In the Rich Man's World(9)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘I wasn’t sound asleep,’ he said, his cool, utterly controlled voice the antithesis of hers. ‘But funny you should say that when I was thinking exactly the same thing myself.’ His mouth twisted into that familiar cruel smile. ‘I was just thinking how rude it was of the newspaper to cancel at such short notice, how rude it was of them to send a replacement journalist without having the courtesy to first run it by me…’

‘Your PA approved it—’ Amelia started, but her voice faded mid-sentence as Vaughan overrode her.

‘Indeed she did,’ Vaughan clipped. ‘Though no doubt at the time she was expecting a rather more suitable replacement.’

‘So, were you expecting one of the bigger names?’ Amelia bristled, but Vaughan shook his head.

‘Oh, no, Miss Jacobs. I was told it was you that would be doing the interview.’

‘Then why…?’ Confused, she blinked back at him. Her mouth opened to ask what he meant, but quickly she closed it again, shame coursing through her as realisation hit home and she braced herself for a dressing-down Mason style. And Vaughan took great pleasure in confirming his displeasure at her attitude and attire, nailing his answer with a brutality that was as savage as it was legendary.

‘Rude!’ He said the word slowly, rolled it slowly out of full lips, his face impassive.

Amelia’s cheeks flamed, and she swallowed hard under his scrutiny, wishing he would just get it over with so she could get the hell out of there. Clearly this interview wasn’t going to happen, but Vaughan wasn’t rushing. Her allotted time-slot might be well and truly over, but Vaughan Mason wasn’t in any hurry to finish, mentally circling her like a vulture over his prey as the single word resonated in the air.

‘Impolite, uncouth, inappropriate…’ His forehead frowned slowly. ‘Did my lying on the couch while I awaited your arrival offend you that much, Miss Jacobs?’ He didn’t await her answer; she’d never really expected him to. ‘We must have a different understanding of the word.’ He flashed a tiny smile that didn’t meet his eyes, in fact he barely moved his lips. ‘Rude is arriving in my office with wet hair and inappropriate clothes. Rude is barging in here completely unprepared…’

‘How do you know that I’m unprepared? How do you know that I haven’t got a list of pertinent—?’ Amelia attempted, but Vaughan shot her down in an instant, picking up a newspaper from his desk and waving it at her.

‘Had you read your own newspaper you’d know that I’ve been on the go non-stop for the last thirty-six hours. That before I went to Singapore I had a prolonged stopover in Japan, meeting with Mr Cheng and drinking endless cups of green tea while trying to broker a deal that will bring jobs and dollars to this country and hopefully save a flailing industry that most people have written off.’

‘I know about the motor deal you’re attempting,’ Amelia responded. ‘In fact I’ve been monitoring it closely. I know that in a few weeks’ time you’re hoping to…’

‘I move quickly, Miss Jacobs. And, had you been more professional from the outset, you might have been the first to find out…’ His voice trailed off and Amelia watched in something akin to disbelief as Vaughan appeared to flounder, giving a tiny shake of his head, as if he couldn’t quite believe what he had just revealed.

‘It’s about to go through?’ Her voice was an incredulous whisper, her green eyes widening as she processed this piece of front-page news; everyone had said it was an impossible feat, a war that quite simply couldn’t be won even if the David that faced Goliath happened to be Vaughan Mason. ‘You’ve actually managed to pull it off?’

But it wasn’t only Amelia’s mind that was working overtime. Amelia wasn’t the only one reeling at the snippet of information he had so easily imparted.

Vaughan quite simply couldn’t believe it himself. Already embarrassed at being caught asleep, he could scarcely believe he had mentally relaxed twice in a row. His defences were eternally up, yet one moment in this woman’s company and he had felt them waver. Her sparkling green eyes had caught him completely off guard—eyes that seemed to stare not at him but through him, through to somewhere deep inside, where no one was permitted. He had given this woman, this stranger, this journalist an opening, a chance to destroy what he had spent months building, and Vaughan knew that he had to somehow retrieve it, had to somehow pull sharply back, get her the hell out of here just as fast as he could.