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Engaged To Jarrod Stone

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«Engaged To Jarrod Stone» - 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…Proposal in the press…Brooke Faulkner is tired of hearing about all the women her boss, notorious playboy billionaire, Jarrod Stone, has affairs with… Deciding to teach Jarrod a lesson, Brooke announces to the press that Mr Stone is finally getting married. And the bride-to-be? Brooke herself!But her little joke backfires when Brooke learns that Jarrod is not a man to toy with… And before too long she’s fervently wishing for their mock engagement to be a real one…!
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Engaged to Jarrod Stone Carole Mortimer


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Title Page













BROOKE sat down at the reception desk, turning to face the girl who sat behind her. ‘Has he arrived yet?’

Jean gave her an innocent look. ‘Has who arrived?’

Brooke gave her an impatient glance. ‘You know very well who. Don’t tease this morning, Jean.’

Her friend quirked one eyebrow. ‘Had one of those nights, did you?’

‘Morning, actually. Has he arrived?’

‘I gather you mean Mr Stone? Then yes, he arrived about ten minutes ago.’

‘Oh damn!’ Brooke frowned her displeasure.

‘Why? Did you want to see him?’

‘Not really.’ She pursed her lips. ‘I’m—– He—– What did he look like?’ She watched the other girl closely.

Jean gave her a strange look, dealing hurriedly with a call that came through on her switchboard. They weren’t due to open until nine o’clock, and yet invariably there were calls coming through before then. ‘How do you think he looked?’ she said finally. ‘How does he always look—gorgeous. Just as tall, dark, and handsome as usual.’

‘He didn’t look—well, different?’

Jean gave a firm shake of her head. ‘He always looks the same, he always acts the same. He walks in here, gives me an arrogant nod of his head, and then walks straight into his private lift. He does the same thing in the evenings, only in reverse. The man’s as impersonal to his employees as the machines he produces. Three years I’ve worked here now, and he still wouldn’t recognise me if he saw me out in the street.’

Their conversation was broken off as the office workers started to crowd into the building in preparation for starting work at nine. As the receptionist Brooke found the next half an hour very busy, directing people up to the various offices and dealing with the tannoy system.

The morning rush over, she relaxed in her chair for a few minutes. Jean was kept busy with her switchboard, which gave Brooke time to think. She was a fool, a prize idiot. She was likely to lose her job for what she had done, and it was a good job, paying very high wages.

She must have been temporarily insane, must have had a brainstorm. When she had seen the announcement in the newspapers this morning she had felt sick, physically sick. And yet no one else had seen it—at least, no one had commented on it. Someone had to see it soon, it was so noticeable. It had seemed larger than life to her.

It had been there in the newspaper for all to see, an intended marriage between Brooke Faulkner and Jarrod Stone. Her own engagement to the owner of this prosperous computer firm! And to make matters worse, he knew nothing about it!

She picked up the internal telephone on her desk as it began to ring. ‘Brooke Faulkner speaking,’ she said automatically.

‘Get up here!’ snapped a deep male voice.

She almost dropped the telephone in her panic. Jarrod Stone, it had to be! She cleared her throat. ‘I—I beg your pardon?’

‘You’ll do more than that when I’ve finished with you,’ he growled.

‘I’ll expect you in my office in precisely five minutes.’ The receiver was slammed down at the other end.

She didn’t need to be told that he knew about the announcement in the newspapers, the anger in his voice had been enough. Besides, he had hardly ever spoken to her before, and there could be only one reason he wanted to see her.

‘Everything all right?’ asked Jean, noting her pale face.

Brooke realised with a start that she was still holding the receiver in her hand. She put it hurriedly back on its cradle. ‘I—I have to go up to one of the offices. Would you—would you look after the desk for me for a while?’

‘Sure,’ Jean agreed readily.

Brooke didn’t quite know how she got into the private lift for the tenth floor, but somehow she seemed to have managed it. She had only ever used this lift once before in the six months she had worked for Stone Computers, and that had been two weeks ago when she had been induced to seek this terrible revenge on him.

It had all started when the model had arrived to take the advertising photographs. No one else had been available to take her up to Jarrod Stone’s office and so she had offered to take her up herself. It had been a good excuse to see him. As Jean had so rightly said, he walked in in the mornings and out again at night, taking no notice of them in reception at all.

