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Bittersweet Love

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«Bittersweet Love» - Кэтти Уильямс

Seducing her boss!To Kane Marshall, her arrogant boss, Natalie had always been the perfect secretary: quiet, efficient, undemanding. For five years Kane had thought he controlled her life – and secretly Natalie knew he controlled her heart! But now – with a new image and her confidence renewed – the time had come for Natalie to stop dreaming and live life to the full.The trouble was, Natalie's new independence was a challenge Kane couldn't resist. Natalie was playing with fire, and it seemed that scorching seduction was on the agenda!
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Dear Reader

Title Page









Dear Reader,

What a good opportunity to write a few words to thank you all for your support over the years. I have been writing for Harlequin for nine years and it still gives me great pleasure to think that my books are enjoyed by you, I hope, as much as I enjoy writing them.

It’s wonderful to know that contemporary romance fiction is still alive and well!

Happy twenty-fifth anniversary, Harlequin Presents®—may we continue to have a long and enjoyable relationship!

Best regards,

Cathy Williams

Bittersweet Love

Cathy Williams


NATALIE could feel the spring in her step become heavier and heavier the closer she got to the awesome glass edifice that housed the Marshall Corporation.

Why not admit it? she told herself. I don’t want to see Kane Marshall. I don’t want to see his face, I don’t want to hear his voice, I don’t want to feel that awful, sickening rollercoaster of emotions every time he glances in my direction.

Not that he had the slightest idea what went on underneath that bright, efficient smile of hers. If he had, she would have left his employment immediately.

She stuck her hands into her jacket pocket and stood still for a moment outside the building, letting the cool summer breeze whip her hair across her face, glaring at the squares of glass, already hating him for what he did to her.

She was twenty-seven years old, and she had spent the last five of those years hopelessly in love with a man who wouldn’t have noticed her if she had stood naked on top of his desk with a rose between her teeth.

He was the boss, and she was his personal assistant. He discussed work with her, trusted her completely in that respect. In fact, he had jokingly told her once before that the office would seize up should she ever decide to take her talents elsewhere. She had smiled politely at the compliment, wondering how it was that some compliments could sound very much like insults.

But she knew how he saw her. Plain, slightly overweight, owlish behind her spectacles, brimming over with crisp efficiency. Neat navy suits and sensible shoes. Reliable little Natalie Robins.

Even when, six month ago, he had taken her out to dinner, and announced that he would be leaving the country to set up a new and important subsidiary in the Far East, he had had no qualms in handing her the reins of responsibility. He would be accessible by telephone and on the fax machine. The rest he was quite confident that she could handle.

Six months without being subjected to the force of his aggressive, dominant personality, was a long time. Long enough to think very carefully indeed about where her life was going. Long enough to lose quite a bit of weight, to get rid of those awful spectacles that did nothing for her eyes, to style her hair into something more resembling a tousled mane than the lank bun which she had been wont to wear to work every day.

Long enough to make up her mind once and for all that loving Kane Marshall was a disease which she would overcome if she died in the process.

Even so, standing here in front of the building and knowing that she would be seeing him for the first time in six months made her skin prickle with alarm.

She was realistic enough to realise that her idiotic love for him was responsible for that clutching knot in the pit of her stomach, but that didn’t mean that she had to like it.

She took a deep breath and quickly covered the ground towards the building, her feet automatically taking her to the private lift which would carry her straight up to his office. The knot in her stomach seemed to have grown, making it difficult for her to breathe, and her hands were balled into nervous fists in her pockets. Thank heavens her cool, slightly aloof face betrayed none of this inner turmoil. The outward package might have undergone a few renovations here and there, but basically she was the same collected person as she always had been. She had spent years perfecting the ability to express on her face only what she wanted the world to see, and as she stepped into the office now, quietly hanging her jacket on the coat-stand next to her large L-shaped desk, she thanked God for that.

She knocked perfunctorily and pushed open the connecting door between her outer office and Kane’s main one, unable to prevent her quick intake of breath as her eyes rested on his tall, powerful frame. He was standing half turned from her, staring out of the window, his thoughts miles away. He couldn’t have heard her soft knock.

