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The Boss's Proposal(2)

By´╝ÜCathy Williams



‘But, fortunately,’ Geraldine swept on in a satisfied voice, ‘we have something far better to interview you for, my dear, so there’s no need for you to look quite so dejected. The head of our organisation will be spending a great deal more time in this particular subsidiary and he needs a secretary. Admittedly, you’re a bit young for the post, but your qualifications provide a good argument for putting you forward for the job, which, incidentally, will pay double the one you were to be interviewed for!’

‘Working for the head of the organisation?’ From past experience Vicky knew that nothing came without a catch, and this opportunity sounded just a little too good to be true.

‘I’ll take you up to see him now, and while I don’t, obviously, guarantee that the job is yours, your past experience will certainly stand in your favour.’

It occurred to Vicky that none of this was happening. It was all some bizarre dream which would end the minute she opened her eyes. In fact, applying to the company had had a dream-like feel about it from the start. She had seen the advertisement in the newspaper and the name of the company had triggered a memory somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind. Shaun, in one of his eternal, self-glorifying rambles, had mentioned it as one of the myriad companies his family owned and the name had stuck because it had been the name of the road on which she had lived with her aunt in Sydney. Just answering the advert had taken will-power, because Shaun was possibly the one person in the world whose memory made her recoil in revulsion. But answer it she had, partly through curiosity to see proof of the great Forbes Dynasty and partly because the pay offered had been too good to refuse.

Now, she curiously looked around her as she was shown up to the third floor. The décor was muted and luxuriant. The central areas were open plan but fringed with small, private offices, sheltered from prying eyes by the same smoked glass as in the foyer. The company—which, she recalled from the newspaper advert, had not been going for very long—had obviously chosen the nursery supplying its plants with some care, because in between the usual lush green artificial trees that most successful companies sported were expensive orchids and roses which couldn’t be very easy to maintain.

‘Hope you don’t mind the walk up,’ Geraldine was saying briskly at her side. ‘I can’t abide elevators. Much prefer a spot of good old-fashioned exercise. World would be a better place if people just got off their arses, pardon my French, and used their legs a bit more!’

Vicky, busy looking around her, puffed and panted an agreement. Somehow she found it difficult to associate Shaun with clean, efficient, seemingly well-run surroundings like these. She could feel her mind going down familiar paths and focused her attention on Geraldine and what she was saying, which appeared to be a congratulatory monologue on the massive and successful Forbes Holdings, of which Paxus PLC was a small but blossoming satellite. She wondered whether any mention would be made of Shaun, or even the brother, the one who lived in New York, but there was no mention of either in between the steady stream of growth, profit and share price chat.

‘’Course, I’ve worked for the family for twenty years now. Wanted a career teaching sport, but I did the back in, my dear, and ended up going along the secretarial road. Not that I’ve regretted a minute of working here,’ she confided, and just when Vicky imagined that the bracing talk might become less factual and more personal, Geraldine paused in front of a door and knocked authoritatively.

‘Yes!’

Mysteriously, Vicky saw that the plain, down-to-earth face had turned pink and, when Geraldine pushed open the door and poked her head in, her voice was almost kittenish.

‘Miss Lockhart here for you, sir.’

‘Who?’

‘Miss Lockhart.’

‘Now?’

Vicky gazed, embarrassed, at the unappealing abstract painting on the wall opposite. Was this ‘surprise’ job offer also a surprise to the man in question, or were heads of organisations exempt from good manners?

‘I did inform you a week ago…’ Geraldine said, lapsing into her more autocratic voice.

‘Show her in, Gerry, show her in.’ At which, Geraldine pushed open the door wider and stepped back to allow Vicky through.

The man was sitting behind a huge desk, lounging in a black leather swivel chair which he had pushed away from the desk so that he could cross his legs in comfort.

Under the rapid pounding of her heart, Vicky was dimly aware of the door gently being shut behind her, and then she was left, stranded, in the middle of the large office, like a fish that had suddenly found itself floundering in the middle of a desert. Her breathing was laboured and she hardly dared move a muscle, because if she did she suspected that her shaky legs would collapse completely.

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