Oh-So-Sensible Secretary / Housekeeper's Happy-Ever-After. Jessica Hart
pressed my lips together. ‘It’s not a question of permission,’ I said. ‘But there’s no point in having a PA unless you let me know where you are. I need to be able to make appointments for you, and I can’t do that if I’ve no idea when you’re going to turn up.’
‘Who wants an appointment?’
‘Well, no one, as it happens,’ I was forced to admit. ‘But they might have done. It’s a matter of principle.’
‘Principle? That sounds serious.’ Phin dropped the post back onto the desk and without thinking I squared up the pile, looking up when he sucked in his breath alarmingly.
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, startled.
‘I don’t know…’ He was squinting at the pile I’d tidied. ‘I think those papers at the bottom might be half a millimetre out of alignment.’
‘Sarcasm—excellent,’ I said. Sarcastically. That was all I needed. ‘Thank you so much.’
He held up his hands. ‘It’s nothing, honestly. Just one more service we offer.’
My lips tightened. I tried to pick up the conversation. ‘Perhaps we should agree a system.’
‘A system,’ said Phin, testing the word as if he’d never heard it before. ‘Fine. What sort of system?’
‘If you let me have your mobile number, so that I can get hold of you if I need to, that would be a start. And then perhaps we could sit down and go through your diary.’
‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’ He clenched his fist and punched it in the air, to demonstrate an enthusiasm I was perfectly aware he didn’t feel. ‘Let’s do it now, in fact.’
We exchanged mobile numbers, and then I carried the diary into his office. I would put all the details on the computer later, but it was easier at this stage to use an old-fashioned hard copy.
I sat down with the diary on my knee, while Phin fished out a personal organiser and leaned back in his chair so that he could prop his feet on the desk.
‘What do you want to know?’
‘I’d better have everything.’ I smoothed the page open, admiring in passing how nice my hands looked. I take care of my nails, and today they were painted a lovely pale pink called Dew at Dawn. ‘If you’re the face of Gibson & Grieve, you’ll be expected to appear at various functions and I’ll need to know when you’re available.’
He had an extraordinarily complicated social life, with two or three events an evening as far as I could make out. I couldn’t help comparing it with my own , which largely consisted of painting my nails in front of the television, watching Anne getting ready to go out with Mark and feeling miserable about Jonathan.
‘This is great,’ said Phin when we’d finished. ‘I never need to remember anything by myself ever again. Maybe I won’t mind being an executive after all. What else is there to do?’
‘There’s a meeting to discuss the new media strategy at half past ten,’ I said, handing him a folder. ‘Your brother suggested you went along if you were here on time. I’ve noted all the salient points, and included copies of recent minutes so you know the background.’
‘Salient points?’ he echoed, amazed. ‘I didn’t realise people still said things like that any more!’
I chose to ignore that, and looked pointedly at my watch instead. ‘You should get going. You’ve only got a couple of minutes and you don’t want to be late.’
‘You mean you don’t want me to be late,’ said Phin, but he swung his legs down from the desk.
I could hardly wait for him to go. I practically shoved him out of the door towards the lifts. Lex’s office was on the floor above, and as soon as I saw him step into the lift I scurried down the corridor to the kitchen to make myself some coffee.
My office, and Phin’s of course, was in a prime location on the corner of the building, with fabulous views of Trafalgar Square, but more importantly we were at the end of the corridor, which meant that nobody dropped in just because they were passing.
Even so, I closed the door as a precaution and prepared to enjoy my doughnut in private. I settled happily behind my desk with my coffee and cleared a space. Eating a doughnut could be a messy business. Perhaps that was why it always felt faintly naughty to me.
At last. I pulled out the doughnut and took a bite, mumbling with pleasure as my teeth sank into the sugary dough.
And then froze as the door opened and Phin came in. ‘I forgot that file—’ he began, and then it was his turn to stop as he took in the sight of me, sitting guiltily behind my desk, doughnut in hand and mouth full.
His eyes lit with amusement. ‘Aha! Caught red-handed, I see.’
Blushing furiously, I dropped the doughnut and brushed at the sugar moustache I could feel on my top lip. ‘I thought you’d gone,’ I blustered, mortified at having been caught in such an unprofessional pose.
‘Now I know why you were so keen to get rid of me,’ said Phin. ‘This is a new side to you. How very, very unlikely. Who would have thought that sensible Summer Curtis would have a doughnut addiction!’ He leant conspiratorially towards me. ‘Does anyone else know?’
‘It’s not an addiction,’ I said, trying for some dignity. ‘I just work better if I’ve had some sugar in the morning.’
‘Well, I’m delighted to find that you’ve got a weakness. I was finding all that perfection just a little intimidating.’ He grinned. ‘It’s good to know that when it comes down to it you can’t resist temptation either.’
Of course, then I had to prove him wrong.
The next day, when I called in to buy my usual cappuccino on my way into work, I refused the doughnut Lucia offered and felt virtuous. This would be the start of a new regime, I vowed. I didn’t need a sugar fix, anyway. That was just silly. I would stick to coffee—a much less embarrassing habit and one that was less likely to lead to humiliation.
And I made it all the way to the lifts before I started to regret my resolution. Why shouldn’t I have a mid-morning snack? It wasn’t as if eating a doughnut was immoral or illegal. I blamed Phin for making me feel guilty about it. It was more satisfying than blaming myself.
Already I could already feel the craving twitching away in the pit of my stomach, making me tense. It didn’t bode well for the rest of the day, and I hoped everyone would give me a wide berth. I wasn’t known for my easygoing attitude on the best of days, and I had a feeling this most definitely wasn’t going to be a good one.
At least Phin managed to turn up before ten o’clock, looking distinctly the worse for wear.
‘I hope I get a gold star for turning up early,’ he said.
I thinned my lips, still illogically determined to blame him for my doughnut-less day. ‘I’d hardly call ten early,’ I said repressively.
‘It is for me.’ Phin yawned. ‘I had a very late night.’
I wondered how much his lack of sleep was due to the beautiful Jewel Stevens. According to last night’s Metro, the two of them were ‘inseparable’. Not that I was scouring gossip columns for news of my new boss, you understand. In spite of taking a book to read on the tube every day, I somehow always ended up devouring the free paper on the way home. When it’s pressed into your hand, it seems rude not to.
Phin’s name just happened to catch my eye—honest. There had even been a picture of him at some party, with Jewel entwined around his arm. I know I’m in no position to talk about stupid names, but really…Jewel? I’d put money on the fact that she was christened Julie. In the picture Phin had a faintly wary look, but that