He hadn’t anticipated that Miss Capability would practically bully him into doing the job entrusted to him, or that he would become increasingly consumed with unwanted desire for her.
That was the perverse part. Because there wasn’t anything he could do about his feelings for her.
Why? Because by the time he realised he fancied her, she was engaged. Shortly to be married, in fact.
Although Hugh was considered a conscienceless rake by all and sundry, the truth was he was quite sensitive to other people’s feelings and would never pursue another man’s woman. Sex, for him, was high on his list of life’s little necessities. But only when it came without complications or consequences.
If Kathryn had been free, Hugh would simply have seduced her, making his daily trips to the office events to be anticipated with pleasure, not dread. As it was, he was forced to endure his growing desire for his PA with a level of physical frustration previously unknown to him. He’d even lost interest in other females, suddenly finding them boring in the extreme. There was only one woman he wanted right now.
And for the first time in his life, he couldn’t have her.
‘Have you moved into your dad’s penthouse as well?’ James asked.
Hugh shook his head. ‘He offered. But I declined. I prefer my own place at Bondi.’
Which he’d bought several years earlier with money he’d accumulated on the stock market, with no help from his father, financial or otherwise. He’d used the cash he’d earned fruit-picking during several summers in his university years when his friends had thought he was overseas, skiing in Europe. Instead, he’d been working his way around Australia, proving to himself that he didn’t need his father’s money to survive and that he was capable of working just as hard as anyone else.
It had been a male-pride thing.
His recently refurbished and now extremely valuable apartment overlooked Bondi Beach, and was within a hundred metres of the rock pool in which he swam most mornings, come rain, hail or shine. It was the perfect bachelor pad, not too large, but with everything a single man could desire.
The thought of living in his father’s oversized, over-luxurious and rather soulless penthouse held no appeal whatsoever, despite it being in the same city skyscraper as the offices of Parkinson Media.
‘But it’d save you a drive into the CBD every day,’ James said. ‘You’d never be late. That should please that slave-driver of a PA of yours. The one who’s always calling you. What’s her name, now?’
‘Kathryn,’ Hugh said, suppressing a shudder at the thought of never being late. Being late was the only power he had over that witch.
Punctuality was a real issue with Kathryn. He knew it got under her skin whenever he was late.
Which reminded him
Hugh glanced at his watch. It was almost noon. There was a meeting of the board this afternoon. He really couldn’t be late for that. The other directors would think him not only rude but also not fit to be CEO, even temporarily. It would be foolish of him not to try to make a good impression.
Thankfully, he’d had the forethought to move some clothes into his father’s penthouse, so that he could shower and change there when necessary. He wouldn’t make a good impression wearing casual trousers and a short-sleeved golf shirt.
‘Sorry, chaps,’ he said, downing the rest of his beer in one swallow. ‘Can’t stay. Important meeting this afternoon.’
Hugh had to smile at the expressions on his friends’ faces. But his smile faded once he reached his car, his mouth twisting into a grimace as he climbed in behind the wheel and started the powerful engine.
In fifteen minutes he would be in Sydney’s CBD—the central business district. In less than twenty, he would be back in the lion’s den.
Hugh slammed the Ferrari into gear and accelerated away, torn by the feelings which swamped him. One part of him— his masochistic side, obviously—wanted to be with Kathryn. His more sensible side knew he could not go on like this. One day, something was going to give and he would make a big fool of himself. And possibly find himself on the end of a sexual harassment charge.
The only logical solution was to get rid of the woman.
Hugh had racked his brain to find an excuse to get Kathryn out of his life—and out of his sight—once and for all. But she was capable and conscientious and didn’t make mistakes, never arriving late or leaving early. She was the epitome of PA perfection.
His being elevated to temporary CEO of Parkinson Media had not fazed her. Kathryn had slid into the role of top secretary in the company without turning a hair, his father’s hard-working PA having been given much deserved leave whilst her boss was off, gallivanting around the world.
One of Hugh’s remaining hopes was Kathryn’s marriage in five weeks’ time.
Not that she was having a long honeymoon. She was not going to be that kind to him. Miss Must-Not-Waste-Money Hart was tying the knot on a Friday evening in a small, celebrant-officiated ceremony, then spending a whole two days honeymooning in a hotel in downtown Sydney before returning to work first thing on the Monday morning!
Hugh’s other hope rested on Kathryn’s becoming a mother. He knew she was turning thirty next birthday, that age when a woman became very aware of her biological clock. No doubt she would start trying for a baby straight away. She’d expressed the wish over coffee not long back that she wanted two children, a boy first, then a girl.
Lord knew how she was going to manage that! But if anyone could, it would be Kathryn. Her whole life seemed to be planned out with set time schedules and goals. Hugh was already praying for the day when she’d come into the office and announce that she was pregnant.
Though a pregnancy would not be the immediate end of his problems, of that he was sure. He had no doubt that Kathryn would work right up to the baby’s birth. She was that kind of girl.
The kind of girl, too, who would look even sexier pregnant. Her already impressive bosom would become even more lush, her wide, child-bearing hips accommodating a baby easily with only the most minimal bump.
He could see her now, positively glowing with health and hormones. And he could see himself wanting her all the more.
The prospect horrified him.
Hugh’s teeth clenched hard in his jaw. Could he endure at least another year of this?
He would have to, he supposed. What else could he do?
There was one thing he could do. Eventually. Offer her a very generous maternity leave. Six months with full pay. Twelve months, if necessary.
No, that would be extremely difficult to explain. Six months was all he could get away with. Hopefully, by then, she would be so enamoured by her son—it would be a boy, of course—that she wouldn’t want to return to work.
Oh joy, oh joy!
Meanwhile, he had to find other ways to handle the situation, and minimise the effect Kathryn had on him.
The most obvious solution was to get himself a new girlfriend, some hot little number. There was no shortage of candidates. Maybe, if he chose a busty brunette, he could pretend she was Kathryn and cure some of his frustration that way.
Sydney’s CBD came into view and Hugh’s stomach automatically tightened. He hoped she wasn’t wearing that infernal black suit today, the one with the jacket which nipped in at her tiny waist and the skirt which hugged her curvaceous rear just a little too tightly; the one he’d been wanting to rip off her from the first day when she’d walked into the office wearing the wretched thing!
No such luck, he realised within seconds of striding into the suite of rooms which he’d nicknamed the lion’s den many years earlier. At the time he’d been referring to his father as the lion, always roaring at everyone. Now the lion was a different sex.