To Woo A Wife(5)

By: Carole Mortimer

Alison gave the two men another glance. 'If I weren't so in love with Stephen I might have a go at proving him wrong!'

'You and several hundred other women,' Abbie replied scathingly. 'It's his ploy, Alison. It's the way he gets a taste of every dessert; every woman thinks she'll be his favourite flavour—and not just of the month!'

'We're doing it too now.' Her friend laughed softly. 'But you have to admit, he isn't a man any woman could just ignore.'

Not even her, Abbie inwardly acknowledged. But outwardly she would never admit such a thing. 'You do realise I'm going to choose the most expensive thing on the menu as retribution, don't you?' she said dryly, deeply annoyed with herself for even being aware of Jarrett Hunter.

"That's okay,' her friend said easily. 'We wouldn't be here at all if you hadn't given us this wonderful honeymoon as our wedding present, so the least we can do is take you out to dinner as a way of saying thank you.'

But it was a thank-you Abbie had tried hard to get out of earlier today. It was purely coincidence that she happened to be in Canada at the same time as them.

'I don't need a thank-you, Alison—'

'I believe we are at our table, ladies.' Jarrett Hunter smoothly cut in on their conversation, he and Stephen pulling back the two chairs at the round table to enable them to sit down, a fourth place having been laid for Jarrett.

As she'd expected from the shape of the table, Abbie had Stephen seated on one side of her, and Jarrett on the other, and lucky Alison had exactly the same arrangement. What a wonderful evening this was going to be!

Abbie had to admit that Alison and Stephen did appear to be enjoying themselves, Stephen even sending Abbie a conspiratorial wink over the top of the menu he was supposed to be looking at.

The menus they were all looking at. Except Abbie couldn't seem to concentrate on hers, because she was so very conscious of the hard, arrogant man seated to her left.

Who was Jarrett Hunter? What was he doing here? He didn't seem the sort of man who would take a holiday on his own, but who would probably be quite happy to put up with the tedium of a constant diet of a single dessert for a couple of weeks or so. It had to be better, from his point of view, than being without a dessert at all!

Yet he appeared to be alone here, otherwise he would surely have been with his partner this evening. So what was he doing here alone in a Canadian skiing resort in the middle of January? Somehow, glancing surreptitiously at his hard, unyielding face, with those enigmatic golden eyes, Abbie didn't think he was about to enlighten them on that particular subject.

'What takes your fancy, Abbie?'

She blinked at the sound of his husky voice, focusing with effort on the ruggedly handsome face dominated by those tiger-like eyes. She knew she hadn't imagined the slightly suggestive tone of his voice, could see the mockery in those unblinking eyes as he met her gaze.

She closed the menu decisively. 'A green salad, followed by grilled salmon.'

He quirked dark brows. 'I thought you said you were no longer a model?'

'I'm not,' she responded. 'But old habits die hard,' she explained, giving him a considering look. 'Let me guess what you're going to order...' She made a mental inventory of the menu she had just perused. 'Oysters followed by a T-bone steak. Rare!' She quirked her own brows questioningly in return.

'You're right about the steak,' he nodded. 'However, I prefer it to be cooked medium-rare. As for the oysters...!' He grimaced. 'I'm allergic to all shellfish.'

'Really?' Alison interjected interestedly. 'What happens if you eat it?'

'Ignore my little ghoul, Jarrett,' Stephen advised with a rueful shake of his head at his wife. 'We really don't need to know what happens.'

'You're so squeamish, Stephen,' Alison teased affectionately. 'He almost has to be hospitalised if he cuts himself shaving!' she confided to Abbie and Jarrett.

'Not the ideal person to be your birthing-partner when the time comes,' Jarrett acknowledged.

'Birthing-partner...?' Alison looked puzzled. 'But— I'm not pregnant, Jarrett!' Indignation deepened her voice. 'What on earth made you think that I am?' she demanded as she glared at him, quite put out by the suggestion.

Abbie looked at Jarrett too, amazed to see that he actually looked uncomfortable at the erroneous assumption he had made. And so he should be; cynicism was one thing, this was something else!

'I'm sorry.' Jarrett's apology encompassed Stephen too. 'I just assumed—wrongly, as it turns out,' he acknowledged self-derisively. 'I couldn't think of any other reason why the two of you had— I—'

'Shut up, Jarrett, there's a good chap,' Stephen advised good-naturedly, squeezing Alison's hand reassuringly. 'I merely asked Alison to marry me because I love her, and—'