As it had turned out Jarrod Stone’s secretary had gone to lunch that day and her assistant was off sick. Brooke had hardly been able to believe her luck when she had stepped out into the outer office. The place had been deserted, which meant she would actually get to speak to Jarrod Stone herself. Since the day she had begun work here, and he had walked into the building to begin his day’s work, she had fallen for him, hard.

He was so fantastic-looking, like a film star or something. He was tall, well over six feet, with a lithe athletic body that suggested he did not spend all of his time in an office, his skin tanned from much time spent in the sun. His dark over-long hair was styled away from his face, his deep grey eyes narrowed and enigmatic.

But if she had been instantly attracted to him he hadn’t reacted at all; those grey eyes looked right through her. She knew she wasn’t beautiful or anything, but she wasn’t that plain either. Dark brown hair with deep red tints swung easily about her shoulders in gleaming waves, her deep blue eyes surrounded by long thick lashes, her small uptilted nose, curving mouth that was never far from a smile, and slight slender figure all added up to an attractive young girl. And yet to Jarrod Stone she might not even have been feminine.

But she knew he wasn’t always that reticent about noticing a woman’s charms; he was reputed to have had many beautiful women in his life at one time or another. And his completely self-assured arrogance pointed to them not all being platonic relationships. No, here was a man who had shared his bed with many women—and he had known how to satisfy every one of them.

In a way it had been his confirmation of these conquests that had sparked off her desire to hit out at him. Leaving the model in the outer office, she had passed through to the reception room. In here she could hear the faint murmur of masculine voices, and had realised Jarrod Stone wasn’t alone.

She soon knew the reason she could hear their voices too; the office door was slightly ajar. She was just about to knock on the door when she was arrested in the action by the words being murmured in her boss’s deep throaty voice, his amusement obvious.

‘I’m afraid I only find women good for one thing,’ he scoffed lightly. ‘And I don’t mean housework,’ he added with a laugh.

Brooke had stepped back with a gasp. What a cheek! What a nerve! The meaning behind his words had been obvious and she had waited open-mouthed for his companion’s answer. She knew she should really knock on the door, make them aware of her presence before they said anything else, but she was held mesmerised by the arrogance of the words she had just overheard.

‘Come on now, Jarrod,’ the other man replied, this voice sounding younger. He had called the first speaker Jarrod, confirming her belief that Jarrod Stone had made that insulting remark about the female sex. ‘You like women as much as I do,’ he continued.

‘I enjoy them,’ Jarrod Stone had corrected. ‘I don’t know that I’ve ever actually liked them. But I’ve desired them, yes. But I find them preferable as bed-companions than as anything else.’

‘If one of them could hear the way you’re talking …’

But one can, Brooke wanted to shout. She had never felt so disgusted and degraded. How a man as successful and good-looking as Jarrod Stone could judge all women by the type he had obviously been associating with for years was beyond her. To her he appeared the handsomest man she had ever seen, and to think he had that low opinion of women just didn’t seem fair.

His looks and charm had obviously done him no good whatsoever, making him cynical about women.

‘Why should they care?’ he replied carelessly. ‘They’re usually well compensated for their—charms, for want of a better word,’ he added with a sneer, ‘with jewellery and clothing. No woman will ever trap me into marriage while there are women like that about, but they can never accuse me of being mean.’

‘I’m sure,’ laughed the other man.

Brooke had decided she had just about heard enough of this distasteful conversation, knocking firmly on the door and entering when bade to do so.

‘Yes?’ Jarrod Stone raised one dark eyebrow, his eyes broodingly grey in his deeply tanned face.

Brooke stopped in her tracks, the anger that had been the momentum behind her being able to walk into the room slowly fading. Her breath caught in her throat at the lazy smile he directed at her, leaving her momentarily speechless. When she finally did manage to speak it was in a voice that sounded strange, even to her own ears. ‘I—er—I—I’ve brought up the model for the advertising photographs. She’s waiting outside.’

‘Thank you.’ He smiled at her again, his eyes crinkling at the corners. ‘Would you like to show her in? My secretary’s at lunch, I’m afraid.’

‘Certainly,’ she answered breathlessly.

