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The Unwilling Mistress
By Carole Mortimer
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"GOOD morning," a voice greeted cheerfully, quickly followed by a more tentative, "er - again ...?"
March closed the folder containing the figures she had been frowning over, not at all happy with what she saw there, taking several seconds to automatically assume the polite smile reserved for the clients entering the estate agency where she worked.
Although that polite smile turned back to a frown as she looked up and realized the reason for the man's second tentative query.
It certainly was 'again', wasn't it?
She sat back in her chair, her gaze rueful now as she looked up derisively at the man standing in front of her desk.
Under any other circumstances she would have found this man extremely good-looking.
Very tall, probably aged in his mid-thirties, with a tangible air of self-confidence, he had slightly overlong silver-blond hair, with hard, sculptured features, his eyes the colour of sky on a clear summer's day - which today certainly wasn't!
It was snowing outside - and not half an hour ago this man had neatly slipped into the car-parking space directly outside here that March had been about to parallel-park into!
The politeness of her role as Receptionist in this busy estate agency, and indignation that instead of being able to park outside she had had to park half a mile away and walk back through the snow, warred inside her.
The latter easily won!
"Correct me if I'm wrong," she bit out caustically, "but the last time we saw each other I believe you ensured that I would not have a good start to my morning!"
The man gave a pained wince. "You remember me."
March eyed him scathingly. She was hardly likely to forget him!
She had been absolutely furious earlier when she'd turned to begin her parallel park and seen this man neatly driving his red sports car into the space instead. If she hadn't already been late for work, due to the bad weather, she would probably have got out of the car and told him exactly what she thought of him. Instead she had driven around for ten minutes trying to find another parking spot, and then had to trudge all the way back in the falling snow. All the time cursing this man for his inconsideration!
The fact that the powerful red sports car had still been parked outside when she'd got back here had only added insult to injury.
Although the reason he had chosen to park in that particular spot was made obvious by the fact that he had now come into the agency. After wasting time by wandering to the newsagent's two doors down, if the newspaper under his arm was anything to go by. Well, it was his own fault if he had had to wait for her to open up for business; she wouldn't have arrived late at all if he hadn't stolen her parking space!
The man gave her a quizzical smile. "We do seem to have got off to rather a bad start," he acknowledged ruefully.
Yes, they had, but he was obviously a customer, and she was the only one to have arrived in the office so far this morning.
March forced herself to once again smile politely. "How may I help you, Mr ...?"
"Davenport," he supplied lightly. "Will Davenport. Mind if I sit down - March?" he prompted after a glance at the name tag on the lapel of her suit jacket.
"That's what the chairs are for - Mr Davenport," she pointed out dryly.
He lowered his long length into the chair opposite hers. "Tell me, March," he drawled, "is everyone here as friendly as you?" A derisive smile curved his own lips now as he eyed her mockingly across the width of the desk.
March felt the colour warm her cheeks at this deliberate rebuke. Probably deserved, she allowed grudgingly. Although that didn't excuse his own high-handedness earlier.
"Only when they've had their parking space usurped!" she returned sharply.
He grinned unabashedly. "I live in London." He shrugged broad shoulders beneath the navy-blue sweater and thick overjacket he wore. "Parking spaces there are up for grabs to the first taker!"
March felt slightly disarmed by that grin. He really was very good-looking, that overlong silver-blond hair falling endearingly over his forehead, laughter lurking in those deep blue eyes, the hardness of his features softened by the grin too.
But the fact that this man was breathtakingly handsome really wasn't the point, was it?
"I was the first taker!" she reminded impatiently.
He gave an irritated frown now. "Perhaps we could move on?"
Yes, perhaps they had better. Clive, when he finally did put in an appearance, wouldn't be too happy with her for alienating a customer - perhaps their only customer on a day like today!
March drew in a deeply controlling breath, straightening some folders on her desk before forcing herself to resume that polite smile. "Are you interested in buying a property in the area, Mr Davenport?"
Her eyes widened, grey-green eyes surrounded by thick dark lashes, the same colour as her below-shoulder-length hair. If he wasn't interested in buying a property, then why -?
"I'm looking to rent a place for a couple of weeks," he added mockingly.
Her brow cleared at this explanation. "For the summer?" She stood up, moving to the filing cabinet behind her. "We have some rather lovely cottages -"
"No, not for the summer. For now," Will Davenport corrected even as she pulled open a drawer.
March turned back to him with raised brows before glancing frowningly at the snow still falling outside. It was January, for goodness' sake, none of the people they had on their books rented the cottages out in winter - mainly because very few of the properties actually had any heating in them, apart from an open fire.
"I'm in the area on business for a few weeks." Will Davenport obviously took pity on her confusion. "I'm booked into a hotel at the moment, but I hate their impersonality," he added with a grimace.
March really wouldn't know whether hotels were impersonal or otherwise, never having stayed in one. Living on a farm, the middle one of three sisters, brought up alone by their father since March was four, there had been very little money to spare for things like holidays. And since their father died last year, that situation had only worsened.
She suddenly became aware of the completely male assessment of Will Davenport's gaze as he studied her, from the top of her ebony head to the soles of her heeled shoes.
At twenty-six, she was tall and slender, with long shapely legs, smartly dressed in a navy-blue suit matched with a lighter blue jumper, pale magnolia skin, her make-up light, her lip-gloss peach, only the pointed determination of her chin indicative of the stubbornness of her nature.
Although Will Davenport obviously liked what he saw, his smile warmly appreciative now as he gave a mocking acknowledgement of his head at her questioning look.
Excerpted from The Unwilling Mistress by Carole Mortimer Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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