In the Rich Man's World(8)

By: Carol Marinelli

This was the biggest moment in her career—literally make or break—and bloody Vaughan Mason had the audacity to sleep through her entrance, had the temerity to doze off before her questions had even started, and relegate her to the struggling novice she was without a single word!

‘Mr Mason,’ Amelia said loudly, burning with humiliation and anger, stupid, stupid tears pricking her eyes. ‘Mr Mason!’

Navy eyes peeped open—navy eyes that stared directly at her, that ignited something she couldn’t at that moment identify. But it spun her further into unfamiliar disorder—her pulse-rate accelerating, her anger fanning as he had the audacity to stretch and yawn, not even bothering to cover his mouth.

‘Sorry about that,’ he said, not sounding remotely so, in the deep voice she’d heard during numerous appearances on the news and radio. ‘I must have dozed off.’

‘Oh, you didn’t “doze off”,’ Amelia retorted, scarcely able to believe the provocation behind her own response. The consummate professional, she usually smiled through everything—yet for reasons she couldn’t even begin to fathom here she was answering back when she should stay quiet, letting her subject know exactly what she thought of his appalling behaviour when she should just let it go. ‘You were asleep, Mr Mason. Sound asleep. Snoring, in fact, when we’re supposed to be doing an interview.’

‘I don’t snore,’ he said easily, throwing incredibly long legs over the edge of the couch and bringing himself to a stand, tucking in his shirt and then towering over her, somehow instantly regaining control. ‘Had you arrived on time the interview would have been over with by now…’ He glanced at his watch—or rather he didn’t glance. Glances happened in a split second, whereas Vaughan positively stared, letting out a long held-in breath as the second hand ticked loudly on. Twisting his mouth into the cruel smile she knew so well, he said, ‘And, had you arrived on time, Miss Jacobs, I can assure that you’d have found me awake.’

It was Amelia running her fingers through her own hair now, colour flaming in her pale cheeks as she felt the oily mass that greeted her fingers, felt the unspoken derision in the flicker of his gaze as he dragged his eyes the length of her body.

Her editor’s gaze had been derisive, and she’d dealt with it, Amelia reminded herself, but her body burned with shame as she felt Vaughan slowly take in her brightly painted toenails, her naked feet slipped into silver sandals. The faded jeans that had seen better days merited a raised eyebrow that spoke volumes, and she felt a scorch of further humiliation as he languorously lifted his gaze and stopped, she was sure, at breasts that moved unhindered as her breathing quickened. Breasts that were still damp and heavy from her bath, straining at the leash under her softly ruched top. Way, way too big for an outing into this office without the firm support of a bra. Even Paul had told her to her face that she was inappropriately dressed, but though it had stung it hadn’t really mattered. Nothing from Paul could begin to compare to the sting of Vaughan’s disapproval as his eyes finally sought her face.

‘Your appointment was for five.’ Staring down again at his preposterously expensive watch, he frowned with concentration. ‘It’s now nearly twenty past.’

She should have apologised, Amelia knew—knew that was what she should do. Hell, it wasn’t as if Vaughan Mason was the first of her subjects to behave atrociously. She’d been left stranded at restaurant tables more times than she could remember when her interviewee had failed to show, had waited patiently for celebrity ‘naturally thin’ new mothers to return from the powder room between each course more times than she could count. She’d even had subjects fall asleep mid-sentence, come to that!

So why was she overreacting now? Why wasn’t she swallowing this bitter pill with the sweetest of smiles and attempting to redeem what was left of this awful situation? Why wasn’t she attempting to implement some sort of rescue plan? But it was as if her foot was stuck on an emotional accelerator; she could almost smell the petrol fumes as her mouth opened and she revved up again.

‘I’m well aware of the contempt in which you hold journalists, Mr Mason.’ Holding up his bio with slightly shaking hands, she attempted to fix him with a firm stare of her own. ‘And I’m more than aware that I’d be flattering myself to imagine that fifteen minutes in my company might cause you even the slightest twinge of anxiety. But this happens to be extremely important to me, and to walk in and find you sound asleep…’ She struggled for eloquence, attempting to swallow the shrill ring that was rising in her voice, to finish her argument with some crushing words that would shame him into submission. But settled instead for the only two words that sprang to her dizzy, emotional mind. ‘How rude!’