|Автор произведения||Кэрол Мортимер|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
MILLS & BOON
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Table of Contents
MELANIE was looking her usual beautiful self as she personally opened the door to Juliet. ‘Darling!’ she moved to kiss her affectionately on the cheek. ‘I’m so glad you could come,’ she beamed.
Juliet removed her wrap and handed it to the waiting maid. ‘You knew I would,’ she said dryly. ‘But this is positively the last dinner party of yours I come to this month. You know I often work in the evenings. Do you realise this is the fourth time I’ve been here in as many weeks?’
Her friend gave her an endearing smile, looping her arm through hers to take her through to the lounge. ‘It doesn’t hurt you to socialise now and again,’ she chided.
‘I’m too busy.’ In fact she had had to rush over here this evening, working almost to the last minute. She hated the interruptions of Melanie’s constant dinner parties into her life, but the two of them had been friends since schooldays, something Melanie took advantage of. Melanie had since married Michael Dickson, a publisher, but the girls remained good friends.
She just wished Melanie wouldn’t include her in these dinner parties. She didn’t enjoy them, and the person picked out as her partner usually managed to bore her to tears.
‘You’re always too busy, Juliet.’ Melanie wasn’t in the least concerned about interrupting her work. ‘“All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl”,’ she quoted.
Juliet laughed tolerantly. ‘I think you altered that slightly, but the meaning came through.’
‘I didn’t mean you’re dull,’ her friend instantly denied.
Juliet smiled, beginning to relax. ‘I hope not! Just as I hope tonight’s dinner partner is an improvement on last time. The judge you landed me with last week talked of nothing but bringing back the birch. Personally, I thought he was a bit kinky. I know I couldn’t wait to get away from him,’ she remembered with a shudder.
Melanie smiled. ‘You’re going to love tonight’s partner. And be nice to him, Michael wants him buttered up a little.’
The maid came quietly into the room, attracting Melanie’s attention. ‘Mr Laurence is here, madam.’
‘Thank you, Cindy.’ Melanie gave an apologetic look in Juliet’s direction. ‘We’ll talk again later,’ she promised. ‘Everyone should start to arrive now.’
‘Where’s Michael?’ Juliet asked.
‘He’s been delayed, some meeting or other,’ Melanie grimaced. ‘But he promised to be home in time for dinner.’
Juliet knew most of the people who arrived for the dinner party, and chatted amiably with them as she drank her cocktail. Melanie was called out to answer the telephone a short time later, and was frowning when she came back into the room.
Juliet joined her. ‘Anything wrong?’ she asked softly.
Melanie sighed. ‘It’s so annoying—Duncan Evans can’t make it, he has ‘flu or something. It means we’ll be thirteen sitting down for dinner.’
Knowing how superstitious her friend was Juliet now understood her distress. ‘I have the ideal solution to that, Melanie,’ she told her with a smile. ‘I’ll leave, and then you’ll be twelve.’
‘You’ll do no such thing!’ Melanie caught hold of Juliet’s arm. ‘I’ll call Michael and see if he can find someone to bring home with him. Duncan was to be your partner, by the way,’ and she hurried out of the room to call her husband.
Juliet vaguely knew of Duncan Evans. He was the editor of a popular women’s magazine, and he often serialised the books that Michael published in that magazine. For once it seemed Melanie had chosen someone she would have enjoyed meeting, so it was a pity he had cancelled. Maybe he simply hadn’t shared her interest in the meeting, after all she was just Juliet Chase, a school friend of Melanie’s.
Melanie looked happier when she came back this time. ‘Michael was just leaving, and he was bringing someone with him anyway, so he can take Duncan’s place. Thank goodness for that!’
Juliet groaned. ‘Who have you foisted on me now? I’d much rather bring my own dinner companion.’
‘It’s much more fun this way—–’
‘For whom?’ she derided.
‘For everyone. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll like the man Michael’s bringing home, he said he’s very presentable.’
‘But who is he?’ Juliet demanded before Melanie had the chance to rush off once again. She never seemed to stand still for more than two minutes at a time!
‘I don’t know,’ Melanie replied vaguely. ‘Michael didn’t say, and I didn’t think to ask. I was just so relieved he could bring someone. I suppose he’s just someone who was at this business meeting,’ she dismissed.
Juliet silently fumed as her friend disappeared once again. This behaviour was so typical of Melanie. Even at school the other girl had got her into situations she would rather not be in, had almost got them both expelled at one time. This man she had given her as a dinner partner could be a bore or a complete lecher, and Melanie wouldn’t give a damn as long as he made up the numbers.
Juliet had a couple of male friends of her own, either one of which she would rather have brought with her. She wasn’t exactly unattractive—on the contrary, Ben and Stephen had individually assured her.
Her hair was deep auburn, shoulder-length, feathered either side of