Boss's Forbidden Secretary (Harlequin Presents Series #2815) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Ruthless businessman Ross Dalgowan is furious! He's just found out that the woman with whom he shared a passionate encounter is married!

But actually, cautious Cathy is single. She was just trying to help her brother out by posing as his wife. Though that's not the end of...

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Boss's Forbidden Secretary (Harlequin Presents Series #2815)

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Overview

Ruthless businessman Ross Dalgowan is furious! He's just found out that the woman with whom he shared a passionate encounter is married!

But actually, cautious Cathy is single. She was just trying to help her brother out by posing as his wife. Though that's not the end of the mess she's gotten herself into: the gorgeous stranger with whom she spent one perfect night is Ross--her new boss!

When Ross learns the truth, he decides he'll make Cathy pay--by making her work hard in the boardroom and the bedroom!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426831140
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: Harlequin Presents Series , #2815
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 160,624
  • File size: 184 KB

Meet the Author

Lee Wilkinson was born in Nottingham, the only child of loving parents. She was educated at an all-girls' school, and after leaving, tried her hand at several jobs, including modeling swimwear.

At 22 she met and married her husband, Denis. They had a traditional white wedding and a honeymoon in Italy, and have been happily married ever since. They have two children, a son and a daughter— both now grown up and married— and four lovely grandchildren.

Lee's writing career began with short stories and serials for magazines and newspapers before going on to novels. She has had more than 20 Mills and Boon romance novels published to date.

Amongst her hobbies are reading, gardening, walking, and cooking. Traveling is her main love, and teaming up with her daughter and American son-in-law, she and her husband spent a year going round the world, taking in India, China, Australia, New Zealand, and the States.

Last year she rented a palazzo in the heart of Venice, followed by a quick hop aboard the Orient Express. Lee is currently saving up for a whirlwind tour of Japan, a romantic and exotic destination she has wanted to visit since childhood.

At present she lives with her husband in a 300-year-old stone cottage in a picturesque Derbyshire village, which gets cut off by snow most winters.

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Read an Excerpt

Cathy had packed the car, said goodbye to her neighbours, handed in the keys of the flat and set off from London that morning.

Because it was such a long way to drive, and Carl had been anxious about her, she had agreed to break the journey with an overnight stay at Ilithgow House, a small, family-run hotel that, according to the blurb, was both comfortable and inexpensive.

Carl had warned her, 'Get as early a start as possible, Sis. It's a hell of a long way just going as far as Ilithgow, and you'll have the pre-Christmas traffic to contend with.'

But, in spite of his warning, the journey had taken far longer than she had anticipated, and it had already been dark for several hours.

She had just crossed the border from England into Scotland when it started to snow. The first big, soft flakes swirled past, caught in the golden beam of the car's headlights and plopping onto the windscreen where the busy wipers flicked them carelessly aside.

Since she had been a small child Cathy had loved snow, and she thought how pretty it looked and how lovely it would be to have a white Christmas.

Or rather how lovely it would have been, if she hadn't, for Carl's sake, been planning to live a lie.

Peering through the windscreen, she thought thankfully that it was just as well she was almost there. The feathery flakes had grown smaller and more compact, and the snow was now coming down in earnest.

Pre-warned that there had already been fairly heavy falls in northern Scotland and over the mountains, she had expected to run into it sooner or later. But not this far south, and she was thankful that she was using Carl's four-wheel drive.

By the time she caught sight of the lighted signthat gave the name of the hotel, a rising wind had created blizzard conditions, and she was driving through a blinding curtain of white.

Turning left between the lighted gateposts, she slowed to a crawl, cheering herself with the thought that there couldn't be more than a few hundred yards to go.

Ilithgow House, she had learnt when she booked, was less than a quarter of a mile from the main road. However, to get to it she would have to cross an old stone bridge that spanned the River Ilith.

Remembering that made her hastily bring the car to a halt. She had no idea whether the long drive was straight or winding, and in these conditions it would be only too easy to miss the bridge and drive into the river.

A few seconds' thought convinced her that her best plan would be to get out and reconnoitre.

Her hand was on the door handle when, from behind, approaching headlights lit up the falling snow. A big car—a Range Rover, she thought—drew up alongside, and a man's dark figure appeared at her window.

As she rolled down the window, he stooped and, in a pleasant, low-pitched voice, asked, 'Need any help?'

Briefly she explained her predicament.

'Luckily I know the lie of the land,' he said briskly, 'so I'll lead the way, if you'd like to follow me?'

Before she had time to thank him, he had gone back to his car.

As he drove slowly ahead she followed the red glow of his tail-lights until they had bumped their way across a narrow, humpbacked bridge.

Then, through the blizzard of white, she spotted the welcoming sight of the hotel's lighted windows.

A moment later the leading car signalled right and, pulling onto a snow-shrouded forecourt, came to a halt near a shallow flight of steps.

