Authors: Nicky Schmidt
NAKED IN KNIGHTSBRIDGE
Naked in Knightsbridge © Nicky Schmidt 2009
First published in England 2009
by Prospera Publishing Limited
E-edition published worldwide 2010 by Prospera Publishing
© Nicky Schmidt
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the Internet, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author and/or publisher.
The moral right of Nicky Schmidt as the Author of the Work
has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Cover design © Prospera Publishing Inhouse
Cover photograph © istock
All By Myself’ lyrics and song © Eric Carmen 1975. All rights reserved.
All characters and events featured in this book are entirely fictional and any resemblance to any person, organisation, place or thing living or dead, or event or place, is purely coincidental and completely unintentional.
Reviews and praise for Naked in Knightsbridge
WINNER: PINK THONG AWARD FOR
MOST PROMISING AUTHOR 2009/2010
RUNNER UP: BEST DEBUT NOVEL 2009
"If you like The Shopaholic series, you'll love Naked in Knightsbridge. This book is fantastic . . .
Mary de Bastos at The Sweet Bookshelf
" . . .it will get the chick lit world talking."
Stephanie Pegler at Chicklit Club
"It really was a joy to read."
Leah Graham at Chick Lit Reviews
"Naked in Knightsbridge is one of the best books I have read this year . . .
Bridget Jones meets credit crunch, I would say . . .
What will resonate with readers is the reality that Jools lives in - the spend now, pay later culture that is so prevalent in modern British society – I am very debt-adverse and am really terrified at the way people spend the money that they do not have. Coupled with references to [online auctions] (everyone loves a bargain, right?) and sham marriages for illegal immigrants to stay in the country, this is definitely intelligent chick-lit that makes itself very current and on the pulse. And of course, everyone has the one friend that you are slightly envious about right? So is the loneliness in modern society of having only a handful of friends – with everything falling apart once that small teensy support network collapses. This would not be a chick-lit without the knight in shining armour – and I do love the character development of the knight in this book.
Mille Barker, Extraordinarily Ordinary
To Big X, Mrs S, Marsha, Yannick, Jayna and all at Prospera, many thanks for the edits. To the many friends and family members who contributed ideas for Jools’ escapades, thank you and may I say to some of you, I am worried for your mental health.
Readers please note:
some of the policies mentioned regarding government benefits are fiction and liberties have been taken for the purposes of the story. Please check with any organisations mentioned for correct information should you require it.
Dear Miss Grand,
I am writing with regards to your business overdraft, which is now almost £5000 in excess of the agreed amount. As you are aware, this additional expenditure is unapproved and in breach of your contract with us. You are therefore required to bring your borrowing under the agreed limit of £20,000 immediately, in order to retain your line of credit.
Loans and Finance Director
Commercial Bank London
THROWING THE LETTER onto the coffee table, Jools nudged best friend Mel and pointed eastward. Outside, Hunk of No Fixed Abode was standing by the letterbox, looking seedy.
Not him again,’ Mel grumbled. ‘A hobo with a strange mail fixation. What could you possibly see in someone like him?’
I’m sure he has one or two redeemable qualities,’ Jools grinned wickedly. ’Besides, I haven’t had sex in eight months.’ She picked a HobNob out of the packet on the window sill and bit it in half. ’I figure he won’t run screaming if he claps eyes on my unshaved bits.’
Mel snorted. ‘God, will you raise your standards up past your navel long enough to give a relationship a chance? You aren’t half bad-looking when you put on a bit of slap and a decent skirt.’ She looked Jools up and down. ’Or any skirt, for that matter. And if you don’t mind me saying, you could do with a bit of exercise and a few less biscuits.’
Jools knew Mel was trying to be supportive – in truth, she
do with a lot less biscuits. At nearly 11 stone, with weird, fuzzy dark-blonde hair that would do any loo-brush proud, and cream-coloured teeth that had borne the brunt of ten years of double-shot espressos, she urgently needed one of those extreme makeovers. Luckily her face was passable – greenish eyes and a certain satisfying symmetry to her features – but a pretty face didn’t hide the fact she was seriously lacking in finesse.
