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His After-Hours Mistress

By:Amanda Browning

His After-Hours Mistress
Amanda Browning

       CHAPTER ONE




GINNY HARTE jumped at the sudden sound of a crash from the office next  door, and glanced round to frown at the closed door which linked the two  offices. As far as she was aware, her fellow director of the  family-owned chain of hotels, Roarke Adams, was still at lunch. Her  fingers paused over the keypad of her PC as she waited for another  noise. There followed the distinct sound of something large, probably  the wastepaper basket, hitting a wall. An unholy grin slowly spread  across her face. All had not gone well, it seemed. What a shame.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, she thought, with a wry grimace.

Pushing back her chair, she rose gracefully to her feet, walked round  the desk and headed for the closed door and the momentarily silent room.  She was tall, even without her three-inch heels. Slim yet curvaceous,  she had flashing green eyes, and the tempestuous nature her thick swathe  of red hair indicated. Experience, however, had taught her to keep it  in check and now, at the age of twenty-six, she presented a cool, calm  demeanour to the outside world.

She had worked alongside Roarke Adams for a little over a year now, ever  since his grandfather, the owner of the hotels, had hired her to  co-ordinate the modernisation and decorating of the various properties.  All other aspects of the business fell into Roarke's court, but when he  bought a new property it was up to her to decide what was needed to  bring it into line with the other hotels. When he did his regular tours  of the hotels she went with him to oversee any planned redecoration, and  they had a surprisingly good working relationship. Which was nothing  short of amazing considering the fact that they didn't actually like  each other.

It had taken under a month for them to sum each other up and decide the  other was wanting. Battle lines had therefore been drawn and their  verbal exchanges had become a source of much interest and amusement to  the staff. Skirmishes occurred on a daily basis unless one or other of  them was out of the office. Roarke never missed an opportunity to get in  a dig at her and, as she had never been one to refuse a fight, she gave  as good as she got.

She knew he thought she had ice-water in her veins instead of blood. He  didn't believe she had an ounce of passion in her whole body, and  wouldn't know what to do with a real man. He viewed Daniel, her  boyfriend, with open mockery because he was everything Roarke was not.  Loyal, steadfast, undemanding. OK, so it wasn't a passionate  relationship, but Ginny had trodden that path once, allowing her  passions to rule her head, and it had led to disaster. It wasn't a road  she intended to travel again. Daniel was what she wanted now, and she  was pretty sure he was going to propose soon. When he did, she had every  intention of accepting him.

If her lifestyle was a joke to her co-director, his was only worthy of  her scorn. Roarke, in her opinion, was little more than an unprincipled  womaniser. Women went in and out of his life in a more or less constant  stream. Like a modern-day Casanova. Any woman who came within range was  fair game to him, and even the strongest of them turned to jelly when he  looked at them with his glittering eyes and disarming smile. It  wouldn't surprise her in the least if he didn't carve a notch on his  bedpost for every woman he seduced.

Though she didn't care for his love-them-and-leave-them lifestyle, she  knew he was generous and knew how to treat a woman well, whilst his  interest remained. And, to be fair, he never approached married women,  or those who were otherwise spoken for. Roarke had a code of sorts. He  only played the game with those women who knew the rules, and he never  became involved with the women who worked for him. His life had two  distinct areas, and the one only spilled into the other when she had to  console the latest cast-off. A job she did not enjoy.

She had made her disapproval clear but, rather than taking offence,  Roarke had been amused by it. He had mockingly informed her he wasn't  going to be reprimanded by a strait-laced harridan. So it had begun, and  that was the state of affairs between them now as she reached the  connecting door. A wise woman might have drawn back, but Ginny  recognised an opportunity when it presented itself. There was no way she  could work on without knowing what had happened, so she reached for the  door handle.

Pushing the door open, she had to duck hastily as an object hurtled in  her direction. Straightening up, she stared down at the pencils which  littered the floor around her like so much strange confetti, then back  at the man who now stood immobile by the desk.

