The Playboy of Puerto Banus

By: Carol Marinelli
 CHAPTER ONE

‘ESTELLE, I PROMISE, you wouldn’t have to do anything except hold Gordon’s hand and dance….’

‘And?’ Estelle pushed, pulling down the corner on the page she was reading and closing her book, hardly able to believe she was having this conversation, let alone considering going along with Ginny’s plan.

‘Maybe a small kiss on the cheek or lips…’ As Estelle shook her head Ginny pushed on. ‘You just have to look as if you’re madly in love.’

‘With a sixty-four-year-old?’

‘Yes.’ Ginny sighed, but before Estelle could argue further broke in, ‘Everyone will think you’re a gold-digger, that you’re only with Gordon for his money. Which you will be…’ Ginny stopped talking then, interrupted by a terrible coughing fit.

They were housemates rather than best friends, two students trying to get through university. At twenty-five, Estelle was a few years older than Ginny, and had long wondered how Ginny managed to run a car and dress so well, but now she had found out. Ginny worked for a very exclusive escort agency and had a long-term client—

Gordon Edwards, a politician with a secret. Which was why, Ginny had assured her, nothing would happen or be expected from Estelle if she took Ginny’s place as his date at a very grand wedding being held this evening.

‘I’d have to share a room with him.’

Estelle had never shared a room with a man in her life. She wasn’t especially shy or retiring but she certainly had none of Ginny’s confidence or social ease. Ginny thought the weekends were designed for parties, clubs and pubs, whereas Estelle’s idea of a perfect weekend was looking around old churches or ruins and then curling up on the sofa with a book.

Not playing escort!

‘Gordon always takes the sofa when we share a room.’

‘No.’ Estelle pushed up her glasses and returned to her book. She tried to carry on reading about the mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor but it was terribly hard to do so when she was so worried about her brother and he     still hadn’t rung to let her know if he had got the job.

There was no mistaking the fact that the money would help.

It was late Saturday morning in London, and the wedding was being held that evening in a castle in Scotland. If Estelle was going to go then she would have to start getting ready now, for they would fly to Edinburgh and then take a helicopter to the castle and time was fast running out.

‘Please,’ Ginny said. ‘The agency are freaking because they can’t get anyone suitable at such short notice. He’s coming to pick me up in an hour.’

‘What will people think?’ Estelle asked. ‘If people are used to seeing him with you…’

‘Gordon will take care of that. He’ll say that we had an argument, that I was pushing for an engagement ring or something. We were going to be finishing soon anyway, now that I’m nearly through university. Honestly, Estelle, Gordon really is the loveliest man. There’s so much pressure on him to appear straight—he simply cannot go to this wedding without a date. Just think of the money!’

Estelle couldn’t stop thinking about the money.

Attending this wedding would mean that she could pay her brother’s mortgage for an entire month, as well as a couple of his bills.

Okay, it wouldn’t entirely solve their dilemma, but it would buy Andrew and his young family a little bit more time and, given all they had been through this past year, and all that was still to come, they could certainly use the reprieve.

Andrew had done so much for her—had put his own life on hold to make sure that Estelle’s life carried on as normally as possible when their parents had died when Estelle was seventeen.

It was time for Estelle to step up, just as Andrew had.

‘Okay.’ Estelle took a deep breath and her decision was made. ‘Ring and say that I’ll come.’

‘I’ve already told him that you’ve agreed,’ Ginny admitted. ‘Estelle, don’t look at me like that. I know how badly you need the money and I simply couldn’t bear to tell Gordon that I didn’t have someone else lined up.’

Ginny looked more closely at Estelle. Her long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her very pale skin was without a blemish, and there was no last night’s make-up smudged under Estelle’s green eyes because Estelle rarely wore any. Ginny was trying not to show it but she was actually more than a little nervous as to what a made-up Estelle would look like and whether or not she could carry it off.

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