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His Virgin Secretary
By Cathy Williams
Mills & BoonCopyright © 2004 Cathy Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBRUNO was coming, flying back from New York, and Katy knew that there was just no way that she was going to be able to do her usual and disappear the minute he arrived.
Bruno Giannella, put quite simply, terrified her. She had first met him eighteen months ago, when she had been subjected to an interview that had paid lip service to his opening words - that he just wanted to discover a bit about her, considering the role she would have in his godfather's life. Thereafter had followed the most gruelling hour and a half she had ever endured, which had left her in no doubt that the only way she could possibly get along with the man was to have as little to do with him as possible.
Since then, she had managed to turn evasion into an art form. His visits to his godfather were fleeting, infrequent and pre-planned. Bruno Giannella was not, she had long concluded, comfortable with spontaneity. Impulse did not feature highly in a life that seemed to have been programmed right down to the last minute. It was something for which she was eternally grateful because it gave her ample opportunity to coincide her departures from the house with exquisite timing, either just missing him or else seeing him while virtually on the hop.
Now, however, there was to be no such easy avoidance.
Joseph, his godfather, had been rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack the afternoon before. It had all been a tremendous shock and as soon as things had quiet-ened down somewhat she had telephoned his godson to tell him what had happened. It spoke volumes that she had to call nearly a dozen numbers before she had eventually been put through to him in his New York office and when she finally had made contact, she'd been subjected to a thinly veiled implication that she had somehow taken her time getting in touch with him. No sooner had she stammered her way into her explanation about the difficulties she had discovering his precise whereabouts, than he'd been briskly informing her that he would be on his way back to England immediately and that he would expect her to be at the house when he arrived the following day. The click of the telephone being hung up on her when she'd been virtually in mid-sentence had been an apt reminder of why she so actively disliked the man.
Not that there was any point brooding on the inevitable, she thought now, eyes fixed on the drive with all the nervous desperation of someone awaiting the hangman's noose. She had taken up position on the faded rust-coloured chair an hour before, when walking around the house had ceased to work as an effective courage-boosting exercise, and had not moved from her vigilant vantage point since. She reasoned that, if she had time to adjust to the sight of him before he swooped through the front door, then she might have a chance of steeling herself for his unpleasant impact.
In all events, the ploy didn't work because the minute the taxi swept up the drive every semblance of calm evaporated like a puff of smoke and her stomach went into immediate spasm.
In her limited dealings with Bruno Giannella, the one thing that Katy had always found supremely unfair was that power, wealth and intelligence could be harnessed together with such good looks. He deserved to be physically unfortunate. Or at least average. Instead, he had the sort of sensational dark looks that made women's heads snap round in stunned appreciation. Dark, glossy hair, the same colour as his eyes, a wide, sensual mouth and a bone structure that seemed to have been carved with a loving hand and an eye to perfection.
To Katy's mind, though, his scarily beautiful face was stamped with permanent coldness, his eyes were remote and detached and his mouth was cruelly forbidding.
When, shortly after she had begun working with Joseph, he had told her with a certain amount of grudging pride that his godson was quite something to be reckoned with when it came to the opposite sex, Katy had kept silent and wondered whether she was the only one who was immune to his so called legendary charm.
She watched Bruno furtively as he paid the taxi driver, picked up his overnight bag and his designer briefcase and then turned to look frowningly at the house. From a distance, Katy could almost kid herself that the man was made of flesh and blood. He moved, he spoke, he made mountains of money and was apparently a respected employer. And, of course, he adored his godfather. That much emotion she had caught in his eyes on the couple of occasions when she had been around him at the house. He couldn't be all bad.
Then the insistent jabbing on the doorbell shattered the illusion and Katy scuttled towards the front door to let him in. The minute she clapped eyes on him, she knew how she would feel. Gauche, awkward, unbearably plain and dowdy.
In fact, as she pulled open the door her eyes inadvertently slid away from the potently masculine figure towering in front of her and she cleared her throat nervously.
"Come in, Bruno. It's ... good to see you.' She stood back so that he could brush past her, barely bothering to glance in her direction. "How was your trip over? Okay?' Katy shut the front door and leaned against it for a bit of support.
Bruno strode into the hallway, took a little time out to absorb the atmosphere of the house - appropriately it was 'The Old School', considering his godfather had been a professor - before swinging round to confront the figure huddling against the front door.
If there was one thing that irritated the hell out of Bruno, it was to see someone cowering in front of him - and Katy West was cowering. Her brown curly hair was effectively hiding her downturned face and her hands were pressed behind her as if prepared at any given minute, to yank open the front door and hurtle down the path.
"We have to talk," he said flatly, with the insouciance of someone accustomed to giving orders, speaking his mind and being obeyed, "and I do not intend to stand here to conduct the conversation, so why don't you un-glue yourself from the door and perhaps get us both a cup of tea?"
Joseph sang her praises to high heaven and, for the life of him, Bruno couldn't understand why. The girl hardly ever muttered a word. If she had a sparkling, intelligent personality then she always took great care to keep it well hidden whenever he was around. He almost clicked his tongue in irritation as she slid past him towards the kitchen.
"So," he said as soon as they were in the kitchen, "tell me what happened. And leave nothing out.' He sat down heavily on one of the kitchen chairs and watched as she stuck some water on to boil and fetched two mugs from the dresser.
It felt peculiar to be here, without his godfather around. Bruno didn't like it. For all his high-flying lifestyle, his apartments in Paris, London and New York, this house represented the one constant in his life and his godfather was an integral part of it. The thought that he might be more seriously ill than he imagined, that he might die, filled him with the chill of dread.
Which did not predispose him to be any kinder to the slip of a girl busying herself with the tea.
"When exactly did ... did this thing happen?"
"I told you on the phone. Yesterday.' Katy had no need to look at him to feel his eyes boring into her.
"And could you look at me when I am talking to you? It's impossible having a conversation to someone who insists on speaking into her mug of tea!"
Katy duly looked at him and immediately felt unsteady. "He had just had his tea ..."
"I said, Joseph had just finished -"
Excerpted from His Virgin Secretary by Cathy Williams Copyright © 2004 by Cathy Williams. Excerpted by permission.
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