A Night of No Return(4)

By: Sarah Morgan

Emma squinted through the white haze. She didn’t mind hard work. Her only rule was that she didn’t work at weekends. And for some reason—maybe her references, maybe her calm demeanour, or just the fact that he’d lost six PAs in as many months—Lucas Jackson had accepted that one caveat, although he had once made a caustic comment about her ‘wild social life’.

If he’d taken the trouble to find out about her, he would have known that there wasn’t room for ‘wild’ in her life. He would know that the nearest she’d got to a party was through the pages of the celebrity magazines her sister occasionally bought. He would have known that after working a punishing week at Jackson and Partners her idea of a perfect weekend was just sleeping late and spending time with Jamie. Lucas would have known all that, but he didn’t because he’d never asked.

She glanced briefly at the offending file on the passenger seat next to her, as if by simply glaring at it she might somehow manage to teleport the contents to its owner.

Unfortunately there was no chance of that. Her only choice was to take it to him. Never let it be said that she didn’t do her job properly.

This launch was the most talked about event for a decade and the party itself would be a glittering gathering of everyone important. Emma had felt a wistful pang as she’d liaised with Avery Scott, the dynamic owner of Dance and Dine, the company in charge of organising the launch event. From her conversations with Avery, she knew that the international celebrity guest list would be indulging in vintage champagne in the glamour of a marquee designed as a Bedouin tent. Then they would enjoy a traditional Zubrani banquet under the stars and have the opportunity to explore the specially constructed ‘souk’, tempting the guests with various local delicacies and entertainment. To showcase the best of Zubran as a holiday destination there would be belly dancers, fortune tellers, falconry and the evening would conclude with what promised to be the most spectacular firework display ever witnessed.

This was probably how Cinderella had felt when she’d learned she would not be going to the ball, Emma thought gloomily.

Shivering in the freezing air that her inadequate heater didn’t manage to warm, she sank deeper inside her coat and allowed herself a brief fantasy involving sunshine and palm trees. Just for a moment she felt envious. Right now this minute, the women on the guest list were probably deciding what to wear and packing for a break in the sun where all they were expected to do was look glamorous.

Emma pushed her hair away from her face with her gloved hand. She didn’t need to look in the mirror to know she didn’t look glamorous. She looked wrecked.

Forget celebrity parties. She’d be thrilled just to be able to get to bed before midnight. And if the weather carried on like this, she and Jamie would be spending their precious holiday trapped indoors.

She was struggling to keep the car on the icy road when her phone rang.

She thought it might be Lucas finally returning one of her many frantic messages, but it wasn’t. It was Jamie.

Of course it was Jamie. He’d expected her over an hour ago.

‘Where are you, Emma?’ His concern was audible in his voice and she suddenly felt horribly disloyal for wishing she could have gone to Zubran and partied under the stars.

Not daring to drive and talk with the road conditions so bad, she pulled over, squashing down the guilt. ‘I had to work late. I’m so sorry. I left you a message.’

‘When will you be home?’

‘Soon. I hope.’ She stared doubtfully at the falling snow. ‘But it might take me a while because the roads are terrible. Don’t wait up.’

He didn’t say anything and she knew he was upset with her.

His silence made her guilt worse. While he’d been worrying, she’d been imagining the perfect dress to wear to the party of the decade. ‘We have the whole weekend to be together and next week,’ she reasoned. When there was still no answer, she gave a sigh. ‘Jamie, don’t be upset. I have to work tonight. It’s never happened before. You know I normally keep the weekends free but this is an emergency. Lucas left some really important papers and I have to take them to him.’

It was a difficult conversation and by the time she hung up she was cursing Lucas Jackson with words she never normally allowed herself to use. Why couldn’t he have remembered the stupid file? Or why couldn’t he at least get off the phone and pick up her calls? At least then she could have met him halfway or something.

Knowing that the only thing that was going to make her feel better was getting the job done and going home, she eased the car back onto the road. Her eyes felt gritty and her head throbbed. She couldn’t wait to just crawl into bed and sleep and sleep.

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