Authors: Jessica Gilmore
A secret shared…
Polly Rafferty, heiress and CEO of glamorous Rafferty’s Stores is back! And this time, she’s prepared for anything—well, except for the half-naked (and utterly gorgeous) Frenchman Gabe Beaufils lying in
office. And, after sharing an unexpectedly earth-shattering kiss, discovering that he is her new vice-CEO…
When Polly learns that a no-strings summer fling had very unexpected consequences, Gabe is the one person she can trust with her baby secret...but with a man so full of surprises, she has no idea what his reaction will be!
Resolutely, Polly held the glass up over the man’s face and tipped it, a perfect stream of cold water falling like rain onto the peacefully slumbering face below.
Polly didn’t quite know what to expect: anger, shock, contrition or even no reaction at all. He was so very deeply asleep, after all. But what she didn’t expect was for one eye to lazily open, for a smile to play around the disturbingly well-cut mouth or for a hand to shoot out and grab her wrist.
Caught by surprise, she stumbled forward, falling against the chaise as the hand snuck around her waist, pulling her down, pulling her close.
His voice was low, gravelly with sleep and deeply, unmistakeably French. “If you wanted me to wake up you only had to ask.”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
of course.” He had shifted position and was leaning against the back of the chaise, his eyes skimming every inch of her until she wanted to wrap her arms around her torso, shielding herself from his insolent gaze.
“Of course.” He raised an eyebrow. “As you are dressed to leave, I thought you were saying goodbye. But if it was more of a good morning—” the smile widened “—even better.’
“I am not saying
or anything but
what on earth are you doing in my office and where are your clothes?
When I sent my idea for
His Reluctant Cinderella
over to my editor, her first response was “I hope you’re planning to tell Polly’s story as well!” Honestly? It hadn’t crossed my mind. And yet Polly’s decision to walk away from the job she loves, the family business that’s her entire world, is the catalyst for all the events in
His Reluctant Cinderella
. Of course it made complete sense to see what happened next!
So here she is, back in charge with everything she’s always wanted. Only what if things weren’t that straightforward? What if her time away had left her with more than a suntan and some holiday snaps? Add in a gorgeous new colleague who challenges her at every turn, and suddenly Polly’s supposedly settled future is looking far rockier than she ever imagined possible.
And who is this gorgeous colleague shaking things up in all kinds of ways? Step forward Gabriel Beaufils: young, successful and with demons of his own, demons he likes to keep buried with hard work, healthy living and by keeping his distance from any emotional entanglement. But there’s something about Polly Rafferty that gets past his carefully erected barricades and suddenly those demons are very much at the surface. Can Gabe confront his past—or will he keep on running?
It was a lot of fun to return to the glamorous world of Rafferty’s. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
THE HEIRESS’S SECRET BABY
A former au pair, bookseller, marketing manager and seafront trader,
now works for an environmental charity in York. Married with one daughter, one fluffy dog and two dog-loathing cats, she spends her time avoiding housework and can usually be found with her nose in a book. Jessica writes emotional romance with a hint of humour, a splash of sunshine and a great deal of delicious food—and equally delicious heroes.
Books by Jessica Gilmore
His Reluctant Cinderella
Summer with the Millionaire
The Return of Mrs. Jones
Visit the Author Profile page at
for more titles
For Jo M
It seems pretty fitting that a book with a Parisian setting is dedicated to you just as we plan our girls’ trip to Paris! I’m not sure how you have managed to be so positive and supportive and brilliant during the past five years; I am completely in awe of your strength. Thank you so much for being such a fantastic friend to me and an inspiration (and ever patient hair stylist) to Abs.
Here’s to Paris and most of all to medical advances and to a happy, healthy future.
My Secret Bucket List
Swim in the sea, naked NB: in azure warm seas, not in the North Sea Sleep out under the stars Have sex on the beach NB: the real deal, not the cocktail Drink an authentic margarita
Fall in love in Paris
list through for the last time, feeling the carefree
joie de vivre
fall away and the old, familiar cloaks of respectability and responsibility settling back onto her shoulders. They were a little heavy, but maybe that was to be expected after three months away.
Three months, five wishes. And she’d achieved four out of the five, which wasn’t bad going. The heaviness lifted for a second as the highlights of the last three months flashed through her mind and then it descended again.
What had she been thinking? She might as well have written the list in a silver pen and decorated it with pink love hearts and butterflies, pinning it on her wall next to a lipstick-kiss-covered poster of a pre-pubescent boy band.