She had thought her memory to be quite vivid, but now, seeing him for the first time in months, he seemed so much more overpowering than she had remembered. The black, springy hair was slightly shorter than when he had left, his frame a little leaner, as though he had spent a great deal of time working out. Or maybe it was simply that his tan created that illusion, because he was certainly more bronzed now than she could ever remember him being.

‘It’s good to have you back, Mr Marshall,’ Natalie forced herself to speak into the silence, afraid that she would be unable to tear her eyes away from him until he turned around and caught her in the act of watching him.

He turned to face her, and whatever he had been about to say remained unspoken as his eyes swept over her. She could see the surprise written there, and she met his gaze blankly, steeling herself for the inevitable sarcasm.

‘Natalie?’ he finally asked, moving towards her, his hands in his pockets. He circled her, his green eyes amused as he inspected her with the thoroughness of a racehorse owner inspecting a horse. ‘You’ve changed.’ He continued to look at her, his brilliant eyes missing nothing, and she had the intensely uncomfortable feeling that she was being leisurely stripped by someone who was quite an expert at the procedure.

‘People tend to,’ Natalie said crisply, moving away from him and positioning herself closer to the door. ‘From time to time.’

‘Do they?’ He sounded as though this was a novel concept, but she could still see the amusement lurking there in the depths of his eyes and it irritated her. She had forgotten just how quickly he could get under her skin. ‘I haven’t,’ he pointed out, returning to his desk and gesturing for her to sit in the chair facing his.

‘You look much browner,’ Natalie said non-committally. ‘Was it very hot out there?’

‘Oh, very. And what was the weather like over here? Do tell.’ He leaned back and surveyed her from under his thick black lashes, his eyes flicking once again over her body, resting on the gentle swell of her breasts, which she had hitherto played down under muted, baggy clothes, as if he couldn’t quite get to grips with the transformation.

‘I’m merely trying to make small talk,’ Natalie said, frowning.

‘Don’t you think we’ve known each other too long for small talk?’

It was the sort of remark that, in different circum-stances, might well have sounded quite intimate, but here, in the clinical severity of his office, she knew what he meant. They had worked together for so long that they operated with the kind of familiarity that came to old, married couples.

‘Besides,’ he was saying, moving on from his offhand observation, ‘if we’re going to play that game, let’s at least talk about something slightly more interesting. Like what the hell has happened to you?’

‘Not a great deal,’ Natalie informed him, deliberately misunderstanding his question. ‘I’ve taken up squash and swimming. My sister has made me godmother to her little boy. And, of course, I’ve pretty much kept on top of the workload, you’ll be pleased to hear, although, as you suspected, that Grafton deal is proving trickier than was originally anticipated. But I discussed all that on the telephone with you a couple of days ago. The file is on my desk, if you’d care to see it.’

She rose to get it, too nervously conscious of his eyes on her to remain in the room any longer.

‘Sit down,’ he barked. ‘I haven’t laid eyes on you for six months, dammit, to find that you’ve gone and got yourself overhauled. You haven’t found yourself a man, by any chance, have you?’ There was a thread of suspicion in his voice.

Natalie gave him a look that would freeze water, and he laughed.

‘Good. I can’t afford to have you besotted with any man. There’s too much work on here at the moment for that little luxury. The Hong Kong operation is going to have a massive knock-on effect on our outlets over here.’

He began rooting through some paperwork on his desk and she glared at the downturned dark head. She had become quite accustomed to this trait of his. He would pick up a topic, explore it for a while, like a child with a plaything, and then when he was satisfied that there was nothing left to discover about it, or when it began to bore him, he would drop it without a backward glance.

It was how he treated the women in his life, and there were enough of them. Blonde, brunette, red-haired, all perfectly proportioned Barbie doll look-alikes who adorned his arm for just as long as he wanted them to, before boredom set in.

