The Argentinian's Demand(10)

By: Cathy Williams


Leandro turned fully to face her and leant indolently against the wall. ‘You’re flustered.’

Was that designed to make her feel even more hot and bothered? If so, it worked. She could feel heat tingling in her cheeks. ‘I’m not at all flustered,’ she lied. ‘I’m merely...merely...’

‘Demonstrating a perfectly natural human curiosity as to an alteration in my usual routine?’

‘It’s...’

‘Absolutely none of your business.’ Leandro shrewdly nailed what she had been about to say again—that the time he chose to walk out of his office was not a matter she was entitled to question. ‘However, as you appear to be in such a rush to leave...for whatever “stuff” you claim you have to do...’ He invited a response to this prompt and was unsurprised when none was forthcoming. He shrugged. ‘I thought I’d call it a day. At any rate, there are things I need to do if I’m to be out of the country for a couple of weeks...’

Emily lowered her eyes. He was currently without a woman. She had dispatched the last hapless member of his harem several weeks previously. The poor woman had not had a very long run, although in fairness her brief appearance in his life had certainly been an expensive one, and she had left the better for several expensive items of jewellery and a red moped which she’d claimed matched her preferred choice of nail colour and was essential for getting around London.

So was there another waiting in the wings? She felt the familiar antipathy towards his life choices rise up into her throat like bile. She knew she shouldn’t. People lived their lives the way they chose to live them, and she should be indifferent and non-judgemental, and yet...

Leandro continued to look at her. He felt as though he were seeing her in 3D for the very first time. At least partially in 3D. Certainly he realised that her pose was very familiar to him, although it had always been one to which he had paid next to no attention. Whenever he had casually asked her to buy a parting gift for a woman she had always lowered her eyes in very much the same way as she was doing now. Her mouth would purse and she would comply with whatever he asked without complaint, but, yes...in the light of what she had told him about her views on his love-life...

Disapproval was stamped on her face. It was running through her head that he was leaving early because he had a hot date with a woman. Leandro decided that he would give her all the freedom she wanted to imagine what she clearly considered the worst interpretation.

‘Right. I’ll see you in the morning, Emily. And...’ He paused, just in case she thought that she might disappear without a backward glance and leave him high and dry. ‘Don’t even consider doing a vanishing act, because if you do I’ll pursue you to the ends of the earth and take you to court for breach of contract. I’ve been an exemplary employer and I expect exemplary service in return—even if it’s only for the duration of a month. Understood?’

‘I wouldn’t dream of vanishing.’ But there would be some loose ends to tie up before she went away with him.

On her way back to the tiny bedsit she rented in South London, she contemplated those loose ends and was frustrated to discover that her mind wasn’t completely on the task at hand.

In fact her wayward thoughts insisted on disappearing around corners, streaking off down blind alleys and generally refusing to be tied down. After that conversation with Leandro, which was not one she had predicted, she found that she couldn’t quite get the man out of her head.

She unlocked her front door and realised that she didn’t quite know where the commute had gone, because she had been so busy playing over that encounter in her head.

Now, looking around her ridiculously small bedsit, she grounded her thoughts by reminding herself that once this matter had been sorted, once this marriage was out of the way, she would no longer have to live in a place that was, frankly, a dump. The paint on the walls was peeling, there were signs of rising damp, and the heating system was so rudimentary that it was preferable to leave it off in winter and just make do with portable heaters.

She wondered what Leandro would think if he were ever to stray accidentally into this part of the world and into her cramped living quarters.

He would be horrified. On the salary she was paid she should have been able to afford somewhere more than halfway decent in a good part of London. But after her money was spent there was precious little left for life’s small indulgences, such as passably comfortable living quarters...

She got on the phone to Oliver before she could begin to wind down, and he picked up on the second ring.