‘Have you made any preparations for the baby?’
A glint of humour beamed his way. ‘Jack, whenever my mother comes to visit me, which is frequently, we do nothing else. That’s not quite true— we go to the movies, concerts and so on and every few weeks she insists I spend a weekend on the cattle stations with them. But this baby will have everything that opens and shuts; more clothes than any single baby could wear, many of them exquisitely hand stitched. She loves doing that kind of delicate sewing.’
‘OK.’ He finished his tea and thought for a bit. ‘What about your other social life?’
She wrinkled her nose. ‘What social life?’
‘Well, girlfriends, then?’
Maggie sighed unexpectedly. ‘One or two, but I think I may have been a bit—I don’t know—I think I may have given off pretty strong vibes that I would rather be alone.’
‘And Tim Mitchell?’
‘Did he drop you like the proverbial hot potato?’
‘Oh, no. He offered to marry me.’
‘I hope you turned him down flat,’ he said and was rewarded by a definitely hostile green glance.
‘Tim would make a fine husband,’ she said tersely.
‘Come on, Maggie,’ he drawled, knowing full well he was out to hurt and anger her further, as if he had the devil himself riding him, ‘that would have been a recipe for disaster. At least you loved going to bed with me.’
‘Another word? Why not? It’s true. You certainly made love to me as if you loved every minute of it. You tracked me down where no outsider has ever been able to find me to do so, come to that,’ he said lazily, then added, ‘And all the while you had Tim Mitchell virtually sitting in your lap.’
Maggie gasped. ‘That’s… that’s—’
But he broke in before she could go on. ‘If you’re contemplating a loveless marriage to anyone, Maggie, I fail to see what Tim Mitchell has over me. Then again, I did think that’s what you were expressly holding out against.’
‘I am. If you’d allowed me to finish you would have heard me say that Tim would make a fine husband for the right person who was not me.’
‘Bravo,’ he applauded. ‘I’m all in favour of sticking to your guns. Did that ring a bell with you, though?’
‘It gave me a distinct sense of déjà vu,’ she replied through her teeth. ‘Why are you being so—horrible?’
He shrugged. ‘I thought you needed taking out of yourself a bit.’ He ignored her incredulous expression. ‘How’s the job going?’
Maggie opened her mouth to dispose of this query summarily, but something stopped her. Did she need taking out of herself? Was she floundering in a slough of despond?
‘I’m giving it up in a fortnight.’ She sniffed suddenly. ‘I seem to have lost my edge. It’s become a bit of a chore rather than a pleasure. Besides which…’ she looked down at herself ruefully ‘… I’ve got the feeling I’m about to burst out all over and driving around a lot and getting in and out of cars may not be too comfortable.’
He smiled, and it was almost as if he’d gone from tiger mode to gentle mode in the blink of an eye. ‘You could be right. How about working from home? For me, I mean, or as an associate?’
Maggie stared at him.
‘I adapted the retirement village to your ideas, but now I need an interior decorator.’ He paused and looked around. ‘You have some wonderful ideas and taste.’
Maggie stared at him with her lips parted this time.
‘You seem to have pretty strong convictions about retirement homes,’ he said into the silence with a tinge of irony.
‘Are you furnishing them?’ she queried.
‘Not all of them. There are several levels of accommodation. The ones I will be furnishing are for single occupants, widows and widowers mostly, I guess. I’d like them to be—cheerful and comfortable. But even the ones I don’t furnish will need colour schemes, carpets, curtains, kitchen and bathroom finishes, et cetera.’
‘And…’ she licked her lips ‘… you… you think I could do all that from home?’