Kathryn didn’t roar, but she could be just as intimidating.
Hugh tried not to bristle when she glared pointedly at her watch, then at his clothes.
‘Surely you’re not going to the board meeting this afternoon dressed like that,’ she said coolly.
Hugh covered his annoyance by shooting her what he hoped passed for a drily amused smile. ‘Kathryn, even I wouldn’t have the gall to do that. I’m just going to pop up to Dad’s penthouse where I intend to change. I brought some clothes over last Sunday with this kind of thing in mind,’ he added before she asked him what into.
‘Up there for thinking,’ he said, tapping his temple and thoroughly enjoying the flash of surprise which had zoomed into her normally unflappable grey eyes. ‘Meanwhile, order me a club sandwich, would you? You know what I like. And some coffee. Ask them to deliver it in ’ he glanced at his Rolex ‘ twenty minutes,’ he finished brusquely before striding into the inner sanctum, grateful for the private lift which would enable him to go up to his father’s penthouse without having to walk past his PA one more time.
KATHRYN counted to ten under her breath before phoning through the lunch order, all the while endeavouring to calm her rapid pulse-rate and bring her inner self into line with her more composed outer façade.
But honestly, if ever there was a man designed to irritate her to death it was Hugh Parkinson!
She’d initially been reluctant to apply for the job as his PA. She didn’t think much of men born with silver spoons in their mouths. Didn’t think much of working for them, either. One of her earlier bosses had been born rich and had been presented with running one of his doting grandfather’s newspapers when he’d been all of twenty-four. Talk about bone idle!
Still, she’d learned a lot from having to practically do his job for him. Learned, too, that rich young men often had wandering hands. After leaving that job, she’d chosen her employers more carefully, steering well clear of smarmy but usually good-looking creeps with more money than morals. It was only natural, then, that she’d be wary of working for the richest, possibly best-looking creep in all of Sydney!
The thought of that wonderful salary he’d been offering, however, had seduced her into putting in an application.
To give Hugh Parkinson some credit, he’d conducted her interview in a very businesslike manner. She’d been quietly impressed, to be honest. And very flattered when, after a most intense twenty minutes of questioning, he’d told her that she was just what he was looking for and hired her on the spot. She’d congratulated herself at the time on reading the situation well and dressing down a little for the interview. Not too much make-up, hair pulled back into a French roll, jewellery very basic. And a navy pinstriped trouser suit which had become a little looser since she’d started going to the gym.
She’d imagined—probably rightly so—that a lot of girls might have presented themselves more glamorously, hoping to use sex appeal to get the job. Hugh Parkinson did, after all, have a reputation as a ladies’ man.
There’d been not a hint of flirtation in his manner, however, and she’d been prepared to concede that perhaps the tabloid Press had it all wrong. He wasn’t a playboy, she’d decided that day. He was a serious businessman whose bachelor status and movie-star good looks made him an easy target for salacious stories about his love life.
It wasn’t till afterwards—about a month into the job actually—that she discovered how wrong she’d been. Hugh was just what he’d been depicted as: just like that other boss of hers, he hadn’t wanted an assistant. He’d wanted her to do his damned job for him whilst he was off having five-hour lunches and playing golf and who knew what else with the never-ending number of women who bombarded the office with calls running after him!
Well, she hadn’t been having any of that. Not a second time. So she’d informed him, as tactfully as her indignant fury would allow, that the editors of Parkinson’s many magazines— the ones he was supposedly in charge of—didn’t want to deal with his secretary. They wanted him—their boss—to be there to talk to, and run ideas by, and to make the many decisions which had to be made on a daily basis.
When he still hadn’t shown up at work on a regular basis she’d rung him continually, badgering him over the phone till it had probably been easier for him to spend at least a few hours in the office every day.
Which should have made her happy.
But oddly, it hadn’t.
His increased presence gradually began to grate on her nerves, she wasn’t sure why.
So had Daryl’s never-ending jealousy.
‘No boyfriend wants his girlfriend working for a billionaire,’ Daryl had complained soon after she’d started the job. ‘Certainly not one with Hugh Parkinson’s reputation. What if he makes a move towards you? What if he asks you to go away with him to a conference or something?’
She’d placated Daryl at the time, telling him that he was being silly, that she loved him and only him, and that she would never have her head turned by the likes of Hugh Parkinson.
Daryl had asked her to prove it by agreeing to marry him.
Kathryn had still been reluctant. Although she wanted marriage, underneath she was afraid of it. Afraid of trusting her life to any man. Over the years she’d had a history of falling for guys who’d proved to be less than perfect.
But then two things had happened to change her mind. Firstly, Val had finally succumbed to the cancer she’d been battling for several years. Not an unexpected event, but still very upsetting. Then Kathryn had received a letter from a solicitor shortly after Val’s funeral, saying that Val had willed the beach house to her, provided she marry before she turned thirty. If she was still single on that date—which at that time had been a few months away—the house would be sold and the proceeds given to cancer research.
Kathryn had initially been shocked with her old friend for using emotional blackmail to push her into marriage. In the end, however, she’d been grateful to Val for forcing the issue and making her see common sense.
OK, so Daryl wasn’t perfect. But then neither was she. If she kept waiting for Mr Perfect to come along, she would die a lonely old maid.
Initially, Daryl hadn’t been too thrilled when she accepted his proposal. He’d accused her of not really loving him, of just using him to get her hands on a million-dollar property. Which was what the Pearl Beach weekender was currently worth. She’d soothed him by revealing that she had no intention of ever selling the house; that it was a place of great sentiment to her. He’d soothed her in return by taking her to bed and showing her why she’d fallen in love with him in the first place.
Once Kathryn had decided on marriage to Daryl, she’d embraced the idea one hundred and ten per cent, immediately making detailed plans for their future together. Naturally, she’d chosen the ring—Daryl might have picked something ridiculously expensive—and made all the arrangements, insisting that they have an inexpensive ceremony and reception—only ten guests—followed by an even more inexpensive honeymoon.
When Daryl complained about her miserliness, she’d explained that she wasn’t going to waste any of her hard-earned savings on what was really just a party and an excuse for a holiday, both come and gone in a flash. She needed every cent for a decent deposit on a house here in Sydney.
Sydney was, after all, the most expensive city in Australia to live in. Houses came at a premium. So did interest rates. She wasn’t about to fall into the trap of having too large a mortgage which they wouldn’t be able to pay back, once she left work to have a baby.
Neither she nor Daryl had well-off families to fall back on in times of financial difficulty. In fact, neither of them had any family to fall back on. Both of them had come from troubled, single-parent households. Each had seen what little close family they had finally being snuffed out through drink, drugs and disease.
But where Kathryn’s background had formed her into a careful, highly organised, money-wise character, Daryl was more impulsive and not good with money at all. Still, he was very good at his job, being a top sales representative for a successful office-supplies company. His salary was excellent and he had a company car. Kathryn felt sure she could rein in his tendency to be extravagant, once they were married.