Bittersweet Love(6)

By: Cathy Williams

How dare he stand there and inform her that he would now be keeping an eye on her to make sure that she kept to his rigidly imposed schedule?

She turned away and walked quickly in the direction of the gym. It was a couple of stops on the Underground from the office, but by foot it was no distance at all and she had become accustomed to grabbing as much exercise as she could.

As she walked quickly along, she was aware of the odd appreciative glance in her direction and she couldn’t prevent a grin from forming. Poor Kane. What a shock. There was a certain delicious enjoyment to be had from the thought that, amused as he was by her change of appearance, there was just the tiniest element of pique that she had had the temerity to do it all without first consulting him.

The smile stayed on her face all through her lunch-hour and she was still wearing it when she returned to the office just before one-thirty.

Kane was at his desk, poring over a pile of reports, a half-finished sandwich next to him, and she was moving towards her own desk, a grin on her face, when he said through the opened door, ‘I see you enjoyed yourself.’

Natalie stopped in her tracks and looked at him, her grin still lingering on her face.

‘Yes, thank you.’ She went to stick her bag under the desk and he called out to her,

‘Good for you. I wouldn’t want to impose on your post-work-out euphoria, but could you see your way to fetching me a cup of coffee? And there are a few questions I’d like to ask on that Wilkes project.’

The grin faded and she glared at the wall between them. He was spoiling for a fight. She could hear it in his tone of voice and she could see it in that lazy pose he adopted when she walked into his office a few minutes later with a mug of coffee. Hands clasped behind his head, eyes narrowed on her. Only a complete idiot would be fooled into thinking that he was relaxed.

She carefully placed the coffee in front of him and sat down.

‘The Wilkes project?’ she reminded him, fixing him with a glassy, encouraging smile.

Funny to think that she had missed all this restless aggression. How could she have forgotten exactly how uncomfortable he was capable of making her feel?

‘Ah, yes,’ he said smoothly, ‘the Wilkes project. It needed a few bits and pieces tying up when I left the country six months ago. I see from the file that the bits and pieces are still waiting to be tied up. Problems there or just lack of interest?’ Natalie gave a barely audible sigh and he said in a very soft, very cutting voice, ‘Dear me. I do hope I’m not boring you.’

Count to ten, she thought. Remember that old saying about patience being a virtue, because right now she needed a huge supply of it to cope with Kane in one of these determined-to-needle moods. His nose had tem-porarily been thrown out of joint and he wasn’t about to let her forget that in a hurry.

‘Not at all,’ Natalie replied calmly. I was going to explain what’s happened on that to you anyway.’

‘Were you? Then explain on.’

‘We delivered a shipment of sub-standard goods to them and they’ve been waiting for a rather large credit for the past two months.’

His black brows flew upwards. ‘Two months? And who the hell is handling that account?’

Natalie told him and then watched as he roared his anger down the line. Two months’ problems cleared up in a two-minute phone call. No humming and hedging with Kane Marshall. She sat in silence as he got Ben Wilkes on the line, turned on the charm that had helped to make him the powerful businessman that he was, and listened as he not only wrapped up their deal but managed to persuade them to buy far more than they had originally intended to.

When he replaced the receiver he shot her a smile of genuine amusement. The sort of smile that reminded her with sickening force precisely why she had learned to cultivate her implacable exterior—because smiles like that were made to kill.

‘Business,’ he said lazily, ‘can be so easy, if you know how.’

‘Those credits were taking rather a long time to be resolved,’ she admitted.

‘People should realise that timidity and short-sighted penny-pinching doesn’t go a long way to making money.’

‘Not everyone puts making money at the top of their list of priorities, though,’ Natalie said under her breath, and he leant towards her, his black brows meeting in a frown.

‘Where the hell are you getting these ideas from? Of course making money is important. Ambition is the fuel that drives us on.’

Natalie hesitated, wondering whether she should take the side of discretion, and then on impulse she threw caution to the winds and said with heartfelt sincerity, ‘You mean ambition is the fuel that drives you on. Some people might find it just a little bit too tiring.’