At Her Boss's Pleasure

By: Cathy Williams

CHAPTER ONE

FRIDAY. END OF JULY. Six-thirty in the evening...

And where, Kate thought, am I? Still in the office. She was the last man standing. Or sitting, in actual fact. At her desk, with the computer flickering in front of her and profit and loss columns demanding attention. Not immediate attention—nothing that couldn’t wait until the following Monday morning—but...

She sighed and sat back, stretching out the knots in her shoulders, and for a few minutes allowed herself to get lost in thought.

She was twenty-seven years old and she knew where she should be right now—and it wasn’t in the office. Even if it was a very nice office, in a more-than-very-nice building, in the prestigious heart of London.

In fact she should be anywhere but here.

She should be out enjoying herself, lazing around in Hyde Park with friends, drinking wine and luxuriating in the long, hot summer. Or having a barbecue in a back garden somewhere. Or maybe just sitting inside, with some music on in the background and a significant other discussing his day and asking about hers.

She blinked and the vision of possibilities vanished. Since moving to London four years ago she could count on the fingers of one hand the number of close friends she had managed to make, and since qualifying as an accountant and joining AP Logistics a year and a half ago she had made none.

Acquaintances, yes...but friends? No. She just wasn’t the sort of outgoing, chirpy, confidence-sharing, giggling sort of girl who made friends easily and was always part of a group. She knew that and she rarely thought about it all—except...well...it was Friday, and outside the baking sun was fading into pleasant balmy warmth, and in the rest of the world people her age were all out there enjoying themselves. In Hyde Park. Or in those back gardens where barbecues were happening...

She glanced through her office door and an array of empty desks stared back at her accusingly, mockingly, pointing out her shortcomings.

She hurriedly made a mental list of all the wonderful upsides to her life.

Great job at one of the most prestigious companies in the country. Her own office, which was a remarkable achievement considering her age. Her own small one-bedroom flat in a nice enough area in West London. How many girls her age actually owned their own place? In London? Yes, there was a mortgage, but still...

She had done well.

So she might not be able to escape her past. But she could bury it so deeply that it could no longer affect her.

Except...

She was here, at work, on her own, on a Friday evening, on the twenty-sixth of July...

So what did that say?

She hunched back over the screen and decided to give herself another half an hour before she would leave the office and head back to her empty flat.

Thankfully she became so engrossed in the numbers staring back at her that she was barely aware of the distant ping of the lift and the sound of footsteps approaching the huge open-plan room where the secretaries and trainee accountants sat, and then moving on, heading towards her office.

She was squinting at the screen and totally unaware of the tall, dark figure looming by the door until he spoke, and then she jumped and for a few unguarded seconds was not the cool, collected woman she usually was.

Alessandro Preda always seemed to have that effect on her.

There was something about the man...and it was more—much more—than the fact that he owned the company...this great big company that had dozens of satellite companies under its umbrella.

There was something about him... He was just so much larger than life, and not in a comforting, cuddly-bear kind of way.

‘Sir... Mr Preda... How can I help you?’ Kate leapt to her feet, smoothing down her neat grey skirt with one hand, tidying the bun at the nape of her neck with the other—not that it needed tidying.

Alessandro, who had been leaning indolently against the doorframe, sauntered into her office, which was the only area lit on this floor of his company.

‘You can start by sitting back down, Kate. When I achieve royal status you can spring to your feet as I enter the room. Until then there’s really no need.’

Kate plastered a polite smile on her lips and sat down. Alessandro Preda might be drop-dead gorgeous—all lean and bronzed and oozing sexy danger—but there was nothing about him she found in the least bit appealing.

Too many people were in awe of his brilliance. Too many women swooned at his feet like pathetic, helpless damsels in distress. And he was just too arrogant for his own good. He was the man who had it all, and he was very much aware of that fact.

But, since he literally owned the ground she walked on, she had no choice but to smile, smile, smile and hope he didn’t see beneath the smile.

‘And there’s no need to call me sir every time you address me. Haven’t I told you that before?’

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