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Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(2)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(2)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

And there you go. She’s so demanding. I think I might be pricing myself out of this job. ‘Four thirty, Miss Quinn.’ I reiterate, for the third consecutive day.

‘Lovely, I look forward to it.’

‘Great, see you then.’ I hang up and blow out a long, calming breath of air. What was I thinking ending my Friday on a new client, and a difficult one at that?

Victoria comes breezing into the office, her long, blonde locks fanning over her shoulders. She looks different. She looks orange! ‘What have you done?’ I ask, completely alarmed. I know I’m not seeing particularly clearly at the moment, but there’s no ignoring the tone of her skin.

She rolls her eyes and retrieves her compact mirror from her Mulberry to inspect her face. ‘Don’t!’ she warns. ‘I asked for bronzed.’ She scrubs at her face with a tissue. ‘The stupid woman used the wrong bottle. I look like a cheese puff!’ She continues to scrub her face while huffing and puffing.

‘You need to get yourself some body scrub and head for the shower.’ I advise, turning back to my computer.

‘I can’t believe this is happening to me!’ she cries. ‘Drew is taking me out tonight. He’ll run a mile when he sees me like this!’

‘Where are you going?’ I ask.

‘Langan’s. I’ll be mistaken for a Z lister. I can’t go like this.’

This is a complete catastrophe for Victoria. She and Drew have only been seeing each other for a week, another relationship off the back of my cluster f**k of a life. All I need now is for Tom to walk in and declare he’s getting married. Selfishly, I’m not happy for anyone.

Sally, our general office dogsbody, comes scuttling out of the kitchen and stops in her tracks when she spies Victoria. ‘Wow! Victoria, are you okay?’ she asks, and I smile to myself as Sally gives me an alarmed look. All of this beautification stuff goes straight over our plain Sal’s head.

‘Fine!’ Victoria snaps.

Sally retreats to the safety of the stationary cupboard, escaping a very riled Victoria and an even more miserable me.

‘Where’s Tom?’ I ask in an attempt to distract Victoria from her fake tan crisis.

She slams her compact mirror down on her desk and swings around to face me. If I had the energy, I would laugh. She looks terrible. ‘He’s at Mrs Baines. It would appear the nightmare continues.’ she huffs, ruffling her blonde locks around her face.

I leave Victoria and her glowing face, returning to staring numbly at my computer screen. I can’t wait for the day to end so I can crawl into my bed where I don’t have to see, speak or interact with anyone.

As four o’clock strikes, I shut down my computer and leave the office to head for Miss Quinn’s.

I arrive at a stunning town house on Lansdowne Crescent on time, and Miss Quinn answers the door. I’m completely stunned. Her voice doesn’t match her appearance in the slightest. I had her down as a middle aged spinster, piano teacher type, but I couldn’t have been further from the mark. She’s very attractive, with long blonde hair, big blue eyes and smooth pale skin, and she is wearing a lovely black dress with killer wedges.

She smiles. ‘You must be Ava. Please, come in.’ She directs me through to a horrendous seventies throwback kitchen.

‘Miss Quinn, my portfolio.’ I hand her my file, and she takes it keenly. She has a really warm smile. Maybe I got her all wrong.

‘Please, call me Ruth. I’ve heard a lot about your work, Ava,’ she says as she flicks through the file. ‘Lusso, especially.’

‘Oh, you have?’ I sound surprised, but I’m not. Patrick has been delighted by the response Rococo Union has gotten from the publicity of Lusso. I would prefer to forget about all things Lusso, but that doesn’t seem likely.

‘Yes, of course! Everyone’s talking about it. You did an amazing job. Would you like a drink?’

‘A coffee would be good, thank you.’

She smiles and sets about making drinks. ‘Please, sit down, Ava.’

I take a seat and pull out my client briefing folder, making a note of her name and address at the top. ‘So, what can I help you with, Ruth?’

She laughs and waves the teaspoon around in the general direction of the room. ‘Need you ask? It’s hideous, isn’t it?’ she exclaims, returning to coffee making duties.

Yes, actually, it is, but I’m not about to gasp in horror at the brown and yellow arrangement with faux brick walls.

She continues, ‘Obviously, I’m looking for some ideas to transform this monstrosity. I was thinking of knocking through and making it a large family room. Here, I’ll show you.’ She hands me a coffee and signals for me to follow her through to the next room.

The décor is equally as grim as the kitchen. She seems quite young – mid-thirties, perhaps – so I’m guessing she’s not long moved in. This place doesn’t look like it has been touched with a paintbrush in forty years.

After an hour of discussions, I’m confident that I know what Ruth is trying to achieve. She has good vision.

She walks me to the front door. ‘I will draft a few designs in line with your budget and ideas, and get them to you with a schedule of my fees,’ I tell her as I’m leaving. ‘Is there anything in particular I should allow for?’

‘No, not at all. Obviously, I want all the basic luxuries you would expect to find in a kitchen.’ She puts her hand out and I take it politely. ‘A wine fridge.’ She laughs.

‘Absolutely.’ I smile tightly, the mention of alcohol making my blood run cold. ‘I’ll be in touch, Miss Quinn.’

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