The Crime Readers' Association

Window of Opportunity

By Peter Lovesey

“There is a window in your life. All you have to do is open it and let the sunshine in.”

Nikki listened, fascinated. She’d come here expecting a con, but the man spoke like a prophet. He had his audience enthralled. He was a brilliant speaker. Looks, perfect grooming, charisma. He had it all.

“How many times have I heard someone say, ‘You should have been here yesterday. It was glorious’?” He smiled. “A comment on our English weather, but it sums up our attitude to life. You should have been here yesterday. My friends, forget about yesterday. We are here today. Seize the day. Open that window and let the sunshine in.”

The applause was wild. He’d brought them to a pitch of excitement. And this wasn’t evangelism. It was about being effective in business. The setting was Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, where the government held its think-tank sessions. Companies had paid big bucks to send their upcoming executives here. Lives were being changed for ever. Not least, Nikki’s.

This was her window of opportunity. She’d been sent here for the weekend by the theatrical agency to help with the role play. Inspired by what she had heard, she was about to act a role of her own. She stepped to the front, scythed a path through the admirers and placed a hand over his arm. “If you don’t mind, Julian, there’s someone you should meet upstairs, in your suite.” To his adoring fans she said, “He’ll be back, I promise.”

It worked. In the lift, he said, “Who is it?”


His amazing blue eyes widened. “I don’t understand.”

“I’ve seized the day.”

The moment he laughed, she knew she’d succeeded. He was still high on the reception he’d got. When they entered the suite, she put the do not disturb sign over the doorknob. The sex was sensational.

They had a weekend in Paris and a trip to New York. Nikki found herself moving in circles she’d never experienced before. Royal Ascot. Henley. Her drama school training came in useful.

They married in the church in rural Dorset where her parents lived. She arrived with Daddy in a pony and trap and after the reception in Dorchester’s best hotel, she and Julian were driven to the airport in a stretch limo. The honeymoon was in Bermuda. Julian paid for almost everything. Daddy couldn’t have managed to spend on that scale.

“It’s no problem,” Julian said. “I’m ridiculously well off. Well, we are now.”

“You deserve to be, my darling,” Nikki said. “You’ve brought sunshine into so many lives.”

They bought a huge plot of land in Oxfordshire and had their house built to Julian’s design. As well as the usual bedrooms and reception rooms, it had an office suite, gym, games room and two pools, indoors and out. A tennis court, stables and landscaped garden. “I don’t want you ever to be bored,” Julian said. “There are times when I’ll be away.”

Nikki was not bored. True, she’d given up her acting to devote more time to homemaking, but she could not have managed both. When Julian was at home, he was forever finding new windows of opportunity, days to seize. His energy never flagged. He got up at five-thirty and swam a mile before breakfast and made sure she was up by seven. Even in her drama school days she hadn’t risen that early. Actors work to a different pattern.

He had each day worked out. “We’ll plant the new rockery this morning and clear the leaves out of the pool. This afternoon I’ll need your help fitting the curtains in the fourth bedroom. This evening the Mountnessings are coming for dinner and I want to prepare an Italian meal, so we’ll need to fit in some shopping.”

Nikki suggested more than once that most of these jobs could be done by staff. They could afford to get people in.

“That goes against my principles,” Julian said. “There’s immense satisfaction in doing the jobs ourselves.

“One day I’d like to sit by the pool we keep so clean,” she said.

“Doing what, my love?”

“Just sitting – or better still, lying.”

He laughed. He thought she was joking.

In bed, he showed no sign of exhaustion. Nikki, twelve years younger than he, was finding it a trial to match this energy.

At such a pace, it didn’t take long for the house to be in perfect shape, all the curtains and carpets fitted, the pictures hung. Nikki had looked forward to some time to herself when the jobs were done, but she hadn’t reckoned on maintenance.


“Keeping it up to the mark,” Julian explained. “We don’t let the grass grow under our feet.”

In the middle of their lovemaking the same night, the thought occurred to her that he regarded this, too, as maintenance. From that moment, the magic went out of their marriage.

What a relief when he went to America for a week on a lecture tour. He left her a maintenance list, but she ignored it and lounged by the pool every day watching the leaves settle on the surface and sink to the bottom.

When he returned he was as energised as ever. Jetlag was unknown to Julian’s metabolism. “So much to attend to,” he said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think you’d ignored that list I gave you.”

He was as active as usual in bed. And up before five next morning. He’d heard some house martins building a nest under the eaves above the bedroom window. They made an appalling mess if you didn’t do something about it.

When Nikki drew back the bedroom curtain she saw his sun-tanned legs right outside. He’d brought out his lightweight aluminium ladder. His feet, in gleaming white trainers and socks, were on one of the highest rungs. She had to push extra hard to open the window and force the ladder backwards, but she succeeded. And let the sunshine in.


You can read more about Peter Lovesey and his books here.

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