At Her Boss's Pleasure(5)

By: Cathy Williams


Any man who liked her for her body was off the cards. No way was she ever going to fall into the same helpless trap her mother had. She relied on her brains, and goodness knew it had been tough going, ploughing through her school years, moving from place to place, never quite knowing what would confront her on her return home from school.

Her mother, by a stroke of good fortune, had been given sufficient money by her second husband in their subsequent divorce to enable her to buy somewhere small in Cornwall. She—Kate—would not be relying on any such stroke of fortune. She would provide for herself by hook or by crook and be independent.

And when and if she ever fell in love it would be with a guy who appreciated her intelligence, who was not the kind of man with commitment issues, who didn’t abandon women after he had had his fill of them, who didn’t go out with women because of the way they looked.

So far this paragon of virtue hadn’t appeared on the scene, but that didn’t mean that she would ever be distracted in the meantime by the sort of guy she privately despised.

So why, she wondered, did her stupid body begin a slow burn whenever Alessandro Preda was within her radius?

And now here he was, making noises about them working alongside one another outside normal working hours.

‘Then what is it about?’ Alessandro demanded, bringing her back to the reality of him sitting across from her with a bump. ‘Hectic social life? Can’t spare a week to sort this matter out?’ He glanced around him before settling his dark eyes on her cool, pale face. ‘Despite the extremely pleasant office you have here at the tender age of what...? Twenty-something...?’

‘I’ve been promoted on merit.’

‘And part of that promotion involves going beyond the call of duty now and again. Consider this one of those instances.’

Kate lowered her eyes, keeping her cool.

‘You said you were heading off now...?’

‘Yes.’

‘In that case...’ Alessandro stood up and sauntered towards the door, where he proceeded to lean against it, staring at her ‘...I’ll walk you down. In fact, I’ll go one better. I’ll give you a lift to your house. Where do you live?’

Kate licked her lips nervously and ventured a polite smile as she stood up as well, and began tidying a desk that wasn’t in need of tidying.

‘How long have you been here?’

His voice had her head snapping up and she looked at him in bewilderment.

‘How long have I been where? In your company? Working in London?’

‘Let’s start with in this office.’

Kate looked around her at her neat space, in which she felt so safely cocooned. These four walls were tangible proof of how far she’d come and how quickly—tangible proof of the solid income that marked her steps along that road called financial security.

Her mother had asked if she could visit her place of work when next she was in London but Kate had tactfully, and a little shamefully, killed the suggestion before it could take shape.

Lilac Watson, not yet fifty, and these days thankfully a little less obvious in displaying what she had to offer physically, would still never have blended into these muted, expensive surroundings.

This was Kate’s life, built with her own blood, sweat and tears, and her mother had her own life. In Cornwall. Far away. Separate.

‘What about it?’ She shoved her work laptop into a leather briefcase and reached for the grey jacket she had slung over the back of her chair.

Grey jacket, grey calf-length skirt, flat, sensible patent pumps and, yes, definitely tights. Not stockings. Tights. Possibly of the support variety. Who knew? It was impossible to tell what sort of figure she had under the prim ensemble. Not fat, not thin, tall... The shirt managed to hide everything up top and the skirt did a similar job with everything down below.

And why the hell was he looking anyway?

‘How long have you been here? In it?’

Kate paused and frowned. ‘A little over six months. To start with I was moved in here because I was working late on a couple of very big clients and George thought that the quiet would help concentration. Not that it’s a mad house outside. It isn’t. And then, when I was promoted, I was offered it. I snapped it up.’

She reached for her briefcase, slung her black bag over her shoulder and straightened her skirt.

‘Thanks very much for your offer of a ride home, but there are one or two things I need to collect on the way so I shall take the Tube.’

‘What things?’

‘Things... Food items. I need to stop off at the corner shop.’

Alessandro heard irritation behind her calmly spoken words. This was something he wasn’t used to, and he was as bemused by his own reaction to it as he had been by his earlier curiosity as to what lay underneath the prissy work clothes.