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The Billionaire Boss's Bride

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«The Billionaire Boss's Bride» - Кэтти Уильямс

Billionaire Curtis Diaz is determined to uncover why his new executive assistant, prim and proper Tessa Wilson, fuels his desire like no other woman. Is there life beneath her sensible, shapeless business suits?One smoldering kiss from her boss and Tessa's professional exterior crumbles. The sensual woman in her is unleashed and soon she's swapped business for a steamy bedroom affair….Until Tessa discovers just what else is on Curtis's agenda…
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“You’re turning out to be such a good little secretary. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but a guy can get tired of beautiful girls sticking the wrong files in the cabinets and typing at a snail’s pace.”

“You’re turning out to be such a good little secretary. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but a guy can get tired of beautiful girls sticking the wrong files in the cabinets and typing at a snail’s pace.”

Tessa was in no mood to indulge him. From what she had seen, he was far too indulged already. He had been indulged at birth, by being blessed with staggering good looks, and from that it had probably only been a matter of time before self-assurance and charm stepped into the equation. Add a brilliant mind and the world, she reckoned, had probably been his oyster from when he was a toddler. “Will that be all?”

“You’ve gone prune mouthed on me again. Like a schoolteacher inspecting a particularly offensive student.”

“If you don’t like my demeanor, then perhaps you’d like me to go?”

“Now you’re offended.” He swept out of the chair and was standing by her before she had time to beat a tactical retreat. His voice was gushingly solicitous. “And I like your demeanor!” He placed his hands on her shoulders and Tessa felt a peculiar surge of heat race through her, sending her heart into furious overdrive.

The Billionaire Boss’s Bride

Cathy Williams













THIS, the first day of Tessa Wilson’s new job, was not proving to be a very good day. She stood at the reception desk in the foyer of the avant-garde glasshouse that housed the computer software group for whom she was now working on a super, quite unbelievably bumper salary, and frowned at the chap smiling at her. His badge said that he was called George Grafton and he looked like a George. Plump, balding, comfortable. Tessa’s first job had been with a George. They could have been brothers.

‘What do you mean you saw them all leaving the building this morning?’ Tessa looked at her watch. It was a sensible Casio watch. No frills, no calendar indicating day, month and year, no option to see what time it was in all major cities across the world or to time herself should she spontaneously decide to do a spot of exercise. It was as practical as she was. Practical, diligent and punctual.

‘And it’s eight-thirty in the morning! Surely…’

‘You’d think so.’ The man at Reception nodded sagely, reading her mind. ‘Most people are buzzing in to start the week, but…’ He raised his shoulders in an expressive gesture of incomprehension.

Tessa glanced around. Yes, people were pouring into the squat five-storeyed building, which was cunningly designed like Lego bricks surrounding an inner courtyard with benches and eating areas on most of the ground floor. Busy, industrious people who worked for the other companies there. Meanwhile, she was to believe that everyone working for the Diaz Hiscock group had mysteriously decided to take a day off for no apparent reason. It didn’t make sense. She wondered nervously whether this was some sort of test, some kind of trick initiation procedure that she was required to get through.

‘I’m sorry. This is my first day here. Look. See for yourself.’ She pulled out her letter of employment and pointed to the date she was supposed to commence work.

‘Yep. You’ve come on the right day, all right.’ Now the man was looking sympathetic, as though she were the recipient of some brutally bad news. ‘Can’t explain it. I mean, you can go up to the floor and have a look for yourself, but I was here at six and they were streaming out of the building.’

‘Maybe they all went out for breakfast,’ Tessa said hopefully.

That, in itself, was a ludicrous notion. What sort of company operated along the lines of mass desertion at the start of a busy working day, by employees who needed to have breakfast when they surely would have only just arrived?

‘Third floor.’ He nodded over to where three lifts were furiously trying to deliver employees to their various destinations and reached to answer the telephone.

Tessa dubiously looked at the suited crowd and wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt. She had been full of enthusiasm when she had got out of bed at seven. A little nervous, sure, but she was an experienced PA and confident that she could handle whatever was thrown at her.

