My fears are confirmed. This place is immaculate.
The décor is opulent, lush and very intimidating. Deep blues, taupe’s with hints of gold and original woodwork, along with the rich mahogany parquet floor, makes the place striking and massively extravagant. It’s exactly how I would have expected it to be and nowhere near my design style. But then again, looking around, why any interior designer would be here is becoming more and more confusing. Patrick said they requested me personally, so I would be inclined to think that they want to modernise the place, but that would’ve been before I got a glimpse of the exterior and now the interior too. The décor suits the period building. It’s in perfect condition. Why the hell am I here?
Big guy heads off to the right, leaving me to scuttle off after him. My tan heels clink on the parquet floor as he leads me past the central staircase, towards the back of the Mansion.
I hear the hum of conversation and glance to my right, noticing many people sat at various tables eating, drinking and chatting. Waiters are serving food and drinks, and the distinct voices of The Rat Pack are purring in the background. I frown, but then I click. It’s a hotel – a posh country hotel. My shoulders sag slightly in relief at concluding this, but it still doesn’t explain why I’m here. I’m lead past some toilets and then a bar. A few men are sat on bar stools cracking jokes and teasing a young woman, who has, apparently, returned from the lavatory with toilet roll stuck to her heel. She playfully slaps the main instigator on the shoulder, scolding him while laughing along with them.
This is all beginning to make sense to me. I want to say something to the mountain of a man leading me, God only knows where, but he hasn’t looked back once to check I’m following. Although, the clink of my heels tells him I am. He doesn’t say much, and I suspect he wouldn’t answer me if I did speak.
We continue past two more closed doors. Judging by the clanking of pots, I assume one to be the kitchen. Then he leads me into a summer room – a massive, light, stunningly lavish space that’s sectioned off into individual seating areas by the positioning of sofa’s, big arm chairs and tables. Floor to ceiling bi-fold doors span the complete face of the room, leading to a yorkstone patio and a vast lawn area. It’s really quite awe inspiring. I inwardly gasp when I spot a glass building housing a swimming pool. It’s incredible. I shudder to think how much the nightly rate is. It has to be five stars – probably more.
Once we’ve passed through the summer room, I’m lead down a corridor until big guy stops outside a wooden panelled door. ‘Mr Ward’s office.’ he rumbles, knocking the door, surprisingly gently given his mammoth size.
‘The Manager?’ I ask.
‘The Owner,’ he replies, opening the door and striding through. ‘Come in.’
I hesitate on the threshold, watching as the big guy strides into the room ahead of me. I eventually force my feet into action, moving into the room, while gazing around at the equally luxurious surroundings of Mr Ward’s office.
‘Jesse, Miss O’Shea, Rococo Union.’ Big guy announces.
‘Perfect. Thanks, John.’
I’m dragged from my awed like state, straight into high alert. My back straightens.
I can’t see him, he’s obscured by the big guy’s massive frame, but that raspy, smooth voice has me frozen on the spot, and it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a cigar smoking, overweight, wax jacket wearing Lord of the Manor.
Big guy, or John as I now know him, moves to the side, giving me my first glimpse of Mr Jesse Ward.
Oh good God. My heart crashes against my breast bone and my nervous breathing rockets to damn right dangerous levels. I suddenly feel light headed, and my mouth is ignoring my brains instructions to at least say something. I just stand there staring at this man, while he stares back at me. His husky voice halted me in my tracks, but the sight of him…well, that’s just turned me into a non-responsive, quivering wreck.
He rises from his chair, my gaze traveling up with him until he’s stood at full height. He’s very tall. His white shirt is casually rolled at the sleeves, but he still wears a black tie, loosely knotted and hanging down the front of a broad chest.
He makes his way around his massive desk and slowly walks towards me. It’s then that I take in the full impact of him. I gulp. This man is so perfect, I’m almost in pain. His dirty blonde hair looks like he’s half attempted to get it into some semblance of a style but given up. His eyes are sludgy green, but bright and way too intense, and the stubble covering his square jaw does nothing to conceal the handsome features beneath it. He’s lightly tanned and just…Oh God, he’s devastating. Lord of the Manor?
‘Miss O’Shea.’ His hand comes toward me, but I can’t persuade my arm to raise and clasp his outstretched offering. He’s beautiful.
When I don’t offer my hand, he reaches forward and clasps both of my shoulders, then slowly leans in to kiss me, his lips brushing lightly over my burning cheek. I tense all over. I can hear my pulse throbbing in my ears, and even though it’s completely inappropriate for a business meeting, I do nothing to stop him. I’m all over the place.
‘It’s a pleasure,’ he whispers in my ear, which only serves to make me moan slightly. He must feel my tenseness – it’s not difficult, I’m rigid – because his grip eases up and he lowers his face to my level, looking me directly in the eyes. ‘Are you okay?’ he asks, one side of his mouth lifting into a semblance of a smile. I notice a single frown line across his forehead.