From Prim to Improper(2)

By: Cathy Williams


‘The moustached lady seemed all right,’ Andreas observed, ignoring his godfather’s smug look at his minor victory in getting his godson to agree that the fifty-five-year-old Ms Pearson might have been a challenging candidate. ‘Four more to see tomorrow—but she’s on the short list, like it or not.’ End of conversation.

Andreas had no doubt that the extremely efficient agency which was currently supplying them with possibilities would lose patience sooner or later, and when that happened he had no idea what he would do.

As it was, the past two weeks had comprised the longest stint he had ever had out of his office, holidays included. Empires didn’t run themselves, as he had once told his godfather, and his empire had so many tentacles that controlling them all was an art form that required an ability to juggle work above and beyond the average.

Not that Andreas objected. Brains and talent had seen him cruise through his academic career. Rejecting all offers of help from his godfather, he had left university to embark on his fledgling career in the City. He had moved quickly and effortlessly from the risky trade markets with sufficient capital to set up his own company. Within ten short years he had become a force to be reckoned with in the field of mergers and acquisitions, but when Andreas bought he bought shrewdly and he bought for keeps. Now, in addition to a niche and highly profitable publishing-outfit, he owned a string of first-class boutique hotels in far-flung places, three media companies and a computer company that was right up there in pushing the boundaries of the World Wide Web. He had managed thus far to weave a clever path through the recession, which was revealing gaping inadequacies in companies all over the world; he knew that he was regarded as virtually untouchable. It was a reputation he liked.

Importantly, however, he had never forgotten that the privileged lifestyle which had been donated to him courtesy of his godfather had not been his. From a young age he had been determined to create his own privileged lifestyle, and he had succeeded. Everything took second place. Including women—including, in fact, the current one in his life who had recently begun thinking otherwise.

He’d joined his godfather for dinner with his thoughts half on a deal which would net him a very desirable little company in the north which was busy doing some interesting research in the pharmaceutical market. It was one of the few areas in which Andreas had not dabbled, and therefore all the more seductive. But generally his thoughts were on his godfather’s stubborn refusal to bow to the inevitable, and the niggling problem of the woman he was currently seeing, Amanda Fellows, who was beginning to outstay her welcome.

‘You need to lower your expectations,’ Andreas said as dishes were cleared away, and he pushed himself away from the table to look steadily at his godfather, who was beginning to flag. ‘You’re not going to find perfection.’

‘You need to get yourself a good woman,’ James retorted briskly. ‘Now that we’re getting into the arena of giving advice.’

Andreas grinned, because he was used to his godfather’s casual disregard for personal boundaries. ‘I happen to have a very good woman in tow at the moment, as it happens,’ he said, choosing to set aside the debate about the more pressing issue of his godfather’s obstinacy because stress was to be avoided above all else, he had been told.

‘Bimbo?’

Andreas gave all the appearance of taking time out to consider that. He swirled the wine in his glass around, tilted his head to one side then said, still grinning, ‘Who likes brains in a woman? After a hard day’s work, the only word I want to hear from any woman is “yes”…’

His godfather bristled predictably, and was in the middle of one of his versions of a ‘you need to settle down, boy’ rant when the doorbell went.

The doorbell, unlike doorbells on most houses, was the sort of clanging affair that reverberated like church bells inside the house, bouncing off the solid walls and echoing through the multitude of rooms.

* * *

Standing outside, Elizabeth decided that it was the sort of doorbell that perfectly suited the house, which didn’t mean that she wasn’t jumping with nerves as it announced her arrival. Her finger, in fact, had hovered above it for several minutes before she had finally summoned the courage to press.

The taxi which she could ill afford had dropped her off, circling the vast courtyard, then unhelpfully disappearing back towards civilization—leaving her completely stranded and without much of a clue as to what she was going to do if no one was in.

That was just one of the many things, she now realised, that she had failed to consider.