To Woo A Wife(6)

By: Carole Mortimer

'She merely accepted because she loves you,' Abbie concluded lightly. 'The best possible reason for getting married!' She shot Jarrett Hunter a censorious frown. Really, the man wasn't safe to be let out on his own; it was a wonder to her he had any friends left to insult! Admittedly, she had been a little surprised herself by Alison and Stephen's decision to get married after all this time, but she certainly hadn't made the outrageous assumption about it that Jarrett Hunter obviously had!

The best,' Jarrett agreed, shooting Abbie a grateful took for her timely intervention. 'And, to answer your earlier question, Alison, when I eat shellfish, my throat swells up and I can't breathe.'

Abbie's mouth quirked into a smile she couldn't con-ma. 'Feel like ordering a dozen oysters for him, Atison?' she taunted mischievously.

Two dozen!' Alison joined in the joke, visibly relaxing as she too began to smile.

'Oh, let's not be too cruel,' Stephen added. 'A dozen and a half should do it!'

'Okay, okay!' Jarrett held up his hands in defeat, grinning ruefully. 'I've apologised for—well, I've apologised,' he amended as Abbie frowned warningly. 'Let's order our meal—minus oysters for me—and I promise to try and keep my cynicism to myself for the rest of the evening!'

Rather a rash promise for him to have made, Abbie thought as they gave the waiter their orders, considering almost every comment Jarrett made was grounded in that cynicism! Although it could be interesting watching him try to keep his promise!

'Thanks for your help just then.' Jarrett leant slightly towards her to murmur quietly, the newly-weds talking softly to each other now.

Abbie looked at him with cool violet-blue eyes. 'I didn't do it to help you,' she returned as softly. 'You obviously have no idea that Alison had a miscarriage six months ago, that the two of them were absolutely devastated by the loss. And that their wedding two weeks ago had absolutely nothing to do with that; why should it?'

Jarrett looked pale, glancing at the other couple, obviously relieved to see them laughing together. 'You're right, I had no idea...'

'Perhaps a curb on your cynicism for the evening wouldn't be such a bad idea...?' she prompted distantly, not feeling that she had betrayed any confidences by talking of the baby Alison and Stephen had lost; it had been no secret, and with this man's penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time he could do more damage by not being aware of the miscarriage. 'A modification of your misogynistic views?'

He grimaced. 'I've said I'll try.'

He would do a lot more than try, if he didn't want to receive a well-aimed kick under the table from the high heel of one of her shoes!

'I suggest we all begin again, Mr Hunter,' she murmured pointedly.

'Jarrett,' he put in smoothly.

Too smoothly. When she suggested they start again, she didn't mean on a different footing; she still didn't have a sweet tooth!

'Mr Hunter,' she repeated firmly.

'Wake up, you two,' she teased the honeymooners as they gazed into each other's eyes. 'Jarrett is about to tell us all exactly what he's doing in Canada.'

'I am?' he said.

He hadn't moved in his chair, still appeared perfectly relaxed, and yet Abbie sensed there was a sudden tension m him. She wondered why...

'You are,' Abbie confirmed lightly, though there was challenge in the cool blue of her eyes as she calmly met his.

His steely gaze never left Abbie's face as he calmly responded, 'There's no mystery attached to my visit; I'm here to meet someone.'

'Ah-hah.' Stephen pounced interestedly. 'Is she a creme caramel or an ice-cream sundae?'

'You're really getting into this, aren't you, darling?' Alison said indulgently.

"Definitely the latter,' Jarrett answered with a meaningful look. 'And it isn't what you're thinking at all, Stephen. This meeting is strictly business.'

'But does the lady in question know that?' his friend

'The "lady" isn't even aware we're going to meet,' Jarrett drawled.

"This gets more and more intriguing.' Alison sat forward. 'Who is she?'

'You're in trouble now, Jarrett,' Stephen warned. 'Alison won't give up until she knows the whole story!'

'There is no story,' Jarrett assured them dryly. 'I told you, I've never met the woman. All I know is that my sources tell me she's as cold as that ice-cream sundae you mentioned, Stephen,' he added hardly.

'Was that a deliberate pun, or purely coincidence?' Stephen grinned. 'Sauces. Ice cream,' he explained pointedly.

Jarrett raised dark brows mockingly. 'I think married life is clearly affecting your brain, Stephen—or else it's all this snow,' he amended with an apologetic glance in Abbie's direction for his lapse into cynicism. 'You know damn well what I meant just now about sources!' he bit out impatiently. 'I've been hunting down a meeting with this woman for months—'