This man, p.13
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       This Man, p.13

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 13

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  As I walk down the stairs, I see my car keys lying on the door mat. So, the man’s seen sense and freed my car. Does this mean he’s also seen sense and given up pursuing me? Has he got the message? Perhaps he has, because there have been no calls or texts since he steamed out last night. Am I disappointed? I don’t have time to consider this.

  ‘I’m off,’ I shout through to Kate. ‘My car’s back. ’

  She pokes her head around the door of her workshop. ‘Great, good luck. I’ll be there later to drink all the expensive champagne. ’

  ‘Oh, yes. See you later. ’ I run down the path, halting when I see a cheap mobile phone smashed to pieces in the middle of the pavement. I know where that’s come from. I kick it into the gutter and continue to my car. Oh, it’s good to have her back. I load my things into the boot and jump into the driver seat, only to find myself miles away from the steering wheel.

  Laughing, I shift the seat forward so my feet reach the pedals. I start her up and jump out of my skin when the stereo blasts Blur around my car. Christ, is his lack of hearing an indication to his age? I turn it down, faltering when the words of the track register. It’s Country house. I fight the small part of me that wants to laugh at his little joke and remove the disc from the stereo. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone so conceited in all my life. I replace the unwanted CD with a Ministry of Sound Chill out Session and head for St Katharine Docks.

  When I pull up outside Lusso, I present my face to the camera and the gates open immediately. I park up and see the caterers unloading crockery and glasses as I get my work case from the boot and head into the building. I’ve been here a million times, but I’m still completely stunned by the pure extravagance of the place.

  As I walk into the foyer, I see Clive, one of the concierges, playing with the new computer equipment. He’s part of a team who’ll provide a six star hotel-style service, organising anything from grocery shopping and theatre tickets, to helicopter charters and dinner reservations. I cross the marble floor, which has been polished to within an inch of its life, and head towards Clive’s huge, curved concierge desk.

  I spot dozens of black vases and hundreds of Italian red roses, placed carefully to the side. At least I won’t have to chase the delivery of those.

  ‘Good morning, Clive. ’ I say, approaching his desk.

  He looks up from one of the screens, the panic on his friendly face clear. ‘Ava, I’ve read this manual four times in a week and I’m still clueless. We never had anything like this at The Dorchester. ’

  ‘It can’t be that difficult,’ I soothe the old boy. ‘Have you asked the surveillance team?’

  He throws his glasses down on the desk in exasperation, rubbing his eyes. ‘Yes, three times now. They must think I’m daft. ’

  ‘You’ll be fine,’ I assure him. ‘When do they start moving in?’

  ‘Tomorrow. Are you all set for tonight?’

  ‘Ask me again this afternoon. I’ll see you in a bit. ’

  He smiles. ‘Okay, love. ’ He turns his attention back to his instruction manual, muttering under his breath.

  I traipse across the floor and punch in the code for the penthouse elevator. It’s private and the only one that goes to the top floor.

  I set about transporting and spreading the vases and flowers between the fifteen floors of the building. Arranging these will keep me busy for a while.

  At ten thirty, I’m back in the foyer and arranging the last of my flowers on the console tables that line the foyer.

  ‘I have flowers for a Miss O’Shea. ’

  I look up, seeing a young girl gazing around at the impressive lobby. ‘Sorry?’

  She points to her clipboard. ‘I have a delivery for Miss O’Shea. ’

  I roll my eyes. Don’t tell me they’ve duplicated an order of over four hundred Italian red roses. That really would take incompetence to a whole new level.

  ‘I’ve already taken delivery of the flowers. ’ I say tiredly, walking towards her. I notice the van outside, but it’s not the florist I ordered through.

  ‘Have you?’ She looks a bit panicky as she flicks through the papers on her clipboard.

  ‘What have you got?’ I ask.

  ‘A bouquet of calla lilies for Miss…’ She looks at her clipboard again. ‘Miss Ava O’Shea. ’

  ‘I’m Ava O’Shea. ’

  ‘Cool, I’ll be two seconds. ’ She runs off, returning swiftly. ‘This place is like Fort Knox!’ she exclaims. She hands me the biggest spray of calla lilies I’ve ever seen – stunning, white, clean flowers surrounded by stacks of deep green foliage.

  Understated elegance.

  My stomach does a few cartwheels as I sign the delivery girl’s paperwork and take the flowers from her, finding the card among the forest of green.

  I’m so sorry. Forgive me, please. X

  Is he? He already apologised for his inappropriate behavior and look where that got me. I start to wonder how he’d know I’m here, but then I remember him picking out Lusso in my portfolio. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort to find out the launch date and figure I would be here. My contentment of yesterday evening, after Jesse left the house, is slowly dissipating. He’s never going to give up, is he? Well, he can knock himself out. I smile to myself. Knock himself out? Where did that…I flatten that thought immediately.

  I place the flowers on the concierge desk. ‘Here, Clive. Let’s pretty up all this black marble. ’ He looks up briefly before returning to scratching his head, looking overwhelmed. I leave him to it, getting on with my walk through to ensure everything is in place and ready.

  Victoria turns up at five thirty, looking her usual immaculate self – all blonde hair, blue eyes and overdone.

  ‘Sorry I’m late. The traffic’s a nightmare and there’s nowhere to park. ’ She gazes around. ‘They’re all reserved for guests. What can I do, I’m so excited!’ she sings at me, while stroking the walls of the penthouse.

  ‘I’m all done. I just need you to do a walk through to make sure there’s nothing that I’ve missed. ’ I lead her into the main space.

