Sue could do it when she came back from her lunch with Leon Webster. So what if the delivery was a bit late...
She wanted to see Nick for herself, in the cold light of day! Sue was right about finishing this...this hang over from the past. Saturday night was supposed to have achieved that purpose, yet when he'd kissed her...somehow it had just made everything worse stirring up what she had wanted to put behind her. It would be different today.
Best to go and make absolutely certain there was nothing about Nick Armstrong that was harbouring in her memory.
Nick propped the broken wings as best he could against the file cabinet, then moved a chair up beside them. The small swatch of damaged fabric he'd cut out of one of them made them look even more forlorn, but the salesman at the Strand Arcade 'where Sharon had advised him to go, swore the organza he'd subsequently bought was a perfect match. Not feeling quite so certain, Nick wanted to check it truly was right.
He undid the parcel, shook out the full length of the folded organza and draped it over the chair next to the wings. Moving back a few paces, he looked from one to the other and felt both relief and satisfaction. The salesman did know his fabrics. It was exactly the same.
A rather tentative knock on his office door brought a smile to his face. It was sure to be Sharon coming to see if he'd been successful in his lunch-hour quest.
Come in, he called, not even glancing at the door, his smiling gaze reveling in the evidence of his achievement.
Barbie took a deep breath. It had been bad enough running the gauntlet of curious stares on her way to this door. The receptionist had looked very doubtful about giving directions to Nick Armstrong's office and Barbie had been fearful of being called back and more rigorously questioned. But she'd made it to here without being accosted—the all-black funereal garb probably an intimidating factor that had worked for her—and now she was being invited to enter by his voice.
She had to go through with it.
Stupid not to, at this point.
Nevertheless, her heart was thumping erratically she turned the knob and pushed the door open, Her mind was so highly energized, she had the weird sensation of floating as her quivering legs took the few necessary steps to move into the room to face the and the feelings she'd come to confront.
Except he wasn't facing her at all.
Nor even looking at her.
His attention was trained entirely on... her fairy princess wings!
'See?' he said, gesturing to a length of fabric draped over a nearby chair. 'A perfect match!'
Shock held Barbie speechless. Her gaze moved slowly from the silvery organza to the man who had gone to the trouble of acquiring it. Would a shallow rat want to fix her wings? Wasn't Leon Webster in the process of paying the cost of replacing them. What was going on here?
She wished she could read Nick's mind. His expression in profile seemed relaxed into a smile, what did the smile mean? Was he remembering her as the fairy princess, anticipating more from her? Or calculating how to get more?
A convulsive little shiver ran down her spine as she stared at him. He was so very handsome, even in profile, so strongly male. His thick black hair brushed the collar of his white shirt. He had the broad shoulders of a star swimmer and a taut sexy butt, outlined by the grey trousers he wore. She remembered her thighs being pressed to the hard ungiving muscularity of his, her breasts squashing against the hot wall of his chest...
Her nerves leapt in shock as he suddenly turned, looking directly at her, his vivid blue eyes sharp and probing. The lingering smile was instantly wiped from his face and a frown creased his brow as his gaze raked her from head to foot and back again.
Panic plunged Barbie's mind into a fog of fear and set her heart fluttering in wild agitation. Would he—could he—recognise her, despite the large dark sunglasses and the black hat that covered her hair and dipped over her forehead? Her fingers closed more
tightly around the base of the cone of black tissue paper which held the dead roses. She could use it as a self-protective weapon if she had to. Who are you?' he rapped out.
Relief! He didn't know. Barbie struggled to regather her wits. She was here to do a job, not get shattered again by this man. Every self-protective instinct screamed—get it right and go. 'Mr Nick Armstrong?'
Her voice came out too soft and husky. She should have swallowed first. He was frowning more quizzically at her now. Had her tone struck a familiar chord with him? Was he matching it to the way she'd sung at his birthday party?
'Yes,' he answered belatedly, his gaze zeroing in on her mouth, studying it with highly discomforting intensity.
Barbie was drawn into staring back at his, remembering how it had felt, how it had aroused such a stampede of wild sensations and needs...
Rattled at finding herself so treacherously distracted from her purpose, she rushed into the set speech for this job. 'I hereby present you with a Drop Dead Delivery.'
