“I am going to kill you,” Ross McKinley said in a low growl, quiet enough that only Lee heard him. Picking up the short tumbler, he knocked the Scotch back in one gulp. He took a sharp breath as the heat of it caught him off guard, burning his already raw throat. If there was one thing he did enjoy about being back in Aberdeen, it was the opportunity to drink decent, authentic Scottish whiskey.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Mr McKinley.” His personal assistant didn’t look scared by his threat. She sat on her bar stool, sniggering into her drink.
“I swear to God, Lee...” he continued, turning to survey the room. He placed his elbows on the bar and leaned back. “What the hell have you got me into?”
She didn’t answer, finishing her drink instead. She didn’t need to respond. Technically it wasn’t her fault. It was Anna’s.
Ross watched as the other guests socialised, chatting amongst themselves. Waiters and waitresses dressed in black trousers and white shirts handed out hors d’oeuvres and glasses of sparkling wine with a couple of raspberries in the bottom. He grabbed one as a waiter walked past, drained the glass, leaving the fruit, and put it on the bar more forcefully than necessary. He checked his watch. Six o’clock. It was going to take much more alcohol to get him through the next six hours.
The hotel’s function room had been decorated in a vintage style, with pastel-coloured bunting and printed fabric hanging on the walls. Huge round tables had been placed around the room, draped in cream cloths, with ten places set around each one. The centrepieces were all identical – a slab of unfinished tree trunk used as a plate, with a glass jar holding a posy of pale pink roses and gypsophila, next to a small green bottle wrapped in old twine, holding a few sprigs of rosemary and flowering lavender. Candelabras hung from the high oak beams, catching the dying sun that broke through the few tall windows that dotted the stone walls. It was all very pretty, and very Anna.
His ex-wife was chatting with one of the band members, standing centre stage as always. Wearing a floor-length, emerald-green, figure-hugging dress with a neckline that skimmed her navel, and dripping in the diamonds he’d bought her over the ten years they’d been married, she looked amazing. And he hated her. He hated every fibre of her being.
“I am going to kill you,” he said again.
“It’s good publicity.”
“It’s a bad idea,” he countered.
“It’s a bit of fun and you’re raising money for a worthy cause. One you started, I should point out.” And she made her point well. The McKinley Trust was his baby, or more his ex-wife’s, but he was still on the board of the charity, for now. “It would have looked bad if you hadn’t turned up,” she continued.
He glanced at his assistant, not totally sure that he agreed with her. Lee finished her wine, and twisted on her seat. “I promise to bid on you,” she said, running her fingers through her long wavy brown hair and fiddling with the ends.
Ross shook his head, then squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. He pulled his chequebook and a pen from the inner pocket of his suit jacket and ripped out a page. He signed the bottom of it and handed it to her. “Go as high as you need to, but get me out of this.”
Lee nipped the corner of the cheque between two fingers, and smiled. “As high as I need to, huh?” She folded the cheque and put it in her black satin handbag. “Okay, boss,” she said with a wink.