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The Italian Boss's Secret Child

By:Trish Morey

The Italian Boss's Secret Child
Trish Morey

       CHAPTER ONE





WHAT a day! So far he'd chewed out two suppliers who'd let him down, put  the fear of God into his IT guru for delivering late-again-on the new  system and had a stand up fight with the HR manager, who seemed to think  it was a good idea to pay every single employee a Christmas bonus  generous enough to rival the gross national product of any number of  tiny Third World nations.

Not yet eleven o'clock and already he'd been through the wars.

Not yet eleven o'clock and already it was shaping up to be the perfect day.

He pushed back in his leather recliner chair until he was almost  horizontal, hands clinched behind his neck, legs stretched out with feet  on the desk, and breathed deeply. Closing his eyes against the  Melbourne skyline shown to full advantage from the floor to ceiling  glass windows of his Collins Street office tower, he relived the  turbulence of the morning's altercations.

Ruthless, difficult and a man to be feared, Damien DeLuca's reputation  as the toughest CEO south of the equator wasn't likely to come under  threat today.

Which suited him just fine. He was proud of his reputation-after all, it  had taken him long enough to build. As a first generation Australian,  the youngest son of Italian parents who'd left everything they'd known  to make a new life in Australia over thirty-five years ago, he'd worked  hard to get where he was. From humble beginnings helping out in the  family's former market garden, he'd made the most of a scholarship to a  top college, then followed it up with a successful stint at university.  Seven years later he'd walked away with a double degree plus a masters  in business and a raft of eager employment offers to select from.

It had given him the start he'd needed. Within two years he'd set up his  own financial sector software company and begun making inroads into the  same competition that had been so desperate to snap him up.

A few more years on and he'd taken over two of his rivals and was an  acknowledged innovator in the industry. Other companies now looked to  his for an example of how to succeed. It was hardly a secret. He hadn't  built Delucatek by being soft. He'd got where he was by being tough, by  expecting a lot from himself and from his staff.

And he'd done it on his own. He had no time for partnerships, no time  for sharing control. He was the boss, pure and simple. That was the way  he ran his life, in the boardroom as well as in the bedroom. The women  that flitted in and out of the scene were soon made aware of it too,  even if they sometimes thought they could change him. They were wrong.  He didn't need them.

Damien DeLuca didn't need anyone.

He pulled an arm out from behind his head, flashed a look at his TAG  Heuer watch and frowned. Enid Crowley, his PA, should be returning from  her break with his coffee any minute. Meanwhile his marketing manager,  Sam Morgan, was late for his meeting to present the international  marketing proposal to launch Delucatek's newest software package.

Very late!

He swung his legs down off the desk, irritated that someone who needed  his approval to splash hundreds of thousands of the firm's dollars on  what he understood was a radically different campaign hadn't even  bothered to show up yet. It didn't augur well for the proposal.

It augured even less well for Sam.





What a day! She didn't need this. Not today.

Philly Summers hugged the file containing the proposal to her chest, her  eyes still itching with the threat of tears, her throat tight and  constricted, and knowing that all too soon she'd be deposited at the  executive level of the DeLuca Tower whether she liked it or not.

Of all the days for Sam to go down with flu!

In normal circumstances she'd be celebrating being called in at the last  minute to present the marketing plan to the famous if feared head of  Delucatek. After three months working as Sam's deputy, it was clear to  her that he was a man more than happy to take a disproportionate amount  of credit for the work of others.

In normal circumstances she'd consider it a real coup, having the chance  to present what was ninety-nine per cent her very own proposal to the  man who could make or break her career in a moment.

In normal circumstances …

But these weren't normal circumstances.

Today she had more important things to worry about than where her career  might be headed or in seizing opportunities when they came knocking.

She sucked in a deep breath, seeking fortification, but the oxygen  charged air was no match for the memory of the words that played over  and over again in her mind. "I'm sorry but legally we can't help you. If  you were married … "

If she was married! Now there was a joke. Bryce had well and truly put  paid to any chance of that when he walked out two months ago, barely one  week before their wedding. Besides which, if she'd been married she  wouldn't have had to seek the help of the IVF clinic in the first  place-she might already be pregnant.                       
       
           



       

But she wasn't married.

No man. No prospects. Not a chance of conception unless she considered  trawling the late night bars and clubs for a stud. Her teeth dragged a  path through her lip-gloss. Would she dare? Was a promise made to a  dying woman worth stooping to such levels?

Her mother's pain-racked face flashed in her mind's eye, her once soft  features twisted and hardened with both the progress of her disease and  the anguish of deep, unbearable loss. She thought she'd do anything to  assuage her mother's pain, to give her hope, but could she resort to  picking up some no-name one-night stand in order to fulfil her promise?

'No,' she whispered on a shiver, her voice cracking in the empty lift.  No question. She might be desperate but reckless wasn't her style. She  lifted a hand and swiped at the sudden moisture on her cheek,  recognising that maybe it meant there was no way she'd be able to fulfil  the promise she'd made.

Maybe she'd just have to accept that she wasn't going to be able to give  her mother the grandchild she craved more than anything-the grandchild  she needed to make her smile again. It wasn't fair but maybe it just  wasn't going to happen.

The button marked forty-five lit up with a ding, breaking into her  thoughts as the door slid open on to the plush foyer of the executive  level. She stepped out, fingers white-knuckled on the file as she tried  to turn her thoughts back to the proposal. This meeting needn't take  long. She could focus on the proposal for the few minutes it would take.  She knew it by heart after all, given she'd written just about every  word of it.

Then she'd go back to her office and think this whole thing through  again. She couldn't give up now-not while there was still time. Based on  her mother's prognosis, she still had three months to conceive. Three  chances to fulfil her promise. She would come up with something. There  had to be another way.

There had to be.





'Sam! You're late. Come right through.'

The voice, deep and edged with impatience, emanated from the open office  door adjacent to the unmanned workstation to her left. Dazzling light  from the windows beyond illuminated the door, bright and radiant, before  splashing into the corridor and bouncing along the walls.

'Sam!'

It had to be him. She'd only spoken to him once and that had been very  early on in her three months with the company when she'd answered Sam's  unattended phone, but if she wasn't mistaken that was the voice of  Delucatek's esteemed and highly feared leader, Damien DeLuca. Admittedly  it had been a very brief conversation as Sam had just about wrenched  the phone from her ear when he'd discovered who was calling, but she'd  lay money on those strident and demanding tones originating from the man  everyone quietly and reverently called Numero Uno.

She tugged at the hem of her sensible tweed jacket, steeling herself for  her meeting with a man coffee room chatter insisted was more to be  feared than the Godfather.

'Sam!'

Philly jumped in irritation. Godfather indeed! Just where did this guy  get off? He might be her boss and admittedly he might even be a genius  where his business was concerned, but she just wasn't in the mood to put  up with some egomaniac today. Especially not some shouting egomaniac.

She sucked some air into her lungs and pushed herself down the corridor  in the direction of the open office door. The voice beat her to it.

'Well?' the voice rang out again impatiently before someone suddenly  dimmed the lights. She blinked and opened her eyes to see the body that  owned the voice filling much of the doorway. At least that accounted for  the diminution of light-as his broad-shouldered body effectively  blocked the dazzling rays. She stopped dead, just paces away, as his  backlit form loomed tall and dark over her, his outline glowing like an  aura, features indiscernible as her eyes tried to adjust to the sudden  shift in the light.

She knew what he looked like, the marketing department had a filing  cabinet full of photos of the boss in various poses-working at his desk,  leaning over an employee at his computer, standing in the forefront of  the building named after him.

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