The Playboy of Puerto Banus(10)

By: Carol Marinelli


She tried so hard not to, but Estelle twitched her lips into a slight smile.

‘This is Shona and Henry…’ Raúl introduced them as a waiter poured some wine.

Estelle took a sip and then asked for water—for a draughty castle, it felt terribly warm.

There was brief conversation and more introductions taking place, and all would have been fine if Raúl were not there. But Estelle was aware, despite his nonchalant appearance, that he was carefully listening to her responses.

She laughed just a little too loudly at one of Gordon’s jokes.

As she’d been told to do.

Gordon was busy speaking with James, and for something to do Estelle looked through the menu, squinting because Ginny had suggested that she leave her glasses at home.

Raúl misconstrued it as a frown.

‘Vichyssoise,’ came his low, deep voice. ‘It is a soup. It’s delicious.’

‘I don’t need hand-holding for the menu.’ Estelle stopped herself, aware she was coming across as terribly rude, but her nerves were prickling in defensiveness. ‘And you failed to mention it’s served cold.’

‘No.’ He smiled. ‘I was just about to tell you that.’

Soup was a terribly hard ask with Raúl sitting next to her, but she worked her way through it, even though her conversation with Gordon kept getting interrupted by his phone.

‘I can’t even get a night off.’ He sighed.

‘Important?’ Estelle checked.

‘It could be soon. I’ll have to keep it on silent.’

The main course was served and it was the most gorgeous beef Estelle had ever tasted. Yet it stuck in her throat—especially when Veronica asked her a question.

‘Do you work, Estelle?’

She took a drink of water before answering. ‘I do a bit of modeling.’ Estelle gave a small smile, remembering how Gordon had told her to respond to such a question. She just hadn’t expected to be inhaling testosterone when she answered. ‘Though, of course, taking care of Gordon is a full-time job…’

Estelle saw the pausing of Raúl’s fork and then heard Gordon’s stab of laughter. She was locked in a lie and there was no way out. It was an act, Estelle told herself. Just one night and she would never have to see these people again—and what did she care if Raúl thought her cheap?

‘Could you pass me the pepper?’ came the silk of his voice.

Was it the fact that it had been asked with a Spanish accent that made the question sound sexy, or was it that she was going mad?

She passed it, holding the heavy silver pot and releasing it to him, feeling the brief warmth of his fingertips as he took it. He immediately noticed her error. ‘That’s the salt,’ Raúl said, and she had to go through it again.

It was bizarre. He had said hardly two words to her, had made no suggestions. There were no knees pressing into hers under the table and his hands had not lingered when she’d passed him the pepper, yet the air between them was thick with tension.

He declined dessert and spread cheese onto Scottish oatcakes. ‘I’d forgotten how good these taste.’

She turned and watched as he took a bite and then ran his tongue over his lip, capturing a small sliver of quince paste.

‘Now I remember.’

There was no implication. He was only making small talk.

It was Estelle’s mind that searched every word.

She spread cheese on an oatcake herself and added quince.

‘Fantastic?’ Raúl asked.

‘Yes.’

She knew he meant sex.

‘Now the speeches.’ Gordon sighed.

They were long. Terribly long. Especially when you had no idea who the couple were. Especially when you were supposed to be paying attention to the man on your right but your mind was on the one to your left.

First it was Victoria’s father, who rambled on just a touch too long. Then it was the groom Donald’s turn, and he was thankfully a bit quicker—and funnier too. He moved through the formalities and, on behalf of himself and his new wife, especially thanked all who had travelled from afar.

‘I was hoping Raúl wouldn’t make it, of course,’ Donald said, looking over to Raúl, as did the whole room. ‘I’m just thankful Victoria didn’t see him in a kilt until after my ring was on her finger. Trust a Spaniard to wear a kilt so well.’

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