In the Rich Man's World

By: Carol Marinelli

PROLOGUE





BED.

Alone.

Just the thought of how tempting those two words sounded brought a wry smile to Vaughan’s lips.

Bed alone was almost a contradiction in terms for Vaughan Mason, at least according to the journalists who tagged his every move, sensationalising every aspect of his professional dealings while attempting an angle on his private life—much to Vaughan’s slightly jaundiced amusement.

Taking a belt of impossibly strong black coffee, Vaughan screwed up his nose.

He’d barely slept in thirty-six hours, had crossed several time zones and ingested enough caffeine to raise the shares of coffee beans by several per cent. All he wanted was to close his eyes on this impossibly long day, yet instead he had to face them—the journalists, the one true love-hate relationship in his life.

A sharp rap on his door dragged him out of his introspection. He leaned back in his chair and yawned as Katy Vale, his personal assistant, waltzed in, smiling her pussycat smile and revealing just a touch too much cleavage and thigh for a Friday afternoon as she leant over his desk and handed him a list.

‘It’s your lucky day.’

‘I wish you’d told me that thirty-six hours ago,’ Vaughan retorted. His day had started at some ungodly hour in Japan and been followed by a meeting in Singapore, then several draining hours at Singapore Airport. Now, finally winding up in his office in Sydney, he felt like the sun creeping across the globe in reverse, his body clock completely kaput as jet lag finally caught up with him. The very last thing he felt like doing was being put on parade for some long-overdue interviews, but now, peering at the list, seeing the red pen slashed through the reporters’ names, he almost managed a smile.

‘There’s an election in the air—at least that’s the buzz going around,’ Katy explained. ‘All the big-gun reporters have cancelled their interviews with you and flown to Canberra, trying to get their scoop…’

‘Which means I can finally go to bed.’

That he had been cancelled at such short notice didn’t offend Vaughan in the least—in fact it came as an unexpected pleasurable moment of relief. The Prime Minister was one of the few people who could knock him out of the headlines of the business pages, and Vaughan was only too happy to step down. The pleasure was entirely his.

Snapping the lid on his pen, he stood up and stretched. But he changed it midway into a long drawn-out sigh as Katy shook her head. ‘Not just yet, I’m afraid. The Tribute has sent a replacement journalist.’

Peering at the list, Vaughan frowned. ‘Why on earth would Amelia Jacobs want to interview me?’

‘You’ve heard of her?’ Katy asked, the surprise evident in her voice. ‘Somehow I can’t quite picture you reading the women’s pages.’

‘She’s good.’ Vaughan shrugged, but Katy screwed up her nose.

‘She’s overrated, if you ask me.’

I didn’t, Vaughan almost responded, but he held his tongue. Frankly, he was too tired to be drawn into a long conversation with Katy.

Long conversations with Katy were becoming rather too frequent of late. Given any excuse, she’d sit her neat little bottom on the chair opposite and cross her perfectly toned legs, only too happy to flash her glossy smile and talk.

And could that woman talk!

What had happened to the quietly efficient woman he had hired as his PA? Where had the diligent worker who managed his impossibly tight schedule with barely a murmur gone? The woman who had glowed with pride when he’d commented on her new engagement ring, blushed with pleasure when her fiancé had arrived to pick her up?

‘I mean,’ Katy droned on, not remotely perturbed by his pointed silence, ‘despite all the hype that surrounds her, there’s not a single thing that could be described as deep about her articles; it’s not as if this Amelia ever digs up the dirt on all these celebrities she interviews—there’s nothing that can’t be picked up in the rags…’

Vaughan suppressed a tired smile, and this time it was easier to hold back. She simply didn’t get it. If Katy couldn’t read between the lines that Amelia Jacobs so skilfully crafted, then it wasn’t up to him to point it out.

Amelia Jacobs was a master.

Or mistress.

Or whatever the politically correct term was these days.

Amelia Jacobs had, in the few months she’d been writing for the paper, developed something of a cult following—a group of loyal readers who read her articles with their tongues placed firmly in cheek, perhaps sharing a wry smile with a fellow devotee as they glimpsed over the top of their newspaper in some café or airport lounge.

