Wife for a Week(7)

By: Kelly Hunter


Nick’s office was only a couple of blocks away, familiar territory, this part of Chelsea, and they walked there in companionable silence.

‘I need to make a phone call,’ she said as Nick halted in front of a classy office block and unlocked the double doors that led through to a small but elegant foyer. ‘I’m flatting with one of my brothers at the moment. He’s a touch protective; he likes to know where I am if I’m out with someone new. I used to get annoyed with him. Nowadays I just tell him what he wants to know.’ Most of the time. She pulled out her mobile and dialled Tris’s number, grateful when she got the answering service rather than Tris himself. She relayed her whereabouts and disconnected fast. ‘No offence,’ she said smoothly.

‘None taken. It’s a smart move. Makes you a smart woman,’ said Nick.

Nice reply.

He ushered her into the lift, the doors closed, and it was intimate, very intimate in there. She cleared her throat, risked a glance. Impressive profile. Big feet. And an awareness between them that was so thick she could almost reach out and touch it, touch him, which wouldn’t be smart at all. He turned towards her and smiled that slow, easy smile that bypassed brains and headed straight for the senses, and then—

‘We’re here,’ he said, and the lift doors slid open.

Nick’s office suite was a visual explosion of colour and movement. Cartoon drawings covered every inch of available wall space; computers and scanners crammed every desk. There was a kitchenette full of coffee and cola; a plastic trout mounted above the microwave. The whole place was organized chaos and completely intriguing. ‘So how many people work here?’ she wanted to know.

‘Twelve, including me.’

‘Let me guess—they’re all men.’

‘Except for Fiona our secretary. Sadly she refuses to clean.’

‘I like her already.’

‘Figures,’ he said. ‘So does Clea. This is my office,’ he said, opening a door to a room that was surprisingly tidy.

‘What’s the basketball hoop for?’

‘Thinking.’

Right. ‘And the flat-screen TV and recliner armchairs?’ There were two chairs, side by side, a metre or so back from the wall-mounted television.

‘Working.’

Ah. Why she’d expected a regular office with regular décor was beyond her. There was nothing the least bit ordinary about Nicholas Cooper. ‘So tell me more about this game of yours. Is it something I’d know all about if we were married?’

‘You’d know about it.’ Nick’s voice was rich with humour as he slid a disc into the gaming console and gestured towards an armchair. ‘If we really had been married these past three years you’d have banned all talk of it by now.’

That didn’t sound very wifely. ‘Couldn’t I have been supportive and encouraging?’

‘Sure you could. I was thinking realistically, but we don’t have to do that. We can do fantasy instead.’

‘Hey, it’s your call. You’re the fantasy expert. By the way, how long did you tell your distributor you’d been married for?’

‘I didn’t.’ He slid her a glance. ‘I’m thinking a couple of months, maybe less. That way if we don’t know something about the other it won’t seem so odd.’

‘Works for me.’ And then the game came on. The opening music was suitably raucous, the female figure on the screen impressively funky. ‘Very nice,’ she said politely. ‘What does she do?’

‘Mostly she fights.’ He handed her a gaming hand-set. ‘Press a button, any button.’

Hallie pressed buttons at random and was rewarded by a flurry of kicks, spins and feminine grunts. Not, Hallie noted, that the figure on the screen even came close to raising a sweat. ‘Are those proportions anatomically possible?’ she wanted to know.

‘Not for earth women,’ said Nick. ‘Which she’s not. Xia here is from New Mars.’

‘New Mars, huh? I should have guessed. The clothes she’s almost wearing are a dead give-away. Does she have a wardrobe-change option?’

‘You want to change her clothes?’

‘Well, she can hardly kick Martian butt in six inch stilettos, now can she?

He stared.

Hallie sighed. ‘You’re losing credibility here, Nick.’

‘What did you do before you sold shoes?’ he wanted to know. ‘Bust balls?’

‘I worked a blackjack table at a casino in Sydney for a while.’

‘Why did you stop?’

‘I never saw sunlight.’

‘And before that?’