she knows there’s no reason for her to be jealous. If she comes, it’ll be to support Max and the organisation.’

Lucy was less convinced. ‘Hhmmn, or to keep an eye on him,’ she said cynically, shaking the water from her hands. ‘If I’d seen Steve kissing someone the way Max kissed you the other night, I’d have plenty of reason to be jealous!’

‘Kate’s not like you,’ said Freya bleakly.

Back at the table, Max and Steve had been discussing practicalities, but their minimalist plans for the reception were vetoed out of hand by Lucy.

‘I think we should have a marquee,’ she said. ‘I’m sure we could squeeze a small one onto our lawn.’

‘If we had the money to hire a marquee, we could afford our own flights to Mbanazere,’ Max pointed out astringently. ‘No, we’ll tell them it’s just going to be a small, intimate gathering of a few friends.’

‘But what about Mum and Dad, and Freya’s parents?’ his sister objected. ‘It’ll look a bit odd if they’re not there.’

‘Whatever you do, don’t mention this to Mum!’ said Freya in alarm. ‘She’s so desperate to marry me off, she wouldn’t care who was prepared to meet me at the altar. If she got so much as a whiff of this, she’d be down here like a shot, and before we knew what had happened, we really would be married.’

‘And we don’t want that,’ added Max, a slight edge to his voice. ‘It would cramp Freya’s style with Dan Freer.’

‘Oh, yes, I keep forgetting Dan,’ sighed Lucy.

‘Freya doesn’t,’ he said flatly. ‘He’s the reason she’s going through with this. If it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t even be talking about weddings and marquees.’

They all looked at Freya, waiting for her to agree. What would it be like to be able to look them in the eyes and say no, Dan wasn’t the reason? To say that all she wanted was to be with Max?

The words hovered on her tongue, but she bit them back. She didn’t want to see his expression change again to that appalled disgust. Putting up her chin, she smiled her best bright smile instead.

‘That’s right,’ she said. ‘I’m doing this for Dan.

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