He looked every inch the arrogant businessman sitting behind his imposing desk, and Brooke turned in confusion to leave the room. She hesitated outside the door as she heard him give a throaty chuckle.

‘You see what I mean,’ he said with amusement.

‘What?’ The other man was obviously puzzled, a younger man that Brooke had recognised as being Philip Baylis, a business associate of the owner of Stone Computers.

‘A smile and a few softly spoken words and any woman will do exactly what you ask them to, even that little mouse. She knows very well it isn’t her job to bring people up to the offices, and yet she did it anyway.’


‘So that’s a perfect example of what we were just discussing. No, Philip, while there are still girls like her about no woman will ever catch me in the matrimonial trap. I don’t see that it’s necessary when what you really want can be obtained without feeling as if you’re in a cage.’

Little mouse indeed! She still felt angered at his condescension. His looks might be fantastic, but his nature wasn’t so impressive, at least, not the part she had seen. But even if his words had angered her she shouldn’t have played this stupid trick on him. It had been the confident way he had escorted the model out to lunch that had fired her anger anew, and given her the crazy idea of announcing her own engagement to him.

And now she had to face him. She hoped she looked more self-confident than she felt. He was likely to rip her to shreds with his tongue when he had her in his office, and it was no more than she deserved.

Today the outer office wasn’t deserted. Catherine Farraday, Jarrod Stone’s personal secretary, and her young assistant both busily working as Brooke entered the room.

Catherine gave her a cool look. ‘Yes?’

‘Mr Stone is expecting me. My name is Brooke Faulkner.’

Catherine gave her a disbelieving look but buzzed through to the inner office anyway. ‘A Miss Faulkner to see you, Mr Stone.’

‘Send her straight in,’ he snapped, letting Brooke know that his temper hadn’t cooled at all since his telephone call down to her.

The cool beautiful girl stood up with a slight raising of her delicately shaped eyebrows, as if she were mentally trying to work out the reason for her boss to be seeing a mere receptionist.

‘I know the way,’ Brooke told her hurriedly, unwilling to let this girl witness her humiliation if Jarrod Stone should be unable to contain his anger and lash out at her with his icy tongue as soon as she entered his office.

‘Very well.’ Catherine subsided back into her chair, resuming her work with a coolly detached air.

Brooke moved through into the small reception room, hesitant about actually confronting Jarrod Stone. But if she didn’t go in there soon he would come out here looking for her, and she had no intention of letting him find her cowering nervously outside his office.

He bade her curtly to enter as she knocked on the door, which she reluctantly did. This time there was no charming smile for her, only a furious look on his face and an angry glitter to his eyes.

He stood up, coming round his desk to walk slowly around her as she stood in front of his desk. He came back to rest on the front of his desk, his arms folded in front of his powerful chest.

Even in her embarrassment Brooke could appreciate how attractive he looked, the navy blue pin-striped suit he wore fitting him as if it were tailored on him, his linen immaculate.

‘So you’re Brooke Faulkner,’ he said softly.

‘Yes.’ Did he have to be so taunting? She was perfectly well aware that her navy pinafore dress and light blue fitted blouse in no way matched up to the expensive clothing some of the women he escorted out of the building wore. But did he have to look at her quite like that?

‘The girl I’m engaged to,’ he continued even more softly.

She moved with a start. ‘I—I can explain that.’

He gave a smile, but it owed nothing to humour. ‘Can you now?’ he mused. ‘You can explain how I come to be engaged to be married to a complete stranger, can you?’ His light eyes snapped angrily. ‘It had better be a damned good explanation!’

Brooke moved uncomfortably. ‘I wouldn’t say that, but it is an explanation. The only trouble is I don’t think you’re going to like it.’

He made an impatient movement to sit behind his desk. ‘I don’t like being engaged to a girl I’ve never met before either!’

Brooke gasped. ‘Oh, that isn’t true. I work here, I’ve seen you hundreds of times.’

‘Seeing isn’t the same as meeting. I’ve seen hundreds of people many times over, but that doesn’t mean I know them.’

‘But we have actually met,’ she corrected him. ‘I brought a model up to your office a couple of weeks ago.’

Jarrod Stone studied her for a moment. ‘So you did.’

