‘Yes, it’s pretty wow.’
She turns back to the television. ‘I like him,’ she says quietly, almost like she’s afraid to admit it, like it’s wrong to like him. ‘I’m just saying.’ She shrugs but doesn’t look at me. ‘He’s rich, steaming hot and obviously well into you. A man doesn’t behave like that when he’s just f**king about, Ava.’
Well, that may be so, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s cleared off and my phone hasn’t rang since. It’s probably a good thing.
‘Do you fancy a proper night out on Saturday?’ I ask. It’s a stupid question that I already know the answer to.
The look she fires me is mischievous. I grin back at her.
The next day, I breeze into the Royal Park hotel at twelve fifteen, all set for my appointment with Mikael Van Der Haus. I’m directed into a snug sitting area with plush sofas. Gilded frames swamp the walls and a carved fire place dominates the room. It’s typically regal. I’m offered tea which I decline in favour of water. It’s bloody hot, and my black pencil dress is clinging to me.
Twenty minutes later, Mr Van Der Haus enters looking impeccable. He’s really very handsome. He smiles brightly at me, revealing a perfect row of white teeth. What is it with me and older men at the moment? I hastily bat away my wayward thoughts.
‘Ava, please accept my apologies. I never like to keep a lady waiting.’ His mild Danish accent is only just detectable but really sexy.
Stop! I rise from my seat as he approaches, putting my hand out to him with a smile. He takes my hand, but shocks me when he leans forward and kisses me on the cheek. Okay, that’s slightly inappropriate, but I’ll go with it. Maybe it’s a Danish thing. Ha! I would do well to remember what happened that last time a male client kissed me on a first meeting.
‘Mr Van Der Haus, it’s not a problem. I’ve not long arrived myself.’ I reassure him.
‘Ava, this is our second project together. I know you dealt with my partner on Lusso, but I will be involved in The Life Building a lot more, so please, call me Mikael. I hate formality.’ He takes a seat in the chair opposite me, crossing his long legs. ‘So, I’m looking forward to going through ideas with you soon.’
Huh? Isn’t that why I’m here now? ‘Yes, I haven’t really had the opportunity to research the development yet. I was hoping you would give me a brief and a week to get some ideas rolling.’
‘Of course!’ he laughs. ‘I’m being very rude dragging you here at such short notice, but I’m flying back to Denmark on Friday. I have your email. I shall send you the specific requirements. You did such a good job at Lusso. It really does lighten the pressure when you work with proficient people.’ He smiles.
Isn’t he going to give me the specifics now? That’s why I’m here, isn’t it? ‘We could have a quick chat now.’ I prompt.
He sits for a while, regarding me quietly, before leaning forward in his chair. ‘Ava, I hope you don’t think I’m being audacious, you see… well, how can I put it?’ He drums his fingers on his chin. I’m a little worried. ‘I’m afraid I’ve brought you here under false pretenses.’ He laughs nervously, shifting in his chair.
‘Oh, how so?’ I ask baffled. And then it hits me. Oh, no! Oh, no, no, no! I lean back in my chair, instantly tensing from top to toe, and mentally beg the Lord Almighty to talk some sense into him before he says what I think he’s going to say.
‘I would like to ask you to join me for dinner.’ He looks at me expectantly, and I’m sure my face must resemble that of complete horror. I’m burning up. ‘Tomorrow evening, if it’s convenient with you, of course.’ he adds.
Shit! What do I say? If I say no, he might withdraw his business from Rococo Union, and Patrick will go spare. What is it with men suddenly falling at my feet? Older men in particular? He’s way past Jesse in terms of age. At least, I think he is. He’s very good looking, but good God, he’s got to be twenty years older than me. I inwardly laugh. At least he hasn’t got me locked in a suite upstairs. How do I play this?
‘Mr Van Der Haus…’
‘Mikael, please.’ he interrupts me with a smile.
‘Mikael, I’m not sure mixing business with pleasure is a good idea. It’s kind of a rule for me. I’m very flattered.’ I laugh at my own audacity. Since when has that been an issue of late? And why did I say pleasure? I’ve assumed, and suggested, that it would be pleasurable to have dinner with him. It might not be, or it very well could be. Oh God! I mentally throw myself into the lovely fireplace.
‘Oh, that is a shame, Ava.’ he sighs.
‘Yes, it is.’ I agree, re-launching myself back into the hearth when he looks up in surprise.
He leans forward. ‘I admire your professionalism.’
‘Thank you.’ I’m bloody blushing again.
‘I hope this won’t affect our business relationship, Ava. I very much look forward to working with you.’
‘I’m looking forward to working with you too, Mikael.’
He lifts himself from the couch, approaching me with his hand stretched out. Thank God! I take it, letting him gently shake it. Did he really just drag me here to ask me to dinner? He could have called me.
‘I shall endeavor to email you at my earliest opportunity. Once I return from Denmark, I would like to show you around the building. Until then, you can draft some schemes. I’ve had the drawings sent to your office, and I’ll email you the specifics.’