Woman in a Sheikh's World(8)

By: Sarah Morgan



It was as if a high-voltage electrical current had suddenly been diverted through the room. It crackled, sizzled and threatened to leave them both singed, and it aggravated him as much as he knew it irritated her.

‘Why wouldn’t you take my calls?’

Two streaks of colour darkened her cheeks. ‘You called at inconvenient moments.’

‘And does ignoring your clients’ phone calls generally work well for you? I’d always assumed that customer service is everything in your business.’

‘You weren’t calling about business.’

‘And you weren’t thinking about business when you refused to take my calls so let’s stop pretending we don’t know what’s going on here.’ Deeply unsettled by the strength of his own feelings, Mal strode to the huge glass windows that enveloped her office and reminded himself that his reason for being here had nothing to do with his past relationship with this woman. That was irrelevant. It had to be irrelevant. ‘Nice views. You’ve done extraordinarily well for yourself. Your business is booming while others fold.’

‘Why do you find it extraordinary? I work hard and I understand my market.’

Her reply made him smile but he kept that smile to himself. ‘Less than five minutes together and already you’re picking a fight.’

‘You’re the one who landed a helicopter on my roof and barged into my office. I would say you were the one picking the fight, Mal.’

For the first time in weeks he felt the energy flow through him. Not to anyone would he have admitted how good it felt to have someone speak without restraint. To argue with him. To challenge—

‘I was merely congratulating you on the astonishing growth of your business in a difficult economic climate.’

‘You could have done that in an email. I have absolutely no idea why you’re here or why you’ve been phoning me every two minutes but I’m assuming you don’t want to talk about guest lists or colour schemes.’

‘I am not remotely interested in the details of the party. That is your job.’

‘For once we’re in agreement. And now I’d be grateful if you’d leave so that I can do that job.’

Sufficiently energized, he turned. ‘No one but you would dare speak to me like that.’

‘So fire me, Mal. Go on. Do it. Take your business elsewhere.’ Those eyes locked on his and he wondered why she would be encouraging him to back out of what must be for her a prime piece of business. Under the perfectly applied make-up, she looked tired. His gaze slid to her hands and he saw her fiddling nervously with the pen she was holding.

Avery never fiddled. Avery was never nervous.

His attention caught, he watched her for a moment, trying to read her. ‘I’m not firing you.’

‘Then at least get to the point. Why are you here?’

‘I’m here because at the moment the party cannot go ahead. Something crucial is missing.’

The mere suggestion that something might be less than perfect had her bristling defensively as she always did if anyone so much as questioned her competence. That beautifully shod foot tapped the floor. Those eyes narrowed as she mentally scrolled through the checklist she kept permanently updated in her head. ‘I can assure you that nothing is “missing”, Mal. I have been over the plans meticulously and checked every last detail personally. It will all be absolutely as planned.’

She had complete confidence in her own ability and that confidence was justified because Avery Scott never overlooked anything. Nothing escaped her. Her attention to detail drove her team mad. It had driven him mad, and yet at the same time he’d admired it because she’d built herself a successful business on the back of nothing but her own hard work. This woman had never freeloaded in her life. Nor had she ever asked anyone for anything. She was the first woman he’d met who wasn’t interested in anything he had to offer.

For a moment he felt a pang of regret, but regret was a sentiment he couldn’t afford and he moved on quickly.

‘You misunderstand me. I’m sure that everything your company has planned is perfect, as ever.’

‘So if that is the case, what can possibly be missing?’

Mal paused, hesitating because he was about to trust her with information that he hadn’t entrusted to another living soul. Even now he was wondering whether coming here had been a mistake.

‘What am I missing? The most important thing of all,’ he drawled softly. ‘I’m missing my bride.’





CHAPTER TWO


‘YOUR bride?’ The word clung to her dry mouth. Oh God, she was cracking up. The effort of holding it together was just too much. It was bad enough that he was here in person, but the fact that he was here to talk about his bride was a double blow. Did he have no tact? No sensitivity at all?

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