‘Yeah, when he’s thirty.’
‘So how’s it going?’
‘Well, Blake is busy meeting people, arranging stuff, and I am here bored out of my mind at the hotel.’
‘You don’t have the baby hanging around your neck—why don’t you go sight-seeing?’
I sigh. ‘I kind of promised I wouldn’t leave the hotel.’
‘What?’ she splutters. ‘Are you kidding me? You are in the Big Apple and you’re not going out?’
‘Forget it, Bill. I’ve promised. He didn’t even want to bring me until I promised. We’ll come another time. It’s a bad time with the funeral and everything.’
‘It’s hardly a promise.’
‘Don’t start, please.’
‘Why don’t you at least go use the sauna or the pool, hmm?’
‘Might do. I’m a bit hungry. Maybe I will go down and get something to eat at the restaurant. But first, do you want a tour of the suite? It’s amazing.’
‘Go on then.’
I end the call after the tour and go down to the lobby. I am standing at the plate glass window looking out when a man comes to stand beside me.
‘You look like a child outside a cake shop,’ says a strongly accented, man’s voice.
I turn my head to look at him. He is tall, lantern-jawed and wearing jeans and a cowboy hat. He might be from down South.
‘Texas,’ he says.
I smile. ‘Yes, it is that obvious, huh?’
‘I’m just about to fly to London on business.’
‘Do you know what they say here about the difference between British accents and the hillbilly accent? When you hear a British accent add fifty to the IQ and when you hear a hillbilly accent subtract fifty.’
‘Carlton Starr. Welcome to America.’
‘Lana Bloom. Thank you.’
‘Will you keep me company while I take some tea?’
‘Ah… I’m actually with someone.’
He throws his head back and roars with genuine laughter. ‘Of course you are. It never crossed my mind that a woman as beautiful as you would be without someone. Come on, I’ll tell you all about my country if you’ll tell me all about yours.’
I smile. From the corners of my eyes I can see Brian seated in one of the plush chairs. He appears to be reading a book. I know I am totally safe and I am not leaving the hotel premises.
‘OK,’ I agree.
Immediately, he puts a guiding hand just under my elbow. That does make me feel as if he is being a little too familiar, but Billie did say that Americans were super friendly. They can become your best friend on the first encounter, was her verdict.
I have taken no more than a few steps in the direction he is guiding me towards when I freeze. My stop is so sudden that Carlton’s body nudges into me making me stumble slightly, forcing him, in turn, to grab me by the waist. All this while my eyes are caught by Blake’s. He is staring at me with a look I have never seen.
Carlton whispers in my ear. ‘I guess that’s your someone.’
Blake strides towards me, his face as hostile and unyielding as gray granite. When he reaches us, he glances at Carlton with crushing clear-eyed contempt before snatching my wrist, and dragging me away. Blake moves at such speed across the foyer that I am forced to gallop to keep up. I am so embarrassed my entire face flames up. I feel like a child who is on her way to be punished.
At the lift he hits the call button and waits. A staff member comes to stand beside us. He lets his eyes slide off Blake and rest on me a while before lowering them to hide his expression. My dignity is in tatters and I am certain everyone is looking at me. Blake enters the lift with me in tow.
‘Would you mind waiting for the next one?’ Blake says coldly, when the man tries to enter behind us.
The man nods and hurriedly steps backwards. The doors close. I pull my hand out of Blake’s grasp and rubbing my wrists ask, ‘What the hell was that all about?’
He lets his eyes swing down in my direction. His voice is a tightly controlled don’t f**k with me. ‘Shouldn’t I be asking you that?’
‘What exactly are you suggesting?’
The doors open and, taking my wrist in his hand again, he drags me into our suite. I whirl around to face him.
‘What’s the matter with you, Blake?’
‘What the f**k do you think is the matter with me?’ he roars. ‘I leave you for a few hours and you start picking stray men up in the hotel lobby?’
‘Are you mad? Picking stray men up? It wasn’t like that. I told him I was with someone. He just wanted to have some company while he was having tea.’
‘You’re not a child so you must be stupid.’
My jaw drops. ‘You’re crazy. It’s not like I went up to his room.’
His eyes glitter dangerously and his jaw hardens even further.
‘For God’s sake, Blake, Brian was there. We were just going to have some tea. He wanted me to tell him about Britain. He’s going to do business there. That’s all.’
‘You let him touch you.’
‘On my elbow!’
He comes towards me. ‘How can I put this politely? If I catch you trying to have tea with strange men or letting them put their hands on your elbow or any other part of your body again I will put you over my knees and tan your backside.’
I gasp. The unfairness of it is unbelievable. ‘So I can never again have tea with any other man even under the most innocent context?’
He crosses his arms. ‘Exactly.’
I begin to laugh. ‘This is madness. No, I don’t accept. Don’t try to make out I was doing something wrong. He was just a nice guy.’
‘Ah, why didn’t you tell me? A nice guy? In that case, go ahead. Go down now and have tea with him. I’ll call down to the pretty receptionist and have her come up for some tea with me.’
A fire roars into my belly. Fucking bastard. He wants other women. The cheek of it. I stare at him open-mouthed with shock while he simply looks at me with a smug expression. I exhale the breath I am holding. Fuck him.
‘All right, I will,’ I snarl, and stride towards the door. A hand shoots out and catches my wrist. I am slammed into his body. His face is inches away from mine and his eyes are dangerously stormy. We glare at each other.
‘Are you trying to drive me crazy?’ he growls.