‘And that’s why I told the newspapers what I did.’

‘Because you brought a model up to my office?’ he sounded astounded.

‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ She had had enough of his taunts. She realised he was angry about what she had done, of course he was, but he didn’t have to take this attitude with her. ‘I did it because I overheard your conversation that day, overheard what you had to say about women.’

‘Did you indeed?’ His grey eyes narrowed. ‘And that prompted you to announce your own engagement to me? After hearing what I had to say about your own fair sex?’

‘Yes, it did!’ Her blue eyes deepened almost to violet. ‘I wanted to make you eat your words, to show you you could be caught in the trap of matrimony as easily as any other man. But I—it didn’t work out the way I intended it to. As soon as I saw it in print I knew it was wrong. But at the time I wanted only to hit out at you, to get back at you for what you think of women.’

‘Oh, you got back at me all right. This morning, not half an hour ago in fact, I had a telephone call from Philip Baylis congratulating me. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about,’ he said forcefully. ‘I felt a damned fool. But I managed to bluff my way out of it. Can you imagine what it felt like to be told by a third party that I’m supposed to be getting married? I didn’t even know who Brooke Faulkner was, but I did know the name sounded familiar. Then I realised I saw it every morning when I entered the building.’

‘You called me a mouse that day I came up here,’ she reminded him resentfully.

‘And for that you landed us in this mess?’

Brooke flicked back her hair. ‘It will be all right. We can just announce in the next issue that it was a mistake.’

He stood up again, his height making her feel very tiny, and he was so big and masculine with it, so very male. ‘You think it’s as easy as that, do you? What a ridiculous child you are! Don’t you realise that by accepting Philip’s congratulations this morning I as much as admitted the engagement was a real one? He’s also invited the two of us to a party this evening.’

‘You—you didn’t accept?’ She frowned her nervousness.

‘Of course I did. What else could I do?—they all want to get a look at you. And I didn’t have time to think of a good excuse not to take you along.’

‘You could have—could have told him we wanted to be alone this evening—to celebrate,’ she said desperately.

‘We don’t all have your devious mind.’

‘But you—you can’t mean this engagement to stand?’ Her voice was becoming shrill now.

‘Oh, but I do. I’m in business, I can’t be seen to become engaged one day and renounce it the next. That wouldn’t do much for my reputation as a reliable businessman. Oh no, Brooke, you started this and you can damn well see it through to the bitter end.’

‘The bitter end?’ she echoed hollowly.

Jarrod Stone shrugged. ‘Just a figure of speech.’

Brooke wasn’t so sure; there was an inflexibility about him that pointed to him not liking to be thwarted. A pity she hadn’t noticed that sooner, like two weeks ago.

‘But I don’t want to be engaged to you,’ she told him crossly.

‘A pity you didn’t think of that before. I’m sure you realise that I feel exactly the same way.’

‘Yes,’ she admitted guiltily, knowing that this was all her own fault.

‘Mm,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Well, now that it seems to be public knowledge you can start acting the part. We’ll meet for lunch at twelve-thirty.’

‘I couldn’t—I couldn’t go out to lunch with you. What would everyone think?’ Besides, she was hardly dressed to go out with him.

‘They can think what they damn well please,’ he muttered grimly.

‘I think you’ve taken this far enough,’ Brooke snapped, suddenly angry. ‘I admit that what I did was wrong, and I’ll leave your employ straight away if that will please you.’ Although how she would support herself until she found another job she had no idea! ‘But I’m not going to let you make a fool of me—–’

‘I think you’ve managed that quite successfully without any help from me,’ he interrupted dryly.

‘You have no right—–’

‘I have every right! Think of how much more of a fool you would have looked if I’d denied all knowledge of you. Think of the adverse reaction you would have got from the press if I’d done that. They would have hounded you to death.’

She knew he was right. The trouble with her was that she hadn’t thought of the consequences when she had made that stupid move, and now Jarrod Stone was going to make her pay for it. But what else had she expected? He was a well-known personality, he couldn’t afford the publicity of a broken engagement. And neither could she!

She could just imagine the unpleasantness it would cause. But she couldn’t stay engaged to him either. Just to look at him terrified the life out of her. How she had ever thought herself in love with him she would never know. She must have been mad. Yes, that must be it; at twenty years of age she was definitely past the stage of infatuation.