Now she wasn’t too sure. Now, it occurred to her that the whole interviewing process had been a little on the odd side.

Yes, Diaz Hiscock was a family company, a small but successful and powerful family company, but hadn’t it been a little strange that her interview for the job had been with the boss’s mother? And conducted in the elegant sitting room of a house, over scones and tea? Six weeks ago, Tessa had found it very charming and such a blessed relief from the frantic pace of her old firm. Now she just wondered whether she was dealing with lunatics and had made a fatal error in jacking in her ordinary but perfectly secure job working for an accountancy firm.

‘I suppose I’d better… Well!’ She neatly folded up her letter and stuffed it back into her handbag. ‘Thanks for your help!’ She extended one polite hand and smiled. ‘And I guess I’ll be seeing you around!’

‘If not in ten minutes!’ He grinned with his hand over the receiver and she smiled weakly back.

‘Ha, ha.’ If that was meant to sound reassuring then she sincerely hoped that George never decided to go into counselling.

Her face was burning as she waited by the lift, sneaking in when the doors opened and maintaining zero eye contact with anyone else in it, focusing one hundred per cent on the gradual ascent of the lift to the third floor. She wondered whether there would be a roar of laughter behind her when she stepped out onto the third floor, whether they all knew that floor three was vacant.

Roar of laughter, no. Vacant floor, yes. Just as George had predicted. It wasn’t a huge office. Reception desk, empty. Tastefully arranged desks with occasional partitions filled the space behind the reception desk. All empty. And as Tessa made her way along the corridor, her feet making no sound as they sunk into the thick pile coffee-coloured carpet, she could feel her heart sinking. Offices to the left and the right, empty. Spacious offices, some with several plasma-screen computer terminals, offices that emanated financial well being, all deserted. The lighting wasn’t on and the bleak winter sunshine struggled to make its way through the glass and into the uninhabited office.

She felt like an intruder, but she switched the lights on and they buzzed into fluorescent life. Why the outer door hadn’t been locked, she had no idea. Anyone could enter, provided they could get past George. She cleared her throat, meaningfully and noisily, and ventured a tentative, ‘Hello.’

The silence that greeted this was deafening.

‘You’ll find my son a very interesting man to work for,’ Mrs Diaz had assured her, sitting back in her high-backed chair and folding her hands elegantly on her lap.

By interesting Tessa had assumed willing to give her responsibility. That had been one of the downsides of her last job. She’d done a lot and she’d been respected for what she’d done, but the chances to broaden her horizons hadn’t been there. She had heard the adjective interesting and been immediately captivated by the prospects it had promised.

Well, day one was proving to be very interesting indeed, if you could call walking around in a ghost office, wearing a suit, interesting.

‘Poor Curtis hasn’t had much luck with secretaries ever since Nancy quit to live in Australia with her husband.’ Mrs Diaz had shaken her head sorrowfully while Tessa had waited for her to expand. Somehow Mrs Diaz was not the sort of lady to interrupt with a barrage of questions. ‘He’s had a series of doodle heads, little glamour pusses fluttering around and batting their eyelashes. Quite, quite unsuitable for the job of working for my son.’

From the looks of it, anyone would have been quite, quite unsuitable for working for a man who shut up shop at six on a Monday morning, when his new secretary was supposed to arrive that day.

Tessa reluctantly proceeded down the corridor, glancing into the various rooms, increasingly aware that she wasn’t going to find any signs of life. It left her in the awkward position of either leaving and risking not being around if everyone in the office reappeared as mysteriously as they seemed to have vanished, or else sitting around in ghost town central twiddling her thumbs until her official going home time of five-thirty.

She was frantically trying to rack up the pros and cons afforded by going or staying when she heard it. A sound. Coming from the office at the very end of the corridor.

She picked up speed and walked towards the noise, making sure to check all offices en route just in case.

