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'Jake Trevelyan?' Cassie repeated blankly. 'Are you sure?'
'I wrote his name down. Where is it?' Joss hunted through the mess on her desk and produced a scrap of paper. 'Here— Jake Trevelyan,' she read. 'Somebody in Portrevick—isn't that where you grew up?—recommended us.'
Puzzled, Cassie dropped into the chair at her own desk. It felt very strange, hearing Jake's name after all this time. She could still picture him with terrifying clarity, sitting astride that mean-looking machine, an angry young man with hard hands and a bitter smile. The memory of that kiss still had the power to make her toes curl inside her shoes.
'He's getting married?'
'Why else would he get in touch with a wedding planner?'
'I just can't imagine it.' The Jake Trevelyan Cassie had known wasn't the type to settle down.
'Luckily for us, he obviously can.' Joss turned back to her computer. 'He sounded keen, anyway, so I said you'd go round this afternoon.'
'Me?' Cassie looked at her boss in dismay. 'You always meet the clients first.'
'I can't today. I've got a meeting with the accountant, which I'm not looking forward to at all. Besides, he knows you.'
'Yes, but he hates me!' She told Joss about that last encounter outside Portrevick Hall. 'And what's his fiancée going to think? I wouldn't want to plan my wedding with someone who'd kissed my bridegroom.'
'Teenage kisses don't count.' Joss waved them aside. 'It was ten years ago. Chances are, he won't even remember.'
Cassie wasn't sure if that would make her feel better or worse. She would just as soon Jake didn't remember the gawky teenager who had thrown herself at him at the Allantide Ball, but what girl wanted toknow that she was utterly forgettable?
'Anyway, if he didn't like you, why ring up and ask to speak to you?'Joss asked reasonably. 'We can't afford to let a possible client slip through our fingers, Cassie. You know how tight things are at the moment. This is our best chance of new work in weeks, and if it means being embarrassed then I'm afraid you're going to have to be embarrassed,' she warned. 'Otherwise, I'm really not sure how much longer I'm going to be able to keep you on.'
Which was how Cassie came to stand outside a gleaming office-building that afternoon. Its windows reflected a bright September sky, and she had to crane her neck to look up to the top. Jake Trevelyan had done well for himself if he worked somewhere like this, she thought, impressed in spite of herself.
Better than she had, that was for sure, thought Cassie, remembering Avalon's chaotic office above the Chinese takeaway. Not that she minded. She had only been working for Joss a few months and she loved it. Wedding planning was far and away the best job she had ever had—Cassie had had a few, it had to be admitted—and she would do whatever it took to hang on to it. She couldn't bear to admit to her family of super-achievers that she was out of work.
'Oh, darling!'her mother would sigh with disappointment, while her father would frown and remind her that she should have gone to university like her elder sister and her two brothers, all of whom had high-flying careers.
No, she had to keep this job, Cassie resolved, and if that meant facing Jake Trevelyan again then that was what she would do.
Squaring her shoulders, she tugged her jacket into place and headed up the marble steps.
Worms were squirming in the pit of her stomach but she did her best to ignore them. It was stupid to be nervous about seeing Jake again. She wasn't a dreamy seventeen-year-old any longer. She was twenty-seven, and holding down a demanding job. People might not think that being a wedding planner was much of a career, but it required tact, diplomacy and formidable organizational-skills. If she could organise a wedding—well, help Joss organise one—she could deal with Jake Trevelyan.
A glimpse of herself in the mirrored windows reassured her. Luckily, she had dressed smartly to visit a luxurious hotel which one of their clients had chosen as a venue that morning. The teal-green jacket and narrow skirt gave her a sharp, professional image, Cassie decided, eyeing her reflection. Together with the slim briefcase, it made for an impressive look.
Misleading, but impressive. She hardly recognised herself, so with any luck Jake Trevelyan wouldn't recognise her either.
Her only regret was the shoes. It wasn't that they didn't look fabulous—the teal suede with a black stripe was perfect with the suit—but she wasn't used to walking on quite such high heels, and the lobby floor had an alarmingly, glossy sheen to it. It was a relief to get across to the reception desk without mishap.
