Reluctant Wife(3)

By: Lindsay Armstrong

‘There’s nothing wrong with it, is there?’

He looked at her consideringly. ‘Not so long ago you were hard to persuade to even have as pre-dinner sherry.’

This was true, and she still usually only drank wine with meals and generally only a glass at that. But she said with a tight little smile, ‘I’m not going to get drunk. I just——perhaps I just felt like breaking out. After all, I’m eligible for the key of the door now, aren’t I? So if I feel like choosing my own drink,’ her voice rose, ‘…what are you doing?’

‘Getting rid of it,’ he said calmly, and took the glass from her. ‘I’d be surprised if you even like it.‘ He put the glass down and turned back to her to say softly, ‘If you really wanted to exercise your,—key of the door powers, I can think of a much better way.’ His dark gaze flickered over her from head to toe, from her upswept hairdo that gleamed so fair beneath the light, her oval face, deep blue eyes and straight little nose, at the ivory-tinted skin of her arms and shoulders, the slenderness of her waist beneath the ruby material—and back to her face again.

‘Wh-what do you mean?’ she asked unevenly ‘You don’t surely …?’ She tailed off, her eyes widening.

‘Why not?’ Adam said lazily but with a glint in his dark eyes. ‘It would be a very adult thing to do. Particularly,’ he went on barely audibly, ‘if you could persuade yourself to admit that contrary to all expectations, for some strange reason I’ve yet to fathom, you like me making love to you as opposed to simply enduring it. Or did you think I was unaware of it, my lovely Rozalinda? Unaware that it’s getting harder and harder for you to lie in my arms as passively as you used to, before the … possibilities of it were known to you ?’

Her lips parted and her cheeks grew hot with a lovely delicate flush of colour, but her eyes darkened with something like anger.

But Adam only looked amused and lifted a hand idly to trace the outline of her mouth with one finger. ‘It’s hard to have to admit you can be wrong about things, whatever the reason, I know,’ he said with gentle mockery ‘But I’ve generally found it’s the best policy. Also,’ he added meditatively, and his hand moved down to slide the ruby ruffle resting on the point of her shoulder. a fraction lower, ‘wouldn’t it be terribly daring and grown-up to snap your fingers at everyone due to descend on us shortly, to keep them waiting for a little while and come to bed with me now?’

‘No! No,’ Roz said raggedly, and jerked away from him. ‘Anyway, you’re only teasing me!’ she said hotly as he laughed softly.

His eyebrows lifted. ‘Try me,’ he invited.

‘I…it would take me ages to get ready again…’ She broke off in confusion and feeling foolish.

‘If that’s what’s worrying you,’ he said wryly, making her feel even more foolish, ‘I’m sure Jeanette could do an express job on you and …’

‘It took her an hour just to do my hair,’ Roz interrupted with strained but deliberately gathered composure. Her very own weapon against Adam and one that she was gradually perfecting—she had thought until tonight had let her down, and for some reason Adam himself had apparently decided to test it, whereas he normally only acknowledged it with an ironic look but mostly ignored it. But the trick is to keep at it, she thought drily. ‘I’d hate to disappoint her, not to mention possibly shocking her rigid,’ she said.

‘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.

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