The Perfect Cazorla WifeBy: Michelle Smart
THE MOONLIGHT THAT poured over the mountaintop hotel gave it an ethereal, mysterious quality. From one perspective it looked enticing, welcoming. From Charley’s perspective, the shadows it cast spelled danger. The moonlight shouldn’t be silver. It should be red.
But this was no time for imagined threats. She was here for one purpose and one purpose only.
Taking a fortifying deep breath, she waited for the barrier to rise then drove through and parked in the main car park. No valet approached to whisk her Fiat 500 off to the secure parking area filled with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and the like.
Ambient music greeted her in the sprawling lobby where hotel guests were lounging around in their finery sipping on pre-and post-dinner drinks. She didn’t make eye contact with anyone, intent on slipping through to the function room at the back.
The closer her steps took her, the louder the thuds of her heart grew. By the time she reached the door, the beats inside her were so loud the ambient music was completely drowned out.
A barrel of a man materialised, preventing her entry into the room.
‘Your invitation, please,’ he said, holding out his hand.
‘My husband arrived earlier,’ she answered in hesitant Spanish. She’d lived in the country for over five years but only in recent months did she feel she’d got an actual grip on the language. She still kept her phrasebook in her handbag just in case. ‘He left word that I would be getting here late,’ she lied.
Charley reached into her silver clutch bag, removed her passport and handed it over. ‘Raul Cazorla.’ She imagined how her soon-to-be ex-husband would react if he were in this situation and tried to channel some of his arrogance. She held her phone up. ‘Would you like me to call him so he can come and verify who I am?’
She could see the guard debating what to do. No doubt he had taken Raul’s invitation himself. No doubt he had clocked the flame-haired lingerie model on his arm too.
Thinking of that lingerie model...
A host of bitter feelings curdled in Charley’s belly, just as they had two weeks ago when the first picture of the happy couple had been spread on the cover of one of Spain’s high-end glossies. Raul had looked like the cat who’d licked the bowl dry of all the cream, which Charley supposed wasn’t all that surprising. Physically, Jessica was perfect.
She doubted the model was his first lover since she’d left, just the first he’d publicly acknowledged.
Who he saw was none of her business, she reminded herself. In a few short weeks their divorce would be finalised. He would be a free agent.
She inhaled deeply and narrowed her eyes, little signs she had seen Raul perform hundreds of times to denote his displeasure at whatever situation was occurring. ‘Perhaps you would prefer to find him yourself and ask him to confirm who I am?’
She knew her words had done the trick when the guard placed his hand on the door to admit her. Who wanted to be the man to seek out Raul Cazorla, one of Spain’s richest men, in the middle of a high-society party, to ask him if the woman bearing his name really was his wife?
‘Enjoy the party,’ he said, opening the door.
The function room of Barcelona’s Hotel Garcia was a mass of glitz and silver and heaving with glamorous bodies. Unlike the easy jazz music of the lobby, here a DJ was playing a set, popular dance music throbbing beneath her already aching feet. It had been nearly two years since she’d last worn high heels and all the bones in her feet were protesting.
Waiters and waitresses armed with trays of champagne and hors d’oeuvres mingled discreetly, but close enough for Charley to swipe a flute of champagne and drink it in one swallow.
As she scoured the room she became aware of curious eyes watching her, imagined she could hear the whispers of, ‘Is that Charlotte...?’
She tuned them out, focusing her attention on the open French doors that led out into the expansive gardens and the balmy night air.
The garden was alive with revellers sitting on the many iron tables and chairs scattered over the lawn, people talking, smoking, kissing...
Her heart recognised him first, accelerating to a gallop as she spotted the tall, muscular frame standing in the far distance, his back to her, a hand in his pocket. He was deep in conversation with a man she didn’t recognise. On the table beside them sat two women chatting between themselves. The redhead took a long drag of a cigarette.
Raul hates smoking, she thought faintly.
For a horrible moment she thought she was going to be sick.
She’d barely taken a step when he turned his head as if sensing eyes upon him.
He tilted his face a touch in her direction then turned back to the gentleman he was talking to and carried on his conversation.