To Woo A Wife(2)

By: Carole Mortimer

She tried to see herself through the man Jarrett's eyes, and decided he would think her cool and aloof, not quite a 'paper-bag job', but certainly not vibrantly beautiful either!

'Nevertheless,' Jarrett continued lightly, 'I really do have to turn down your invitation to join you all. Your friend may not mind playing gooseberry, Alison, but I certainly do!'

Abbie felt the heat in her cheeks at what she was sure was a rebuke aimed at her in her absence. But she had been intensely reluctant too when Alison had asked her to join herself and Stephen this evening, conscious that the couple were still on their honeymoon.

But Alison had completely pooh-poohed the idea of Abbie intruding, reminding her she and Stephen had lived together for a year before their wedding two weeks ago, and that they certainly weren't in the first romantic flush of togetherness!

Abbie moved as quietly away from the trio and from behind the huge plant as she had approached them, going out to the powder-room in the lobby. Once there she removed her jacket, replenished her make-up but applied it more deeply this time, and made a final alteration to her hair as she deftly removed all the pins that held it so neatly in place. The result was a wild tumble of black gypsy-like strands almost down to her waist, the flowing darkness highlighting her high cheekbones, the clear beauty of her eyes, and the pouting fullness of her mouth.

A paper-bag job—huh!

She left the jacket in the cloakroom with the warm outer coat she had deposited there earlier, crossing the reception area with long, easy strides, aware of the male interest that followed her progress, but not acknowledging it by so much as a flick of her long black hair, the light of challenge sparkling in her violet-blue eyes.

That male reaction to her looks spoke for itself; she wasn't 'on the hunt for a rich man', either, the diamonds that sparkled in her earlobes and wrist giving testament to that. She couldn't help wondering, a little gleefully, she admitted, exactly what Jarrett was going to make of her!

She didn't pause inside the bar this time but walked straight over to the table where she knew Alison and Stephen sat with the other man. She smiled widely at her friend as Alison looked up and saw her approach.

'Abbie!' Alison stood up to hug her warmly. 'You look wonderful!' she stood back to say admiringly—if slightly surprised too. Alison had been at the forefront of the friends who had gently chided her during the last couple of years for playing down the looks that had once engendered the interest of some of the most powerful men in the world. To no avail.

'You certainly do.' Stephen stood up to kiss her lightly on the cheek.

The newly-weds made an attractive couple, Alison a tall redhead, Stephen tall and blond. Abbie had known the two of them for years, had always been able to relax and be herself in their company. Except tonight they weren't alone...

She turned coolly to look at the man with the deeply male voice, the man she knew only as Jarrett, feeling the equivalent of a mild electric shock as she saw him for the first time. He was one of those men you would never forget when you had met him: devilishly attractive!

Possibly ten years older than her own twenty-seven, he had lines of experience on that handsome face to go with his maturity. And it was probably those lines, and the cynical light in his assessing amber eyes as he returned her gaze, that saved him from being just too good-looking.

As he politely stood up, Abbie could see he was tall and powerfully built, with not an ounce of superfluous flesh on the lean length of his body that was clothed in a navy blue jacket, pale grey shirt and grey trousers. His dark hair was slightly overlong, curling attractively as it met the collar of his jacket, his face perfectly sculptured, jaw square and determined below a mockingly smiling mouth. But it was his eyes that dominated, mat deep amber one of the most unusual colours Abbie had ever seen. Like the eyes of a tiger...

'Abbie, this is a friend of mine from London.' Stephen stepped in to introduce the two of them. 'Jarrett Hunter.'

Hunter... It suited him, Abbie decided ruefully. 'And I'm Abbie,' she put in smoothly, holding out a long, slender, completely ringless hand, her nails kept short and lacquerless.

He reached out and took her hand in his, his own warm but firm to the touch, his grip neither too tight nor too limp; Daniel had always said you could tell a lot about a man from his handshake. If that were to be believed, this man was neither remote nor overly friendly!

'Just Abbie?' he murmured, that golden gaze blazing on the smooth perfection of her face.

'Just Abbie.' She easily forestalled Stephen as he would have spoken.

'It's what she was known as during our years on the catwalk together.' Alison spoke lightly as they all resumed their seats, Abbie now occupying a chair to the other woman's left, with Jarrett Hunter opposite her.