Yay, this is up for preorder this coming Friday...
She could feel his impatience. It hit her like a winter wind. Cold and unfriendly, it bombarded her with slivers of icy annoyance and a shiver ran down her spine. Jules reckoned she’d better tell him what he wanted and use her ‘knee him in the balls and slam the door shut’ technique if he didn’t like her answer.
“Well, Mr Reynard.” She spoke in a brisk fashion, as she did her best to emulate his tone and pace and show none of the tension he invoked in her. Unfortunately—and no doubt he’d see it as a weakness—she had to squint slightly to bring him into focus. It wouldn’t be a pretty look. She’d taken enough selfies sans glasses or contacts to know that. She peered at him closely to bring him into focus. “So, how may I help you?”
Even without twenty-twenty vision, Jules was now close enough to see and decide the glance he gave her was along the lines of one you might give a not very bright child. She gritted her teeth, determined to show nothing of how she felt. Which was like a particularly unpleasant bug under a microscope.
“Well?” she prompted him in as pleasant a voice as she could manage. When she’d gone to answer the door, Jules hadn’t had time to put her shoes on and the old stone floor of the cottage’s hallway wasn’t warm. It would have been oh so easy to shiver, except she thought it would project a wrong image. She was not scared. Allegedly.
“I wish to speak to Julia Frayne.”
Sheesh, is he a robot or something? Stuck on one sentence? “You are speaking to Julia Frayne. Oh, for fucks sake, hold on a sec.” She remembered her old glasses, the ones she wore for gardening, were in her jacket pocket and if she stretched out, she should be able to reach them.
She managed and shoved them on her nose. All her suppositions were correct. A tall, dark, dangerous sex on legs specimen of manhood was filling her doorway. A very pissed off one.
The expression on his face would have frozen molten lava. Even more now, she wished she was wearing fuzzy slippers and a warm jumper. The look as well as the nip in the air didn’t make her feel comfortable in her thin, strappy and long, floaty skirt. Julia risked a brief glance downward and groaned inwardly. Just as she thought, her nipples had responded to the chilly atmosphere and pushed at the silky material covering them. Even though she was getting mighty sick of the guy, one of Miss McMurty’s expressions floated into her brain and she gave a stifled laugh. Sticking out like hat pegs, lovey. She crossed her arms over her chest and ignored the fact she was annoyed that her action looked defensive.
“You think something I’ve said is funny?” he asked with a frown on his face. “I beg to differ. This is no laughing matter. Impersonating someone—or purporting not to know what I’m referring to—isn’t something to smirk about. You are not Julia Frayne. And neither are you pregnant.”
Jules knew her jaw dropped, and she stood and stared at him, mouth open. At last, she found her voice.
“Half correct,” she said, pleased her tone was almost as frosty as his. “I can assure you, I am most certainly the former, and have been for close to thirty years. Equally, I am certain I am not the latter.”
For goodness sake, she thought in disgust, I sound like his clone with a stick up my ass. Very proper!
“Prove it,” he said.
The challenging tone made the hairs on the back of her neck stand upright, and Jules lost her temper. It was a rare occurrence, but when it happened, friends and relatives knew to duck. As her parents had often said, she lived up to the red-haired virago scenario when necessary.
“Certainly. I’ll fetch my passport.” She slammed the door shut, obviously taking him by surprise, as he made no move to stop her. Damn it, I wish I’d trapped his balls in there. Or at least his toes. Arrogant ass.
The doorbell rang almost immediately, seemingly invested with his impatience. Jules grinned to herself. She’d bet his finger was jammed on the buzzer, and it would stay there until she reopened the door. Let it, she had more things to worry about—like who the hell was he looking for? The bell began to ring in short staccato buzzes. Well, Mr Whoever-you-are Reynard, you can bloody well wait, Buzz Colonel Bogey and whistle, and if you hurt your finger, well, tough. I’m putting my lenses in before I face you again. In addition, I’ll maybe just wave my passport through the window.
It only took a few minutes for her to put in contact lenses, swipe the mascara brush over her pale eyelashes—she really must remember to book an appointment to get them re-dyed—retrieve her passport from a drawer and return to the front door. Nevertheless, in the short time she was away, the noise of the doorbell continued non-stop. At this rate, the battery will stop before he does, she mused, as she stopped in front of the mirror and checked just what her uninvited caller might see when he looked at her.
Typically Celt, she thought ruefully as she eyed her red corkscrew curls, green eyes, pale skin that never tanned properly and the myriad of freckles sprinkled over her nose. Never was she going to be a page three girl—Thank goodness. But, as her mother used to say, “What you’ve got is all yours!” Her strappy vest was now covered with a long, fluffy jumper, and her feet had striped socks on. Not haute couture but warm and serviceable.
Jules checked that her dad’s old, sturdy golf umbrella was tucked away in its usual place in the hallway—for poking her visitor, if need be—then slipped the chain on before she opened the door as far as the security measure allowed. A foot immediately inserted itself into the gap.
“Congratulations,” Jules said sarcastically. “A bit slow last time, weren’t you? But be warned, Mr Reynard, that’s as far as you’ll get. An expert fixed this chain. Now, if you look to the window on your right, I’ll show you my passport.”
Jules could almost hear his teeth grinding. Too bad. She had no intention of handing her passport to a stranger. For any reason. She moved to the side of the door where a small window brought a little more natural light into her otherwise darkish hallway and pressed the photograph page of her passport to the glass. Her—what? Intruder? Unwanted visitor? —moved slightly, without taking his foot from the door opening and leaned toward the glass. After long seconds, he stood back with a bewildered expression. He blinked, and tiny lines radiated out from the corners of his eyes. Then he shook his head.
“Ah…” he stopped speaking and shrugged.
“Satisfied?” Try as she might, Jules couldn’t keep the satisfied note out of her voice. “I, Mr Reynard, am I! Julia Frances Frayne. Spinster of this parish. Do you need anything else?”“Yes, actually. I want my wife. Julia Frayne.”
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Love R x
Love R x