All or Nothing(10)

By: Catherine Mann

Pride demanded she shower and change before facing Conrad, who would undoubtedly look hot in whatever he wore. Even bed-head suited him quite well, damn him.

A bracing shower later, she tugged on her favorite black skinny jeans and a poet’s shirt belted at the waist, the best she could do with what little she had in her suitcase. But she’d expected to be traveling back to the States today, divorce papers in hand. At least she’d thought to change her flight and arrange for more time off before going to bed last night.

Nerves went wild in her chest as she opened the door. The sound of clanking silverware echoed down the hallway, the scent of coffee teasing her nose. He’d said they would spend two days finding peace with each other, but as she thought about facing him over breakfast, she felt anything but peaceful.

Still, she’d made a deal with him and she refused to let him see her shake in her shoes—or all but beg him for sex again.

Trailing her fingers down the chair railing in the hall, she made her way through the “man cave” living room and into the dining area. And oh, God, he’d swapped her elegant dining room set for the equivalent of an Irish pub table with a throne at the head. Really?

And where was the barbarian of the hour?

The table had been set for two, but he was nowhere to be seen. A rattle from the kitchen gave her only a second’s warning before a tea cart came rolling in, but not pushed by Conrad.

A strange woman she’d never met before pushed the cart containing a plate of pastries, a bowl of fruit and two steaming carafes. At the moment, food was the last thing on Jayne’s mind. Instead, at the top of the list was discovering the identity of this stranger. This beautiful redheaded stranger who looked very at ease in Conrad’s home, serving breakfast from a familiar tea cart that had somehow survived the “purge of Jayne” from the premises.

Jayne thrust out her hand. “Good morning. I’m Jayne Hughes, and you would be?”

Given the leggy redhead was wearing jeans and a silk blouse, she wasn’t from housekeeping.

“I’m Hillary Donavan. I’m married to Conrad’s friend.”

“Troy Donavan, the computer mogul who went to high school with Conrad.” The pieces fell into place and, good Lord, did she ever feel ridiculous. “I saw your engagement and wedding announcements in the tabloids. You’re even lovelier in person.”

Hillary crinkled her nose. “That’s a very polite way of saying I’m not photogenic. I hate the cameras, and I’m afraid they reciprocate.”

The photos hadn’t done her justice, but by no means could Hillary Donavan ever look anything but lovely—and happy. The newlywed glow radiated from her, leaving Jayne feeling weary and more than a little sad over her own lost dreams.

She forced a smile on her face. “I assume that breakfast is for us?”

“Why yes, it is,” Hillary answered, sweeping the glass cover from the pastries. “Cream cheese filled, which I understand is your favorite, along with chocolate mint tea for you and coffee for me.”

And big fat strawberries. All of her favorites.

She couldn’t help but dig to find out who’d thought to make that happen. “How lovely of the kitchen staff to remember my preferences.”

“Um, actually...” Hillary parked the cart between two chairs and waved for Jayne to sit. “I’m a former event planner so nosy habits die hard. I asked Conrad, and he was wonderfully specific.”

He remembered, all the way down to the flavor of hot tea, when he’d always preferred coffee, black, alongside mounds of food. As she stared at the radically different decor, she wondered how many other times he’d deferred to her wishes and she just hadn’t known.

Jayne touched the gold band around a plate from her wedding china. “I didn’t realize you and your husband live in Monte Carlo now.”

“Actually we flew over for a little unofficial high school reunion     to see Malcolm’s charity concert tonight. Word is he’s sold out, set to take the Côte d’Azur by storm.”

They were all going in a group outing? She felt like a girl who thought she’d been asked to the movie only to find out the whole class was going along. How ironic when she’d so often wished they had more married friends.

“I have to confess to having a fan girl moment the first time I met Malcolm Douglas in person.” Hillary poured coffee from the silver carafe, the java scent steaming up all the stronger with reminders of breakfasts with Conrad. “I mean, wow, to have drinks and shoot the breeze with the latest incarnation of Harry Connick, Jr. or Michael Bublé? Pretty cool. Oh, and I’m supposed to tell you that evening gowns are being sent up this afternoon for you to choose from, since you probably packed light and it’s a black-tie charity event. But I’m rambling. Hope you don’t mind that I’m barging in on you.”