In Separate Bedrooms(4)

By: Carole Mortimer

Jack Beauchamp gave that disarming grin once again. ‘This is more comfortable than some human hotels!’

‘Yes,’ Mattie acknowledged ruefully. It had taken a lot of capital to build this luxurious boarding-kennels in the first place, took even more for its upkeep, but it certainly was a first-class hotel for canines.

He quirked dark brows. ‘Do you and your mother run it on your own, or do you have help?’ he asked conversationally as they strolled back to the front office.

‘We have help,’ Mattie answered evasively. ‘But I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a beautiful setting?’ she deliberately changed the subject. After all, it was really none of this man’s business whether or not she helped her mother on a full-time basis.

It was a beautiful setting too. Only a few miles outside London, they were nevertheless surrounded by countryside, their own large garden a riot of spring flowers.

‘Beautiful,’ he murmured in agreement.

Mattie turned to look at him, her breath catching in her throat as she saw Jack Beauchamp wasn’t looking at the garden at all, but at her!

Well, really!

She stiffened resentfully. ‘I’ll pass you over to my mother now, so that the two of you can sort out the details for your pet’s stay,’ she told him briskly as they re-entered the office. Her mother looked up with a smile, Mattie’s barely perceptible nod of confirmation erasing some of the anxiety from her eyes.

‘I hope you found everything to your liking, Mr Beauchamp?’ Her mother smiled at him warmly.

‘Everything,’ he confirmed softly.

Once again Mattie looked up to find him looking at her rather than her mother. He was doing it again!

‘And please call me Jack,’ he invited her mother.

‘Diana,’ her mother returned happily, obviously feeling none of the awkwardness around this attractive man that Mattie obviously did.

Of course her mother was about ten years older than Jack Beauchamp, whereas Mattie was around ten years younger. But even so, her mother was still an attractive woman, had also been a widow for a very long time. Admittedly her mother had always claimed to have loved Mattie’s father too much to ever become involved again, but surely a woman would have to be almost dead herself not to be aware of Jack Beauchamp’s good looks?

‘Exactly how did you come to hear of The Woofdorf, Jack?’ her mother continued conversationally, the complete professional when it came to her beloved boarding-kennels. ‘It’s always nice to know these things. Was it a personal recommendation, or did you perhaps see one of our ads—?’

‘Strangely enough I found some of your cards lying around in the office. I have no idea who could have put them there.’

Mattie suddenly became very interested in the dozens of photographs that adorned one of the walls of the office, hoping that neither her mother, nor Jack Beauchamp, had noticed how anxious she’d suddenly become.

‘Obviously a lucky find,’ he acknowledged warmly.

‘Obviously,’ her mother agreed; no doubt thinking, for us as well as Jack Beauchamp.

He nodded. ‘I was explaining to your daughter earlier that Harry has never been away to kennels before—even one as luxurious as this,’ he allowed. ‘It’s just that I really have to be in Paris next weekend, and as the whole family is going, there just isn’t anyone left here who I can leave him with, as I usually do when I have to go away. I have to admit—’ he grimaced ‘—that I’ve left it this late in booking because I’ve been putting off the evil day for as long as possible.’

Family? What family? Surely this man wasn’t married, too?

‘Every owner feels as you do the first time, Jack,’ her mother told him kindly. ‘But I do assure you, we will take very good care of Harry. If—’

‘I hope you’ll both excuse me,’ Mattie cut in abruptly, suddenly really anxious to get away from the company of this particular man. ‘I—I really must go and—and—er—I have some things to do,’ she finished lamely.

But Jack Beauchamp had paused in the doorway on his way in, and was still effectively blocking Mattie’s exit as she turned to leave. ‘I must thank you for showing me round,’ he told her quietly. ‘It was very nice meeting you, Miss Crawford.’

She looked up at him unblinkingly. ‘And you, Mr Beauchamp,’ she returned politely—if insincerely. Obviously she didn’t merit the privilege of being asked to call him by his first name! Which was okay with her—she would probably have choked on it, anyway.

He smiled, laughter still lurking in the depths of those dark brown eyes—as if he were well aware of her chagrin at the omission. ‘I do hope we’ll meet again,’ he finally said softly.