Charles was not very good with women. That is, he was good at getting women, but not very good at keeping them happy. His first wife, Georgina, had been dissatisfied even before Alex had come to work at the agency as a PA. He hadn’t meant to make Georgina want a divorce, but Alex had been such fun in those days, before they married, before the twins.
He knew Alex was annoyed with him or at least impatient with him and had been for a few weeks now. There had been numerous new business meetings and urgent conferences recently, so he had not been able to take her out for a quiet dinner for some time. He felt he needed to keep her sweet; after all, she ran the house beautifully and always looked wonderful. He could do without any ructions.
He had noticed the sale catalogue when he grabbed a coffee first thing this morning before driving to the station to catch the early train to London. Alex was always trying to find stuff for the house at auctions. It kept her happy. Perhaps he should suggest she got herself something at this country house sale. No, better idea, perhaps he should get something for her himself. Little surprise. That would do the trick. Perk her up a bit. Keep her sweet.
He put Nancy, his faithful PA, onto doing some online research about the auction as soon as he got into the office. Bloody useful the internet. That and a good PA usually solved most problems. Nancy always looked the part in her pencil skirts and tightly belted shirts, but more importantly she was bright and efficient.
She came in with more coffee. “I’ve sent you the link to the auction house Charles. So do you want to take a look now?”
They scrolled through the entries together. Charles always valued a second opinion, particularly where presents for Alex were concerned. Plus Nancy smelt great, leaning over his shoulder.
“Mmm, Arpege is it?”
“No, Chanel No 5. Concentrate, Charles.”
He hovered over the ceramics, then found the art section. “Okay. What about a painting? Alex’s always saying she wants a few more.” He pointed to a formal still life of a glass bowl of fruit and blowsy flowers. “This one’s alright isn’t it?”
Nancy sighed. “It’s ok I suppose, a bit stuffy though. I think this one is much more interesting, if a little depressing.” She indicated a dark portrait of a lean man.
“Stefan. You’re right. I like the look of that. Not sure it’s quite Alex’s idea of art though. Still, could be worth a punt. Find out more about the artist, will you. Don’t want to go throwing money away.”
As Nancy disappeared to do more research before the first meeting of the day, Charles continued gazing at the computer screen. This painting spoke to him. It wasn’t Alex’s style, that he was sure of, but he was drawn to it himself. He had never heard of the artist, but the guide price suggested that it was someone of note. Maybe he’d forget about buying Alex a painting. Perhaps a weekend away would do the trick. Could be a darn sight cheaper too.
However he could not completely dismiss the idea of bidding for the portrait. He decided he would wait for further information from Nancy, then consider leaving a bid with the auction house. He would have preferred to have seen the picture in situ, not just on screen, but with a packed schedule of meetings lined up for the day there didn’t seem to be a chance. Plus he was having lunch with David Harper today at the House and there was no way he wanted to cancel that. David was a member of the All Party Retail Group as well as deputy leader, so he was an important contact for the agency’s biggest clients. Charles also wanted to get close to David and the opportunity to gain the party’s election campaign. They stood a good chance as David was an ex-media man and understood just what a good advertising agency could contribute in terms of strategy and ideas.
to be continued April 21