What on earth was his mother doing here? Leo climbed out of the car and waited for Roxy before striding forward. Since the success of the Hardingo, his relationship with his parents had become more strained. He understood their disappointment that he hadn’t chosen the ‘Harding Way’ like his older brother and sister had, that he’d decided not to take a directorship in the family company. But he’d hoped that they would come to terms with it.
But they hadn’t. Ever since the stand-up row that had preceded Leo leaving Starkes, his parents had been distant. Leo was invited to family events, but once there his parents largely ignored him. They’d never been a demonstrative family, but there had been at least some affection, or so he’d thought. And now, although they had agreed to attend the launch dinner, it had been done grudgingly. Leo sighed, wondered if they would ever forgive him.
His mother glided towards him. ‘Good morning, Leo. Your assistant said I’d find you here. I wanted to check that you will be coming to dinner tonight.’
‘Of course.’ He’d hoped that this invitation was a prelude to some sort of reconciliation, as for the past few years his invitations had been strictly limited to Christmas and birthdays only. He gestured to Roxy. ‘Mum, this is Roxy. Roxy, this is my mum.’
Diana’s gaze alighted on Roxy and a small frown creased her eyes. ‘Pleased to meet you, Roxy.’ Though she didn’t look pleased, Leo noted; his sister, Saskia, had told him years before that despite the fact Diana Harding had never met Roxy, she didn’t approve of her. Had her heart set on her son making what she termed ‘a socially acceptable marriage’. As if on cue, Diana turned back to Leo. ‘I’ve invited Jemima Ardingly-Smythe tonight.’
Leo bit back a groan as the penny dropped. This dinner wasn’t about reconciliation, or if it was, it was on his mum’s terms. Marry a suitable woman and we’ll welcome you back to the fold. Not happening. One day he would like to settle down and have kids, but to a woman of his own choosing. And certainly not to Jemima, one of his circle of so-called friends who had vanished when he had left to branch out on his own.
‘Great,’ he said. ‘If it’s OK, I was planning on bringing a date.’ Leo had no idea where that had come from; he just knew he could not face a family dinner where Jemima was served up to him as a potentially suitable partner. Or vice versa.
Diana Harding’s ice-blue eyes narrowed. ‘I see. Of course that’s OK.’
‘Thank you. I’ll see you later.’ With his imaginary date.
Minutes later his mother departed in a squeal of tyres that screeched disapproval and Leo turned to Roxy.
‘So you’re dating?’ she said, and he could have sworn something akin to disappointment flashed across her eyes.
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