The Argentinian's Demand(9)

By: Cathy Williams

He had never been into blondes, but interest was kicking in. He wondered whether that was because the lines between their professional relationship and the personal were beginning to blur. Hell, what an inappropriate reaction! The woman had just announced that she was about to tie the knot with some guy and here he was, assessing her in ways he had never done before and allowing his imagination to break its leash and take up residence in entirely unacceptable fantasies that involved him getting down and personal with this new, intriguing creature squirming in front of him.

‘His name is Oliver,’ Emily admitted reluctantly, steering the conversation away from all talk about romance and passion.

The mere notion of those foreign emotions was enough to make her lips curl with cynicism. Romance? Passion? Why not throw love into the mix while he was about it?

Leandro detected the shadow that crossed her face, the way her full lips tightened fractionally. He had never really known what was going on in his secretary’s head and he wondered idly whether she knew just how much of a challenging gauntlet she was throwing down in her evasiveness.

For someone like him—someone to whom women had always been prepared to bare their souls, whatever his response, indeed, who would have been prepared to do anything to net his interest—her obvious reluctance to divulge even the most innocuous of facts about her situation was a compelling reason for him to keep pushing.

Thinking about his varied and changeable love-life made him distractedly recall that fleeting, gone-in-a-heartbeat expression that had crossed her face at the mention of romance and...what else was it he had said...? Passion.

Was this mysterious fiancé less an object of passion than a...a last resort guy? Underneath that controlled exterior, was she just plain scared of ending up on the shelf? Or maybe some experience of someone who hurt her had left her wary of romance? Was that it?

The questions raced through his head and he didn’t bother to fight his curiosity in chasing answers.

A fortnight in the Caribbean, aside from allowing him to be personally on hand to make sure the project was launched smoothly, promised to be an interesting experience.

‘Oliver... Oliver what...?’

‘You wouldn’t have heard of him.’

‘The expression pulling teeth springs to mind...’

‘Camp,’ Emily said through gritted teeth. ‘His name is Oliver Camp.’

‘And Oliver Camp would object to your accompanying me on a business trip, would he?’

‘I’ll come.’

Arrangements might have to be put back a few weeks, but in the long run that would make little difference. They were both keen to tie the knot and get the whole thing over and done with, but sometimes Fate threw a spanner in the works, and in this instance the spanner came in the form of a very large, very muscular and hellishly dynamic guy who effectively had her in his pocket.

At any rate, arguing with him would, in the end, be counter-productive. She had never known him to give anything up without a fight—and a winning fight at that.

‘Wonderful news! So glad you’ve come round to the idea...’

He glanced at his watch and stood up, and Emily reluctantly found herself surreptitiously following the economical fluid movement of his long body. She seemed to have stored up remembered images of him, so that she felt almost familiar with the sight of his strong forearms sprinkled with dark hair, the way he unrolled the sleeves of his white shirt, the length of his fingers...

It alarmed her, and she looked away hurriedly and followed suit, standing up as well.

‘I trust you’ll make all the necessary arrangements first thing in the morning?’ He strolled towards the door and slipped on his jacket.

‘Are you leaving work already?’ Emily directed the question to his broad back and he looked at her over his shoulder.

‘So it would appear.’

He never left work before seven. Even when his diary was free of all meetings or conference calls, as she knew it was now.

‘How come?’ she found herself asking, and instantly regretted her impulsive question.

What on earth was wrong with her? Had some crazy recklessness been unleashed inside her? Was it all downhill from here on in? She had another month of his company! Was she going to work that month trying to put a brake on whatever nonsense her mouth decided to come out with? All her reserve seemed to be unravelling.

‘Come again?’ His dark eyes roved over her flushed face and he raised his eyebrows.

‘I apologise. Of course it’s none of my business when you decide to leave the office. I just thought... I wondered... You usually take the opportunity to consolidate stuff after normal working hours when the phones aren’t ringing quite so much...’