The Argentinian's Demand(6)

By: Cathy Williams


‘Marjorie stayed on for quite a while before she finally left...that seems to fly in the face of your sensitive information theory...’

‘Yes, but...’

She looked at his raised eyebrows, the slight tilt of his head, and for a second she wondered whether he was just toying with her.

‘My responsibilities have been far greater.’ She stumbled over her words as she contemplated the prospect of working out her notice having told him in no uncertain terms what she thought of certain aspects of her job...

‘True,’ Leandro agreed.

He allowed the silence to thicken and deepen. Immediate departure? Why?

‘And you’re telling me this because...?’

‘Why would you want me around if you think I’m an annoying martyr?’

Emily took a different approach, but Leandro Perez was not a man who could be browbeaten, and even as she tried a different ruse she felt the sinking sensation of knowing that her departure would not be going quite according to schedule. She had been short-sighted, had dropped her mask, and now she would be stuck for at least another month with their boss-secretary relationship not on the safe footing on which it had always rested.

‘You have a month’s notice to work out,’ Leandro informed her flatly. ‘You’ve lost your mind if you imagine that you’re going to leave me in the lurch with a string of unsuitable candidates turning my working life upside down.’

And he was honest enough to admit to himself that it rankled...the fact that she had been happy to jump ship without a backward glance when she must have known that he depended on her! What the hell had ever happened to a sense of responsibility?

He offered her an expression of thoughtful contemplation and politely waited for her to try and find a few more pointless excuses.

Emily envisaged one long month of interviewing prospective candidates for a guy who would almost certainly reject all of her choices. She had handed in her notice and he wasn’t going to make life easy for her. And now that she had been foolish enough to actually tell him what she thought about his antics involving the opposite sex...

No, life was not going to be a walk in the park at all over the next four weeks.

‘But of course you do have a point,’ he mused, resuming the light tapping of his fountain pen on his desk. ‘You have assumed far greater responsibilities than Marjorie ever did. She always maintained that she was hanging on to new technology by the skin of her teeth whilst knowing very well that there was no way I would ever get rid of her because of her length of service. She worked for my father in Argentina. Did you know that?’

‘She didn’t mention it.’

‘She was over there on holiday after university and looking for temporary work so that she could improve her Spanish. She applied for an office job at my father’s company and he liked her. Said she had spirit. He employed her on the spot, and as things turned out she fell in love with a local guy, married him and remained working for my father until eventually she and her husband moved over here years ago so that she could be close to her family.

‘Two of her daughters married English guys and now live here as well. When she moved she came as a package deal to me, but in truth her heart was never in the upward climb. She did a damn good job, but you...’ He relaxed back and folded his hands behind his head. ‘You’re quick...you’re professional...you never need to be told anything twice...’

Emily accepted the flattery with as composed a demeanour as she could muster and reminded herself that it came with the massive downside of being asked to work out her notice. But the pleasure of being complimented so elaborately brought colour to her cheeks.

‘Which is why I can’t afford to lose you immediately, and also why you were rewarded with so much responsibility...so much confidential information on clients... For all I know—’ he sat forward suddenly, taking her by surprise ‘—you could be moving on to one of my competitors... Who knows? You’re a closed book, Emily...’

‘Moving on to one of our competitors...?’

Leandro raised his eyebrows at that unconscious slip of the tongue, but he didn’t relax his posture, and nor did he come even close to cracking a smile.

‘Are you being serious, Leandro?’

Somehow she had managed to avoid using his name for the majority of her time working with him and it felt strange on her tongue. She was catapulted back to that odd sensation she’d had earlier, when she had suddenly and inexplicably become aware of him—aware of his startling sexuality, aware of the dragging power of his personality when work was not the issue at hand.