The Playboy of Argentina(9)

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So why had she not quite been able to follow through?

One look at the television screen showing the pictures the rest of the world would be watching—well, the rest of the polo world—had confirmed it all. Rocco, Dante and their teammates. Pictures of the match, of the cup being presented, of the fans in and outside the stadium. Of the women who’d featured past and present on the arm of the Hurricane. A never-ending cornucopia of beautiful blondes. One after another after another.

The TV programme was admittedly more focussed on his love life than on his sporting prowess, but still Frankie had been utterly transfixed by the flow.

And when the final pictures of the piece had showed the team heading off with a troupe of polo groupies to a luxury penthouse in a luxury barrio this very evening she had sat down and sighed. Really? It was one thing to offer yourself on a plate to a playboy aged sixteen. It was another thing entirely to do it when you were twenty-six. Especially when she had more than a hunch of what would follow.

He’d unleashed something in her that no other man could. He had barely touched her and she had almost screamed with need. He had kissed her and it had been all she could do not do jump into his arms and wrap herself round him. And when he’d put his hands on her hips and ground them together …

The ten years she had waited had flashed and were gone and she was back in his arms, in his bed, with that first white-hot flame of passion. But all she’d gained in the past four hours was the knowledge that he saw her as unfinished business. Was she really going to let herself become that? An arm-candy statistic? Would it be her face that flashed up next? Entering the Molina Lario at his side for the whole world to see? The whole world, including her father …

She had battled her way out of the black fog of depression, had rebuilt herself piece by piece, layer by layer, after her father had stripped her bare of everything she’d ever cared about. Hidden her away and punished her. The bruise of the slap that had landed across her cheek had faded so much faster than the bruise that had bloomed across her heart for all those years.

Was being Rocco’s ‘Irish squeeze’ going to be her legacy? Her mother would have a fit and her father would roll his ‘I told you so’ eyes.

She lifted up the remote control and changed the channel to some glitzy, ritzy soap opera—probably much like Rocco Hermida’s life. And what would her part be? The beautiful heroine? Hardly. More like the kooky best friend put in as a comedy foil. Because that was the other thing—she didn’t really measure up as his type of leading lady. She was distinctly lacking on all the fronts he seemed to major in—like big hair and big breasts. And, though her confidence was never rock bottom now, it was hardly skyscraper high, either.

A tiny part of her did wonder, even if she arrived at Molina Lario with Rocco, was sure she would leave with him, too? After all, she’d never managed to stay the course with any previous man.

She was twenty-six. She was doing well for herself. She didn’t need to create a whole load of heartache. So she’d waited ten years to see if he was still as hot as she remembered? Answer—yes. What was the next question? Was there going to be a day after the morning-after? Answer—no. Conclusion—put all thoughts of Rocco Hermida out of your head. And don’t spend the next ten years in the same state of perpetual wonder as the past ten.

There were bound to be other men who could light her up like he did. Surely!

Frankie turned the television off altogether and sighed. Her phone flashed and she leaned across to the bedside table to check it. Esme.

Hey, beautiful. We need you! Come shake off your jet lag and meet the Palm Beach boys. Told them all about you so you’d better get here soon! No excuses! X

She stared at the message. She could pretend she hadn’t seen it. She could turn her phone off and read her emails instead. But, knowing Esme, she’d turn up and drag her out anyway. So should she? Meet the Palm Beach boys? Maybe that would be just the thing to cure this once and for all. To go. Confront her demon. Let the dream shatter for good. And maybe she’d even get herself worked up over some other handsome man who was just a fraction less arrogant, less dominant, less utterly overwhelming.

The phone lit up again.

The car’s on its way. Tango time! X

That was decided, then. She stood up. In her silver sixties slingbacks she made all of five-five—‘the height of nonsense’, as her father had used to say, and not in a good way. But whatever she was, she was big enough to play in the playgrounds of the porteños and their Palm Beach buddies.

She could pull this off. Of course she could. If she could lift herself out of the blackest depression and keep it at bay for all these years she could damn well paint on a smile, slip in and hang out with her best friend.

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