I am an urchin, standing in the cold, elbowed aside by the glossy rich visitors in their fur coats and ostentatious jewellery, being fussed into the hotel by pompous-looking doormen. 'No problem. I'd better get home, actually Mr - Gustav. A drink is very tempting, but maybe not such a good idea after all.' I pat my pockets. 'And I'm skint.' 'Pavements not paved with gold yet, eh?' He moves on along the facade of the grand hotel to the corner, and waits. He's staring not back at me but down St James Street. I wage a little war with myself. He's a stranger, remember. The newspaper headlines, exaggerated by the time they reach the office of Jake's local rag: Country girl from the sticks raped and murdered in London by suave conman. Even Poppy would be wagging her metaphorical finger at me by now. Blaming herself for not being there, looking out for me. But we're out in public here. Lots of people around us. He's charming. He's incredibly attractive. He's got a lovely deep, well spoken voice. And he's an entrepreneur who must be bloody rich if he owns more than one house. What the hell else am I going to do with myself when everyone else is out having fun? One thing I won't tell him is that my pockets might be empty, but my bank account is full. 'One drink. Then I must get back.' He doesn't answer or protest, but with a courtly bow he crooks his elbow and escorts me down St James. We turn right and into the far more subtle splendour of Dukes Hotel. 'Dress code?' I ask nervously, wiping my feet obediently on the huge but welcoming doormat and drifting ahead of him into the smart interior where domed and glassed corridors lead here and there. The foyer smells of mulled wine and candles and entices you to succumb to its perfumed embrace.
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