Once their rendezvous was agreed, Alex allowed herself time to decide just how she should dress. Every occasion demanded an appropriate style. This required restrained quality, studied casualness. She settled on expensive, well cut jeans which clung to her curves, a tight white shirt and cashmere sweater, with a suede coat over her shoulders. Her expensively highlighted hair was silky and her skin glowed from her most recent treatments. She pouted at her mirror, applying moist lip gloss and admiring her line free complexion. No need for botox just yet, she congratulated herself, this girl could still turn heads with totally natural assets.
Nick was waiting in his car when she arrived at Grayswell. “Didn’t want to start without my best girl,” he grinned, offering her his arm. “Shall we?”
They walked slowly along the gravel path from the parking area, admiring the clipped parterre and emerald topiary.
“Quite impressive, don’t you think?” Nick said. “Be a crying shame if they split it all up.”
“You don’t think anyone would want to do that, do you?”
He shrugged. “Country house market isn’t that strong. Lot of developers are weighing up the possibilities. Can be quite profitable, splitting houses up into apartments and some people prefer sharing the upkeep of the grounds.”
“Are you saying you could be interested in it then?”
“Nah, not in the present climate. There’s more money in new-build in my opinion. More straightforward too. I mean this has got to be Grade 2 at least. Comes with a lot of restrictions and too much red tape for my liking.”
The entrance was a panelled hallway where a suited representative of the auction house was passing catalogues to potential bidders. “You will find more of our people dotted around inside if you want any help,” he said with his most winning smile.
They agreed on a general tour of the house first, as the lots were all in situ in the various rooms. Then, after admiring grandiose bathrooms with marble basins, the library with enormous breakfront bookcases still lined with leather tooled volumes, they returned to the drawing room, where Nick had spotted several paintings.
“There’s not much of interest here, but I want to take a closer look at that Grozny portrait.”
“I can’t say I like it,” Alex grimaced, as they stood together, looking at the dark, grim picture. “I don’t think I’d want that disapproving face peering at me in my sitting room.”
“It may not be your cup of tea my sweet, but I happen to think it’s very interesting. Very interesting indeed.”
“I’m glad to hear that you appreciate it,” said a female voice behind them.
They both turned simultaneously. A tall woman with short dark hair looked at them with an air of some authority, rather as if they had wandered into the drawing room of her own home. Alex was startled. It was the woman she had been watching the night before.
to be continued March 3