Honesty compelled Ginny to admit Roarke was, without doubt, the  best-looking man she had ever seen. At thirty-two he was in his prime.  Tall and leanly muscular, he had thick black hair, roguishly laughing  grey eyes, and a mouth that could quirk into a smile to take the breath  away. Right this minute, though, he wasn't smiling. On the contrary, his  expression most closely approximated thunderous. It caused her lips to  twitch.                       
       
           



       

'Nice lunch?' she enquired jauntily, and caught his fingers flexing as if he wished they were around something-like her neck.

His fine nostrils flared as he took a steadying breath. 'No, I have not  had a nice lunch. In fact, I've just had the worst few hours of my  life!'

'Don't tell me some little air-head actually had the sense to say no to  you,' she drawled with heavy irony, and in a lightning mood swing he  grinned at her.

'I don't date air-heads, sweetheart. I much prefer intelligent women;  you know that,' Roarke drawled back, watching through glittering eyes as  she squatted down and began to collect up the pencils. The process  caused her skirt to ride up her thighs. 'Nice legs,' he murmured  approvingly, then as she shot a narrow-eyed glare his way he changed  tack. 'Did I hit you?' he asked with less than genuine concern, and  Ginny snorted as she retrieved the holder and stood up again.

'No, but I might just hit you if you don't keep your eyes to yourself,'  she warned as she set the holder on the nearest bookcase and folded her  arms.

'It's your own fault for being so easy on the eye. A man just can't help himself,' he told her ironically.

He was flirting with her, a tactic he had used from time to time when he  wanted to irritate her more than usual. She ignored it-as usual. 'Well,  a man had better try,' she added firmly.

Roarke slipped his hands into the trouser pockets of his fashionable  Italian designer suit, and rocked back on his heels. 'You're a hard  woman. Does anything get through to you? Do you feel passion? Do you  even know what it is? What about Daniel? How does that relationship  work? Is he even allowed to kiss you, or does he go home each evening  aching with frustration, whilst you sleep soundly in your virginal bed?'

Ginny kept her cool and raised her eyebrows at him mockingly. 'You don't  really expect me to answer that, just because you're in a foul mood?'

'No, I expected you to up and slap my face. Why didn't you?'

She gave him an old-fashioned look. 'Probably because it was what you wanted,' she responded dryly and he laughed.

'You're learning, sweetheart. There's hope for you yet,' he taunted as  he sauntered over to the window and looked out at the city below them.

'I'm not your sweetheart, Roarke. It isn't a situation I would ever  aspire to occupy,' Ginny countered, though she didn't expect it to have  any more effect than her previous attempts to have him stop calling her  by the affectionate term.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. 'A man could get frostbite trying to warm you up. Daniel has all my sympathy.'

Ginny silently ground her teeth at his insolence. 'Fortunately, Daniel doesn't need it,' she said, which caused him to smile.

'No, he's pretty much a cold fish himself.'

She looked at him steadily. 'I don't find him in the least bit cold.  There's a lot to the old adage that you shouldn't judge a book by its  cover.'

'Which could equally apply to me, sweetheart,' Roarke pointed out, but Ginny immediately shook her head.

'Oh, no, you're an open book, Roarke. Everyone knows the plot where  you're concerned. The wise ones put you back on the shelf,' she retorted  mockingly, whereupon his eyes gleamed with mischief.

'Maybe, but the ones who don't have a much better time.'

Ginny shook her head sadly. 'You're incorrigible, and I have more  important things to do with my time than waste it bandying words with  you,' she told him bluntly, and made to leave, but Roarke held up a hand  to forestall her.

'That can wait. Shut the door and sit down. I need to talk to you,' he  commanded. His words were without a trace of his earlier mockery, and  yet carried an edge of unease. Sensing something intriguing in the air,  Ginny dutifully closed the door.

'I thought you didn't consider me qualified to be an agony aunt,' she  remarked as she stepped over various objects which had borne the brunt  of his temper.

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