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The Argentinian's Demand

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«The Argentinian's Demand» - Кэтти Уильямс

THE ARGENTINIAN’S DEMANDWhat the most powerful man in business wants… He gets!When billionaire Leandro Perez’s indispensable assistant Emily Edison resigns, telling him exactly what she thinks of him, he won’t let her off easily.Trapped in paradise at Leandro’s beck and call, Emily’s plan to marry for her family’s security is threatened. And as attraction gives way to an undeniable craving she’ll have to make the ultimate choice – duty… or desire?
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Emily stared at Leandro in mute silence. She didn't want him to carry on—she really didn't want to hear what he had to say on a subject she had no desire to talk about—but she felt like a rabbit frozen in the headlights while a car moved inexorably at full speed towards it.

‘Ah, I see you get where I'm coming from.’

He sat up and his hand snaked up to her wrist, tugging her down beside him so that she half fell onto the rug before shuffling into a sitting position whilst glaring impotently at him.

‘The cat is out of the bag, Emily. You're no longer a personal assistant hiding behind a bland exterior with a non-existent private life.’

She was so close to him that he could see the flicker in her eyes…he could almost smell the scent of an awareness she was desperate to conceal.

‘You're engaged to be married to a man for whom you have…feelings of…what, exactly? Certainly not love and—let's be honest here—definitely not physical attraction. And do you know how I've come to that conclusion?’

He ran his thumb along the side of her cheek in a gesture that was shockingly intimate and she pulled away sharply.

‘Point proved. I've come to that conclusion, my dear personal assistant, because you're attracted to me…’

CATHY WILLIAMS is originally from Trinidad, but has lived in England for a number of years. She currently has a house in Warwickshire, which she shares with her husband, Richard, her three daughters, Charlotte, Olivia and Emma, and their pet cat, Salem. She adores writing romantic fiction, and would love one of her girls to become a writer—although at the moment she is happy enough if they do their homework and agree not to bicker with one another!

The Argentinian’s Demand

Cathy Williams


Back Cover Text

About the Author

Title Page

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten





EMILY EDISON STARED resolutely ahead of her as the elevator purred upwards to the twentieth floor, disgorging employees along the way. It was the morning rush at Piccadilly Circus, in the towering glass building where she worked in the heart of London. She rarely experienced this because she rarely came to work later than eight in the morning, but today...

Slim fingers tightened on the neat leather satchel at her side. Inside the bag her letter of resignation felt like an incendiary device, waiting to explode the minute it was released from its fragile containment. When she tried to imagine how her boss would take this she felt slightly sick.

Leandro Perez was not going to be happy. When she had begun working for him over a year and a half ago he had already been through countless secretaries, the most successful of whom had barely lasted a fortnight. Change, in this instance, was not going to be as good as a rest...

‘They take one look at him,’ his long-suffering and fairly elderly PA had told her, two days after her arrival at the company, ‘and something unfortunate happens to their brains. But you, thank God, seem to be made of sterner stuff.

When I told Leandro that I would stay until I found a successful replacement I had no idea I would still be here after six and a half months...’

Emily had taken to the job like a duck to water. Theoretically, at the age of twenty-seven, she was still young enough to be susceptible to having her brains scrambled by a man who could turn heads from several blocks away, but he did nothing for her. His outrageous good-looks left her cold. The deep, rich velvet of his voice with that ever so slight sexy Argentinian accent did not put her off her stride. When he strode round her desk to look over her shoulder at something on her computer her nervous system remained perfectly stable and functioning. She was, as had been predicted by his previous PA, made of far sterner stuff.

But right now, riding the elevator by herself, because the last employee had scuttled through the doors somewhere around floor ten, she felt queasy with nerves even though she asked the end of the day, what could he do? Throw her through the window? Condemn her to immediate exile somewhere on the other side of the world? Threaten to lock her up and throw away the key?

No. The most he could do would be to get very, very annoyed—and annoyed he most certainly would be...especially considering that only a fortnight ago he had given her a glowing appraisal and a correspondingly glowing pay rise, for which she had been immensely grateful.

