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Мортимер Кэрол

A Marriage Proposal For Christmas

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‘I WANT YOU TO KNOW that I really do appreciate—’

‘Fine,’ Cally cut Noel off rudely, busy unloading the boxes of decorations from the boot of her car, not in the least mollified by the fact that her newest client had been waiting outside Parker Hall when she’d arrived ten minutes ago, with the obvious intention of helping her carry the boxes inside.

She hadn’t wanted to do this job at all, but at the same time she was well aware of what Pam’s reaction would be if she returned to the office and found that Cally had refused to help him after all. That, she told herself firmly, was the only reason she was here at all. That, and the thought of his poor mother’s disappointment when she arrived to spend Christmas in England and found her son had done nothing about arranging it. No, she certainly wasn’t doing this for Noel Carlton.

He straightened, arms folded across his chest as he gave her a considering look. ‘Tell me, is that heavy?’

She frowned, looking at the box in her arms. ‘Not particularly, no.’

‘I wasn’t referring to the box,’ he drawled.

Cally blinked; she really didn’t have the time to play word games with this man. In fact, she didn’t have a lot of time at all, and would have preferred it if he hadn’t been here! ‘Then what were you referring to?’ she asked distractedly.

‘The monumental chip you have on your shoulder,’ he said dryly. ‘Can I take a guess at that having something to do with the fact that it’s Miss Turner instead of Mrs?’

Cally stiffened. ‘I beg your pardon?’

Noel Carlton drew in a deep breath. ‘I said, does that monumental chip on your shoulder—?’

‘I heard what you said,’ she snapped.

He nodded unconcernedly. ‘I thought that you did.’

She scowled at him. ‘I was just giving you the opportunity to retract the question!’

He shrugged. ‘An opportunity I have no intention of taking. Look, I really am sorry you were woken up by the helicopter this morning—’

‘I can assure you, your insulting remark just now certainly hasn’t helped the situation!’ she assured him.

‘I can see that.’ He grimaced. ‘Look, Cally—may I call you Cally?’

‘I believe you just did.’

‘And I’m Noel,’ he told her unnecessarily, giving an impatient sigh as she looked unimpressed. ‘Cally, I want you to know that Celebrations comes highly recommended—you organized my secretary’s wedding last week,’ he enlarged as she looked at him questioningly. ‘Debra Hayes,’ he supplied as she still looked blank.

‘Oh, yes.’ She smiled as she remembered the glowingly lovely bride she had spent months consulting with to make absolutely sure the elaborate wedding plans worked out successfully, that smile fading as she also remembered that Debra and her husband, Giles, were supposed to be honeymooning in Barbados right now. ‘Exactly when did Debra recommend us to you?’

‘I telephoned her last night, if you must know,’ Noel Carlton revealed reluctantly. ‘I was desperate, okay?’ he added irritably as Cally raised incredulous brows.

She bit her lip in an effort to stop herself from laughing, finally giving up as she realized she was fighting a losing battle. ‘I’m sure she and her new husband really appreciated that!’ She chuckled gleefully.

Noel gave a rueful smile. ‘I don’t think Giles was best pleased.’

‘Would you have been, in the circumstances?’ Cally shook her head in disbelief as she continued to walk inside the house, depositing the box with the others in the huge hall at the bottom of the wide staircase. ‘They’re on their honeymoon, for goodness’ sake!’ She turned to grin.

‘Yes. Well. I was desperate,’ he muttered.

‘So you already said.’

In actual fact, Cally had been slightly thrown off her guard when she’d arrived at Parker Hall and found Noel Carlton waiting for her, no longer wearing his business suit, shirt and tie, but dressed in faded denims and a rugby top that looked as if it might be a relic of his university days ten years or so ago. If anything, he looked more lethally attractive in these casual clothes than he had in his suit!

He raised a hand to sweep back that overlong dark hair. ‘Ordinarily I could have asked Debra to help me out with this little problem—’

‘Oh, so now it’s a little problem, is it?’ Cally teased.

It was Noel’s turn to grin. ‘It is now that you’re here to help!’

‘Don’t expect miracles,’ she warned. ‘I’ll do my best, but this is rather a big house.’ She looked pointedly at the huge hallway they stood in, half a dozen doors leading off it, and this was only the ground floor; there were two more of them up the wide staircase.

Parker Hall was the old manor house to the local village of Axton, and had once housed the rich and influential family of Parker. But as with many of these old families, death duties and lack of interest in succeeding generations had almost brought about its ruin, the hall now rented out to whoever could pay the exorbitant fee being asked. Which Noel Carlton obviously could…

‘As long as the Neilsons weren’t going to eat smorgasbord for Christmas, or something equally unsuitable, I really don’t care!’ he assured Cally now.

Конец ознакомительного фрагмента.

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