‘Oh, shut up Mario! I’m not stupid.’ she spits.
Poor Mario flinches before returning to wiping the bar, keeping his eyes on Sarah. I want to jump to his defense, but just as I’m contemplating doing exactly that, she puts out her hand.
‘I’m Sarah, you are?’
Oh yes, the last time she asked me that I didn’t answer and left rather hastily. I accept her hand, shaking it lightly as she eyes me suspiciously. I can tell she doesn’t like me. Perhaps she sees me as a threat.
‘Ava O’Shea.’ I offer, releasing my hold of her hand swiftly.
‘And you’re here because?’
I laugh lightly. I’m sure she knows exactly why I’m here, which only serves to confirm that she’s feeling threatened and going out of her way to make me feel uncomfortable. Sheath the claws, lady. I silently smile at the thought of telling her that it’s because her boyfriend pleaded with me to be here.
‘I’m an Interior Designer. I’m here to measure up the new bedrooms.’
She arches an eyebrow, flicking her hand in the air to get Mario’s attention. This woman is something else, with aloofness in equal measure to Wards boldness. Her blonde, layered hair is flicking here and there, her lips the same pouty red as they were on Friday, and she’s wearing a fitted, grey trouser suit. I’m being unkind when I put her at forty. She’s probably mid-thirties – far closer to Ward in age than me. I quickly reign in my wandering thoughts, mentally slapping my own desperate arse.
‘Sloe gin and tonic, Mario,’ she demands past me. No please and no smile. She really is quite rude. ‘You’re a bit young to be an interior designer, aren’t you?’ Her tone is unfriendly, and she doesn’t look at me when she speaks.
I bristle. I really don’t like this woman. What does Ward see in her, apart from over inflated, pouty lips and obvious breast implants? ‘I am.’ I agree. She feels threatened by my youth as well. Good.
I’m beyond relieved when John appears in the doorway. He pulls his glasses down, giving Sarah a peculiar look before nodding at me. What’s with all these looks being thrown around? I don’t dwell on it, though. John’s nod is the cue I need to escape this woman. I place my empty glass on the bar more forcefully than I intend to. Mario’s head snaps up, and I smile an apology, lowering myself from the stool.
‘Nice meeting you, Sarah.’ I say pleasantly. It’s a lie. I don’t like her, and I know the feeling’s mutual.
She doesn’t look at me. She accepts the drink that Mario hands her, without so much as a thank you, and walks off to chat with a male business type at the other end of the bar.
When I reach John, he leads me up the grand staircase to the gallery landing and through to the new extension.
‘I’ll be fine on my own, John. I don’t want to keep you.’ I offer him the chance to leave me to it as he leads me down the corridor.
‘S’all good, girl.’ he rumbles, opening the door into the furthest room.
We start measuring up, working our way back through the rooms. John dutifully holds the tape measure for me, nodding every so often when I give direction. The phrase “A man of few words” was invented with John in mind, I’m sure. He talks with his nods, and even though his eyes are covered with his sunglasses, I can identify when he’s looking at me. I make all the notes I need in my folder, ideas thrashing around in my head already.
An hour later, I have all the measurements I need and we’re done. I follow John’s huge body back onto the gallery landing, as I search for my phone within my bag. I soon realise that in my desperation to get shot of Sarah, I left it on the bar.
‘I’ve left my phone in the bar.’ I mutter to John’s back.
‘I’ll make sure Mario’s picked it up. Jesse wanted me to show you one of the other rooms before you go.’ he informs me evenly.
‘So you get an idea of your brief.’ He puts a keycard in the slot, opens the door and ushers me in.
Oh, okay. It can’t hurt, and I am interested.
Wow! I walk into the middle of the room. Well, mini-suite would better describe it. The floor space is probably bigger that Kate’s flat. Hearing the door close behind me, I turn to see John has left me to take it in on my own. I stand absorbing the opulent spender of the décor.
These rooms are more lavish than the ones downstairs, if that’s possible. A giant bed dominates the room, dressed in rich satin linen in deep purples and gold. The wall behind the bed is papered in an embossed, intense swirling of dull gold, and heavy thick curtains pool the thick, bouncy carpet. The lighting is dim and soft. One of Ward’s key requirements was sensuality, and whoever designed this room has achieved it in abundance. Why doesn’t he just re-employ this designer?
I wander over to the huge, sash window and look out over the rear grounds. The land The Manor stands on is vast, the views tremendous and the lush greenness of the Surrey countryside is rolling for miles and miles beyond. It really is quite special. I walk over and run my palm across a lovely dark wooden chest of drawers. I place my folder and bag on the top before lowering myself onto the chaise lounge in the window.
I sit and take in my surroundings. It’s incredible and would undoubtedly rival many of the most famous hotels spread across the world’s biggest cities. A huge wall hanging grabs my attention. It’s quite odd but beautifully made. It must be an antique. Half attached to the wall and drifting up onto the ceiling where the huge beams span, it’s grid like in appearance, but there’s no material or lighting adorning it. I tilt my head on a frown, but then fly up to standing position when I hear a noise coming from the bathroom.