The Playboy of Argentina(10)


Esme knew more than anyone that parties weren’t her thing, but this was a watershed moment. A mark of her own maturity. She had weighed it all up and traded a night or an hour with Rocco ‘Hurricane’ Hermida. She had so much more to get from life than an empty inbox and a roll in his hay.

She slipped on the Bolivian silver earrings she’d bought at a market in the Dominican Republic, grabbed her clutch. Incredible that two days earlier she’d bought these earrings, totally unaware that Rocco Hermida would hurricane his way back into her life. But there was nothing surer that in two days’ time, regardless of what happened, he would be hurricaning his way back out of it.

Just remember that, she told her wild side. Remember that and stand well back.


THE GLAMOUR OF polo had never held any attraction for Frankie. Sure, she’d learned how to dress, how to style her hair—okay, she’d learned how to plug in straighteners—and since working at Evaña Cosmetics for the past four years she’d grudgingly warmed to the wonders of make-up.

But the hats and the heels, the sponsorship deals and the general buzz about anything related to the ponies or the players she could still, if she was honest, pass on.

Tonight, though, entering the grand Molina Lario Hotel—a French-style mansion house renowned for its exclusive, excessive entertainments—she lapped up the atmosphere and soaked up the vibe. People there exuded something purposeful, joyful and wholly sensual—and it seemed to chime with the city itself. There was passion in the air and there was anticipation all around. She could smell it. She could taste it. Would it be possible, just for a night, that she could actually live it?

She skipped up the carpeted stairs. Cameras flashed ahead, but none flashed at her. She was a nobody. And that suited her perfectly. She glanced at the anything-goes glamour. This was South America meets Europe. It was relaxed, but it was sexy. It was just how she felt. And for once she felt that she’d actually nailed the look.

She wandered through to a lounge that exuded a quiet buzz. Clutches of people were laughing, sipping and looking around. Glasses of Malbec. Bottles of beer. Canapés of steak; morsels of cured meat. Waitstaff in long white aprons and fabulous smiles.

No sign of Esme, but she was in no rush. She wandered back through to the main reception area. An alluring orb of Lalique glass gifted light to the huge oak table below, heaving under the weight of champagne. Its impressive spread drew her closer. Long-stemmed flutes in columns and rows fizzed and popped with tiny clouds of bubbles—perfect. That would be her tipple of choice tonight.

Marketing screens were strategically but discreetly placed all around, and here and there the people who made headlines were positioned in poses, eyes on the cameras and smiles for the crowd. The double-H logo of Hermanos Hermida caught her eye and flipped her stomach. So she was immune to him? She was going to pass on him? Really?

Yes, really.

She wasn’t naive enough to think that when she saw him her heart wouldn’t leap and her blood wouldn’t flame. But she was smart enough to know that these were physical reactions. They would pass. And she was not going to be held in thrall by her passion for a playboy. Not with the world looking on. Not with so much to lose and so little to gain.

She sipped at her drink and rubbed at her silver ring. A roar of laughter and energy flooded the hallway. A crowd approached along the red carpet. And there he was.

Tall and dark, the flop of hair his instant brand. Blue shirt, dark trousers and a body that her fingers clawed at themselves to touch. Air and energy thrummed around him. Simmering, menacing, mesmerising. Faces turned awestruck and adoring.

Frankie turned away, clutched at the table and steadied herself.

She’d half expected that he would come for her. Chilled when he didn’t, she looked back. He and his brother were surrounded by lights, laughter, a myriad of love. He looked at her—just for a moment. Long enough to let her know that he had seen her and had dismissed her.

Was that it? Had she had her moment in the sun? Had he already moved on?

Of course.

She was ridiculous to think otherwise.

Suddenly her ‘New Frankie’ plan seemed preposterous. She put down the flute, saw the huge smudge of lip gloss on its edge and rubbed at it almost apologetically. Esme must be here somewhere. She would find her and camp out with the Palm Beach crew. That had been her plan all along, and she owed it to Esme and to herself to follow through. It was either that or go back to the hotel. And, really—was she going to give in that easily?

Still aware of the Hermida circus to her left, she turned her back and fumbled in her bag, found her phone. Thank God for distraction. And a text from Esme.

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