This is the 4th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.

He turned in his chair. “Look at them,” he pointed at the people sitting at desks in the open plan area on the other side of the grey glass partition. “They made it happen, not me, they…”

Buttercup [photo: David Austin Roses]

Buttercup [photo: David Austin Roses]

While he talked, Rose noticed his hands. Lightly golden, with long fingers as if stretched by piano octaves. She found herself wondering how it would feel to be touched by those hands, and was horrified to realise she hadn’t heard a word of what he’d just said. She nodded and stared down at her pad, her face hot.

“… believe in this company. They took the opportunities and built the profit to the point where I could pitch it to the banks. The banks are only interested in cash flow and the bottom line, they want their repayments. The bank doesn’t care if I make face creams or screwdrivers.”

“So, now you can enjoy running your company.” Her eyes were still fixed on her notes. Wrong again, Rose.

Journalism rule number four: statements are not questions.

“I’ve always enjoyed it, and it’s not strictly speaking my company. The MBO is the beginning, not the end. You wouldn’t believe…” His sentence ground to a halt and he slowly took a sip of water. “No, I shouldn’t tell you that. You’re a journalist.” He spoke softly, as if to himself.

Hell yes, I am a journalist. Irritating man. Why did he start a sentence that sounded juicy, only to stop halfway through?

She’d expected him to be media-savvy, most business executives were media-trained these days, but things had not started well. First, his PA refused to admit her because she wasn’t Alan Smart, the sick journo she was subbing for. Anyone less than Alan Smart, who regularly featured on BBC Business News, would be a waste of her boss’s time, the PA implied with a glance down her aquiline nose. Then, there was the laying down on the sofa thing. Her cheeks had only just cooled from that blush when she caught Maddox trying to read her shorthand notes upside down. She offered the notepad to him, but he refused without a flush of shame. The chemistry hadn’t recovered.

She put down her pen. “Look, if you want to tell me something that’s off the record, that’s fine.” She adjusted her face into a no-compromise look. “That’s fine, as long as you say so now, before you start talking. I won’t quote you until you say it’s okay. We can go back on the record again later. But you can’t decide after the interview that some bits of what you said are on the record and other bits are off. I don’t work like that.”

She held her breath. This was a risky strategy.

He swivelled in his chair, his eyes fixed on her. “Sounds fair.”

Without realising she’d been holding her breath, she breathed out and smoothed her hands over her skirt to hide the trembling.

He called for more coffee. Rose watched Amanda’s procedure with cups, milk, sugar and chocolate digestives without a word. She loves him, maybe not romantically but she’d throw me out of the window if she had to. What is it about him that inspires such loyalty?

He talked for half-an-hour without pause, at the end of which she could see glimmers of the real man sitting in the black leather chair.

Ask him something personal now. The barriers are down, ask him…
© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #5: Maddox appraises her legs and Rose decides he’s a creep.