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A Marriage Proposal For Christmas

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«A Marriage Proposal For Christmas» - Кэрол Мортимер

Carole Mortimer is one of Mills & Boon’s best loved Modern Romance authors. With nearly 200 books published and a career spanning 35 years, Mills & Boon are thrilled to present her complete works available to download for the very first time! Rediscover old favourites – and find new ones! – in this fabulous collection…A fiancée for the holidays?When millionaire entrepreneur Noel Carlton hired party planner Cally Turner, it was primarily to arrange a traditional Christmas celebration for his relations. But now he’s demanding Cally step in as his fiancée for the holidays too…Cally thinks Noel is an egotistical—and wickedly gorgeous—playboy. She only agreed to work for him so she could give her daughter a Christmas to remember. But with an unexpected diamond in her stocking, suddenly Cally is spending Christmas under the mistletoe…with Noel!
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A Marriage Proposalfor Christmas Carole Mortimer

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

Title Page

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

‘I KNOW NO one is available to take my call at the moment, and no, I will not leave a message after the tone!’ the man’s voice snarled. ‘I’ve already left four messages, and I’m sick of talking to this damned machine. I intend coming round there in person in the hopes that I can talk to a human being!’

Cally stood arrested in the doorway of the office as she heard the disembodied voice on the message her sister Pam was playing back on the answering machine. ‘Not a dissatisfied customer, I hope?’ She raised questioning brows as she came fully into the office and closed the door behind her, instantly shutting out the cold December wind blowing outside.

‘Not yet.’ Her sister looked up and smiled as she switched off the answering machine. ‘So far he’s just another person who seems to have forgotten that this is the season of peace and good will to all men.’

‘I’ve always wondered what happened to “and all women” in that particular phrase,’ Cally murmured as she slipped out of her thick outer coat, moving to hang it on the stand in the corner of the room. She appeared small and slim in the black business suit she wore, the thin green jumper beneath the jacket a perfect match for her eyes, long red hair loose about her shoulders.

Her sister, at twenty-eight the elder by three years, shrugged philosophically. ‘Different century, darling,’ she said dryly.

‘You mean we were even less equal then than we are now?’ Cally snapped irritably, moving to sit down behind the second desk in this cosily welcoming room that constituted the sisters’ base for their business.

Pam chuckled. ‘What’s upset you this morning? Or should I say, who?’ she corrected knowingly. ‘Playboy of the West been keeping you awake all night again, has he?’

Cally raised auburn brows. ‘Would you care to rephrase that?’

Pam’s grin widened. ‘Not particularly. But I will if it makes you happy,’ she added teasingly as Cally’s scowl deepened. ‘Let’s see.’ She paused for thought. ‘Has your neighbour been keeping you awake all hours of the day and night again with his noisy arrivals and departures in that gorgeous red vehicle that is just too glamorous to be called a mere car?’

‘It’s a Ferrari,’ Cally supplied disgustedly. ‘And that was at midnight last night. This morning—at six-thirty, would you believe?—it was a helicopter!’ And she could still clearly remember being startled awake by the noise of its engines as it flew over the gatehouse where she lived, before landing on the lawn of the main house—where the ‘Playboy of the West’ lived!

‘A helicopter.’ Pam nodded, suitably impressed.

‘It landed on the front lawn of the main house, continued to run its engines for ten minutes or so, and then flew off again. I was not amused, I can tell you,’ Cassie growled, not willing, at this moment, to tell her sister just how unamused she had been—she was still too angry about the whole affair!

‘Did he wake Lissa, too?’ Pam looked concerned.

‘No,’ Cally allowed grudgingly, sure that her young daughter would sleep through an earthquake.

‘Have you managed to meet Noel Carlton yet?’ her sister asked eagerly.

Pam had been fascinated by the comings and goings of Cally’s neighbour since he had moved into the main house almost a year ago. Cally didn’t share the interest; she wished he would just take his Ferrari, and his helicopter, in fact, his whole over-the-top lifestyle, and go back to wherever it was he had come from!

The fact that he had flirted with her when she’d gone up to the house to complain about the noise a couple of months ago hadn’t exactly endeared him to her, either. Especially as he hadn’t followed up on the flirtation but had suddenly become coolly aloof! a little voice taunted inside her.

‘No,’ she fibbed. She felt guilty not telling Pam the truth, but couldn’t face the grilling Pam would insist on giving her if she knew Cally had met the man twice now.

‘Still think it was a good idea to move out to the “peace and quiet” of the country?’ Pam teased as she saw Cally’s frowning look.

Until Noel Carlton had moved in next door it had been a brilliant idea. The gatehouse she rented from the Parker Estate was just perfect for her and her young daughter, Lissa. Added to that, Lissa loved her new school, and was also able to indulge her interest in horse-riding at weekends. Even the forty-minute drive into work for Cally had been worth it just to see the happy smiles on her young daughter’s face.

But Noel Carlton had moved in almost a year ago and since then it had all become a bit of a nightmare. Even complaints to the agent for the estate that she had arranged to rent the gatehouse from initially had not elicited any satisfaction.

Which was why she had paid Noel Carlton a visit herself two months ago.

