Beyond All Reason(6)

By: Cathy Williams

‘No? Then how is it that you never let on that you were seeing a man? Not even in passing?’

‘Because…’ she stammered, going red.

‘Because it’s none of my business?’ He stood up and slipped on his jacket.

‘I never really gave it much thought,’ she said with an attempt to be casual. ‘Gosh, is that the time? I must get going.’

‘Dinner date?’

‘Something like that,’ she said and he bit out angrily,

‘There you go. Dodging a simple question, acting as though the minute you say anything revealing about yourself you’ll find yourself in the firing line.’

She shot him a placating smile which was supposed to remind him that she was, after all, just his personal assistant, and he gave her a long, sardonic stare. ‘Careful you don’t fall, Abby,’ he murmured, and she looked at him, bewildered. ‘You’re backtracking so quickly that you might just lose your balance.’

He moved towards the door and held it open to her.

‘Musical,’ he said succinctly into her ear. ‘A much safer topic, isn’t it? Fiona and I are going to see a musical in the West End and then we shall probably have dinner somewhere.’ He pressed the button on the lift and turned his attention back to her. ‘What about you? Where is your boyfriend taking you to dinner?’

Was it her imagination or was there laughter in his voice every time he mentioned Martin?

‘Actually,’ she offered with reluctance, ‘we’re having dinner at my place tonight.’ She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and then said, because he would find out sooner or later anyway, ‘It’s something of an engagement party, as a matter of fact. Just relatives and a few friends.’

Ross stared at her as though she had suddenly sprouted three heads and announced that she was from another planet.

‘Well,’ she said defensively, ‘I would have told you! It’s not some great secret. I just never thought that you’d be interested.’

The lift arrived and she stepped in with a feeling of relief. She had her head averted, but she was acutely aware that he was still staring at her. What right did he have to make her feel guilty simply because she happened to be a very private person, who preferred keeping things to herself? Nonetheless, she felt a slow flush creeping up her cheeks.

‘So you’re getting engaged to this Martin person,’ he mused. ‘You don’t seem to be overjoyed and excited at the prospect.’

The lift doors opened on to the ground floor and she stepped out. With some surprise she realised that she was perspiring slightly.

‘Of course I am,’ she said more hotly than his remark warranted. ‘I’m very excited about the whole thing.’

‘What’s he like?’

They were walking across the huge reception hall now, but not fast enough as far as she was concerned. Ross Anderson, she knew from experience, was the persistent sort. She had seen it in everything he did. He grappled with problems until they were sorted out to his satisfaction, and he could be ruthlessly single-minded in pursuing his targets. It was one of the reasons why his company, in times of recession, had continued to do well, to expand. Publishing was a volatile beast at the best of times. She knew, as everyone in the company did, that he had inherited an ailing firm from his father, and had then proceeded to drag it kicking and screaming into the twentieth century, until it was now one of the largest in the country, with branches operating throughout Europe. Quite simply, Ross Anderson had taken the company by the throat and had brought it to heel.

He hadn’t achieved that by being a sensitive flower. She eyed the approaching glass doors with zeal.

She had managed to ignore his question and was about to launch herself through the revolving doors, to freedom, when she felt the warm pressure of his hand on her elbow, and she sprang back, alarmed.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked, and he said very softly into her ear,

‘From your reaction, not what you think.’

‘Very funny,’ she muttered between her teeth.

‘I was simply going to ask you whether you had time for a quick drink. To celebrate your engagement.’

‘No.’ She tired to water down the abruptness of her answer with a smile. ‘I really must get home so that I can prepare some food for tonight.’

‘How many people have you invited?’ he asked blandly, his hand still disconcertingly on her elbow.

‘Not many. I would have asked you along,’ she explained, ‘but…’

‘But you’re a firm believer in not mixing business with pleasure. I know. I got the message three days after you joined the company.’