The Playboy of Puerto Banus

By: Carol Marinelli

 CHAPTER ONE

‘ESTELLE, I PROMISE, you wouldn’t have     to do anything except hold Gordon’s hand and dance….’

‘And?’ Estelle pushed, pulling down the corner on the page she     was reading and closing her book, hardly able to believe she was having this     conversation, let alone considering going along with Ginny’s plan.

‘Maybe a small kiss on the cheek or lips…’ As Estelle shook her     head Ginny pushed on. ‘You just have to look as if you’re madly in love.’

‘With a sixty-four-year-old?’

‘Yes.’ Ginny sighed, but before Estelle could argue further     broke in, ‘Everyone will think you’re a gold-digger, that you’re only with     Gordon for his money. Which you will be…’ Ginny stopped talking then,     interrupted by a terrible coughing fit.

They were housemates rather than best friends, two students     trying to get through university. At twenty-five, Estelle was a few years older     than Ginny, and had long wondered how Ginny managed to run a car and dress so     well, but now she had found out. Ginny worked for a very exclusive escort agency     and had a long-term client—

Gordon Edwards, a politician with a secret.     Which was why, Ginny had assured her, nothing would happen or be expected from     Estelle if she took Ginny’s place as his date at a very grand wedding being held     this evening.

‘I’d have to share a room with him.’

Estelle had never shared a room with a man in her life. She     wasn’t especially shy or retiring but she certainly had none of Ginny’s     confidence or social ease. Ginny thought the weekends were designed for parties,     clubs and pubs, whereas Estelle’s idea of a perfect weekend was looking around     old churches or ruins and then curling up on the sofa with a book.

Not playing escort!

‘Gordon always takes the sofa when we share a room.’

‘No.’ Estelle pushed up her glasses and returned to her book.     She tried to carry on reading about the mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor but     it was terribly hard to do so when she was so worried about her brother and he         still hadn’t rung to let her know if he had got     the job.

There was no mistaking the fact that the money would help.

It was late Saturday morning in London, and the wedding was     being held that evening in a castle in Scotland. If Estelle was going to go then     she would have to start getting ready now, for they would fly to Edinburgh and     then take a helicopter to the castle and time was fast running out.

‘Please,’ Ginny said. ‘The agency are freaking because they     can’t get anyone suitable at such short notice. He’s coming to pick me up in an     hour.’

‘What will people think?’ Estelle asked. ‘If people are used to     seeing him with you…’

‘Gordon will take care of that. He’ll say that we had an     argument, that I was pushing for an engagement ring or something. We were going     to be finishing soon anyway, now that I’m nearly through university. Honestly,     Estelle, Gordon really is the loveliest man. There’s so much pressure on him to     appear straight—he simply cannot go to this wedding without a date. Just think     of the money!’

Estelle couldn’t stop thinking about the money.

Attending this wedding would mean that she could pay her     brother’s mortgage for an entire month, as well as a couple of his bills.

Okay, it wouldn’t entirely solve their dilemma, but it would     buy Andrew and his young family a little bit more time and, given all they had     been through this past year, and all that was still to come, they could     certainly use the reprieve.

Andrew had done so much for her—had put his own life on hold to     make sure that Estelle’s life carried on as normally as possible when their     parents had died when Estelle was seventeen.

It was time for Estelle to step up, just as Andrew had.

‘Okay.’ Estelle took a deep breath and her decision was made.     ‘Ring and say that I’ll come.’

‘I’ve already told him that you’ve agreed,’ Ginny admitted.     ‘Estelle, don’t look at me like that. I know how badly you need the money and I     simply couldn’t bear to tell Gordon that I didn’t have someone else lined     up.’

Ginny looked more closely at Estelle. Her long black hair was     pulled back in a ponytail, her very pale skin was without a blemish, and there     was no last night’s make-up smudged under Estelle’s green eyes because Estelle     rarely wore any. Ginny was trying not to show it but she was actually more than     a little nervous as to what a made-up Estelle would look like and whether or not     she could carry it off.

‘You need to get ready. I’ll help with your hair and     things.’

‘You’re not coming near me with that cough,’ Estelle said. ‘I     can manage.’ She looked at Ginny’s doubtful expression. ‘We can all look like     tarts if we have to.’ She smiled and Ginny laughed. ‘Though I don’t actually     have anything I can wear…would anyone notice if I wore something of yours?’

‘I bought a new dress for the wedding.’ Ginny headed to the     wardrobe in her bedroom and Estelle followed.

Estelle’s jaw dropped when she held the flimsy gold fabric     up.

‘Does that go under the dress?’

‘It looks stunning on.’

‘On you, perhaps…’ Estelle said,     because Ginny was a lot slimmer and had a tiny pert bust, whereas, though small,     Estelle was curvy. ‘I’m going to look like…’

‘Which is the whole point.’ Ginny grinned. ‘Honestly, Estelle,     if you just relax you’ll have fun.’

‘I doubt it,’ Estelle said, wrapping her long dark hair in     heated rollers at Ginny’s dressing table, and setting to work on her face under     her housemate’s very watchful eye. Gordon was supposed to be a womanizer, and     somehow Estelle had to get the balance right between looking as if she adored     him while being far, far too young for him too.

‘You need more foundation.’

‘More?’ Estelle already felt as if she had an inch on.

‘And lashings of mascara.’

Ginny watched as Estelle took out the heated rollers and her     long dark hair tumbled into ringlets. ‘Okay, loads of hairspray…’ Ginny said.     ‘Oh, and by the way, Gordon calls me Virginia, just in case anyone mentions     me.’

Ginny blinked a few times when Estelle turned around. The smoky     grey eyeshadow and layers of mascara brought out the emerald in her green eyes,     and the make-up accentuated Estelle’s full lips. Seeing the long black curls     framing her friend’s petite face, Ginny started to believe that Estelle could     carry this off.

‘You look amazing! Let’s see you in the dress.’

‘Won’t I change there?’

‘Gordon’s schedule is too busy. Once you land I would imagine     you’ll be straight into the wedding.’

The dress was beautiful—sheer and gold, it clung everywhere. It     was far too revealing but it was delicious too. Ginny gaped when Estelle wobbled     on very high shoes.

‘I think Gordon might dump me.’

‘This,’ Estelle said firmly, ‘is a one-off.’

‘That’s what I said when I first started at the agency,’ Ginny     admitted. ‘But if it goes well…’

‘Don’t even think it!’ Estelle said     as a car tooted in the street.

‘You’ll be fine,’ Ginny said as Estelle nearly jumped out of     her skin. ‘You look stunning. I know you can do this.’

Estelle clung onto that as she stepped out of her cheap student     accommodation home. Teetering on the unfamiliar high heels, she walked out of     the drive and towards a sleek silver car, more than a little terrified to meet     the politician.

‘I have amazing taste!’

Gordon greeted her with a smile as his driver held open the     door and Estelle climbed in. He was chubby, dressed in full Scottish regalia,     and he made her smile even before she’d properly sat down.

‘And you’ve got far better legs than me! I feel ridiculous in a     kilt.’

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