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The Boss's Proposal(7)

By´╝ÜCathy Williams



‘Of course, if I can’t persuade you…’

‘I’m flattered that you’ve been prepared to try…’ She stood up and gave him an awkward and, he was irritated to see, relieved smile.

‘Thousands of people would kill for the job offer I’ve just made you.’ He heard his over-hearty voice and bared his teeth in a smile of good-mannered regret. His eyes flicked to her face and he could feel himself stiffen once again at the thought of what she would look like with her hair down. Then, to his utter disgust, and completing his inexorable decline into pubescent irrationality, he glanced down at her breasts, two small bumps underneath the bulk of shirt and jacket, and wondered what they would be like. Tiny, he imagined. Small, pointed, freckled with rosy nipples. Red hair tumbling down a naked body and rose-peaked breasts just big enough to fit into his…

He virtually gulped and was obliged, as he stood up, to conceal his treacherous body by leaning forward on the desk and supporting himself on his hands.

‘Are you quite sure you won’t reconsider…?’

‘Quite sure.’ She looked at him uncertainly, then stretched out her hand, which he took and shook, paying lip service to good manners. He could tell that even that small gesture was not one she particularly wanted to make but courtesy had compelled her.

What was her story?

He made her nervous, but why? He didn’t threaten her…or did he? He wondered whether they’d met before, but he was sure that he would have remembered. There was something unforgettable about the ethereal delicacy of that face and the teasing disarray of that remarkable hair. She had been to Australia, however…

‘If I speak to James, I shall mention I’ve met you,’ he murmured, walking her to the door and he felt the momentary pause in her steps.

‘Of course. And do you…keep in regular touch with him?’

‘I used to. He occasionally kept an eye on my wayward brother.’

‘And he no longer does?’

He picked up the struggle in her voice with interest.

‘My brother died a while back in a car crash, Miss Lockhart.’

Vicky nodded, and instead of proffering the usual mutterings of sympathy rested her hand on the door knob and turned it, ready to flee. She knew that she should express some kind of courteous regret at that, but honesty stopped her from doing so. She had no regrets at Shaun’s fate. To forgive was divine, but it wasn’t human, and she had no aspirations to divinity.

‘Well, perhaps we’ll meet again.’ Perhaps, indeed. Much sooner than you think.

‘I doubt it.’ She smiled and pulled open the door. ‘But thanks for the job offer, anyway. And good luck in finding someone for the post.’





CHAPTER TWO




THE GARDEN had been the most distressing sight to greet her upon her return to England and to the modest three-bedroom cottage that had been her mother’s. She’d more or less expected to find the house in something of a state. It had seen a variety of tenants, not all of them reliable family units, and even when her mother had been alive it had been in dire need of repair. But the garden had broken her heart. A combination of young children, cigarette-smoking teenagers and, from the looks of things, adults with hobnailed boots had rendered it virtually unrecognisable.

One more thing, she thought wearily, to bring to the attention of the agency that had handled the letting, although what precisely the point of doing that would be, she had no idea. Marsha, the woman in whose hands Vicky had hurriedly but confidently left the house, had left the firm eighteen months back, and since then the house had been handled by a series of people, none of whom had done justice to it. Perhaps they’d thought that she would never return to England, or at least not quite as unexpectedly as she had in the end.

It broke her heart to think of all the time and effort that her mother had spent in the small, immaculate garden. A decade ago, it had been her salvation after the death of her husband, Vicky’s father, and it had steadfastly seen her through her ups and downs, providing comfort and soothing her when her illness took hold and she no longer had the energy to go walking or attempt anything energetic.

She’d laid borders and hedgerows and planted wild roses and shrubbery with the imagination of someone whose every other outlet had been prematurely barred. Vicky could remember the summer evenings spent out in it, listening to the sounds of nature and appreciating the tumult of colour.

The cottage was set back at the end of a lane in a part of Warwickshire noted for its rural beauty. The small garden, now sporting an interesting array of weeds which formed a charming tangle around the occasional outcrop of lager bottles, ambled down to a white fence, beyond which stretched cultivated fields. A plot of reasonably well-maintained land bordered by trees separated the cottage from its neighbour, a rather more substantial family house to the right. To the left woodland kept the well-used roads at bay.

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