‘Brooke?’ he cut into her thoughts.

‘Don’t call me that!’ she snapped her resentment.

‘What would you have me call you—dearest, darling, my love?’ he taunted.

She looked away. ‘Of course not!’

Jarrod Stone shrugged. ‘Then I’ll call you Brooke. It is your name—and you are my fiancée,’ he added mockingly.

‘I am not!’

‘Oh yes, you are—until I say otherwise.’

Her blue eyes widened. ‘And how long do you think that will be?’

‘Oh, four, maybe five months,’ he told her carelessly.

‘What!’ She walked forward to rest her knuckles on the front of the desk. ‘Now I know you’re joking!’

‘I rarely joke about anything this serious.’

‘You’re—you’re telling me I have to be engaged to you for four months?’

‘At a minimum,’ he nodded.

‘But won’t that cramp your style a bit?’

‘A little, but I can take it if you can. I gather there’s no boy-friend—no, of course there isn’t. He wouldn’t exactly welcome the announcement.’ He straightened some papers on his desk, giving an impatient look as the telephone rang and he picked it up. ‘Yes, Catherine? No—and I don’t want any more calls put through to me until Miss Faulkner has left.’ He put the receiver down, looking up at her. ‘Now, is there anyone I should talk to about our engagement?’

‘Why on earth should you—–’

‘Consent, Brooke. It’s usually considered polite to consult parents when contemplating marrying their daughter.’

Brooke paled even more. It all sounded so—so real when he put it like that. ‘My parents are dead. I was brought up by a maiden aunt.’

‘So do I speak to her?’

‘She died last year,’ Brooke told him. ‘But I hadn’t had a lot to do with her—for the past four years anyway, not since she made it perfectly clear to me that she disapproved of my father marrying her sister.’

‘And four years ago you were—–?’

‘Sixteen,’ she admitted quietly, remembering all too well the terrible things her aunt had said to her about her father.

‘That makes you twenty now. God, I’ll be thought a cradle-snatcher!’ Jarrod Stone muttered in disgust. ‘I’m thirty-seven,’ he added by way of explanation.

‘And you’ve never married?’ It seemed strange in this day and age to think of a man of his age not marrying.

For the first time since she had entered the room he smiled, and she felt some of the tension start to leave her body. He sat back in the chair. ‘I thought about it once, when I was a couple of years older than you are at this moment. She turned me down, thank God.’


‘Right—well, I think you’ve taken up enough of my time for one morning,’ he said, rising. ‘I’ll see you downstairs at twelve-thirty. And arrange to have a two-hour lunch break.’

‘I can’t do that,’ she protested. ‘I have a job to do.’

‘And I’m your employer. Get whoever it is that usually covers for you when you’re off sick to take over. And I won’t expect an over-show of emotion in front of other people, but I will expect you to be a little bit more relaxed with me than you are at this moment.’

‘Relaxed? How can I possibly feel relaxed? I’ve never even spoken to you until today!’

‘Too bad,’ he said callously. ‘Now I’ll see you out to the lift.’

Brooke stiffened. ‘That won’t be necessary.’

He opened the door for her. ‘But I insist. I must show a natural consideration for my brand new fiancée,’ he taunted.

Her eyes were beseeching. ‘Please, Mr Stone, don’t—–’

‘Jarrod,’ he corrected curtly. ‘Call me Jarrod.’

She couldn’t do that! ‘Please don’t make me go through with this. I’ve apologised, I don’t see what else I can do to make amends.’

‘An apology isn’t enough,’ he said cruelly. ‘I’ve already explained my reasons. I could make things very unpleasant for you if you prove difficult.’

‘I could leave.’ Brooke hung back defiantly, not willing to leave his office until she had this thing settled. ‘You’re far from being the only well-paying firm in the country.’

‘Oh, I know that. But with no references from here you could find things rather difficult.’

‘You—you can’t do that! I’ve been a good employee.’

‘You call what you’ve just done being a good employee?’ he demanded. ‘Are you aware that you could land up in court for that deliberate lie you chose to tell the newspapers? I could sue you. You’re quoted, so it’s pretty obvious who gave them the story.’

