The MillionaireBy: Victoria Purman
She walked to the end of the queue which had formed in front of the counter and reached up to tap Chris Malone on the shoulder.
Ellie cleared her throat. “Mr. Malone.” She thrust out her hand to him for a professional handshake and because she’d stepped a little too close, her hand extended just a little too far and she completely misjudged how long her arms were and he was too close and—.
Damn it. She jabbed him in the ribs.
“Ouch,” she whispered as she pulled her hand away, waggling her fingers in the air. There was nothing soft or forgiving about the man’s chest. It was like poking her finger at a slab of granite. The ends of her fingers throbbed.
If she’d hurt him, and she seriously doubted she had, Malone didn’t reveal it. He simply turned and looked down at her. Yes, glaring was the right word for what he was doing. Those pale sapphire eyes were trained on her like a hawk’s, aiming for full intimidation. The muscles in his strong jaw clenched and moved, visible even under that neatly trimmed beard. He’d pulled his lips together tightly and he seemed to grow to about eight feet tall as he pulled his shoulders back.
“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Ellie felt her attempt at a professional and competent demeanour melting like a child’s popsicle in the sun.
Because Chris Malone, that’s why.
And here he was in a café in One Mile Beach and here she was, too. Standing just inches from him.
With her one chance to get an interview and ask for his help just a sentence away.
“Look, sweetheart. I’m just here to grab a coffee.” He glanced up to the menu board. “And maybe something to eat. I really haven’t got time to—”
“Wait.” She could live without an interview but the favour she needed to ask him became urgent now. He was about to walk away and she couldn’t let him go without trying one more time. Ellie thoughts raced to her grandfather. Seeing him in hospital last winter. How long it had taken him to recover after his heart surgery. How grateful the whole family had been to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the medicos who’d flown him to Sydney so he could get the care he needed. If Grandpa Trev could see her now, acting like an idiot because she’d met one of her idols, he’d be sadly disappointed in her. He’d taught her everyone deserved the respect of being treated equally, no matter who they were. What did her grandfather always say? Whoever he is, he still pulls his trousers on one leg at a time, just like every other bloke.
“Please.” Ellie reached out and laid a hand on Malone’s forearm. She didn’t have time to think about it. He looked like he was about to turn and walk away and she couldn’t let him. Her fingers gripped his arm. Soft skin over hard muscle. Her cool fingers on his heat. There were still tiny grits of sand in the hairs there. He smelt of the ocean. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she swallowed. Ellie wondered if groping a handsome man was a crime, even if it was for a good cause.
He lowered his voice. “You don’t give up, do you?”
And then she let go of him. Surreptitiously checked her fingers for scorch marks. Pulled herself together.
“No, I don’t, Mr. Malone. I don’t mean to bother you. You seem to be on holiday. But I have a favour to ask.”
He glanced around. He seemed to be checking out if anyone else had heard their exchange. No one in the queue ahead of them had turned to see what was going on. Everyone was minding their own business, as if gorgeous men like Malone dropped in every day of the week. Ellie glanced over her shoulder and Bron was the only one seated in the café. Ellie’s friend raised her eyebrows in a question and smirked.
Malone pushed his hair back on his head and it settled in soft waves by his ears. Ellie willed herself not to look too closely at his cheekbones or his eyes, lest she lose the power of speech.
“You want a favour?”
Ellie took a deep breath and let the words spill out. “I’m helping to organize a fundraiser. Back in Sydney. It’s for a really good cause. I wondered if you would be so kind as to donate one of your photographs for our charity auction. We’re having a ball in a month and I know if we could put it up for action, we would raise so much money.”
Malone reached for his sunglasses and slipped them on, like a shield. “Sorry.”
He hadn’t even taken a minute to consider it.
“What do you mean ‘sorry’? Is that a flat out no?”
He took a step closer to her and lowered his voice another notch. “It’s a flat out no. Now look, I really just want to get a coffee and go back to Sydney. Thanks but no thanks.”