When Kit was hired as personal assistant to Marcus Maitland, she was ready to resist him — if her sensible suits, glasses and severe hairstyle didn't do it, then her cool, untouchable manner would.
However, during a working weekend away, Marcus started getting very personal with his assistant. Without her glasses and prim clothes, Kit felt naked — which suited Marcus just fine!
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"I WOULD like to strangle that woman with one of her diamond necklaces!"
Kit looked up as her outer office door opened, inwardly wincing as it was thrown back with such force that it slammed against the wall. Inwardly, because outwardly she always remained the calm and efficient personal assistant that she was...
She raised enquiring brows as her boss, Marcus Maitland, strode purposefully across the room to his own office, receiving a narrow-eyed glare for her efforts, his handsome face harsh and grimly set.
"I don't want to be disturbed," he bit out gratingly as he wrenched open his own office door. "By anyone," he added forcefully, slamming that door behind him with equal force.
Kit breathed out slowly, turning to Lewis Grant, the lawyer for Maitland Enterprises, as he entered the room. "I take it the meeting with Angus Gerrard didn't go as planned?" she prompted softly.
"Not exactly." Lewis grimaced as he sat on the edge of her desk to look across at the blankness of the door so recently closed in both their faces. He was tall and blond and in his early thirties.
Marcus and Lewis had set out earlier for their meeting with Angus Gerrard believing the takeover of the other man's newspaper empire was only a formality; a mere signing of the papers was to be performed. But, from Marcus's comment when he'd come in, and his obvious fury, Kit had a feeling that it had been far from a formality!
"Nothing that you did or didn't do, I hope?" Because she also knew, from six months of working as Marcus Maitland's personal assistant, that he worked so hard himself he was not a man to accept incompetence or compromise in others.
Not that she could blame him; as a multimillionaire, involved in numerous diversified companies and holdings, he had little time to spare for other people's mistakes.
"No — thank goodness!" Lewis gave a rueful grin. "The lady he wants to strangle with her diamond necklace?" Kit prompted knowingly.
Lewis nodded. "Catherine Grainger." Exactly whom Kit had thought Marcus was referring to. But had hoped that he wasn't.
She hadn't known of it when she'd started working for Marcus Maitland, but there seemed to be some sort of long-running competitiveness between Maitland Enterprises and Grainger International. Catherine Grainger was the major shareholder and head of the latter. In the six months that Kit had worked for Marcus Maitland this was the third time the two of them seemed to have locked horns over a business acquisition.
Kit grimaced. "What happened this time?" Lewis shrugged. "She outbid and outmanoeuvred us. Angus Gerrard signed a contract with her yesterday," he enlarged as Kit continued to look at him.
"Oops!" she breathed slowly. "Oops, indeed," Lewis acknowledged as he continued to stare at the door Marcus had closed so decisively behind him minutes ago. "You know, Marcus mentioned this is the third time this has happened in the last few months," he said slowly.
Kit looked up at him enquiringly as his words echoed her own recent thoughts.
"It's probably nothing," Lewis dismissed briskly as he stood up. "There's obviously no point in my hanging around here — " he smiled wryly ' — so I may as well get back to my own office — if only to shred these defunct contracts!" He picked up his briefcase from beside Kit's desk before leaving for his own office further down the carpeted corridor.
Kit was still frowning as she watched him go. Surely it was all a coincidence that Marcus Maitland had lost yet another deal because Catherine Grainger had outmanoeuvred him...? To attribute the blame to anything else was surely to bring into question the integrity of everyone who worked closely with Marcus Maitland. Including herself.
"Daydreaming, Miss McGuire?" a female voice queried nastily. "Does that mean that Marcus isn't back yet?" Andrea Revel added as she strolled into Kit's office completely unannounced, bringing the aroma of her heavy perfume with her.
Kit kept her expression deliberately bland, knowing that it wouldn't be her secretary, Laura's, fault that this woman had managed to get in here without interference. The latest in what appeared to have been a long line of women in Marcus Maitland's life, Andrea Revel seemed to think she was a law unto herself when it came to Marcus.
The other woman was astoundingly beautiful, with her pale blonde hair, slanted green eyes and a figure that had all the men in her immediate vicinity turning to admire her, especially as she usually wore some stunning creation or another. As a fashion buyer for one of the most prestigious stores in the city, Andrea had no problem finding or buying such clothing.
But Andrea also had to be one of the most unpleasant women Kit had ever met, and hard as nails with it. At least, away from Marcus Maitland she was. When in his presence, Andrea somehow contrived to look small, vulnerable, and completely feminine.
However, Kit refused to rise to the bait about sitting around daydreaming while her boss was out of the office. "Actually, he's back — "
"Oh, good." Andrea smiled as she turned towards Marcus's office, showing even white teeth behind the glossy red lipstick she wore, which matched her short, fitted dress.
"But he doesn't want to be disturbed," Kit added firmly as she stood up.
Andrea gave her a dismissive glance. "He'll want to see me," she said confidently, reaching for the door handle. "Go away," she bit out impatiently as Kit tried to move smoothly in front of her. "You take your duties as Marcus's PA too seriously, as far as I'm concerned," she added scathingly. "In fact, I've told Marcus as much on several occasions."