As Cathy drew up alongside, the man doused his headlights and, jumping out, turned up the collar of his short car coat.

Though she couldn't make out his features, in the light spilling from the long windows she could see that he was tall and broad-shouldered.

Reaching to open her car door, he queried, 'I presume you've booked at the hotel?'

'Yes.'

Noticing her medium-heeled suede court shoes, he advised, 'It's getting quite nasty underfoot. You'll need to be careful.'

'Yes,' she agreed ruefully. 'I should have worn something more sensible, but I wasn't expecting to run into snow quite this soon.'

He was bareheaded, and, realizing that snowflakes were settling fast on his fair hair, she climbed out rather too hastily and slipped.

Catching her arm, he steadied her.

She pulled a face. 'Now you can say, what did I tell you?'

He laughed. As if I would! Have you much luggage to take in?'

'Just an overnight bag.'

When she had retrieved it from the boot, he said, 'Let me,' and took it from her.

The bag she had packed had been a fun present from Carl, and had gold-coloured teddy bears prancing on it, but if the stranger noticed, it didn't seem to bother him.

'Thank you,' she murmured. 'But don't you have your own luggage to carry?'

'I haven't any luggage. I wasn't intending to make an overnight stop. However, a rescheduled business meeting meant a late start, and, given the weather conditions, it seems preferable to possibly ending up in a ditch.'

She could only agree as, heads bent against the driving curtain of snow, they mounted the steps.

Seeing she was having a struggle to keep her footing, he put a strong arm around her. The caring gesture brought a glow of comforting warmth, in sharp contrast to the bleakness she had lived with for a long time now.

Since her parents' untimely death she had been forced to shoulder all the responsibility, and it was lovely to feel cherished and protected, to have someone else safely in control.

She was sorry when they reached the door and he took his arm away.

He rang the bell, as a small notice requested, and, turning the knob, ushered her inside. Snowflakes whirled around them like confetti, before he closed the door again, shutting out the elements.

As they wiped their feet on the doormat, he turned down the collar of his coat and brushed melting snowflakes from his thick fair hair.

The red-carpeted foyer-cum-lounge was pleasantly cosy, with several easy chairs, a couple of small couches, an abundance of Christmas decorations and a log fire burning in the old-fashioned grate.

But all Cathy's attention was taken by the man who stood so easily at her side. It was the first time she had seen him properly, and his effect on her was immediate and powerful. With his strong, clear-cut features, his chiselled mouth and those thickly lashed, heavy-lidded eyes, he was the most attractive man she had ever seen, and she wanted to keep on looking at him.

But, she reminded herself hastily, she mustn't allow herself to be attracted. She must try and think herself into the role of a married woman.

A role she had only agreed to play to enable her brother to get a post as a ski instructor—an ambition he had cherished since boyhood. A role she must appear to be happy in, whereas her own short, real-life experience of being married to Neil had been anything but happy…

Becoming aware that the stranger was studying her and, judging by his expression, liking what he saw, and feeling suddenly self-conscious, she glanced hastily away.

A melted snowflake dripped off her hair and trickled down her neck, making her shiver.

'You look as if you could use this.' He fished in his pocket and handed her a folded hankie, adding, 'By the way, my name's Ross Dalgowan.'

Their eyes met briefly and hers dropped, the long, curly lashes almost brushing her cheeks. 'Mine's Cathy Richardson.'

A little shy, he thought to himself, but she had to be the most fascinating woman he'd ever set eyes on and he wanted to keep looking at her.

Despite good teeth and a flawless complexion she wasn't, strictly speaking, beautiful. Her hair was somewhere between ash-brown and blonde, her eyes were every colour but no colour, her nose was too short and her mouth was too wide. But her heart-shaped face held real character and a quiet, haunting loveliness.

As they made their way over to the reception desk she mopped at her face and hair before handing back the damp square of cambric. 'Thanks.'

'Always at your service,' he said with a white, crooked grin that made her heart lurch drunkenly, then pick up speed.

She was still trying to regain her composure when a plump, homely woman with grey hair came through a door at the rear.

Smiling at them across the polished desk, she said cheerfully, 'Good evening. I'm afraid it's a nasty night…' Then, in surprise, 'Why, it's Mr Dalgowan, isn't it?'

'It is. Good evening, Mrs Low.'

'I didn't expect to see you in weather like this.'

'It's due to the weather that I'm here,' he told her ruefully. 'I was on my way home when the blizzard made me change my mind and decide to stay the night.'

'Och, now!' she exclaimed, evidently flustered. 'And we don't have a single vacant room. But it would be madness to travel farther on a night like this, so you're more than welcome to a couch in front of the fire and the use of the family bathroom—which is just through the archway on the right—if that will do?'

'That will do fine, thanks.'

