Wife for a Week(13)

By: Kelly Hunter


‘That’s it!’ There was fire in her eyes, passion in her voice. ‘Do you have any idea how hard it is to make your own decisions with four older brothers all hell-bent on guiding you through life? I mean honestly, Nick, I’m twenty-four years old and I’m not a slow learner! So what if I make a mistake or two along the way? I’ll fix them. I certainly don’t need my brothers charging in to straighten me out every time I step sideways.’ Hallie’s chin came up; he was beginning to know that look. ‘I can take care of myself. I want to take care of myself. Is that too much to ask?’

‘Not at all. What you want is freedom.’

‘And equality,’ she said firmly. ‘And it wouldn’t kill them to show me a bit of respect every now and then too.’

Right. Nick quelled the slight twinge of sympathy he was beginning to feel for her brothers and concentrated on the bigger picture. Freedom, equality, respect! He could manage that. It wasn’t as if she was asking for the sun, the moon and the stars to go with it.

‘I want you to know that even though I’m paying you a great deal of money to deceive my future business partner you have my utmost respect,’ he stated firmly. ‘We’re in this together as equals.’

And to the drinks waiter who had appeared at his side, ‘Two single-malt Scotches. Neat.’





CHAPTER THREE




THREE days later Hallie boarded a plane to Hong Kong. She’d been manicured, pedicured, pampered and polished and was corporate-wife chic in her lightweight camel-coloured trousers and pink camisole. Her shoes matched her top, her handbag was Hermès, and Nick was at her side, thoroughly eye-catching in a grey business suit and crisp white business shirt minus the tie. She was the woman who had it all, and it was all pure fantasy.

That didn’t mean she couldn’t embrace the moment.

Wispy streaks of cloud scattered the midday sky, their seats were business class, the take-off was perfect, and Hallie relaxed into her seat, prepared to be thoroughly indulged, only to discover that any woman sitting next to Nick was more likely to be thoroughly ignored. That or she was currently invisible to the women of the world as they dimpled, sighed, primped and preened for him.

The flight attendants settled once the flight was underway and went about their business with efficient professionalism, but the encouraging smiles of the female passengers continued. One innovative young lady even managed to trip and fall gracefully into Nick’s lap amidst a flurry of breathless apology and a great deal of full body contact.

‘Do women always fall over their feet trying to get your attention?’ she asked once the woman had gone.

‘Actually, she fell over my feet,’ said Nick. ‘They were sticking out into the aisle. It was my fault she landed in my lap.’

‘And her breasts in your face? That was your fault too?’

Nick shrugged, trying to look a picture of innocence and failing miserably. ‘She was trying to get up,’ he said in her defence. ‘These things happen.’

‘So I see.’

He was used to it, Hallie decided. He was just plain used to women falling all over him. ‘You know, you’d save yourself a lot of unwanted attention if you wore a wedding ring,’ she said. She was wearing one, along with a diamond engagement ring the size of a small egg. As far as the world was concerned she was well and truly taken. Nick’s hands, however, were ring-free.

‘I wasn’t wearing one last time I visited,’ he countered. ‘It’d seem a bit strange if I turned up wearing one now.’

‘No, it wouldn’t, considering what happened.’ She was beginning to sense some reluctance here. ‘Say we really were married, would you wear a ring then?’

‘You’d have to insist.’ He slid her a sideways glance. ‘You would too, wouldn’t you?’

‘Absolutely.’ She held her left hand up between them, angling her fingers so that the diamond sparkled in the light. ‘Some people actually respect the sanctity of marriage and don’t hit on a person wearing a wedding ring.’

‘Funny,’ he said dryly. ‘You don’t look that naive.’

‘Hah. It just so happens I don’t think I’m being naive. But I do concede that if you never wear one we’ll never know.’

The clumsy young thing was back, all purring solicitousness as she asked Nick if she’d hurt him, if he was feeling all right, and was there anything, absolutely anything, she could do for him.

Honestly!

‘Oh, I think we’ve got it covered.’ Hallie smiled, sharp as a blade as her hand—the one with those shiny rings on it—came to rest high on Nick’s trouser clad thigh. Nothing subtle about that particular manoeuvre; she was claiming ownership and the other woman knew it. ‘On second thoughts, darling, you feel a bit cold,’ she said to Nick as she squeezed gently and slid her hand a fraction higher up his thigh. Muscles jumped beneath her palm even as the rest of him went absolutely still. ‘Would you like a blanket for your lap? There’s one in the webbing in front of you.’