At that visit she had found the man absolutely charming, a fact he’d obviously picked up on as he had suggested they go out to dinner together some time to discuss the problem further.

To say she had been stunned by the invitation would be putting it mildly.

She had been disappointed when he hadn’t bothered to call her, but had seemed to look through her the next time he’d seen her. And had continued to do so ever since.

Although, she recalled with a grimace, she hadn’t exactly given him the opportunity to ignore her this morning!

Cally set her shoulders. ‘It was an excellent idea,’ she stated firmly. ‘I’m determined that he will tire of country life before I do!’

Her sister chuckled, shaking her head. ‘I wish you luck. I—uh-oh.’ Her hazel-coloured gaze moved to the huge window that looked out on the busy high street from where they ran their business.

‘What—?’ Cally’s attention was also caught by the grim-faced man striding determinedly past the window, the colour draining from her face as she realized he was coming here. ‘It’s him!’ she squeaked breathlessly, at the same time coming sharply to her feet.

Pam turned back with a frown. ‘What—?’

‘It’s him!’ Cally repeated frantically.

‘I—where are you going?’ Pam demanded as Cally made a quick exit in the direction of the back room where they made hot drinks and kept the stationery.

‘To make some coffee. I—get rid of him!’ she pleaded before disappearing behind the open door.

But she made no effort to go and make coffee, or indeed anything else, as she heard the outer door open before being closed with suppressed violence. Nothing had changed there, then!

‘Can I help you?’ she heard Pam offer politely.

‘I certainly hope so,’ the man rasped.

Noel Carlton!

There was no doubt about it, Cally accepted with a wince after taking a surreptitious peek from behind the slightly ajar door and easily recognizing her nearest neighbour.

She couldn’t mistake that handsomely chiselled face, or the dark hair he wore much longer than was fashionable. His suit, even from that brief glance, looked expensively tailored, as did the handmade black leather shoes.

Not that any of that mattered just now. There could be only one reason for this man turning up here: her comments this morning had obviously elicited some sort of response, after all!

‘A human being at last,’ he continued scathingly. ‘You are a human being, aren’t you?’

‘Indeed I am,’ Pam answered in her most soothing voice, always the calmer one of the two sisters—a fact Cally had always blamed on her own vibrantly red hair as opposed to Pam’s more muted auburn. ‘Would you be the gentleman who rang earlier?’ she queried.

‘Five times!’ he confirmed indignantly.

Noel Carlton was the angry man on the answering machine?

‘We don’t actually open until nine o’clock, I’m afraid, Mr…?’

‘Carlton,’ he snapped.

‘Mr Carlton,’ Pam acknowledged smoothly—giving no indication of having recognized the name at all. ‘I’m sorry there was no one here to take your calls earlier, but, as I said, we don’t actually open the office until nine o’clock. However, I’m obviously more than happy to offer you any assistance that I can now.’

No, don’t say that! Cally mentally tried to communicate with her sister. Noel Carlton was the last person either of them even wanted to talk to. Until they had consulted a lawyer, at any rate. Not that Cally thought she was even slightly in the wrong with her complaints, but that didn’t mean that her neighbour saw it that way, too.

Cally took another peek around the door, just in time to see the man lowering his long length into the chair opposite Pam’s desk, his back towards Cally now as she frantically tried to attract her sister’s attention over one of his broad shoulders.

Pam shot her a questioning glance, obviously still none the wiser as to why Cally had disappeared so swiftly.

Cally quietly opened the door a little wider, raising her hands to make a movement as if she were holding the steering wheel of a car.

If anything Pam just looked even more perplexed!

Cally gave her sister a frustrated frown, pointing at Noel Carlton’s broad back, then at herself, before repeating the action of holding a car’s steering wheel.

Nothing.

Her sister looked completely puzzled now, at the same time staring at Cally as if she had gone slightly insane.

And maybe she had, Cally conceded heavily. She might have been extremely upset this morning, and told him exactly what she thought of him—but having Noel Carlton turn up at her place of work was the last response she had expected!

‘The thing is that I need—Do I have your full attention… Mrs Davies?’ Noel Carlton prompted, having paused briefly while he read the name on the front of the desk.

Pam broke her gaze away from Cally, a blush in her cheeks now. ‘Of course you do, Mr—I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?’ she encouraged in a slightly hushed voice, her eyes widening now with sudden recognition.

At last! Maybe there wouldn’t be any need to hit her sister over the head with a book later, after all!

‘Carlton,’ he supplied again through clenched teeth. ‘The thing is that I need—Mrs Davies?’ he bit out impatiently as he obviously sensed her attention wandering again.

Not surprisingly really; Pam’s gaze had returned to Cally as she stood behind him. The look in Pam’s eyes was a mixture of recognition and excitement, tinged with wariness as to what he was actually doing here.

Cally had a pretty good idea as to the answer to the latter, although she hoped not to have to discuss that with her sister in front of her neighbour.

‘What the—?’ Noel Carlton, having followed Pam’s gaze and glanced behind him, stood up abruptly as he saw Cally standing there. ‘You!’ he accused.

Her.

And Noel Carlton looked no more pleased to see her again than she was to see him!

.

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