Amelia Jacobs, in Vaughan’s not so humble opinion, had her finger on the pulse, but wasn’t afraid to remove it when needed, to stray from the usual run-of-the-mill questions and delve a little deeper, to somehow get her subjects to finally confirm or deny the rumours that plagued them. Her interviews were a strange mix of cynicism and compassion.

‘Why does she want to interview me?’ Vaughan asked again, then corrected himself. Every journalist this side of the equator seemed to want a piece of him, but the fact he had neither dreadlocks nor body piercings, actually managed to eat and keep down three meals a day, and didn’t have a father who’d abused him, didn’t put Vaughan in the usual category of Amelia Jacobs’s subjects. ‘Or rather, why do you think I’d want to be interviewed by her?’

‘Because you are always in the news for all the wrong reasons,’ Katy responded in a matter-of-fact voice. ‘There was that supermodel, the actress…’

‘Definitely no bishop, though,’ Vaughan clipped back, but even his dry humour didn’t allow him to dodge the uncomfortable issue.

Uncomfortable because suddenly discussing his sex life with Katy seemed like a very bad idea indeed.

‘That was all over ages ago,’ he said finally, staring coolly back as Katy rearranged her crossed legs, smiling sweetly over at him as he protested his rather recent innocence.

‘I know,’ Katy soothed. ‘But you know what the press can be like once they’ve got the bit between their teeth. And you don’t need me to tell you that you haven’t exactly been the blue-eyed boy…’

‘I don’t,’ Vaughan said, with a slightly warning edge to his voice.

Katy cleared her throat again. ‘It was agreed at the last directors’ meeting that if the opportunity came then you should show the media that there’s a softer side to you.’

‘But there isn’t.’ Vaughan shrugged. ‘What you see is what you get.’

‘I don’t agree.’ Dropping her voice, she stared back at him, flicking her hair away from her pretty face with her left hand, and Vaughan felt his heart plummet—the absence of her engagement ring was vividly noticeable for the very first time. ‘Look how nice you were to me when I broke up with Andy.’

‘I didn’t realise you had.’ Vaughan gave a very on-off smile, watching in slightly bored horror as she smiled over at him, from under her lashes now. He felt a subtle shift in the room that most men would miss—but Vaughan read women as easily as a recipe book, and while he’d been away Katy had clearly lined up all her ingredients and was right now stirring the pot and about to offer him a taste!

‘We broke up a couple of weeks ago. It hurt a lot at the time, but I guess I’m starting to move on.’ Boldly she held his gaze. ‘Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight, Vaughan? I’m sure cooking is the last thing you want to do now, and you must have had your fill of restaurants.’

‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Vaughan deflected her offer easily, quite sure he wasn’t hungry—on either count! ‘I just want to go to bed.’

God, she was bold. A tiny smile twitched on well-made-up lips at the mere mention of the word, and she was still holding his gaze. Vaughan knew exactly what was on the menu—knew that if he took her up on the offer they wouldn’t be starting at the entrée, instead they’d be bypassing the main course and moving directly to dessert!

Watching her face drop as he firmly shook his head and picked up his pen, Vaughan consoled himself that he was doing her a favour really—if he slept with her he’d end up firing her!

‘Send Miss Jacobs in as soon as she arrives—and,’ he added firmly, ‘once she gets here you might as well go home.’

‘I don’t mind waiting,’ Katy persisted, but Vaughan was insistent.

‘Go home, Katy.’ He didn’t soften his rejection with a smile, didn’t even look up from his work. Mixed messages were clearly not what were needed here. ‘I’ll catch up with you in Melbourne next week.’





CHAPTER ONE





SEND.

Amelia’s finger hovered over the computer key, then pulled back.

She made a quick dash into the bathroom, and inhaled the delicious scent of bergamot mixing perfectly with frankincense and just an undertone of lavender. Her Friday afternoon routine was written in stone:



Read her article as objectively as possible.



Clean the flat while all the time reciting paragraphs of article out loud, adding mental commas and meaningful exclamation marks.



Head into the high street while still mulling over article.

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