Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 16

I stop and slowly turn on the spot — to see him standing up in the car, dialing a number on his mobile phone.

“What are you doing?” I call suspiciously.

“I’m phoning my horrible business contact,” says Luke. “To put him off. To cancel.”

I fold my arms and stare at him with narrowed eyes.

“Hello?” he says. “Room 301, please. Michael Ellis. Thanks. I guess I’ll just have to fly out and see him in Washington,” he adds to me in deadpan tones. “Or wait until the next time he and his associates are all together in Britain. Which could be a while, bearing in mind their completely crazy schedules. Still, it’s only business, after all. Only a deal. It’s only the deal I’ve been wanting to make for…”

“Oh… stop it!” I say furiously. “Stop it. Have your stupid meeting.”

“Are you sure?” says Luke, putting a hand over the receiver. “Absolutely sure?”

“Quite sure,” I say, giving a morose shrug. “If it’s that important…”

“It’s pretty important,” says Luke, and meets my eyes, suddenly serious. “Believe me, I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.”

I walk slowly back to the car as Luke puts away his mobile phone.

“Thanks, Becky,” he says as I get in. “I mean it.” He touches my cheek gently, then reaches for the keys and starts up the engine.

As we drive off toward a set of traffic lights, I glance at him, and then at his mobile phone, still sticking out of his pocket.

“Were you really phoning your business contact?” I say.

“Were you really going home?” he replies, without moving his head.

This is what’s so annoying about going out with Luke. You can’t get away with anything.

We drive for about an hour into the countryside, stop for lunch in a little village pub, then drive for another hour and a half down to Somerset. By the time we reach Blakeley Hall, I feel like a different person. It’s so good to get out of London — and I’m already incredibly energized and refreshed by all this wonderful country air. As I step out of the car I do a few stretches — and honestly, I already feel fitter and more toned. I reckon if I came to the country every week, I’d lose half a stone, if not more.

“Do you want any more of these?” says Luke, reaching down and picking up the nearly empty packet of Maltesers which I’ve been snacking on. (I have to eat in the car, otherwise I get carsick.) “And what about these magazines?” He picks up the stack of glossies which have been at my feet, then makes a grab as they all start slithering out of his hands.

“I’m not going to read magazines here!” I say in surprise. “This is the country!”

Honestly. Doesn’t Luke know anything about rural life?

As he’s getting the bags out of the boot I wander over to a fence and gaze peacefully at a field full of browny-yellow stuff. You know, I reckon I have a real natural affinity for the countryside. It’s like I’ve got this whole nurturing, earth-mother side, which has been gradually creeping up on me. For example, the other day I found myself buying a Fair Isle jersey from French Connection. And I’ve recently started gardening! Or at least, I’ve bought some sweet little ceramic flowerpots from The Pier, marked “Basil” and “Coriander”—and I’m definitely going to get some of those little plants from the supermarket and have a whole row of them on the windowsill. (I mean, they’re only about 50 pence, so if they die you can just buy another one.)

“Ready?” says Luke.

“Absolutely!” I say, and teeter back toward him, cursing the mud.

We crunch over the gravel to the hotel — and I have to say, I’m impressed. It’s a great big old-fashioned country house, with beautiful gardens, and modern sculptures in the gardens and its own cinema, according to the brochure! Luke’s been here quite a few times before, and he says it’s his favorite hotel. And lots of celebrities come here, too! Like Madonna. (Or was it Sporty Spice? Someone, anyway.) But apparently they’re always very discreet and usually stay in some separate coach-housey bit, and the staff never lets on.

Still, as we go into the reception hall I have a good look around, just in case. There are lots of cool-looking people in trendy spectacles and denim, and there’s a blonde girl who sort of looks famous-ish, and standing over there…

I freeze in excitement. It’s him, isn’t it? It’s Elton John! Elton John himself is standing right there, only a few—

Then he turns round — and it’s just a dumpy guy in an anorak and spectacles. Damn. Still, it was nearly Elton John.

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