Kit drew herself up to her full height of five feet ten inches and looked at Andrea down the length of her nose as she breathed deeply in an effort to stop a cutting reply from leaving her lips. Andrea might be gone from Marcus's life in a matter of months — in fact, to Kit's disapproval, the secretaries in the company were taking bets as to how long this particular relationship was going to last! — but in the meantime she had to attempt to be polite to her. Even if sometimes she did inwardly feel like wiping that superior smile off the other woman's face!
"It doesn't seem to have affected my current employment," Kit finally returned in a pleasant voice — not quite succeeding in hiding her resentment, after all.
Green eyes narrowed venomously. "Why, you — " 'I'll just ask Mr Maitland if he is free to see you now," Kit continued lightly, opening the door to Marcus's office and closing it firmly behind her. After all, this was nothing personal, just part of her job.
But that certainly hadn't been her most successful attempt at handling Andrea Revel, she inwardly berated herself as Marcus raised his head to look scowlingly across at her for her intrusion.
At the age of thirty-nine, Marcus Maitland had to be one of the most handsome men Kit had ever seen, with that midnight-dark hair and deep blue eyes. His nose was a straight slash, his lips sculptured, his chin square and determined. But she made sure always to regard him with cool impassivity.
Because she had been warned by Angie Dwyer, this man's previous PA, when she had come for her interview for the job seven months ago, that the worst possible thing she could do was to fall for Marcus — that he never fell in love with any of the women he was involved with, his relationships with them only ever lasting a couple of months.
Considering the circumstances that had forced Kit to leave her last job — her boss seemed to have considered it normal policy to be involved with his assistant — she'd had no intention of falling in love with Marcus. Until she had actually met the man himself. Then she'd had trouble believing that any woman within a twenty-mile radius could actually stop herself from being attracted to him!
The term 'tall, dark and handsome' definitely applied to Marcus Maitland, but there was so much else that was attractive about him too. For one thing — when he wasn't furiously angry, as he was this morning, he was capable of charming even the hardest heart, and his wealth and success had given him a self-confidence that made him stand out in any crowd.
In a word, Marcus Maitland was gorgeous! But Kit took great care never to let him see what she really thought of him.
Besides, having taken account of Angie Dwyer's warning, Kit played down her own looks when at work, wearing her copper-coloured hair in a French pleat, keeping her make-up minimal, discarding her contact lenses for thick-rimmed glasses during the day in an effort to lessen the effect of the deep grey of her eyes and surrounding dark lashes. The jackets of the dark business suits she wore were shapeless, the skirts always discreetly knee-length and her shoes low-heeled.
There was no way, she had decided, after looking at her reflection in the mirror that first morning she had come to work here, that any man seeing her like this would consider it part of her job to keep his bed warm if they should happen to be away on business together!
Kit had spent too long running round desks, and hotel bedrooms, trying to avoid her previous boss's less-than-welcome advances, to want a repeat of it in her new job.
Although once she had actually met Marcus Maitland she hadn't been quite so sure about that...!
Still, she had deliberately chosen her role as demure, plain, featureless, figureless Kit McGuire, and so far she had stuck to it.
But a few more conversations like the one just now with Andrea Revel, and she might just decide to throw caution to the wind and —
No, she wouldn't, she gently rebuked herself; she enjoyed her work here, the people she worked with, the man she worked for, and most important of all — she needed the job! Besides, how would it look on her c.v. if, when she applied for another position, she had to own up to being dismissed for insubordination to her boss's girlfriend?
But it would be nice, just for once, if Marcus could see what she looked like when away from the office, with her hair loose, no glasses to hide the luminous depths of her eyes, a pair of denims that fitted snugly to —
"Well?" Marcus snapped harshly, tapping his fingers impatiently on his desk top as he continued to wait for an explanation for her intrusion after he had explicitly told her he didn't want to be disturbed.
At the same time completely bursting Kit's bubble of illusion where, as in Hollywood movies, Marcus saw her change from a moth into a butterfly and instantly fell in love with the way she really looked. A fairy tale!
She straightened. "Miss Revel would like to see you," she told him briskly.
"When?" 'Now. She's waiting outside in my office," she explained as he continued to scowl.
His brow cleared. "Then why didn't you tell me that when you first came in?" He stood up to move impatiently around her and open the inter-office door himself. "Come in, Andrea," he invited. "I was going to call you in a few minutes anyway; I have something I need to discuss with you."
Kit stiffened as the other woman gave her a triumphant look in passing, her hands closing at her sides, her jaw clenching. Andrea deliberately went to link her arm with Marcus's, before standing on tiptoe to kiss him lingeringly on the mouth.
Kit felt her stomach turn as Marcus bent his head with the intention of returning the kiss, quickly turning on her heel and leaving the room, closing the door behind her to lean weakly back against it.
So much for Angie Dwyer's warning! Kit had known by the end of the first week of working with Marcus that she was deeply attracted to him. Not the cleverest thing she had ever done in her life, but probably not the worst either. After all, Marcus had no idea how she felt, so at least her pride was still intact. It was only her heart that went AWOL every time she looked at him!
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