To Make a Marriage

By: Carole Mortimer


‘TWICE a bridesmaid, never a bride,’ he teased close to her scented earlobe.

The perfume of Andie, as he always thought of it. He had no idea what the name of the perfume was that she always wore, he just knew that whenever he smelt it, either on Andie or someone else, he was filled with warm thoughts of her…

She turned to face him now, a welcoming smile on her peach-coloured lips, green eyes glowing warmly as she reached up to kiss him in greeting.

Perfection. There was no other way to describe Andrea Summer. And today, in the frothy peach-coloured satin and lace of her bridesmaid’s dress, with her long blonde hair a profusion of silky curls down the length of her spine, entwined with tiny peach-coloured tea-roses, she looked like a fairy-tale princess.

She laughed softly, a throatily husky laugh that sent shivers of pleasure down his spine. ‘I think you’ll find that it’s “Three times a bridesmaid”,’ she corrected softly.

‘It is?’ he drawled with pretended ignorance. ‘But you have to admit, your clock’s ticking away, Andie; you’re almost twenty-six now,’ he continued mockingly, ‘and both your older sisters have married in the last couple of months.’

She shrugged dismissively as she glanced over affectionately at those two sisters with their new husbands; the eldest, Harrie, had been married to Quinn McBride for several weeks now, and this was Danie’s wedding day to Jonas Noble.

‘They have obviously found the right men for them,’ Andie murmured fondly.

His own smile slipped for the fraction of a second, before he regained control. ‘No “right man” for you yet, hmm, Andie?’

She laughed softly once again. ‘I would have thought you, of all people would have known there’s actually no such thing as the right person; it’s all a case of taking pot luck!’ she taunted contrarily.

Him, of all people…? Yes, he had always given the impression he was a confirmed bachelor; in fact, he had made a religion out of it! But this young woman—lovely to look at, always elegantly dressed, with a mischievously warm sense of humour—if she were only aware of it, could have changed all that with one crook of her little finger…!

How long had he felt that way about her? For ever, it seemed to him. Oh, there had been women in his life in the past, beautiful women, accomplished women, brunettes and redheads, as well as blondes, but none of them in any way had measured up to Andie.

‘I hope you don’t intend telling Harrie and Danie that!’ He smiled.

Andie didn’t return his smile. ‘I don’t happen to believe that’s true for them; I’m as sure as they are that Quinn and Jonas are the right men for them.’

He was bored with the subject of Harrie and Danie; it was Andie he was interested in. It always had been. ‘It’s really good to see you here today,’ he told her sincerely.

Andie frowned at the statement. ‘I would hardly miss my own sister’s wedding!’

‘I can think of a couple of other family occasions you’ve missed this summer,’ he persisted. ‘The summer fête,’ he added as she looked at him questioningly, referring to the fête held every June at Rome Summer’s—Andie father’s—estate. ‘A family weekend at the estate a week later. Your father said that you had the flu.’

Andie shrugged, a smile playing about those peach-coloured lips. ‘If that’s what Daddy said, then that’s what I had,’ she dismissed. ‘No mystery there.’

He took two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter; the wedding reception was being held at one of London’s leading hotels. He held one of the glasses out to Andie, but was surprised when she shook her head and reached for a glass of orange juice instead. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve given up drinking champagne?’ he exclaimed, knowing that in the past champagne was the only alcohol Andie had ever drunk.

‘It’s a new diet I’m trying out,’ she dismissed, taking a sip of the juice.

‘Diet?’ He scowled, looking down at her already more than slender frame. ‘You’re far too thin as it is—’

‘You’re starting to sound like Rome now,’ Andie taunted, blonde brows raised as she looked up at him from under thick dark lashes.

An irritated flush coloured the hardness of his cheeks. The last thing he wanted was to sound like her father, damn it! It was the very last thing he felt like whenever he was around her. Although, perhaps, to Andie, fourteen years his junior, that was exactly what he seemed…

‘It’s being featured in Gloss next month,’ Andie continued lightly, referring to the monthly magazine of which she was senior editor. ‘I thought I would try it and see if it really works.’

He scowled. ‘You need to diet like—’

‘You need to earn any more money?’ she finished with barbed sweetness. ‘Have you never heard the phrase, “you can never be too rich or too thin”?’

His gaze narrowed thoughtfully at that slight edge to her tone. They had met briefly a couple of times during the last few months, never long enough to have a real conversation, as they were doing now, but he had been sure the flu excuse Rome had given him had been genuine and it hadn’t been because Andie had been deliberately avoiding him. Now he wasn’t so sure…