Betrayed - By Ellie Jones
Rafael shuffled in his seat, tried to keep calm, but couldn’t. The restaurant was cool and secluded. It boasted a small fountain that tinkled quietly, a few potted palms, and huge expanses of glass. Outside the weather was scorching, the sort of day to be lounging around a pool, not sitting indoors, hoping to strike a deal. He cleared his throat. “As I told you,” he said carefully. “It’s fantastic, the opportunity of a lifetime. The situation couldn’t be more perfect.”
Eduardo didn’t reply. Rafael fidgeted. He knew Eduardo didn’t trust him. When they were with other people, Rafael gave the impression Eduardo was some sort of special friend, but it really wasn’t so. He knew he’d been useful to Eduardo at times, but Eduardo never acknowledged it, and never allowed the relationship to get close. It pissed Rafael off. He pushed the plate away. The bacon-wrapped monkfish, had been delicious, the Rioja, superb. The lunchtime meal would have made any normal person amenable, so why not Eduardo?
Eduardo dabbed his lips on a napkin and sat back. “That was a good meal. Well worth coming. Thank you.”
Good Meal! It cost a fortune. Good didn’t come into it. Damn! They charged an arm and a leg to breathe air in this place. It was a good job he was chalking it up to expenses. Rafael stared with dismay as Eduardo glanced at his watch, a slim Rolex that screamed opulence. It meant he’d had enough. This wasn’t the way it was meant to go.
“Shall we get back to the office?” Eduardo pushed back his chair without waiting for an answer, tossed the napkin to the table, and stood.
Rafael followed suit.
They’d been away a couple of hours or so. They’d been to a cocktail bar, chatted with a couple of girls, visited Eduardo’s bank – a huge open affair that astonished Rafael with the seeming lack of security until he spotted armed guards in subtle places. After that they’d gone on to another cocktail bar and now this. He knew Eduardo did this on a regular basis. How the hell did he have the stamina? It made Rafael tired just thinking about it.
He followed Eduardo down the steps, out onto the street to a waiting, chauffeured car, and was driven back to the office.
They didn’t speak on the way and Rafael was anxious by the time Eduardo settled into his luxurious swivel-chair. “So are we going to join forces?” Rafael said, giving a nervous laugh. “What do you say? Shall we be partners?”
Rafael stood close to the desk, too agitated to sit, annoyed with himself for broaching the subject so soon. He should have let Eduardo take the lead.
Eduardo leaned back in the plush seat, clasped his hands behind his head, thrust both feet forward, and eyed him.
Rafael unconsciously stiffened his shoulders and picked imaginary dust from his lapels. He knew he looked smart in his lightweight grey suit. He generally looked smart, but then so he should. When your Papá heads the leading fashion house in Spain, you ought to look good. Papá had done well out of life, started from nothing, worked hard, made himself rich. Rafael considered it his job to help keep it that way, though mostly he didn’t get the chance.
“In Sicily, after the great Arab conquest of AD 827, incredible fabrics were produced in the palace workshops of Palermo. Around the year 1130, weavers, skilled in their fine art, filtered into Palermo from all over Greece and Turkey and the outlying districts, and produced elaborate silks interlaced with fine metals such as gold. The workshops of Alessanda Figario became proficient in the production of these fabrics. The court paid special tribute and gifted Figario a minor palace along the western fringes.”
Katrina carefully put down the huge, fragile volume, still open at the page. It was ancient, a tome: a digest of work from times gone.
Francine grinned. “So, it might be useful then?”
“Useful? It’s incredible! I’ve been struggling to do something like this for ages. I can’t believe they cracked it so many years ago.”
Francine settled into her chair. “If you read on, it tells you something about how they do it. It’s all technical stuff. It doesn’t mean a thing to me, but I’m sure you’ll understand it.”
“I really can’t thank you enough.” Using a tea towel, Katrina eased the cork from a bottle of Bollinger so it didn’t pop, tilted Francine’s glass, filled it with froth then filled her own.
“It’s no problem.” Francine took the glass