in for her, so they must be impressed.'
'You're joking.' The words burst from her.
'No, I'm perfectly serious, and so are they. I heard about how you rode to the rescue, and I'm full of admiration too. So what skill I tell them?'
Olivia bit her lip. 'Can I think about it and let you know?'
'Well—yes,' Sandra said slowly. She sounded astonished 'But what's the problem? I mean, this could be a really good contract for you—and it's a nice environment to work in.'
'Is it?' Olivia asked drily, thinking of Carol. 'Have you asked Barbara about that?'
Sandra sighed 'Sending her there was my mistake. I'm finding her a more conventional slot, where she'll be able to relax and enjoy using her skills. But you're a different proposition. I—I really thought you'd jump at the challenge.'
'Perhaps I'd prefer a more conventional slot too,' Olivia said She hesitated 'Will I be black-listed if I say no?'
'Of course not. There's plenty of work about.' Sandra sounded deflated 'But nothing as interesting.'
'Perhaps it all depends on your interests.' Olivia paused. 'But I'll be in touch as soon as I've decided.'
She switched off the phone and put it back in her bag, her mind whirling. This was the last thing she'd expected It would almost be worth taking them up on the offer simply to see Carol's face. Except that she'd find herself looking at Declan Malone at the same time.
And that, she knew, was not a good idea, for all kinds of reasons that she didn't want to examine too closely.
If I never see him again it will be too soon, she told herself firmly.
And wondered why she had to keep convincing herself of something so self-evident.
She was still deep in thought when she turned into Lancey Terrace, and had nearly reached the house when she realised that a familiar figure was lounging against the railings.
She stopped dead, her brows snapping together in a swift frown.
'So there you are at last' Declan came towards her.
'And here you axe for no reason at all,' she countered.
'I have an excellent reason,' he said. 'Believe it or not, I've come to thank you.'
'Consider it said,' Olivia told him curtly. 'Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a shower and something to eat.'
'And also to ask you to have dinner with me.' He was blocking her way. 'And don't tell me you have a prior engagement, because it's clear you haven't'
'No,' she said 'But a subsequent one is always a possibility.'
'I think Jeremy is tied up with some work thing tonight' He paused, then smiled at her. For the first time it seemed to her that he was seeing her as a real person, and—more disturbingly—a woman. She was aware of an odd frisson— something between pleasure and apprehension. An internal voice seemed to be telling her to step back—to distance herself. And yet she found that she was standing her ground.
He said gently, 'Olivia—I'm really grateful for what you did today, and I'd like to express it in some tangible way. Have dinner with me, please?'
She was silent for a moment, then she threw back her head, staring him straight in the eye. 'I'll tell you how you could thank me.' Her voice shook slightly. 'You could get off my case.'
'Pardon?' His brows lifted.
'You heard me. If you're so grateful—do that for me. Give Jeremy and me some space to make a life together. You don't have to approve—just stand back.'
He was very still, his narrowed eyes fixed on her pale face. Then he nodded, giving her a swift, crooked grin.
'It's a deal.'
'You mean it?' She was astounded.
'Yes,' he said. And shrugged '
Qu é ser á , ser á
,' he added softly. 'And now a truce has been declared, will you agree to have dinner with me—at the third time of asking?
Instinct—reason—warned her to refuse. Words of polite denial were already forming in her mind.
Instead, she heard herself say primly, 'Thank you. I— I'd like that.'
'A slight exaggeration.' His grin widened. 'But—who knows? Maybe you'll come to mean it—one
Jennifer Martucci, Christopher Martucci