The first thing I notice is that he’s on time for the interview. There’s a polite smile and a firm handshake, then he unbuttons his jacket and settles in one of the armchairs opposite me. He looks both alert and relaxed. It’s an exclusive club and I’ve only been allowed in today as his guest. But he doesn’t seem to show the blatant arrogance I’ve come to expect from the captains of industry I’ve met on previous assignments, nor any of the diva displays I’ve suffered from the celebrities. Whoever said a journalist’s life was all glamour? Most of my time’s spent simpering or cajoling or even bullying.
With Miles Winter, it doesn’t look like I’ll need any of those strategies.
That’s not to say I’d underestimate him. He’s still relatively young and unfairly handsome, with those intense eyes and full lips. Could be one of those designer models for Armani suits. But I know his credentials. He’s one of the best investment brokers around, he’s made more money than even my imagination can put a figure to, and he’s a tough negotiator. And of course, he’s experienced in meeting the press.
“You look nervous,” he says. “Didn’t you say this was just a feature article for the review pages?” His voice is calm, his lips twisted in what I hope is a sympathetic smile.
That’d better not be a blush creeping up my neck. “Yes, of course. Just a few paragraphs in the magazine, nothing too stressful I hope, Mr Winter. But …” A glance around finds the lounge all but deserted this time of day, only the two of us and a discreet waiter passing through with the coffee. “Is Mr Roswell here?”
Miles smiles, a little tightly, a little ruefully. “Not yet. I understand that he’s probably the more fascinating subject.”
“No,” I say, too quickly. Miles’ eyebrows rise. “I mean, of course I want to meet him – to interview you both together – but I’m especially interested in you.” My tongue feels thick in my mouth: it’s been a while since I was sent to meet someone I genuinely admire. “I’ve followed your career for a long time. I was with the Financial Times for a period.”
He nods, his expression softer. “Good. Do you want to start with a few warm-up questions while we wait?”
“Yes, thanks.” I glance through the list of his business interests. He’s brought plenty of properties to his investment clients, but nowadays there’s a more significant proportion in art than in financial services. “You’ve diversified over the last few years, I believe.” Why does he suddenly flush? His business deals are common knowledge. “Our readers would dearly like to know if that’s mainly because of your involvement with Zeke Roswell?”
As if on cue, the lounge door slams open and Zeke Roswell bursts in. I imagine there’s always a burst of something when he arrives. I recognise the good looks, the lean, graceful body, the bright, fierce eyes. He’s been in the news a lot over the last year. But the effect is much more vivid in real life. I feel that blush creep over my face again. He nods at me and mutters a rueful apology for being late, says he misjudged the time. Not that he’s wearing a watch. Then he glances over at Miles.
The atmosphere suddenly changes in the room. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t been right here. The air tightens: I feel warmer. Zeke’s gaze is concentrated on Miles, his lips twisted in a smile. His expression is eager; hungry. Like he hasn’t seen Miles for days, despite the fact they’re living together. That’s common knowledge, too, surely?
Miles’s gaze is fixed just as carefully on Zeke. I’m beginning to feel like that third wheel they talk about.
I clear my throat and they both turn to me. Zeke grins, as if the spell is broken, and drops into the chair beside Miles. “So what do you wanna know?” he drawls. “If your comic’s looking for something outrageous from us….”
“Like at your exhibition, “Connections”?” I’d been lucky enough to catch that event, getting entry on a journalist friend’s spare ticket. Apart from being a provocative and exciting exhibition, it had been the press’s first chance to see the two men as a public couple. Their kiss in full view of the whole gallery had been … both startling and very sexy.
Miles smiles, his eyes on me as if he can see what’s in my mind. “I think you’ll find we’re rather more boring nowadays.”
“Right,” Zeke murmurs. “Of course we are.” He’s smirking, but meets my gaze openly. “So, ask away. What’s your angle? Money? That’s Miles’s department. The gallery? That’d be me. I do some drawing.”
Miles rolls his eyes. I take that as my chance to wrest back this interview from the disorientating effect of their combined charisma. “I think it’s more than just drawing, Mr Roswell.”
“Okay, Zeke. Your last exhibition…” I don’t need to look down at my notes, but it’s a welcome break from his dancing, amused gaze. “… called “Bondage” was a huge hit. Outrageous, ingenious, an assault on all senses, the reviews said. Its run was extended for several months. And your paintings are in fierce demand again.”
