Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 72

“Luke,” I say at last. “What’s going on? Is there some kind of hitch with your deal?”

“No,” says Luke without moving.

“So what did Michael mean when he said, ‘That all depends’? And all that stuff about them changing the goalposts?”

I lean forward and try to take his hand, but Luke doesn’t respond. As I gaze at him in anxious silence, I gradually become aware of the background chatter and music all around us in the dim bar. At the next table a woman’s opening a little box from Tiffany’s and gasping — something which would normally have me throwing my napkin onto the floor and sidling over to see what she’s got. But this time I’m too concerned.

“Luke?” I lean forward. “Come on, tell me. Is there a problem?”

“No,” says Luke shortly, and tips his glass back into his mouth. “There’s no problem. Things are fine. Come on, let’s go.”


I WAKE UP the next morning with a pounding headache. We went on from the Royalton to someplace for dinner, and I drank even more there — and I can’t even remember getting back to the hotel. Thank God I don’t have an interview today. To be honest, I could quite happily spend the whole day in bed with Luke.

Except that Luke is already up, sitting by the window, talking grimly into the phone.

“OK, Michael. I’ll talk to Greg today. God knows. I have no idea.” He listens for a bit. “That may be the case. But I’m not having a second deal collapse on us.” There’s a pause. “Yes, but that would put us back — what, six months? OK. I hear what you’re saying. Yes, I will. Cheers.”

He puts down the receiver and stares tensely out of the window, and I rub my sleepy face, trying to remember if I packed any aspirin.

“Luke, what’s wrong?”

“You’re awake,” says Luke, turning round, and gives me a quick smile. “Did you sleep well?”

“What’s wrong?” I repeat, ignoring him. “What’s wrong with the deal?”

“Everything’s fine,” says Luke shortly, and turns back to the window.

“Everything isn’t fine!” I retort. “Luke, I’m not blind. I’m not deaf. I can tell something’s up.”

“A minor blip,” says Luke after a pause. “You don’t need to worry about it.” He reaches for the phone again. “Shall I order you some breakfast? What would you like?”

“Stop it!” I cry frustratedly. “Luke, I’m not some… some stranger! We’re going to live together, for God’s sake! I’m on your side. Just tell me what’s really going on. Is your deal in trouble?”

There’s silence — and for an awful moment I think Luke’s going to tell me to mind my own business. But then he pushes his hands through his hair, exhales sharply, and looks up.

“You’re right. The truth is, one of our backers is getting nervous.”

“Oh,” I say, and pull a face. “Why?”

“Because some fucking rumor’s going around that we’re about to lose Bank of London.”

“Really?” I stare at him, feeling a cold dismay creep down my back. Even I know how important Bank of London is to Brandon Communications. They were one of Luke’s first clients — and they still bring in about a quarter of the money the company makes every year. “Why would people be saying that?”

“Fuck knows.” He pushes his hair back with his hands. “Bank of London denies it completely, of course. But then, they would. And of course it doesn’t help that I’m here, not there…”

“So are you going to fly back to London?”

“No.” He looks up. “That would give out completely the wrong signals. Things are shaky enough here already. If I suddenly disappear…” He shakes his head and I stare at him apprehensively.

“So — what happens if your backer pulls out?”

“We find someone else.”

“But what if you can’t? Will you have to give up on coming to New York?”

Luke turns to look at me — and he’s suddenly got that blank, scary expression that used to make me want to run away from him at press conferences.

“Not an option.”

“But I mean, you’ve got a really successful business in London,” I persist. “I mean, you don’t have to set up one in New York, do you? You could just…”

I tail away at the look on his face.

“Right,” I say nervously. “Well — I’m sure it’ll all be OK. In the end.”

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