08. Inventing a Sibling and Getting Poked in the Eye

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"Excuse me?"

Mr Stone looked up from his desk and his eyes widened.

"I would like to see Mr Ambrose, please. I have an appointment."

Mr Stone blinked, sat motionless for a few seconds, and blinked again. Only then did he recover from his astonishment. "Oh, err... I'm so sorry, Sir. Of course, of course. I was only distracted for a moment because just half an hour ago there was a young lady here, also asking for Mr Ambrose, and you and her..." He trailed of, gazing in amazement at the small young man with longish brown hair standing in front of him.

I tried to force a smile on my face. "That was my sister."

"Oh, that explains it," said Mr Stone, a bright smile ousting the puzzled expression on his face. "May I say, Sir, that you and she share the most amazing family resemblance?"

"I've often thought so myself."

"Even your hairstyles are rather similar. It is truly intriguing."

"Thank you."

"And what is your name, Sir?"

"Li–" I bit my tongue. Darn! In my haste to get home, change and return, I had completely forgotten that as a man, I could hardly go by the name of Lillian. My mind was as blank as the walls of Mr Ambrose's office as I tried to think of a name, any name that I could tell Mr Stone. Finally, my thoughts landed on the royal family.

"Victor!" I blurted out. "Victor Linton."

Thank God. When all else failed, one could still rely on the queen of England.

"Very well, Mr Linton. Wait a moment please, while I see if Mr Ambrose is ready to receive you."

He took up the metal horn from the desk and spoke into it.

"Mr Ambrose? A Mr Linton to see you."

In response, there came only silence from the other end.

"Err... Mr Ambrose? Are you there?"

Now there did come a noise from the other end. It sounded like something between a moan from a medieval torture chamber and the growl of a wounded Siberian tiger.

"Mr Ambrose, Sir? Are you all right?"

Apparently Mr Ambrose was all right, because he started to speak a few seconds later. I couldn't make out what he was saying, and part of me was glad for that. Stone nodded, put down the horn and then looked up at me smiling.

"Mr Linton," he said, "I have been informed that you have been accepted as Mr Simmons' replacement and are now a member of the staff. May I take this opportunity to welcome you?" He got up, walked around the desk held out a hand for me to shake.

Hesitantly, I reached out. I had never shaken a man's hand before, only curtsied. Would he be able to tell that I was a woman by a handshake? Determined not to give him any clues, I resolved to make my grip convincingly strong and masculine.

"Ouch!" Mr Stone grimaced. All right, maybe I had overdone it with the masculinity... "Err... yes. Welcome, as I said. Now, where was I..." Cautiously, he removed his hand from my grip and flexed his fingers.

"Ah, yes. Mr Ambrose regrets to inform you that he does not have time to receive you right now, since urgent business detains him. He wishes you to go directly into the secretary's office and wait for instructions there."

I frowned. Urgent business that detains him? What business could be so urgent that he couldn't receive his private secretary? It should be my job to help him with his urgent business, shouldn't it? But orders were orders. And though I usually wasn't very good at obeying orders, these were different: other than with my aunt trying to boss me around, Mr Ambrose would have to pay me for bossing me around. So I just asked: "The secretary's office?"

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