In Separate Bedrooms(8)

By: Carole Mortimer

Which was just as well, because Mattie hadn’t felt like talking. Not that she felt like talking now, either, but she knew she didn’t have any choice in the matter this time!

It didn’t help that Jack Beauchamp looked much less approachable today in a dark business suit, cream shirt, and neatly knotted tie, than he had when he’d visited the boarding-kennels yesterday.

But he looked calm enough—he didn’t have the look of a man whose personal life was imploding!

Oh, well, she chivvied herself along even as she drew in a deep breath, she might as well get this over with; delaying any further wasn’t going to make it any easier.

‘Mr Beauchamp—’

‘Jack,’ he invited lightly, sitting back in his high-backed leather chair to look across at her assessingly.

Now why couldn’t he have been more friendly yesterday, Mattie thought to herself. Not that it would have made her confession today any easier, but it would certainly have been more pleasant—

‘My secretary explained that when you phoned first thing this morning you said it was urgent you see me today.’ Jack Beauchamp sat forward to rest his arms on the desk.

Of course Mattie had said it was urgent that she needed to see him—once she had told Claire Thomas who she was, because that was the only way the other woman would agree to fit her into Mr Beauchamp’s busy schedule for a few minutes before lunch. Although, Mattie had been warned, Jack Beauchamp did have an appointment at one o’clock.

As it was ten minutes to that hour now, she had better get this over with!

‘Is there a problem with Harry’s booking for the weekend?’ Jack Beauchamp frowned.

‘Not that I know of,’ Mattie dismissed hastily. ‘I—I’m not here in my capacity as my mother’s assistant.’

Dark brows rose over chocolate-brown eyes as Jack Beauchamp’s expression became speculative now. ‘No?’ he drawled, some of yesterday’s warmth returning to those come-to-bed eyes. ‘Then why is it so urgent that you see me?’

Certainly not for the reason he seemed to be imagining, Mattie thought impatiently. Really, the man was back in seduction mode again!

She had deliberately dressed in a businesslike way herself today, in a navy blue suit and pale blue blouse, in the hope that it might give her the necessary boost of confidence she needed to tell him about the mix-up with the cards. As she felt the dampness of her palms, the inner panic that made her want to turn tail and run, she knew that ploy had failed utterly!

She grimaced. ‘I don’t actually work at the boarding-kennels, Mr—er, Jack,’ she corrected herself. Try and keep this pleasant, she instructed herself firmly.

Who knew? There was always the possibility that he would see the funny side of this.

Oh, yes? she instantly taunted herself. In the same circsumstances, would she?

No, of course not—but then she would never have got herself into such a romantic tangle in the first place. But hadn’t she done exactly that—albeit unwillingly—with Richard …?

‘You don’t?’ Jonathan Beauchamp mused softly now. ‘Then exactly what is it that you do, Mattie?’

He had known her first name all the time! Well … probably not all the time, she conceded, but no doubt her mother had casually dropped it into their conversation somewhere yesterday. And yet he had insisted on continuing to use the formality of her surname … Not a good sign!

‘I actually work for you—well, not exactly,’ she amended, ‘but you are one of my clients, and—’

‘Mattie, could you stop and go back a few steps?’ he interrupted her, laughter now lurking in those warm brown eyes and around those finely chiselled lips. ‘Before I go off on completely the wrong tangent, perhaps you had better tell me exactly what your profession is?’

What did he mean, a wrong tangent? Exactly what did he imagine—?

‘I’m a florist, Mr Beauchamp!’ she told him coldly as a certain profession sprang to mind. ‘I am the proprietor of Green and Beautiful,’ she added for good measure, glaring at him as her thoughts lingered briefly on that other profession.

How dared he—? How could he—? Did she look like—?

Mattie’s mind went blank, her mouth dry, as she saw the dawning realization on his face—a face that was rapidly darkening with what looked suspiciously like—

‘Ah,’ he said slowly—as if he had suddenly been given the answer to a riddle that had been bothering him. ‘In that case, could this urgent need to see me today possibly have anything to do with the mix-up concerning the cards I requested be included with the delivery of certain bouquets over the weekend …?’