Lifelong Affair

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE

'I KNOW you've been having an affair with my husband! I've known about it for weeks now. And if you want him you can have him. I don't even like him any more!'

Morgan watched in horror as the bitterly angry woman let loose that tirade, her mouth twisting in derisive humour as the words became ones of bravado, laughing openly as the woman took off her wedding ring and threw it at her.

'Okay, cut—that's a take. Morgan, you're becoming so convincing as the supcrbitch that I'm beginning to wonder about you,' Jerry, the director, drawled dryly.

Morgan's laughter had faded at the word 'cut'. She had played this scene half a dozen times today already, and each time she became more disgusted with the way her character in this weekly soap-opera was developing.

Originally she had been signed for a three-month contract only, but the character of Mary-Beth Barker had become so popular with the public that she had signed a contract for another season. The character of Mary-Beth was so against her own nature that she wasn't sure she wanted to negotiate another one. She had certainly had plenty of other offers the last six months!

'Don't wonder, Jerry,' she advised wearily. Tt will be for nothing.' She came off the set, her hair long and gleaming, the colour of copper, a dark shadow over her sparkling green eyes, her lashes long and silky, her nose small and pert, her mouth wide and inviting, coloured with a brighter lip-gloss than she usually wore, the blusher on her creamy cheeks darker too, for the cameras. Her green dress was thin and silky, very provocatively styled, part of Mary-Bcth's wardrobe; her own taste tended to run to the casual and comfortable rather than fashionable. 'I'm nothing like Mary-Beth.' She stood next to him, a frown marring her smooth brow. 'In fact, I don't like where she's going at all. So far I've—she's—blackmailed her stepfather for his attraction to her, told her mother about it anyway, almost wrecked her sister's marriage, and now she's had an affair with a married man simply because his wife once slighted her at a party. What sort of woman is she!' she grimaced, running a hand through her perfecdy smooth and shining hair, instantly ruffling it into disorder.

'Beautiful,' Jerry leered lasciviously.

'And evil,' she said disgustedly.

'You bet,' he nodded with a grin.

'You wouldn't sound so happy about it if she'd decided to get her claws into you!' Morgan raised copper-brown brows at him.

The director shrugged. 'The excitement might be worth it. When you've been married to the same woman for fifteen years that's a quality that seems to be missing.'

Morgan smiled, her own naturally bright and friendly smile, the character of Mary-Beth discarded as soon as the scene ended. 'I'll mention that to Alyson when I see her next,' she teased, knowing Jerry had been happily married from the moment he and Alyson had been pronounced husband and wife,

'She'd kill me,' he grimaced. 'And you're supposed to like Mary-Beth if no one else does. After all, she pays your rent.'

She knew that, but it didn't make the public reaction to her personally any easier to accept. Soap-operas were entertaining, and there were half a dozen of them made at this Los Angeles studio alone, but until she actually appeared in Power Trap herself she hadn't realised that the viewing public really believed the characters existed. A lot of men admired the character of Mary-Beth, liked the danger she emitted, but normally women reacted in a hostile manner, treating her like an adversary, watching their husbands closely whenever she was about. Even some of her so-called friends had become a little wary of her, sure that she couldn't have developed the character of Mary-Beth the way she had if there weren't some of tic man-eating bitch really inside the straight-speaking Morgan McKay.

Over the months she had hardened herself against the insulting comments she received whenever she went out, although it didn't stop it hurting any less. When the new scries came out in the fall her reputation—or rather, Mary-Beth's—would be damaged irrevocably.

She went back to her dressing-room, switching on the television for relaxation as she changed into her own denims and orange silk blouse, tall and slender, dulling the make-up down to be less dramatic, brushing her hair free of lacquer and feeling it swing easily past her shoulders in its normal copper straightness.