Overtime in the Boss's Bed (6 page)

BOOK: Overtime in the Boss's Bed
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She turned away, but not before he’d seen her confusion.

She
was confused?

That made two of them.

Ignoring the urge to barge into the ballroom, sweep her over his shoulder and lug her to his room, where they’d hole up for a week, he headed for the study.

Work would keep him focussed, centred, as it always did when his world tilted crazily out of control.

It had worked once before.

It sure as hell better do the job now.

CHAPTER EIGHT

S
TARR
slipped off her killer heels as she exited the back door, wishing she could wear ballet flats to work, wiggling her toes in relief before heading down the path leading to the cottage.

If the gardens were impressive during daylight, they took on a new dimension in the moonlight. The pool sparkled with strategically placed lights, turning the water a translucent aquamarine, the grass took on the properties of emerald velvet, and the lights embedded in both sides of the pathway created a welcoming guide to home.

Home.

Something she’d always yearned for—something she’d prayed for as a child, beseeching Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and anyone else who would listen to her pleas.

But the people she’d needed to listen the most—her parents—had never paid heed. They’d continued on their merry way, skipping from city to city, chasing the next audition, the next big break. They’d dragged her all over Australia, venturing as far as London
once to star in a pantomime, never caring that their only child wanted the one thing they couldn’t give her: security.

A home. A real home, complete with knick-knacks and stacks of magazines and the general clutter people accumulated after living in one place for more than six months.

Instead she’d lived out of a suitcase, trying to share her parents’ enthusiasm for each new place they settled, failing dismally when they picked up and moved again when the mood took them.

Foolishly, she’d thought she’d found that home with Sergio—had loved buying cookbooks and tapas platters and the magazines she’d happily stacked in a corner of their lounge room.

That dream had disappeared too—yet leaving him hadn’t been as traumatic as leaving the home she’d created for them.

Now she’d found her version of idyllic, and as she tripped up the steps of the cottage, unlocked the door and let herself in, she mentally slapped herself for falling in love with a place in a week—especially a place she’d have no option but to leave.

With a heavy sigh she closed her eyes, leaned against the door, willing the cottage to morph into an ugly, cold abode.

She opened them and there it was, still as warm and cosy and utterly appealing as it had been the first moment she’d set foot in here.

This
was a home, all golden-hued and warm and inviting. She’d never felt so comfortable, so secure, in
a place she’d only just moved in to. But she couldn’t get too cosy.

She needed to find a job in her own field, find a place to live, and while staying in the cottage was bliss, spending every waking moment in Callum’s company was sheer torture.

Today had been hell.

Her early-morning workout should have relaxed her, eased some of her tension. Instead, being cooped up in Callum’s office all day, having him bark orders and snap on the phone and look over her shoulder, had had her walking a fine line between quitting and sticking it out.

She needed this job. The only reason she’d gritted her teeth and smiled and acted as if she didn’t have a care in the world as she’d completed every task he’d set her.

In all honesty she’d had worse bosses. Divas who’d pushed her, harangued her, made her stand at the barre and stretch until she’d thought her muscles would snap. International professionals who’d had their leotards in a twist while screaming at the chorines to stay in line, can-can higher, kazatsky lower.

She’d sweated litres and bitten back tears through a torturously long flamenco session, torn her Achilles’ tendon during a carioca-criolla-mambo marathon, and fainted after an all-day session with a Polish choreographer who’d made her repeat the mazurka and polo-naise until her arches cramped and her toes bled.

Compared to those control freaks she could handle working with Callum without getting her tutu in a knot.

Her glance fell on a tiny jade elephant perched on the
mantelpiece, its trunk jauntily up—signalling good luck, apparently.

It wasn’t the only elephant in the room. The other one was right there with them every second of the day, whether they wanted to acknowledge it or not.

Here she was, holed up in the cottage, while the sexist man she’d ever met was probably slipping between satin sheets gloriously naked. What she wouldn’t give to march back over to the house and demand they pick up where they’d left off with that poolside kiss.

But they’d drawn the line, wouldn’t cross it again. Besides, getting physical with Callum a second time around would change their relationship, no matter how clear the rules, and she’d never been one of those girls able to compartmentalise her life.

