Wife for a Week(5)

By: Kelly Hunter

‘The job went bad, didn’t it?’

‘I don’t want to talk about it, Hal.’

Hallie sighed. He never did. Tris didn’t talk about his work for Interpol, ever.

‘Go,’ he said, waving her away. ‘I’m gonna take a shower and get cleaned up. There’s nothing you can do. Eat. Be merry.’

And from within the confines of the bathroom as he shut the door behind him, ‘Don’t talk toothpaste.’

Nick Cooper always gave a woman fifteen minutes’ grace. Any longer than that and he was inclined to leave or start without them. Fact was, women enjoyed keeping men waiting. They did it deliberately to heighten anticipation and make a man wonder. To make a man want. All part of the game, but then games were Nick’s specialty. For every attack, there was a counter-attack, no matter how good your opponent. And Hallie Bennett’s fifteen minutes were almost up.

Not that Nick was even sure she was dining with him—as she hadn’t called—but he’d headed for Marco’s regardless. A man had to eat. And call it a hunch but he thought she’d show. He browsed the blackboard specials, scanned the printed menu, looked around for a waiter and saw instead the delectable Hallie Bennett heading his way. Her colouring was pure Renaissance, Titian hair, creamy complexion and golden brown eyes. But her hair was cropped to chin length and her face was pure arthouse Animae; all big eyes, clean lines and memorable mouth.

His body stirred and he narrowed his eyes in an attempt to conceal the fierce rush of anticipation that accompanied her arrival as he stood to greet her. Kissing that smart mouth of hers into submission had been an absolute pleasure. Getting to know the rest of her was tempting, very tempting, but the truth was he couldn’t afford the distraction. He didn’t need a bed-mate this coming week; he needed a partner. Someone with an opportunistic streak, a quick wit, and a deft touch with the ridiculous.

So far, Ms Bennett had impressed him on all counts.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ she said when she reached him. ‘I wasn’t sure I was coming until the last minute.’

‘What made you change your mind?’ he asked as he saw her seated and tried to ignore the quickening of his breath and of his blood.

‘Hong Kong and ten thousand pounds,’ she said, her accompanying smile drawing his attention to the generous curve of her lips, currently painted a deep, luscious rose. Her lip colour matched her dress, a sleek, cling-wrap of a dress that emphasized the perfection of the body beneath. ‘I like your dress,’ he said with utmost sincerity.

‘Thank you,’ she said, her eyes lightening with a humour that was hard to resist. ‘I like it too. Have you ordered?’

‘After you.’

She chose the clam chowder. He chose the reef fish and, at her nod, a bottle of white wine to wash it down.

‘I’m curious,’ she said once that was all settled. ‘You’re rich, you’re handsome, you’re healthy—you are healthy, aren’t you?’

‘Perfectly,’ he said, enjoying her candour.

‘So why do you need a pretend wife for a week?’

‘I’m negotiating distribution rights to a computer game my company has developed. Unfortunately, the distributor’s teenage daughter took a liking to me and I found it extremely difficult to, er, dissuade her.’

‘You mean you couldn’t fend off one fledgling female? You? You’re kidding me, right?’

‘Wrong.’ Nick sighed. He could handle predatory women, honest he could. But a semi-naked eighteen-year-old Jasmine Tey had cornered him in his bedroom late one night, and the sheer unexpectedness of it coupled with more than one glass of his host’s most excellent rice wine had rendered him momentarily incapable of sensible thought. ‘She was very young,’ he muttered defensively. ‘Very sweet. I was trying to let her down gently.’

‘You invented a wife,’ guessed Hallie. ‘And now you have to produce her.’

‘Exactly. Will you do it?’

‘Why not ask a woman you already know to help you out? She’d probably do it for free.’

‘Because then I’d have to dissuade her. Whereas you and I will have a business arrangement, a contractual obligation if you like, and once you’ve fulfilled that obligation, you leave.’


It was a very expressive ah-h-h.

‘Will you and your wife be staying with your associate and his family?’

Nick nodded. ‘They have a guest suite. And it’s only John Tey and his daughter. He’s a widower.’

‘Dining with them? Socializing? Getting to know them?’