Beyond All Reason(7)

By: Cathy Williams

She looked at him, startled.

‘Surprised I remember?’ he asked, and she shrugged.

‘Not when I think about it. You have the memory of an elephant. Sometimes I think you must have the entire collection of the Encyclopedia Britannica up there, roving about in your head.’

‘Shall I take it as a compliment?’

‘If you like.’ Her voice was casual, distracted even though her heart was doing some pretty odd things inside her and she couldn’t for the life of her imagine what had prompted that observation.

‘You know, sometimes I think I almost prefer Mrs Fulbright, your predecessor, whose lifelong ambition was to reveal the maximum about herself in the minimum amount of time.’

That hurt. ‘You could always ask me to resign,’ she said, her grey eyes angry.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ he snapped impatiently, ‘I’m not asking you to do anything of the sort. I’m merely trying to make a point.’

‘I can’t help the way that I am, Mr Anderson,’ Abigail said inaudibly, ‘I…’

‘Yes?’ Their eyes met and the breath caught in her throat.

‘Nothing. Look, I really must be dashing off.’ She took a step backwards, knowing from his grim expression that the subconscious retreat had registered with him. ‘Do have a nice time at the play tonight,’ she said, while he continued to stare at her tersely. ‘I shall be in bright and early in the morning.’ She was running out of friendly parting words and it suddenly occurred to her that she was under no obligation to make excuses for her personality. She was his employee, and one who did a damn good job. She was conscientious, hardworking and trustworthy and that was all that mattered, wasn’t it?

She turned away abruptly and walked through the revolving doors, and the sudden cold winter air outside was like a balm.

As luck would have it, she had missed her bus again, but this time she hardly noticed the press of bodies on the Underground. Her mind was too busy sorting through the extraordinary atmosphere that had sprung up between herself and Ross. She had never felt so uncomfortable with him before. True, from time to time in the past she had caught him looking at her, but this was the first time that she had felt so entirely the target of his overwhelming personality, and it had alarmed her.

It wouldn’t do to forget Ellis and the way he had ignored her the minute his girlfriend had reappeared on the scene. She had so nearly given in to him, slept with him, she had been so caught up in the frenzy of never before experienced desire.

She thought of Ross, and for a moment the image that sprang back at her of his implacable, hard good looks was so sexual that she sucked in her breath with shock. Had she actually wondered what it would be like to have those strong hands on her body? No, she told herself uneasily. He had just managed to creep under her skin a little with his damn inquisition, but that was all.

The train disgorged her at her stop and she walked the remainder of the distance back to her flat, feeling calmer as she began to look at things in perspective. He had unnerved her. She was not accustomed to being unnerved. After eighteen years of living with her mother, she had learnt how to maintain a steady, unshakeable front, and the fact that that front had been rattled, for once, had taken her aback.

It would never have happened, she decided, letting herself into her flat and immediately heading for the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee, if she wasn’t already in a fragile frame of mind. She had spent most of the night awake, thinking about Martin’s proposal, about the engagement party which would formally seal it, wondering whether she had done the right thing. She had convinced herself that her head was right when it said yes, and if her heart was being a bit belligerent, then that would settle in time. It just so happened that Ross had decided to cross-examine her when she was mentally not up to it.

She looked at her watch, gulped down the remainder of the coffee, and then spent that next hour putting the finishing touches to the food which she had prepared over the weekend and stored in the freezer.

She found herself hurriedly taking a shower, then changing into a slim-fitting silk dress in blues and purples, which she had bought months ago but had never got around to wearing because whenever she tried it on all she could see was the revealing depth of the neckline, and that immediately made her wonder what on earth had possessed her to buy it in the first place.

After thirty minutes of rapid dressing, she stood in front of the full-length mirror in the bedroom and looked at her reflection with a critical eye.

Not bad, she decided. No abundance of voluptuous curves, but a neat figure nevertheless. She had applied some blusher to her cheeks, so her skin did not look as pale as it was wont to do, and her eye-shadow made the most of her eyes, which she personally considered to be her best feature.