When she got involved with a guy it was heart and soul, and handing her wary heart to a man like Callum would be like dancing
en pointe
with a broken toe: absolutely agonising.

He didn’t do involvement, he’d made that clear, and while she agreed on principle, she knew the practice would be much harder.

Over the last week she’d toyed with the idea of a transient, light-hearted, no-strings-attached fling before slapping the idea down. There was no denying the itty-bitty twinge of hope in her heart that having fun with Callum might lead to more.

She liked being in a relationship, liked the intimacy, the hand-holding, the shared jokes. She loved snug
gling up to a man last thing at night, waking in the crook of his arm first thing in the morning, and she really, really loved what happened in between.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out she had security issues, that she needed a relationship to feel safe. It was why she’d stuck it out with Sergio so long, despite her gut instinct screaming that they weren’t as close as she liked and never would be.

He’d suited her: same career, same circle of friends, same goals. But they’d started drifting apart after the first year. She’d glossed over it, throwing herself into making their apartment a home, content to pretend she had a great relationship when in fact it was mediocre.

And, while she’d wanted to chop off his philandering head when she’d walked in on him and his floozy in their bed, a small part of her had been glad he’d taken the decision out of her hands, leaving her no option but to leave.

Having a fling with Callum would be cathartic, would go a long way to cementing her new goal to have fun without the encumbrances of a relationship. But there was no denying her inner voice that made a mockery of her new pledge, discounting the fact they’d both agreed not to go there.

Muttering a few choice curses under her breath, she changed into her nightie, too tired to take the bath she’d hoped for, and slipped under the covers. She adored this bed—felt like a princess every time she slept under the filmy gauze draped from the top of the four posts.

The distant rumble of thunder grew closer as she
closed her eyes, hoping the storm passed quickly. She hated thunderstorms, courtesy of several doozies she’d faced as a kid in Queensland.

She’d never forget hiding crouched in a cupboard, hands over her ears, tears streaming down her cheeks, as howling winds rattled the windows and lightning lit up the darkness of their mobile home.

She’d been alone, of course. Her parents had been out for the evening, schmoozing some producer in the hope of a new role. How old had she been? Eight? Nine? Ironic that people needed a licence to drive a car but any fool could have a kid.

Her eyes flew open at a loud crack of thunder and she slipped further under the covers, wrapping her arms around herself in a comforting hug.

Okay, this was silly.

She’d lived through loads of thunderstorms, whether they frightened the bejeebies out of her or not, and this would be just another one.

Forcing herself to relax, she sat up, reached for the glass of water on the bedside table and took several sips.

A streak of lightning lit the sky, illuminated the room, and she tensed, bracing herself for the inevitable boom of thunder ten seconds later.

She waited, totally unprepared for the deafening crack, quickly followed by a huge explosion directly over her head.

Spilling half the water on her nightie, she dropped the glass and bolted for the door, terrified the roof would cave in on her head any second, as every power point
sizzled and the heating thermostat on the wall lit up with a loud crackle.

She could barely comprehend what had happened as her survival mechanism kicked in and she fled along the path, her bare feet skidding on the pavers, the rain pelting her skin.

The acrid smell of burning electrics filled her nostrils as she gulped in lungfuls of air, adrenalin pumping as her feet flew up the steps and she fell against Callum’s back door, thumping her fists against the glass, screaming as another crash of thunder broke over her.

‘Callum!’ she shouted, her fists picking up tempo, and suddenly the door opened and she was sobbing against his chest.

‘Shh…you’re okay. I’ve got you.’

With a strong arm wrapped around her and a hand stroking her hair she knew she would be, and as her heart-rate calmed she drew great, shuddering breaths, pulling back to swipe at her eyes.

‘The storm…lightning hit the cottage…explosion…’

The words tumbled out, almost incoherent, and he nodded.

‘I saw it from upstairs. A bolt hit the peak of the roof, exploded a few tiles. I was on my way down when I heard you thumping on the door.’

‘You have to do something! Those beautiful furnishings will be ruined. Water might leak inside and—’

‘I’ll handle it. Will you be okay if I leave you for a moment to go check?’

