Bittersweet Love(7)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Some people?’ He stared at her shrewdly. ‘Some people or one in particular?’

‘What are you talking about?’ Natalie asked, confused.

‘Oh, come on, Natalie,’ he drawled, ‘don’t play the innocent with me. We know each other too well for that. All these sudden observations on life? This sexy little body when before you never seemed to care one way or another what you looked like? There’s a man in your life, isn’t there?’ He leaned closer towards her, his sharp brown features drawn in lines of interested amusement. ‘Don’t try and tell me there isn’t. My sweet assistant, the one woman in life I always felt I could trust, has found herself a lover. I can almost smell it on you.’

Anger drained her face of colour then sent it flooding back into her cheeks. She stood up and without thinking slapped him across the face. Hard. She could feel her hand stinging from the impact and watched in horror as his face reddened from the force of her slap.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said weakly, her eyes wide. ‘I don’t know what came over me.’

His eyes were not so amused now. In fact, they were glinting with fury. He leaned over, one hand on his desk, and with the other he pulled her towards him, dislodging the clips in her hair so that it spilled over her face and shoulders.

‘Don’t you ever do that again; is that clear?’

Their eyes met and for the briefest of moments she felt as though she would swoon from the sheer, over-powering nearness of him, then she tightened her mouth in a firm line.

‘You provoked me,’ she said, knowing that she would be far wiser not to prolong the situation, but unable to relinquish the bit from between her teeth.

‘I pay you to work for me. I don’t need to cope with your temper tantrums.’

Natalie’s mouth dropped open in amazement. Her temper tantrums? How dared he stand there and act as though she had manoeuvred the whole thing? As though she were some bubble-headed female throwing a fit for no reason?

She bit back the torrent of heated arguments on the tip of her tongue, and said tightly, ‘Of course. Sir. I’ll try not to forget it.’

It didn’t seem such a good idea to add another sarcastic ‘Sir’ at the end of her reply, much as she would have liked to.

‘Good.’ His face was still only inches away from hers, his hand in her hair, half hidden under the jumbled mass. ‘I have a meeting to go to now. It should last the remainder of the day. I hope that tomorrow you will be back to your normal self.’

He released her abruptly and turned away and Natalie glared at his back.

‘I take it,’ she said as he strode out of the office, her composure once more firmly back in place, ‘that you don’t need me to work overtime this evening?’

He turned to face her with an unreadable expression.

‘No,’ he said abruptly, ‘not this evening. As a matter of fact, I have made some arrangements that are rather more stimulating than work.’

As he left the room, Natalie wandered to her desk and sat down heavily. She felt as though she had been through a wringer, and his parting words left her cold with dismay and a certain impotent anger that was directed against herself.

Because she knew where he was going. Maison Française. Chic, expensive, fine food and wine. His favourite haunt when it came to entertaining members of the opposite sex.

The only thing she didn’t know was whom he would be going with. It certainly wouldn’t be his dear old grandma.

But most of all she didn’t want to care and she did.

Well, she was going to let that ruin her life, was she? Let him begin his round of seductions with that endless queue of women patiently waiting to get their hands on him.

Just so long as he never realised that she was in that queue as well.


LATER that evening, as Natalie dressed for her evening out, she couldn’t help thinking with bewildered frustration that the cycle of emotions which she had sworn would be harnessed had managed quite successfully to survive Kane’s six-month absence, and was now rearing its ugly head once again. Like a beast that had tempor-arily hibernated, but was already wakening, slowly stretching and testing the water.

She carefully applied her eye-shadow and glared at the reflection staring back at her. What was the good of even thinking about the wretched man? It had seemed so easy, when he wasn’t around, to let thoughts of him slide to the background. He had been a constant back-ground presence which she could handle without too much difficulty.

Now, in the space of just one day, he had filled the office with his overpowering personality and all her well-controlled thoughts had been shot to hell.