It never failed to amaze her that she had fallen in love with someone whose character she was quite capable of assassinating with a few easy strokes. How could anyone with a scrap of common sense actually love a man whose idea of involvement was a diamond necklace and a weekend in Rome, work permitting, and whose attitude to parting was a philosophical shrug of the shoulders?

Now, she thought acidly, he had sized up her transformation, made sure that it would not cause any ripples in her work life, and, that done, was quite content to get back to the business in hand.

For once, though, Natalie was not going to accept his change of direction with equanimity. Maybe six months of freedom from his engulfing, mesmeric personality had taken their toll in more ways than one after all.

She looked at him, her grey eyes level, and said coolly, ‘You can rest assured that the presence of a man in my life would not affect my work here in the slightest’

He glanced up from what he was doing, his black brows drawn together in a frown.

‘But there is no man, is there?’ He looked at her doubtfully, and she could read what was going through his head.

Natalie Robins, prior to reconstruction, plump, unappealing, was safe and reliable. Now he wasn’t too sure. She had moved on from that image and there was the niggling suspicion that men might actually begin to feature on the scene.

She smiled expressionlessly at him. ‘And if there were? Do the hordes of women in your life interfere with your ability to work?’

He sat back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head, his green eyes giving her their full attention. There was interest in his face, as though the nature of her question had startled him slightly, but not enough to deter him from responding.

‘Nothing interferes with my ability to work. You, of all people should know that.’

“Then why should you assume that it would be any different for me?’

‘Women are a part of my life,’ he said bluntly, his green eyes roving over her face. Then he leaned back and stared at her from under those thick black eyelashes. ‘I know how to handle them. I can put them into perspective.’

There was no need for him to say anything further. Natalie knew well enough what he was getting at. The unspoken implication was that she had no experience with men, so how could she possibly handle something as extraordinary as a love-affair?

She looked at him coldly and when she spoke her voice was well modulated and perfectly controlled, even though inside she was bristling with anger.

‘Can’t you just?’ She lowered her eyes and began flicking through her typing pad.

‘And what exactly does that remark mean?’ He circled round his desk to perch on the edge of it in front of her, and she wondered whether this was as casual as it appeared to be. She wouldn’t put it past him to subconsciously use body language like that to addle her.

‘It means that your treatment of women, from what I’ve seen, leaves a great deal to be desired.’ She stared straight ahead of her, her profile neat and clean.

‘Well, thank you for that remarkable piece of insight into my love life.’ His voice was still threaded with amusement ‘I had no idea that you disapproved so strongly of it. Or maybe I had.’ He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and Natalie gritted her teeth together because she knew that he was laughing at her. ‘Yes,’ he continued slowly, ‘your disapproval was always there in that tight expression you wore every time a woman walked through the door. But you never actually came right out and said anything. Perhaps your new body image has brought on a change of personality?’ The question hung in the air, and Natalie sincerely hoped that he didn’t expect any answer, because she had no intention of providing one.

‘Well?’ he pressed. ‘Has it? I hope not. I liked you the way you were. My life’s too complicated without you suddenly deciding that you need to discover yourself.’

‘In that case,’ she said calmly, ‘I’ll make sure that I discover myself outside working hours.’

What an arrogant, selfish swine, she thought. How could I have ever fallen in love with you?

She thought that they had killed the subject. What else was there to say?

His movement when he leaned over to twirl one long strand of hair between his finger surprised her so much that her body jerked around and she faced him angrily. He laughed, his eyes mocking, and folded his arms.

‘I still can’t get over this transformation,’ he murmured. ‘What prompted it? If it wasn’t a man, then what?’

Natalie stood up, working on the theory that she would feel far less disadvantaged if she was at least on eye level with him, and then instantly regretted it because that brought her far too close to his dark, handsome face.

Was it really any wonder that women found him so irresistible? Even with all her defences in full working order Natalie could feel that intangible pull be exerted over the opposite sex. He had that particularly lazy, self-assured brand of sexuality that could conquer without a great deal of effort. She had seen even the most hardened of feminists fall victim to it, and every time she saw it, it made her annoyed. It just didn’t seem fair that one man should be so shamelessly magnetic.

