Reluctant Wife(4)

By: Lindsay Armstrong





‘Oh, do you think you would?’ he countered, and he was suddenly no longer laughing or even looking amused. ‘I suspect you shock more easily than Jeanette, Roz. In fact I think she’d be delighted. I’m sure she’s a romantic at heart.’



‘Which I am not?’ Roz asked coolly.



‘No,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘And in some danger of becoming a virtuous bore…’



It happened before she could stop herself——as shockingly, sharp little explosion of sound as she reached up and hit him. ‘I h-hate you!’ she stammered through clenched teeth, her face scarlet now and her‘ eyes burning, but she also backed away a step a bare moment later.



If she expected some physical retaliation it was not what she got, however. Adam’s mouth tightened and he lifted a hand to explore the red mark; on his cheek. Then he reached across and grasped her wrist and her heart started to pound, but all he said very evenly was, ‘I wouldn’t do that again, Roz.’



‘Then don’t provoke me!’ she retorted angrily, but in her heart she was still half afraid of what he might do but determined not to let him know it. And she tilted her chin defiantly at him.



He surprised her. He said, ‘That’s better, actually,’ with a wry little smile twisting his lips.



She stared at him. ‘What do you mean?’



Adam shrugged and grinned. ‘Provided you keep your fists to yourself,’ he curled her hand into a fist and covered it with his own, ‘provided you do that,’ he looked into her stormy blue eyes, ‘I prefer to see you in a rage than cold and polite and haughty. But there’s just one thing you shouldn’t forget. We made a bargain for various reasons, my dear Roz. One which I’ve stuck to. Perhaps you ought to remember that.’



‘I’ve stuck to it too! I …’



‘Have you?’ he said drily.



‘Yes!’



‘Or would it be more accurate to say—stuck to it but hated it?’ he queried, his eyes now glinting with impatience.



‘No,’ she whispered, her lips trembling. ‘I mean …’



‘Then spare me your pride and your holier-than-thou looks, Roz,’ he put in sardonically. ‘Or I might be tempted to take you down a peg or two—oh, in the nicest possible way,’ he added softly and with a look that brought the blood to her cheeks again.



‘If you mean what I think you mean,’ Roz said stiffly,



‘there’s nothing you can do to me that hasn’t …’ She broke off and bit her lip.



He smiled faintly. ‘You don’t really believe that, do you?’



They stared at each other.



‘Well then,’ he said drily, ‘it’s definitely time I showed you otherwise, my love.’



‘I’m not your …’ But he cut her of with an irritable gesture.



‘Let’s not go into that now, Roz.’



‘You brought the subject up,’ she said defensively.



‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘because you’re as tense as a piano wire and looking as if your heart is full of tears again, for nothing. Believe me, Roz, the alternative to this would have been something you really wouldn’t have liked. I thought you understood and accepted that. But now it seems as if I’ve become some sort of an ogre.’



Roz stared up into his dark eyes, then her gaze fell away guiltily. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said huskily, ‘if I seem ungrateful after all you’ve done for me. I don’t mean to be—I’m not.’ Her shoulders slumped. ‘And I’m sorry if I’ve been a fool and I’ll try to make amends …’ She blushed suddenly and for the first time considered that she might sound virtuous and boring and holier-than-thou.



He said, ‘If you could just relax it might help. It can’t all be hard labour, surely?’



‘No …’



‘Then forget this conversation and concentrate for once on enjoying yourself tonight. It is your party, and even if my family are all mad, I’m sure they’d like to see you happy. Which reminds me, I’d better get ready. Finish that,’ he added over his shoulder, gesturing towards her drink as he walked across to the inter-leading door to his bedroom. ‘You’re right, at twenty-one you are entitled to break out.’

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