She inhaled deeply as the lift doors opened and she emerged onto the opulent directors’ floor of the wildly successful electronics company her boss owned and ran with ruthless efficiency.

It was just one of his wildly successful companies. They ranged from publications to telecommunications and he had recently, for a little light relief, begun a programme of investment into boutique hotels in far-flung places. Such was the vastness of his wealth that he could weather any sluggish profits he made from that venture—although, if the first three hotels were anything to go by, he would yet again discover that he had the Midas touch.

She would miss all this, she thought, looking around at the busy department. Plants and artfully arranged smoked glass partitions maintained a certain amount of privacy for the various secretaries who helped keep the machinery ticking over. Several waved at her.

She would miss the occasional lunch with them in the office canteen. She would miss the stunning surroundings of a building which was a tourist attraction in its own right. She would miss the adrenaline-fuelled pace of her work, its diversity, and all her responsibilities—which had increased a hundredfold since she had started.

And would she miss Leandro?

For a few seconds she paused and frowned towards the thickly carpeted corridor that led to his massive office suite.

Her heart picked up pace. She might not have drooled over him, the way some of the other girls did, but she was not completely immune to his impact. She was in full possession of twenty-twenty vision and she would have had to be blind not to be aware of just how sinfully sexy the man was. The fact that he represented everything she despised didn’t detract from that unassailable truth.

And, yes, she confessed to herself, she would most certainly miss working with him. He was nothing if not a challenging employer—indeed, the most brilliant, energetic, vibrant and demanding man she had ever worked for.

Before she could get carried away on that tangent, she refocused her mind, pursed her lips and smoothed her skirt with shaky hands. As always, she was dressed like the ultimate professional. Charcoal-grey pencil skirt, sheer flesh-coloured tights, black court shoes, a crisp white blouse and the matching charcoal-grey jacket that completed the suit. All this despite the fact that it was June and the weather was heating up with every passing day. Her pale blonde hair was neatly coiled in a bun of sorts, out of harm’s way.

She strode confidently towards Leandro’s office, pausing en route to dump her satchel and her briefcase on her desk, which was in her own private outer office, before knocking on the interconnecting door.

Behind the door, Leandro glanced up from his computer and then pushed himself away from the desk. This was a first. His secretary was late, and he was disconcerted to find that he had wasted far too much time wondering what was keeping her. The fact of the matter was it wasn’t even nine yet. Her working day was not due to begin for...another ten minutes.

‘You’re late,’ was the first thing he said as soon as she had entered his office.

On cue, his midnight-black eyes swept over her, taking in the prim suit, the even primmer blouse, the severely restrained blonde hair.

She was as cool as an ice maiden. Very little ruffled her feathers, and when she looked at him she did so without the slightest flicker of interest. There were times, in fact, when he almost suspected that she might not even like him very much—although he invariably put that down to the workings of his imagination.

Women liked him. That, he conceded without a trace of vanity, was a given. He assumed that it was due to a combination of the way he looked and the reserves he had in his bank account. Money and a halfway decent appearance were almost always a guarantee of lively interest from the opposite sex.

‘Technically,’ Emily told him calmly, ‘I’m not even due in for another eight minutes.’

She looked at her boss, seeing him in a different light now that she knew she would soon be on the way out. She would hand him her letter of resignation just before she left for the day, and thus spare herself the full force of his anger.

He really was, she thought with a detached eye, a thing of great beauty. Black hair was swept back from a face of chiselled perfection. He had lashes most women would have killed for. And there was a lazy, shrewd, perceptive depth to his dark eyes that could, she knew, be at once disturbing and exciting. There had been instances when she had caught him looking at her with a mixture of mild curiosity and lazy masculine appreciation, and for all her toughened resistance she had been able to see just what it was about him that had women drooling.

He was tall—at least four inches taller than her, and she wasn’t petite at five foot eleven—and even in a suit, it required very little imagination to guess at the muscular physique underneath.

Oh, yes, he had the full package—and it drove women nuts. She knew because she had full access to his private life. She chose gifts for his women—five and counting over the past year and a half. She ordered elaborate bouquets of flowers when, sadly, their time was up and he was ready to move on to a new model. She fielded his women’s calls and, on one memorable occasion, had had to handle a personal appearance at the company.

