Oh-So-Sensible Secretary / Housekeeper's Happy-Ever-After. Jessica Hart
the corner from Gibson & Grieve’s head office which sells the lightest, jammiest, sugariest ones I’ve ever tasted.
I’d fallen into the habit of buying one with a cappuccino on my way into work, and waiting for a quiet moment to get my blood sugar level up later in the morning, but today I’d decided not to. I wasn’t sure what sort of boss Phin Gibson would prove to be, and I didn’t want to be caught unawares with a sugar moustache or jammy fingers on our first day working together. This job was a big opportunity for me, and I wanted to impress him with my professionalism.
But how could I do that if he wasn’t there?
Exasperated, I went back to my e-mail to Ellie, my friend in Customer and Marketing.
No problem, Ellie. To be honest, I was glad of something to do. There’s a limit to what you can do as a PA without a boss—who STILL hasn’t appeared, by the way. You’d think he could be bothered to turn up on time on his first day in a new job, but apparently not. Am already wishing I was back in the Chief Executive’s office. I have a nasty feeling Phin and I aren’t going to get on, and unless
From: [email protected]
Sent: Monday, January 18, 09:52
Subject: THANK YOU!
Summer, you are star! Thank you SO much for putting those figures together for me—and on a Friday afternoon, too! You saved my life (again!!!!!).
Any sign of Phin Gibson yet??? Can’t wait to hear if he’s as gorgeous as he looks on telly!
‘Well, well, well…Lex must know me better than I thought he did.’
The deep, amused voice broke across my exasperated typing and my head jerked up as I snatched my fingers back from the keyboard.
And there—at last!—was my new boss. Phinneas Gibson himself, lounging in the doorway and smiling the famously lop-sided smile that had millions of women, including my flatmate Anne, practically dribbling with lust.
I’d never dribbled myself. I’m not much of a dribbler at the best of times, and that oh-so-engaging smile smacked a little too much of I’m-incredibly-attractive-and-charming-and-don’t-I-know-it for my taste.
My first reaction at the sight of Phin was one of surprise. No, thinking about it, surprise isn’t quite the right word. I was startled.
I’d known what he looked like, of course. It would have been hard not to when Anne had insisted that I sit through endless repeats of Into the Wild. It’s her flat, so she gets control of the remote.
If you’re one of the two per cent of the population fortunate enough never to have seen it, Phin Gibson takes ill-assorted groups of people to the more inhospitable places on the planet, where they have to complete some sort of task in the most appalling conditions. On camera.
According to Anne, it makes for compulsive viewing, but personally I’ve never been able to see the point of making people uncomfortable just for sake of it. I mean, what’s the point of hacking through a jungle when you can take a plane?
But don’t get me started on reality TV. That’s another thing I can’t bear.
So I was braced against the extraordinary blue eyes, the shaggy dark blond hair and the smile, but I hadn’t counted on how much bigger and more immediate Phin seemed in real life. Seeing him on the small screen gave no sense of the vivid impact of his presence.
I’m not sure I can explain it properly. You know that feeling when a gust of wind catches you unawares? When it swirls round you, sucking the air from your lungs and leaving you blinking and ruffled and invigorated? Well, that’s what it felt like the first time I laid eyes on Phin Gibson.
There was a kind of lazy grace about him as he leant there, watching me with amusement. So it wasn’t that he radiated energy. It was more that everything around him was energised by his presence. You could practically see the molecules buzzing in the air, and Phin himself seemed to be using up more than his fair share of oxygen in the room, which left me annoyingly short of breath.
Not that I was going to let Phin guess that.
‘Good morning, Mr Gibson,’ I said. Minimising the screen just in case, I took off the glasses I wear for working at the computer and offered a cool smile.
‘Is it possible that you’re my PA?’ The blue eyes studied me with a mixture of surprise, amusement and appreciation as Phin levered himself away from the doorway and strolled into the room.
‘I’m Summer Curtis, yes.’
A little miffed at his surprise, and ruffled by the amusement, I pushed back my chair so that I could rise and offer my hand across the desk. Some of us were professional.
Phin’s fingers closed around mine and he held onto my hand as he looked at me. ‘Summer? No.’
‘I’m afraid so,’ I said a little tightly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I was called something sensible, like Sue or Sarah, but never more than at that moment, with those blue eyes looking down into mine, filled with laughter.
I tried to withdraw my hand, but Phin was keeping a tight hold on it, and I was uncomfortably aware of the firm warmth of skin pressed against mine.
‘You are so not a Summer,’ he said. ‘I’ve never met anyone with a more inappropriate name. Although I did know a girl called Chastity once, now I come to think of it,’ he added. ‘Look at you. Cool and crisp. Conker-brown hair. Eyes like woodsmoke. What were your parents thinking when they called you Summer instead of Autumn?’
‘Not about how embarrassing it would be for me to go through life named after a season, anyway,’ I said, managing to tug my hand free at last. I sat down again and rested it on the desk, where it throbbed disconcertingly.
‘I must thank Lex,’ said Phin. To add to my discomfort, he perched on my desk and turned sideways to look at me. ‘He told me he’d appointed a PA for me, but I was expecting a dragon.’
‘I can be a dragon if required,’ I said, although right then I felt very undragon-like. I was suffocatingly aware of Phin on the other side of the desk. He wasn’t anywhere near me, but his presence was still overwhelming. ‘I’m fully qualified,’ I added stiffly.
‘I feel sure Lex wouldn’t have appointed you if you weren’t,’ Phin said.
He had picked up my pencil and was twirling it absently between his fingers. It’s the kind of fiddling that drives me mad, and I longed to snatch it from him, but I wasn’t that much of a dragon.
‘What’s your brief?’ he added, still twirling.
The look he shot me was unexpectedly acute. ‘Don’t tell me Lex hasn’t put you in here to keep an eye on me.’
I shifted uncomfortably.
‘You’re the most sensible person around here,’ had been Lex Gibson’s exact words when he offered me the job. ‘I need someone competent to stop that idiot boy doing anything stupid. God knows what he’d get up to on his own!’
Not that I could tell Phin that. I admired Lex, but I wondered now if he was quite right. Phin didn’t seem like an idiot to me, and he certainly wasn’t a boy. He wasn’t that much older than me—in his early thirties, perhaps—but he was clearly all man.
‘Your brother thought it would be helpful for you to have an assistant who was familiar with the way the company operates,’ I said carefully instead.
‘In other words,’ said Phin, interpreting this without difficulty, ‘my brother thinks I’m a liability and wants you to keep me in order.’
I’d leapt at