His Secretary Mistress Chantelle Shaw Ëèòàãåíò HarperCollins EUR Jenna Deane is thrilled with her new dream job. Her boss, handsome lawyer Alex Morrell, is known for his tough tactics. He's made it clear to Jenna that he expects his assistant to be available whenever he needs her. So how can she tell him that she's a single mother?When Alex whisks Jenna away on a business trip to Paris, and takes her to bed, she realizes that she's fallen for him. But what will she do about her secret–about being a mom? What have we got for you in Harlequin Presents books this month? Some of the most gorgeous men you’re ever likely to meet! With His Royal Love-Child, Lucy Monroe brings you another installment in her gripping and emotional trilogy, ROYAL BRIDES; Prince Marcello Scorsolini has a problem—his mistress is pregnant! Meanwhile, in Jane Porter’s sultry, sexy new story, The Sheikh’s Disobedient Bride, Tally is being held captive in Sheikh Tair’s harem…because he intends to tame her! If it’s a Mediterranean tycoon that you’re hoping for, Jacqueline Baird has just the guy for you in The Italian’s Blackmailed Mistress: Max Quintano, ruthless in his pursuit of Sophie, whom he’s determined to bed using every means at his disposal! In Sara Craven’s Wife Against Her Will, Darcy Langton is stunned when she finds herself engaged to businessman Joel Castille—traded as part of a business merger! The glamour continues with For Revenge…Or Pleasure?—the latest title in our popular miniseries FOR LOVE OR MONEY, written by Trish Morey, truly is romance on the red carpet! If it’s a classic read you’re after, try His Secretary Mistress by Chantelle Shaw. She pens her first sensual and heartwarming story for the Presents line with a tall, dark and handsome British hero, whose feisty yet vulnerable secretary tries to keep a secret about her private life that he won’t appreciate. Check out www.eHarlequin.com for a list of recent Presents books! Enjoy! She’s his in the bedroom, but he can’t buy her love… Showered with diamonds, draped in exquisite lingerie, whisked around the world in the lap of luxury… The ultimate fantasy becomes a reality. Live the dream with more MISTRESS TO A MILLIONAIRE titles by your favorite authors. Available only in Harlequin Presents His Secretary Mistress Chantelle Shaw www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk) All about the author… Chantelle Shaw CHANTELLE SHAW lives on the Kent coast, five minutes from the sea, and does much of her thinking about the characters in her books while walking on the beach. An avid reader from an early age, school friends used to hide their books when she visited, but Chantelle would retreat into her own world, and she still writes “stories” in her head all the time. Chantelle has been blissfully married to her own tall, dark and very patient hero for over twenty years and has six children. She began to read Mills & Boon as a teenager and throughout the years of being a stay-at-home mom to her brood, she found romantic fiction helped her to stay sane! Her aim is to write books that provide an element of escapism, fun and, of course, romance for the countless women who juggle work and a homelife and who need their precious moments of “me” time. She enjoys reading and writing about strong willed, feisty women and even stronger-willed sexy heroes. Chantelle is at her happiest when writing. She is particularly inspired while cooking dinner, which unfortunately results in a lot of culinary disasters! She also loves gardening, taking her very badly behaved terrier for walks and eating chocolate (followed by more walking—at least the dog is slim!). CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ONE ‘THE traffic ahead appears to be gridlocked, Mr Morrell. Do you want me to try and turn off?’ ‘No, I’ll walk from here. See if you can pull over, Barton.’ Alex Morrell snapped his briefcase shut and punched the number of his office into his mobile phone. ‘Margaret, I’m caught in traffic. Can you check that the Danson notes are complete? I’ll need them for court tomorrow. Ask the temp to type up anything that’s outstanding.’ There was a brief silence before his personal assistant Margaret Rivers murmured, ‘She’s not actually here yet, but as soon as she arrives…’ ‘It’s ten past nine,’ Alex snapped irritably, and then caught sight of the teeming London traffic and sighed. Maybe his new temporary assistant had a legitimate excuse, but it was not a promising start. ‘Looks as though it might rain,’ the chauffeur, Barton, noted with a glance at the heavy October sky. But Alex was impatient. He hated inactivity, and the risk of getting caught in a shower was better than sitting in the car. He had only been walking for a few minutes when the first spots of rain turned into a deluge and he was forced to dive into the doorway of a coffee shop, colliding with a young woman who had obviously had the same idea. ‘Damn! Damn! Damn!’ She skidded to a halt in front of him and he flung out an arm to prevent her from falling. Hairpins scattered in all directions and her once neat chignon gave up and unravelled in a stream of amber silk around her face. ‘If only I’d obeyed Ten Tips on How to Survive Your First Day before I set out this morning,’ she said miserably, waving a bedraggled magazine under his nose. ‘Tip four is to remember an umbrella.’ ‘What’s tip one?’ he enquired, unable to tear his gaze from her face, and enormous grey eyes blinked at him solemnly, dragging him under so that he felt, quite literally, as if he was drowning. ‘Ensure that you arrive in plenty of time—and I’m horribly late. Do you know, the 8.05 was cancelled for no reason? Well, no reason that I could see,’ she added, and Alex felt his lips twitch. She was beautiful—exquisitely so, he acknowledged, taken aback by his reaction to her. He had met many beautiful women in his life—indeed, he was a connoisseur of tall, lissom blondes—but there was something about this woman, the curve of her cheekbones and her full, soft mouth, that sent a jolt of unwarranted desire through his body. She was slender, and so petite that the top of her head was on a level with his chest. She looked vulnerable, but in his experience women were far tougher than they looked, and it was likely that the delicate woman staring up at him was no different. ‘I’m sure your boss will understand that you have no power over London Transport,’ he murmured soothingly, but she shook her head again, so that her hair flashed like a bright halo round her face. ‘I wouldn’t bank on it. He has high expectations of his staff, and lateness is his pet hate—or so I’ve heard.’ ‘Do you mean you haven’t met him?’ For a brief moment Alex considered the likelihood of coincidence and then dismissed it. His personal assistant had been responsible for selecting a temporary secretary from the agency, and Margaret had described the chosen candidate as eminently sensible. The woman standing close to him was heartstoppingly lovely, but he doubted she had been employed for her reliability; this little one could only be described as ditzy. As if to labour the point she suddenly seemed to realise that she was standing in the arms of a complete stranger, and in her efforts to escape her hair tangled round his coat button so that she was trapped. ‘Wait a minute.’ He stilled her wriggling and was in the process of unwinding her hair when they were joined in the doorway by a crowd of people trying to escape the hailstones that were now pelting down. The woman was squashed up close against him and he was struck by the paleness of her skin, which was almost translucent, and her velvet-grey eyes fringed by gold-tipped lashes. There was something innately sensual about the fact that she wore no make-up apart from a hint of pale pink gloss that emphasised the fullness of her lips. Her hair smelled of lemons and rain, an earthy combination, and he fought a sudden urge to wind his fingers into the silky strands. Could the morning get any worse? Jenna wondered. As if the public transport system hadn’t been bad enough, she now faced arriving at the office on her first day looking like a drowned rat. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she mumbled, as the throng of people squeezed further back into the doorway, pushing her further into the stranger’s arms. He towered over her, and she craned her neck to look at his face, instantly hit by a wave of attraction that sent shock waves through her body. He was gorgeous, with black hair cropped close to his head, a lean, angular face, and a wide mouth that promised heaven. His eyes were dark, almost navy in colour beneath heavy black brows, and as she stared at him he smiled, and her heart flipped in her chest. ‘No problem,’ he assured her, his voice rich and dark. ‘It’s obviously a popular doorway.’ ‘I must go,’ Jenna muttered distractedly, dragging her gaze from him to the storm outside. Hailstones were still thundering down, and she quailed at the thought of braving them, but at this rate she would be sacked from her new job before she had even arrived. ‘You can’t possibly go out in that,’ the man said equably, but she sensed the resolution beneath his tone and had the feeling that he would drag her physically back under the shelter should she attempt to leave. It was all right for him, she thought, irritated by the way he continued to hold her arm, as if she was a small child in need of restraint. He didn’t look like a man whose life depended on him arriving at work on time. With his exceptional height and stunning looks he had the appearance of someone who had stepped from the pages of a society magazine, but there was something about him, an air of quiet authority, that made a mockery of that idea. He must be a businessman of some sort, she surmised, and a successful one at that, for even her untutored eye could recognise the quality and superb cut of his overcoat. He was urbane, sophisticated, and from the gentle amusement in his eyes she realised that he was well aware of his affect on her. Skin prickling with embarrassment, she dragged her eyes from his face, and as she stared down at the floor she spied the ladder in her tights. ‘Someone up there really doesn’t like me,’ she wailed despairingly, and his gaze dropped to her legs. ‘Tip five is to always carry a spare pair of tights.’ She was babbling like an idiot, she realised, transfixed by the way his mouth had curved into a wide smile. She was having the morning from hell—and falling into the arms of the sexiest man she had ever met was not helping! His eyes travelled the length of her legs, skimmed her hips and settled on her breasts, and as she felt them swell and tighten she was grateful for the protection of her jacket. ‘So tell me, why have you accepted a job when you don’t like the sound of the boss, and haven’t even met him?’ he asked curiously. ‘Money,’ Jenna informed him bluntly, ‘lots of it. I’d work for the devil if he paid the salary I’ve been offered.’ Was that a look of disdain that crossed his face? If he knew the size of her mortgage he might be more understanding, she thought grimly. She doubted he had ever had to juggle his finances to such an extreme that it was a choice between paying the bills and eating. He was rich and pampered, she decided. His clothes, his general air, exuded extreme wealth, and standing beside him in her cheap suit she felt shabby and unsophisticated. With an impatient wriggle she shrugged out of his hold and peered past the crowd to see the rain still lashing the pavement. ‘I can’t stay here all day,’ she announced firmly. ‘Do you know if there are any shops nearby? I need to buy another pair of tights.’ ‘Further down this road,’ the man informed her. ‘Why don’t you phone your work and explain that you’ve been delayed?’ ‘I don’t have the number,’ Jenna admitted. ‘It was in the memory of my phone, but somehow I erased it. Don’t you dare laugh,’ she warned, noting the flash of amusement in his eyes as he tried to hide his smile. She was just as he had guessed, he decided. A scatterbrained miniature Venus. But at that moment another blast of icy rain sent the crowd sheltering in the doorway surging inwards, and as she pressed up close against him he caught the drift of her perfume, a light, fresh fragrance that stirred his senses. Stirred rather more than his senses, he acknowledged. This was ridiculous—to be so aroused at nine-thirty on a Monday morning. He had been too long without a lover, he decided grimly. At thirty-eight he was no longer at the mercy of his hormones. His days, or rather nights, with a variety of girlfriends were past, and he had certainly become more selective in his choice of lovers. But there was a huge difference between selective and celibate, and just lately he had definitely veered towards the latter. Work had become his all-consuming mistress; perhaps his body was simply reminding him that it had other needs. ‘Let me buy you a coffee,’ he offered as the shop door opened and the rich aroma of freshly ground beans assailed his senses. ‘You can phone Directory Enquiries for the number of your office. You’re late now anyway,’ he added persuasively. ‘Another five minutes can’t harm.’ For a few seconds Jenna was tempted to throw off the weight of responsibility that had hung on her shoulders for the last three years. She stared at the stranger and her heart began a slow, thunderous beat in her chest. It wasn’t just coffee he was offering, she acknowledged. The invitation was in his eyes, in the sensual curve of his mouth, and for an infinitesimal second she imagined his kiss, the feel of his lips on her neck, sliding lower to linger in the hollow between her breasts. ‘I can’t,’ she said thickly. ‘Thank you, but I can’t. I’m sorry.’ She didn’t know how long she stood, trapped in a haze of awareness that she could see mirrored in his eyes, but suddenly she realised that the crowd in the doorway had moved. The rain had stopped, and in the street pale sunshine danced across the puddles. ‘Well, it was nice to have met you,’ she said lamely as she stepped back from him, and found to her disgust that she was unable to drag her eyes from his face. She didn’t want to leave him, didn’t want to walk away, knowing that she would never see him again, and she fought the urge to throw herself at him. It was only the thought of his embarrassment, let alone hers, which stopped her, and with another awkward smile she stepped into the street. ‘I have to remember the way to the office block yet, and I have a terrible sense of direction.’ Alex watched her go, consumed by a fierce compulsion to follow her, pull her into his arms and kiss her delectable mouth. What was the matter with him? he thought irritably. He hadn’t felt this hungry for a woman in a long time—and he didn’t like it. He liked his life to be well ordered and controlled. There was no place in his schedule for sex with a scatty redhead, and he ignored the dull ache in his gut with ruthless tenacity as he strode towards his office. ‘I can’t understand it,’ Margaret fretted when Alex entered his office to discover that the temporary secretary still hadn’t shown up. ‘She seemed so keen to take the job, and really she was so…’ Margaret paused, and then said emphatically, ‘Nice. I suppose I’d better get on to the agency,’ she continued, and Alex glanced at her downcast face and sighed. Margaret had been very enthusiastic about the young woman she had hired, and he had been happy to leave the decision to her, trusting her judgement implicitly. It seemed as though, for once, Margaret had been proved wrong. ‘I’ll give it until ten o’clock and then phone them myself. You’d better go if you’re going to make John’s appointment on time.’ ‘Perhaps something has happened—an accident, maybe,’ Margaret said worriedly, but then her face brightened. ‘You did say the traffic was particularly heavy this morning, I expect she’s caught in a jam.’ Personally, Alex did not share his personal assistant’s optimism that the temp would turn up. He hated having to rely on an agency for staff, but his secretarial assistant had inconveniently given birth to her baby two months early, and thrown his usually well-ordered office into chaos. It was Margaret who had suffered most; he had a particularly heavy workload of cases and the two previous temporary secretaries sent by the agency had been absolutely useless. Rather than rely on the agency’s choice again, he had instructed Margaret to interview the next candidates, and he knew she would be deeply disappointed if her choice proved to be a mistake. ‘I’ll probably be out for most of the day,’ Margaret said apologetically as she gathered up her coat and handbag. ‘I imagine we’ll have a long wait for the consultant.’ ‘Don’t worry about it,’ Alex advised gently. ‘The most important thing is for John’s condition to be assessed.’ He felt a deep sympathy for his PA; Margaret had worked for him for ten years, and had encouraged and supported him when he was a young man trying to prove his worth as a criminal lawyer in his father’s law firm. Morrell and Partners had built up a reputation as one of the country’s leading law firms, and Lionel Morrell’s son had come under intense pressure to demonstrate that he was a creditable successor to his father. Now in her fifties, Margaret had been looking forward to early retirement with her husband, but over the last year John had experienced increasing memory loss, and, tragically, had been diagnosed as suffering from the early signs of dementia. After thirty years of marriage Margaret was devoted to her husband, and determined to stand by him, but in a bleak moment had confided to Alex that sometimes her job was the only thing that lifted her spirits. He certainly did not want to add to Margaret’s problems, Alex thought grimly. Another five minutes and he would phone the temp agency himself. Jenna purchased a new pair of tights from a corner shop and hurried along the street as quickly as her new stiletto heels and the blister on her heel would allow. She was hot and flustered, and so intent on reaching her destination that she barely noticed the cyclist until he rode up onto the pavement. There were dozens of bicycles weaving their way through the London traffic, even the cyclist’s black balaclava didn’t strike her as particularly odd, and she was stunned when he suddenly screeched to a halt by a woman on the pavement and wrenched her handbag from her grasp. For a few seconds Jenna was rooted to the spot, unable to take in what she had just witnessed, but as the woman cried out she followed a basic instinct and ran towards the cyclist. ‘How dare you?’ she screamed, outrage making her oblivious to the danger as she threw herself in the cyclist’s path and snatched the bag. ‘Get off me, bitch.’ His voice was muffled through his balaclava, but the cyclist’s aggression was obvious, and he quickly pushed Jenna out of his path and sped off, before any of the other pedestrians who had witnessed the scene could intervene. At little more than five feet tall, Jenna was a lightweight, and the cyclist had used all his strength, so she literally flew through the air and met a concrete bollard with a resounding thud, her shoulder taking the force of the blow. ‘Oh, God, are you okay? Have you hit your head?’ The woman’s hands were shaking as she stooped over Jenna. ‘I can’t believe you did that. I can’t believe he did that. Do you need an ambulance?’ ‘No! I’m fine, really. Just a bit winded.’ Jenna was unable to disguise her panic at the thought of an ambulance. She really didn’t have time for any further delays, she thought frantically, and she pinned a smile on her face, ignored the screaming pain in her shoulder and scrambled to her feet. ‘Here’s your bag,’ she said belatedly, holding out the handbag to the woman, who shook her head disbelievingly. ‘You read about these things, but I never thought…’ A curious crowd of onlookers had joined them, and Jenna smiled faintly at an elderly man who’d come to help. ‘I’ve called the police. That was very brave of you, my dear; stupid, but brave.’ ‘I really must go,’ Jenna said to the woman, with a hint of desperation in her voice. ‘I’m late for work; I don’t have time to wait for the police.’ ‘But you’re hurt,’ the woman began, and then paused, aware of the anxiety in Jenna’s eyes. ‘But of course you must do as you think best. Thank you for your help. Write down your name and where you work, should the police want to talk to you—although I don’t suppose they’ll bother. It’s not as if anyone has been killed.’ ‘More through luck than judgement,’ the older man commented dourly. But Jenna was already hurrying on, and reaction would not set in until later. The office block was an imposing building, the huge sheets of tinted windows glinting like copper in the autumn sunshine. The interior was a picture of discreet elegance, only the most flourishing businesses could afford to rent offices here, and Jenna was horribly aware of her laddered tights and damp skirt as she crossed the marble foyer. As the lift carried her up to the top floor she was beset with nerves, not aided by the fact that she was now almost an hour late. She could do this, she told herself. She had excellent secretarial skills, and additional studying at college had given her the necessary qualifications for a legal secretary. Her part-time job with a small firm of solicitors had been a good learning curve, and she was more than capable of facing this new challenge head on. Even so, her palms felt damp, her mouth dry when she introduced herself to the impeccably dressed receptionist, and was directed along the passage, a hasty glance at her watch revealing that she really had no time to pop into the cloakroom and change her tights. Margaret Rivers was not at her desk when Jenna pushed open the door to a large open-plan office that commanded breathtaking views across the city. ‘Hello, I’m Jenna Deane, from Bale’s employment agency.’ At her interview she had briefly met the woman sitting at a desk at the furthest end of the room, and Katrin Jefferstone had not struck her as particularly friendly. She was tall, and whippet thin, her slenderness emphasised by the stark elegance of her black suit. Her black hair was cut into a severe bob that showed off razor-sharp cheekbones, her crisp, white shirt and scarlet lipstick the ultimate in chic sophistication. ‘Goodness, you’ve finally arrived.’ Finely plucked eyebrows disappeared beneath her fringe as the woman surveyed Jenna with barely concealed contempt, and Jenna felt her confidence trickle down to her toes. ‘You’d better go straight in. We’ve been expecting you for the past hour.’ Taking a deep breath, Jenna pushed open the door to the inner office. ‘Good morning, Mr Morrell. I’m Jenna Deane from the…’ She tailed to a confused halt as the figure with his back to the door swung round on his chair. It was a morning like no other, Jenna decided, instantly recognising the man she had met in the coffee shop doorway. He had discarded his overcoat, and his navy shirt echoed the colour of his eyes, the fine silk skimming his broad chest so that she was made aware of impressive muscle definition. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said huskily, as realisation slowly dawned. This man, this virile, sexy man, was Alexander Morrell. He was definitely not the middle-aged, balding lawyer she had imagined her new boss to be. ‘Out of interest,’ Alex drawled, ‘we parted company over half an hour ago, and it took me less than five minutes to reach the office. Where did you go for a new pair of tights? Scotland?’ Jenna felt the first stirrings of temper at his sarcasm, the shock of the attack, coupled with her surprise at the identity of her new boss, making her feel sick and shaky. ‘I was mugged,’ she said slowly. ‘At least I wasn’t—a woman on the pavement in front of me had her handbag snatched by a cyclist. He was wearing a balaclava,’ she added, as if the information would explain everything. ‘I couldn’t see his face.’ ‘Perhaps he was working undercover?’ Alex suggested dryly, his tone plainly skeptical, and Jenna felt hot colour flood her cheeks. ‘You don’t believe me?’ Suddenly she was at boiling point. The cyclist had been the lowest of the low, but this man, with his sardonic smile and barely concealed cynicism, was the bitter end. The fact that he looked utterly gorgeous and made her feel like a self-conscious teenager only added fuel to her anger. ‘I’m not in the habit of lying, Mr Morrell, but obviously I’m wasting my time here. I’ll inform the employment agency that you decided I was unsuitable.’ ‘I may well decide that you’re unsuitable, but I’ll do it in my own time—which, I might add, is extremely valuable.’ Gone was the urbane charmer from the coffee shop, in his place a hard-faced criminal lawyer whose ruthlessness in the courts was legendary. His arrogance set her teeth on edge. ‘I’ve already wasted an hour this morning, and I don’t have time to run through the niceties of office politics with you now. There’s a notepad on the desk. I assume you can take notes in shorthand?’ Jenna bit back a retort and seethed silently. She needed this job, she reminded herself. This was her way out of the mountain of debts that had hung over her since Lee had left; her chance to forge a better life. Before she had known his true identity, she had told Alex Morrell that she would work for the devil for the right price; it seemed as though her flippant remark was about to come true. ‘Were you injured by this mystery mugger?’ Alex could not quite hide his incredulity. In all honesty he didn’t know what to believe, but a career spent weeding out the truth from a web of lies had taught him that people were prepared to invent the most fantastic stories to defend themselves. He would have respected Jenna Deane more if she had simply explained that she had got lost, which was a far more likely reason for her lateness; she had admitted that she had a terrible sense of direction. He was fortunate enough not to need the services of public transport, but he was a fair man, and he could sympathise with anyone who was dependent on the notoriously unreliable train network. Miss Deane appeared windswept, but had no injuries as far as he could see, and her tale of having witnessed a mugging seemed fantastical to say the least. However, the law decreed that everyone was presumed innocent until found guilty, and he glanced at her enquiringly, prepared to be convinced. ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ Jenna snapped, throwing him a look of acute dislike. And to think she had thought this man fanciable! In all honesty that air of raw sexiness seemed even more intense in the confines of the office, but there was no way she would let him see that he captivated her. ‘Take five minutes to tidy yourself up,’ Alex advised coolly, unfazed by the storm he could see brewing in her grey eyes. She suddenly looked very fragile, a small, forlorn figure in her rumpled suit, her red-gold hair falling in a tangle around her face. He had been unable to banish her from his mind, could hardly credit that he had been prepared to throw his tight schedule into disarray simply so that he could buy her coffee, and he could not shake off the faint disappointment that she had refused his offer. So this was Margaret’s choice, he mused. Jenna Deane would be his secretarial assistant while Pippa took six months’ maternity leave. And as he flipped open the case notes on his desk he could not dispel a frisson of anticipation. Jenna felt like a recalcitrant child, sent to the cloakroom to tidy herself up, as Alex had so tactfully put it, but one glance in the mirror brought a gasp of dismay as she discovered just what a mess she looked. Her skirt and jacket were inexpensive, and looked decidedly limp after a soaking in the rain, but at least she was able to change out of her laddered tights. Her hair had been cut into a shoulder-length bob, so fine and silky that it was difficult to put up, but she jammed a handful of pins into her chignon and prayed that it would stay intact. With a dash of pale lipgloss she was ready to face Alex Morrell once more and she determined that she would not allow him to intimidate her, holding her head high as she pushed open the door to his office. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee assailed her, and as she walked across the room Alex placed a mug on the desk. ‘Help yourself to cream and sugar,’ he offered, adding neither to his own mug, and she sank into the chair opposite him with a grateful sigh. The caffeine was a welcome boost, and it was only then that she acknowledged how frightening the scene on the street had been. Her shoulder throbbed, the pain running up her neck so that it was difficult to turn her head, but Alex was studying her with quiet intensity, as if summing her up, and she refused to make a fuss about an incident he didn’t even believe had occurred. It was galling that he should think she had been lying. She prided herself on being reliable and trustworthy, and as she picked up the notepad she flashed him a glance. ‘There is just one thing,’ she murmured, and his brows rose enquiringly. ‘What?’ ‘Well, when we were sheltering from the rain and I told you that I was late, you were late too.’ Alex sat back in his chair and surveyed her in silence for several minutes, until she was squirming and wishing she’d kept quiet. He was not used to his actions being questioned, but she had sounded so indignant that he had struggled to prevent his lips from twitching. ‘I’d been up since six and already put in a couple of hours’ work on the computer before I left home. Being the boss does give me certain privileges. You were just late.’ His tone was amiable, but she sensed that he did not expect to argue the point any further and she bit her lip in impotent annoyance. She had also been up at dawn, had made breakfast, packed her small daughter’s bag ready for day nursery, put the washing on, fed the cat, and panicked over the fact that there were only some very tired-looking sausages in the fridge for dinner that night. It was a miracle she had made it to the station on time, and the unjustness of her train being cancelled still rankled. As to the mugging, she had to admit that it did sound far-fetched, but she hated to be labelled a liar—especially, for some reason, by this man. ‘If you’re ready, we’ll start.’ Alex’s voice broke into her thoughts and she held her pencil poised, ignoring the sharp pain that shot down her arm as he started to dictate. He was testing her, she decided, when at last he stopped talking and she was able to rest her aching wrist. It was impossible to believe that he covered such a huge volume of work ordinarily, or dictated so fast. Her pencil had literally flown over the paper, and she was thankful for her excellent shorthand skills. If his intention had been to prove that she was unsuitable for the job he would be disappointed, she thought smugly, and she smiled at him as professionally as she could across the desk. ‘Will that be all, Mr Morrell?’ ‘For now. And make it Alex. I prefer informality in my office. I’d like those letters ready before lunch, they need to catch the afternoon post. Thank you.’ He barely lifted his gaze from his computer screen and, realising that she had been dismissed, Jenna returned to the central office, wondering what had happened to Margaret Rivers. She could do with an ally, she thought wryly as she smiled tentatively at Katrin and received a cool stare in response. She had taken an instant liking to Margaret, who had interviewed her with the explanation that the senior partner of the law firm, Alex Morrell, was busy in court. ‘The two previous secretaries the agency sent proved to be unsuitable,’ Margaret had told her, and Jenna had been unable to hide her surprise. Bale’s employment agency specialised in supplying first-class secretarial staff—she had been lucky that they had deemed her suitable for their books—and if the other secretaries had not been good enough for Morrell and Partners, there seemed little hope for her. ‘Can I ask what was wrong with them?’ she had queried tentatively, and Margaret had smiled warmly at her. ‘The first one made it plain that she was more interested in Alex Morrell than work,’ she said. ‘Really it was quite embarrassing; she was all over him—blatant as anything. It happens, of course. Alex is a very wealthy and successful man, but he likes to keep work and play separate, and Lydia made no secret that she wanted to play. The second girl was nice, and she had excellent qualifications, but she had childcare problems. Apparently her nanny had walked out and she forever had to dash off early or arrived late. Alex is a stickler for punctuality,’ Margaret had confided. ‘Poor Karen. I felt sorry for her, but once she even brought the baby into the office. Alex was not impressed.’ There had been an awkward pause; Margaret had obviously felt uncomfortable as she continued, ‘The position of secretarial assistant is quite demanding. My husband is unwell, and although I am Alex’s personal assistant, I can’t work late or travel to meetings like I used to. Alex needs someone who doesn’t have too many other commitments, like children.’ Margaret’s embarrassment had been tangible, and she had grimaced before adding, ‘Of course it’s not politically correct to mention it, but children and pregnancy can be rather awkward for a busy firm like Morrell and Partners, as Pippa’s unexpectedly early maternity leave proves. Alex was hugely sympathetic, and fortunately Pippa’s tiny baby is thriving, but it has all been quite difficult. Would you find that level of commitment a problem?’ Margaret had queried, her gaze straying to Jenna’s midriff, and Jenna had laughed and assured the older woman that she had no intention of having a baby. She had neatly sidestepped the issue of any existing children, but all the way home she had worried about Maisie. She was committed to the hilt, she had brooded. Her daughter would be four in a couple of months; old enough to settle happily at the day nursery, the supervisor had assured her. But in Jenna’s eyes Maisie was just a baby, and the thought of leaving her all day tore at her heart. She was lucky that she could rely on her wonderful neighbours, who had promised to care for Maisie whenever necessary. Nora and Charlie adored Maisie, and had adopted her as their surrogate grandchild, filling the void left by their own childlessness. Without them she could not have even contemplated the job with Morrell and Partners, Jenna had conceded. But it did little to assuage the guilt that she was somehow abandoning her daughter. She was here now, Jenna thought as she switched on her computer and began to transcribe the morning’s work. She had entered the lion’s den and made such a bad first impression she would almost certainly be deemed as unsuitable as her predecessors. For Maisie’s sake she needed this job. The salary offered was better than any other job she had seen advertised, and if Alex Morrell had an aversion to working mothers then keeping quiet about her little daughter was a necessity—at least until she had proved her worth. CHAPTER TWO IT WAS one o’clock before Jenna looked up from her computer screen, her aching shoulder vying for attention with her rumbling stomach. She had never worked so hard in her life, had dealt with numerous phone calls in between typing, and felt a certain satisfaction that she had finished all that Alex had requested on time. Of the man himself she had seen no sign, her conversations with him brief and to the point as she put through calls or relayed messages. Now, as she stretched and glanced around the large open-plan office, she felt a pang of longing for the homely office of Philips and Co, the small firm of solicitors where she had previously worked. Gone were the days of a mid-morning cup of tea and a cake, lunch with her friend Claire, and the chance to pop into the supermarket or windowshop. The Morrell and Partners offices were in the heart of the city and no way did she have the clothes or the money to have lunch in one of the exclusive wine bars. It was lucky she had brought her lunch with her, she thought; she was so hungry that even the limp sandwich in the bottom of her bag would be welcome. At the far end of the room was a door leading to the office of the other senior partner, Charles Metcalf, and Jenna turned away from the view of London to speak to Charles’s secretary—Katrin Jefferstone. ‘Do you think it’s okay if I go to lunch?’ she queried. ‘Alex is on the phone and asked not to be disturbed.’ ‘Go when you want,’ Katrin answered in a bored tone, her gaze flicking over Jenna’s cheap suit with scathing dismissal. ‘I’ll let Alex know.’ With a thankful sigh Jenna made her escape, unaware that Alex had been watching her for much of the morning through the tinted glass that separated the offices. Minutes later he cut his call and strolled into the central office. ‘Where’s Jenna?’ ‘She said something about going to lunch. I did suggest that she check with you first, but…’ Katrin tailed off and shrugged her shoulders in a gesture of resignation. ‘Oh, dear, Alex. Not another useless temp?’ ‘We’ll see,’ Alex murmured in a non-committal voice as he glanced through the pile of correspondence Jenna had left for him to sign. There was no problem with her diligence, he mused. His eyes had strayed with irritating monotony to the figure working in the outer office, but she hadn’t glanced up from her work, and his earlier reservations were subsiding. The problem was him, he acknowledged grimly. It had taken sheer determination to stop himself from strolling out to talk to her, and he had invented several reasons for doing just that, discarding them with derision—he would appear too obvious or, worse, desperate. She wasn’t even his type. His usual girlfriends were tall and elegant, and, having been blessed with wealth, looks and an innate charm, he could choose from the cream of London’s socialites. So why had he spent the morning planning on taking his temporary secretary to lunch? Even worse, having missed his chance, how was he going to glean from the frighteningly efficient Katrin where Jenna had gone? In the event it was the receptionist on the front desk who told him Jenna had asked for directions to the nearest park, and as he stepped out into the damp autumn air he was still arguing with himself over his reasons for seeking her out. The park was a small oasis of tranquillity amidst the hubbub of the city, and as Jenna stared up through the trees she felt her tension ease. As first days went it had been a disaster, she thought dismally, although hopefully the quality of her work would meet Alex Morrell’s high standards and he wouldn’t dismiss her at the end of day one. She was still indignant that he hadn’t believed her reason for being late, and was half tempted to tell him to stick his job, but her hot temper had always been her Achilles’ heel, and at twenty-four it was time she learned to control it. So much depended on her keeping this job; without its high salary she was in danger of losing the house, of having to uproot Maisie and move away from everything that was familiar to the little girl. At her interview Margaret had hinted that Pippa, the secretary on maternity leave, might possibly decide not to return to work at all, in which case the post of secretarial assistant would become permanent. Not that she could keep Maisie a secret for ever, Jenna fretted, but if she could prove to Alex that she had foolproof childcare arrangements then perhaps the fact that she had a daughter would no longer be an issue. Did he dislike children? she wondered. Or was it simply that he had little sympathy for working mothers? Neither reason endeared him to her, so why had she been unable to dismiss his handsome face from her mind all morning? He was sex on legs, she acknowledged with a rueful smile, and it had taken sheer will-power to prevent her eyes from straying towards the dark tinted glass that separated her office from his. ‘So, you decided on lunch al fresco?’ A voice as cool and clear as a mountain stream trickled over her and she was unable to repress a shiver, felt goosebumps prickle her skin as she turned her head. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ He had already sat down on the bench and her tension returned with a vengeance. She wished he would go, and at the same time wanted him to stay. She needed to look at him again, although one peep was enough to send her pulse racing, and with a determined effort she dragged her eyes away and stared at the ducks on the pond. ‘Help yourself,’ she answered, striving to sound cool and composed, but aware that her voice was starting to sound breathless. ‘I had planned on taking you to lunch, to give us a chance to get to know one another properly.’ Jenna swung round, her eyes colliding with his sapphire gaze, and she swallowed, her nerves jangling when she discovered how close he was. His hair was the colour of jet, cropped uncompromisingly short so that she noted the hard planes of his face, the classically sculpted cheekbones and square jaw. There were laughter lines around his eyes and she longed to see him smile, for his eyes to glint with warmth when he looked at her. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise. Do you do that with all your new staff? Take them to lunch, I mean?’ she added, disconcerted by his intense appraisal. ‘No,’ he replied, and reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from her cheek. The gesture was so intimate that she felt herself blush. He was too close for comfort. She was aware of the tantalising musk of his aftershave, the warmth of his breath on her skin. ‘We didn’t get off on the best of footings this morning,’ he continued quietly, and she knew he was referring to her lateness and the unbelievable reason for it. He still considered that she had lied, she realised; she opened her mouth to protest her innocence, looked into his eyes and lost the ability to think. ‘Would you like a sandwich?’ she offered, frantically searching for something to say to break the silence that thrummed with electricity. ‘What’s in them?’ he queried, glancing at the unappealing squares of white bread on her knee. ‘Jam.’ His expression was faintly disbelieving as he held up his hand. ‘I’ll pass, thanks. I haven’t eaten jam since I was a child.’ She wasn’t lunching on jam sandwiches out of choice either, Jenna thought, irritated by his amusement. What had he expected? Smoked salmon? Although in fairness that was probably the sort of lunch he was used to, and she certainly couldn’t reveal that she had saved the last slices of cheese for Maisie’s lunch. ‘I need to go shopping,’ she admitted as she picked up a sandwich, but her appetite seemed to have vanished along with her peace of mind. ‘There’s a little bistro at the edge of the park that serves lovely food and the best lemon meringue pie,’ Alex added, with another glance at her pathetic lunch. ‘Shall we start afresh over something to eat? I watched you working like a demon this morning; you must be hungry.’ ‘You watched me?’ For a second Jenna envisaged him snooping on her through some sort of spyhole, her dismay written all over her face, and he could not prevent his smile. ‘The glass walls between our offices are tinted, but I can see out quite well. I hope you don’t find that unsettling?’ She did, hugely, but could hardly admit it. Thank God she hadn’t drifted off into one of her daydreams, where she lost all concept of time and filled several sheets of paper with sketches. She didn’t think he would be quite so friendly if he deemed her a time waster, and once again she realised that the job at Morrell and Partners was light years away from her comfortable existence at Philips and Co. ‘Do you know those little gold freckles across your nose are really beautiful?’ Alex Morrell had little in common with the fatherly Mr Philips either, Jenna acknowledged, sheer panic sending her jumping to her feet. Faced with the full force of his charm she quailed. ‘You must be a mind reader. I love lemon meringue pie. And I hate my freckles,’ she added on an afterthought. ‘I’ve got them everywhere.’ ‘Really?’ She steadfastly ignored the wicked glint in his eyes, and to her relief he said no more on the subject of freckles or their whereabouts and led the way across the park to the bistro. Alex Morrell was something else, Jenna mused as she stirred her coffee and contemplated the best lunch she had eaten in months. As if stunning good looks were not enough, he was witty, charming and fiercely intelligent, and he had entertained her with tales of past court cases and amusing incidents from his life as a barrister. All through lunch she had listened and laughed, utterly captivated, so that she’d relaxed and unknowingly lowered the barriers she had erected against him. He had been too hard on her this morning, Alex chided himself as he watched the way she licked the last morsel of meringue from her spoon, the tip of her pink tongue a tantalising distraction from which he had difficulty dragging his gaze. She was unknowingly sexy—or perhaps knowingly, he thought with a frown. The sexuality she exuded was not lost on him, as the ache in his loins could verify, but there was an air of innocence about her that tugged at his protective streak even as he derided himself for his gullibility. In his opinion women were by far the stronger sex, and in court they had never ceased to amaze him with their ability to lie in order to save their own skins. The jury was still out on Jenna Deane, and he could not pigeonhole her yet, but getting to know her was proving to be an interesting experience. The autumn sunshine had disappeared when they walked back across the park, and the sudden downpour was as violent as it was unexpected. ‘Tomorrow I’m going to bring an umbrella,’ Jenna vowed as raindrops the size of pennies spattered her skirt for the second time that day. ‘Over here—come on!’ With the shower showing no sign of abating Alex caught hold of her arm, and together they scrambled for the protection of one of the few trees that still retained its leaves. As they ran, Jenna skidded on the wet leaves underfoot and fell bodily against Alex, who braced himself against the tree trunk, taking her weight on his chest. ‘I’m sorry.’ Her hair had come loose again, and she stared up at him through a tangle of amber silk, the laughter dying in her throat as she caught the unguarded look in his eyes. ‘This is becoming a habit,’ he murmured, stroking her hair back from her face. ‘A very pleasant habit, I might add.’ Was he was going to kiss her? she wondered, with the tiny part of her brain still capable of thought. His dark head lowered, seemingly in slow motion, and she felt the warmth of his breath on her cheek, could see the fine laughter lines that crinkled the corners of his eyes. Already that sensual mouth was hovering millimetres from hers, and she couldn’t deny the heady excitement that swept over her. She was desperate to feel him, skin on skin. Was it some kind of test? she wondered numbly. Margaret had said that one of the previous secretaries had been deemed unsuitable because she’d made her attraction to Alex obvious. Standing in his arms, virtually begging for him to kiss her, was being more than just obvious, but she seemed to have no control over her body. She was stunned by her reaction to him; common sense seemed to have deserted her. Without conscious thought her lips parted, but instead of accepting her offer he drew back, his low murmur bringing her back to earth with a bump. Of course he wasn’t going to kiss her! He had drawn her into his arms simply to prevent her from slipping on the leaves, and was no doubt horrified to find himself pinioned to the tree. Shame scalded her, and she jerked away from him, her cheeks on fire, unable to meet his gaze, which she was certain would reflect his sardonic amusement. ‘We should head back. We’ve a busy afternoon ahead.’ Alex’s voice cut through her mental self-flagellation and she nodded wordlessly, wondering how he could sound so calm and in control. But then he hadn’t made a complete fool of himself, she reasoned miserably. If he had been setting her some sort of test she had failed spectacularly, but the idea that she might not have a job by the end of the day was almost a relief. She didn’t think she could cope with Alex Morrell on a long-term basis. She trudged beside him on the walk back through the park, determined not to look at him or speak to him unless absolutely necessary, but he too seemed lost in his thoughts and disappeared into his inner sanctum as soon as they reached the office. Jenna was tired and emotionally drained. Her shoulder, which had ached dully all morning, was now throbbing, but she ploughed on with her work, struggling to get to grips with an unfamiliar program on her computer. Twenty futile minutes later she conceded that she would have to ask for help, and spent another ten practising the right amount of cool uninterest in her tone. Alex wasn’t working, as she’d assumed when she entered his office, but staring out over the magnificent view of London, and she wondered if he too had a penchant for daydreaming. Although from his stern expression it was not a pleasant dream. At her hesitant request for assistance he insisted on coming out to view her screen and she was achingly aware of his lean, hard body and the enticing scent of his aftershave as he leaned across her. His instructions were concise, and when he had finished he eased back and rested a hand on her shoulder. ‘Ow!’ She could not prevent her cry of pain and he raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘What’s the problem?’ ‘Nothing. It’s just my shoulder. I think it must be bruised from this morning…’ She tailed to a halt under his intent stare and flushed. Did he still think she was lying? Her shoulder was in agony and she certainly wasn’t making it up. ‘You were injured this morning? Yet you didn’t think to mention it? As I remember, I asked you specifically if you’d been hurt.’ ‘You didn’t even believe I’d been involved in an attack. As I remember you were being sarcastic, and I didn’t want to make a fuss—not after arriving an hour late.’ ‘I would happily have believed you, had you shown any sign of distress,’ he bit out, fury with himself making his tone sharp. He prided himself on his sense of justice and fair play, and all day it had niggled him that he had written her off as unreliable when she had proved patently that she was not. This close he could see the faint shadows beneath her eyes, her skin so translucent he could trace the fine blue veins beneath the surface. She was exquisitely beautiful, as delicate as a porcelain figurine, and he had to tear his gaze from her face before he gave in to the temptation to kiss her, as he had so nearly done in the park. ‘If your shoulder is still hurting five hours after the…’ he hesitated fractionally ‘…incident, then it must need medical attention. Undo your blouse so that I can take a look.’ Jenna blinked at him indignantly. ‘I’m not stripping off in the middle of the office!’ ‘I’m merely suggesting that you unfasten the top couple of buttons.’ He gave her a withering look. ‘I have seen a woman’s naked shoulder before, and I promise I won’t be overcome with lust.’ Was that a deliberate taunt? she wondered. A reminder that he was aware of just how much she wanted him? His face was impassive, giving no clues to his thoughts, but he was a master of disguising his emotions and his features were set in the aloof expression he usually reserved for cross-questioning. He was so arrogant, Jenna thought furiously, her temper suddenly white-hot. ‘Hold on a minute,’ she snapped. ‘This morning you didn’t believe a word about the “incident”—your word, not mine, and now suddenly you’re Dr Kildare! My shoulder’s bruised; I can move it quite well, so it’s not broken, and I’ll see to it when I get home.’ ‘Fine. Get your jacket, we’ll go to Casualty.’ ‘No!’ Her arms were folded across her chest; he wouldn’t have been surprised if she had stamped her foot in fury, and despite everything his lips twitched. ‘It’s your choice,’ he said equably. ‘Either I look at it or a doctor does. Take your pick.’ Her answer was to stalk into his office, her back rigid with outrage as she ripped apart the top buttons of her blouse and shrugged the material over her injured shoulder. Already feeling bad, the sight of the huge purple bruise that covered her shoulder filled him with remorse. ‘What happened, exactly? Did someone hit you?’ Jenna shook her head. ‘He didn’t attack me at all. As I was walking along a cyclist suddenly rode onto the pavement and snatched the handbag from the woman in front of me. I ran to help and he pushed me against a concrete bollard. But I managed to save the bag,’ she added brightly. ‘You bloody idiot; he might have had a weapon. What would you have done if he’d pulled out a knife? What are you, anyway? All of five feet nothing and you think you’re a one-woman army!’ ‘I didn’t think. I saw the attack and I lost my temper, okay?’ In her frustration Jenna swung round to face him, remembering belatedly her open blouse and the expanse of lilac lace bra on display. Since her parents and her brother had emigrated to New Zealand, to be near her sister, birthday and Christmas presents had been defined by their ease of packing—and she owned drawers full of pretty lingerie. This lilac bra was of such sheer lace it was almost transparent, and to her horror she felt her nipples harden, the dark peaks plainly visible through the material. With a yelp she swung back and scrabbled with the buttons. ‘Why should you care anyway?’ she threw at him, and he stilled, his gaze intent as he turned her back to face him. ‘You’ve fastened the buttons wrong,’ he murmured, his fingers feather-light against the swell of her breasts as he corrected them. ‘I think that hot temper of yours might lead you into real trouble some day, Jenna Deane. You seem to be a cauldron of wild emotions just waiting to boil over.’ His voice was suddenly as deep and soft as crushed velvet, and she felt a burning sensation behind her eyelids. He towered over her, so big, yet suddenly so gentle, and she fought the urge to throw herself against his chest and burst into tears. ‘Hello, I’m back at last.’ Margaret Rivers popped her head round the door of the office, patently unaware of the crackling tension between its occupants, and beamed as she spied Jenna. ‘Mrs Deane—Jenna—I knew you wouldn’t let us down. How’s your first day been?’ She disappeared for a second, long enough for Alex’s eyebrows to shoot upwards, his puzzlement obvious. ‘Mrs Deane?’ he queried, but Margaret was back, waving Jenna’s handbag. ‘Your mobile has rung several times, dear. Perhaps it’s important.’ Jenna stared at the older woman blankly and then scrabbled in her bag for her phone. She recognised the number of the caller and her expression softened. Her younger brother Chris was travelling from New Zealand and had been backpacking through Europe, he must have arrived in England sooner than planned. Suddenly everything faded into insignificance; she hadn’t seen her brother for two years and had missed him and the rest of her family desperately since they had emigrated. ‘Chris, darling, I can’t wait to see you.’ There was no disguising the pleasure in her voice, the soft glow of love in her eyes, and Alex stared at her for a moment before turning to Margaret, impeccable manners demanding that he give Jenna privacy to take her call. But inside he was seething. Jenna finished her conversation with Chris, explaining that she had left the key to her house with her neighbours and urging him to make himself at home. She would be back as soon as possible, she promised, glowing with excitement as she replaced her phone. But when she looked up she discovered that Margaret was no longer in the office and she was alone with a grim-faced Alex Morrell. ‘Out of interest,’ he drawled, his voice deceptively soft, ‘when were you going to mention Chris?’ Jenna gave a puzzled frown. Why was it necessary for her to mention her brother at all? ‘That is your husband’s name I assume? Chris?’ He was studying her with his piercing blue eyes and the moment she met his gaze she felt herself blush. How was she going to manage working for him when she couldn’t even look at him? she thought despairingly. The worst of it was he knew the effect he had on her, and presumably found it amusing. It was so humiliating. She shuddered at the idea of being known as the secretary with an outsized crush on her boss and her chin came up. She could imagine his pitying expression if she admitted that she had been divorced after just one miserable year of marriage. It would only reinforce his belief that she was a desperate man-hunter. ‘Yes, Chris is my husband,’ she lied. ‘I assumed you knew I was married. It’s not a secret; my agency details state that I’m Mrs Deane.’ ‘In that case, just what were you playing at in the park?’ He glared at her across the room, his eyes as dark and fathomless as pools of ink although his icy disdain was obvious. ‘Of course I didn’t know. I’m not in the habit of making a pass at my married staff.’ Or any of his staff, for that matter, he added silently. He had always been scrupulous about keeping his work and private life separate, and was furious with himself for a serious lack of judgement. He was furious with her too, ostensibly for not being straight with him. But if he was being honest, he acknowledged grimly, he hated the idea that she had a husband. ‘I wasn’t playing at anything. I don’t know what you mean,’ she snapped, outrage and embarrassment stoking her temper. ‘Oh, come on. You were issuing me with a very definite invitation in the park. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when your husband asks you about your day,’ he continued sarcastically, ignoring her furious gasp of denial. ‘Will you mention that you want your boss? Or do you prefer to keep the poor sod in the dark about your extracurricular activities?’ Jenna drummed her fingers on the desk and fought to keep a lid on her temper. ‘Naturally I won’t refer to an incident that I found to be frankly embarrassing.’ ‘Embarrassing! Oh, I see—you’re suggesting that your boss placed you in an awkward situation? Why don’t you have done with it and report me for sexual harassment?’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous; I’m just trying to say that you obviously read something into the situation that wasn’t there. You’re very nice,’ she said placatingly, ‘but I certainly wasn’t flirting with you. I’m a happily married woman.’ ‘I suppose you’re now going to tell me that you’re intending to produce a brood of little Deanes too?’ he said through gritted teeth. Her description of him as ‘nice’ stung; he had never been called nice in his life, and his male pride was outraged at her implication that he was middle-aged and past it. ‘God, no.’ Jenna gave a brittle laugh and crossed her fingers behind her back. Somehow she had managed to insult him, and he was looking for a reason to dismiss her and demand that the agency send a replacement. If she admitted that she had a pre-school child she would be out of the job that was hopefully going to turn her life around. The agency would be distinctly unimpressed to learn that she had only survived one day with their most prestigious client, and would be in no hurry to find her other work, but everything depended on her ability to earn a high salary. ‘I’m a committed career woman,’ she informed him coolly. ‘Children don’t feature on my agenda.’ Alex stared at her, his expression giving nothing away—certainly not his inexplicable feeling of disappointment at her words. What was the matter with him? Maybe he was having a mid-life crisis, he thought irritably as he banished the picture of a rosy-cheeked child with hair like spun gold from his mind. He didn’t even like children particularly, and it should have come as a great relief that his new secretary had no maternal urges. The silence in the room seemed to stretch interminably, and the tap on the door caused Jenna to jump. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at Katrin, some sixth sense warning her that the other woman had been listening in on the conversation. ‘The police have come for Mrs. Deane,’ Katrin announced with understated calm. ‘Excellent. On top of everything, I’ve employed the Boston Strangler.’ That was it, Jenna decided. She would rather sell her body than work one more minute for Alex Morrell. But there was no time to inform him of the fact. Two burly police officers were already towering over her, and although she knew she was the victim of a crime rather than its perpetrator, she swallowed nervously. Despite their indomitable presence, the policemen were surprisingly gentle as they questioned her about the mugging she had witnessed, pointing out that it had been unwise to tackle the cyclist, who might have been carrying a weapon. ‘A knife, a gun—you just don’t know these days, Mrs Deane. It’s not worth risking your life for a few valuables.’ ‘Absolutely,’ Alex concurred, and received a venomous glare for his pains. ‘I’d make an appointment with your GP to get that shoulder checked out,’ one officer suggested as they stood to leave, and Jenna gave her smiling assurance that she would do so, mentally adding the white lie to the various other untruths she had uttered that day. She prided herself on her honesty, yet one day of working for Alex Morrell and she had turned fibbing into an art form. Alex escorted the policemen out of the office and she sank into a chair feeling utterly drained. Her face was pale with misery when he returned. This latest disruption to his day was no doubt the last straw; he would never keep her on now. ‘I suppose you want me to leave,’ she murmured, and he spared her a brief glance before turning his attention to his computer screen. ‘Excellent idea. Go and collect your things.’ As she struggled to push her aching arm into her jacket she debated going back into his office to admit the truth—that far from being happily married and childless she was a single mother, struggling to juggle a career and care for an almost four-year-old—but it all seemed too complicated and she just wanted to go home. ‘Goodbye.’ The voice from the doorway was curiously deflated, and Alex felt compassion snag his heart as he studied the small, forlorn figure. ‘I’m coming with you,’ he said calmly, and something flared in her eyes. ‘You don’t need to see me off the premises. I feel humiliated enough that everyone knows I was interviewed by the police.’ ‘Never mind what anyone else thinks,’ he replied cheerfully, and that just about summed him up, she decided. He was confident to the point of arrogance—but then he was the boss; he didn’t have to care what anyone else thought. She half expected him to frogmarch her out of the office block, but when the lift came to a halt she discovered that they were in an underground car park. ‘My car’s over there.’ He was already leading the way to a silver Bentley, and as they approached a uniformed chauffeur sprung out and held open the door. ‘There’s no need for all this. I’ve got a return train ticket,’ she said faintly as she sank into the supple leather upholstery. ‘Just drop me at the station.’ Alex ignored her and leaned forward to speak into the intercom. ‘Harley Street, please, Barton.’ CHAPTER THREE ‘I’M NOT getting out of the car.’ Jenna folded her arms across her chest, belligerence thrumming from every pore, and Alex fought to keep a lid on his temper. Until today he hadn’t been aware that he even possessed a temper. Even when annoyed he was able to deal with issues in a calm, controlled manner, but where Jenna was concerned it seemed that any sense of control flew out of the window. ‘I’ll decide whether or not I need to see a doctor, and if I think it necessary I’ll make an appointment with my own GP, not yours. I can’t afford a private Harley Street practitioner.’ ‘I’m not asking you to.’ Alex closed his eyes and briefly pictured newspaper headlines that screamed Top Barrister Commits Murder. ‘Anyway,’ Jenna continued stubbornly, ‘the only reason we’re here is so that you can appease your conscience. I told you I wasn’t a liar.’ ‘Either you get out of the car or I’ll drag you out.’ Any vestige of control disappeared in a cloud of molten fury. Her husband must have the patience of a saint, Alex decided, ignoring the fact that her jibe had hit home. There was no warmth in his eyes now, his face was a rigid mask of irritation, and Jenna realised that compliance was her only option if she was to retain any dignity. She didn’t doubt for a minute that he would carry out his threat to drag her bodily from the car, and so, with her head held high, she opened the door. ‘He’s probably busy anyway,’ she muttered as she was ushered into a plush reception area that bore scant resemblance to her own doctor’s drab surgery. ‘Hello, Alex. Go straight through. Guy is expecting you.’ If the receptionist was surprised to see Alex leading his companion along like a badly behaved puppy she was far too discreet to mention it, and Jenna pulled her hand free and stomped into the inner office. ‘Alex—good to see you. We must meet up for a game of golf; my club, Saturday?’ ‘Actually, I’m flying to Cannes this weekend. But another time certainly.’ ‘Hoping to prolong the summer, huh? And no doubt enjoy the company of some tanned blonde beauty. You need to settle down and get married, Alex.’ ‘Why?’ Alex queried with a grin, and Guy laughed. ‘There must be a good reason, but it beats me.’ Jenna hovered in the doorway, feeling superfluous. This was not her world, and it was safe to say that she wouldn’t be playing golf or sunning herself in Cannes at the weekend. From the knowing glances that had passed between the two men it was obvious that Alex had a reputation—hardly surprising, considering his stunning looks, she reminded herself. But the thought left her feeling curiously flat. ‘And this must be the young lady with the shoulder injury.’ Guy Deverille welcomed her with a smile. ‘Alex explained about the incident on your way to work this morning. Let’s take a look, shall we?’ We! Jenna’s gaze flitted from the doctor to Alex. No way was she going to strip off in front of Alex for the second time that day, she vowed, and Alex’s lips twitched as he read her expression. ‘I’ll leave you to it,’ he murmured, and as he headed for the door her fingers itched to wipe the mocking smile from his face. ‘I told you it was just bruised,’ she berated half an hour later, as the Bentley cruised through the London streets. After ensuring that she had suffered no broken bones, Guy Deverille had given her some strong painkillers and advised her to rest her shoulder as much as possible for the next couple of days. ‘So you did,’ Alex agreed equably, not looking up from his laptop, and she gave up and stared moodily out of the window. Having been spared the train journey home, she was early. She would be able to collect Maisie from the nursery, rather than her neighbour, Nora, and her heart lifted at the thought of seeing her daughter. She hated having to leave Maisie all day, and the decision to return to full-time work had been a hard one—although the bank did not share her concerns, and had only increased her mortgage on the understanding that her salary would cover the repayments. The chauffeur parked in her tree-lined suburban street and she turned to Alex, her heart suddenly sinking. This was goodbye to her job, and quite possibly her home if she didn’t find another position quickly. It was certainly goodbye to the most intriguing man she had ever met, for she doubted she would see Alex Morrell again. Somehow it seemed unlikely that they would ever move in the same social circles. ‘Take tomorrow off and rest your shoulder. I expect you to be in the office at nine o’clock on Wednesday morning.’ At her silence Alex spared her a brief, quizzical glance and she stared at him. ‘I thought you didn’t want me any more—to work for you, I mean,’ she added clumsily, her cheeks flaming. ‘Whatever gave you that idea?’ His sarcasm grated as Jenna ran a brief resumå of the day’s events in her head, and after studying her downcast face he finally took pity on her. ‘It wasn’t the best first day, I agree. The visit from the police was a particularly low point, but aside from various catastrophes your work was excellent, and I need a secretary. I’m sure it’s going to be a pleasure working with you, Mrs Deane.’ There would be no more flirting, Jenna realized. No element of the sexual tension that had burned between them although they had both denied its existence. Now that Alex believed she was married she was deemed out of bounds, and he had no interest in her other than for her secretarial skills. She should have felt relieved, but as she walked up the path her front door was flung open and she threw herself into Chris’s arms and burst into tears. ‘So, how was your day?’ Chris had developed a strong accent since he had emigrated to New Zealand with their parents, four years before, and Jenna managed a watery smile as he added, ‘My guess is, not good.’ ‘You have no idea.’ Jenna sniffed, scrubbing her eyes with a tissue and stepping back to survey her kid brother—who towered over her. ‘I know I sound like Mum, but you have grown!’ Chris grinned cheerfully. ‘Yeah, well, it’s two years since you visited New Zealand. I guess we’ve all changed—although you haven’t grown,’ he teased. ‘How’s that cute little niece of mine?’ ‘Maisie has definitely grown,’ Jenna informed him. ‘She’s at the day nursery until half past five.’ ‘And you’re now trying to hold down a full-time job?’ Chris’s smile faded. ‘Mum told me that your jerk of an ex-husband won his court case. I can’t believe he was awarded a percentage of the value of your house when you were only able to buy it in the first place using the money left to you by Auntie Vi.’ ‘That money only paid the deposit,’ Jenna explained. ‘The mortgage was in both our names, and technically Lee was entitled to his share. I could sell up, but by the time I’ve paid legal costs and everything I’ll only be able to afford a small flat. I don’t want to uproot Maisie; she loves the garden and her rabbit, and Nora and Charlie next door are like grandparents to her—she’d miss them terribly.’ ‘I know,’ Chris muttered, ‘but it still seems unfair on you. Lee’s never contributed to Maisie’s upbringing in any way, financially or emotionally, and because of him you’re forced to work for some demon of a boss who makes you cry.’ ‘Alex Morrell isn’t that bad,’ Jenna lied. ‘Today was my first day and it was a bit fraught, that’s all. There was a lot to learn.’ The most important lesson being to keep her distance from Alex, she acknowledged silently. Chris had called him a demon, yet in all fairness she couldn’t say that he was an unpleasant boss. He was demanding, with high expectations of his staff, but in return he rewarded them well, and against all the odds he had given her a second chance. It was a chance she was not going to waste. She would prove to Alex Morrell that she was as conscientious and efficient as he could possibly want, and if the only way she could do that was to avoid making eye contact with him, then so be it. ‘The parents send their love.’ Chris interrupted her thoughts as she entered the living room, which was strewn with his rucksack and various other packages. ‘Along with masses of presents for Maisie. I’d better warn you that I’ve been instructed to try and persuade you to move out to New Zealand. Mum and Dad miss you.’ He shrugged awkwardly. ‘We all do.’ ‘I miss all of you too,’ Jenna murmured thickly, thinking of her elderly parents, who had been looking forward to their retirement when tragedy had struck. Their eldest daughter, Faye, had emigrated to her husband’s homeland of New Zealand after her marriage, but had suffered a stroke whilst giving birth to her first baby. Believing that Jenna was settled at art college, Neil and Mary Harris had moved to Auckland to help Faye in her slow recovery programme. Êîíåö îçíàêîìèòåëüíîãî ôðàãìåíòà. Òåêñò ïðåäîñòàâëåí ÎÎÎ «ËèòÐåñ». Ïðî÷èòàéòå ýòó êíèãó öåëèêîì, êóïèâ ïîëíóþ ëåãàëüíóþ âåðñèþ (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39926282&lfrom=390579938) íà ËèòÐåñ. Áåçîïàñíî îïëàòèòü êíèãó ìîæíî áàíêîâñêîé êàðòîé Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, ñî ñ÷åòà ìîáèëüíîãî òåëåôîíà, ñ ïëàòåæíîãî òåðìèíàëà, â ñàëîíå ÌÒÑ èëè Ñâÿçíîé, ÷åðåç PayPal, WebMoney, ßíäåêñ.Äåíüãè, QIWI Êîøåëåê, áîíóñíûìè êàðòàìè èëè äðóãèì óäîáíûì Âàì ñïîñîáîì.