Polly pulled the page out of her diary and, without allowing herself a second’s pause to reconsider, tore it into pieces. It was time to reposition her three-month sabbatical into something more appropriate for the new CEO of a company with a multimillion-pound turnover.
She chewed on the end of her pen for a moment and then started a new list.
My Bucket List
Travel to the Galapagos Islands
See the Northern Lights
Walk the Inca Trail
Write a book
See tigers in the wild
There, two achieved, three to aspire to and all perfectly respectable. Not a grain of sand in any place it definitely shouldn’t be...
The large luxurious town car drew to a smooth halt and jolted her back into the present day, away from dangerous memories. ‘We’re here, Miss Rafferty. Are you sure you don’t want me to take you home first?’
Polly looked up from her diary and drew in a breath at the sight of the massive golden stone building stretching all the way down the block. She
home. Back at the famous department store founded by her great-grandfather. She hadn’t expected to ever see it again, let alone to walk in as mistress of all that she surveyed.
She stared at the huge picture windows flanking the iconic marble steps, her heart swelling with a potent mixture of love and pride. Each window told a tale and sold a dream. Rafferty’s could give you anything, make you anyone—if you had the money to pay for it.
‘This will be fine, Petyr, thank you. But please arrange for my bags to be taken back to Hopeford and for the concierge service to collect and launder them.’
She didn’t want to set foot in Rafferty’s carrying her rucksack stuffed as it was with sarongs, bikinis and walking boots, no matter how prestigious the brand names on them. Polly had spent a productive night at a hotel in Miami turning herself back into Miss Polly Rafferty from Miss Carefree Backpacker—all it had taken was a little shopping, a manicure and a wash and blow-dry.
She was back and she was ready.
Petyr opened the car door for her and Polly slid out onto the pavement, breathing in deeply as she did so. Car fumes, perfume, hot concrete, fried food—London in the height of summer. How she’d missed it. She pulled down her skirt hem and wriggled her toes experimentally. The heels felt a little constrictive after three months of bare feet, flip-flops and walking boots but her feet would adjust back. She would adjust back. After all, this was her real dream; her time out had been nothing but a diversion along the way.
Polly lifted her new workbag onto her shoulder and headed straight for the main entrance. She was going in.
* * *
Oh, it had felt good walking through the hallowed halls, greeting the staff she knew by name and seeing the new ones jump as they realised just who was casting a quick, appraising eye over them. Good to see gossiping staff spring apart and how everyone suddenly seemed to find work to do.
Good that nobody dared to catch her eye. There must have been talk after her abrupt disappearance but it didn’t seem to have affected her standing. She allowed herself a small sigh of relief.
But it was also good to go in through the Staff Only door, to be buzzed in by old Alf and see the welcome on his face. Alf had worked for Rafferty’s since before Polly’s father was born and had always had a bar of chocolate and a kind word for the small girl desperately trailing after her grandfather, wanting,
to be included.
And it was good to be here, back in the light-filled foyer where her assistant had her desk. Not that Rachel seemed to share her enthusiasm judging by her open-mouthed expression and panicked eyes, and the way her fingers shook as she gathered together a sheaf of papers.
‘Miss Rafferty? We weren’t expecting you back just yet.’
‘I did let you know my flight details,’ Polly said coolly. It wasn’t like Rachel to be so disorganised. And at the very least a friendly ‘welcome back’ would have been polite.
Rachel threw an anxious glance towards the door to Polly’s office. ‘Well yes.’ She got up out of her chair and walked around her desk to stand in front of the door, blocking Polly’s path. ‘But I thought you would go home first. I didn’t expect to see you today.’
‘I hope my early appearance isn’t too much of an inconvenience.’ What was the girl hiding? Perhaps Raff had decorated her office in high gloss and black leather during his brief sojourn as CEO. ‘As you can see I decided to come straight here.’ Polly gave her assistant a cool glance, waiting for her to move aside.
‘You’ve come straight from the airport?’ Rachel wouldn’t—or couldn’t—meet her eye but stood her ground. ‘You must be tired and thirsty. Why don’t you go to the staff canteen and I’ll arrange for them to bring you coffee and something to eat?’
‘Coffee does sound lovely,’ Polly agreed. ‘But I’d rather have it
my office if you don’t mind. Please call and arrange it. Thank you, Rachel.’
Rachel stood there for a long second, indecision clear on her face before she moved slowly to one side. ‘Yes, Miss Rafferty.’