The plaque on the door indicated Curtis Diaz’s office. It was slightly ajar. She pushed it open, stepped through into a smaller outside room, through which was a much bigger office, and this time the winter sun was making no headway because thick cream velvet curtains were resolutely closed across the sprawling bank of windows.

Tessa’s eyes adjusted to the gloom and she immediately saw the reason for the closed curtains.

Stretched out on a sofa against one side of the wall was a man, lying flat on his back, one arm flung behind him, the other resting contentedly on his stomach. The soft noise that had drawn her attention was simply the sound of his intermittent snoring. In the middle of her appalled inspection, the man cleared his throat and turned onto his side, scaring her witless in the process.

He was wearing a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved rugby-style shirt. Tessa tiptoed towards him and the view expanded into a swarthy face with a hint of stubble darkening his chin. Rumpled black hair completed the picture. Tessa stared, heart thumping, calming herself with the knowledge that at least she wasn’t in the building alone. She might have stepped into the twilight zone on the third floor, but all the other floors were teeming with people and good old George was only a phone call away.

She stepped briskly past the inert figure on the couch, reached for the cord by the wall and pulled.

‘Okay, buster! Who are you and what are you doing in this office?’

The man struggled awake, groaning, and then subsided back, this time with one of the cushions covering his face.

Tessa walked towards him, gazed at the rumpled sight with distaste, and yanked the cushion straight out from beneath his arm, and this time it worked. Gratified, she watched as the bum blearily hoisted himself into a semi-sitting position and focused on where she was standing with her hands pinned to her hips and her mouth narrowed into a line of uncompromising severity.

‘I don’t know how you got into this office, buddy…’ Of course she knew! Hadn’t it been wide open to whoever might choose to enter? Hadn’t she herself wondered at the utter lack of basic security? ‘But you can get right out! This isn’t a doss house for any passing vagrant who decides to come in for a quick kip!’


‘Oh, yes, you heard me!’ Tessa could feel herself well and truly on a roll now. First, she had showed up, on time and dressed in a spanking new suit, ready to make a good impression on day one, only to find herself wandering through an empty office like a fool, and as if that wasn’t enough here she was, confronted by a supine figure snoring away merrily, probably sleeping off a hangover from whatever bottle of methylated spirits he had downed the night before outside the building.

‘Look at you!’ she snapped, leaning forward and wrinkling her nose as the apparition pushed himself into a more upright sitting position so that he could look at her in perplexed astonishment. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself!’

‘I should?’

‘You most certainly should! An able-bodied young man like yourself, sneaking into an unoccupied office and just going to sleep! Don’t tell me you can’t get out there and find yourself a job!’ The able-bodied young man was staring at her in a way that was beginning to make her feel very self-conscious. He was also, now that she could see him properly, an extremely good looking specimen, underneath the scruffy demeanour. His face was darkly handsome, in a tough, rugged sort of way, a compelling face that made her breath catch in her throat for a second or two. Tessa got a grip of herself and glared.

‘I’m afraid I’m going to have to report you,’ she said quietly, while narrowed blue eyes began to gleam with amusement. ‘And you won’t find that very funny! Have your fun and grin away, but when the police come and you’re thrown into some cell downtown, you won’t be grinning!’

‘Cell downtown?’ He couldn’t help himself. His lips twitched and he grinned with wicked amusement. ‘This isn’t New York, this is London. I think you’ve been watching too many American police shows.’ He raked his fingers through his hair and reluctantly stood up.

Disconcerted, Tessa took a couple of steps backwards. The man, who was now massaging the back of his neck with his hand and glancing round the office in an offhand way, was very tall. Very tall, with a solid muscularity that was a bit alarming.

‘Maybe I have,’ she said placatingly. She watched warily as the man ambled over to the window and peered out.

‘What time is it, anyway?’

‘A little after half past eight.’

That met with a grunt. ‘No wonder I feel like something the cat brought in,’ he muttered, swinging round to face her.

‘I’m going to have to call George…’ Tessa began. He had made her feel like a melodramatic idiot for having mentioned police and cells. George would have to deal with this. It wasn’t part of her job—secretary and makeshift security guard for premises that should have been locked in the first place.

