The car drew to a halt in the hotel car park, and Diana remembered to wait for the chauffeur to open her door and offer his hand in assistance. She took Danny’s arm and the butterflies of tension rose up again as he squeezed her elbow against his body.
“Are you okay?” he whispered.
“I’m fine,” she replied “but why are you whispering?”
“Preparation, I’m supposed to be losing my voice, remember.”
“God, yes! I’m really not very good at lying though.”
“Leave it to me. I get paid for this kind of silliness. Just play along with it and don’t argue – please?”
Diana nodded compliantly. “I promise. This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done since my friend Helen and I sneaked into an X-rated film when we were only fourteen.”
Danny raised his eyebrows in alarm and squeezed her arm again.
“Girl, you need some excitement in your life. I could well be just the man to provide it!”
His entourage were waiting in the entrance hall, nervously checking wrist watches, and muttering at Debbie for having returned to the hotel without Danny. Mike rushed forward as Danny strolled slowly through the doors with Diana on his arm.
“Where the hell have you been Danny? The auction starts in an hour and we have a lot of briefing to go through.”
Danny shook his head and croaked, “Can’t do it mate, the voice is almost gone. I must have picked up a virus or something from one of those women who kept draping themselves all over me last night. Luckily for me, Diana is a nurse and she has some medication in her room that’ll keep me on my feet tonight, but my throat is totally shot.”
Mike looked at Diana suspiciously. “Is that true or is this another of Danny’s scams?”
Diana took a deep breath and put on her best dealing–with-a-stroppy–person voice.
“Mr Vincent has probably picked up some kind of viral infection, his glands are swollen, and his throat looks very sore. I have a local anaesthetic spray that will take some of the pain away, and some analgesia that will lower his temperature, but I really don’t think he should be straining his voice at all for at least twenty-four hours.”
Just to add a little authenticity to the lie, she put the back of her hand to Danny’s neck as if to indicate his swollen glands. He did his best to look pathetic, but Diana didn’t think it was convincing at all.
Debbie definitely looked sceptical. “You never said you were a nurse.” she said accusingly.
“You never asked me, dear.” Diana replied sweetly. “I spend some of my time fundraising for the hospice, but I’m a qualified nurse, and I do clinic sessions at the hospice and local health centres as well as supporting our patients and their families. If you want Mr Vincent to attend the dinner this evening, I really do need to sort out some medication for him.”
She took Danny’s arm and led him towards the stairs, then turned to the lift realising that stairs might not be the best idea for a man in his allegedly weakened condition. The all-round mirrors and security camera in the lift had a temporary restraining effect on Danny’s behaviour, but once they were safely in her room, he laughed uproariously and fell back on her bed. She stood in front of him, hands on her hips and brought forth her stern voice again.
“Mr Vincent! Your throat is in a delicate state, and you should not be abusing it in this way!”
He sat up and grinned.
“Did you and Helen manage to get into the X-rated film?”
“Nurse Davenport, come and feel my pulse. I may be about to have a seizure.”
“I doubt it! You fraud!” Diana sat beside him on the bed. “I could get suspended for lying about this. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you at all.”
“I don’t know about that. Sitting next to you on this bed is making me feel very hot and bothered.”
Diana got to her feet swiftly and moved to one of the armchairs. Danny started laughing again, began to cough, and almost choked. She wasn’t sure if this was another of his stunts, but brought him a glass of water from the bathroom anyway. He took it gratefully, and his laughter and coughing subsided. Diana sat back down in the armchair and studied him from a distance.
“What? You’re perfectly safe,” he said. “I promised I’d behave like a gentleman – at least with you anyway.”
“Mm. I ought to give you some pills to take back with you otherwise they won’t believe your story.”
“Have you really got medication with you?” Danny looked quite amazed.
“I never travel without a basic first aid kit, and that includes throat spray and painkillers.”
“Do I have to go? I’d much rather stay here and have you mop my fevered brow. I don’t suppose you brought a nurse’s uniform with you? Ah – I think maybe I just pushed my luck a bit too far with that one, didn’t I?”
She really wasn’t sure what to make of him, and busied herself with rummaging in her bag for the medicine instead. Danny got up from the bed and crouched down beside her.
“I’m sorry Diana, I’ve been playing the bad boy for far too long. Lisa used to have a civilising effect on me, but two years is a long time to be running amok with only Mike and the rest of the team trying to manage me.”
He hung his head in shame and she wanted so much to reach out to him again.
“Have I scared you off?” he asked.
She took a deep breath and leaning forward, pressed her lips against his forehead. He was very still, obviously perplexed by her actions.
“This is how we take the temperature of babies and toddlers who don’t like thermometers,” she said. “Your temperature is completely normal, so if you’re feeling hot and bothered, it has nothing to do with a viral infection, I’m afraid.”
Danny stood up and held out his hand; she took it, and kept hold as he pulled her upright. They stared at each other for a moment; two rivals sizing each other up. In the end, she broke eye contact first and putting her hands on his shoulders, kissed him very gently on the cheek. His arms closed around her as he returned the kiss. Oh, but it felt wonderful to be held by him, to feel those light kisses on her neck, her ears and then, at last on her lips. Diana found herself being kissed like no man had ever kissed her before. Who was she kidding! There had only ever been one man, and whilst John had once possessed a couple of positive qualities, the ability to kiss had never been one of them.
She was beginning to feel faint, and had to break away, burying her face in his shoulder as she fought for breath. He stroked her hair and held her for a moment, then sat her down in the armchair, crouching down in front of her as before. He took both her hands in his and squeezed them.
“It would be so easy for us to make love right now, wouldn’t it?”
She nodded, her stomach flipping at the very thought.
“But if we did, we’d be in a rush, because the mob upstairs are waiting for me – for us. I have this feeling Diana, that it’s been a long time since anyone made you feel wonderful, and that is what I would love to do – if you’ll allow me? Not now, maybe later tonight if that’s what you want, it’s up to you to set the pace here. I want to make love to you, and unless I’m very much mistaken – you want me too. Am I right?”
Diana, still dumbstruck, nodded assent again.
“Give me the painkillers please, and I’ll go back and get changed for dinner. You get yourself ready too, and I’ll send someone to fetch you in about three-quarters of an hour. Just to prepare you, Mike, his assistant Mark, and I are in the penthouse suite. I have the big bedroom. Debbie has been sulking because although she’s got a room to herself, it’s on one of the lower floors. We didn’t think it would be appropriate for her to share the suite with us blokes, especially at night. There, now you know all the important things!”
Danny stood up, planting a kiss on top of Diana’s head. She looked up and smiled in response, wishing that he didn’t have to go, wishing that he’d kiss her again. He did, pulling her into his arms and kissing her in a way that left her in no doubt of his attraction to her. His hands slid inside her jacket, around her waist, and then lower, pressing his body against the thin cotton of her dress, and making it very obvious just how much he wanted her. “I’m definitely going now, or I may never leave,” he groaned. “I’ll see you in three quarters of an hour. Please?”