Meanwhile, he aimed to find that bastard and give him a taste of his own medicine. Hugh had taken martial arts lessons when he’d been growing up, one of the many athletic skills he’d acquired during school holidays when his father had been too busy to spend time with him, and his mother hadn’t known how else to cope with his endless energy.
‘I don’t think that’s necessary,’ Kathryn said.
‘Well, I do. What good will you be to me if you come in here every morning, exhausted from not sleeping? I’ll tell you what—you can stay in Dad’s penthouse till he gets back. He won’t mind.’
‘I can’t do that!’
‘Because because I just can’t!’
‘Rubbish. You’d be a lot tidier than me, and he said I could stay there. We’ll go get some of your clothes right now. Then you won’t have to go home tonight.’
Kathryn jumped to her feet, her face pained. ‘You’re doing it again.’
‘Riding roughshod over me, like you did last night. I I didn’t want to go to dinner with you. Not really. You just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Then I didn’t want you to drive me home. But you insisted. If you hadn’t, Daryl wouldn’t have gone off his brain with jealousy, I’d still be getting married and I wouldn’t have lost the thing I most value in the world!’
Hugh gaped at her. ‘I can’t believe you just said that, Kathryn. You value a man who hit you more than anything in the world? I would have thought a woman of your character and common sense would despise such a coward.’
‘I’m not talking about Daryl. I do despise him.’
‘Then what? I’m totally confused.’
Kathryn’s sigh sounded weary. ‘It’s a long story,’ she said, and sank back down into her chair.
‘We have all day.’
‘We’re supposed to be working.’
Hugh shrugged. ‘I’m the big boss now, remember? I can do what I like. What say you put on the answering machine and we’ll go have coffee somewhere?’
‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘I don’t want to do that. I I don’t feel like going anywhere in public. Not looking the way I do today. It was bad enough on the train this morning with everyone staring at me.’
‘Yes, of course,’ he said swiftly. ‘I didn’t think. At the risk of your accusing me of riding roughshod over you again, we could go up to Dad’s penthouse and enjoy a cup of his truly excellent coffee out on the terrace. He has this great coffee machine up there which practically makes it for you.’
At any other time on any other day, Kathryn would have said no to that as well. But today she wasn’t her usual strong- minded self. She felt fragile, and weak and, yes, needy.
‘All right,’ she said, her chin beginning to wobble once more.
His glance carried alarm. ‘You’re not going to cry again, are you?’
She almost laughed at the look on his face. ‘No, Hugh. I’m not going to cry again.’
‘Thank God,’ he muttered. ‘Come on. Let’s go.’
Dickie Parkinson’s penthouse was a showpiece, not a home, with huge, open-plan living areas filled with the finest of Italian leather furniture, but no personal touches anywhere. The decorator had chosen black and white as the basic colour palate, giving the place a decidedly cold look. All the walls were white, so were the marble floors. The massive kitchen had shiny white cupboards with black granite bench tops and stainless steel appliances. The coffee machine Hugh had mentioned was black and stainless-steel combined. The mugs hanging on a steel rack next to it were black.
‘Won’t be long,’ Hugh said as he switched on the machine and selected two of the mugs. ‘Why don’t you go out onto the terrace? Have a look around.’
She did as she was told, because it was better than staying with him in the kitchen and tolerating the same sexual awareness that she’d felt the previous day, and that had descended on her again during the ride up in the small lift. Thank goodness she had already decided to resign. This could get worse.
Maybe that would be a good idea anyway, common sense suggesting she move right away, to another state and another city. There was nothing to keep her in Sydney any more, certainly not this unexpected and highly unwanted attraction for a man whom she didn’t despise as she now did Daryl, but whom she didn’t respect.
It suddenly occurred to Kathryn as she stepped out into the sunshine that she had a habit of being attracted to handsome guys who had buckets of sex appeal, but who were, underneath, bad boys.
The terrace was much nicer than the penthouse. Firstly, the tiles underfoot were a warm cream colour, and the outdoor furniture made in a rich red wood. And then there was a roof garden, full of flowering bushes in all sorts of colours. Kathryn didn’t know what the plants were called—gardening had never been part of her lifestyle—but that didn’t stop her admiring them. The view was worth admiring as well, looking north across the city centre to the harbour bridge and beyond. The opera house was partially obscured by another building, but the quay was visible. The day promised to be warm, but at this hour the air was a pleasant twenty-three degrees, the sky a bright blue with just a smattering of cloud.
Kathryn sat down at a square table with four chairs, because that way Hugh couldn’t sit down too close to her.
He was right. He didn’t take long.
Kathryn tried not to stare as he carried two steaming black mugs towards her. But it was fascinating, in a way, how he was suddenly affecting her. All these months, she’d felt absolutely nothing in his presence. Well, nothing except irritation. Now there was a definite quickening of her pulse-rate as he drew closer.
Of course, he was drop-dead handsome. More so than Daryl, who’d been good-looking but not perfect, by any means. Body- wise there was simply no comparison. Hugh had it all. His face could not be faulted, either, his strongly masculine features softened by his sensual mouth and the way he wore his wavy, dark brown hair, flopping across his high forehead from a side parting. This style drew added attention to his eyes, which were a piercing blue, their impact heightened by darkly fringed lashes.
There’d been a time when Kathryn hadn’t been in the least turned on by her handsome boss. But that time wasn’t today.
‘Hope I got it right,’ he said as he placed the mugs on the table, then pulled out a chair. ‘I know you drink it black but wasn’t totally sure about the sugar content.’
‘Two,’ she told him.
‘I got it right, then,’ he said, smiling. ‘So what do you think of Dad’s pad?’
‘I like the terrace, and the garden. But inside, it’s a bit um ’
Her eyebrows lifted. She hadn’t been expecting him to say that.
‘All Dad’s houses are like that.’
‘How many has he got?’ she asked as she picked up her mug.
‘Too many to count. The upkeep costs him an absolute fortune. But we haven’t come up here to talk about dear old Dad. I want to hear that long story of yours. I’m intrigued.’
Intrigued was a good word, Hugh decided as he waited for her to stop sipping her coffee and start talking. Everything about Kathryn was beginning to intrigue him. He hadn’t realised till today how little he actually knew about her. His knowledge of her life so far was limited to the facts on her résumé, plus what he’d garnered during their occasional coffee breaks together. He knew her father had died years before and her mother more recently. He knew she didn’t have any brothers or sisters and something about her relationship with the horrid Daryl, of course. And about her marriage plans, which would not now, of course, be taking place.