For His Eyes Only

By: Liz Fielding

ONE

‘What’s got Miles’s knickers in a twist?’ Natasha Gordon poured herself half a cup of coffee. Her first appointment had been at eight and she’d been on the run ever since. She had to grab any opportunity to top up her caffeine level. ‘I was on my way to a viewing at the St John’s Wood flat when I got a message to drop everything and come straight back here.’

Janine, Morgan and Black’s receptionist and always the first with any rumour, lifted her slender cashmere-clad shoulders in a don’t-ask-me shrug. ‘If that’s what he said, you’d better not keep him waiting,’ she said, but, shrug notwithstanding, the ghost of an I-know-something-you-don’t smile tugged at lips on which the lipstick was always perfectly applied.

Tash abandoned the untouched coffee and headed for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Miles Morgan, senior partner of Morgan and Black, first port of call for the wealthy flooding into London from all corners of the world to snap up high-end real estate, had been dropping heavy hints for weeks that the vacant ‘associate’ position was hers.

Damn right. She’d worked her socks off for the last three years and had earned that position with hard work and long hours and Janine, who liked everyone to know how ‘in’ she was with the boss, had casually let slip the news on Friday afternoon that he would be spending the weekend in the country with the semi-retired ‘Black’ to discuss the future of the firm.

‘Down, pulse, down,’ she muttered, pausing outside his office to scoop up a wayward handful of hair and anchor it in place with great-grandma’s silver clip.

She always started out the day looking like a career woman on the up, but haring about London all morning had left her more than a little dishevelled and things had begun to unravel. Her hair, her make-up, her shirt.

She tucked in her shirt and was checking the top button when the door opened.

‘Janine! Is she here yet?’ Miles shouted before he realised she was standing in front him. ‘Where the hell have you been?’

‘I had a viewing at the Chelsea house first thing,’ she said, used to his short fuse. ‘They played it very close to their chests, but the wife’s eyes were lit up like the Blackpool illuminations. I guarantee they’ll make an offer before the end of the day.’

The prospect of a high five-figure commission would normally be enough to change his mood but he merely grunted and the sparkle of anticipation went flat. Whatever Janine had been smiling about, it wasn’t the prospect of the office party Miles would throw to celebrate the appointment of the new associate.

‘It’s been non-stop since then,’ she added, and it wasn’t going to ease up this side of six. ‘Is this urgent, Miles? I’m showing Glencora Jarrett the St John’s Wood apartment in half an hour and the traffic is solid.’

‘You can forget that. I’ve sent Toby.’

‘Toby?’ Her occasionally significant other had been on a rugby tour in Australia and wasn’t due home until the end of the month. She shook her head. It wasn’t important, but Lady Glen... ‘No, she specifically asked—’

‘For you. I know, but a viewing isn’t a social engagement,’ he cut in before she could remind him that Lady Glencora was desperately nervous and would not go into an unoccupied apartment with a male negotiator.

‘But—’

‘Forget Her Ladyship,’ he said, thrusting the latest edition of the Country Chronicle into her hands. ‘Take a look at this.’

The magazine was open at the full-page advertisement for Hadley Chase, a historic country house that had just come on the market.

‘Oh, that came out really well...’ A low mist, caught by the rising sun, had lent the house a golden, soft-focus enchantment that hid its many shortcomings. Well worth the effort of getting up at the crack of dawn and driving into the depths of Berkshire on the one day in the week that she could have had a lie-in. ‘The phone will be ringing off the hook,’ she said, offering it back to him.

‘Read on,’ he said, not taking it.

‘I know what it says, Miles. I wrote it.’ The once grand house was suffering from age and neglect and she’d focused on the beauty and convenience of the location to tempt potential buyers to come and take a look. ‘You approved it,’ she reminded him.

‘I didn’t approve this.’

She frowned. Irritable might be his default mode but, even for Miles, this seemed excessive. Had some ghastly mistake slipped past them both? It happened, but this was an expensive full-page colour ad, and she’d gone over the proof with a fine-tooth comb. Confident that nothing could have gone wrong, she read out her carefully composed copy.

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