Kathryn almost spilled her wine. Which would have been a complete travesty. ‘You don’t have to do that,’ she said hurriedly. ‘I can easily take the train. I don’t live all that far from the station.’
‘You think I’d let you walk home after dark?’
‘It doesn’t get dark till after eight,’ she replied, feeling grateful for daylight saving.
‘Which it will be by the time we finish here. Don’t make a fuss, Kathryn. And don’t suggest a taxi. I’m driving you home and that’s that. If you’re worried I might be over the limit then don’t be. I’ll restrict my intake to two glasses and you can drink the rest.’
Kathryn found herself doing just that over the course of the next hour and a half, unable to resist either the wine or the wishes of the man sitting opposite her. Hugh in masterful mode was a force to be reckoned with. Her easy-going boss seemed to have changed today into someone she could no longer handle as easily, or ignore; someone she was suddenly finding devastatingly attractive.
Fortunately he didn’t know that, and she aimed to keep it that way.
Nevertheless, Hugh’s air of authority seemed to have robbed her of her willpower and turned her into the kind of woman who enjoyed deferring to her male companion. She’d even given in to his insistence that she have dessert, biting her tongue when he chose a calorie-laden piece of pecan and almond pie, complete with a diet-crushing dollop of whipped cream. Normally, she wouldn’t have dreamt of eating such a thing. She had a tendency to put on weight very easily. Tonight, however, she’d savoured each delicious mouthful, washing it down with a lovely cup of Irish coffee, the bottle of wine having long been finished.
It wasn’t till they were back in Hugh’s Ferrari and hurtling along the western distributor, heading for home, that the first seeds of worry penetrated Kathryn’s decidedly fuzzy head. What if Daryl had been trying to contact her tonight? What if, when he couldn’t reach her on her mobile, he’d rung their flat and found no answer? What would he think?
Hopefully that she’d gone to the gym.
Kathryn comforted herself with the fact that Daryl didn’t usually ring her when he went out with the boys. Still, it had been very silly of her to go to dinner with Hugh out of work hours. It broke one of her cardinal rules of never socialising with her boss, of never crossing that invisible line which marked them as employer and employee.
Not that she was ever in any danger of Hugh making a pass over dinner, or afterwards. Kathryn was well aware he wasn’t attracted to her in that way. It was her own silly self which worried her.
In hindsight, she had to admit that all day she’d been very aware of him as a man, not her boss—for instance, when he’d come back down to the office dressed in that gorgeous suit. Then during the meeting, where he’d been extremely impressive. But, mostly, when he’d swept her out of the office and into his car in that wonderfully masterful fashion.
After tonight, she’d have difficulty looking at him and not remembering the way she’d felt when he’d leant across her body in the car. Her head might still see him as a lightweight womaniser with more money than morals, but her body was suddenly on a different wavelength, one which was secretly wishing for more. More rides in his car, more bottles of French wine, more of the envious glances the other women in that restaurant had bestowed upon her when they left together.
It was all insane and not conducive to a happy working life.
Kathryn decided then and there to start looking for a new job tomorrow. Now, that should please Daryl!
‘You’d better give me directions,’ Hugh said. ‘I know you live in Ashfield but I don’t get out this way very often.’
‘I don’t imagine that you do,’ Kathryn remarked more acidly than was polite. But she refused to feel guilty. She had to work for this man for a few weeks still. The sooner she got their relationship back to the status quo, the better
Hugh’s mouth twisted into a wry grimace. Back to square one, he thought with a suppressed sigh. For a while there tonight, Kathryn had started acting like a normal woman. It must have been the wine which had temporarily softened her prickly attitude towards him back at Neptune’s. That, or the good food. She’d certainly tucked in, visibly enjoying every mouthful. No wonder she had all those curves.
‘Take the next exit,’ she ordered brusquely. Which he did, following her crisply delivered directions for the next few minutes before turning down a wide street which was lined with Federation houses on the left and post-war-styled apartment blocks on the right.
‘That’s my place,’ she said, pointing to a very plain, very square red-brick building on his right. ‘Don’t worry about turning round. Just drop me off at the next set of lights and I’ll walk back.’
A natural born stubbornness—and a familiar burst of frustration— had him ignoring this last instruction and doing an abrupt U-turn and coming to a halt at the kerb right outside her building. It wasn’t really a dangerous manoeuvre—the oncoming cars were some distance away—but he heard his passenger suck in her breath sharply
Kathryn felt like hitting him.
‘Sorry if I frightened you,’ Hugh said with not a hint of apology in his voice.
She turned to glare at him. ‘Road rules are there for a reason, you know.’
The eyes which met hers were unconcerned. ‘There wasn’t any danger. Besides,’ he added, ‘rules are meant to be broken.’
What an arrogant jerk you are, she thought.
‘Please don’t get out,’ she said with icy politeness, and was out of the car in a flash. ‘Thank you for dinner and for seeing me home. I’ll see you in the morning. If you don’t have another golf game, that is,’ she added tartly just before slamming the car door.
Kathryn was still fuming when she let herself into her first-floor apartment. Resigning her job could not come quickly enough.
Throwing her handbag onto a chair, she glanced at the phone, glad to see that the red light on the answering machine wasn’t blinking. No one had left a message, so Daryl hadn’t rung here.
Undoing the buttons on her jacket, she walked into the bedroom. Only to stop in utter shock at the sight of Daryl, fully dressed and lying on top of the bed, his arms linked behind his head, his ankles crossed and his eyes wide open, fixed on her.
‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, her heart taking off at a gallop. ‘What are you doing home so early?’
He didn’t answer her. Instead, very slowly, he uncrossd his ankles and removed his arms from behind his head. Then he levered himself up off the bed, all the while watching her closely with cool eyes.
‘I tried to ring you,’ he said as he walked slowly towards her. ‘But your mobile was turned off. Then I tried calling here. Still no answer. I was worried. So I came home.’ He stopped in front of her. ‘Where have you been?’
She almost told him the truth but something stopped her. Something in his eyes which frightened her into lying.
‘I stopped in town after work for a bite to eat with one of the girls,’ she said.
‘Lying bitch,’ he snarled, and slapped her hard across the face.
Kathryn cried out, both in pain and in shock.
‘I saw you,’ he snapped, ‘getting out of his fancy car just now. You think I’m stupid. You think I didn’t finally twig what’s been going on?’
‘N nothing’s been going on,’ she stammered, her head spinning.
‘You’re a bloody liar! Men like Hugh Parkinson,’ he spat, ‘they always shag their secretaries. And let’s face it, sweetheart, you like your sex. So is he good? Better than me? Worth losing that precious weekender you so desperately want?’
Kathryn clasped her pounding head with her hands and just stared at the man she’d thought she loved and whom she’d thought loved her.