He invariably dated obviously sexy women. Curvaceous, dark-haired beauties with big breasts and come-hither eyes. The sort of women who always commanded far more male interest than any skinny supermodel ever could.

Involvement in his personal life was not something she was going to miss, and it reminded her of why, despite the stunning good looks, the agile brain, the sharp acumen, and those flashes of wit that could bring a grin to the most poker-faced of spinster aunts, she still didn’t like the man.

Leandro frowned but decided to let it go, even though her cool response had carried just a hint of rebellion behind it.

‘And might I expect this to become a habit?’ he enquired with raised eyebrows. He pushed himself away from his desk and relaxed back in his chair with his hands folded behind his head. ‘If it does, then some advance warning would be appreciated. Although...’ he allowed a few seconds of silence ‘...considering the amount you’re paid, you might find my tolerance of your clock-watching a little limited.’

‘I won’t be clock-watching. I never do. Shall I bring you a refill for your coffee? And if you let me know what you want done about the due diligence on the Reynolds deal I can get started...’

* * *

For the rest of the day, however, Emily did watch the clock—something she never had in the past—and with each passing minute her nerves became a little more stretched.

Was she doing the right thing? It was a big step. Handing in her notice would signal an end to her substantial salary, but what choice did she have?

At a little before five-thirty, with her resignation letter burning a hole in her bag, she debated her options. Of course she had options. Who didn’t? But when you got right down to it all her options aside from the one she was going to take now led to the same dead end.

She cleared her desk with the feeling that she was looking at it for the last time. He would certainly ask her to leave immediately. For starters, she was privy to confidential information. Would she have to sign some sort of disclaimer? It sounded like the sort of thing that might happen in a B-rated movie, but who knew? When it came to business, Leandro was not a man to take any chances.

He glanced up briefly as she entered the office, took in the very obvious fact that she was dressed to go and pointedly looked at his watch.

‘It’s five-twenty-five...’ Emily forestalled any sarcasm ‘...and I’m afraid I have some...stuff to do this evening...’

She normally worked until after six—sometimes far later if there was a lot to get through.

‘I’ve completed all those emails you needed to be sent to the lawyers in Hong Kong and forwarded them to you for checking. You’ll find them in your inbox...’ She hovered, reached into her bag and withdrew her resignation letter. ‘There’s just one more thing...’

Leandro picked up the uneven tenor in her voice and stiffened. He looked at her narrowly and indicated the chair facing his desk. ‘Sit.’

‘I’d rather not. As I said, I’m in a bit of a rush...’

‘What’s going on?’

It was more of a demand than a question. Today was proving to be full of surprises—at least as far as his secretary was concerned. Kicking off with her late arrival at work, she had spent the day in a state of mild distraction, jumping when he happened to come up behind her so that he could review something on her computer, working with the ferocious absorption of someone intent on pretending that there was no one else in the office, and barely able to meet his eye when addressed.

All of those minute changes were so under the radar that he knew they would have passed unnoticed by anyone other than himself, but his antenna was sharp when it came to detecting nuances—especially nuances in a woman with whom he had spent the past eighteen months working in close quarters. She was his secretary, but he had, in actual fact, spent a hell of a lot more time with her than he ever had with any of the women he had taken to his bed.

So...what was going on?

Leandro was intrigued, and what startled him was the acknowledgement that he had actually been intrigued by her for a long time. Intrigued by her aloofness, her detachment, her almost pathological desire for privacy. Intrigued because she was the only woman he had ever met who barely reacted to his presence.

She did her work with the highest level of efficiency, and even when they had worked late on several occasions, and he had ordered in a takeout to keep them going, she had politely refused to be drawn into any form of personal conversation, preferring to keep everything on a professional footing. Chinese food, chopsticks and no downtime. Instead intelligent discussion of whatever deal they had been working on, with her notes spread next to her on the desk.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, Emily, that you’ve been acting strangely all day...’

‘Have I? I’ve managed to complete all the tasks you’ve set me.’

