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She turned her attention to the last of the letters on her desk and flicked a glance at her wristwatch; it was four-thirty, almost time to go home. Usually at this time on a Friday evening she would have felt happy, the weekend would have stretched before her, filled with glorious freedom. Nile might have taken her to dinner or to a new wine bar or ...
She switched her mind away from Nile. The engagement was off; Nile was a thing of the past. At the age of twenty-nine, she was once again single. Two years wasted on a man who had turned from Prince Charming into Quasimodo in one afternoon. How could she have been so stupid? she asked herself for what had to be the hundredth time.
The printer next to her spewed out the letters and she snapped them up, running an eye over them to check for any errors, trying very hard not to think about Nile Flynn for one moment longer. Trouble was, it was very difficult, especially as she was in a complete financial mess because of him.
The connecting door through to the inner sanctum of the office opened and Steven Cavendish's voice boomed out. "Chloe, did you ring Manchester to inform them I'd be up there tomorrow?"
"Yes, Steven, I did."
"What about Mr Steel - did you deal with that problem in the Waterside Restaurant?"
"Yes, it's all sorted out." Chloe stood up and ran a smoothing hand down over her smart black suit, mentally preparing herself to face Steven Cavendish. She needed to ask him for a pay rise, had been waiting all week for the right moment to bring the subject up, but unfortunately there didn't seem to be a right time to catch her boss these days.
He had been involved in months of lengthy negotiations to secure a takeover bid of a chain of restaurants and the strain of long hours plus a series of setbacks had made him unusually grouchy. But she really couldn't wait any longer, she told herself firmly. Whether it was the right moment or not she was going to have to ask him tonight before leaving.
Chloe reached for the desk diary, picked up the letters that she needed him to sign and with a determined stride headed into the heart of the Cavendish kingdom.
She was momentarily taken aback to find that her boss wasn't seated behind his enormous desk, but was standing with his back to the office, looking out at the wintry silver cast of the London skyline.
"Weather forecast says it's going to snow," she said briskly. "You'd better allow extra travelling time for your journey up north tomorrow."
"Yes ... thanks, Chloe, but I don't think a bit of snow will affect the company jet."
"Actually they are predicting blizzard conditions."
"Are they? Well, as they rarely get their predictions right, I'll worry about that tomorrow."
"Please yourself." Chloe put the letters down on the desk.
"You need to sign these ... oh, and John Hunt asked if you would ring him back before six."
Steven didn't turn from his contemplation of the outside world.
She noticed he had taken the jacket of his suit off; it was hung over the back of his chair.
Chloe's eyes flicked over his tall, broad-shouldered frame. For a man who spent long hours stuck behind a desk he had a very attractive body, powerfully honed and very masculine.
The first time she had met him when she had come here for an interview two years ago she had been quite bowled over by just how attractive Steven Cavendish was. Raven-dark hair and dark eyes that seemed to slice straight into her very soul had unnerved her slightly. He had the cool confidence of a person very much at ease with himself, very aware of his own powerful sensuality. He was also a complete stickler to work for and that, oddly enough, had been a wonderful salvation for their working relationship.
Chloe liked his straightforward businesslike approach. She enjoyed the challenges that working for him presented, maybe because she was a bit of a perfectionist herself. After the first week she had forgotten to be overwhelmed by his good looks, and anyway she'd had Nile in her life. Besides which there really hadn't been time for such matters in the fast pace of their office. She'd had to focus solidly on her job as his PA. And, though she said it herself, they made a formidable team.
She tore her eyes away from Steven and opened her diary. "Renaldo rang to say he's running late, but he'll be here for your appointment around five-thirty."
"Great - another late evening." Steven's voice was dry.
"Oh, and I ordered the bouquet of flowers to be delivered to your house on Wednesday afternoon. A dozen red roses, as you requested."
He must be going to deliver the roses in person, she thought. Chloe wondered fleetingly about this latest development between him and his glamorous girlfriend Helen. She had organised many a bouquet for his women over the last two years but never red roses. Then again, according to the grapevine in the office, none of the women he had dated since the death of his wife three years ago seemed to have lasted as long as Helen Smyth-Jones.
Chloe tapped her pencil against the diary as she waited for him to spring into action. After two years she knew her boss fairly well, had learnt to judge all his moods so that she could evaluate pretty accurately what was coming next.
She knew now, for instance, not to be misled by this quiet, reflective stance. When Steven Cavendish fell silent he was usually at his most dangerous, the quicksilver of his mind regrouping, planning ahead and about to burst forward with some earth-shattering remark or whirlwind of activity.
She flicked over the pages of the diary as she waited for him. It was best to adopt a laid-back attitude when Steven was like this. To try and hurry him into signing the letters, or indeed to try and swing the conversation towards her pay rise, would be a big mistake at the moment.
"It's Beth's sixth birthday next week, isn't it?" she reflected softly. It was an observation, not a reminder. Chloe spent her time reminding Steven about appointments and schedules but she didn't have to remind him about his daughter. Beth was the one person who took priority in his mind over business.
"Yes, it is. You remember everything, don't you?" Steven turned around then and looked at her, his dark eyes skimming sketchily over the glasses she always wore and the way her honey-blonde hair was severely drawn back from her face. Chloe was used to him looking at her like that, as if he was seeing her but focusing on something else.
"Well ... I write everything down. And it's my job to remember everything," she said quietly.
He nodded. "Well, we can't stand about talking all day," he muttered. "Better get these letters signed."
Chloe smiled to herself. She had been right; Steven was focused on something else, and as usual it was work.
"Did you ask John Hunt what he wanted to talk to me about?"
"Yes, it's the normal problems at the Cavendish Cuisine Restaurant," Chloe answered. "He said to tell you that the chef there may be a creative genius, but he's as mad as the proverbial March hare."
Excerpted from The Millionaire's Agenda by Kathryn Ross Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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