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The Boss's Proposal(6)

By´╝ÜCathy Williams

‘What?’ Vicky asked, mesmerised by his eyes. When she’d first met Shaun, the first thing she’d noticed had been his eyes. Those pale eyes and black hair and the chiselled, beautiful lines of his face. He was like an Adonis. If she’d had any sense, she would have seen past the outside to the man within and it wouldn’t have taken her long to notice the weakness behind the good looks, the restless feverish energy of a man who needed to find his fixes outside himself, the mouth that could thin to a cruel line in a matter of seconds.

With that in mind, it sickened her that she could feel something inside her tighten alarmingly at the sight of his twin.

‘I always get to the bottom of them.’ He gave her a slow, dangerous smile and she shivered.

Max Forbes was so like his brother, and yet so dissimilar in ways that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. If Shaun’s looks had captivated because of their prettiness, his brother’s hypnotised because of their power, and if Shaun had always known what to say to get the girls into bed, Vicky imagined that his brother achieved what he wanted by the very fact that he disregarded the normal little social conventions and said precisely what he wanted, despite the consequences. He had the sort of rugged, I’ll-do-as-I-damn-well-want charisma that women, she suspected, would find difficult to resist. Even Geraldine Hogg had become coy in his presence.

Max Forbes looked at the small figure on the chair. She looked more like a child than a woman, with that pointed elfin face and pale, freckled skin. The picture of innocence. But his instincts were telling a different story. Something was not quite above board and his desire to find out what surprised him. He hadn’t felt so damned curious about anyone for a long time. He stared at her and felt a rush of satisfied pleasure when she blushed and looked away quickly.

Oh, yes. Life had ceased to be merely an affair of making money and making love, both with a great deal of flair and, lately, not much pleasure or satisfaction. Vicky Lockhart had something to hide and the thought of discovering what sent a ripple of enjoyment through him. It was a sensation so alien that it took him a few seconds to recognise what it was.

‘Oh, how very interesting,’ she said politely, her brown eyes widening. The sun, streaming through the window, caught her hair and seemed to turn it to flames.

It was, he thought, a most unusual shade of red, and, connoisseur that he was, he was almost certain that it hadn’t come out of a bottle. Of course, she wasn’t his type. Not at all. He’d always gone for tall, full-breasted women, but still, he felt his mind wander as he imagined what that hair would look like, were it not pulled back. How long was it? Long, he imagined. Long and unruly. Nothing at all like the sleek-haired women he dated. Did the hair, he wondered, match the personality? Underneath that sweet, childish façade was there a hot, steamy, untamed woman bursting to get out? He smiled at the passing thought and was startled to find that his body had responded rather too vigorously to the image he’d mentally conjured up. Getting aroused like this made him feel like an adolescent, and he cleared his throat in a business-like fashion.

‘I don’t know if Geraldine mentioned the pay…’ He waited for her curiosity to take the bait, then he rattled off a sum that was roughly twice what he’d had in mind for the job in question. He could see the glimmer of interest illuminate the brown eyes and her small fists clenched at the sides of the chair as though she had to steady herself.

‘That’s a very generous salary. She did mention that the pay would be more than the job advertised in the newspaper…’

She wanted to accept. He could see it written on her face and he waited patiently for her to nod her head.

‘But, really, I’m afraid I must say no.’

It took a few seconds for that to sink in.

‘What?’ Not much floored him, but for a passing moment he could feel himself rendered speechless.

‘I can’t accept.’

He looked at the small, elfin face, the delicate mouth, the soft brown eyes fringed with impossibly long auburn lashes, and was assailed by a humiliating sensation of powerlessness. He couldn’t make her accept his offer—he wasn’t even that sure why he was so infuriated by her refusal; he just knew that he wanted to shake her until she agreed to work for him. The absurdity of his reaction was enough to make him shake his head and smile. He must be losing his mind. Wrapping up New York and then moving to the UK must have conspired to bring about some kind of subliminal breakdown, or else why would he now be staring at a perfect stranger and feeling this way?

He glanced down at the desk and began drumming his pen on it.