Authors: Helen Brooks
There was triumph in Lucas's silver eyes as he replied, “You want me, Kim. Your lips and body told me that this morning.”
Kim glanced around nervously.
“And sooner or later it will happen,” he continued silkily. “You know that as well as I do. That's why you've been so jumpy from the first day you came to work for meâ¦.”
lives in Northamptonshire, England, and is married with three children. As she is a committed Christian, busy housewife and mother, her spare time is at a premium, but her hobbies include reading, swimming, gardening and walking her two energetic, inquisitive and very endearing young dogs. Her long-cherished aspiration to write became a reality when she put pen to paper on reaching the age of forty, and sent the result off to Harlequin Mills & Boon.
2237âA WHIRLWIND MARRIAGE
2255âTHE GREEK TYCOON'S BRIDE
I'm not at all sure that this is the right step to take, I'm really not. You've enough on your plate as it is; you know that.'
âI've no choice, Maggie, and
,' Kim answered steadily.
âButâ¦' Maggie Conway stared helplessly at her friend as she ran out of words.
âLook, just be an angel and pick up Melody after school, okay? I shouldn't be much later than five but you know how interviews are; they might keep me waiting for a while.'
âNo problem,' Maggie said unhappily.
âThanks. I don't know what I'd do without you,' Kim said with heartfelt warmth as she gave Maggie a brief hug.
Kim was still thinking about her last words as she left the comfort of Maggie's spacious, open-plan apartment and stepped into the crisp frosty air outside the big Victorian house which had been converted into several self-contained flats.
Maggie was an unlikely-looking angel, being as round as she was tall with a shock of vibrant curly ginger hair and freckles covering every inch of her skin, but an angel she was nevertheless, Kim told herself silently as she walked briskly to the bus stop. How she would have got through the last two traumatic years without Maggie's unfailing support and good humour she didn't know.
She reached the bus stop just as the bus drew round the corner and, once seated, stared unseeingly out of the window, quite oblivious to the overt stare of the young, good-
looking man sitting opposite her who clearly couldn't take his eyes off the golden-haired beauty on the other side of the aisle.
Maggie had stepped in as unpaid childminder when the need aroseâas it did frequentlyâconfidante, stalwart friend, advisor and a whole host of other roles, Kim reflected warmly. The only good thing to come out of her relationship with Grahamâapart from Melody, of courseâwas that he had introduced her to Maggie.
Kim's soft full mouth tightened and her brown eyes narrowed for a moment before she forced her thoughts away from the spectre in her mind.
This wasn't the time to think of Graham, not with such an important interview looming, she told herself firmly, straightening in the seat and squaring her slender shoulders. She understood the competition for the post of secretary to the chairman and managing director of Kane Electrical was fierce, and she needed to be focused and clear from the outset.
It was another fifteen minutes before the bus dropped her on the outskirts of Cambridge and almost outside the huge site which Kane Electrical occupied, and within five minutes she was standing in Reception explaining to the model-slim, beautifully coiffured receptionist that she had an appointment with Mr Lucas Kane at half-past two.
âRight.' The girl's expertly made-up eyes had made a swift summing up of the tall, discreetly dressed woman in front of her, and now she gave a practised smile as she said blandly, âIf you would like to take a seat for a moment I'll tell Mr Kane's secretary you're here, Mrs Allen.'
âThank you.' Kim had flushed slightly under the scrutiny. Her winter coat was a good one, but not new, neither were her shoes and handbag, whereas the receptionist's expertly cut grey silk suit screamed a designer label and her hair
could only have been cut by one of the most expensive salons in Cambridge.
Still, she wasn't going to let this girl or anyone else intimidate her, Kim told herself fiercely as she took the proffered seat and sank into inches of soft leather upholstery. She might not be wearing the very latest fashion or have her hair styled by Vidal Sassoon but she was an excellent secretary, as her references confirmed.
She raised her small chin abruptly and stared straight ahead, her hands resting in her lap and her knees demurely together, before a restrained commotion at the side of herâas a tall, dark man with what could only be described as an entourage swept into the buildingâbrought her head swinging round.