‘Who are you, anyway?’

‘Who am I?’ Tessa regarded the man with amazement. ‘Let’s just say that I’m the person who found you comatose on a sofa, trespassing, from all accounts.’

‘Yes, but do you have a name?’ He plonked himself down on the leather swivel chair at the desk and she gaped incredulously at the sheer nerve. ‘Oh, God. No. Skip that question. It’s coming to me now. I know who you are.’ He pushed the chair back just far enough to enable him to stretch his legs out onto the desk, then he folded his hands behind his head and proceeded to look at her with a highly amused, alert expression.

‘Do you? You mean you’re a trespasser as well as being a clairvoyant? I’m impressed! I’m not too sure whether George will be—’

‘You’re Miss Wilson.’ He grinned but with the ground rapidly shifting underneath her feet, grinning back was the last thing Tessa felt inclined to do. ‘Have a seat. Really. You look as though you might just fall down if you don’t.’

‘I think I need to call George…’ she said uncertainly, sitting down.

‘You don’t. Well, you can if you really feel you need to, but believe me, that’ll just lead to embarrassment. Yours. Look, let me put you out of your misery and introduce myself…’ He stood up, all formality now, even though the impression was hijacked by the casualness of his clothes. ‘I’m Curtis Diaz.’ He stretched out his hand and smiled with sickening kindness.

‘You…you can’t be…’ Tessa ignored the outstretched hand and grasped the handbag on her lap tightly.

Well, she had been bored with the monotonous tedium of her last job! What better antidote than to be thrust into a surreal world where she didn’t have a clue as to what was going on?

‘Why not?’


‘I know.’ He looked ruefully down at himself and shook his head. ‘Code of dress, right? Powerful men who run powerful companies dress in pinstriped suits and ties, always carefully knotted at the neck.’

Tongue-tied and mortified, Tessa stared back at him, her mouth half open and a delicate bloom of colour rising up her cheeks. She wasn’t fashioned to deal with situations like these. Above all things, Tessa Wilson liked to be in control. Time and time again she had seen people passively and helplessly steamrollered by events. It happened in their jobs, it happened with their love lives. She often wondered what would have happened to her and Lucy if she had been like all those people who never seemed to cater for the unforeseen.

The unforeseen had happened with her and she had dealt with it, and had continued dealing with life by reining it in. She liked to know where she was going and how she was going to get there because working things out, knowing where she stood, made her feel safe.

She also resented the fact that he was laughing at her.

‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ she said stiffly. Her body was ramrod straight in the chair.

‘And I apologise. Profusely.’ He levered himself back into his chair and reclined back. ‘Allow me to explain. My team and I have just completed a weekend of virtual solid work, thrashing a deal out with one of our suppliers and then finalising the nitty-gritty with the lawyers. We didn’t finish until the early hours of the morning at which point I decided to let them all go home and catch up on some well-deserved rest.’

So this was what his mother had meant by interesting, Tessa thought dazedly. When she had used that word, Tessa had tied it up in her head with the job and not the man. The man, she was slowly realising, was nothing like she had expected. She had expected someone a bit like Mrs Diaz. Sophisticated, very English and probably fair haired. The man staring at her, waiting for her to digest his information, couldn’t have been further from her expectations. Restless, passionate energy vibrated out of him in waves and the only bit of him that resembled his mother were his eyes, which were as blue and as piercing, except a lot more dramatic against his olive colouring and dark, springy hair.

‘Right. Well, I wish you had telephoned me to explain that my services wouldn’t be required today…’

‘Never occurred to me,’ Curtis informed her truthfully. He idly switched on one of the two computer terminals on his desk and it buzzed into life with a faint humming sound.

Poor woman, he thought, glancing across at the rigid pink-faced figure sitting opposite him. He really should have stood firm and recruited his own secretary, but he loved his mother dearly and giving in had eventually seemed preferable to staging a protracted war. Mothers liked to think they knew best and his mother was no exception to the rule. She had stared at him gimlet-eyed and told him in no uncertain terms that hiring floozies, as she had called them, was a waste of company money.

