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Excerpt: The Matchmaker Bride/Mr and Mischief

Jason watched as Emily slid a form-fitting trench coat over her already clinging suit. It didn’t even cover her legs. For a coat, it was remarkably revealing. He felt himself frown, already regretting his impulse invitation. He hadn’t even meant to come down to Emily’s office; he had plans that evening, and he’d meant to walk straight outside to his car. Yet somehow he’d taken this little detour, and once he’d seen Emily hold out one perfectly shaped, golden leg, her eyes sparkling with laughter, his resolve had crumbled to dust.

He’d kept away from her for seven years; she was twenty-five now. She was experienced, if the social pages were anything to go by, and surely a single evening--a little bit of light flirting--wouldn’t harm anyone. It was just, Jason told himself, an itch he needed to scratch. It wouldn’t go anywhere. It couldn’t. He wouldn’t even kiss her.

Yet already he was reaching for his BlackBerry, and he quickly sent a rather terse text to cancel the rest of his plans for the evening. He clicked the button on his keys to unlock the car, and Emily started in surprise.

‘You own a Porsche?’ she said, clearly surprised.

Jason opened her door, breathing in the strawberry scent of her hair, and something else, something warm and feminine that had lust jolting through him yet again. Just dinner. ‘It appears that I do,’ he said, and she rolled her eyes as she slid into the sumptuous leather interior.

‘Quite a nice ride. It’s not what I’d expect at all.’

‘Oh?’ Jason slid into the driver’s seat. ‘I didn’t know you had expectations about my mode of transport.’

‘Yes, but that’s it exactly, isn’t it?’ Emily said with a laugh. She shook her hair back over her shoulders in a golden waterfall. ‘Your ‘mode of transport’. I’d expect something basic and well, boring for you, just a car to get you from point A to point B. Of course,’ she teased, ‘the colour is a bit dull. Navy blue doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid.’

Jason stared at her for a second, utterly nonplussed by her rather brutal assessment of him. Boring? And he’d been thinking she still had a little crush on him. Well, that was him sorted. ‘Boring,’ he repeated musingly as he started the car. ‘And dull. I wonder if I should be offended.’

‘You can hardly be offended by that, Jason!’

Now he really was offended. Most women didn’t think he was boring at all. Most women were eager to spend an evening with him. Yet here Emily sat sprawled in the seat across from him, her skirt riding up on her slim thighs, looking at him as if he were her doddering old uncle whom she had to humour.

Yet she hadn’t looked at him like that last night. He still remembered the brief, enticing touch of her hand on his chest. She’d been startled by the electric current that had suddenly snapped between them; he knew she’d felt it. He certainly had. Now he slid her a sideways glance as he revved the engine, causing Emily to laugh a little as she instinctively grabbed the door handle. ‘Can’t I?’ he murmured.

‘Well, honestly,’ she said once he’d pulled out of the office’s underground car park and began to drive down Euston Road at quite a sedate speed. ‘You’ve always been--’

‘Boring?’ He heard the slight edge to his voice and strove to temper it. This was not how he’d picture this evening starting.

‘Well, not boring precisely,’ Emily allowed. ‘But... predictable. Cautious. Steady.’ Jason kept his face expressionless, although he felt his brows start to draw together in an instinctive glower. She was actually patronising him. ‘You never took part in the games and scrapes we got into--’

‘By “we” I assume you mean you, Isobel, and Jack,’ Jason returned dryly. At Emily’s nod, he continued, ‘You might do well to remember, Em, that you’re twelve years younger than I am. While you were getting into these so-called scrapes, I was in university.’ His hands tightened on the wheel as the difference in their ages struck its necessary blow. Emily might be twenty-five, but she was still young. And in many ways, naive. Innocent, if not utterly, not to mention scatty, silly, and far too frivolous. She was utterly wrong for him. Wrong for what he wanted.

Wrong for a wife.

‘Well, of course I know that,’ she said. ‘But even so... you’ve always been a bit disapproving, Jason. Even of Jack--’

‘You didn’t have to live with him,’ Jason returned, keeping his voice mild. Of course everyone loved Jack. Jack was fun, except when it was Jason fetching him from boarding school after he’d been expelled, or from a party where he’d passed out. Fortunately Jack had settled down since he’d been married, but Jason still remembered his younger brother’s turbulent teen years. He’d helped him out because their father never would, and Jack had no memories of their mother. He had precious few himself... and the ones he did, he’d sometimes rather forget.

‘Still,’ Emily persisted in that same teasing tone, ‘I remember the lectures you gave me. When I picked a few flowers from your garden, you positively glowered. You terrified me--’

‘By a few flowers you mean all the daffodils.’ They had been his mother’s favourite, and he’d been furious with her for beheading them all, as he remembered.

‘Was it all of them?’ Her eyebrows arched in surprise. ‘Oh, dear. I was a bit of a brat, wasn’t I?’

‘I didn’t want to be the one to say it,’ Jason murmured, and was rewarded with a gurgle of throaty laughter that made him feel as if he’d just stuck his finger in an electric socket. His whole body felt wired, alive and pulsating with pure lust. This evening really had been a mistake. He was playing with fire, and while he could handle a few burns, Emily surely couldn’t. That was why he’d always stayed away, and why he should keep at it. Right now he could have been sitting down to dinner with Patience Felton-Smythe, a boring woman with a horsey face who liked to garden and knit and was on the board of three charities. In short, the kind of woman he intended to marry.

Excerpt From: MR. AND MISCHIEF by Kate Hewitt
Copyright © 2011 by Kate Hewitt
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.

January 2008