‘That,’ she said frozenly, ‘has to be the most chauvinistic remark I have ever heard.’

He laughed. ‘Really? That just goes to show how little experience you have of the opposite sex.’

She looked away quickly to hide the faint flush that had crept up her cheeks. God only knew why she had allowed this sort of personal conversation to sneak up on her and catch her unawares. It never usually happened.

‘Well,’ she bit out defensively, ‘if you are anything to go by, then I’m heartily glad about that.’

She looked at him, horrified by what she had just said.

‘Are you?’ His eyes were curious, and she realised that her remark, rather than ending their conversation, had had just the opposite effect.

‘I am, as a matter of fact,’ she muttered under her breath. She could hear her heart hammering away in her chest, and would have given anything to have been able to sit back down, but if she did that might delude him into thinking that she was actually interested in this conversation.

‘I’m mortally offended,’ he said, his eyes gleaming with suppressed amusement, and she could have hit him. What a keen sense of humour. Was this his idea of getting back into the routine? By starting off the morning with a little laugh at her expense?

‘Mortally?’ she said, refusing to share the joke. ‘In that case, I’ll try and make time to come to the funeral.’

He laughed and threw her an appreciative look.

‘I can’t tell you how nice it is to be back here, at the mercy of that vicious tongue of yours. The secretary I had out there was awful. She spent six months complaining and generally acting as though working for me was on a par with enforced labour. If she hadn’t come with a personal recommendation, I would have got rid of her so fast she wouldn’t have known what had hit her. But I didn’t want to offend my man over there, so I stuck it out. Just.’

He moved back to his chair and Natalie released a sigh of relief.

Poor girl, she thought sympathetically. She could have understood the reaction. Kane Marshall could be very intimidating at times. When it came to work, he could be unforgiving, and his peculiar ability to grasp complex matters quickly made him short-tempered and impatient with anything he saw as ignorance.

These were not lovable traits—not that Kane would see it that way.

He began rattling instructions to her and her private thoughts were quickly swamped under a torrent of shorthand and paperwork. He showed her pictures of the new complex and Natalie watched in appreciation, asking sensible questions, fully relaxed now that they were both involved in work and nothing more. They began going over some reports, and she expertly flicked through them to the relevant spots, rapidly jotting down amendments in the margins as Kane went through them with her.

It was midday when she next glanced at her watch and she looked up at him to find him staring at her with an intensity that confused her for a split second, before she had time to gather her thoughts together.

They had been sitting close to one another, the reports between them. Now she moved her chair away just a fraction, and as surreptitiously as she could so that he would not notice.

‘You look completely different without your glasses,’ he remarked musingly. ‘I never noticed what a peculiar shade your eyes were. Pure, undiluted grey.’ His voice was light, but his expression was disturbingly serious.

Natalie blinked, taken aback. For once, her talent for repartee deserted her, and she stammered, ‘Is—is that a compliment? If it is, thank you. But what about those figures we were talking about?’ Her fingers were trembling very slightly, and she shoved them on to her lap in irritation.

Couldn’t she trust herself not to react like this after all this time? Shaking hands because he happened to make a personal comment on her appearance, schoolgirl blushes because his eyes on her face betrayed the vaguest element of interest which she had never noticed being there before.

It was ridiculous, pathetic. She refused to be either ridiculous or pathetic.

‘Why don’t we discuss it over lunch?’ he said smoothly, standing up and raking his fingers through his hair, his eyes already off her as he prowled into his office for his jacket. ‘We can go to that wine bar,’ he threw over his shoulder, ‘you know the one. If it’s still there. I had no idea how much could change in six short months, until I saw you.’

He re-emerged into the room and frowned when he saw that she was still sitting at her desk, stacking some of the files in order, skimming through the paperwork that would need actioning when she returned from lunch.

‘I can’t go,’ Natalie informed him flatly, and she didn’t think he could have been more surprised if she had told him that she was about to become a belly-dancer in Egypt.

