When he met Flora [extract]
There was something dark behind that smile, he could tell. And yet all her other gestures looked so gentle, so fragile. She was a woman, but there was something girlish in the way she walked, the way she tucked her hair behind her ear. But when she smiled you could see that she was grown, and she had secrets.
When she first talked he was taken aback. He had expected a high-pitched noise, the way a little girl would talk. But her voice was warm, and soft. He didn't even hear what she said and felt suddenly embarrassed. It hit him that he was the one feeling like a little boy.
'Mr Browne, it's lovely to meet you!' she said firmly, and with the same puzzling smile.
He smiled back briefly and shook her hand, but felt unable to look her in the eyes.
'I still can't believe you don't have an assistant' Rowan said laughing. 'Who the hell answers your phone?'
'What's so funny about answering your own phone? Maybe I'm just not as important as you think, Rowan. Plus, my wife takes care of my schedule most days.' He suddenly regretted mentioning his wife. He looked at the girl to scan for a reaction, and realized that he had forgotten her name.
'So you do have an assistant, you just don't pay her! he laughed again, and Julian thought he couldn't stand to hear the exaggerated noise one more time. 'Don't worry, I'm paying this one for you, and quite well too!' he winked at the girl, and Julian wondered how she had the patience to deal with him everyday.
'I'm honored be working with you Mr Browne, really!'
'It's Julian, please -'
'She's been working for me for six years and I still can't convince her to stop calling me 'Sir' Rowan cut him off again and he had to fight the urge to punch him in the face.
'I'm sorry friends, but I do have to go back to the hotel!' he got up briskly and picked up his case. 'I'll see you at the gala tonight?'
'What? You're not taking Flora with you?'
He became puzzled 'Take her where?'
'To the hotel. She's staying with you, isn't she?'
He couldn't come up with a reaction and stood there motionless until Rowan broke into his loud barking laugh yet again.
'I'm just messing with you, partner! Her apartment is across the road from the hotel. Do give her a lift though!'
'No, please don't worry about me! I have a few things to do in town, anyway!'
'It's no trouble, really! I'd be happy to take you!'
'Oh, just go, I'll call her a cab later!'
On they way to the hotel he found himself a little off-center. Rowan had irritated him like he always does, but there were some confusing vibes he got from this girl. Flora! It came to him! Flora, what a suiting name!
When he got to the room he took out all his suits and shoes, trying to decide what to wear for the charity gala. He realized how unusual it was for him to worry about clothes. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and sat on the edge of the bed. 'Flora!' he said, picturing the distinctive smile; he felt quite unsettled..'
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