In the Rich Man's World(10)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘Repeat what I just said and I’ll sue.’ Direct, threatening and straight to the point.

Vaughan felt himself retrieve the grip he had momentarily lost and watched her face pale before him, utter despair filling those expressive eyes as he snatched back the tidbit he had so readily thrown. ‘I think you should leave now.’

Amelia opened her mouth to argue, then closed it again, perhaps realising it would be futile, and Vaughan let out a breath of relief as without further ado she headed for the door.

And that should have been it. If it had been anyone else he was sure this rather uncomfortable exchange would be over by now, so why did she have to go and turn around? Why couldn’t she have just cut her losses and got the hell out?

‘I’m sorry.’

For Amelia, the apology that had spilled from her mouth was as unexpected as it was genuine. She’d meant to just leave—had fully intended to slam the door on this insufferable man. But with a stab of cruel honesty she realised that her anger was misdirected, that the only person who’d blown her chance was herself. Tears that had no place if she wanted to escape with her last withering shred of dignity were held firmly back and she gave a small shake of her head in defeat.

‘I have been rude, appallingly so, and the truth of the matter is I’ve no idea why.’ She gave a tiny shrug. ‘You’re right. I have just come out of the bath and I’m woefully inappropriately dressed. I had the phone off the hook because I was working on an important piece.’ Amelia gave a dry laugh. ‘Well, it seemed important at the time. Then my computer got a virus…’

Her voice trailed off. Vaughan Mason didn’t need details. An apology was the only thing needed now.

‘Had I had any idea prior to five p.m. that I’d be interviewing you, Mr Mason, then I’d have spent every available minute researching you and would have arrived in the smartest of suits. I had no right to barge in here all accusatory. I was just…’

Again, she struggled for eloquence but gave in, words literally failing her, unable to justify even to herself what had just taken place, secretly hoping he’d put her out of her misery, end the torture she’d started and let her go meekly on her way. But Vaughan had other ideas.

‘Just what?’

‘Overwhelmed.’ Amelia chewed on her lip as she struggled to find the words. ‘I’m usually incredibly ordered. OCD is my middle name…’ He didn’t even laugh at her rather feeble joke. ‘Obsessive compulsive disorder…’

‘I know what OCD is.’

‘I pride myself on being prepared, and when I found out I was interviewing you I guess I just panicked. I’ve been trying to move into business reporting, and had I handled it better this really could have been a huge break for me.’ Forcing a brave smile, she offered her hand. ‘I’ve already taken up enough of your time. Once again, I really am sorry.’

As his expression softened a shade she almost dared to hope that he’d refuse her hand and, with a nod of that immaculately cut hair, relent and gesture for her to come in. But that vague hope was doused before it had even formed: after only the briefest of hesitations Vaughan Mason’s warm, dry hand closed around hers.

‘What will you say? I mean, what will you write?’

‘My notice, probably, when I return to the office empty-handed.’ Amelia sighed, but emotional blackmail clearly didn’t move Vaughan Mason an inch. He just stood there as Amelia turned and pulled the heavy door open. ‘Congratulations, by the way.’ She saw the flicker of confusion in his tired eyes, realised only then just how exhausted he must be if a billion-dollar deal could so easily be forgotten. ‘On the contract.’

‘Oh, that!’ He gave a tight nod. ‘Thanks. Although it’s a touch premature. It’s far from in the bag, and, as I said—’

‘Off the record, or you’ll sue?’ Amelia second-guessed him and gave a wan smile. ‘Don’t worry; my next piece will be called “You heard it here last”.’

She slipped out of his office and into the hallway. The elevator must have been expecting her, because it slid open before she even approached, killing stone-dead any lingering hope that he might change his mind, might pull open the door and call her back in.

As if.

As if Vaughan Mason would even give their altercation a second thought.

Stepping out onto the street, she ignored the taxi rank and decided instead to walk. What was the point of rushing to the gallows?

She could almost see Paul’s thunderous face when she told him what had happened. Could imagine her bank balance sliding into the red as she struggled to find another gig.