‘You can’t go?’

Natalie didn’t look up. ‘That’s right. I’ve started working out at a gym near by during my lunch hours.’

He paced across the room to where she was sitting and she reluctantly met his eyes.

‘You can skip today’s session, in that case,’ he said in that tone of voice which she had come to recognise over the years. It was the one he used when he was not about to take no for an answer.

‘I’m sorry,’ Natalie informed him politely. ‘I’ve arranged to meet a friend there; we’re going to grab a salad afterwards.’

She switched off the computer terminal and reached underneath for the bag which she kept under the desk and which contained her spare case of make-up and a towel, as well as her keep-fit gear. Kane continued to watch her as though she had suddenly taken leave of her senses, and it made her want to laugh.

Except the laughter would have been streaked with self-disgust. Had love made her so amenable to him that she had always been willing to bend to whatever he wanted? From the expression on his face, it certainly seemed so.

‘So you have changed more than simply the packaging,’ he said with a hard, assessing smile. ‘You’ve suddenly turned into Miss Popular of the Year. What a revelation.’

Natalie’s fingers tightened on her holdall. She knew what lay behind that biting cynicism in his voice. He had become accustomed to her readiness to comply with everything he wanted. Her work had been the main-spring of her existence. Everything else fell around it and somehow slotted in. Now it was different. From here on in she intended to live her life to the fullest, and work would simply have to slot itself in. She wouldn’t slack off, but on the other hand she would no longer allow it to absorb her the way it had done. That was one of the things she had decided in his absence and she intended to stick to it.

In the past, she had been like an addict, feeding on her blind love for him, open to exploitation. No more. And the sooner he realised that, the better.

‘If there are things to discuss outside working time,’ she said, ignoring his gibe and bypassing him to the door, ‘I’m more than happy to work overtime tonight. But I shall have to leave by seven, I’m afraid. I’m going out.’

He followed her out of the office and into the lift as it silently transported them to the foyer.


This was getting on his nerves, she could sense that. Kane was someone who liked being in control—in fact he saw it as his prerogative. The fact that she had altered in his absence to someone whom he didn’t know and could no longer control irked him.

‘That’s none of your business,’ Natalie murmured sweetly, flashing him a smile which made him scowl.

They were outside the building now and she glanced across at him, her breath catching in her throat as his sexual allure engulfed her.

That, she thought, was one thing that hadn’t changed. Unfortunately. The glare from the sun, which normally was so relentless in emphasising the inadequacies of people’s features, threw his into relief and somehow made them more startling. What, under the synthetic lights in an office, were angular and impressive, in day-light were devastatingly sexy.

‘I’ll see you after lunch,’ she said firmly.

‘And make sure you’re back on time,’ he responded in a silky voice, which had just the smallest element of warning in it. ‘All these frantic activities are one thing, just so long as they don’t interfere with your working life.’

Natalie glared at him, the smile dropping from her face.

‘That’s not fair! I’ve never shirked my responsibilities, you know that!’

‘I never suggested that you had.’

‘Then why are you implying that I’m suddenly going to start now?’

He looked down at her, a small smile twisting his lips although his green eyes were hard and calculating.

‘For reasons that I can’t begin to fathom, you’ve decided to change your image. And very successful you’ve been too. But I think it’ s only fair to warn you that I won’t be lenient when it comes to making allowances for your suddenly booming social life.’ He shot her a calculating look. ‘And love life, for that matter. Burning the candle at both ends isn’t going to win any Brownie points with me.’

‘I’ll bear that in mind,’ Natalie said stiffly. And thanks so much for the warm welcome, she thought to herself. ‘I’ll see you after lunch,’ she repeated, ‘and you needn’t worry that I won’t be back on time.’

He had the grace to flush slightly at her tone of voice but Natalie was in no mood to relent. Kane Marshall was a trying man to work for at the best of times. He was demanding, rarely voluble in his gratitude when she had worked longer and harder than was usual, and she had never once abused his silent assumption that her dedication to his company was paramount.

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.’

‘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.


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