Whether it was the receptionist's less than tactful appraisal, or the fact that everyone on the perimeter of the man seemed to be falling over themselves to get his attention, Kim didn't know, but she found herself staring at the back of the personage in question with unmitigated dislike.
He certainly knew how to make an entrance, she thought waspishly, and he was so full of his own importance he was almost bursting with it! How she disliked the fawning and obsequious servility that went with wealth and power in some quarters.
The party was making for the lifts at the far side of the reception in a subdued furore of which the man leading seemed totally unaware, and Kim still had her eyes fixed on his back, her face expressing her feelings only too clearly, when he suddenly turned and to her shock and surprise looked straight at her.
She was conscious of a pair of rivetingly hard, metallic silver-grey eyes taking in the whole of her in a stunningly swift perusal that was quite devastating before she could wipe her face of all expression, and then she saw dark
eyebrows rise in mordant disdain. The message was unmistakable.
He had recognised what she was thinking, recognised it and dismissed itâand herâas beneath his contempt, she thought as her face turned scarlet. And she couldn't blame him, she really couldn't. If nothing else she had been unforgivably rude.
In the split second before the lift doors opened and the man turned to enter Kim's mind raced, but there was no time to do anything but watch him disappear. The doors closed, there was the faintest of purrs as the lift ascended, and that was that.
She was aware of sinking back in the seat and it was only then she became conscious she had been holding herself rigid. How embarrassing! She shut her eyes for the briefest of moments and swallowed hard, glancing across at the receptionist, who was speaking to someone on the telephone. What must he have thought? But then he'd left her in no doubt what he had thought, she added with a touch of dark humour.
She was looking at the receptionist without seeing her now, her mind continuing to dissect every moment of the little drama which had unfurled so unexpectedly. Who was he? Obviously someone important: one of the directors of the firm maybe?
An awful thought occurred to her but she pushed it away immediately. No, it wouldn't be himânot Lucas Kane, she told herself firmly. That would be too disastrous, and if nothing else she was due some good fortuneâwell overdue, as it happened.
Kim came out of her rueful musing with a little jolt to find a tall, rather formidable-looking woman standing in front of her.
âGood afternoon.' A hand was extended and as Kim rose
she made a suitable reply, shaking the other woman's hand. âI'm June West,' the woman continued, âMr Kane's secretary. If you would like to come with meâ¦'
âThank you.' As they walked towards the waiting lift Kim glanced at the other woman from under her eyelashes. June West was the person the successful applicant would have to follow, and if Lucas Kane's present secretary was anything like as efficient as she looked they would have their work cut out. It didn't help Kim's confidence an iota.
âMr Kane is running a little late.' As the lift doors closed, June turned to her with a polite smile. âWe've had one panic after another this morning.'
Kim nodded, smiling in turn before she said, âIs that usual? The panics, I mean?'
âI'm afraid so.' June was looking hard at her. âAs his secretary you would have to be used to working under pressure most of the time and making decisions for yourself. Would that be a problem?'
Being under pressure and making decisions for herself? That had been her life for the last two yearsâand beforeâKim reflected silently. âNo. No, it wouldn't.'
âGood.' The smile was warmer now. âI've worked for Mr Kane for the last ten years and I can honestly say there's never been a dull moment. It hasn't always been easy, and the job is certainly not your average nine-to-five, but he's a very fair employer and prepared to give and take, if you know what I mean.'
Kim didn't, not really, but she nodded and said, âCan I ask why you are leaving?'
âOf course. Sensible question.' The lift doors had opened and now Kim followed the tall figure into a hushed corridor as June said over her shoulder, âI'm getting married and my future husband lives and works in Scotland. He's got his own business; I met him through Kane Electrical, ac
tually, as he's one of our suppliers, so it's not feasible for him to make the move.'
âCongratulations,' Kim said with genuine cordiality.
âThanks.' As June opened a door and waved Kim through, she added quietly, âI'd given up on meeting the man of my dreams, to be honest, but whoever said life begins at forty was dead right as far as I was concerned.'
So June was forty, and she had obviously been a career woman dedicated to her job and Kane Electrical for the last decadeâshe had been right about the other woman being a hard act to follow if nothing else, Kim thought ruefully.
