Woman in a Sheikh's World(4)

By: Sarah Morgan



‘I was older than five when she taught me that bit.’ She chewed the tablet, the ache in her jaw telling her that she’d been grinding her teeth at night again. Stress. ‘You want to know why I said yes to this piece of business? Because of my pride. Because when Mal called, I was so taken aback that he was getting married so quickly after we broke up, I couldn’t think straight.’ And she’d been hurt. Horribly, hideously hurt in a way she’d never been hurt before. There was a tight, panicky feeling in her chest that refused to go away. ‘He asked if it would feel awkward to arrange the party and I opened my mouth to say yes, you insensitive bastard, of course it would feel awkward but my pride spoke instead and under its direction my mouth said no, no of course it won’t feel awkward.’

‘You need to re-programme your mouth. I’ve often thought so.’

‘Thanks. And then I realised he was probably doing it to punish me because—’

Jenny lifted an eyebrow. ‘Because—?’

‘Never mind.’ Avery, who never blushed, felt herself blushing. ‘The truth is, our company is the obvious and right choice for an event like that. If I’d refused, everyone would have been saying, “Of course Avery Scott isn’t organising the party because she and the Prince were involved and she just can’t handle it.”’ And he would have known. He would have known how much he’d hurt her.

But of course he already knew. And it depressed her to think that their relationship had sunk that low.

‘You need to delegate this one, Avery.’ Jenny slid her shoes back on. ‘You’re the toughest, most impressive woman I’ve ever met but organising the wedding of a man you were once in love with—’

‘Was in lust with—’

‘Fine, call it whatever you like, but it’s making you ill. I’ve known you since we were both five years old. We’ve worked together for six years but if you carry on like this I’m going to have to ask you to fire me for the good of my health. The tension is killing me.’

‘Sorry.’ Out of the corner of her eye Avery noticed that her screen saver was back again. With a rush of irritation she swiftly replaced the desert with a stock picture of the Arctic. ‘Talk to me about work. And then I’m going to take a shower and get ready for the day.’

‘Ah, work. Senator’s golden wedding party. Fussiest client we’ve ever had—’ Jenny flipped open her book and checked through her notes while Avery cupped her mug and took comfort from the warmth.

‘Why do you insist on using that book of yours when I provide you with all the latest technology?’

‘I like my book. I can doodle and turn clients into cartoons.’ Jenny scanned her list. ‘He’s insisting on fifty swans as a surprise for his wife. Apparently they represent fidelity.’

Avery lowered the mug. ‘The guy has had at least three extramarital affairs, one of them extremely public. I don’t think this party should be celebrating his “fidelity”, do you?’

‘No, but I couldn’t think of a tactful way to say that when he called me. I’m not you.’

‘Then think of one and think of it fast because if he mentions “fidelity” to his wife on the big day we’ll have a battlefield, not a party. No swans. Apart from the fidelity connotations they have very uncertain tempers. What else?’

‘You want more?’ With a sigh, Jenny went back to her notes. ‘He wants to release a balloon for each year of their marriage.’

Avery dropped her head onto her desk. ‘Kill me now.’

‘No, because then I’ll have to deal with the Senator alone.’

Reluctantly, Avery lifted her head. ‘I don’t do balloon releases. And, quite apart from the fact that mass balloon releases are banned in lots of places, isn’t our Senator working with some environmental group at the moment? The last thing he needs is publicity like that. Suggest doves. Doves are environmentally friendly and the guests can release them and have a warm, fuzzy eco feeling.’ She sat back in her chair, trying to concentrate. ‘But not fifty, obviously. Two will be fine or the guests will be covered in bird droppings.’

‘Two doves.’ Jenny made a note in the margin and tapped her pen on the pad. ‘He is going to ask me what two doves signify.’

‘A lot less mess than fifty swans—OK, sorry, I know you can’t say that—let me think—’ Avery sipped her coffee. ‘Tell him they signify peace and tranquillity. Actually, no, don’t tell him that, either. There is no peace and tranquillity in their relationship. Tell him—’ She paused, grappling for the right word. She knew nothing about long-term relationships. ‘Partnership. Yes, that’s it. Partnership. The doves signify their life journey together.’

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