Under An Island Sun – Episode 22

The main characters from the story

She was quiet in the car he’d hired as they drove through the uninspiring landscape near the airport, though she cheered up when she saw the luxurious hotel room.

She didn’t even seem too horrified with the restaurant where Philippe had booked a table for her to meet the other team members for dinner.

Surprisingly, the meal had been her suggestion.

“I am curious to meet these people you have mentioned so much. After that, we shall have the holiday to ourselves.”

“Obviously this restaurant cannot compare with the one where you have meals with your colleague,” Philippe commented.

There was something inscrutable about her smile before she answered.

“You seem to be very interested in him. He is certainly distinguished, but it was not an affair.

“The meals were simply a way of nurturing a connection that could help my career.

“Sadly, his wife did not see it like that and put a stop to it.

“I don’t blame her. I would have done the same in her position.

“Rest assured, I have never been unfaithful.” She looked directly at Philippe. “Can the same be said of you?”

He put down the menu he’d been studying.

“Of course.”

She took a mirror out of her handbag and checked her reflection before putting it back, satisfied with her appearance.

“Who are Mairi and Hilary?”

“They’re colleagues.” Philippe stressed the last word. “Hilary is old enough to be my mother.”

“That isn’t always an obstacle. And Mairi?”

Something told him it would be wise to choose his words carefully so that Nicole didn’t take them the wrong way.

“She’s a friend, and she has a boyfriend on the island,” he added, as the others arrived.

Nicole’s eyes widened when she was introduced to Antonio who, as ever, was charm personified.

Her reaction to Hilary and particularly Mairi was more reserved.

“Couldn’t your friend have made more effort?” she murmured when the others were discussing what to choose from the menu.

“She’s wearing jeans and hardly any make-up.”

Mairi looked fine to Philippe, but he knew better than to say so.

“That’s how people tend to dress here. Not everyone has such high standards as you.”

Thankfully she seemed to unwind as the evening went on, even asking questions about the island, especially of Antonio, and making Philippe dare to hope that the place might begin to work its magic on her.

For all that, she ordered only a cup of espresso when everyone else opted for dessert, and raised her eyebrows as Mairi tucked into a generous helping of tiramisu.

“I need to powder my nose,” she announced as everyone was still halfway through eating. “Perhaps you could come with me, Mairi?”

Mairi looked slightly taken aback, but complied with the request.

Once they were out of earshot, Antonio gave a low whistle.

“Philippe, my friend, you have an interesting woman there.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Hilary commented.

She hadn’t spoken much during the meal, mostly listening and nodding.

“She seems very ambitious and slightly domineering, to be honest.”

Philippe put his spoon down.

“Thank you for your opinions, but I’d be grateful if you would remember that Nicole is special to me, and not be in such a rush to judge her.

“She had a difficult childhood. She’s ambitious because she never wants to go back to such hard times.”

There was an awkward silence, during which Philippe caught the other two exchange a swift glance before Hilary spoke.

“I’m sorry, Philippe. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Here they come,” Antonio said. “They’ve been gone quite a while.”

“Maybe they were chatting,” Philippe suggested. “Who knows? Someone like Mairi might even be good for Nicole.”

Hilary looked unconvinced.

To be continued…

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