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At The Boss's Beck And Call

By:Anna Cleary


ONLY a few minutes late. No need to panic.

Alighting from an overheated bus into bustling George Street on a Sydney winter morn, waiting, shivering, at the crossing lights in her little charcoal suit and her suede knee boots, making the dash with the crowd across to the opposite pavement, Lara Meadows reminded herself she was strong.

She was brave, she was still beautiful-well, in an artistic sense. From a distance. If she dived into a fountain in her underwear she could come out looking as shapely as any goddess of the silver screen, if more generously covered than some. Though only where it counted. If her hair got wet it would go limp and lose the pale spun silk effect she still managed to achieve to confound her critics, but she could still look reasonable.

Her hand flew to the scar at the base of her nape.

Not that she was competitive, by any means, or that looks meant anything in the publishing world. No, it was far more important that she was smart and professional, she was good at her job, she could speak up for herself…

So why were her insides churning like a cement mixer?

Alessandro was only a man, after all. Six years ago he hadn’t been formidable. He’d been the ultimate in amusing, sophisticated and charming. Take him apart bit by bit-remove his thick black hair, his smiling dark eyes, his sensuous mouth, his voice, his long powerful limbs, his chest…and what would he be left with to make her knees knock together? She had done nothing to be ashamed of. He was the one who should be worried.

She pushed through the glass doors of the Stiletto building and sprinted across to the lift. No one else from her floor was around. They’d all be upstairs in the meeting room, eager to con the big bosses from across the globe into believing they were always punctual.

Eager to impress Alessandro.

She gulped in a breath. She’d meant to be early, but plaits took time, and Vivi liked them just right. Then there was the walk to school-it just didn’t seem fair to rush a five-year-old fascinated by every living creature along the way.

She reminded herself of how tolerant and easy-going Alessandro was. Surely he was the last person anyone needed to fear as a boss.

Unless…She experienced a definite stab of fear. Unless it was someone who hadn’t yet managed to inform him of something he might think concerned him quite dramatically.

Alessandro Vincenti accepted a file from the quavering secretary with grave thanks. The woman, bequeathed to him by the failed Managing Director of Stiletto Publishing, and possibly anxious about her future, backed towards the door, poised to scurry to safety. Alessandro sent her a reassuring smile. It had never been his pleasure to intimidate gentle creatures. Let the waters of the pond of life remain clear and unruffled.

With his habitual ease he tilted back in the leather chair and opened the folder. Australians could be an interesting people, he remembered, if a little bizarre. A nation that idolised bushrangers and ridiculed its politicians was not as uncomplicated as it might appear on the surface. What was the affectionate term they used to describe their rebels? Larrikin, that was it. They smiled at their larrikins.

In an effort to familiarise himself with the staff, on paper at least, before he soothed them with his motivational spiel, he leafed through the sparse array of pages pertaining to the various departments, if they could be called that. Dio, had anyone ever checked the record-keeping in this place? What had the MD been doing before his meltdown?

He took a moment to peruse the personnel list.

Curious, the poetry contained within names.

Halfway through the editorial section, his gaze arrested and locked to one name. A name that sprang from the page and clicked on a part of him he’d long since believed inert. A name redolent of drowsy afternoons on sun-drenched beaches, blonde silken hair and the scent of summer grass. His blood quickened to the recollection of a dusk, fragrant with honeysuckle and the promise of love.#p#分页标题#e#

Could it be…? Could it really be…?

‘Er…Beryl.’ He glanced up at the secretary, arresting her doorwards creep and causing her to jump. ‘This L. Meadows now-who is he?’ He held the page a little away from him between long, fastidious fingers.

The secretary’s words fell over each other in her haste to please. ‘She. She’s a she. I mean a-a woman, Mr Vincenti. Lara Meadows. She’s been with Stiletto now for about six months. Bill-I mean Mr Carmichael, our MD, I mean ex-MD, liked her very much.’

A long-dormant visceral nerve made a raw pinch in Alessandro’s gut.

So. She was still in the world.

For the benefit of the secretary he allowed no facial muscle to register his shock, pretending interest in other names on the list of Scala Enterprises’ most recently acquired workforce.