Beyond All Reason(2)

By: Cathy Williams

She knew that he would not have been in the least puzzled if she had a vibrant social life, or if there were a string of ardent lovers waiting in the foyer for her when she was ready to leave. No, what puzzled him was her remoteness. She had discovered very quickly that remoteness was not a quality which was much in evidence in the women he dated. He was accustomed to beautiful, self-confident, outgoing types who laughed loudly, flirted like mad and generally made no effort to disguise what they wanted.

She knew that she was nothing like that and could never have been like that if she had taken a ten-year acting course in how to be a successful extrovert. Her personality had been too successfully moulded by her mother from an early age. How could you go through life, through all those formative years, having scorn poured on your efforts, without creating a wall of silent self-defence around yourself and a tendency to conceal what there was no need to reveal?

Experiences, especially of the bitter variety, left their acrid mark, and, where her background left off, her last disastrous brush with passion took up.

‘Well?’ he prompted. ‘You never told me that there was a man in your life.’

Abigail blinked. ‘No,’ she murmured, pretending to give the matter some thought. ‘You’re quite right, I didn’t.’

‘And you’re not about to.’

Not if I can help it, she thought.

‘I don’t see any point in bringing my personal life to work,’ she said by way of explanation.

‘I’ve noticed. Admirable, I’m sure, just so long as that personal life which you don’t bring to work doesn’t entail your getting here late.’

Abigail clenched her fists in impotent anger. Wasn’t this just like Ross Anderson? Normally she would have bitten her tongue and kept silent, but she was in no mood to be heroic this morning. There was a lot on her mind and all she really wanted was to submerge herself in her work and forget those niggling worries which, for the past three months, always seemed to be there in the background, somewhere, threatening to pounce.

‘I never complain about your personal life being brought into work,’ she muttered under her breath.

‘What?’ His voice was deadly calm and she flushed uneasily. She hadn’t expected him to hear that remark—she might have guessed that he had the ears of a hawk.

‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry. I’m awfully tired, and,’ she added for good measure, ‘I have a headache.’

He stood up and stared down at her and she looked back at him nervously.

‘Not too tired to function, I hope?’ he asked sarcastically. ‘You’re no good to me if you’re going to spend the day drooping around like some damned wilting flower.’ He strode over to his desk and began rummaging through the open files, and she watched him reluctantly. There was no doubt that he commanded attention. Under the tailored suit, his body was hard and very masculine. She had been to several client functions with him, and she had seen the way women were drawn to him, fascinated by his lazy charm and mesmeric sex appeal. He spun round and she raised her eyes to his, reaching out to take the stack of files.

‘I’ve attached some work in these which you’ll need to have typed by this afternoon,’ he said, flickering through each one while she watched with her mind miles away. ‘There are three reports which need some additional information slotting in. Hello!’ he bellowed. ‘Is there life here? Are you listening to a word I’m saying?’

Abigail jumped and looked up at him guiltily. ‘Of course I am.’

‘What the hell did you get up to last night with the man with no name, anyway?’ he asked and she didn’t say anything. ‘No need to answer that one,’ he murmured in a silky voice, ‘I get the picture.’

‘I’m sure you find it very amusing to speculate on my private life, Mr Anderson,’ she said coolly, taking the files from him because it gave her something to do with her hands, ‘but not all of us live in the fast lane like yourself.’

He laughed and folded his arms. ‘And what does that cryptic little remark mean?’ he drawled.

I won’t let him fluster me, she thought. She had learnt how to ride through his more provocative remarks with a sense of humour, without him seeing how addled they sometimes made her, and she looked up at him now, her face composed.

‘It means whatever you take it to mean, Mr Anderson,’ she said politely.

‘I take it to mean that you didn’t spend last night making passionate love with the man with no name.’

‘His name is Martin Redman!’ she snapped, immediately regretting her outburst because that only seemed to fuel his amusement. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get to my desk so that I can begin working on these files.’