Engaged to Jarrod Stone(10)

By: Carole Mortimer

Her dress was a russet colored silk, bringing out the red lights in her dark brown hair. It clung in soft folds over her breasts and hips, the high roll-neck adding fragility to her swan-like neck, the long sleeves finishing in a point at the wrist. It was a dress that emphasized her slenderness and suited her like no other she had ever possessed.

She had washed her hair and brushed it dry until it gleamed reddish-brown, crackling with health and cleanliness. She had applied a light eye make-up, brushing a soft peach lip gloss over her lips. The earrings and necklace glittered in glowing beauty against the dark material of her gown and she knew she was looking her best.

Jarrod Stone's dark grey eyes gleamed his approval of her as she let him in to her tiny flat. He was looking very attractive tonight, wearing black trousers, silk shirt, and a grey velvet jacket that matched the grey of his eyes. He carried a large white box and Brooke had to admit to feeling that she knew its contents.

He looked back to survey her. 'Very nice,' he said after placing that intriguing box on the table.

"Thank you. Tonight, you leave me on my own too much? I—I don't know any of the people who are likely to be at this party.'

'You'll know Philip.'

She gave a throaty chuckle. 'I don't know Philip Baylis, I've only seen him a couple of times when he's come to see you. I know about him, as I know about you, but I don't actually know him.'

'You soon will,' he said dryly. 'I have no doubt that Philip will waste little time introducing himself to you. But don't ever forget that you're supposed to be engaged to me,' he added warningly.

'I can hardly forget it with this huge rock weighing my finger down,' she retorted hotly, resenting his implication that she was stupid enough to flirt with his friends. 'You didn't even bother to ask me if I wanted this ring. I may not have liked it,' she said petulantly.

Jarrod shrugged. 'It isn't important.'

'Only that it looks expensive enough to be worn by the fiancée of the great Jarrod Stone,' she scorned. 'You're enjoying this, Mr. Stone. Enjoying the fact that I stupidly got myself engaged to you.'

'I'm not enjoying it at all, Brooke,' he contradicted grimly. 'But I have little choice about it. So I mean to make the best of it, and you would do well to do the same. After all, isn't that partly the reason you did it? You denied infatuation, so it must have been partly blackmail.'

'It was pure revenge,' she denied hotly.

'If you like to think so. Nevertheless, the jewellery you now have in your possession will bring you a sizeable sum when you decide to sell it. That should make it all the easier for you to bear being engaged to a man you say you hate. For some reason women seem to find jewellery a great comfort.'

'This jewellery isn't mine to sell,' Brooke told him fiercely. 'The earrings and necklace I'll return at the end of the evening, the ring when you decide you've punished me enough for my impetuosity. Whether you believe me or not, blackmail didn't enter into my thoughts at all. I once believed myself--'

'Yes?' he prompted at her hesitation.

She shook her head. Why should she give him the satisfaction of knowing she had once thought herself in love with him? He would probably laugh in her face at such an admission. 'It isn't important. Shouldn't we be leaving now? It's getting late.'

'I suppose so.' Jarrod picked up the box he had carried in, handing it to her. 'I realize this should be mink or ermine, but I don't happen to believe in killing animals to provide a woman with something beautiful to wear.'

She gave him a puzzled look, ripping off the lid to the box to stare at its contents. Lying amongst the tissue paper was a snowy white velvet cape. She picked it up, smoothing its softness lovingly. 'It's beautiful!' she said breathlessly.

'Good.' He took it out of her hand and draped it casually about her shoulders. 'We'd better be going now.'

His car was fast and sleek, moving with a speed that was completely effortless. It was a dark green Ferrari, and he drove it with a skill that was purely habitual. It seemed incredible to Brooke that she was actually sitting here at his side on her way out with him for the evening.

Philip Baylis's house was about ten miles out of the centre of London, a house set back off the road and reached by the long gravel driveway leading right up to the oak front door. Cars adorned the driveway and the whole house was bathed in light. Soft music sounded from inside, and Brooke followed Jarrod Stone up to the front door with some trepidation.

They were admitted by a manservant, and Brooke left her cape in his capable hands. Jarrod turned to look at her. 'I suppose you want to powder your nose or whatever it is that women do when they disappear for hours on end?'

'Yes, please.' Her hair could definitely do with a tidy up.