Until He Met Meg(3)

By: Sami Lee


‘No, it’s fine,’ Meg said, feeling suddenly guilty about her fractious behaviour. She had nothing ahead but a night of morosely contemplating her dwindling list of options for the future and he had that family emergency waiting at home. She wondered briefly what his wife was like. She’d be beautiful, of course. A man like Bryce Carlton would have a beautiful wife. And adorable, talented children.

A strange yearning unsettled her. Was she actually envying the austere Mr Carlton’s wife? There was nothing to be envious of, Meg assured herself. The man looked every inch the workaholic, and far too serious to be any fun. His wife was probably only treated to romantic evenings out on their anniversary and their children were bound to be frightfully spoiled.

She dismissed her musings in swift self-recrimination. Her cab-mate’s personal life was none of her business. ‘Go to your house,’ she told him decisively. ‘I’ll take the cab home from there.’

He hesitated. ‘If you’re sure.’

‘I’m sure.’ Meg felt nowhere near as certain as she sounded. She wasn’t sure the available limit on her Visa card would adequately cover the cost of such a long trip, so her suggestion made no sense at all. Yet it was the only choice that appealed to her. It was warm and dry in the taxi, and she really wanted to stay warm and dry right now. If circumstances were going to force her into returning to Karawak Downs and the life her well-intentioned but interfering family had mapped out for her, the least she could do was enjoy her last few days in Sydney as best she could.

***

Bryce Carlton stared at the reports on his lap without seeing them, trying not to be affected by the presence of the woman beside him. But the figures on the page might as well have been written in Sanskrit for all his diverted brain absorbed of them.

He should have simply let the woman have the blasted taxi. But damn it, he had to get home. His daughter was causing her usual havoc. Phillipa had managed to scare off another nanny, and he’d really thought Miss Windsor would work out. She’d come so highly recommended by the exclusive nanny outfit he’d contracted — but then, so had all those that went before her. In fact, the agency manager had gone so far as to imply that if either he or his daughter found some fault with Miss Windsor as well, perhaps hers wasn’t the right organization for them.

And now Phillipa had done or said something that had prompted Miss Windsor to storm out in the middle of the afternoon. He had to get home not only to discipline Phillipa, but to relieve his housekeeper, who had reminded him in no uncertain terms by phone that withstanding his daughter’s ‘guff’ was not written into her job description.

A fine time for his Mercedes to have a flat battery. He should have contacted his regular car service instead of taking his chances in a cab. At least then he would have been assured a quiet ride home. But he’d seen the taxi and the driver had waved to him. At the time it had seemed like the most expedient option so he’d figured, why not?

The woman beside him coughed, drawing Bryce’s attention to her once again. She was why not. Apparently a man could encounter all manner of odd individuals in a taxi.

Her long hair was tied back in a thick ponytail of damp blonde tresses, revealing her winsome profile and the smooth line of her neck. She was slender, approaching tall for a woman, her figure willowy. Bryce’s focus snagged on her long legs. There was a fine run in her black stockings that traversed her calf before disappearing beneath the hem of her generic black skirt.

Something primitive in him stirred and almost came to life. Caught between surprise and annoyance, he realised it was a spark of attraction.

How odd. Meg Lacy wasn’t anything like the kind of woman he would date. She gave the immediate impression of a high-spirited colt, difficult to tame and impossible to predict. His preference was for women who were cool and sophisticated, like the few he had escorted to charity functions or the opera in the year and a half since his marriage had ended. They had been looking for the same thing he was — simple companionship. He would never date a woman he thought remotely likely to demand more of him than that.

He’d tried serious commitment once and had found he wasn’t particularly skilled at it. Never again would he open himself up to failing so spectacularly.

Instinctively he knew Meg Lacy was a relationship type of girl. While she wasn’t exactly uncouth, the light twang of her voice told him she wasn’t city born. He doubted she possessed a cool, sophisticated cell in her body.

The thought of her body had his eyes yearning to journey over her again. Bryce set his jaw against the urge. Yet he couldn’t remain completely unaware of her presence beside him, and after a time he came to realise she was shivering inside her thin white blouse. He frowned. ‘You’re cold.’

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