Woman in a Sheikh's World(5)

By: Sarah Morgan

Jenny grinned. ‘Which has been full of—’

‘Exactly.’ With her free hand, Avery closed down the spreadsheet on her computer before she could insert any more errors. ‘Take Chloe to help at the Senator’s party. We need to cure her of being star-stuck. It will be good experience for her to mingle with celebrities and she can help out if the doves become incontinent.’

‘Why don’t you let us do the Zubran wedding without you?’

‘Because then everyone will say that I can’t cope and, worse than that—’ she bit her lip ‘—Mal will think I can’t cope.’

Was he still angry with her? He’d been furious, those hooded black eyes as moody as a sky threatening a terrible storm. And she’d been equally angry with him. It had been a clash from which neither of them had pulled back.

Jenny looked at her. ‘You miss him, don’t you?’

Yes. ‘I miss the sex. And the rows.’

‘You miss the rows?’

Avery caught Jenny’s disbelieving glance and shrugged. ‘They were mentally stimulating. Mal is super-bright. Some people do crosswords to keep their minds alert. I like a good argument. Comes of having a mother who is a lawyer. We didn’t talk at the dinner table, we debated.’

‘I know. I still remember the one time you invited me for tea.’ Jenny shuddered. ‘It was a terrifying experience. But it does explain why you can’t admit that you cared for the Prince. Your mother dedicated her life to ending marriages.’

‘They were already broken when she got involved.’

Jenny closed her book. ‘So this wedding is fine with you? Pride is going to finish you off, you know that, don’t you? That and your overachieving personality—another thing I blame your mother for.’

‘I thank my mother. She made me the woman I am.’

‘A raving perfectionist who is truly messed up about men?’

‘I won’t apologise for wanting to do a job properly and I am not messed up about men. Just because I’m the child of a strong single parent—’

‘Avery, I love you, but you’re messed up. That one time I came for tea, your mum was arguing the case for doing away with men altogether. Did she ever even tell you the identity of your father? Did she?’

The feelings came from nowhere. Suddenly she was back in the playground again, surrounded by children who asked too many questions.

Yes, she knew who her father was. And she remembered the night her mother had told her the truth as vividly as if it had happened just yesterday. Remembered the way the strength had oozed from her limbs and the sickness rose in her stomach.

She didn’t look at Jenny. ‘My father has never been part of my life.’

‘Presumably because your mother didn’t want him interfering! She scared him away, didn’t she?’ Jenny was still in full flow. ‘The woman is bright as the sun and mad as a bunch of bananas. And don’t kid yourself that you had to say yes to this party. You did the launch party for the Zubran Ferrara Spa Resort. That was enough to prove that you’re not losing sleep over the Prince.’

The knot in Avery’s stomach tightened but part of her was just relieved that the conversation had moved away from the topic of her father. ‘There was no reason to say no. I wish Mal nothing but happiness with his virgin princess.’ There was a buzzing sound in her head. She had to stop talking about Mal. It was doing awful things to her insides. Now she had hearing problems. ‘I’m doing the wedding party and then that will be it.’ Then everyone would stop speculating that she was broken hearted because of a man. ‘You call him, Jen. Tell him I’m out of the country or something. Find out what he wants and sort it out.’

‘Does his bride really have to be a virgin?’ Jenny sounded curious and Avery felt something twist in her stomach.

‘I think she does. Pure. Untouched by human hand. Obedient in all things. His to command.’

Jenny laughed. ‘How on earth did you and the Prince ever sustain a relationship?’

‘It was … fiery. I’m better at being the commander than the commanded.’ The buzzing sound grew louder and she suddenly realised that it wasn’t coming from her head, but from outside. ‘Someone is using the helipad. We don’t have a client flying in today, do we?’

As Jenny shook her head, Avery turned to look, but the helicopter was out of view, landing above her. ‘It must be someone visiting one of the other businesses in our building.’

Flanked by armed bodyguards, Mal strode from the helicopter. ‘Which floor?’

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