Engaged to Jarrod Stone(5)

By: Carole Mortimer

Brooke paled even more. It all sounded so—so real when he put it like that. 'My parents are dead. I was brought up by a maiden aunt.'

'So do I speak to her?'

'She died last year,' Brooke told him. 'But I hadn't had a lot to do with her—for the past four years anyway, not since she made it perfectly clear to me that she disapproved of my father marrying her sister.'

'And four years ago you were--?'

'Sixteen,' she admitted quietly, remembering all too well the terrible things her aunt had said to her about her father.

'That makes you twenty now. God, I'll be thought a cradle-snatcher!' Jarrod Stone muttered in disgust. 'I'm thirty-seven,' he added by way of explanation.

'And you've never married?' It seemed strange in this day and age to think of a man of his age not marrying.

For the first time since she had entered the room he smiled, and she felt some of the tension start to leave her body. He sat back in the chair. 'I thought about it once, when I was a couple of years older than you are at this moment. She turned me down, thank God.'


'Right—well, I think you've taken up enough of my time for one morning,' he said, rising. 'I'll see you downstairs at twelve-thirty. And arrange to have a two-hour lunch break.'

'I can't do that,' she protested. 'I have a job to do.'

'And I'm your employer. Get whoever it is that usually covers for you when you're off sick to take over. And I won't expect an over-show of emotion in front of other people, but I will expect you to be a little bit more relaxed with me than you are at this moment.'

'Relaxed? How can I possibly feel relaxed? I've never even spoken to you until today!'

'Too bad,' he said callously. 'Now I'll see you out to the lift.'

Brooke stiffened. 'That won't be necessary.'

He opened the door for her. 'But I insist. I must show a natural consideration for my brand new fiancée,' he taunted.

Her eyes were beseeching. 'Please, Mr. Stone, don't--'

'Jarrod,' he corrected curtly. 'Call me Jarrod.'

She couldn't do that! 'Please don't make me go through with this. I've apologized, I don't see what else I can do to make amends.'

'An apology isn't enough,' he said cruelly. 'I've already explained my reasons. I could make things very unpleasant for you if you prove difficult.'

'I could leave.' Brooke hung back defiantly, not willing to leave his office until she had this thing settled. 'You're far from being the only well-paying firm in the country.'

'Oh, I know that. But with no references from here you could find things rather difficult.'

'You—you can't do that! I've been a good employee.'

'You call what you've just done being a good employee?' he demanded. 'Are you aware that you could land up in court for that deliberate lie you chose to tell the newspapers? I could sue you. You're quoted, so it's pretty obvious who gave them the story.'

She went first pale and then red. 'You—you wouldn't?'

'No, I wouldn't. But I do expect a little co-operation from you. This is your fault, after all.'

'All right, all right. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!'

Jarrod Stone looked unmoved. 'Like I said, it isn't enough.' He opened the door further. 'I have an important appointment in five minutes.'

'Okay, I-- But what do I tell everyone?' she cried.

'Oh, tell them I've fallen madly in love with you and rushed you off your feet.'

'Don't tease—please' Her head was down bent.

He wrenched her chin up roughly between thumb and forefinger. 'I don't know what the hell else you expect me to do. I can assure you that if I did what I really want to do to you, you wouldn't like that either.'

Brooke was mesmerized by his glittering grey eyes, aware of the darkness of his skin and the tangy aftershave he wore. 'What do you want to do?' she asked breathlessly.

His hand fell away and he turned her firmly out of the room. 'Put you over my knee and give your backside a good thrashing. Just what you hoped to achieve I have no idea. But still, it might prove interesting.'

He silenced her as they entered his secretary's office, pausing at the door to look down at her with dark brooding eyes. Again he raised her chin, uncaring of the two curious pairs of eyes watching them. 'I'll see you later, darling,' he said, huskily soft, but loud enough for the other two girls to hear. 'We'll have lunch at the usual place.'

Before Brooke could answer him his dark head swooped low and his lips fleetingly touched hers. She felt herself tremble in his arms, her eyes wide with surprise. She looked self-consciously at the girls in the room, but they were apparently busily working. She doubted they had been so engrossed a couple of seconds earlier!

Her mouth tightened. 'Did you have to do that?' she muttered angrily, her almost violet eyes glaring her dislike of him.

Jarrod laughed throatily. 'You say the nicest things, Brooke.'