Nancy’s voice box reverted back to its former non-responsive state. What was she supposed to say to this? Stupidly, she took his hand. Leon’s palm engulfed hers in a warm, bear-like clasp. His skin felt warm and dry and he did not shake. He held hers, still and firm, his eyes never leaving hers.
He released her hand in a relaxed fashion before speaking again. ‘Mr. Jonas is leaving for London tonight. As you may know, word always gets out to the big p.’
Nancy coughed once again. ‘The big p?’
‘The paparazzi. You may have noticed them waiting outside.’
Nancy’s thought processes had plummeted into a deep shaft. In the space of half a minute, she had met Mr. Jonas’ personal assistant, he had mentioned his client by name and had referred to the paparazzi, all to Nancy.
Leon had clearly detected Nancy’s inner tumult. ‘I’m sorry. I haven’t fully explained myself. What I meant was, that I would like you to accompany Mr. Jonas on his way out of the building for the shoot.’
The full implication of what he was saying came back and hit her fully in the face. ‘M…me?’
Leon chuckled, yet the twinkle in his eyes had become a steady beam. He was measuring her. ‘Who would print a picture of Mr. Jonas leaving the club alone? No. The big p will only publish if he is seen incognito with a pleasant young lady…a mysterious young lady.’
Mysterious? Pleasant? Nancy had considered herself as more prosaic, ordinary. Was this a prank? Nancy had encountered more than her share of wind-up merchants in her life. This aberration seemed to have positively interwoven itself into the gene fabric of her neighbourhood. But Leon wasn’t of the same ilk. He was courteous, well-spoken. And she had seen him speaking to Mr. Jonas only moments earlier.
‘But…’ she found herself arguing, ‘there are plenty of other girls here, much prettier, more intelligent…’
‘That is hardly for you to judge,’ Leon returned. ‘Besides, they don’t have your spirit. I noticed your table. You certainly know how to have a good time.’
Nancy felt abashed more than flattered. Her attempt at carefree laughter emerged stilted. ‘Yes…I suppose we do…’ she knit her lip. ‘Look, I’ve ordered a taxi. It’s probably waiting outside and, well…’
Leon’s eyes still possessed that steady gleam. ‘It can be taken care of…if you will permit me. Of course, you will be provided with a free ride home in a more, accommodating environment.’
Could this be really happening? Nancy tried to take caution, but a flaky side to her she never knew existed wasn’t having it. Excitement bulldozed through the barricade of her more reserved self. Blood surged to her cheeks and she felt a little giddy. ‘Wow…Well, I don’t know what to say to this. I mean, yes, yes, of course. I’d love to do the shoot.’
Leon’s half-grin burst open to expose neat, square teeth. ‘Excellent. I will show you to a private room where you may freshen yourself up, after which I will escort you to Mr. Jonas’ dressing room. Your name is…’
The foyer seemed to have tilted sideways without actually moving. She was smiling a stupid childish smile that felt too big for her face. ‘Nancy. My name is Nancy.’ She emitted a trembling gasp. ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe this is happening.’
Leon nodded soberly. ‘Believe it, Nancy. This is all happenin’. Now, if you will follow me.’
Leon led her though a frosted glass door at the back of the reception and up a carpeted stairwell. The plush red pile hugged at her stilettos. She feared the fibres would snag at her heel and send her reeling. A working class girl in a cocktail dress off the rack from Kelly’s next to the fish shop perhaps deserved to stumble. Leon would realise his mistake. He would see her fake leather handbag and plastic strappy shoes for the first time. Worse, he would see the person who wore them and call the whole thing off.
But she didn’t stumble. She followed Leon to an oak panelled door near the apex of the corridor. He opened it for her. ‘You may freshen up in here. It’s a little more private than the restrooms downstairs.’
Nancy stepped inside. She found herself in a large chintzy bathroom with marble tops and coral tiles. Rosewater scented the air. Leon was watching her with a small smile. ‘You’ll be fine, Nancy,’ he attempted to assure. ‘Get yourself fixed up and I’ll come collect you shortly.’ He then turned and closed the door behind him.