'I'd give you our Duggie's room, but he's home for Christmas, and he's brought his girlfriend with him.' With a sigh, she went on, 'Young people these days are so casual when it comes to relationships. It wouldn't have done when I was a girl, but Duggie is always telling Charlie and me that we should move with the times, and I expect he's right… but listen to me rattling on… Now, what about the young lady?'

Glancing at her ringless hands, Ross Dalgowan said, 'Miss Richardson has a room booked.'

Mrs Low opened the register and ran an index finger down the entries. 'Richardson…Richardson… Ah, yes, here we are…'

Then, that flustered look returning, she said, 'I'm afraid we owe you an apology, Miss Richardson. Earlier this evening we found we'd made a mistake and the only accommodation we had left was a small family suite on the ground floor. It's comprised of two adjoining rooms and a bathroom. Hastily she added, 'But, as the mistake was ours, we'll be happy to let you have it for the price we quoted you… Have you any luggage?'

'Just an overnight bag.'

Mrs Low glanced at the cavorting teddy bears on the bag Ross Dalgowan was still holding and rightly identified it.

At that precise moment, another stray drop of water trickled down Cathy's cheek, and Ross reached to wipe it away.

Clearly the intimate gesture gave Mrs Low the wrong impression and, with the air of having solved a thorny problem, she suggested, 'Possibly you could share the suite?'

'I really can't ask Miss Richardson to—'

'If there are two rooms I have no objection to—'

They spoke, and stopped, in unison.

'If I show you, you'll no doubt find it easier to decide.' Emerging from behind the desk, Mrs Low led them briskly through a small, inner hallway and opened a door on the right.

'Although there's central heating, I've lit a fire in this bedroom… So much more welcoming on a night like this, don't you think?'

The room she showed them into was warm and cosy in the leaping firelight. Heavy folkweave curtains had been drawn to keep out the night, and a single lamp cast a pool of golden light.

There was a double bed with an old-fashioned patchwork quilt, a tallboy, a wardrobe, a carved blanket chest and, set in front of the hearth, a low table and two comfortable-looking armchairs.

To one side of the fireplace was a wicker basket of logs and a big pile of fir cones. The aromatic scent of pine resin mingled with lavender hung in the air.

Through a curtained archway was another small room, not much bigger than a large cupboard, with bunk beds and a narrow fitted wardrobe.

Glancing up at Ross Dalgowan's six feet two inches, Mrs Low said doubtfully, 'I'm afraid the bunk beds were only intended for children, but even one of them might be more comfortable, and give you a tidy bit more privacy than a couch. And this is the bathroom…'

Though old-fashioned, the bathroom was spotlessly clean and had every facility, including a walk-in shower cubicle.

'There are plenty of towels and toiletries, even a disposable shaving kit, if you do decide to share.'

Looking from one to the other, she added, 'While you talk it over why don't you sit in front of the fire and get warm? I'll bring you in a nice bite of supper.'

Satisfied that she'd done the best she could, she hurried away.

Putting Cathy's bag on the chest, Ross Dalgowan raised a well-marked brow and asked, 'Do you have any problem with Mrs Low's kindly meant suggestion? If you do…'

Recognizing that it was politeness rather than diffidence that had made him ask, she answered. 'No, no, of course I don't.'

'In that case…' He helped her off with her coat before removing his own and hanging them both on some convenient pegs.

She saw that he was wearing smart-casual trousers and an olive-green jerkin over a toning shirt. His watch looked expensive, and his shoes appeared to be handmade.

Although there was nothing blatant, his whole appearance suggested affluence and power, while his air of ease spoke of a quiet self-assurance.

Taking a mobile phone from his pocket, he said, 'If you'll excuse me just a minute? So they won't worry, I'd like to give the folks who are expecting me a call to say I'll be staying here for the night.'

'Of course.'

While he made the call, she moved to sit by the blazing log fire.

Addressing the person who answered as Marley, he kept it brief and to the point, ending, 'See you tomorrow, then. Bye.'

Cathy found herself wondering if Marley was his wife and rather hoping not, until she pulled herself up short, reminding herself sternly that it was none of her business.

Dropping the phone back into his pocket, Ross joined her in front of the fire, remarking, 'Your shoes look as if they're saturated. Why don't you take them off and warm your feet?'

She had been longing to do just that, and, needing no further encouragement, she slipped them off and, propping them by the fender to dry, held her slim feet out to the blaze.

There was a drifting silence for a minute or so while he stared into the leaping flames and she studied him covertly.

The strong face held a certain aloofness, a touch of arrogance, a hint of sensuality. He was, she guessed, a complex man with many layers.

His mouth, with its ascetic upper lip and passionate lower, was beautiful, and his thick lashes were ridiculously long and curly. Combined with so much sheer masculinity, that mouth and those lashes had a stunning effect, and she felt hollow inside.

He glanced up suddenly, and as she looked anywhere but at him, he queried, 'Warmer now?'

'Much warmer,' she answered abstractedly.

'How long were you on the road?'

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