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The Irresistible Tycoon
By Helen Brooks
Thorndike PressCopyright © 2001 Helen Brooks
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Kim, I'm not at all sure that this is the right step to take, I'm really not. Y ou've enough on your plate as it is; you know that."
"I've no choice, Maggie, and you know that," Kim answered steadily.
"But ..." Maggie Conway stared helplessly at her friend as she ran out of words.
"Look, just be an angel and pick up Melody after school, okay? I shouldn't be much later than five but you know how interviews are; they might keep me waiting for a while."
"No problem," Maggie said unhappily.
"Thanks. I don't know what I'd do without you," Kim said with heartfelt warmth as she gave Maggie a brief hug.
Kim was still thinking about her last words as she left the comfort of Maggie's spacious, open-plan apartment and stepped into the crisp frosty air outside the big Victorian house which had been converted into several self-contained flats.
Maggie was an unlikely-looking angel, being as round as she was tall with a shock of vibrant curly ginger hair and freckles covering every inch of her skin, but an angel she was nevertheless, Kim told herself silently as she walked briskly to the bus stop. How she would have got through the last two traumatic years without Maggie's unfailing support and good humour she didn't know.
She reached the bus stop just as the bus drewround the corner and, once seated, stared unseeingly out of the window, quite oblivious to the overt stare of the young, good-looking man sitting opposite her who clearly couldn't take his eyes off the golden-haired beauty on the other side of the aisle.
Maggie had stepped in as unpaid child-minder when the need arose - as it did frequently - confidante, stalwart friend, advisor and a whole host of other roles, Kim reflected warmly. The only good thing to come out of her relationship with Graham - apart from Melody, of course - was that he had introduced her to Maggie.
Graham ... Kim's soft full mouth tightened and her brown eyes narrowed for a moment before she forced her thoughts away from the spectre in her mind.
This wasn't the time to think of Graham, not with such an important interview looming, she told herself firmly, straightening in the seat and squaring her slender shoulders. She understood the competition for the post of secretary to the chairman and managing director of Kane Electrical was fierce, and she needed to be focused and clear from the outset.
It was another fifteen minutes before the bus dropped her on the outskirts of Cambridge and almost outside the huge site which Kane Electrical occupied, and within five minutes she was standing in Reception explaining to the model-slim, beautifully coiffured receptionist that she had an appointment with Mr Lucas Kane at half-past two.
"Right." The girl's expertly made-up eyes had made a swift summing up of the tall, discreetly dressed woman in front of her, and now she gave a practised smile as she said blandly, "If you would like to take a seat for a moment I'll tell Mr Kane's secretary you're here, Mrs Allen."
"Thank you." Kim had flushed slightly under the scrutiny. Her winter coat was a good one, but not new, neither were her shoes and handbag, whereas the receptionist's expertly cut grey silk suit screamed a designer label and her hair could only have been cut by one of the most expensive salons in Cambridge.
Still, she wasn't going to let this girl or anyone else intimidate her, Kim told herself fiercely as she took the proffered seat and sank into inches of soft leather upholstery. She might not be wearing the very latest fashion or have her hair styled by Vidal Sassoon but she was an excellent secretary, as her references confirmed.
She raised her small chin abruptly and stared straight ahead, her hands resting in her lap and her knees demurely together, before a restrained commotion at the side of her - as a tall, dark man with what could only be described as an entourage swept into the building - brought her head swinging round.
Whether it was the receptionist's less than tactful appraisal, or the fact that everyone on the perimeter of the man seemed to be falling over themselves to get his attention, Kim didn't know, but she found herself staring at the back of the personage in question with unmitigated dislike.
He certainly knew how to make an entrance, she thought waspishly, and he was so full of his own importance he was almost bursting with it! How she disliked the fawning and obsequious servility that went with wealth and power in some quarters.
The party was making for the lifts at the far side of the reception in a subdued furore of which the man leading seemed totally unaware, and Kim still had her eyes fixed on his back, her face expressing her feelings only too clearly, when he suddenly turned and to her shock and surprise looked straight at her.
She was conscious of a pair of rivetingly hard, metallic silver-grey eyes taking in the whole of her in a stunningly swift perusal that was quite devastating before she could wipe her face of all expression, and then she saw dark eyebrows rise in mordant disdain. The message was unmistakable.
He had recognised what she was thinking, recognised it and dismissed it - and her - as beneath his contempt, she thought as her face turned scarlet. And she couldn't blame him, she really couldn't. If nothing else she had been unforgivably rude.
In the split second before the lift doors opened and the man turned to enter Kim's mind raced, but there was no time to do anything but watch him disappear. The doors closed, there was the faintest of purrs as the lift ascended, and that was that.
She was aware of sinking back in the seat and it was only then she became conscious she had been holding herself rigid. How embarrassing! She shut her eyes for the briefest of moments and swallowed hard, glancing across at the receptionist, who was speaking to someone on the telephone. What must he have thought? But then he'd left her in no doubt what he had thought, she added with a touch of dark humour.
She was looking at the receptionist without seeing her now, her mind continuing to dissect every moment of the little drama which had unfurled so unexpectedly. Who was he? Obviously someone important: one of the directors of the firm maybe?
An awful thought occurred to her but she pushed it away immediately. No, it wouldn't be him - not Lucas Kane, she told herself firmly. That would be too disastrous, and if nothing else she was due some good fortune - well overdue, as it happened.
"Mrs Allen." Kim came out of her rueful musing with a little jolt to find a tall, rather formidable-looking woman standing in front of her.
"Good afternoon." A hand was extended and as Kim rose she made a suitable reply, shaking the other woman's hand. "I'm June West," the woman continued, "Mr Kane's secretary. If you would like to come with me ..."
"Thank you." As they walked towards the waiting lift Kim glanced at the other woman from under her eyelashes. June West was the person the successful applicant would have to follow, and if Lucas Kane's present secretary was anything like as efficient as she looked they would have their work cut out. It didn't help Kim's confidence an iota.
"Mr Kane is running a little late." As the lift doors closed, June turned to her with a polite smile. "We've had one panic after another this morning."
Kim nodded, smiling in turn before she said, "Is that usual? The panics, I mean?"
"I'm afraid so." June was looking hard at her. "As his secretary you would have to be used to working under pressure most of the time and making decisions for yourself. Would that be a problem?"
Being under pressure and making decisions for herself? That had been her life for the last two years - and before - Kim reflected silently. "No. No, it wouldn't."
"Good." The smile was warmer now. "I've worked for Mr Kane for the last ten years and I can honestly say there's never been a dull moment. It hasn't always been easy, and the job is certainly not your average nine-to-five, but he's a very fair employer and prepared to give and take, if you know what I mean."
Excerpted from The Irresistible Tycoon by Helen Brooks Copyright © 2001 by Helen Brooks. Excerpted by permission.
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