‘You’re getting a bargain!’
Jacinta’s smile was tight as Felicia wrapped the coveted dress for Cindy. More than anything Jacinta loathed the Boxing Day sales.
‘I can’t believe my luck,’ Cindy agreed. ‘And to think, I nearly paid full price.’
As Jacinta waltzed over to the menswear the two women shared a smile.
‘You’re going to knock your husband out in this,’ Felicia said.
‘I hope not,’ Cindy smiled. ‘I need him too much.’
‘He sounds wonderful.’
‘Oh, he is,’ Cindy agreed. ‘I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually grateful for what we’ve been through. We’re closer for it.’
Cindy nodded. ‘The hardest part of this was letting him take care of me.’
‘I’m sure he wanted to.’
‘Oh, he did,’ Cindy agreed. ‘But I had to come to trust that he wanted to take care of me.’
Felicia was pondering what Cindy had said as she cut a length of ribbon.
‘I don’t need a bow,’ Cindy said.
‘Maybe not,’ Felicia smiled. ‘But you deserve it, so you’re getting one.’
She was just tying the bow around the handles of the bag when she glanced up and saw him.
Oh, for a second she was sure that she must be seeing things.
Felicia wanted to use the desk as a tornado shelter and crouch under it until the threat had passed, but she couldn’t do that and keep her job, and so Cindy got a rather shaky bow!
‘Enjoy,’ Felicia said as she handed her purchase.
‘Oh, I intend to,’ Cindy agreed. ‘I’m not wasting a minute of my second chance.’
Felicia knew that yesterday she had wasted hers.
She watched as Jacinta caught the scent of money and made her way over to Leander wearing her saccharine smile. ‘Can I help you?’ she asked.
‘I hope so,’ Leander said. ‘My usual tailor is off over the holiday season and I’m looking to have a suit made.’
He didn’t look over and certainly he didn’t acknowledge Felicia.
Yet she knew it was no accident that he was here.
Leander Carmichael had no need to brave the Boxing Day sales, and anyway, he was supposed to be headed back to the Middle East.
Felicia carried on with her work as Barnaby, the tailor, took Leander off to be measured, and still he didn’t so much as look her way.
And later—a good hour later—when he came out from the male fitting room and passed her, he said nothing.
Not a single word.
But, despite feeling flustered and more than a little confused, there was also a whisper of relief that swept through Felicia.
He knew where she worked now.
It didn’t seem to matter that he knew, though.
For eight full days, Felicia lived on her nerves and tried to fathom what his presence in the boutique could possibly have been about. Was it Leander’s way of showing her he knew what a fake she was? His way of letting her know that he was aware she didn’t spend her days shoulder to shoulder with designers and supermodels, as she assumed you did if you worked in a fashion house?
And what did it matter, she told herself.
He was surely back in Al-Zahan by now.
Yes, for eight days Felicia pondered the mistakes of the past, but for eight nights she sat with her brand-new journal and made future plans.
No, she would not be taking up jogging.
Nor would she be again attempting to cut carbs.
Instead, she was giving her life a makeover.
It was time for change.
It was time to run to her future instead of from the past. In fact, she had scored an interview for a very plum job at one of Jacinta’s main rivals.
And Jacinta must not find out!
Jacinta’s less-than-dulcet tones, combined with his name, made Felicia jump.
‘I do hope you’re not looking for Barnaby,’ Jacinta twittered on. ‘He isn’t in on Fridays…’
That was the very reason Felicia had almost relaxed. Since Leander had first been into the boutique, more than a week ago, she had been on high alert, but today was the one day she had been sure their paths wouldn’t cross.
But here Leander was, in black jeans, and beneath the coat that he handed to the greeter he wore a gray jumper that showed off his toned arms and flat abs.
And he wore it deliberately, Felicia was sure.
‘I’m not here to see Barnaby,’ Leander said in his gorgeous snobby voice. ‘ I was hoping to buy a gift for a…’ He hesitated. ‘Well, I don’t really know how best to describe her, she’s a bit of a mystery, really.’
‘A mystery?’ Jacinta smiled.
‘More like a pumpkin with a delayed timer,’ Leander said.
‘I’m not with you.’
‘It was well after midnight when she disappeared.’
Felicia’s cheeks were on fire, and more so when Jacinta called her over and informed Leander that she had just been about to head off, but would leave him in Felicia’s more-than-capable hands.
His lips twitched at that, although only a touch.
‘How can I help?’ she asked.
‘As I was saying…’
‘I heard,’ Felicia said, and decided to just get it over with. ‘I’m assuming, for your mystery woman, that you’ll be looking at lingerie.’
‘Incorrect,’ Leander responded swiftly. ‘Because that would be crass. You see, I don’t really know her at all.’
He looked at dresses and at the jackets and coats… ‘I really don’t know,’ he admitted. ‘What do you suggest?’
Felicia flailed helplessly for a moment. He was being supremely polite and, apart from the pumpkin reference to Jacinta, he was avoiding mentioning what had taken place between them.
Yet, he was here.
Somehow, Felicia knew, he was giving them a chance.
She didn’t even know how to begin to tell him about her painful past; she just didn’t know where to start…
Or maybe she did. ‘A scarf,’ Felicia croaked, and watched as he frowned at her suggestion.
‘That seems rather boring.’
‘No.’ She shook her head. ‘It’s really not. I got a silk scarf when I was thirteen. It came in a care package.’
‘A care package?’
‘From my caseworker,’ Felicia said. ‘My mom wasn’t doing so well.’ She didn’t dare look to see his reaction and, instead, moved swiftly on. ‘Now, the woman who gifted it knew nothing about me, but I guess she’d figured that you can’t really go wrong with a scarf.’
‘What color was it,’ he said, looking at the string of scarves.
‘Red,’ Felicia said, and watched as he ran his hands along a length of cashmere. He really had beautiful hands. Long fingered and with slim wrists, and Felicia had to stop looking at them just to concentrate on what was being said.
‘Do you think I should get her a red one?’ he asked.
Felicia was about to nod, to agree, but hadn’t she sworn it was time to change?
‘I’m sure she’d be delighted with whatever you choose, although I personally like the lavender one.’
Surprise, surprise—he chose the lavender one and asked to have it wrapped but declined their delivery service.
‘I have no idea where she lives,’ Leander pointed out. ‘I’m hoping to see her at lunch.’
She looked up from the bow she was tying and saw the invitation in his navy eyes.
‘What if she’s not ready?’
‘Then that would be a great pity, as I’m heading back to the Middle East later this afternoon. I guess I might just have to accept that she wants to remain a mystery.’ He picked up the bag from the counter. ‘It’s up to you.’
Log in or create an account to read the next chapter of "His Manhattan Midnight Cinderella"
Every month we select a new title from one of our authors so that you can discover new stories, locations and genres for free.