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Twenty Four

Bliss.

Lying in the most comfortable bed in the world, feeling all dreamy and smiley and happy, letting the morning sunlight play on my closed eyelids. Stretching my arms above my head, then collapsing contentedly onto an enormous mound of pillows. Oh, I feel good. I feel sated. Last night was absolutely

Well, let's just say it was

Oh, come on. You don't need to know that. Anyway, can't you use your imagination? Of course you can.

I open my eyes, sit up and reach for my cup of room service coffee. Luke's in the shower, so it's just me alone with my thoughts. And I don't want to sound all pretentious here but I do feel this is a pretty significant day in my life.

It's not just Luke although the whole thing was well, amazing, actually. God, he really knows how to Anyway. Not the point. The point is, it's not just Luke and it's not just my new job with Morning Coffee (even though every time I remember it, I feel a leap of disbelieving joy}.

No, it's more than that. It's that I feel like a completely new person. I feel as though I've I've grown up. I've matured. I'm moving on to a new stage in life with a different outlook, and different priorities.

When I look back at the frivolous way I used to think well, it makes me want to laugh, really. The new Rebecca is so much more serious and level-headed. So much more responsible. It's as though the tinted glasses have fallen off and suddenly I can see what's really important in the world and what's not.

I've even been thinking this morning that I might go into politics or something. Luke and I discussed politics a bit last night, and I have to say, I came up with lots of interesting views. I could be a young, intellectual MP, and be interviewed about lots of important issues on television. I'd probably specialize in health, or education, or something like that. Maybe foreign affairs.

Casually I reach for the remote control and switch on the television, thinking I might watch the news. I flick a few times, trying to find BBC1, but the TV seems stuck on rubbish cable channels. Eventually I give up, leave it on one called QVT or something, and lean back down on my pillows.

The truth, I think, taking a sip of coffee, is that I'm quite a serious-minded person. That's probably why Luke and I get on so well.

Mmmm Luke. Mmmm that's a nice thought. I wonder where he is. I sit up in bed, and am just considering going into the bathroom to surprise him, when a woman's voice from the television attracts my attention.

' offering genuine NK Malone sunglasses. In tortoiseshell, black and white, with that distinctive NKM logo in brushed chrome.'

That's interesting I think idly. NK Malone sunglasses. I've always quite wanted a pair of those.

That's interesting I think idly. NK Malone sunglasses. I've always quite wanted a pair of those.

'Buy all three pairs' the woman pauses ' and pay, not ?400. Not ?300. But ?200! A saving of at least 40 per cent off the recommended retail price.'

I stare at the screen, riveted.

But this is incredible. Incredible. Do you know how much NK Malone sunglasses usually cost? At least a hundred and forty quid. Each! Which means you're saving

'Send no money now,' the woman is saying. Simply call this number'

My heart beating fast, I scrabble for the notebook on my bedside table and scribble down the number. This is an absolute dream come true. NK Malone sunglasses. I can't quite believe it. And three pairs! I'll never have to buy sunglasses again. People will call me the Girl in the NK Malone shades. (And those Armani ones I bought last year are all wrong now. Completely out of date.) Oh, this is such an investment.

With shaking hands I dial the number and get through immediately! I would have thought everyone would be on the line, it's such a good deal. I give my name and address, thank the woman very much indeed, then put down the receiver, a joyful smile plastered across my face. This day is perfect.

Absolutely perfect. And it's only nine oclock!

Happily I snuggle back down under the covers and close my eyes. Maybe Luke and I will spend all day here, in this lovely room. Maybe we'll have oysters and champagne sent up. (I hope not, actually, because I hate oysters.) Maybe we'll

Nine o'clock, interrupts a little voice in my mind. I frown for a second, shake my head, then turn over to get rid of it. But it's still there, prodding annoyingly at my thoughts.

Nine o'clock. Nine

And I sit bolt upright in bed, my heart thumping in dismay. Oh my God.

Nine-thirty.

Derek Smeath.

I promised to be there. I promised. And here I am, with half an hour to go, all the way over at the Ritz. Oh God. What am I going to do?

I switch off the TV, bury my head in my hands, and try to think calmly and rationally. OK, if I got going straight away, I might make it. If I got dressed as quickly as possible, and ran downstairs and jumped in a taxi I might just make it. Fulham's not that far away.

And I could be a quarter of an hour late, couldn't I? We could still have the meeting. It could still happen. In theory, it could still happen.

'Hi,' says Luke, putting his head round the bathroom door. He's got a white towel wrapped round his body, and a few drops of water are glistening on his shoulders. I never even noticed his shoulders last night, I think, staring at them. God, they're bloody sexy. In fact, all in all, he's pretty damn

'Rebecca? Is everything OK?'

'Oh,' I say, starting slightly. 'Yes, everything's great. Lovely! Oh, and guess what? I just bought the most wonderful'

And then for some reason I stop myself, mid-stream.

I'm not exactly sure why.

'Just having breakfast,' I say instead, and gesture to the room-service tray. 'Delicious.'

A faintly puzzled look passes over Luke's face, and he disappears back into the bathroom. OK, quick, I tell myself. What am I doing to do? Am I going to get dressed and go? Am I going to make the meeting?

But my hand's already reaching for my bag as though it's got a will of its own; I'm pulling out a business card and punching a number into the phone.

Because, I mean, we don't actually need to have a meeting, do we?

And I'd probably never make it in time, anyway.

And he probably won't even mind. He's probably got loads of other stuff he'd prefer to be doing instead. In fact, he probably won't even notice.

'Hello?' I say into the phone, and feel a tingle of pleasure as Luke comes up behind me and begins to nuzzle my ear. 'Hello, yes, I'd I'd like to leave a message for Mr Smeath.'



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