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Unlocking Her Boss's Heart

By´╝ÜChristy McKellen


CARA WINSTONE CLIMBED the smooth slate steps to the shiny black front door of the town house in South Kensington and tried hard not to be awed by its imposing elegance.

This place was exactly the sort of house she’d dreamed about living in during her naïve but hopeful youth. In her fantasies, the four-storey Victorian house would be alive with happy, mischievous children, whom she and her handsome husband would firmly but lovingly keep in line and laugh about in the evenings once they’d gone to bed. Each room would have a beautiful display of fresh seasonal flowers and light would pour in through the large picture windows, reflecting off the tasteful but comfortable furnishings.

Back in real life, her topsy-turvy one-bed flat in Islington was a million miles away from this grand goddess of a mansion.

Not that it was going to be her flat for much longer if she didn’t make good on this opportunity today.

The triple espresso she’d had for breakfast lurched around in her stomach as she thought about how close she was to being evicted from the place she’d called home for the past six years by her greedy landlord. If she didn’t find another job soon she was going to have to slink back to Cornwall, to the village that time forgot, and beg to share her parents’ box room with the dogs until she got back on her feet.

She loved her parents dearly, but the thought of them all bumping elbows again in their tiny isolated house made her shudder. Especially after they’d been so excited when she’d called six months ago to tell them about landing her dream job as Executive Assistant to the CEO of one of the largest conglomerates in the country. Thanks to her mother’s prodigious grapevine, word had quickly spread through both the family and her parents’ local community and she’d been inundated with texts and emails of congratulations.

The thought of having to call them again now and explain why she’d been forced to hand in her notice after only three months made her queasy with shame. She couldn’t do it. Not after the sacrifices they’d made in order to pay for her expensive private education, so she’d have the opportunities they’d never had. No, she owed them more than that.

But, with any luck, she’d never be forced to have that humiliating conversation because this chance today could be the ideal opportunity to get her feet back under the table. If she could secure this job, she was sure that everything else would fall into place.

Shifting the folder that contained her CV and the glowing references she’d accumulated over the years under her arm, she pressed the shiny brass bell next to the door and waited to be greeted by the owner of the house.

And waited.

Tapping her foot, she smoothed down her hair again, then straightened the skirt of her best suit, wanting to look her most professional and together self when the door finally swung open.

Except that it didn’t.

Perhaps the occupier hadn’t heard her ring.

Fighting the urge to chew on the nails she’d only just grown out, she rang again, for longer this time and was just about to give up and come back later when the door swung open to reveal a tall, shockingly handsome man with a long-limbed, powerful physique and the kind of self-possessed air that made her heart beat a little faster. His chocolate-brown hair looked as though it could do with a cut, but it fell across his forehead into his striking gold-shot hazel eyes in the most becoming manner. If she had to sum him up in one word it would be dashing—an old-fashioned-sounding term, but somehow it suited him down to the ground.

His disgruntled gaze dropped from her face to the folder under her arm.

‘Yes?’ he barked, his tone so fierce she took a pace backwards and nearly fell off the top step.

‘Max Firebrace?’ To her chagrin, her voice came out a little wobbly in the face of his unexpected hostility.

His frown deepened. ‘I don’t donate to charities at the door.’

Taking a deep breath, she plastered an assertive smile onto her face and said in her most patient voice, ‘I’m not working for a charity. I’m here for the job.’

His antagonism seemed to crackle like a brooding lightning storm between them. ‘What are you talking about? I’m not hiring for a job.’

Prickly heat rushed across her skin as she blinked at him in panicky confusion. ‘Really? But my cousin Poppy said you needed a personal assistant because you’re snowed under with work.’

He crossed his arms and shook his head as an expression of beleaguered understanding flashed across his face.

‘I only told Poppy I’d look into hiring someone to get her off my back,’ he said irritably.

She frowned at him in confusion, fighting the sinking feeling in her gut. ‘So you don’t need a PA?’