She went first pale and then red. ‘You—you wouldn’t?’

‘No, I wouldn’t. But I do expect a little co-operation from you. This is your fault, after all.’

‘All right, all right. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’

Jarrod Stone looked unmoved. ‘Like I said, it isn’t enough.’ He opened the door further. ‘I have an important appointment in five minutes.’

‘Okay, I—– But what do I tell everyone?’ she cried.

‘Oh, tell them I’ve fallen madly in love with you and rushed you off your feet.’

‘Don’t tease—please!’ Her head was downbent.

He wrenched her chin up roughly between thumb and forefinger. ‘I don’t know what the hell else you expect me to do. I can assure you that if I did what I really want to do to you you wouldn’t like that either.’

Brooke was mesmerised by his glittering grey eyes, aware of the darkness of his skin and the tangy aftershave he wore. ‘What do you want to do?’ she asked breathlessly.

His hand fell away and he turned her firmly out of the room. ‘Put you over my knee and give your backside a good thrashing. Just what you hoped to achieve I have no idea. But still, it might prove interesting.’

He silenced her as they entered his secretary’s office, pausing at the door to look down at her with dark brooding eyes. Again he raised her chin, uncaring of the two curious pairs of eyes watching them. ‘I’ll see you later, darling,’ he said, huskily soft, but loud enough for the other two girls to hear. ‘We’ll have lunch at the usual place.’

Before Brooke could answer him his dark head swooped low and his lips fleetingly touched hers. She felt herself tremble in his arms, her eyes wide with surprise. She looked self-consciously at the girls in the room, but they were apparently busily working. She doubted they had been so engrossed a couple of seconds earlier!

Her mouth tightened. ‘Did you have to do that?’ she muttered angrily, her almost violet eyes glaring her dislike of him.

Jarrod laughed throatily. ‘You say the nicest things, Brooke.’

He was obviously still playing to his audience, and she decided to play him at his own game, reaching up to wind her arms about his neck, her lips raised invitingly. ‘Just to last me until lunch-time, darling,’ she coaxed, revelling in the anger displayed in his deep grey eyes. ‘Darling?’ she questioned innocently.

His grip on her arms was quite painful and it took great effort not to cry out. ‘Later, Brooke. Later.’ His words sounded romantic enough, but she knew his words promised something completely different from what they were implying.

She pouted up at him. ‘Oh, Jarrod!’

‘If you don’t behave yourself I’m like to give you that good hiding I promised you,’ he warned her quietly.

‘Oh, Jarrod, how sweet of you to say so,’ she smiled up at him, uncaring of the dangerous look in his eyes. ‘Until later, darling.’

By the time she stepped out of the lift into the reception area the two bright wings of colour in her cheeks seemed to be a permanent fixture. How she was going to get through the next few months she had no idea.

Jean was looking rather harassed by this time, having difficulty managing her switchboard and also dealing with people at the desk. Brooke hadn’t realised she would be so long or she wouldn’t have left her alone. She had expected to be only a few minutes, just long enough to be sacked.

‘What gives?’ Jean asked once the rush had died down and they had a couple of minutes to themselves again. ‘First of all you receive a telephone call that makes you look like death and then you calmly step into the boss’s private lift and disappear for an hour.’

‘I’m sorry I was gone so long, Jean. I didn’t mean to leave you in the lurch like that.’ She shuffled the papers about on her desk, not anxious to answer the real question in Jean’s words.

‘So what’s happened? Is someone you know ill or something?’

‘Er—no.’ She didn’t quite know how to explain what had just happened to her. She certainly couldn’t tell Jean the whole truth, it would be too humiliating. ‘I—er—I seem to have got myself engaged.’

Jean’s eyes brightened with excitement. ‘You do? Who to?’ She frowned. ‘You haven’t mentioned seeing anyone special.’

‘No—well, it seems to have happened all of a sudden. I’ve hardly had time to think.’ Which was true; she certainly hadn’t had time to realise exactly what this bogus engagement was going to mean to her. She did know that she had felt a strange floating sensation at the touch of Jarrod Stone’s lips on her own. And also, to her shame, she had responded! Only momentarily, but it had been a definite response. But she blamed that solely on the suddenness of it, nothing else. She didn’t even like the man now, let alone imagine herself in love with him.

