The Argentinian's Demand(4)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Perhaps,’ she said in a stilted voice, ‘this might go some way to explaining my behaviour. Not that I’ve noticed anything amiss. I’ve done my job as efficiently today as I always have done.’

Performing seal? Was that how he saw her? As someone who came in, did what she was expected to do to the very highest standard, but lacked in all personality? Dull? Boring? An automaton? She had kept her distance and had kept her opinions to herself. Since when had that been a crime? Her mouth tightened and she swallowed back an intense temptation to tell him just what she thought of him.

Leandro looked at the white envelope in her hand and then looked at her.

‘And that is...?’

‘Take it. Read it. We can discuss it in the morning.’

She made to rise and was told to sit back down.

‘If a discussion is warranted, then we’ll have the discussion right here and right now.’

He reached for the envelope, slit it open and read the brief letter several times.

Emily schooled her features into a mask of polite detachment, but she had to unclench her hands and her heart was racing—beating so fast that she felt it might burst through her ribcage.

‘What the hell is this?’

He tossed the letter across the desk in her direction and Emily snatched it before it could flutter to the ground. She smoothed it on her lap, staring at the jumble of words. Granted, it was a very brief letter of resignation. It said that she had enjoyed her time working with him but felt that the time had come for her to move in another direction. It could not have been more dry or unemotional.

‘You know what it is. It’s self-explanatory. It’s my letter of resignation.’

‘You’ve had fun and now it’s time to move I reading it correctly?’

‘That’s what it says.’

‘Sorry. Not buying it.’

Leandro was shocked. He hadn’t seen this coming and he was furious at what he saw as inadequate advance warning. Furthermore, he was the one who generally decided when one of his employees was ready to be shown the door. He had had enough experience of simpering young girls batting their eyelashes and getting into an annoying flap every time he looked at them and asked them to do something simple.

‘If I remember correctly, you had a substantial pay rise recently, which you very happily accepted, and you informed me at the time that you were perfectly satisfied with the working conditions here.’

‘Yes. I...I...hadn’t thought about resigning at that point in time.’

‘And yet less than a month later you have? Did you have a sudden revelation? I’m curious. Or have you been looking for a replacement job all along and just biding your time until the right one came your way?’

The thought of another endless series of airheads was not a pleasant one. Emily Edison had been the perfect secretary. Intelligent, unflappable, always willing to go beyond the call of duty. He was used to her. The thought of getting in to work and not having her there at hand was inconceivable.

Had he taken advantage of her? Of her quiet efficiency? Her willingness always to go the extra mile? He rejected any such notion before it had had time to take root. He paid for her to be willing to go beyond the call of duty. He was pretty sure that she would be hard pressed to find another job as secretary in the heart of London where the pay equalled what she got.

‘Well?’ he prompted. ‘Has someone made you an offer you can’t refuse? Because if that’s the case, consider whatever offer you were tempted by doubled.’

‘You would do that?’

Her mouth fell open. Performing seal she might very well be, but he valued her, and although she knew that through a process of intelligent deduction, it was gratifying to hear it put so starkly into words.

‘We work well together,’ Leandro said bluntly. ‘And I expect that I am sometimes not the easiest man in the world to work for...’

Expecting a standard negative response to that statement, he was disconcerted when it failed to be delivered.

‘Is that it?’ he asked, leaning forward with frowning intensity. ‘Have you got a gripe against me...?’

He couldn’t quite conceal the incredulity in his voice and Emily, for the first time, looked at him with cynical directness. Of course never in a million years would Leandro Perez ever think that any woman wouldn’t be one hundred per cent happy to be in his presence. She might have bucked the trend by not being one in that long line of women who swooned the second those dark, intense eyes settled on them, but even so he would still assume that he had an effect on her because that was just the sort of man he was.