‘What is this music called?’
‘Handel’s Messiah,’ he says, and switches it off. He turns to me. In the light of the streetlamp he looked harsh and distant. In the softly lit darkness of his car there is still no softening to his face. Again the thought, a cold, cold man.
‘I have to be in New York tomorrow, but my secretary will call you and make all the necessary arrangements.’
I nod gratefully and look away. It is as if I am in a dream.
‘Where do you live?’
‘Got a postcode?’ He sounds very American then.
I give it to him and he sets his GPS system.
We drive in silence, until I can bear it no more. ‘Don’t you want to know how much?’
‘Yeah, tell me.’
I tell him and his eyes leave the road briefly to look at me. ‘What made you think Rupert was the man for the part?’
I shrug in the dark. ‘I don’t know. I heard a rumor that his secretary was sometimes tasked with stuffing envelopes with ten thousand pounds in cash and booking pricey hotel rooms for him.’
‘I see,’ he says quietly.
We come to a red light.
‘Why me?’ I ask.
His fingers tap at the steering wheel. Long, strong fingers. I stare at them and think of the way they moved on my body. He turns to me. His eyes are edgy and dangerous, full of promise. ‘Do you want it flowery or straight.’
I bite my lip. ‘Straight.’
‘I wanted to f**k you senseless from the moment our eyes met.’
‘And the flowery version?’
‘Now I think about it, there is no flowery version. It is what it is.’
I turn to look at his profile. It is very stern and still. Have I jumped from the frying pan into the fire? Are all rich people secretly deviant in their sexual desires? ‘Does f**king me senseless involve any weird or kinky stuff?’
He glances at me. Again that expression that is beyond my comprehension. ‘No, but I want to be able to use you as often as I please in whatever manner I desire for as long as I choose.’
‘Oh!’ How strange, but his insulting words unleashes a lightning thrill of sexual excitement in my body. ‘I… How long were you thinking?’
‘I’ll decide tomorrow. But I imagine one month should do it.’
‘Get me bored.’
‘And you are willing to pay a hundred thousand pounds for that?’
His lips twist into a wry smile. ‘When I made my offer I didn’t realize you had valued yourself quite that highly, but I’m not displeased that you did. Despite all protestations to the contrary, nobody really wants a bargain. They settle for it because they can’t afford better.’ He glances at me. ‘Cheap usually means get your guard up, you are being offered something undesirable.’
I think of my mother trawling the supermarket aisles looking for stuff that has been discounted because it is reaching the end of its sell by date. ‘I will require the money up front. So, how will we do this?’
‘My lawyer will draw up the appropriate contract for you to sign. Once you have done so the money will be in your account within minutes.’
‘What sort of a contract?’
‘A non-disclosure agreement.’
I nod. ‘I suppose rich people have to protect themselves.’
‘Yes,’ he replies shortly.
An awkward silence follows. He seems preoccupied with his own thoughts. I turn my head—it has begun to throb—and look out of the window. He is a fast driver and we are already on Edgware Road.
‘I’ll send someone around tomorrow at noon to take you to your workplace so you can collect your personal belongings.’
‘It’s OK, I can go on my own.’
‘I’d feel happier if you were accompanied. Indulge me.’
I think for a moment. I don’t exactly relish the prospect of accidentally bumping into Rupert either. ‘Well, I only have an old pair of trainers there. I won’t bother to pick them up.’
‘As you wish.’
We arrive at the block of council flats where I live and he looks around him in surprise as if he has never been to such a poor area before.
‘You live here?’ He cannot hide his distaste. I guess to him it must be a horrible housing estate, what he would probably consider the underbelly of the city.
‘Yes,’ I say simply.
He stops the car outside a two-story block of flats. ‘Which one is yours?’
I point to the last flat on the first floor, and say, ‘That’s me.’
He doesn’t switch off the engine but turns to me. ‘Give me your phone.’
I hand it to him.
He punches in some numbers and waits. When his phone rings, he ends the call. ‘I’ve got your number and you’ve got mine,’ he says and hands my phone back to me.
‘Take a couple of aspirins and go to bed. Keep yourself free tomorrow. The entire day.’
‘I’ll be in touch tomorrow evening.’
Instead of driving off he sits in his car and watches me totter and wobble in my ridiculously high shoes over to the cemented verge, gain the cracked concrete concourse, and go up an outer staircase while holding onto the metal railings. At the entrance to my home I turn back and flick my wrist to indicate that I am safely home and that he need wait no more. He doesn’t respond. Simply sits there. Watching me.
‘Fine. Whatever,’ I huff to myself. Sitting on the front step, I take off my shoes. With them in my hand I put my key in the door and turn it.
It is only after I close my front door and hear the powerful engine take off that I realize neither man has wanted to know why I need the money. The flat is lit only by the lights from the streetlamps. I walk barefoot into the kitchen and fumble around in the darkness. Finally, I find a tab of paracetamols, punch two out and sit with a glass of water at the kitchen table in a stunned daze. What a night it has been. I set out with an absurd idea and…
‘I’ve done it,’ I whisper to the familiar shadows, and grin.
I think of the stone-like biceps and the hard slab of his stomach that my hands and body encountered and I touch my mouth. I can still feel his lips, his hands. I remember how I lost control and totally forgot myself. And the unfamiliar too damn good sensation he caused in my body, between my legs. Is it too dreamlike to be true?
This cannot be just my life.
Don’t be too happy yet. He could still change his mind.