Jean still looked puzzled. ‘But what does it have to do with Jarrod Stone?’

‘Everything,’ she said with feeling.

‘Everything?’ Jean’s frown cleared, to be replaced with a look of amazement. ‘But surely you don’t mean—–’

‘Yes. I’m engaged to Jarrod Stone.’

‘Goodness! But you—you can’t be! I didn’t even realise you were seeing him.’ Jean’s face showed her disbelief.

‘It has been rather sudden. I—–’

‘Excuse me,’ interrupted a husky female voice. ‘I’m looking for Mr Stone’s office.’

Brooke turned to look at the woman, her nostrils twitching sensitively with the deep heavy perfume she wore. This woman was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. She was very tall, her blonde hair shoulder-length and waving provocatively about her face, her eyes a glowing green, her tiny nose uptilted, her pouting mouth painted an inviting scarlet. To Brooke she looked exquisite and she wondered who she could be. Obviously one of Jarrod Stone’s women, of that she felt sure. She looked the type he would go for, about thirtyish and very sophisticated.

‘Mr Stone’s office is on the tenth floor,’ she answered politely. ‘If you would like to take the private lift up I’ll telephone them of your arrival.’

The woman nodded coolly. ‘Thank you, Miss—Brooke Faulkner!’ Her green eyes narrowed as they looked at the gold lettering on the nameplate. ‘You’re Brooke Faulkner?’

Brooke frowned. ‘Yes.’

‘Well, well, well.’ The woman seemed to have regained her composure. ‘Clever old Jarrod,’ she murmured to herself.

‘I beg your pardon?’

The woman gave her a dazzling smile. ‘It isn’t important. So nice to have met you, Brooke, you have helped to explain a lot.’

‘But I didn’t do anything.’ She needn’t have bothered to speak; the woman had already walked away from the desk to enter the lift. How rude of her! ‘Who was that?’ she asked Jean.

Her friend’s eyes widened. ‘You mean you don’t know?’

‘I didn’t get the chance to ask her,’ she said ruefully.

‘You shouldn’t have needed to. That was Selina Howard.’

Brooke gasped, looking after the woman. ‘The wife of the multi-millionaire?’

Jean nodded. ‘The same.’

‘Oh.’ What on earth could a woman like her want with Jarrod Stone? There seemed only one explanation, and yet that didn’t seem at all likely. Charles Howard was even better known than Jarrod Stone, and one of the richest men in the world. He was also a very good-looking man, although being in his late fifties he was much older than his thirty-year-old wife.

Brooke looked up sharply as the woman came back down again half an hour later. She must have been Jarrod Stone’s important appointment, a very beautiful appointment, and it certainly wasn’t a business appointment, of that she was sure. Selina Howard gave her a cool smile before leaving the building.

But the time Jarrod Stone came down in the lift at twelve-thirty Brooke had managed to stir herself up into a very nervous state. But perhaps he just intended for them to look as if they were leaving to go to lunch together, perhaps they would part when they got outside. She hoped so.

She grabbed her leather jacket and handbag from the cloakroom before he came over, smiling nervously at the girl who was taking over for her during her lunch break. Jarrod’s eyes narrowed as she reached his side, but he said nothing about her flushed cheeks and too-bright eyes, merely taking hold of her elbow to guide her out of the door opened for them by the doorman.

Once outside the building his hand dropped away and he turned left towards the shopping centre, leaving Brooke to run to keep up with him, his long strides taking him along much faster than her own.

‘Could you slow down a little?’ she asked breathlessly.

Jarrod turned to look at her as if suddenly becoming aware of her, his pace slackening slightly but still much too fast for her.

‘Where are we going?’ She looked up at him.

His mouth turned back in a sneer. ‘I would have thought it was obvious.’

‘But I—I thought we were going to lunch. It’s mainly shops in this part of town.’

He sighed. ‘One shop in particular.’

‘What shop is that?’

‘A jewellers. There’s a very good one not far from here.’

Again Brooke felt panic rising within her. ‘A jewellers? Whatever for?’

‘My dear girl, if we’re going to be engaged you’re going to need a ring. That’s where we’re going now, to buy you an engagement ring.’


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