Hi, it’s Rebecca Cleath-Stuart here. Yes, Tarquin’s wife. We met at. . Yes, I was wearing Chanel. How clever of you!
“By the way,” I add, “did Tarquin say where I should meet him?”
“Oh, he’s going to come and pick you up,” says Suze.
But of course he is. The fifteenth richest bachelor in Britain doesn’t just meet you at a tube station, does he? He doesn’t just say “See you under the big clock at Waterloo.” He comes and picks you up.
Oh, this is it. This is it! Forget Luke Brandon, forget suitcases. My new life has finally begun.
I have never spent so long on getting ready for a date in my life. Never. The process starts at eight on Saturday morning when I look at my open wardrobe and realize that I don’t have a single thing to wear — and only ends at seven-thirty that evening when I give my lashes another layer of mascara, spray myself in Coco Chanel, and walk into the sitting room for Suze’s verdict.
“Wow!” she says, looking up from a frame she is upholstering in distressed denim. “You look. . bloody amazing!”
And I have to say, I agree. I’m wearing all black — but expensive black. The kind of deep, soft black you fall into. A simple sleeveless dress from Whistles, the highest of Jimmy Choos, a pair of stunning uncut amethyst earrings. And please don’t ask how much it all cost, because that’s irrelevant. This is investment shopping. The biggest investment of my life.
I haven’t eaten anything all day so I’m nice and thin, and for once my hair has fallen perfectly into shape. I look. . well, I’ve never looked better in my life.
But of course, looks are only part of the package, aren’t they? Which is why I cannily stopped off at Waterstones on the way home and bought a book on Wagner. I’ve been reading it all afternoon, while I waited for my nails to dry, and have even memorized a few little passages to throw into the conversation.
I’m not sure what else Tarquin is into, apart from Wagner. Still, that should be enough to keep us going. And anyway, I expect he’s planning to take me somewhere really glamorous with a jazz band, so we’ll be too busy dancing cheek to cheek to make conversation.
The doorbell rings and I give a little start. I have to admit, my heart is pounding with nerves. But at the same time I feel strangely cool. This is it. Here begins my new multimillion-pound existence. Luke Brandon, eat your heart out.
“I’ll get it,” says Suze, grinning at me, and disappears out into the hall. A moment later I hear her saying “Tarkie!”
I glance at myself in the mirror, take a deep breath, and turn to face the door, just as Tarquin appears. His head is as bony as ever, and he’s wearing another of his odd-looking suits. But somehow none of that seems to matter anymore. In fact, I’m not really taking in the way he looks. I’m just staring at him. Staring and staring at him, unable to speak; unable to frame any thought at all except: twenty-five million pounds.
Twenty-five million pounds.
The sort of thought that makes you feel dizzy and elated, like a fairground ride. I suddenly want to run around the room, yelling “Twenty-five million! Twenty-five million!” throwing bank notes up in the air as if I were in some Hollywood comedy caper.
But I don’t. Of course I don’t. I say, “Hi, Tarquin,” and give him a dazzling smile.
“Hi, Becky,” he says. “You look wonderful.”
“Thanks,” I say, and look bashfully down at my dress.
“D’you want to stay for a titchy?” says Suze, who is looking on fondly, as if she’s my mother and this is senior prom night and I’m dating the most popular boy in school.
“Ermm. . no, I think we’ll just get going,” says Tarquin, meeting my eye. “What do you think, Becky?”
“Absolutely,” I say. “Let’s go.”
A TAXI IS CHUGGING outside in the road, and Tarquin ushers me inside. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed it isn’t a chauffeur-driven limousine — but still. This is pretty good, too. Being whisked off in a taxi by one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors to. . who knows where? The Savoy? Claridges? Dancing at Annabel’s? Tarquin hasn’t told me yet where we’re going.
Oh God, maybe it’ll be one of those mad places where everything is served under a silver dome and there’s a million knives and forks and snooty waiters looking on, just waiting to catch you out.
“I thought we’d just have a nice quiet supper,” says Tarquin, looking over at me.
“Lovely,” I say. “Nice quiet supper. Perfect.”