The Magnate's Indecent Proposal

By: Ally Blake

(Taken by the Millionaire #8)



CHAPTER ONE




CHELSEA flicked a stray streak of wet mud off the nose of the beagle motif on her old umbrella as she ducked under the silver and black striped awning of Amelie’s, a newly opened Melbourne restaurant a stone’s throw from the Yarra River at South Bank.

She peered through the floor-to-ceiling windows to see the place was peppered with bright and shiny types decked out in designer gear. While the chocolate-brown knee-length skirt she’d found in the back of her closet sat at a slightly askew angle to hide a fresh doggie shampoo stain.

‘In a couple of hours I’ll be out of these high-heeled boots and back into sneakers,’ she said aloud. ‘While you’ll all have bunion    s before you’re forty.’

As some kind of perverse justice, her boots teetered beneath her as she twirled out of the way of a rushing pair of suits barging out of the restaurant barking into their mobile phones rather than looking out for stray women on the pavement.

Not wanting to push her luck, she slipped inside the glass doors and patted the criss-cross of bobby pins holding back her too-long fringe to make sure they were still in place and not dangling from the end of her hair like some odd mobile.

‘Do you have a reservation?’ the skinny, bald maître d’ in head-to-toe black asked.

‘I’m Chelsea London,’ she said, leaning back slightly to make sure he wouldn’t get a waft of the mothball scent of her recently de-cupboarded fancy clothes. ‘Meeting Kensington Hurley. She’s always madly early. I’d be happy to sneak through and find her myself—’

‘Not necessary.’ He gave her a cool smile.

Phoney schmuck, she thought as she gave him a weak smile in return.

He ran a bony finger down the pale pink diary page and nodded. Then said, ‘Your phone, please.’

‘Excuse me, my what?’ said Chelsea.

‘Your…mobile…phone,’ he repeated, more slowly this time. ‘They are a nuisance to other customers thus we don’t allow them in the restaurant. You would have been told at the time of reservation.’

‘My sister chose this place,’ she explained through gritted teeth.

‘Nevertheless, you need to check it into the cloakroom.’

She bit her lip while she made up her mind about what to do. Her whole life was in her phone. Her address book, her appointments calendar, her grocery list, her emails, the profit and loss statements to take to the bank later that morning now that she’d finally made an appointment with a loan officer to see about expanding Pride & Groom, her pet-grooming business, from one salon to three. He might as well have asked for her future firstborn child for all it meant to her.

She sank her hand into her oversized handbag and held it tight as she asked, ‘What if I don’t have a phone?’

He kept his hand outstretched, palm up.

‘Okay, fine,’ she said, doing a quick, obsessive-compulsive message check before handing it over. ‘But couldn’t you just ask everyone to turn their phone to silent? And confiscate those who don’t comply?’

‘This isn’t high school, Ms London. We believe mobile phones are antisocial. And haven’t you come here today to be social?’

High school is for ever, she thought. Those in new uniforms compared with those in hand-me-downs, all living out the failures or successes of their parents like some great evolutionary joke.

She kept her theory to herself and instead muttered, ‘I came here today because my sister has the kind of big brown cow eyes you can’t say no to.’

He gave her a pink ticket with a smudged black number written upon it in return, then she pressed on into the restaurant.

Weaving her way through the tightly packed tables past a plethora of ‘new school uniform’ types with money and time and an apparent desire to be social on a Tuesday morning, she made a determined beeline for Kensey’s curly brown ’do. Thus she didn’t notice a gentleman prepare to slide back his chair until it was too late.

She put on the brakes but her inexperience in her high-heeled boots meant she lost her grip upon the swanky silk carpet. Her momentum pitched her forward and everything from that point on seemed to happen in slow motion.

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