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The Boss's Proposal(4)

By´╝ÜCathy Williams

Vicky refrained from comment and instead contented herself with staring out of the window, which offered a view of sky and red-brick buildings.

‘Has Geraldine given you any indication as to why this post has become available?’ He moved around the desk and perched on it, so that he was directly facing Vicky, looking down at her.

‘Not in any great detail, no,’ Vicky told him, ‘but honestly, there’s no point launching into any explanations. The fact of the matter is…’ What was the fact of the matter? ‘The fact of the matter is that I had really set my heart on working in a typing pool…’

His lips twitched, but when he answered his voice was serious and considering.

‘Of course. I quite understand that you might not want to compromise your undoubted talents by getting a good job with career prospects…’

Vicky shot him a brief look from under thick, dark lashes, momentarily disconcerted by the suggestion of humour beneath the sarcasm. ‘I have an awful lot on my plate just now,’ she said vaguely. ‘I wouldn’t want to take on anything demanding because I don’t think that I would be able to do it justice.’


‘I beg your pardon?’

‘What have you got on your plate?’ His eyes scanned her CV then focused on her.

‘Well,’ Vicky stuttered, taken aback by the directness of the question, ‘I’ve only recently returned from Australia and I have a lot of things to do concerning…my house and generally settling in…’ This explanation skirted so broadly around the truth that she could feel the colour rise to her cheeks.

‘Why did you decide to go to Australia?’

‘My mother…passed away…I felt that the change would do me good…and I just happened to stay a great deal longer than I had anticipated. I landed a job in a very good company quite early on and I was promoted in the first six months. I…it was easier than coming back to England and dealing with…’

‘Your loss?’

Vicky stiffened at the perceptiveness behind the question. She’d once considered Shaun to be a perceptive, sensitive person. Perhaps illusions along those lines ran in the Forbes family.

‘I would appreciate it if we could terminate this interview now.’ She began getting to her feet, smoothing down the dark grey skirt, nervously brushing non-existent flecks of dust from it rather than face those amazing, unsettling grey eyes. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve wasted your time. I realise that you’re a very busy man, and time is money. Had I been aware of the situation, I would have telephoned to cancel the appointment. As I said, I’m not interested in a job that’s going to monopolise my free time.’

‘Your references,’ he said coolly, ignoring her pointed attempt to leave his office, ‘from the Houghton Corporation are glowing…’ He looked at her carefully while she remained in dithering uncertainty on her feet, unable to turn her back and walk out of the office but reluctant to sit back down and allow him to think that the job in question was open for debate. ‘Very impressive, and all the more so because I know James Houghton very well.’

‘You know him?’ Several potential catastrophes presented themselves to her when she heard this and she weakly sat back down. It wouldn’t do for Max Forbes to contact her old boss in Australia. There were too many secrets hidden away there, secrets she had no intention of disclosing.

‘We went to school together a million years ago.’ He pushed himself up from the desk and began prowling around the room, one minute within her line of vision, the next a disembodied voice somewhere behind her. If his tactic was to unsettle her, then he was going about it the right way. ‘He’s a good businessman. A recommendation from him counts for a hell of a lot.’ He paused and the silence from behind her made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. ‘Where in Australia did you live?’

‘In the city. My aunt has a house there.’ There was an element of danger in this line of questioning but Vicky had no idea how to retrieve the situation.

‘Did much socialising?’

‘With whom?’ she asked cautiously. It would help, she thought, if he would return within her line of vision so that she could see the expression on his face—but then, on reflection, perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing that she couldn’t. After all, he would be able to see hers, and she had a great deal more to hide than he would ever have imagined in a million years.

‘People from your work.’ She could sense him as he walked slowly round to the side of her. His presence made her feel clammy and claustrophobic. Out of the corner of her eye, she could make him out as he lounged against the wall, hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets, head tilted slightly to one side as though carefully weighing up what she was saying. Weighing it up and, she thought with a flash of sudden foreboding, storing up every word to be used at a later date in evidence against her.