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Authors: Vanessa Fox

True Colours

BOOK: True Colours
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TRUE COLOURS

by Vanessa Fox

Second Kindle Edition

Copyright © 2012 Vanessa Fox

The right of Vanessa Fox to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be reproduced, re-sold or given away in any form, or by any means except in accordance with the terms of licenses issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. This book is available to Amazon Prime members from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. All characters and events featured in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are entirely fictitious and any resemblance to any person living or dead, organisation or event, is purely coincidental. Any mistakes are the author’s own.

Cover Copyright © Andrew Brown at
Design For Writers

 

For Shane, my hero;

and Sophie and Sam,

my shining stars.

 

 

ONE

Alexandra Ryan rested her head on the steering wheel of her silver VW Golf, drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. The rich aroma of coffee from the takeaway cup slotted into the dash was still strong, making her stomach cry out for more. Alex knew she should have had breakfast, but spending every evening at the hospital, the only time in the day to catch up on her emails was early in the morning, before the first of her appointments And this morning she’d had so much to get through she hadn’t noticed the time, had looked up with a gasp to see the hands on the kitchen clock clicking around to eight before she’d even put the kettle on, never mind put the bread in the toaster. Her stomach growled again – she knew the hours were taking their toll, but how else was she supposed to fit everything in?

Alex looked up as the sea mist spreading from the river Liffey swirled eerily in the white glow cast by the car park security lighting and tried to get her mind in gear. It felt more like midnight on the moon than a Thursday morning in Dublin’s Business District. The sleek concrete and glass, designer planting and abstract sculpture did nothing to improve Alex’s sense of dislocation, the feeling that she had landed on another planet; neither did the mass of dark-suited businessmen and women who streamed around her, laptop bags swinging from their shoulders, coffee cups grasped like life preservers, disappearing into the mist like a drove of zombies. It was a million miles from the ancient County Kildare cottage where she had spent her teenage years, a million miles from her beloved apartment overlooking the elegant Romanesque main square in Tarragona, just south of Barcelona. Alex shivered. She could feel her fingers swelling with the damp even inside the car; her toes beginning to ache through the leather soles of her black high heels. In the sixteen years she had been living in Spain the one thing she had never missed about home was the weather – and this was supposed to be spring!


But such a great opportunity, Alex. And the Spanish Cultural Institute! It will show the rest of Europe what we can do – Dublin will not know what has hit it when we finish decorating this beautiful building…’ Alex’s best friend and business partner Marina Delgado had rolled her eyes theatrically, ‘they will all want us when we do this one. Everyone!’

Back then Alex had laughed; she was quite sure Impromptu Design would be well received in her native Ireland, had started setting up appointments as soon as Senor Marquez, the Spanish Ambassador to Ireland had called personally to award them the contract. But it still didn’t help the nervous wobble in her stomach whenever she thought of going home for more than a holiday.

This time she wouldn’t just be flying in for the weekend to see her dad, Tom Ryan, spending the entire seventy-two hours closeted in his tiny estate cottage curled up in front of a crackling fire. This time she’d be home for three months. Three whole months. She would be out and about in the city, trying to win business for the company in boardrooms where she could run into…her stomach gave another lurch, but it wasn’t hunger this time.

Alex knew she had to get a grip, had to focus, no matter how tired she was. She’d worked hard to build the company with Marina, turning their lecture hall dreams into something tangible. After all the hard slog, the company was more successful than even they could have hoped for, and there was no way she could let herself or Marina down now. Sitting up, massaging her face with her hands, Alex glanced in the rear-view mirror checking that her makeup was intact, her bubbly blonde curls still tamed into the sleek ponytail that nestled in the nape of her neck, just waiting for the first opportunity to escape and bounce playfully around her face. Think positive. She needed to think positive. Europe was in the middle of a recession and they had more work than they could cope with. Wasn’t that a good thing?

Alex took another look in the mirror. At least today she’d remembered both her earrings. That was a definite plus. It had been four o’clock yesterday when she’d finally got to a mirror and discovered that she was only wearing one of the beaten silver studs her father had given her for her twenty-first birthday. Thankfully, she’d been at the wholesalers looking at fabric samples, not meeting a client, so it hadn’t been a total disaster, but she’d been overwhelmed with a dreadful sinking feeling that she had messed up on something so simple. There was no room to mess up today. Today, she had an exploratory meeting with a new client. A potentially huge new client.

Alex pulled her briefcase containing her laptop off the passenger seat and rooted in the front pocket for her lipstick. A birthday gift from Marina, the briefcase travelled with her everywhere, the crocodile patent leather just to die for, the brilliant red of a matador’s cape, so fabulous, in fact, that she’d hardly dared take it out of her apartment to begin with, had instead snuggled it between the cushions of the sofa, stroking it like a spoilt pet whenever she left for a meeting. Now it had come to feel like an old friend, giving her strength and confidence when she needed it most.

Like now.

Alex knew she was getting perilously close to the edge – if she didn’t get an early night soon, she’d be a total wreck. Emotionally and physically.

Deep down she knew it wasn’t her workload that was the problem – it was coming home to Ireland that was keeping her awake at night. Ireland held too many memories, memories that made her jumpy whenever she walked through Dublin’s cosmopolitan pedestrianised shopping area, Grafton Street. Memories that she wasn’t ready to deal with.

