Mr. Irresistible(3)

By: Karina Bliss

The bread stuck in Kate’s throat. She washed it down with a sip of water, aware of a strange disappointment. She didn’t like King, after all. “Those poor kids,” she said.

The two friends ate in a thoughtful silence.

“Wait a minute.” Kate paused with an olive halfway to her mouth. “Isn’t Jordan involved in setting up a holiday camp for children from broken homes?”

“Yes, that’s what burns me up about it—the hypocrisy.” Lucy brightened as she looked at Kate. “What a perfect topic for your column.”

Kate ate the olive. “No,” she said firmly. “I’m writing light and frivolous this week. No more crusades.” And she avoided the subject of infidelity, because she didn’t trust herself to be dispassionate about it.

“Oh, my God.” Lucy clapped a hand over her mouth. “I just remembered we’re here to celebrate your new independence. How was Australia? Did your baby sister settle in okay? More importantly, how do you feel?”

“Courtney loves the Townsville campus, and we found her some great roommates.” Kate passed Lucy a dessert menu, and to her relief, her friend opened it. “And when I flew home on Sunday a postcard was waiting from Danny.” She grinned. “I suspect my new sister-in-law is behind that thoughtfulness. They’re having a wonderful honeymoon and—”

“I said how do you feel?” Lucy shut the menu.

Kate opened hers. “Great, absolutely fantastic.”

Lucy reached across the table for her hand. “Sweetie, you’ve played mum to your brother and sister for years. Of course you’re missing them.”

To Kate’s horror, she felt the prickle of tears. “I need to visit the bathroom. Order me the tiramisu, will you?”

In the ladies’ room, she locked the cubicle door, leaned against it and cried—short, sharp sobs she tried to smother with toilet tissue. She was twenty-eight years old, for the first time in her life she had no dependents, and she hated it.

Hated not making dinner for three, hated not buying washing powder in bulk, hated finding the apartment still tidy when she came home from work. Last night, when she’d got stuck on the cryptic crossword, she’d called out the clue…before remembering they’d gone.

She’d expected to be dancing for joy. Instead, she felt like she was missing her limbs.

Wiping her eyes with the damp tissue, Kate glanced at her watch. Ten minutes. She was taking too long. Blowing her nose, she washed her face at the basin and checked her appearance critically in the gilt-framed mirror.

Low heels, nondescript black pants, tailored shirt and a man’s watch. Clean and tidy. Early responsibility had given her a pragmatic approach to clothes, though she always wore labels. They lasted longer.

She touched up her nude lipstick and dragged a comb through her short wavy hair, frowning at how red it looked under the lights. She was a brunette, damn it.

A button had popped open on her shirt; Kate did up two for good measure. Satisfied, she stepped into the corridor.

A door had been left open to the tiny utility courtyard, where crates of empty wine bottles were stacked alongside big bins. Leaves flew in on a gust of wind, and Kate went to close it. A shadow stretched across the doorway and she stopped.

Jordan King came into view, a cell phone pressed to his ear. “I’m sure if I lie low, stick with ‘no comment,’ it’ll blow over…. Yes, Christian, I know how to lie low. Where am I?” He grinned. “Meg and I are having a quiet bite at Amici’s.” Jordan laughed and held the phone away for a moment. “Okay, okay, I’ll make more of an effort. But no denials. I’m not compounding my error of screwing a married woman by lying about it.”

Kate had heard enough. Returning to the table, she found Lucy stealing a spoonful of her dessert. Her friend’s eyes widened when she saw Kate’s expression. “It was only a mouthful,” she said feebly.

“It’s yours. I’ve lost my appetite.”

“Listen, I was thinking…this is your opportunity to break out and have some fun.” Lucy frowned at Kate’s buttoned-up shirt. “I’ve got the afternoon off, you work flexible hours. Let’s go buy you some sexy clothes.”