She sat, simply because he kept staring at her and remaining on her feet felt oddly uncomfortable. She had planned on handing him her letter of resignation and leaving perhaps before he could even open it. It now looked as though that option would be removed from her.

Now that she was on her way out—now that she knew she would never clap eyes on him again—she was oddly aware of his potent masculinity. It was almost as though she had now given herself permission to look at him—really look at him—without the barrier of her inherent scorn for the type of man he was standing in the way, acting as blinkers.

Something dark and forbidden raced through her, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Those dark eyes were intense...

She looked down quickly, angry with herself and wondering where that sudden powerful awareness had come from. Surreptitiously she extracted the letter from the satchel and licked her lips.

‘You’re not a performing seal.’ Leandro relaxed back into the leather chair and looked at her. ‘There’s more to your job than simply completing the tasks set. Granted, you’re not the most open book in the world, but something’s definitely off with you today. You’ve been acting like a cat on a hot tin roof and I want to know why. It’s impossible to work if the atmosphere in the office isn’t right.’

He picked up his fountain pen—an expensive present from his mother, who firmly believed that letters were still written and technology and computers were simply a passing phase. He twirled it idly between his fingers and Emily watched, guiltily mesmerised by the movement of his long fingers.

‘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.

A player. Someone so inherently aware of his massive pulling power that it would be just inconceivable that it might not work on some women.

‘I haven’t got a gripe against you,’ Emily said slowly.

She felt a thrill of recklessness, because right now, at this very moment in time, she was permitted to speak her mind. By tomorrow afternoon she would have cleared her desk and would have disappeared from here for good, with no need for references from him—although she knew instinctively that they would be very good, because he was, for all his faults, scrupulously fair.

Leandro tilted his head to one side and kept his eyes firmly fixed on her face. Her colour was up. Was she blushing? He hadn’t associated her with such a girlish reaction. She was always so self-possessed...and yet...

His dark eyes drifted down to her mouth. She had full, soft lips, and even if they had registered somewhere in his subconscious before now he certainly felt as though he was seeing them for the first time. Perhaps she had shed that ice-cold image, because there were cracks in it now, through which he wanted to pry, find out what lay underneath.

Emily sensed the shift in his attention—from boss trying to uncover the reasons for her sudden unexpected resignation to boss looking at her with masculine interest.

Her skin tingled. She felt as though she was in the grip of an acute attack of pins and needles.

‘No?’ Leandro drawled. ‘Because your expression is telling a different story.’

Emily, so accustomed to being the dutiful impeccable secretary in his presence—the secretary who never allowed her personal feelings to tip over into the work arena—stiffened.

‘If you must know, I’ve never enjoyed having to do your dirty work for you.’

‘Come again?’

She couldn’t quite believe that she had just said what she had. The blood rushed to her head and she knew that she was as red as a beetroot. Gone was the frozen, aloof façade she had kept up for the past year and a half.

She looked at him with defiance and took a deep, steadying breath. ‘Presents for those women you no longer had any use for...goodbye gifts you couldn’t even be bothered to choose...arranging opera tickets and theatre expensive restaurants for women I knew I would be sending those goodbye gifts to in a few weeks’ time... That should never have been part of my secretarial duties...’

‘I don’t believe I’m hearing this.’

‘That’s because you’re not accustomed to anyone telling you anything you don’t want to hear.’

Leandro released a long, sharp breath and sat back to look at her. Her face was alive with genuine, sincere emotion. She was leaning forward in the chair, and of their own accord his eyes drifted down to the prissy top.

He wondered what she looked like underneath it—wondered what it would feel like to make love to his icy secretary who was now in the act of revealing the sort of passion that could make any red-blooded man burn. He wondered what that hair would be like let loose. Hell, he didn’t even know how long her hair was! His intense curiosity extinguished any anger he might have felt at what she had just said. At any rate, it was certainly true that he wasn’t accustomed to being criticised.

‘So you didn’t like your involvement in my personal life?’ he murmured.

‘Maybe Marjorie was accustomed to doing stuff like that, but I feel you should have established whether I would mind...’

‘I guess if you felt so strongly about it you should have said something earlier...’