But she was doing the right thing. If she said it to herself often enough, it had to be true. And her father looked so pleased to see her when she arrived each evening at St Vincent’s hospital with his newspaper and humbugs (‘anything to take away the taste of the damned food!’) that she knew she was doing the right thing. After the accident he needed her nearby, and the business needed her here big time, so whatever her personal misgivings, she just needed to get on with it. Coming home was right. She was doing the right thing.

Taking a deep breath Alex focused on applying her lipstick. She needed to clear her mind, to get back to being the confident, relaxed owner of an international design partnership, needed to send out all the right messages to what could be a very lucrative new client. Jocelyn Blake was PA to the managing director of one of Ireland’s most successful venture capital companies, a business that had, despite the recession, just moved into an extensive new office complex and wanted to make its mark , ‘decoratively speaking’, as Jocelyn had put it, on the building.


Decoratively speaking’ – it was more than just the interiors of the offices of Venture Capital Ireland that could do with some design advice. Alex had to smother a grin as Jocelyn Blake swept into the Reception area wearing a multi-coloured velvet tent and an imperial purple scarf that clashed violently with a pair of harlot-red suede wedges. Her hair, a melting pot of greys from silver to steel, was swept up into a tumbling knot, skewered, it seemed to Alex, by the tent poles missing from the rest of her outfit.

Alex nodded her thanks to the receptionist, and turned to greet the managing director’s PA, switching on her warm, everything-under-control smile.


Alex Ryan, Impromptu Design.’

At least as broad as she was tall, and beaming an enthusiastic welcome, Jocelyn gripped Alex’s hand as if it were a rung on a ladder she was about to fall off, the hairs on her chin bristling rather unnervingly as she spoke.


Alex Ryan, right on time. But goodness me, I was expecting a chap. Jocelyn Blake, call me Joss. Delighted to meet you, delighted. I’m so excited about getting this place together.’

Alex sensed Jocelyn run an appraising eye over her polished heels and sheer stockings, taking in her black crepe business suit and crisp pin-tucked white linen shirt. The best Barcelona had to offer, the jacket nipped neatly in to her small waist, large covered buttons giving it a distinctly European elegance, the skirt just above the knee. Alex guessed she had passed the first test as Jocelyn continued, ‘too much beige everywhere. It’s SO depressing to the spirit, and we’re a progressive company, we own all sorts of businesses – everything from hotels to games arcades – always something exciting happening here. We need exciting offices to INSPIRE the staff. And your company is exactly what we’ve been looking for. Exactly! Miro, Gaudi, Picasso. When I was chatting to Senor Marquez’s PA I knew you’d be perfect. Come through to my office, we’ve lots to talk about.’

This wasn’t the time to point out that Picasso was French. Alex smiled and followed her down a long beige corridor, stifling a gasp at the sight of Jocelyn Blake’s own office. A riot of potted plants and massive abstract canvases, the view of the river Liffey was almost obscured by heavy claret and gold brocade drapes. It looked more like a boudoir than an office, and not a very high-class one at that. This job could turn out to be more of a challenge than she had anticipated!


Sit down, sit down. I’ve ordered some real coffee. Can’t stand instant, has to be the real thing or nothing at all. But you’d know all about good coffee, coming from Spain. How are you finding the weather here?’


It’s a bit damper than Barcelona, but I grew up here, so I know what to expect. Dublin has changed a lot though…’


That’s for sure, sooo much building!’ Jocelyn rolled her eyes. ‘But I’m sure you know all about the boom and bust. Thankfully, we’re an international company with interests all over the world, and China’s doing very well at the moment.’

Alex nodded. ‘That’s good to hear. How can Impromptu help? I’m not sure how much Senor Marquez’s PA told you, but we offer a wide range of services to bring a cohesive look to every area of a company.’ The pitch line rolled off her tongue seamlessly. If Jocelyn realised Alex had said it several hundred times, she didn’t show any sign; instead she beamed at Alex across the desk.


She told me you were wonderful, that’s all I needed to know. And we need a complete makeover. This building is our new corporate headquarters, and just look at it! I think we really need to have a look at how colour influences mood. Don’t want any yellow here – do you know they recommend you don’t put yellow in a baby’s room? It makes them restless. And no red; too likely to cause an argument. Except in here of course!’ Jocelyn paused to laugh at herself, as Alex stifled a grin, ‘but no one argues with me!’

Right on cue a buzzer sounded from somewhere under the mass of trailing fronds on her desk, followed by a distant, disembodied voice.


Joss, where are you? What have I got at ten?’ Deep, masculine, and distinctly tetchy, the perfect vowels unmistakably the product of a private education, Alex assumed that this was Jocelyn’s boss and was surprised at the brusqueness of the tone. He might be having a bad day, but he obviously had an original take on good manners. Alex’s private thoughts, masked by a polite smile, were reinforced as the voice continued, ‘What have you done with my diary? I thought I was seeing Jackson about the New York deal but he’s on the golf course, he just phoned.’

Reaching under a fern, Jocelyn depressed a button on what must have been a speakerphone, her face screwed up in irritation. To Alex’s complete amazement she replied as if she was speaking to a rather dim child.


No, Jackson’s tomorrow. Your diary is on your desk. Right in the middle, red leather, gold edges, open at today’s date. You’re here all morning. The Minister’s coming in at ten to persuade you to invest in that shopping centre scheme.’

BOOK: True Colours
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