Web of Deception - By Nina Blake

Chapter One

The sight of her sucked the air right out of him.

Daniel Webb stopped in his tracks. The buzz of the party around him disappeared and for a few moments there was nothing else. Only that woman standing in the doorway, looking out onto the balcony where he stood. That face he’d never seen before.

Ash blond hair and pale grey eyes made for an attractive combination but that didn’t begin to describe the way she looked, or the effect she’d had on him. Despite the fact he was still reeling, he felt it deep in his gut – a sense of calm, of sudden certainty.

Daniel couldn’t take his eyes off her. Meanwhile she wasn’t even looking his way.

“That’s the woman I’m going to marry.”

He couldn’t believe he’d said that out loud. Had those words come out of his mouth?

She turned her head and saw he was looking at her. Though composed, the glint of surprise in her eyes told him she’d heard every syllable. A second later, she moved forward to where he was leaning against the railing.

“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” she said.

“There’s no mistake.” Daniel thrust his hand forwards to shake hers. “We haven’t met yet.”

“And I don’t think we’re going to, either.” Her hands remained at her side.

His colleague and old friend, Ray Price, slapped him on the back. “Did you hear what you just said? Get married? You? That’ll be the day.”

This was all he needed. As if he hadn’t landed himself in enough trouble without Ray’s help.

Daniel felt for the poor woman. She was in a tricky situation, one he’d put her in, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she thought he was making fun of her. Either that or she must think him a complete lunatic.

She stared at Ray. “If I’d wanted your opinion, I’d have asked for it.”

Daniel had to act quickly. “Sorry about that. My friend and I have both made a mistake.”

She raised her finely arched eyebrows. “You’re telling me you have. So you’re going to marry me? As if that was going to happen. As if it was even a possibility.”

“You’re right there,” Ray said, his words slurred.

Glaring at him, she silenced him with a single look. Strangely, Daniel felt a pang of envy, wishing that scorching look had been directed at him instead. It was passionate, like the woman.

Ray hadn’t meant anything by his comment. It was just that he’d had a bit too much to drink, though that would hardly seem like a good excuse to her. Clearly, she felt uncomfortable being the object of the conversation, rather than part of it. And Daniel didn’t blame her.

“Please excuse my friend,” Daniel said. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

She tilted her head as though considering his statement, her lips curling to a sultry smile. Finally, he had her full attention and he liked it very much.

Her eyes smouldered and he could have sworn she was beckoning him with their smoky grey depths. He felt a stirring deep inside.

Her smile, those lush, parted lips…

It would be so easy to lean forward…

“Your friend is drunk,” she said. “I don’t expect him to speak sensibly. But you don’t seem to be under the influence.” She took a small step closer. “So what’s your excuse?”

He deserved it, he knew. Of course she was embarrassed at his initial comment. Any woman would be.

She turned to leave and stepped away. Daniel had lost her. For now.

“A hundred bucks says you won’t have her!”

Damn it, he wished Ray would shut up. The young woman flinched, then kept walking as she disappeared through the door and into the crowded room. She’d heard him, for sure.

“A hundred dollars?” Daniel snapped. “Do you have any idea how insulting that is?”

“All right then, what’s it worth to you?” Ray sniggered.

“Why are you acting this way? It’s not like you, Ray.”

“Well, it’s not like you to chase after a woman. It’s usually the other way around.”

Daniel grabbed his friend’s shoulder. “You’ve had too much to drink. Get yourself cleaned up.”

Walking towards the door, Daniel was about to be waylaid by a couple of guests. He didn’t want to be held up so he smiled, lifted his hand for a polite wave and kept walking. He had to find the young woman if only to apologise and clear things up.

Still, it was going to be hard to explain his initial exclamation to her. Especially since he couldn’t explain it to himself.

Marriage? That was the last thing on his mind.

He was