Wife for a Week(2)

By: Kelly Hunter

‘They do, don’t they?’

‘How do you feel about travel?’ he asked her while his mother preened.

‘Travel is my middle name.’

‘And your first name?’

‘Hallie. Hallie Bennett.’

‘Nicholas Cooper,’ he said and gestured towards the woman. ‘My mother, Clea.’

‘Pleased to meet you,’ said Clea, her handshake warm and surprisingly firm. ‘Nicky, she’s darling! She’s perfect! You need a wife; you said so this morning. I think we’ve just found her.’

‘Wife?’ said Hallie. Wife? That’d teach her to shake hands with strangers. Nicholas Cooper’s smile was lazy. His mother’s was hopeful. Probably they were both mad.

‘He’s loaded,’ said Clea encouragingly.

‘Well, yes.’ She could see that from the way he dressed. He was also far too amused for his own good. ‘But is he creative?’

‘You should see his tax return.’

‘I don’t know, Clea. I think I prefer my men a little less…’ What? She slid Nicholas Cooper another quick glance. Sexy? Wild? Gorgeous? ‘Dark,’ she came up with finally. ‘I prefer blonds.’

‘Well, he’s not a blond,’ conceded Clea, ‘but look at his feet.’

Everyone looked.

He wore hand-stitched Italian leather lace-ups. Size twelve. Wide.

‘Of course, as his mother I can’t let you marry him unless you’re compatible, so maybe you should just kiss him and find out.’

‘What? Now? Ah, Clea, I really don’t think—’

‘Don’t argue with your future mother-in-law, dear. It’s bad form.’

‘No, really, I can’t. It’s not that, er, Nicky doesn’t have a lot going for him—’

‘Thanks,’ he said dryly. ‘You can call me Nick.’

‘Because clearly he does. It’s just that, well…’ She cast about for a reason to resist. Any reason. Yes, that would do. It wasn’t quite the truth, but little white lies were allowed in sticky situations, right? ‘I wouldn’t be very good wife material right now. I have a broken heart.’

‘Oh, Hallie, I’m so sorry,’ said Clea in a hushed voice. ‘What happened?’

‘It was terrible,’ she murmured. ‘I try not to think of it.’

Clea waited expectantly.

Obviously she was going to have to think of something. Hallie leaned forward and tried to look suitably woebegone. ‘He was secretly in love with his football coach the whole time we were together!’

‘The cad!’ said Clea.

‘Was he blond?’ said Nick. ‘I’m betting he was blond.’ He was standing beside her, close, very close, and she was kneeling there, her gaze directly level with…oh!

‘Are you sure you’re not interested?’ asked Clea.

Hallie nodded vigorously and dropped her gaze, looking for carpet and finding feet. Big feet. ‘It’s this job,’ she muttered, more to herself than anyone else. Probably he was bluffing. Probably he had regular size-eight feet tucked into those enormous shoes. Her hand shot out of its own accord, spanning the soft leather of his shoe, testing the fit for width and finding it tight. Right. She pressed her thumb down and felt for toes, found them at the very top of the shoe. ‘Phew!’ She felt breathless. ‘It’s a tight fit.’

‘Always,’ he said, amusement dancing in his eyes. ‘But I’m used to it.’

Hallie smiled weakly and scrambled to her feet as warmth spread rapidly through her cheeks. It was his eyes. His voice. Possibly his feet. Any one of them was a guaranteed temptation, but all three together? No wonder she was blushing.

‘What my mother meant to say was that I need someone to pretend to be my wife for a week. Next week to be precise. In Hong Kong. You’d be reimbursed of course. Say, five thousand the week, all expenses covered?’

‘Five thousand pounds? For a week’s work?’ There had to be a catch. ‘And what exactly would I have to do to earn that five thousand pounds?’

‘Share a room with me, but not a bed, which is fortunate considering your broken heart.’

Was he laughing at her? ‘What else would I have to do?’

‘Socialize with my clients; act like my wife.’

‘Could you be a little more specific?’

‘Nope. Just do whatever it is wives do. I’ve never had one; I wouldn’t know.’

‘I’ve never been one. I wouldn’t know either.’

‘Perfect,’ said Clea, bright-eyed. ‘I’m believing it already. Of course if the kiss isn’t convincing it’s just not going to work.’