'I'm looking for a company called Primordia,' she said, glancing down at the address Joss had scribbled down. 'Can you tell me which floor it's on?'
The receptionist lifted immaculate brows. 'This is Primordia,' she said.
'What, the whole building?' Cassie's jaw sagged as she stared around the soaring lobby, taking in the impressive artwork on the walls and the ranks of gleaming lifts with their lights going up, up, up…
'Apparently he's boss of some outfit called Primordia,' Joss had said casually when she'd tossed the address across the desk.
This didn't look like an 'outfit' to Cassie. It looked like a solid, blue-chip company exuding wealth and prestige. Suddenly her suit didn't seem quite so smart.
'Um, I'm looking for someone called Jake Trevelyan,' she told the receptionist. 'I'm not sure which department he's in.'
The receptionist's brows climbed higher. 'Mr Trevelyan, our Chief Executive? Is he expecting you?'
Chief Executive? Cassie swallowed. 'I think so.'
The receptionist turned away to murmur into the phone while Cassie stood, fingering the buttons on her jacket nervously. Jake Trevelyan, bad boy of Portrevick, Chief Executive of all this?
An intimidatingly quiet lift took her up to the Chief Executive's suite. It was like stepping into a different world. Everything was new and of cutting-edge design, and blanketed with the hush that only serious money can buy.
It was a very long way from Portrevick.
Cassie was still half-convinced that there must be some mistake, but no. There was an elegant PA, who was obviously expecting her, and who escorted her into an impressively swish office.
'Mr Trevelyan won't be a minute,' she said.
Mr Trevelyan! Cassie thought of the surly tearaway she had known and tried not to goggle. She hoped Jake—sorry, Mr Trevelyan—didn't remember her flirting with him in that tacky dress or telling him that she never wanted to see him again. It wasn't exactly the best basis on which to build a winning client-relationship.
On the other hand, he was the one who had asked to see her. Surely he wouldn't have done that if he had any memory of those disastrous kisses? Joss must be right; he had probably forgotten them completely. And, even if he hadn't, he was unlikely to mention that he had kissed her in front of his fiancée, wasn't he? He would be just as anxious as her to pretend that that had never happened.
Reassured, Cassie pinned on a bright smile as his PA opened a door into an even swisher office than the first. 'Cassandra Grey,' the woman announced.
It was a huge room, with glass walls on two sides that offered a spectacular view down the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
Not that Cassie took in the view. She had eyes only for Jake, who was getting up from behind his desk and buttoning his jacket as he came round to greet her.
Her first thought was that he had grown into a surprisingly attractive man.
Ten years ago he had been a wiry young man, with turbulent eyes and a dangerous edge that had always left her tongue-tied and nervous around him. He was dark still, and there were traces of the difficult boy he had been in his face, but he had grown into the once-beaky features, and the surliness had metamorphosed into a forcefulness that was literally breathtaking. At least, Cassie presumed that was why she was having trouble dragging enough oxygen into her lungs all of a sudden.
He might not actually be taller, but he seemed it—taller, tougher, more solid somehow. And the mouth that had once been twisted into a sneer was now set in a cool, self-contained line.
Cassie was forced to revise her first thought. He wasn't attractive; he was gorgeous.
Well. Who would have thought it?
His fiancée was a lucky woman.
Keeping her smile firmly in place, she took a step towards him with her hand outstretched. 'Hel…' she began, but that was as far as she got. Her ankle tipped over on the unfamiliar heels and the next moment her shoes seemed to be hopelessly entangled. Before Cassie knew what was happening, she found herself pitching forward with a squawk of dismay as her briefcase thudded to the floor.
She would have landed flat on her face next to it if a pair of hard hands hadn't grabbed her arms. Cassie had no idea how Jake got there in time to catch her, but she ended up sprawling against him and clutching instinctively at his jacket.
Just as she had clutched at his leather jacket ten years ago when he had kissed her.
'Hello, Cassie,' he said.
Mortified, Cassie struggled to find her balance. Why, why, why, was she so clumsy?
Her face was squashed against his jacket, and with an odd, detached part of her brain she registered that he smelt wonderful, of expensive shirts, clean, male skin and a faint tang of aftershave. His body was rock-solid, and for a treacherous moment Cassie was tempted to cling to the blissful illusion of steadiness and safety.
