“I didn't say that.”
‘Oh, hell! Why can I keep my big mouth shut?’ Alanis thought despairingly.
She was going to look like an idiot however this conversation went.
“I see... So, you were just enquiring about my ego’s level for the sake of the conversation?” Brody drawled mockingly. “Your own special type of after-dinner conversation, I presume?”
“Well… I-I… It…”
Alanis had been right. She was looking like the biggest idiot in the Universe. It was time to calm down, bring her stammering voice under control, and straighten her back against the leather seat.
“Seriously, Alanis? Again with this Mr. McLean thing?”
Brody’s voice was grave and Alanis didn't dare glance at his face, keeping her eyes shut as she settled into the car seat, pretending to be very tired. The truth was she had never been more awake in her entire life. Every nerve, every muscle was screaming for release. She kept absolutely still for several minutes until Brody spoke again, his voice silky and cool in the darkness.“Cows I can take, and even the fact that I've put the car in a ditch in the middle of nowhere… I can even get over the fact that there's an important call coming through from Japan to the hotel at midnight, that I won’t be able to take. But what drives me out of my mind is the fact that you're near me, and you’re as rigid as an ironing board. What the hell do you think I might do to you? I thought I'd reassured you earlier that rape isn't my thing!”&
A doctor, returning from an emergency call to an elderly patient, found them just after two, and by three, Alanis was back in her hotel room, lying in the warm, scented darkness, trying to force her mind back into the numbing void she had felt in the car. But it was no good... She watched as dawn began to weave streamers of gold and pink into the night sky, and then rose impatiently, padding through to the luxurious bathroom and standing under the shower for a full ten minutes while she struggled to come to terms with her shattered emotions. As the warm water splashed a velvety path over her face and body, Alanis gave herself a mental scolding that was all logic and full of sense… and didn't help at all. Her brain knew that Brody McLean was a brief hiccup in her life. She also knew that the devastating kiss and embrace in the
The silver eyes narrowed suddenly, but gave no indication of what he was really thinking.“Do you like boats, Alanis?” he asked quietly.“I haven't had much to do with any,” she replied, forcing a bright smile. “Only a little rowing boat when I was younger, which wasn't quite in the same league as the McLean cruisers!”“I never thought about you and a rowing boat in the same sentence… Quite interesting.” He straightened slightly in his seat, his voice interested but casual.“Was it yours?” She blinked slightly, suddenly aware that she didn't want to continue the conversation but unable to think of a way to deflect him from this trip into her sad past.“No, it was my dad's,” Alanis replied carefully. “He liked
The dark voice was deep and husky and unmistakably Brody's.“I-I… How did you know it was me?” Alanis asked weakly as a little shiver snaked down her spine.“I could ask you the same thing, Alanis…” he drawled slowly. “But to answer your question, what other woman would still be working at 9 pm on a Friday? Anyway, I already phoned your apartment and there was no reply… Only the answering machine.”Well… I could’ve been out,” Alanis answered quickly as the shiver was replaced by anger at the fact that he assumed she had nowhere else to go other than home or the office.“Yes, you were out alright... You were at work,” Brody replied calmly. “And don't get on your high horse, Miss Roswell. It was you who told me that your cat and your work filled your days and nights.”“I certainly did not.&rd
‘Stop it, Alanis!’ She shut her eyes tightly for a second in an attempt to block out her thoughts. But there was something about him, a dark, menacing kind of masculinity, that chewed her mind to the physical in spite of herself, and she found it all the more difficult to cope with because nothing of that kind had ever bothered her before. But with Brody McLean… She just couldn't ignore it, she conceded helplessly.“I know you live in Edgewater, but a few directions would be useful.” The deep voice cut into her tortured thoughts, and when she glanced out of the window, she realized she was nearly home, the Mercedes having eaten up the miles with flawless ease.“Of course. Sorry, I was daydreaming,” Alanis said hastily.“That does my ego a huge world
“You sure love your house very much. It’s a very pleasant place. Extremely welcoming,” Brody said quietly, after devouring a sandwich in a couple of bites, his gaze lingering on a painting on the far wall. “Wow… That's a Kimler, isn't it?” he asked softly as he turned back to her. “Yes, it is.” Alanis tried to hide her surprise, which hadn't been very well-received when he'd unexpectedly revealed that he liked cats. Matthew Kimler had only just arrived on the Chicago scene, and although he was an excellent artist and a very pleasant person, he wasn’t well-known and had no influential patrons to smooth his way. “You like his work?” “I know a little about him and his work, but my aunt does. She's followed his progress over the last few years, and she was quite thrilled when he left Seattle and moved to Chicago. By the way, I noticed one of his paintings in that art gallery you promoted. Am I to assu
The weekend that came was filled with self-pity and regret. Alanis told herself, over and over again, that she had much to be thankful for. Her career was at its highest point ever, she didn't have, and never had had, the financial worries that dogged so many people all their lives, she was young and healthy and strong in mind and body. And there was even a positive side to the accident too… She would never have to trudge around the house with straddled legs and aching back as she had seen so many expectant mothers do. Morning sickness, dirty nappies, sleepless nights, and all the worries connected with infant inoculations, diseases, illnesses, bullying at school… These would all pass her by. She was her own person, accountable to no one. She could please herself… travel or stay at home, be up at the crack
A blazing hot June gave way to a sultry, humid July. When, on the second of that month, exactly a month after the first fateful meeting in George's office, Alanis received a late-afternoon call from Brody suggesting that she fly out to his chateau in the South of France to familiarize herself with the house and grounds, she found she could answer with only a trace of breathlessness in her voice. “Of course. I was going to suggest something like that myself within the next week or two. I think we're just about ready for the next stage now, and it would be good to meet the French caterers face to face and settle every detail there.” “Very well, then.” Brody's voice was remote, almost expressionless. “I'll come with you, Alanis. There are certain points I want to pick up on myself, and it might be useful if I'm there to smooth the way in the preliminaries.” 'There'