Home > My Not So Perfect Life(12)

My Not So Perfect Life(12)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

“No! She can’t…You mustn’t…” As he moves to get past me, I take a quick step to obstruct him. He dodges the other way, and I block him again, lifting my hands into a defensive martial-arts pose before I can stop myself.

“We’re seriously doing this?” Alex looks like he might burst into laughter. “What are you, Special Forces?”

My cheeks flame red, but I hold my ground. “My boss doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“You’re a fierce guard dog, aren’t you?” He surveys me with even more interest. “You’re not her assistant, though, are you?”

“No. I’m a research associate.” I say the title with care. Associate. Not intern, associate.

“Good for you.” He nods, as though impressed, and I wonder if he’s an intern.

No. Too old. And, anyway, Demeter wouldn’t get bothered about seeing an intern, would she?

“So, who are you?” I ask.

“Well…” He looks vague. “I do a bit of everything. I’ve been working in the New York office.” He makes a sudden move to get past me, but I’m there, blocking him again.

“You’re good.” He grins, and I feel a dart of anger. This guy is starting to piss me off.

“Look, I don’t know who you are or what you need Demeter for,” I say stonily. “But I told you, she doesn’t want to be disturbed. Got it?”

He’s silent for a moment, regarding me, then a smile spreads over his face—and I was right, it’s broad and white and dazzling. He’s actually extremely handsome, I realize, and this belated recognition makes me blush.

“I’m crazy,” he says suddenly, and steps aside with almost a courtly bow. “I don’t need Demeter, and I apologize for being so rude. If it’s any consolation, you win.”

“That’s OK,” I say, a little stiffly.

“I don’t need Demeter,” he continues cheerfully, “because I have you. I want to do some research; you’re a research associate. It’s a perfect fit.”

I blink uncertainly at him. “What?”

“We have work to do.” He brandishes the boxes with Chinese writing at me.


“Twenty minutes, max. Luckily, Demeter is obviously so tied up, she won’t even notice you’re gone. Come on.”


“To the roof.”

I shouldn’t be here. Simple as that. There are a million reasons I should not have come up to the roof with a strange man called Alex about whom I know nothing. Especially when I’ve got a stack of surveys still to input. But there are three good reasons that I am here, standing on the top of the building, shivering and gazing around at the rooftops of Chiswick.

1. I reckon I could take him in a fight. You know, if he turned out to be a psychopath.

2. I want to know what these Chinese boxes are all about.

3. The idea of doing something that isn’t coffee surveys or hair dye is so overwhelmingly alluring, I can’t resist. It’s as if someone’s opened the door of my solitary-confinement cell and shone a light in and said, Psst, want to come out for a bit?

And by out, I mean out. There’s no shelter up here, only an iron railing running round the edge and a few low concrete walls here and there. The December air is bitter and gusty, lifting my hair up and freezing my neck. The air seems almost gray-blue with cold. Or maybe it’s just the contrast between the chilly, gloomy midwinter sky and the cozy warm buildings around us, all lit up.

From where I’m standing, I can see right into the office block next to ours, and it’s fascinating. It’s not a modern block like ours; it’s more old-fashioned, with cornices and proper windows. A girl in a navy jacket is painting her nails at her desk but keeps stopping to pretend she’s typing, and a guy in a gray suit has fallen asleep in his chair.

In the next room along, a rather intense meeting is happening around a grand, shiny table. A woman in a frilly uniform is handing round tea while an elderly man sounds off at everyone and another man is opening a large window, as though things are getting so heated, they need air. I find myself wondering what kind of company it is. Something more stuffy than ours. The Royal Institution Of Something?

A ripping sound makes me turn, and I see Alex crouching down, tearing into one of the boxes with a Stanley knife.

“So, what’s the work?” I say. “Unpacking?”

“Toys,” he says, holding the Stanley knife in his mouth as he wrenches the box open. “Adult toys.”

Adult toys?

Oh my God, this was a mistake. This is Fifty Shades of the Roof. He’ll be tying me up to the railings any minute. I need to escape—

“Not that kind of adult toys,” he adds with a grin. “Proper toys for playing with—except for grown-ups.” He lifts out something made of bright green rope and plastic. “This is a diabolo, I think. You know? The things you spin? And these are…” From another box he pulls out some steel tubes that look like telescopes. “I think they expand…yes. Stilts.”


“Look!” He pulls one out to its full length and snaps down a foot piece. “Grown-up stilts. Want to have a go?”

“What is all this?” I take the stilts from him, climb on, instantly wobble, and fall off.

“Like I said, toys for grown-ups. They’re huge in Asia. They’re supposed to be an antidote to modern stress. Now they want to expand globally. They’ve hired the Sidney Smith Agency…you know Sidney Smith?”

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