“Yeah.” He glances at Miles again. “It pays the bills.”
Miles laughs, a very pleasant and rather startling sound. I’m excited – I don’t remember anyone ever including laughter in a piece about Miles Winter. “I was just talking to Mr Winter –”
“You mean Miles?”
“Yes, I mean, Mr W- Miles. I was talking about his recent diversification.”
“You were? Really?” Zeke looks like he wants to laugh, too. What the hell have I said that’s so amusing to them both?
Miles takes pity on me, reaching over to lay a hand on Zeke’s arm. “She means that I’ve enjoyed owning a gallery or two. Sponsoring art. Even though you’ve purchased back the Roswell Gallery, I’ve decided to stay in the field.”
“You’re nothing if not versatile,” Zeke says. This time they both laugh, and Miles flushes again.
I cough, rather snappily now. No one likes being left out of a private joke, do they? “I believe Red de Vere is your partner in some of these ventures.”
Miles nods. “Yes. Red and I have been friends for many years, and we’re both businessmen, even though we haven’t often worked together in the same sector.”
“He’s always popular with our readers.” Like most people, I know Red de Vere’s reputation as a playboy, with plenty of investment in the entertainment industry, even if it’s more often as a consumer. “Though he hasn’t featured in the magazine recently.”
Zeke snorts, and mutters something under his breath about “wings being clipped”.
My fingers itch at the thought of a scoop. “He’s been seen with a friend of yours, Zeke, hasn’t he? With Carter Davison. Is there anything to the rumour…?”
“I doubt it,” Mile answers firmly, even before I have a chance to ask.
“Carter’s very private, not a fan of the limelight like me,” Zeke says, and shrugs. “What can you do?” There’s mischief in his eyes, though, so maybe there’s more to come on that story, another day.
“So, our readers would like to know what your plans are for the year ahead. In your work,” I look at them both, very deliberately, “and privately. Socially. As a couple.”
“The human interest angle,” Zeke says, grinning again, while Miles grimaces. Zeke pulls his chair closer to Miles’s and mock punches Miles’s shoulder. “I’m gonna draw some more. I have some ideas for another exhibition in the summer. Miles is gonna make a few more millions and keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed.”
“Zeke.” Miles frowns, but his eyes are twinkling.
“We’re going to spend more time together. Gonna handle this work-life balance thing better. We’re planning a holiday…”
“We are?” Miles looks startled.
“…somewhere with a white sand beach and cocktails in the pool and no need for beach shorts, so I can take shameless advantage of his cute, firm, very successful as-”
“Enough!” Miles laughs, obviously seeing that now I’m the one who’s flushed. He stands, holding out a hand to help me up out of the plush chair. “I’m sorry, I think we’ll have to leave the interview for today. It’s my fault.” He glances at Zeke. “Our fault. I remember I have another appointment…”
Zeke snorts again.
This hasn’t really gone to plan, but I don’t seem to be able to get angry with either of them. They’re standing very close to each other, not exactly embracing, but keeping so obviously in touch, as if they can’t resist. Zeke’s restless hand trails around Miles’s hip. Miles’s lids look heavier than before, as if he’s sleepy. The affection and desire between them is both enchanting and sensual, even when only hinted at. Far more than friends, but still maintaining some propriety in this sophisticated club. “What about a couple of photos of you together?” I ask, weakly.
“Photos? Sounds good,” Zeke says, enthusiastically. “Especially of his cute, firm –”
Miles steps firmly in front of him, and Zeke’s sentence trails off into a chuckle. Miles takes my hand. “Please come to dinner on Friday at the town house. We’ll allow some photos then, and hopefully a more relaxed setting for your feature.”
“Really?” This is a real coup for the magazine. And – I’m amazed to realise – something I’ll look forward to personally.
“Do you have any food preferences?” Miles looks thoughtful and almost excited – for a brief moment, just like any other sociable young man planning an evening’s entertaining at home. “I’ll cook something Italian…”
Zeke’s chin rests momentarily on Miles’s shoulder. “See? I told you he’s nothing if not versatile.” Miles jerks slightly and his eyes open suddenly, widely, almost as if Zeke had just patted him on the buttocks. Zeke winks at me.
I judge it time to leave. They have other things on their minds.
Find out more about Zeke and Miles in True Colors, Ambush, Payback and Switch, all available from Dreamspinner Press.