‘But they look good,’ he had protested, thinking back to the last one, a red-haired, buxom wench who had worn delightful handkerchiefs, which she had loosely claimed were miniskirts.

‘Which is hardly a satisfactory recommendation when it comes to being a secretary.’

The tirade had gone on and on until he had thrown up his hands in resignation and left it to her to sort out.

Unfortunately, looking at the Tessa character now, he could immediately see the downsides of his mother’s well-intentioned but misguided rationale.

The poor girl looked as though she had suddenly found herself wandering in the vicinity of hell without any map giving her the quickest route back to normality. He sighed under his breath and raked his fingers through his hair.

‘Look, Miss Wilson…now that you’re here, maybe we should go and grab some breakfast, have a bit of a chat…’

‘Some breakfast…?’

‘That’s right,’ Curtis said, curbing his irritation, ‘I haven’t eaten since yesterday…some time…’ He stood up and stretched, eyeing her out of the corner of his eye, which only confirmed his opinion that she was not going to be suitable for the job.

‘I’m hungry,’ he told her bluntly, throwing on his overcoat. ‘I need something to eat and dried-up slices of pizza in the bin just isn’t going to do it for me. And we need to have a little talk.’

Tessa scrambled to her feet and hurried after him as he headed out of his office. It took quite some running. High-heeled shoes might look the part but when it came to scurrying after someone who walked at a pace that most people ran, they weren’t exactly practical. She nearly careered into him when he finally came to a dead stop by the lift.

‘So,’ he began conversationally, noticing the way she had edged away from him in the confines of the lift, back pressed against the side as though her life depended on it, ‘it must have been a bit of a shock when you came to work this morning and found the offices empty…?’

‘I was a little surprised.’

‘Hmm. A little surprised. Diplomatic choice of words.’

‘George at Reception had warned me that he had witnessed a mass exodus earlier in the morning, but, naturally, I thought that he might have exaggerated a bit. I…well, I wasn’t prepared for…’

‘A scene from a late-night horror movie?’ The lift doors disgorged them back into the expansive waiting area where George was still in attendance. He winked at her and exchanged a large grin with Curtis.

‘So you managed to find one still alive and kicking, then?’

‘Don’t tease her, George. She’s had a very stressful day so far.’

The banter made Tessa feel suddenly foolish and sidelined and the unfortunate butt of some ongoing joke at her expense. ‘I wouldn’t say stressful,’ she retorted, ‘just a little disorienting.’

She felt the warm pressure of his fingers on her elbow as he led her towards the revolving door and heard the deep throb of his laughter, which brought on an attack of un-warranted confusion.

‘Okay. Disorienting. Are you going to be warm enough out here with just a suit? The café’s not far but it’s still a walk…’

‘I’m fine.’ She resisted the temptation to add that she would have brought her coat if she had foreseen a day that involved walking. But, on day one, she had decided to treat herself to a taxi both ways and had not envisaged needing anything heavier than her cream-and-black-flecked woollen suit.

‘I don’t suppose your last job involved too many episodes of disorientation?’

‘Most jobs don’t.’ Their destination was within sight. Literally a good, old-fashioned café with no trimmings. It was heaving, with an eclectic mix of suited businessmen, rough-and-ready workmen, taxi drivers and women who looked as though they had spent the night on the tiles and were on their way home. Most, though, were taking their breakfasts away with them and it was a relief to be out of the cold and in the warmth.

‘Do you come here often?’ Tessa heard herself ask inanely.

‘Does a good breakfast. Now, what will you have?’ He positioned her at one of the tables and narrowed his eyes to read the blackboard with the specials, which was behind her.


‘Right. Wait here.’ Within ten minutes he was back carrying a tray on which were two steaming mugs of coffee and a plate mountainously piled with bacon, egg, black pudding and what looked suspiciously like fried bread.