âThis is my office.'
They were standing in a large, beautifully decorated room with ankle-deep carpet and the very latest in office furniture and equipment, Kim noted.
âAnd through thereâ' June inclined her head to a door behind her desk ââis my private cloakroom. Mr Kane has his own leading off his office along with a dressing room and small sitting room. He sometimes sleeps over when things are particularly hectic,' she added quietly.
âRight.' This was way, way out of her league. Kim kept her face expressionless but her thoughts were racing. The best she could hope for was to get through the next twenty minutesâor however long the interview with Lucas Kane lastedâwithout making a complete fool of herself. He was clearly looking for a personal assistant-cum-secretary who would eat, breathe and sleep Kane Electrical, and she just couldn't give that degree of commitment with Melody to consider.
But she had stated quite clearly she had a four-year-old daughter on her CV, she reminded herself in the next instant, divesting herself of her coat before taking the seat June indicated and watching the other woman disappear through the interconnecting door in to her boss's domain.
She wouldn't have got this far if he objected to his secretary having a life outside of work, would she?
She glanced round the opulent room again and her stomach swirled. She was amazed she
got this far if she was being honest, she admitted silently. It had been the thought of the huge salary such a post would commandânothing more and nothing lessâwhich had prompted her to send off her CV when she had seen the position advertised at the end of September, just over four weeks ago now.
She hadn't heard anything at all for three weeks and then she had received a letter, written on embossed, thick linen notepaper, stating she had been selected for the initial short list to attend an interview on Monday, 30th October, at 2.30 p.m.
Which was today, now, this very minute!
âMrs Allen?' June had opened the interconnecting door again and was smiling at her. âMr Kane will see you now.'
She knew, just a moment before she walked through the door, who would be seated within the room beyond. It was in that split second Kim acknowledged she had had a presentiment the moment she had stared into the cold silver eyes in the lobby below. He had
like a millionaire tycoon; it had been in his walk, his bearing, the turn of his head, even the way his eyes had held hers in such arrogant contempt and disregard.
âMrs Allenâ¦' A tall, broad-shouldered figure rose from behind a massive grey desk at her approach, but the clear autumn sunlight streaming in through the huge plate-glass window behind him blinded Kim for a moment and turned Lucas Kane into a dark silhouette. And then, as she reached the chair which had been placed in front of the desk, she blinked, and he came into focus. Alarmingly into focus. All six feet four, and then some, of him!
âHow do you do?' He was smiling as he enclosed her
small paw in his long fingers, but it was definitely a crocodile sort of smile, Kim noted helplessly. He had obviously realised who she was earlier and had been looking forward to this moment with some relish. âPlease be seated, Mrs Allen.'
She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of stuttering and stammering, and she knew she wouldn't be able to speak clearly until she had had a moment or two to pull herself together, so she smiled in what she hoped was a cool, contained sort of way and sank gracefully into the chair. If nothing else it eased her trembling legs!
There hadn't been time to look beyond the granite stare which had pinned her down in Reception, but now, to add to the agitation and shock that had her heart thumping like a sledgehammer, she could see Lucas Kane was disturbingly attractive. Not handsome, the rugged chiselled face and impressive muscled body was too aggressively male and ruthlessly compelling to ever be labelled such, but he had something that went far beyond good looks.
âYou understand you are one of four applicants on a final short list?' he asked expressionlessly without looking at her, his eyes on the papers on his desk as his hand flicked over a page of what she assumed was her CV.
His hair was very black, almost a blue-black, she noted silently, and cut so short as to be harshly severe. And then he raised his head, and the curiously silver eyes shaded by thick black lashes compelled a response.
âYes, I do, Mr Kane,' she managed evenly.
âSo what makes you think I should choose you over the other excellent candidates?' he drawled smoothly, but with an edge that told her the incident in Reception was not forgotten or forgiven.
She had had the answer to just such a question drilled into her during the business management degree she had taken at university, and had even encountered it first-hand
when she had applied for her last job, just over two years ago, but now, in the face of Lucas Kane's cruelly mocking scrutiny, something hot and contumacious rose up in Kim's chest.