Engaged to Jarrod Stone(3)

By: Carole Mortimer

Mouse indeed! She still felt angered at his arrogance. His looks might be fantastic, but his manners not so impressive, at least, not the part she had seen. But even if his words had angered her she should not have played this stupid trick on him. It was the confident way he had escorted the model back that had fired her anger anew, and given her the idea of announcing her own engagement to him.

And now she had to face him. She hoped she looked more self-confident than she felt. He was likely to rip her to shreds with his tongue when he had her in his office, and it was no more than she deserved.

Today the outer office wasn't deserted. Catherine Farraday, Jarrod Stone's personal secretary, and her young assistant both busily working as Brooke entered the room.

Catherine gave her a cool look. 'Yes?'

'Mr. Stone is expecting me. My name is Brooke Faulkner.'

Catherine gave her a disbelieving look but buzzed through to the inner office anyway. 'A Miss Faulkner to see you, Mr. Stone.'

'Send her straight in,' he snapped, letting Brooke know that his temper hadn't cooled at all since his telephone call down to her.

The cool beautiful girl stood up with a slight raising of her delicately shaped eyebrows, as if she were mentally trying to work out the reason for her boss to be seeing a mere receptionist.

‘You know the way,' Brooke told her hurriedly, unwilling to let this girl witness her humiliation if Jarrod Stone should be unable to contain his anger and lash out at her with his icy tongue as soon as she entered his office.

'Very well.' Catherine subsided back into her chair, resuming her work with a coolly detached air.

Brooke moved through into the small reception room, hesitant about actually confronting Jarrod Stone. But if she didn't go in there soon he would come out here looking for her, and she had no intention of letting him find her cowering nervously outside his office.

He bade her curtly to enter as she knocked on the door, which she reluctantly did. This time there was no charming smile for her, only a furious look on his face and an angry glitter to his eyes.

He stood up, coming round his desk to walk slowly around her as she stood in front of his desk. He came back to rest on the front of his desk, his arms folded in front of his powerful chest.

Even in her embarrassment Brooke could appreciate how attractive he looked, the navy blue pin-striped suit he wore fitting him as if it were tailored on him, his linen immaculate.

'So you're Brooke Faulkner,' he said softly.

"Yes." Did he have to be so taunting? She was perfectly well aware that her navy pinafore dress and light blue fitted blouse in no way matched up to the expensive clothing some of the women he escorted out of the building wore. But did he have to look at her quite like that?

'The girl I'm engaged to,' he continued even more softly.

She moved with a start. 'I—I can explain that.'

He gave a smile, but it owed nothing to humor. 'Can you now?' he mused. 'You can explain how I come to be engaged to be married to a complete stranger, can you?' His light eyes snapped angrily. 'It had better be a damned good explanation!'

Brooke moved uncomfortably. 'I wouldn't say that, but it is an explanation. The only trouble is I don't think you're going to like it.'

He made an impatient movement to sit behind his desk. 'I don't like being engaged to a girl I've never met before either!'

Brooke gasped. 'Oh, that isn't true. I work here, I've seen you hundreds of times.'

'Seeing isn't the same as meeting. I've seen hundreds of people many times over, but that doesn't mean I know them.'

'But we have actually met,' she corrected him. 'I brought a model up to your office a couple of weeks ago.'

Jarrod Stone studied her for a moment. 'So you did.'

'And that's why I told the newspapers what I did.'

'Because you brought a model up to my office?' he sounded astounded.

'Don't be ridiculous!' She had had enough of his taunts. She realized he was angry about what she had done, of course he was, but he didn't have to take this attitude with her. 'I did it because I overheard your conversation that day, overheard what you had to say about women.'

'Did you indeed?' His grey eyes narrowed. 'And that prompted you to announce your own engagement to me? After hearing what I had to say about your own fair sex?'

'Yes, it did!' Her blue eyes deepened almost to violet. 'I wanted to make you eat your words, to show you you could be caught in the trap of matrimony as easily as any other man. But I—it didn't work out the way I intended it to. As soon as I saw it in print I knew it was wrong. But at the time I wanted only to hit out at you, to get back at you for what you think of women.'

'Oh, you got back at me all right. This morning, not half an hour ago in fact, I had a telephone call from Philip Baylis congratulating me. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about,' he said forcefully. 'I felt a damned fool. But I managed to bluff my way out of it. Can you imagine what it felt like to be told by a third party that I'm supposed to be getting married? I didn't even know who Brooke Faulkner was, but I did know the name sounded familiar. Then I realized I saw it every morning when I entered the building.'