Reminding her friend of ten years that having standards was a luxury she couldn’t window-shop for, let alone afford, Jools considered Hunk of No Fixed Abode again thoughtfully.
Nice cheekbones,’ she said hopefully, as she watched him caress the mailbox.
How can you tell through all that hair? Look, it’s growing out of his cheeks. Possibly out of his eyeballs, too. And why on earth does he hang out by that mailbox all day? It’s not natural to molest a mailbox. I’m sure it’s a violation of some sort.’
Maybe he knows the postman?’
Wants to mug him, more like. And if I recall, it’s actually a postwoman.’
Jools swore. ‘I hope she’s not competition.’
Mel rolled her eyes. It was alright for Mel, Jools thought sulkily. She was gorgeous, in that pixie-like way men adored. Tidy black bob, size 8 body perfectly proportioned for her all-black feminista garb purchased exclusively from Prada. Mel was listed in Debrett’s even though her father, Lord Something or Other, had almost disowned her when she’d told him that come the revolution, he and his kind would be the final guests in the Tower.
Somehow, Mel managed to overlook the fact that she was also ’that kind’. She worked tirelessly for two quid a week as an equal opportunity solicitor, sticking claim forms up the proverbials of evil bosses who dared to insult the gender, race or religion of her clients.
Why were they friends? Jools suspected Mel’s curiosity about the other half – the great fat unwashed – had brought them together. When Mel spied Jools at UCL, abusing a vending machine for stealing her change, Mel decided to take her on, the same way someone adopts a wayward stray from a shelter.
Given Mel’s looks and connections, the new friendship helped Jools establish herself as a dominant force of the ’it’ crowd. She even managed to lose her virginity to a popular and remarkably randy little medical student named Horry, who told her he ‘liked ‘em chunky’.
Eager to move on from the mailbox molesting hobo, Mel asked what the latest was with the business.
Not good.’ Jools preferred to avoid thinking about the state of her small cleaning company. Dire was the best description for it now and if Jools was honest, it had never been more than a few women running around cleaning houses for a few bob.
It had all started when she couldn’t get a job after university. Oddly, her arts degree with a major in bed-hopping didn’t seem to excite potential employers. She’d gone round to Mel’s old Knightsbridge flat (who’d since upgraded to a three-bed in Kensington) to complain about her sad state of affairs and Mel’s next door neighbour, Mrs Randy, had popped in to share the disastrous news that her cleaner had quit.
I’ll do it,’ Jools had said, despite being utterly useless at cleaning anything effectively – except her dinner plate, of course.
But Mrs Randy (why someone would choose to keep that unfortunate surname ‘in memory of my dead husband’ was beyond Jools) had seemed happy enough at her feeble attempts with a dustcloth and Dyson, and when she had extracted a crisp twenty pound note for two hours’ work, Jools figured there were worse ways to make money. (Like the time she had to dress as a chicken and parade outside the takeaway place on the high street, clucking and handing out ‘buy one get one free’ coupons – all for the princely sum of four quid an hour.) Jools shuddered at the memory. Wiping down every toilet seat between Knightsbridge and Heathrow was better than that sort of public humiliation.
So she launched a quest for more work near Mel’s, hoping to save energy and money by keeping all her clients close together. Knocking on one imposing door, she came across Mrs Pho. The woman didn’t want to pay for cleaning – the richer they are, the stingier – but she would let Jools use her 30-square-foot basement studio flat as an office in return for cleaning the five-storey house every week, and her kitchen every day. She also wanted Jools to scrub down her mother-in-law on Mondays but Jools drew the line at
Slowly, over two years, her small company expanded – thanks to a large bank loan and the conditional generosity of Mrs Pho. Mel told her over and over to become a limited company, saying Jools would be personally liable if things went wrong, but somehow she never got around to it.