Spanish Groom(3)

By: Lynne Graham

'Is it about that Arab guy whose call I cut off?'

Brace tensed. 'He doesn't know about that.'

"That file I accidentally took out?'

Bruce paled at the reminder. 'You got it back from the bus company.'

Dixie gulped. 'I've been trying so hard to stay out of Mr Valverde's way... it's just he keeps on popping up in the most unexpected places.'

'Cesar likes to be visible. What sort of unexpected places?' Bruce could not resist asking.

'Like the kitchen...when I was icing the cake for Jayne's leaving party last week. Mr Valverde went through the roof,'Dixie recounted, half under her breath, shuddering at the recollection. 'He asked me if I thought I was working in a bakery and I ended up spelling her name wrong. Then yesterday he walked into that little room the cleaning staff use and found me asleep...he gave me the biggest fright of my life!'

'Cesar expects all his employees to make a special effort to stay awake between nine and five,' Bruce responded, deadpan.

Currently working two jobs just to keep a roof over her head, Dixie gave him an abstracted look, her eyes, so dark a blue they were violet, strained with anxiety and tiredness. Fear emanated from her in waves. Small though she was, she seemed to grow even smaller as she hunched her shoulders and bowed her head, the explosive mop of her long curly dark brown hair falling over her softly rounded face. She was terrified of Cesar Valverde, had become acquainted with every hiding place on the executive floor within days of arriving there.

But then she had started out on the wrong foot, hadn't she? Her big mouth, she conceded glumly. While covering for the receptionist during her afternoon break, Dixie had begun chatting to the gorgeous blonde seated in the waiting area. In an effort to make entertaining conversation, she had mentioned the world-famous model, Mr Valverde had entertained on his yacht the previous weekend. And then her employer had strolled out of the lift...

And without the slightest warning all hell had broken loose! The blonde, who it later transpired had actually been waiting for Cesar Valverde, had risen to her feet to throw a jealous fit of outrage and accuse him of being a 'love-rat*.

Dixie's co-workers had very decently acknowledged that that charge might well have some basis in fact, but it was not an allegation Cesar had expected to face within the hallowed portals of the bank because one of his own staff had been recklessly indiscreet. Indeed what Cesar had had to say about Dixie's gossiping tongue had been, as one of the directors had frankly admitted while trying hard not to smile, unrepeatable. Since then she had been banned from manning Reception.

'Is Cesar dating any nice girls at present?' Jasper always asked hopefully in his letters to Dixie, not seeming to appreciate that at the threat of what his godfather deemed a 'nice girl' Cesar Valverde would undoubtedly run a mile. It was a well-worn joke in the bank that Cesar's answer to commitment was escape.

But Dixie's troubled face softened at the thought of Jasper Dysart. He was a dear old man, but she hadn't seen him in months because he lived in Spain most of the year, having found the hot climate eased his arthritic joints.

Dixie had met Jasper the previous summer. She had been walking down the street when a thuggish bunch of youths had carelessly pushed him aside when he didn't get out of their way fast enough. Jasper had fallen and cut his head. Dixie had taken him to the nearest hospital. Afterwards, she had treated him to tea and buns in the cafeteria, because he had looked so poor and forlorn in his ancient tweeds and shabby old overcoat.

They had been firm friends from that moment on. She hadn't once suspected that Jasper might be anything other than he appeared: an elderly academic living on a restricted income. So she had been quite honest about being unemployed, sharing her despair at not even being able to get as far as an interview for a clerical job. She had also told him how horribly guilty she felt about being dependent on her older sister Petra's generosity.

They had arranged to meet up again, and Jasper had escorted Dixie to his favourite secondhand bookshop, where they had both promptly lost all track of time browsing through the shelves. The following weekend she had returned the favour by taking him to a library sale, where he had contrived to buy a very tattered copy of an out-of-print tome on butterflies that he had been trying to find for years.

Top Books