The Prentice mansion buzzed with preparations. “Are you ready?” he asked his young driver.
“Yes, sir. I’m leaving to pick up Miss Vestey as we speak.”
“Good. You do that.” Peter patted Bradley’s shoulder and walked off to take a call.
Fifteen minutes later, Victoire’s heels clicked on the marble entrance into Peter’s palatial house like heat seeking missiles poised to annex with the cerebral chief once and for all. In spite of the chilly summer night, she wore nothing under her body hugging crimson satin dress.
The most important guests were the three Electra partners and their wives fresh from Chicago plus key Bassadai executives from each division.
Social events were not Willy’s forte. He was overwhelmed by what he saw. He had heard Artemis describe Prentice’s place, but to be in it was quite another. Thanks to colleague and friend Julie’s frantic last-minute help, he turned up in a navy suit, white shirt and a clean knit tie. The new lace up shoes pinched his feet, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Willy nearly swallowed his olive when the Victoire floated onto the scene. His heart broke into a mad gallop. He had no idea how he was going to string coherent sentences with the goddess dressed to kill in such close proximity.
Victoire soaked in the lofty atmosphere and felt very much at home. She fantasized about Peter’s house and what her friends would say if it belonged to her; one-upmanship was de riguer in her snobby circles.
That evening Peter behaved unusually more attentive than ever before. He kept her near and placed his hand on her bare shoulder and arm on more than one occasion. Even his cologne smelled different, spicier, masculine.
Maybe it’s the champagne going to my head, she thought, seeking out the nearest bathroom to touch up her lipstick.
Recognizing the voice, she spun round to see if Artemis had come with Willy.
“How are you?” she asked before she air kissed his cheek. “Have you guys come together?” She looked over his head with eager eyes.
“Gee, no,” he said apologetically. “That’s the reason I was sent here.” Victoire cocked her head to the side looking confused. “Artemis went home with the flu and asked that I take his place at the last minute. He looked like hell, poor guy.”
Whatever else Willy said, Victoire didn’t hear. She bit back her frustration and tried not to throttle to nerd.
“There you are,” Peter said before putting his arm over her shoulder and steering her away. “I was beginning to wonder where you disappeared to.”
Victoire’s eyes double in size. The host’s tone sounded unmistakably possessive.
# # # #
Peter wined and dined Victoire from Chez-Panisse to Fleur de Lys during the entire run-up to CES, much to her surprise. He whisked her off for a romantic weekend in Big Sur via helicopter and played the part of lover boy turning Victoire’s plans to ensnare Artemis upside down.
“A man in his position does not romance an employee unless he has marriage on his mind, chérie,” her mother announced proudly.
Victoire smiled back coyly. He was much older and not as attractive as she wanted, but he was a very ambitious catch nonetheless.
“And you thought I had lost my edge,” she replied pointedly.
“Well, I guess the fruit does not fall far from the tree, chérie.”