  ‘Oh my God, Ava, it looks amazing!’

  ‘It’s great, isn’t it? I’ve never had such a colossal budget. It was fun spending so much of someone else’s money. ’ We giggle together. ‘Have you seen the kitchen?’ I ask.

  ‘I’ve not seen it complete. I bet it’s incredible. ’

  ‘It is, go and take a look. I’m going to get myself ready in the spa. I’ve done everything in the other apartments so concentrate up here. This is where the action will be. Make sure all the cushions are plumped and in place. I want the peppers on the chopping boards shiny. Use Pledge! The mini Dyson is here. Hoover up any stray bits on the bedroom carpets,’ I hand her the fully charged, hand held hoover. ‘Just use your initiative. If there’s anything you’re not sure of, make a note. Okay?’

  She grabs the hoover from me. ‘I love these things. ’ she revs the Dyson, posing like a cowboy in a standoff.

  ‘How old are you?’ I ask on an eye roll.

  She screws her face up, grins and sets off to follow through on my instructions.

  An hour later, after utilising all of Lusso’s fancy spa facilities, I’m ready. My dress is creaseless and my hair is behaving. I take a little wander around. This will be my last time here, and it will soon be crowded with business people and high society, so I make the most of my last opportunity to savour the sheer magnificence of the place. It’s mind-blowing. I still can’t believe this is my work. I smile to myself as I stand in the colossal open space on the first floor. Bi-folding doors lead to an L shaped terrace, with limestone paving, a decked area, sun loungers and a huge Jacuzzi. There’s a study, dining room, a huge archway leading into a ridiculously large kitchen, and a back-lit onyx staircase that rises to the four en-suite bedrooms and a massive master suite. The spa, fitness centre and s
wimming pool, on the ground floor of the building, are exclusive to the residents of Lusso, but the penthouse boasts its own gym. It’s stunning. Whoever’s brought this place definitely likes the finer things in life and for a cool ten million, they’ve got it.

  I make my way back to the kitchen and find Victoria, still armed with the Dyson.

  ‘All done,’ she declares as she hoovers up a stray crumb on the marble worktop.

  ‘Well, let’s drink. ’ I smirk and pick up two glasses of champagne, handing one to Victoria.

  ‘Here’s to you, Ava. Stylish in body and in mind,’ She giggles, raising her glass in a toast. We both swig and sigh. ‘Wow! This is good. ’ She looks at the bottle.

  ‘Ca’Del Bosco, Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, 1993. It’s Italian, of course. ’ I raise my brow and Victoria giggles again.

  I hear chatter coming from the entrance hall, so I wander out of the kitchen, finding Tom gawping like a goldfish and Patrick smiling proudly.

  ‘Ava, this is some serious special, darling!’ Tom runs at me, throwing his arms around my body. He pulls back, looking me up and down. ‘Love the dress. Very tight. ’

  I wish I could say the same for Tom, who takes colour clash to extreme levels. I squint at his bright blue shirt and red tie combo.

  ‘Put the girl down, Tom. You’ll crease her,’ Patrick grumbles, gently shoving him aside and leaning down to peck me on the cheek. ‘I’m very proud of you, flower. You’ve done a marvelous job, and between me and you –’ He leans into my ear and whispers. ‘The developer has hinted they want you on board for the next project in Holland Park. ’ He winks at me, his wrinkled face wrinkling further. ‘Now, where’s that champagne?’

  ‘This way,’ I lead them into the huge kitchen, hearing more cooing from Tom. The place really is that special.

  ‘Cheers!’ I chant, after handing them all a glass of champagne.

  ‘Cheers!’ They all raise their glasses.

  I spend a few hours being introduced to high society and explaining my inspiration behind the design. Journalists from architecture and interior magazines swan around taking photographs and generally poking about. Much to my displeasure, they hustle me onto velvet chaise lounge for a shot. Patrick drags me from pillar to post, proclaiming his pride and insisting, to anyone that will listen, that I’ve single handedly put Rococo Union on the designers map. I blush profusely, repeatedly playing down his declarations.

  I’m thankful when Kate shows up. I usher her into the kitchen, thrusting a glass of champagne in her hand and take another for myself.

  ‘Bit posh, eh?’ she muses, gazing around the plush kitchen. ‘It makes my place look like a cluttered mess. ’

  I laugh at the referral to her cute, homely town house that looks like Cath Kidston has vomited, sneezed and coughed all over it. ‘You mean impressive, I’m sure. ’

  ‘Yes, that too. I couldn’t live here though. ’ she says with no shame at all. I’m not offended. While I’m proud of the finished result, the sheer vastness of the place intimidates me.

  ‘Me either. ’ I concur.

  ‘I saw Matt earlier. ’ She downs her champagne, immediately scooping up another from a tray as a waiter passes.

  ‘Oh, I bet that was nice for you. ’ I tease, imagining Kate hissing and spitting like a cat at poor Matt. It’s no less than he deserves.

  ‘No, it wasn’t. The part where he told me that you were going out for dinner with him was particularly unpleasant. ’ She purses her lips at me. ‘Ava, what are you thinking? I’m here to threaten you. ’

  ‘Oh, and there was me thinking you’d come to support your friend in her working triumph. ’ I raise my eyebrows.

  ‘Pah! Your working life is not an area in which you need support. On the other hand, your personal life is very interesting lately. ’ She jiggles her eyebrows up and down suggestively. I know what she’s getting at, and she’s not heard the half of it. Damn Matt as well. We’re not even together anymore and he still can’t resist winding her up.
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