This Man

Page 56

‘What’s in the boxes?’

‘Samples, Sally took delivery of them. You would’ve thought she’d have put them in the cupboard. The girl’s useless.’ Tom moans. I scan the office and see Sally fighting with the photocopier. She really is in a world of her own.

‘Morning,’ I hear Victoria before I see her. ‘Tom, I’m never going out with you again.’ she hisses at him, perching herself on her chair.

I look to each of them in turn, waiting for an explanation, but it’s not forthcoming from either of them. ‘What’s going on?’ I ask. Tom shrugs guiltily as Victoria takes a long breath, ready to launch into an inch by inch account of her grievance.

‘He dumped me again!’ She narrows her eyes on Tom accusingly. I drop my bag by my desk and watch as Victoria fires all sorts of accusations at a very guilty looking Tom. ‘Don’t ask me to come out with you ever again,’ she spits, pointing her pen at him. ‘Friday, you cleared off with the scientist, and last night you didn’t even have the decency to go home with the same man!’

‘Tom!’ I gasp sarcastically. ‘I thought the scientist was your soul mate?’

‘He still might be,’ Tom defends himself in a high pitched voice. ‘I’m just sampling what’s on offer before I decide on what to invest in.’

Victoria scoffs and swivels her chair around, effectively blanking him out. I sit gingerly, wincing as my butt comes to rest on the soft, padded seat that feels more like iron. I get my phone from my bag and find a text from Kate.

Left early, didn’t want to wake u in case u were dreaming of all things Lord like ;-)

Baroque at 1? Have to be back for 2:30 xxx

Yes. And daydreams too. I start to text back a big, resounding NO to Kate’s lunch offer – I’m seeing a God – but then freeze mid-type. I’m supposed to be meeting Matt for lunch. I slump in my chair. My mind’s all over the place at the moment, and I’m not going to try and kid myself as to why that is. I sit drumming my nail on my front tooth, trying to work out how I can get around this. My conclusion? I can’t, so I text Kate first.

Sorry, busy busy busy. C u at home. Ax

I can’t believe I’m sat twiddling my hair as I text a lie. She would go loopy if she knew I had arranged to meet Matt. I recommence the drumming of my tooth, struggling to decide which man I’m going to be letting down. Matt sounded really low and said he wasn’t okay. Jesse wants me back at The Manor to commence design, with the possibility of some added extras. My thighs squeeze together at the prospect. I pick my phone up to call Matt.

‘Hey,’ he greets me, sounding happier than I thought he would. Probably not for long, though.

‘Hey, listen, something’s come up. Can we rearrange?’ I hold my breath, sinking my teeth into my bottom lip as I wait for his response, and yes, I’m twiddling my hair. I’m not even really lying. Something has come up.

‘Ava, please!’ he begs. I drop my lock of hair immediately. The sure, arrogant Matt’s gone again, being replaced with an uncertain, timid stranger. ‘I really need to see you.’

I slump back in my chair, completely defeated. How can I not go when he hits me with that? There must be something seriously wrong. ‘Sure,’ I sigh. ‘I’ll see you at Baroque.’

‘Brill, see you then.’ His self-assured tone has returned.

I busy myself with emails and checking up on contractor progress. At the same time, I’m thinking of all sorts of excuses I can feed Jesse. Thank God I don’t have to face him, because with me and my twiddling fingers, I’d be rumbled instantly.

Patrick comes rolling in at eleven with Starbucks. I could kiss him.

‘Cappuccino, extra shot, no sugar or chocolate for you, flower.’ He clucks my cheek, placing my coffee on my desk. ‘Don’t forget your appointment with Mikael tomorrow.’ he perches on my desk, and I hold my breath as it creaks.

‘No, I haven’t.’ I push my diary across my desk for Patrick to see the big, bold print.

‘Good girl. How did you get on at The Manor?’

I blush instantly. I didn’t tell Patrick about my second appointment, but he only has to flick through my diary to see – which he obviously has.

‘Fine,’ I squeak, my voice a few notes higher than my normal tone, my face burning up. I will him to accept my one word, abrupt answer and leave me alone.

‘Jolly good. Keep me posted.’ He lifts himself up from my desk and goes about handing out the rest of the coffees. I instinctively check underneath for splintered wood or loose screws, puffing my cheeks out in relief for both his lack of interrogation and for my desk’s wellbeing. With all of my distractions, I hadn’t considered the possibility of Patrick finding out about my extracurricular activities with Mr Ward. This could be tricky.

My phone alerts me of a text. I snatch it up quickly, finding a reply from Kate.

Get the wine xxx

I look at the clock on my computer. Eleven fifteen. I would be leaving for my noon appointment with Mr Ward about now. I bite the bullet and pull his number up, but instead of calling him, I’m a complete shit bag and I text him.

Something important has come up. We’ll re-arrange. Ring u later Ax

No sooner have I placed my phone back on my desk and untangled my finger from my hair, the office door opens and a spray of calla lilies are carted in. It’s the delivery girl from Lusso. I see Tom point to my desk, and I’m instantly flooded with guilt. I re-slump in my chair. I’ve just stood him up and he’s sent me flowers. Well, I’ve not technically stood him up. I’m rearranging a business meeting. He’ll understand. I accept the flowers, signing the delivery girl’s paperwork before finding the card.

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