Emily blushed, because he was absolutely right. And why hadn’t she? Because she had needed the money and she had been keen not to put a foot wrong.

‘There’s nothing more annoying than a martyr who puts up with the unacceptable and only says her piece when she’s handed in her resignation...which brings me back to the why...’

‘Well, like I said, I feel it’s time to move on... I realise you will probably want me to leave immediately, so I thought I could just pack my things up and be done in a day...’

‘Leave immediately? What gives you that idea?’

‘What do you mean?’ Emily asked in some consternation. ‘Of course you want me to leave immediately. You don’t see the point of employees hanging around once they’ve handed in their notice. I remember quite clearly you saying that they need to be removed from sensitive information, and also that their demotivation can spread like a virus...’

In actual fact she had only known of a couple of instances of employees handing in their notice. Pregnancy and emigration being the reasons. Mostly people stayed with the company because the pay was second to none—as were the working conditions.

‘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’re 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 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.

‘I’m always serious when it comes to work.’ Leandro, still leaning forward with his elbows splayed on the desk, was looking at her very carefully. ‘As you might have gathered by now, I’m not a man who takes chances when it comes to my companies...’

‘I get that—but I would never disclose anything confidential to anyone!’

‘Better safe than sorry, though, wouldn’t you say...?’

Would she even miss him?, he thought, enraged with himself for even thinking it.

‘I’ll get in touch with the agency first thing in the morning.’

Distractedly she thought that a person could get lost in those dark eyes of his, which were resting on her with lazy, brooding speculation, and then she mentally slapped herself on the wrist for letting her imagination get the better of her.

Not only was it foolish but it was entirely inappropriate, given the current circumstances.

‘No need just yet...’

Whoever said that a good head for business precluded a talent for creative thinking?

‘I have a project that’s coming to an end on a small island in the Caribbean. Finishing touches to one of my hotels before the grand opening in six weeks’ time. I need to be there personally to sign off on the details...’

Not strictly true, but it would certainly serve his purpose at this juncture. No way she was going to just up sticks and disappear into the sunset without a backward glance. Furthermore, she intrigued him—and now, with this peculiar letter of resignation, she was intriguing him even more.

‘That’s not a problem. I’m more than capable of covering in your absence, and of course I will communicate daily on email. I can even begin sifting through prospective replacements so when you return you only have to interview the handful I’ve selected...’

‘Not precisely what I had in mind. I do have to keep an eye on you—as you have so aptly brought to my attention... So here are my thoughts: you and I will travel to my hotel and test-drive it, so to speak. Make sure the nuts and bolts are all in place, the paperwork is spotless, the teams are ready for when the place opens... And, of course, out there you will be removed from any temptation to get in touch with anyone who might be interested in buying sensitive information and it will give me time to get my people to firewall anything that could be stolen... What do you think? No, scratch that. Just get your passport, pack a suitcase and book two first class tickets for us to leave first thing in the morning. Much more fun than sifting through potential candidates for a job, wouldn’t you agree?’

Emily blanched. ‘What sort of timescale are we talking about?’ she asked faintly.

There seemed little point in taking issue with his implication that she might be a common thief. His suspicious nature had helped get him where he was today, and it was as ingrained in his personality as an icy wasteland was in hers.

‘Well, you do have to give me a month’s notice... I imagine a fortnight should suffice when it comes to overseeing the final touches of the hotel...’

‘Two weeks?’

‘You sound shocked. I know you have a passport, so where’s the problem?’

‘I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to do that.’

‘And that would be because...?’

‘Because I have certain commitments.’

‘And would these “commitments” be related to that letter of resignation you produced an hour ago?’


Emily drew a deep breath and looked away. She could feel curiosity emanating from him in waves. Leandro Perez had a brilliant and enquiring mind. Was he about to let her go without trying to delve into the precise reasons for her resignation? How naive she had been to imagine that that might have been the case.

‘I’m all ears—because I’m still paying your salary and asking nothing that breaches the bounds of your duty.’

‘I realise that. It’s just that...that...’

‘That what?’

‘I’ll be leaving London. I’m getting married...’


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