To Marry McCloud

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE


‘CELEBRATING?’

Fergus didn’t even bother to look up from where he sat slumped in a corner of a noisy nightclub, staring down morosely into his champagne glass, totally removed from the loud music that played and the hundreds of chattering people that surrounded him drinking and smoking, and generally enjoying themselves.

What a stupid question; did he look as if he were celebrating?

‘Has no one ever told you that you should never drink alone?’

Damn, the woman was still here! Couldn’t she see that alone was exactly what he wanted to be? And how he intended on remaining, he mentally added vehemently.

‘Mind if I join you?’

Of course he minded—

Wow…!

The woman’s persistence had at least caused him to look up, the angry dismissal that had rapidly been gathering force inside his head coming to a skidding halt.

This woman—girl?—was absolutely beautiful!

Barely five feet tall, she wore an above-knee-length fitted black dress revealing a slenderness, giving the impression she might snap in half at her tiny waist. Her hair was a long curtain down her delicate spine and the dark colour of midnight. Her face was ethereally beautiful, totally dominated by the deepest blue eyes Fergus had ever seen, and edged with thick, smoky black lashes.

So she was beautiful, was his next thought. So what? She was also pushy and forward, something he definitely did not need at this moment. If ever!

He leant back in the padded booth where he sat, his appraising gaze deliberately insolent as it moved from her head to her toes, and then back to that delicate china-doll face. He frowned. ‘Are you sure you’re old enough to be in here?’

She laughed huskily, revealing tiny, even white teeth. ‘I can assure you, I’m well over the age of consent,’ she told him in a cultured voice.

He wasn’t aware he had asked her for anything! Couldn’t she see that he wanted to be left alone, that he had been sitting here on his own for well over an hour now, that he had spoken to no one, and no one—wisely!—had spoken to him, either?

‘Mind if I join you?’ she asked again, indicating the seat in the booth opposite his own.

Yes—he minded! Did this woman have the skin of a rhinoceros? Could she really not see that he just didn’t want to even speak to her, let alone anything else?

Obviously not, he decided frustratedly as, not even waiting for his reply, she slid smoothly onto the seat she had previously indicated.

‘Look, Miss—’

‘Chloe,’ she put in smoothly, her blue gaze very direct as she leant her elbows on the table before resting that tiny pointed chin on her linked hands, staring unblinkingly across at him.

‘Chloe,’ Fergus echoed with an impatient sigh. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but—’

‘Then don’t be,’ she advised.

He had a feeling he was going to have to be if he wanted her to leave any time in the near future!

He sighed again. ‘This has not been a good day for me, Chloe—’

‘Maybe your luck is about to change,’ she murmured.

He didn’t want his luck to change!

He hadn’t been looking forward to the wedding today—after all, it was the second one he had attended in a month. First his Aunt Meg had married restaurateur and chef, Daniel Simon, and today—much worse!—his cousin Logan had married Darcy Simon.

Not that Darcy wasn’t a lovely girl, and he knew that she and Logan were head over heels in love with each other. It was just—he hadn’t realised just how deeply Logan getting married was going to affect him. Since childhood, it had always been the three of them: Logan, their other cousin Brice, and Fergus.

They had grown up in Scotland, gone to university together at Oxford, had all remained single for the last fourteen years, not living in each other’s pockets, but certainly enjoying the bachelor life when they had met. They had become known as the Elusive Three. Now there was only himself and Brice left. The Elusive Two just didn’t sound the same…!

His mouth twisted wryly. ‘I don’t think so, Chloe. Thank you for the offer, but—’

‘Would you like to dance?’ she suggested lightly.

He wasn’t even sure he could still stand up, let alone dance! The champagne had been flowing freely at the reception since the wedding ceremony this afternoon at three o’clock, and Fergus had definitely had more than his own fair share of the bubbly liquid.

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