Possibly not a good move, if she wanted to impress him with her new-found professionalism. Or very tactful, given that he was a newly engaged man.
With an effort, Cassie pulled herself away from the comfort of that broad chest. 'I'm so sorry,' she managed.
Jake set her on her feet but kept hold of her upper arms until he was sure she was steady. 'Are you all right?'
His hands felt hard and strong through the sleeves of her jacket, and he held her just as he had done that other day.
Cassie couldn't help staring. It was strangely dislocating to look into his face and see a cool stranger overlaying the angry young man he had been then. This time the resentment in the dark-blue eyes had been replaced by a gleam of amusement, although it was impossible to tell whether he was remembering that kiss, too, or was simply entertained by her unconventional arrival.
Cassie's cheeks burned. 'I'm fine,' she said, stepping out of his grip.
Jake bent to pick up the briefcase and handed it back to her. 'Shall we sit down?' he suggested, gesturing towards two luxurious leather sofas. 'Given those shoes, it might be safer!'
Willing her flaming colour to fade, Cassie subsided onto a sofa and swallowed as she set the briefcase on the low table. 'I don't normally throw myself into the client's arms when we first meet,' she said with a nervous smile.
The corner of Jake's mouth quivered in an unnervingly attractive way. 'It's always good to make a spectacular entrance. But then, you always did have a certain style,' he added.
Cassie rather suspected that last comment was sarcastic; she had always been hopelessly clumsy.
She sighed. 'I was rather hoping you wouldn't recognise me,' she confessed.
Jake looked across the table at her. She was perched on the edge of the sofa, looking hot and ruffled, her round, sweet face flushed, and brown eyes bright with mortification.
The wild curls he remembered had been cut into a more manageable style, and she had slimmed down and smartened up. Remarkably so, in fact. When he had looked up to see her in the doorway, she had seemed a vividly pretty stranger, and he had felt a strange sensation in the pit of his stomach.
Then she had tripped and pitched into his arms, and Jake wasn't sure if he was disappointed or relieved to find out that she hadn't changed that much after all.
The feel of her was startlingly familiar, which was odd, given that he had only held her twice before. But he had caught her, and all at once it was as if he had been back at that last Allantide Ball. He could still see Cassie as she sashayed up to him in that tight red dress, teetering on heels almost as ridiculous as the ones she was wearing now, and suddenly all grown-up. That was the first time he had noticed her lush mouth, and wondered about the woman she would become.
That mouth was still the same, Jake thought, remembering its warmth, its innocence, remembering how unprepared he had been for the piercing sweetness that just for a moment had held them in its grip.
Now here she was again, sitting there and watching him with a wary expression in the big brown eyes. Not recognise her?
Jake smiled. 'Not a chance,' he said.
Oh dear. That wasn't what she had wanted to hear at all. Almost reluctantly, Cassie met the dark-blue gaze and felt her skin prickle at the amusement she read there. It was obvious that Jake remembered the gawky teenager she had been all too well. Those kisses might have been shattering for her, but for him they must have been just part of her gaucheness and lack of sophistication.
She lifted her chin. 'It's a long time ago,' she said. 'I didn't think you'd remember me.'
Jake met her eyes blandly. 'You'd be surprised what I remember,' he said, and the memory of the Allantide Ball was suddenly shimmering between them. He didn't have to say anything. Cassie just knew that he was remembering her hopeless attempts to flirt, and her clumsy, mortifyingly eager response to his kiss, and a tide of heat seemed to sweep up from her toes.
She jerked her eyes away. 'So,' she began, but all at once her voice was so high and thin that she had to clear her throat and start again. 'So…' Oh God, now she sounded positively gravelly! 'What took you back to Portrevick?' She managed to find something approaching a normal pitch at last. As far as she knew, Jake had left the village that awful day he had kissed her on his motorbike and had never been back.
Jake's expression sobered. 'Sir Ian's death,' he said.
'Oh yes, I was so sorry when I heard about that,' said Cassie, latching on to what she hoped would be a safe subject.
'He was such a lovely man,' she remembered sadly. 'Mum and Dad went back for the funeral, but one of our clients was getting married that day so I was on duty.'