She’s everyone’s friend. He’s her only enemy.
Working holidaymaker, Charmaine Donnet, is happy in Edinburgh. She’s got great friends, even the one dealing with depression and inertia. She’s landed a great job at PFI and her workmates are the supportive, fun types. The only thorn in her side is Robert Hart. He’s stolen the better entry position from her, and is working on stealing every feminine heart on the second floor. But Rob could be stealing more than a few steps on the ladder and affections. Only a money laundering case will reveal the true Robert Hart and Charmaine’s real feelings for him.
(a prequel novella to Settle Down Now)
- Chapter One
- Edinburgh, Scotland. Sometime in 2000.
I flashed my newly-minted pass at the security guard and stepped into the great hive that was the processing centre of The Prestigious Financial Institution—or The Institution as referred to by the natives of Edinburgh. Margaret Holmes, a motherly reassuring soul, was the team-leader of the little department to which I had been assigned. She was waiting for me, with a broad smile, by the big metal and glass stairwell.
“Ah, there you are Charmaine. I thought I’d meet you here again. So many new people get lost for the first few days, so I like to make sure you know your way up to your desk.”
“Morning, Margaret. It is all quite intimidating. Thank you!”
“Ach, it’s no bother. But we’ll just give the new lad a chance to meet us, too. He’s a wee bit late. He was supposed to be here half-an-hour ago.” She looked with worry at her watch. “Did you take the bus, dear? Is there a problem with the traffic?”
“No. I walked, and I haven’t been here long enough to be a good judge of the traffic patterns,” I half apologised.
“Ach, it will be okay, I’m sure…Oh! That might be him. Robert! Robert Hart!” She bobbed up and down like a large robin, with one half-extended arm to wave him over.
I turned around. A startling apparition approached: too tall and too gaunt; handsome features set grimly. He moved swiftly with confidence towards us trailing a little stream of water like some displaced kelpie, despite his expensive Londoner trench-coat.
“You must be Margaret Holmes,” he stated as he reached us.
His voice was deeper than I’d expected. Margaret took his proffered hand and seem to light up at his charming smile.
“Oh, yes. That’s me. And this is…Oh, I’ve almost forgotten. Silly me! This is Charmaine Donnet. She’s new, too. I’m sure you’ll be friends.”
His glance at me was brief, unfriendly, dismissive, as he took Margaret’s arm and all her attention, leaving my hello strangled on partly opened lips.
“I’m really looking forward to working with you in New Business Bonds, Margaret,” he began, brushing past me to lead a bemused Margaret up the stairs.
I followed like some newly bought slave, gratified to hear Margaret contradict him with a, “Oh, but you’re to be in Unit Trusts. Charmaine started in New Business yesterday.”
“But, I specifically asked to be in New Business,” insisted Mr Kelpie Hart.
Too bad, I got here first. I trusted Margaret to resist his strange charm and to act with fairness.
Although Margaret proved to be strong and true, her superior did not. I was transferred not two hours later to the nomadic Unit Trusts, recently returned from the basement. Despite my initial disappointment of losing what appeared to be a much coveted position, Unit Trusts proved to be a wonderful training ground.
Thus began my love affair with the curiously fickle financial world, and my despising of all things Robert Hart. I could have told you even then that the financial world would show me more respect, and treat me better than the likes of Mr Hart ever could.
- “So how did your day go?” Angela asked, spreading what looked and smelt like freshly melted tar on her salty-crax. She bit into the cracker.
“Good!” I answered triumphantly, throwing a box of Magnum Choc-Mint gently on the kitchen counter. “Except for this one guy who stole my position! I’ve been moved to Unit Trusts.”
“Intrigue at The Prestigious Financial Institution?” she intoned dramatically.
“Ja, but otherwise quite a good day.” I smiled through my frown. “They took one look at my data capture rate and started treating me like one of the team. Just like that.” I tried clicking my fingers a couple of times and failed. I giggled. “Go onto some real work this afternoon. They have some tremendous backlog or something. And they all seem like nice people.”
“Lucky devil, Charmaine! And they pay quite well, too! Even holidays and overtime.”
“Ja,” I sighed with happiness.
Having been in the city for just over two weeks, I had begun worrying about my steadily depleting Travellers Cheques and the increasingly unfavourable exchange rate. I opened one of the ice-creams and handed it to her. “Cheers!”
Angela gave a black-stained grin and grabbed the offered ice-cream, crackers and Vegemite forgotten. “Too right!”
“So how was your day? Anything of interest in house-keeping today?”
Angela had the dubious honour of working in an equally prestigious and significantly more historic hotel in our temporarily adopted city.
“You would not believe who is staying on my floor!”
“Who? Barney The Purple Dinosaur?”
She threw a stained tea-towel at me. “No! Mr Spooky-Files himself. Wolf Muldoon!”
“You mean Danny Dalton?”
“Yeah.” A smug look spread across her face.
“And did you see him? Did you talk to him?” He was my favourite TV actor and she knew it.
“Smiled at him as he went to the elevator. He smiled back.”
“No! You lie!”
“Do not! Didn’t get to clean his room though. Mariette beat me to it.”
There was a moment of silence as we both thought of Mr Spooky-Files and the fact that Mariette always managed to clean all the interesting rooms.
“I swear that woman has some kind of radar or spy-system,” said Angela eventually.
“Or a friend at the front desk.”
“Too true. Now I’m all depressed. Got any more of that Magnum?”
“No. But we’re celebrating. Let’s go get some more!”
We rushed for our parkas.
“And let’s get some of that awful chocolate too!” insisted Angela as we bundled through the door and started up the stairs to ground-level. “It’s strangely addictive!”
I laughed, partly because I was happy, but mostly because she was right. Just then, I knew life in Edinburgh was going to be good, despite the Robert Harts. And maybe—just maybe—I’d finally meet my very own Mr Right.
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