This Man

Page 1

Chapter 1

I rifle through the piles and piles of paraphernalia that’s sprawled all over my bedroom floor. I’m going to be late. On a Friday, after being on time all week, I’m going to be late.

‘Kate!’ I yell frantically. Where the hell are they? I run out onto the landing and throw myself over the banister. ‘Kate!’

I hear the familiar sound of a wooden spoon bashing the edges of a ceramic bowl as Kate appears at the bottom of the stairs. She looks up at me with a tired expression. It’s an expression I’ve become use to recently.

‘Keys! Have you seen my car keys?’ I puff at her.

‘They’re on the coffee table where you left them last night.’ She rolls her eyes, taking herself and her cake mixture back to her workshop.

I dart across the landing in a complete fluster and find my car keys under a pile of weekly glossies. ‘Hiding again,’ I mutter to myself, grabbing my tan belt, heels and laptop. I make my way downstairs, finding Kate in her workshop spooning cake mixture into various tins.

‘You need to tidy that room, Ava. It’s a fucking mess.’ she complains.

Yes, my personal organisation skills are pretty shocking, especially since I’m an interior designer, who spends all day coordinating and organising. I scoop my phone up from the chunky table and dunk my finger in Kate’s cake mixture. ‘I can’t be brilliant at everything.’

‘Get out!’ She bats my hand away with her spoon. ‘Why do you need your car, anyway?’ she asks, leaning down to smooth the mixture over, her tongue resting on her bottom lip in concentration.

‘I have a first consultation in The Surrey Hills – some country mansion.’ I feed my belt through the belt loops of my navy pencil dress, slip my feet into my tan heels and present myself to the wall mirror.

‘I thought you stuck to the city?’ she asks from behind me.

I ruffle my long, dark hair for a few seconds, flicking it from one side to another but give up, piling it up with a few grips instead. My dark brown eyes look tired and lack their usual sparkle. A result, no doubt, of burning the candle at both ends. I only moved in with Kate a month ago after splitting with Matt. We’re behaving like a couple of university students. My liver is screaming for a rest.

‘I do. The country sector is Patrick’s domain. I don’t know how I got landed with this.’ I sweep the wand of my gloss across my lips and smack them together. ‘One is not partial to old English and all things proper.’ I give Kate a kiss on the cheek. ‘It’s going to be painful, I know it. Luv ya!’

‘Ditto, see you later.’ Kate laughs, without lifting her face from her work station. ‘Don’t forget your P’s and Q’s!’


Despite my lateness, I drive my little Mini with my usual care and consideration to my office on Bruton Street. I’m reminded why I tube it every day when I spend ten minutes driving around looking for a parking space.

I burst into the office and glance at the clock. Eight forty. Okay, I’m ten minutes late, not as bad as I thought. I pass Tom and Victoria’s empty desks on the way to my own, spying Patrick in his office as I land in my chair. Unpacking my laptop, I notice a package has been left for me.

‘Morning, flower.’ Patrick’s low boom greets me as he perches on the edge of my desk, followed by the customary creak under his weight. ‘What have you got there?’

‘Morning, it’s the new fabric range from Miller’s. You Like?’ I stroke some of the luxurious material.

‘Wonderful,’ he feigns interest. ‘Don’t let Irene clap her eyes on it. I’ve just liquidated most of my assets to fund the new soft furnishings at home.’

‘Oh,’ I give him a sympathetic face. ‘Where is everyone?’

‘Victoria has the day off and Tom’s having a nightmare with Mr & Mrs Baines. It’s just you, me and Sal today, flower.’ He takes his comb out of his inside pocket and runs it through his silver mop.

‘I’ve got a midday appointment at The Manor,’ I remind him. He can’t have forgotten. Country pads are supposed to be his realm. ‘Why am I going, Patrick?’ I have to ask. I’ve never worked on a country property before, and I’m not sure I have the insight for old fashioned and traditional.

I’ve worked for Rococo Union for four years, and it was made clear that I was employed to expand the business into the modern sector. With luxury apartments flying up all over London, Patrick and Tom, with their speciality of traditional design, were missing out. When it took off and the work load got too much for me, he employed Victoria.

‘That would be because they asked for you, flower.’ He pushes himself to his feet, my desk creaking in protest again. Patrick ignores it, but I wince. He has to lose some weight or stop sitting on my desk. It won’t take the strain for much longer.

So, they asked for me? Why ever would they do that? My portfolio holds nothing that will reflect traditional design – nothing at all. I can’t help but think that this is a complete waste of my time. Patrick or Tom should be going.

‘Oh, Lusso launch,’ Patrick tucks his comb away. ‘The developer is really pushing the boat out with this party in the penthouse. You’ve done an amazing job, Ava.’ Patrick’s eyebrows nod with his head.

I blush. ‘Thank you.’ I’m dead proud of myself and my work at Lusso, my greatest achievement in my short career.

Based on St Katharine Docks and with prices ranging from three million for a basic apartment to ten million for the penthouse, we’re in the super rich realm. The design specification is as the name suggests: Italian luxury. I sourced all materials, furniture and art from Italy and enjoyed a week there organising the shipping schedule. Next Friday is the launch party, but I know they’ve already sold the penthouse and six other apartments, so it’s more of a showing off party.

‘I’ve cleared my diary so I can do the final checks once the cleaners are out.’ I flick the pages of my diary to next Friday and scribble across the page again.

‘Good girl, I’ve told Victoria to be there at five. It’s her first launch so you need to give her a heads up. I’ll be there at seven with Tom.’


Patrick returns to his office, and I open my email, sifting through to delete or respond where necessary.


At eleven o’clock, I pack my laptop up and poke my head around Patrick’s office door. He’s engrossed with something on his computer.

‘I’m off now.’ I say, but he just waves his hand in the air in acknowledgment. I walk through the office to see Sally fighting with the photocopier. ‘See you later, Sal.’

‘Bye, Ava.’ she replies, but she’s too busy removing the paper jam to acknowledge me with her face. The girl’s a calamity.

I walk out into the May sunshine and head for my car. Friday mid-morning traffic is a nightmare, but once I’m out of the city, the drive onwards is pretty straightforward. The roof is down, Adele is keeping me company and it’s Friday. A little drive in the countryside is a lovely way to finish my working week.


My sat-nav instructs me to pull off of the main road and onto a little lane, where I find myself in front of the biggest pair of gates I’ve ever seen. A gold plaque on a pillar states “The Manor”.

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