“A gin and tonic for the lady, please.” He raises his eyebrows at me. “Am I right?”
“Yes, please.” I smile at him gratefully, and shake out my napkin to cover my awkwardness. Even though we talked so much in New York, I’m feeling a bit shy at seeing him again.
“So,” he says, as the waiter brings me my drink. “Quite a lot has been going on since we last spoke.” He lifts his glass. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” I take a sip. “Like what?”
“Like Alicia Billington and four others have been fired from Brandon Communications.”
“Four others?” I gape at him. “Were they all planning together?”
“Apparently so. It turns out Alicia has been working on this little project for some time. This wasn’t just some tiny little pie-in-the-sky scheme. This was well organized and thought out. Well backed, too. You know Alicia’s future husband is very wealthy?”
“I didn’t,” I say, and remember her Chanel shoes. “But it makes sense.”
“He put together the finance. As you suspected, they were planning to poach Bank of London.”
I take a sip of gin and tonic, relishing the sharp flavor.
“So what happened?”
“Luke swooped in, took them all by surprise, herded them into a meeting room, and searched their desks. And he found plenty.”
“Luke did?” I feel a deep thud in my stomach. “You mean — Luke’s in London?”
“How long has he been back?”
“Three days now.” Michael gives me a quick glance. “I guess he hasn’t called you, then.”
“No,” I say, trying to hide my disappointment. “No, he hasn’t.” I reach for my glass and take a deep swig. Somehow while he was still in New York, I could tell myself that Luke and I weren’t speaking because of geography as much as anything else. But now he’s in London — and he hasn’t even called — it feels different. It feels kind of… final.
“So… what’s he doing now?”
“Damage limitation,” says Michael wryly. “Upping morale. It turns out as soon as he left for New York, Alicia got busy spreading rumors he was going to close the U.K. branch down completely. That’s why the atmosphere plummeted. Clients have been neglected, the staff has all been on the phone to headhunters… Meanwhile Alicia was spinning a completely different story to Luke.” He shakes his head. “That girl is trouble.”
“Now, that’s something I’ve been wondering. How do you know?” He leans forward interestedly. “You picked up on Alicia in a way neither Luke nor I did. Was that based on anything?”
“Not really,” I say honestly. “Just the fact that she’s a complete cow.”
Michael throws his head back and roars with laughter.
“Feminine intuition. Why should there be any other reason?”
He chuckles for a few moments more — then puts his glass down and gives me a twinkling smile. “Speaking of which — I heard the gist of what you said to Luke about his mom.”
“Really?” I look at him in horror. “He told you?”
“He spoke to me about it, asked if you’d said anything to me.”
“Oh!” I feel a flush creeping across my face. “Well, I was… angry. I didn’t mean to say she was a…” I clear my throat. “I just spoke without thinking.”
“He took it to heart, though.” Michael raises his eyebrows. “He called his mom up, said he was damned if he was going to go home without seeing her, and arranged a meeting.”
“Really?” I stare at him, feeling prickles of intrigue. “And what happened?”
“She never showed up. Sent some message about having to go out of town. Luke was pretty disappointed.” Michael shakes his head. “Between you and me — I think you were right about her.”
I give an awkward shrug and reach for the menu to hide my embarrassment. I can’t believe Luke told Michael what I said about his mother. What else did he tell him? My bra size?
For a while I stare at the list of dishes without taking any of them in — then look up, to see Michael gazing seriously at me.
“Becky, I haven’t told Luke it was you who tipped me off. The story I’ve given him is I got an anonymous message and decided to look into it.”
“That sounds fair enough,” I say, gazing at the tablecloth.
“You’re basically responsible for saving his company,” says Michael gently. “He should be very grateful to you. Don’t you think he should know?”