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At The Boss's Beck And Call(10)

By:Anna Cleary

She declined going out for lunch with the others. Her boots pinched her feet, and, anyway, who could eat?

Beryl’s head jerked around Alessandro’s door. ‘Excuse me, Mr Vincenti, the builders are here.’

Alessandro thanked her, gave Tuila leave to break for lunch, then rose and stretched his long limbs before walking outside to meet the architect. He shook hands with the man, then they strolled along, discussing the layout of the rooms while the workmen wandered ahead, pencils tucked behind their ears, pointing out things about the wainscoting, measuring up floor space and window spans.

With the present layout, the rooms were too cramped, Alessandro explained, pausing outside the editorial office to indicate through the glass partition the number of desks crammed into the narrow space.

The room was empty of staff. Appeared to be, that was. Until, while the architect was examining the walls and suggesting ways of dealing with the problem, Alessandro caught sight of a blonde head bent over the coffee machine in the corner of the room.

That sensation again, as if something were crushing the air from his lungs.

He saw Lara Meadows turn to make some smiling response to one of the workmen, and for the second time that day the immediacy of her struck the chords of his memory like an assault. The pale fresh skin of her cheek. The grace of her hands…

That way she had of teasing a man with her laugh without any attempt to flirt. Dio, love the woman or hate her, her honesty and openness were still so appealing.

Despite the firewalls erected around his heart, desire, quick and hot, licked along his veins and stirred his loins with the old treacherous urgency.

To quell the bittersweet surge, he moved away from the partition. The architect talked and Alessandro listened, nodded, made the appropriate responses, all the while wrestling with devil fire. A temptation burned in him to take one more look at her, but he fought it. Steeling himself to ignore the craving, he concentrated on the conversation.

Discipline was what was needed. There was no denying her presence was a lighted fuse in his imagination. Now that he’d talked to her, seen her such a short distance from his office, he would have to think of a way to neutralise her effect. Regardless of his brain, his will, his body was plainly still in a time warp.

It didn’t have to be difficult, he mused on the walk back to his office after he’d finished with the architect. The way was clear. Keep her at a distance until he was used to the idea of her again. Avoid hearing her voice, smelling her perfume…

Don’t allow that laugh of hers to affect him. Don’t give her the chance to beguile him with her wiles until he was ready for her.#p#分页标题#e#

Ready for her? an evil little unbidden voice chimed in. He was ready now.

Ridiculous, his reason stormed to defend the barricades. He was a civilised man. He’d never been a guy driven by his lusts.

Unless it was lust for Lara Meadows, the voice fired back with sly persistence.

Alessandro ran a finger around the inside of his collar. Dio mio, why had he come up with the interview scheme? Already she was invading his thoughts again, distracting him, infecting his bloodstream like a poisonous narcotic. The only way to ensure against her insidious way of creeping through the steel walls of his determination was to hold her at arm’s length.

In fact, he should cancel her interview altogether. He had no desire to risk being alone with her again, had he?

As the afternoon wore on Lara’s suspense grew. Everyone from Editorial had been invited except for her, and now people from other sections were being called in. Was Alessandro making her wait on purpose?

What if he expected her to stay after five to make up for her late arrival? Her mother would be waiting with Vivi, anxious to be released for her oboe lesson.

It was all very well for Signor Vincenti to insist on rules and punctuality. He wasn’t a mother, with an eager five-year-old waiting for her dinner and bursting to share the excitements of her big day at school. Certainly he might, unknown to him by some quirk of fate, be a father, but in the current situation that was a mere technicality. In fact, from certain angles his ignorance of that small detail could be viewed as a plus.

For one thing it gave her a breathing space. Instead of her leaping to inform him at once, like a trusting fool, the responsible thing would be to suss out the lay of the land.

Weigh up his attitudes. See if he even liked children. After all, could she seriously contemplate inviting him into Vivi’s life if he was likely to be a negative influence? And what about his wife? Vivi’s stepmother?

She couldn’t repress the cold sinking horror thoughts of the stepmother always invoked. What chance was there that a wealthy socialite would embrace her husband’s love child with joy?