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Wife for a Week

By:Kelly Hunter

oing for him—’

‘Thanks,’ he said dryly. ‘You can call me Nick.’

‘Because clearly he does. It’s just that, well…’ She cast about for a reason to resist. Any reason. Yes, that would do. It wasn’t quite the truth, but little white lies were allowed in sticky situations, right? ‘I wouldn’t be very good wife material right now. I have a broken heart.’

‘Oh, Hallie, I’m so sorry,’ said Clea in a hushed voice. ‘What happened?’

‘It was terrible,’ she murmured. ‘I try not to think of it.’

Clea waited expectantly.

Obviously she was going to have to think of something. Hallie leaned forward and tried to look suitably woebegone. ‘He was secretly in love with his football coach the whole time we were together!’

‘The cad!’ said Clea.

‘Was he blond?’ said Nick. ‘I’m betting he was blond.’ He was standing beside her, close, very close, and she was kneeling there, her gaze directly level with…oh!

‘Are you sure you’re not interested?’ asked Clea.

Hallie nodded vigorously and dropped her gaze, looking for carpet and finding feet. Big feet. ‘It’s this job,’ she muttered, more to herself than anyone else. Probably he was bluffing. Probably he had regular size-eight feet tucked into those enormous shoes. Her hand shot out of its own accord, spanning the soft leather of his shoe, testing the fit for width and finding it tight. Right. She pressed her thumb down and felt for toes, found them at the very top of the shoe. ‘Phew!’ She felt breathless. ‘It’s a tight fit.’

‘Always,’ he said, amusement dancing in his eyes. ‘But I’m used to it.’

Hallie smiled weakly and scrambled to her feet as warmth spread rapidly through her cheeks. It was his eyes. His voice. Possibly his feet. Any one of them was a guaranteed temptation, but all three together? No wonder she was blushing.

‘What my mother meant to say was that I need someone to pretend to be my wife for a week. Next week to be precise. In Hong Kong. You’d be reimbursed of course. Say, five thousand the week, all expenses covered?’

‘Five thousand pounds? For a week’s work?’ There had to be a catch. ‘And what exactly would I have to do to earn that five thousand pounds?’

‘Share a room with me, but not a bed, which is fortunate considering your broken heart.’

Was he laughing at her? ‘What else would I have to do?’

‘Socialize with my clients; act like my wife.’

‘Could you be a little more specific?’

‘Nope. Just do whatever it is wives do. I’ve never had one; I wouldn’t know.’

‘I’ve never been one. I wouldn’t know either.’

‘Perfect,’ said Clea, bright-eyed. ‘I’m believing it already. Of course if the kiss isn’t convincing it’s just not going to work.’

‘No kissing,’ said Hallie. ‘I’m heartbroken, remember?’

‘There has to be kissing,’ he countered. ‘It’s part of the job description. Who knows? You might even like it.’ There was a subtle challenge to his words, lots of amusement.

‘Kissing would cost extra,’ she informed him loftily. What did she have to lose? It wasn’t exactly the sanest of conversations to begin with.

‘How much extra?’

Hallie paused. She needed ten thousand pounds to finish her Sotheby’s diploma in East Asian Art; she had five of it saved. ‘I’m thinking another five thousand should do it.’

‘Five thousand pounds for a few kisses?’ He sounded incredulous, still looked amused.

‘I’m a very good kisser.’

‘I think I’m going to need a demonstration.’

Now she’d done it. She was going to have to kiss him. Fortunately common sense kicked in and demanded she make it brief. And not too enthusiastic. One step put her within touching distance; a tilt of her head put her within kissing range. She stood on tiptoe and set her hands to his chest, found his shirt soft and warm from the wearing, with a hard wall of muscle beneath. But she digressed. With a quick breath, Hallie leaned forward and set her mouth to his.

His lips were warm and pleasant; his taste was one she could get used to. She didn’t linger.

‘Well, that was downright perfunctory,’ he said as she pulled away.

‘Best I can do given the circumstances.’ Hallie’s smile was smug; she couldn’t help it. ‘Sorry. No spark.’

‘I’m not sure I can justify paying five thousand pounds for kisses without spark.’ His lips twitched. ‘I’m thinking spark is a must.’

‘Spark is not part of the negotiation,’ she said sweetly. ‘Spark is a freebie. It’s either there or it’s not.’

‘Ah.’ There was a gleam in his eyes she didn’t entirely trust. ‘Turn around, Mother.’ And without waiting to see if his mother complied, Nicholas Cooper threaded his hands through her hair and his mouth descended on hers.

Hallie didn’t have time to protest. To prepare herself for his invasion as he teased her lips apart for a kiss that was anything but perfunctory. Plenty of chemistry here now, she thought hazily as his lips moved on hers, warm, lazy, and very, very knowledgeable. Plenty of heat as her mouth opened beneath his and she tasted passion and it was richer, riper than she’d ever known. She melted against him, sliding her hands across his shoulders to twine around his neck as he slanted his head and took her deeper, tasting her with his tongue, curling it around her own in a delicate duel.

If this was kissing, she thought with an incoherent little gasp, then she’d never really been kissed before. If this was kissing, imagine what his lovemaking would be like.

His smile was crookedly endearing when he finally lifted his mouth from hers, his hands gentle as he smoothed her hair back in place. ‘Now that was much better,’ he said in that delicious bedroom voice, and she damn near melted in a puddle at his size-twelve feet. ‘We’ll take the shoes.’

Right. The shoes. She boxed the sandals with unsteady hands, swiped his credit card through the machine, fumbled for a pen and waited for him to sign the docket before she risked looking at him again. His hands were large like his feet, and his hair was mussed from where her hands had been.