Oh, your arteries are really going to thank you for that injection of cholesterol, she was tempted to say.

‘Don’t even think of saying what’s going through your head.’

‘I wasn’t thinking anything!’

‘Tell me about your last job,’ was all he replied, leaving her to wonder uncomfortably how he had managed to read her mind.

‘I told your mother…well, it’s all there on my CV.’ Comprehension filtered through. ‘But I guess you didn’t read my CV.’

‘I left the finer details of your employment to my mother. Your last job?’

Tessa sipped her coffee, which was surprisingly aromatic. ‘I worked for a firm of accountants. Not one of the top three, but one of the bigger ones, doing all the usual stuff. I’m fully computer literate and can handle pretty much anything from spreadsheets to invoicing.’ Silence followed that, interrupted only by his eating. ‘I’ve also arranged training courses, overseen meetings, in short done everything a PA is trained to do.’

Curtis washed down the last of his breakfast with a generous mouthful of coffee, then sat back in his chair and looked at her assessingly.

‘And you enjoyed it, did you?’

‘Well, yes, of course. I was there for a number of years—’

‘Why the change of job, in that case?’

Gone was the light-hearted, unconventional man who had confronted her at eight-thirty that morning. In its place was someone shrewd and forthright and very focused.

‘It wasn’t going anywhere.’ Tessa flinched away from that disconcerting blue gaze. ‘I felt that I needed to expand my horizons and, in a company like that, it’s only possible if you’re one of the professionals.’

‘But you liked working there, aside from the obvious limitations, am I right?’ He watched as she nodded and could hear her wondering where this was going. ‘You liked the order, the environment, the routine.’

‘Those things are very important, I think, in the successful running of a company,’ Tessa said defensively.

Order. Routine. Yes, she did like those things. They formed the perimeter of her life and always had. How else would she have been able to cope with bringing up her unruly ten-year-old sister when she had only been going on eighteen herself? In fact, compared to Lucy, or maybe because of her, she, Tessa, had always had her head firmly screwed on. Her parents had always praised her for that. Lucy might be the beauty with the ebullience, but Tessa was the responsible one, the one on whom they relied. The one on whom they had still been relying when their car had swerved into a tree on a rainy night back home. Tessa had mourned and grieved and picked up the pieces the best she could and, yes, had fallen back on order and routine to help her through.

She blinked away the sudden intrusion of her past and, when she looked at him, she found him staring at her, his bright blue eyes narrowed on her face.

‘Don’t you agree with me?’ The way he looked at her made her feel hot and bothered, even though he didn’t seem to be looking at her in a critical way. Perhaps it was the level of containment, at odds with the aggressively confident and outgoing exterior. Here was a man, she suspected, who did precisely as he liked and yet remained a closed book. It was nerve-racking. ‘I mean, you run a successful company. Surely you don’t just jump in a haphazard manner from one day to the next, hoping for the best and keeping your fingers crossed?’

Curtis threw back his head and laughed. ‘No. Not quite. That approach doesn’t often work, although it sounds as though it could be quite a lot of fun.’

Tessa shuddered. Fun? Never knowing from one minute to the next what life was going to throw at you? Not a chance.

‘You don’t agree? Well, never mind. So you’ve worked in your last job for…how many years?’

‘Nine, give or take a few months,’ she said uncomfortably.

Curtis gave a low whistle under his breath.

‘And you are…? Age…?’


‘At work at nineteen and then staying put with the same company…’

‘Which should tell you how experienced I am.’ Why did she have the sinking feeling that this was the interview that should have been conducted from the start? ‘I’m sorry. I thought I had the job. I thought your mother was in a position to offer it to me.’ She could feel herself perspiring under her armpits and she wished she had removed her jacket when she had first sat down, just as he had done with his overcoat. He looked as comfortable as a cat on a feather quilt while she felt rattled, uneasy and hot.

