Beyond All Reason(3)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Hurry off, then,’ he said, his mouth twitching at the corners, and much as she would have liked to flounce out of his office, she walked out in as calm and dignified a fashion as she could muster. Sometimes, she thought, sitting at her desk and switching on her computer terminal, sometimes I wish I could ram these files down his throat. That would go a long way to wiping the amused smile off his face!

Good old Fate. Trust it to have landed her this job eighteen months ago. At the time she had been working for a small firm of lawyers. Too small a firm, she later realised. She was the only secretary there, and her normal caution when it came to the opposite sex had gradually been eroded by the late nights she had found herself working. Ellis Fitzmerton had been one of her bosses, and she had gradually begun doing more and more work for him, knowing him in that casual but intimate way that was possible between two people who spent a great deal of working time together. There had been a drift towards take-away meals when overtime was necessary, often in an office empty but for the two of them. Legal talk had shifted to personal talk. The memory of it still made her flush. In retrospect, she couldn’t believe how stupid she had been. Ellis Fitzmerton was slick, good-looking, appealing. Little by little common sense had given way to an empathy she had never invited; and when, late one night, over a stack of files, of all stupid things, he had leant forward to kiss her, she had thrown caution to the winds and returned his passion. It had been an error of judgement which had lived to haunt her.

She shut the memory out and began typing the stack of letters, her fingers flying expertly over the keyboard, and she barely glanced up when the connecting door opened and he swept into the room, his black coat over one arm.

‘Feeling less tired now?’ he asked, propping himself with his hands on her desk, and she stopped what she was doing to look up at him. Up close, he was dauntingly handsome. His features were angular and the darkness of his hair and eyes gave a brooding impression that could be intimidating and vaguely cruel. She had trained herself never to respond to his unsettling good looks and she looked at him placidly.

‘Much less, thank you. When shall I expect you back from your meeting with Mr Robinson?’ She briefly scanned her desk diary and informed him that he was seeing one of the marketing people later on in the afternoon.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, his black eyebrows curving upwards, ‘I won’t be running behind schedule, so you needn’t fear that you’ll be called upon to do any overtime tonight.’

She snapped shut the diary. ‘Oh good,’ she murmured, gathering together her sense of humour which had threatened to desert her earlier on, ‘I am so relieved to hear that. You know how eagerly I wait for five o’clock every evening, bag in hand, jacket on, feet poised to flee and join the general stampede of clock-watchers.’

‘Oh, all right. I take back that crack.’ He stood up. ‘Tell Janet to have all the sales figures ready this afternoon, I don’t intend to waste my time standing around while she rummages through her folder in a complete flap.’

‘I’ll tell her,’ Abigail said. Poor Janet. Ross Anderson had a knack for making people nervous, and Janet was no exception. The last time she had a meeting with him, she made the mistake of forgetting some of her brief and had had to endure his barely contained impatience while she attempted to sort through her things for the relevant information.

‘What the hell’s the matter with you?’ Ross had asked her afterwards, when Janet had finally left the office, with an expression of relief on her face, and Abigail had looked down at her notepad where she had been jotting down the relevant points of the meeting.

‘Nothing,’ she had said, which had made him scowl darkly at her.

‘She should have made sure that everything was prepared before she came in here.’

‘She’s human.’

‘I’m human,’ he had pointed out irritably, ‘but that doesn’t mean that I drift in and out of my meetings in a state of semi-chaos.’

Abigail had looked up at him wryly, and he had snapped, with a dark flush, that he was not obliged to justify his behaviour to her anyway.

He stood up now, glanced down at his watch and said that she could expect him some time after lunch.

As usual, after he left, the office seemed peculiarly empty and very restful. She worked steadily for the next two hours and then sat back with a little sigh of weariness.

She would have her lunch now, she decided, a yoghurt and some fruit, and she would try not to spend the next half-hour analysing her relationship with Martin. She enjoyed his company, he enjoyed hers and they felt comfortable with one another.