Spanish Groom(4)

By: Lynne Graham

And then quite casually Jasper had announced that he had fixed her up with an interview at the Valverde Mercantile Bank. 'I put in a word for you with my godson,' he had informed her cheerfully. 'He was very happy to help.'

She hadn't had a clue that Jasper's godson was the chief executive. And she had been utterly appalled to be confronted by Cesar Valverde that first day, and coldly interrogated about exactly how she had met his godfather. He had made little attempt to conceal his suspicions about her motives in fostering such a friendship with an elderly man, and had coolly enjoyed informing her that Jasper would be returning to his home in Spain at the end of September. Dixie had found that encounter deeply humiliating.

'Cesar always had a head for figures...very clever chap with that sort of stuff,' Jasper had conceded vaguely when Dixie had later gently taxed him with his failure to tell her that his godson ran Valverde Mercantile and was, in fact, a super-rich and very powerful legend of thrusting success in the financial world. 'It's in his blood.'

Jasper was a genius at understatement. The Valverdes had been in banking for generations. Cesar was the last of the dynasty, and reputedly the most brilliant. He also had very high expectations of his staff. All Dixie's colleagues had a university degree in financial management, economics or languages, and thrived on the cracking pace of a high-powered mercantile bank with an international list of hugely important clients and companies.

Dixie knew that she was a fish out of water at Valverde Mercantile, only fit, it sometimes seemed, to run messages, ensure the coffee machines stayed filled and perform the most humble of tasks. She worked really hard at keeping busy, but the kind of lowly work she did rarely produced results that other people could appreciate.

And Bruce Gregory's announcement had thoroughly shaken Dixie. The threat of a face-to-face meeting with Cesar Valverde kept her stomach churning throughout the day. What had she done? What had she not done? Well, if she had made some awful mistake or oversight, she would have to grovel on her knees and promise to do better in the future; she had no choice. Right now, the only thing keeping Dixie going through exhaustion was the knowledge that she had a steady salary coming in as well as what she earned working as a waitress several nights a week. That long talk she had had with the helpful lady at the Citizens' Advice Bureau had suggested that as long as she could prove an honest intent to pay back those creditors in installments, her offer to do so should be acceptable, and would hopefully protect her from the threat of legal proceedings.

And, in the meantime, there was always the hope that her sister Petra would phone to say that she was back in funds again and able to send the money to clear her debts. Petra had always had terrific earning power as a model, Dixie reminded herself bracingly. All she herself was really doing was holding the fort until her sister could pick up the financial slack. Petra had been upset when Dixie called her to tell her about the bills she had neglected to pay before she flew out to Los Angeles in the hope of starting an acting career.

In the cloakroom, minutes to go before the encounter, Dixie freshened up and morosely surveyed her reflection. Plain and wholesome, that was her. The loose beige top and long grey cotton skirt at least concealed the worst of her deficiencies, she told herself in consolation. But as always it seemed particularly cruel to Dixie that she should have been endowed with hatefully large breasts and generous hips but only a height of five feet two inches.

As often happened at times of particular stress, Dixie drifted off into her own thoughts. Was it any wonder that Scott saw her as a good sport and a mate, rather than a possible girlfriend? Scott Lewis, handsome, extrovert and the love of Dixie's life. Momentarily, self-pity filled her to overflowing. And then she scolded herself for being so foolish. Hadn't she always known she didn't have a hope of attracting Scott?

She had met Scott at one of her sister's parties. Having just moved into a new apartment, he'd been giving a comic description of his less than successful efforts to get organised on the domestic front. His frank admission that his mother had spoilt him rotten had impressed Dixie, and before she had even thought about what she was doing she had found herself offering to come round and give him a hand...

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