Wife for a Week(50)

By: Kelly Hunter

‘This is the first time we have had such a problem,’ said the older man bleakly as he looked to the young salesman. ‘Make it the last.’

The young crime lieutenant nodded respectfully.

The old general studied her thoughtfully before glancing once more at the silent Kai. ‘So be it,’ he said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘The contract is void. Happy New Year, Mrs Cooper. May it be a healthy and prosperous one for you and all your family. My assistant will see to the details.’

‘Thank you,’ said Hallie and bowed her head in acknowledgement because, frankly, it seemed the thing to do. She waited until the older man was gone before straightening and turning towards the salesman who’d sold her the vase in the first place.

‘You’re a very fortunate woman, Mrs Cooper,’ he said dryly. ‘He let you live.’

‘Maybe he’s turning over a New Year’s leaf,’ said Hallie.

Kai winced. The young salesman smiled his crooked smile. ‘I like you,’ he said.

‘Be grateful you’re not married to her,’ said Kai.


Hallie ignored their bonding banter completely. She wasn’t done yet. ‘Can you see to the details today?’ she asked the salesman. ‘Can you see to them now?’ She watched as he whipped out his Palm pilot and pulled up his calendar.

‘No problem,’ he said. ‘I will arrange to meet my contacts within the hour.’

Contacts, assassins, whatever. As long as he called them off. ‘Thank you,’ she said, bestowing a brilliant smile on him, and then as a new thought occurred to her, ‘I wonder…’

‘No!’ said Kai. ‘No wondering.’

‘No refunds either,’ said the salesman.

‘Of course not,’ said Hallie. ‘That would be tacky. I was just wondering about the vase. The vase in the window. After all, it was part of our arrangement…’

‘They haven’t called,’ said Nick. ‘What’s taking them so long?’ He was on his fourth cup of sugar-loaded green tea and the sugar was starting to take effect. Soon. They would call soon. Meanwhile Nick paced. Pacing was good. Pacing and waiting was far better than sitting and waiting and he wished for the hundredth time that he could have gone with her. Dammit, he should have gone with her, regardless. Because if anything happened to her…

The muffled ringing of John’s cell phone interrupted his latest what if. Nick felt the blood drain from his face, felt an icy calm steal over him as John took the call. It was brusque, it was brief, it was in Cantonese. And then it was over.

John Tey pocketed his cell phone and turned towards him, a broad smile on his face. ‘The meeting was a success. The contract has been dissolved.’

Nick felt the breath he’d been holding leave his body, felt the blood in his body start to move again as relief washed through him. Hallie was safe; that was all that mattered. His hands were trembling so he put them on the counter to make them stop; his legs were shaky too—nothing he could do about that other than pray they held him up until the sensation passed.

‘Here,’ said John, pressing a squat glass of clear liquid into his unresisting hand. ‘You love her; you feared for her. It’s a perfectly normal reaction.’

Nick drained the contents of the glass, almost choked on the fire of it. ‘What is this stuff?’ he spluttered between gasps.

‘Cheap Russian vodka,’ said John Tey with a chuckle. ‘Very good for shock. Very good reminder that you are alive.’

‘She did it,’ said Jasmine joyfully. ‘She’s a hero.’

‘Crazy, reckless woman,’ Nick muttered beneath his breath. ‘I should never have let her even attempt it.’ Just wait until he got his hands on her. Wait till she walked through that door. Hero or not, he was going to lock her up and throw away the key until she swore she’d never put him through anything like that again!

‘Of course, you’re a hero too,’ said Jasmine thoughtfully. ‘You may actually be the biggest hero here today.’

‘What?’ Nick blinked. How could he be a hero? He’d done nothing! Nothing but wait and in waiting go slowly insane.

‘You didn’t interfere,’ said Jasmine. ‘You let her go even though it went against your nature to do so and you trusted her to fix the problem herself. I think that was very heroic.’

‘You’re a sweetheart,’ he said gently as he held out his empty glass for another hit. ‘But I think you’re confusing heroism with lunacy.’

Twenty minutes later Hallie and Kai walked through the door and Nick managed to greet them civilly enough, thanks in no small part to John’s most excellent cheap Russian vodka.