‘Uh-huh.’

She hated how her voice wobbled, and she gave him a gentle shove.

‘Go. I’ll be right here.’

He hesitated, brushing his thumb across her cheek before grabbing a torch from the nearby mudroom and ducking out into the rain.

Her teeth clattered as she rubbed her bare arms, willing him to come back ASAP, jumping as another crack of thunder boomed over the house.

Belatedly realising how cold and wet she was, she peered out of the back door, trying to see through the sleeting rain, feeling foolish when she realised she couldn’t see the cottage behind the towering hedge separating it from the house and pool.

She was jinxed. Destined to lose any home she cared about.

It had happened when she was seven in Adelaide, when her parents had actually stayed in one house for more than a year, and she’d decorated her room with posters and photos and bark paintings she’d made after scouring trees in the nearby hills.

It had happened with the harbourside apartment in Sydney, and now with the cottage—a place she’d stayed less than a fortnight.

‘A big fat jinx,’ she muttered, her heart leaping as a shadow darted through the rain, then giving an extra twist as she recognised a soggy Callum.

‘Is the place okay?’

‘Uh-huh. No water damage on the ceiling, but looks like there’s a hole in the roof where the tiles exploded.
I’ll ring the insurance company and they’ll send someone out tonight to tarp it. They can assess the rest of the damage tomorrow.’

He grabbed his mobile off the bench, barely pausing to slick his hair out of his eyes, oblivious to his drenched state.

Her knees started wobbling again, and it had nothing to do with the close call with Mother Nature and everything to do with one very sexy tycoon, his business shirt plastered to his broad chest, his pants clinging to long, lean legs and the droplets clinging to his too-long-to-be-legal eyelashes.

The guy was seriously gorgeous, and if she had to obliterate her fear, focussing on him could do it.

Nothing fazed him. Even now, when most guys would be annoyed their property had been damaged and they’d had to make an impromptu dash into a cyclone-like storm to check it out, he was nothing but commanding and calm and in control.

She liked it. Way too much for comfort.

He glanced across at her, rolled his eyes and made a chattering action with his hand. She could add patience to his list of attributes, especially if the insurance assistant on the other end of the line was being verbose.

‘That’ll be fine. Just send him out tonight. We’ll take care of the rest tomorrow. Right. Thanks.’

He snapped the phone shut, wiped his brow in relief. ‘Phew. All that red tape just to get a hole patched in a roof.’

‘It’s their job.’

She shrugged, suddenly feeling out of place. All she
wanted to do was duck back to the cottage and hide away. Away from gallant, commanding bosses with perceptive eyes.

‘What’s up?’

‘This.’ She gestured to the raging storm outside, wincing as another crack of thunder clapped over the house. ‘I can’t believe it…’

‘You can’t control the weather. Don’t worry, you can move back into the cottage as soon as the roof is fixed.’

The severity of her predicament slammed into her with the force of one of those damn bolts that had caused this mess in the first place.

‘You’ll stay here, of course.’

She wanted to protest, knew it would be foolish. Of course she’d stay—where else could she go?

It wasn’t as if she didn’t know Callum. But standing here, watching raindrops glitter on his spiked lashes, seeing the concern in his eyes, she felt as if everything was spinning out of her control and moving way too fast.

‘Thanks.’

She managed a wan smile before her teeth gave an almighty clatter and he swore, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and drawing her towards the stairs.

‘Come on, you need to get out of that wet nightie.’

‘A tried and true line, I’m sure,’ she muttered, immediately warmed by his strong arm around her, trying desperately not to lean into him.

‘Whatever works.’

She tilted her head to gaze up at him, buoyed by his teasing smile.

Everything would be okay.

She still had a roof over her head, a job and a temporary place to stay. She might have overreacted to the thunderstorm but now, cradled in the comforting crook of Callum’s arm, she was infused with a sense of security she’d never experienced before.

He stopped outside a door, released her.

‘Guest room. You’ll find towels, toiletries and robes in the bathroom. Why don’t you take a shower and I’ll rustle up some supper?’

BOOK: Overtime in the Boss's Bed
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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