'What?' he demanded incredulously.
Her nerves jangled at the sharpness of his tone Somehow she found the strength of will to step for-ward, holding out the bundle of black tissue for him to take. 'This was ordered for you,' she explained.
He didn't take delivery. His arms remained at his sides, his refusal to accept her offering an innate challenge to her presence, and by stepping closer to him Barbie had the overwhelming sense of having put her self in a danger zone. It was as though he emitted an electric charge. Her whole body was tingling with a extreme awareness of his powerful masculinity. She wished she could turn tail and run but knew instinctively he wouldn't let her.
The black tissue paper rustled slightly. She was shaking. Desperate to get past this contretemps with
him, she quickly spelled out, 'I understand from our client that you will know who the sender is.'
'Someone who wants me to drop dead?' he quizzed sardonically, still not taking delivery. His eyes were like blue lasers, boring through the dark c over of her sunglasses. 'Now who would that be?'
The lenses were impenetrable, weren't they? He couldn’t possibly see through them. Barbie took a deep breath to quell the frantic fears and his gaze instantly dropped to the heave of her chest, obviously noting the strain of her full breasts against her figure-hugging suit coat.
I am merely the messenger, sir,' she gabbled, appalled by the responsive hardening of her nipples.
His gaze slowly trailed up her long throat, paused at her mouth again, then lifted to her sunglasses. 'I see, he drawled. What did he see?
If he did recognize her, what did she want to do about it? What did she really want? How could Nick
Armstrong spark so much...response in her? This wasn't a hangover from the past. This was here and now!
A messenger, dressed in mourning,' he continued.
No doubt emphasizing that the gift is a very black mark against me, And you are paid to perform this act. To the hilt, one might say.'
Feeling like a pinned butterfly, Barbie squirmed inwardly at his summing up. 'Yes, I'm paid to do it,’ she acknowledged.
His face hardened and there was a mocking glint in his eyes as he said, 'You obviously take pride superb attention to detail. Do you carry through all your paid performances... to the hilt?'
Barbie could feel it in her bones.
And he didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit.
While she felt trapped in a cage of her own making he reached out and snatched the cone of black tissue from her, leaving her unshielded from his gaze which once again raked her from head to toe, not so much inspecting the black funereal attire this time but very definitely taking in the shapeliness of her figure, making her burn with the sense he was matching it up in his mind to the memory of another act.
Why did she feel so guilty? She hadn't done anything wrong, had she? This whole thing had started as a need to put a painful memory to rest, simply a means to a justifiable end.
Inexorably, her gaze was drawn to the broken fairy wings, propped against a file cabinet, and the length of organza obviously bought to mend them.
What was their significance to him?
'A bunch of dead roses,' he drawled. 'Symbolic of the end of love?'
She jerked her gaze back to his and uttered the one word that had driven her here. 'Closure.' Except there could be no closure while such tantalizing question remained unanswered.
'I beg your pardon?'
'Drop Dead Deliveries are about closure,' she elaborated
knowing she should go. He'd taken delivery so her job was done. Yet she felt paralyzed by her inner confusion. Ah!'
He flicked open the card and read what was written inside. 'Loser!' His mouth curled in irony. 'Typical of Tanya, wanting to get in the last word, wanting to crawl into my mind again.' Again his expressive blue eyes mocked her purpose here. 'As it happens, she's wasted her money on this last little malicious act. It doesn't touch me. At all.' But the fairy wings did. They had to or they wouldn't be here. Do you get many clients who want this kind of closure?' he asked curiously.
Quite a few,' she replied, deeply disquieted by his description of a last malicious act.' Revenge was supposed to be about balancing justice. An eye for an eye, a for a hurt...
Can the clients specify who does the delivery?'
It leapt into her mind that he thought Tanya had specifically asked for her to bring the dead roses to him and she was a co-conspirator in malice. Which she was in a way, but she hadn't meant him to recognize her, to put it together...if he had. Though she had thought of delivering a double whammy. But that was to be a payback for his play-ing fast and loose, and how could she link playing fast and loose to the time and trouble of buying the organza to fix her wings? Everything about this scene was wrong and Barbie had the sinking feeling there was no way to put it right.