‘Oh, of course she was.’ He shrugged. ‘It’s a family firm. I run it completely, take full responsibility for all profits and losses, but my brother and my mother are naturally still interested in what’s going on, and occasionally my mother will offer her input. In the matter of my hiring someone to work for me, she insisted, and I expect she told you why.’

‘She mentioned that some of your secretaries in the past had been a bit…unsuitable.’

‘Except I don’t imagine she was quite so restrained in her description.’

Tessa frowned and tucked her hair neatly behind her ears. She had fine, slippery, very smooth shoulder-length auburn hair that had a tendency to slide forward and brush her face if she wasn’t careful about tying it back. Today, on Lucy’s advice, she had decided to wear it loose so that she wouldn’t look like a schoolmarm on her first day out. Now, she was regretting the impulse because for some reason she felt as though she needed the protection of her normally very restrained look.

‘I’ll bet she referred to them as bimbos,’ Curtis added helpfully as Tessa was struggling to come up with a diplomatic way of paraphrasing what had been said to her.

‘The thing is…’ He leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. He had pushed up the sleeves of his jumper and she noticed that he had very strong forearms, dusted with black hair. He, too, wore a simple watch although his looked crashingly expensive, unlike hers. ‘Bimbos suited me. How can I explain this?’

Tessa’s heart went into freefall at that rhetorical question.

‘I don’t work in an environment that’s anything like the one you have spent the last nine years, give or take a month or so, enjoying. The world of computers and computer software is far more about creativity and vibrancy and foresight than the world of accountants. The bimbos might have been a little lax when it came to typing and shorthand but they knew how to work around me.’

‘Your mother said the last one was only there for a matter of six weeks.’

‘Ah. Fifi did have a spot of bother now and again with some of the basics…’

‘Fifi?’ Two spots of angry colour blazed on her cheeks and she leaned forward into him, clutching the mug with both her hands. ‘Are you telling me that I’m too dull to work for you because I’m good at what I do and don’t fill all the physical attributes you think are necessary to a good secretary?’

‘I’m telling you that what I don’t want is someone addicted to schedules who is incapable of going with the flow. That would be unfair on me and even more unfair on you. Obviously, I would give you healthy compensation for the inconvenience caused.’

‘Inconvenience?’ Calm and control flew out of the window at the speed of light. Tessa inhaled deeply in an attempt to retrieve some of it. ‘I have thrown in a perfectly good job in order to take up this one. I simply cannot afford to be tossed out onto the streets like a…a beggar gatecrashing a private party to scour the employment agencies looking for something else!’

‘A beggar gatecrashing a private party…?’ Curtis sat back and gave her his full attention. The peak breakfast-hour rush was over and the café was now relatively quiet, with only one other table occupied and stragglers coming in for their daily tea and bacon butties.

‘This isn’t funny!’

‘No, it’s not. And, like I said, you won’t walk away empty-handed. A highly qualified girl like you should have no difficulty finding another position in a company that would suit your talents a lot more.’

‘And how do you know what would suit my talents when you aren’t even prepared to give me a chance?’ The horrendous unfairness of it sent a streak of molten fire racing through her. ‘I have bills to settle, Mr Diaz! Food to buy, rent to pay and a sister to finish supporting!’

‘You support your sister?’

‘At art college. She has one more year there.’

Curtis sighed and made his mind up. Three months’ probation. He owed it to his mother, after all, and if the girl didn’t work out, then at least he had given it a go. He would give her vital but background jobs to do and would just have to make sure that she didn’t compromise the vibrancy of his company, which had gone some way to catapulting it from obscure newcomer to innovative front runner.

‘Okay. Three months’ probation, then we can take it from there…’

Tessa breathed a sigh of relief. Three months would give her a bit of time to look for something else and the pay was so fabulous that she would be able to put aside a healthy amount of money in that space of time. Because the bottom line was that the man was right. She needed to work for someone organised, someone more grounded, someone less flamboyant who didn’t make her stammer like a schoolgirl every time he fixed those vivid blue eyes on her. And, whatever his mother had said, he needed someone to look good and to slot in. He needed another Fifi.


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