The Unexpected Husband(3)

By: Lindsay Armstrong

‘Why me?’ Joe Jordan asked faintly, after a long pause.

Lydia smiled quite warmly at him this time. ‘You should feel complimented. She’s gone into it very seriously, no she tells me, and she feels that you may con tribute the brains she—not exactly lacks, but you’re obviously very clever.’

Joe Jordan stood up and planted his fists on the desk. ‘I said this before but—bloody hell! So that’s why she suggested going to bed when...’ He let the sentence hang unfinished in the air, and had to suffer Lydia Kelso looking at him with obvious sympathy—something that annoyed him all the more. ‘Are you sure you’re not making all this up?’ he said then, through his teeth.

‘Quite sure.’

‘What if I did decide to marry her?’

‘I’d be only too relieved, Mr Jordan,’ Lydia said sincerely. ‘Provided you love her, of course. She really needs someone to look after her, especially if she has a child, and I can’t always be there. You know, she’d make a wonderful wife.’

‘How can you say that?’ he demanded bitterly. ‘You’ve just led me to believe she’s as mad as a March

Hare! Something the whole Kelso clan could suffer from., if I’m not mistaken, despite your assertion to the contrary,’ he added pointedly.

‘Look,’ Lydia responded coolly, ‘it’s not that I approve, necessarily, but it’s a choice a lot of women are making—and not because they’re mad but because they deem it a viable option in today’s society, where women can aspire to having careers and continuing to have them instead of retreating to the kitchen sink once they start a family.’

‘Go on,’ he ordered tersely.

She shrugged. ‘Some can cope with it, but I don’t think Daisy would be one of them. And, whilst a lot of mistakes you make in the heat of the moment can be corrected, a fatherless child is not one of them.’

Joe Jordan sat down, propped his chin in his hands and considered that this rangy twenty-six-year-old girl knew how to pack her punches. She shot from the hip and was unusually mature, perhaps. ‘You said you didn’t necessarily approve—apart from Daisy. Why not?’

‘I happen to believe a child needs both its parents. Of course it can’t always be helped, as in my own case. And it’s not that being a natural parent makes one automatically a perfect parent. But at least if you have kinship with a child it has to help.’

Joe raised his eyebrows thoughtfully. ‘It so happens I agree with you. Nor would I countenance being used as a stud. Do you happen to know whether Daisy intended to put me in the picture? Or did she plan to disappear out of my life with a little bundle of joy I was never to know about?’

‘It’s the one thing that’s causing her a bit of a problem,’ Lydia said gravely. ‘Well, there are two. While she feels she may be in love with you, she can’t be sure

that you are with her. If you were, then I’m sure she’d abandon all this nonsense.’

‘I’m speechless,’ Joe Jordan remarked with consider able feeling.

‘Would you like to tell me exactly what you do feel for Daisy?’ Lydia suggested.

‘No! That is,’ he corrected himself irritably and ironically, ‘I have no intention of marrying her. I have to be honest. Or anyone at the moment,’ he said moodily. ‘But—look, this has been a light-hearted—I couldn’t even call it an affair. She was the one who. damn it!’ He glared at Lydia. -

‘Well, now you know why. But you must have liked her? Or do you pop into bed with every woman who indicates they’re willing?’ She eyed him innocently.

He swore, seriously this time.

Lydia waited, looking absolutely unruffled.

He gritted his teeth. ‘I like her. She’s fun to be with, she’s extremely decorative, but...’ He groped for the right words, then sighed savagely.

‘You don’t miss her when she’s not there?’

He narrowed his eyes. ‘Is that a true test? You sound as if you.. .know what you’re talking about.’

‘I got married when I was twenty,’ Lydia said quietly. ‘We had a year together before he was drowned in a boating accident. That’s how it happened for me. He was always on my mind. Tucked into the background at times, yes, but always there.’