Polly nodded curtly at her still-hovering assistant. Things had obviously got slack under Raff’s reign. She hoped it wouldn’t take too long to get things back on track—or to get herself back on track; no more lie-ins, long walks on beaches where the sand was so fine it felt like silk underfoot, no more swimming in balmy seas or drinking rum cocktails under the light of so many stars it was like being in an alternate universe.
No. She was back to work, routine and normality, which was great. A girl couldn’t relax for ever, right?
Slowly Polly turned the chrome handle and opened her office door, relishing the cool polished feel of the metal under her hand. Like much of the interior throughout the store the door handle was one of the original art deco fittings chosen by her great-grandfather back in the nineteen twenties. His legacy lived on in every fitting and fixture. She loved the weight of history that fell onto her shoulders as soon as she walked into the building. Her name, her blood, her legacy.
She stood on the threshold for a second and breathed in. It was finally hers. Everything she had worked for, everything she had dreamed of—this was her office, her store, her way.
And yet it had all felt so unachievable just three months ago. Despite four years as vice CEO and the last of those years as acting CEO while her grandfather stood back from the company he loved as fiercely as Polly herself did, she had walked away. After her grandfather had told her he was finally stepping down and installing Polly’s twin brother Raff in his place she had dropped her swipe card on the desk, collected her bag and walked out.
The next day she had been on a plane to South America. She had left her home, her cat and her company—and replaced them with a frivolous bucket list.
Three months later that memory still had the power to wind her.
But here she was, back at the helm and nothing and no one was going to stand in her way.
The relief at seeing her office unchanged swept over her; the sunshine streaming in through the stained-glass floor-to-ceiling windows highlighting the wood panelling, tiled floors and her beautiful walnut desk—the very same one commissioned by her great-grandfather for this room in nineteen twenty-five—the bookshelves and photos, her chaise longue, her...
Hang on. Her eyes skittered back; that hadn’t been there before.
Nope, Polly was pretty sure she would have remembered if she’d left a half-naked sleeping beauty on her antique chaise longue when she’d stormed out.
Frankly, the mood she’d been in, she probably would have taken him with her.
She moved a little closer, uncomfortably aware of her heels tapping on the tiled floor, and contemplated the newest addition to her office.
He was lying on his front, his arm pillowing his head, just the curve of a sharply defined cheekbone and a shock of dark hair falling over his forehead visible. His jeans were snug, low, riding deep on his back exposing every vertebrae on his naked torso.
It was a tanned torso, a deep olive, and although slim, almost to the point of leanness, every muscle was clearly defined. On his lower back a tree blossomed, a silhouette whose branches reached up to his middle vertebrae. Polly fought an urge to reach out and trace one of the narrow lines with her fingers. She didn’t normally like tattoos but this one was oddly beautiful, almost mesmerising in its intricacy.
What was she doing? She shouldn’t be standing here admiring the interloper. He needed to wake up and get out. No matter how peaceful he looked.
Polly coughed, a short, polite noise. It was as effectual as an umbrella in a hurricane. She coughed again, louder, more irritated.
He didn’t even stir.
‘Excuse me.’ Her voice was soft, polite. Polly shook her head in disgust; this was her office. Why was
the one pussyfooting around? ‘Excuse me!’
This time there was some effect, just a little; a faint murmur and a shift in his position as he rolled onto his side. She couldn’t help flickering a quick glance along the lean length. Yep, the front matched the back, a smattering of fine dark hair tangled on his upper chest, another silky patch emphasising the muscles on his abdomen before tapering into a line that ran down inside the low-slung jeans.
Polly swallowed, her mouth suddenly in need of some kind of moisture. No, she scolded herself, tearing her eyes away, heat flushing through her. Just because he was in her office she didn’t have the right to stand here and objectify him. She gave the room a quick once-over relieved that no one was there to witness her behaviour; she was the CEO for goodness’ sake, she had to set an example.
This had gone on long enough. This was a place of business, not a doss house for disreputable if attractive young men to slumber in, or a hidey-hole for her PA’s latest boyfriend. Whoever he was she was going to have to shake him awake. Right
If only he were wearing a shirt. Or anything. Touching that bronzed skin felt intrusive, intimate.
‘For goodness’ sake, are you woman or wombat?’ she muttered, balling her fingers into a fist.
‘Hello.’ She reached over and took a tentative hold of one firm shoulder, his skin warm and smooth against her hand. ‘Wake up.’ She gave a little shake but it was like shaking a statue.
All she wanted was to sit at her desk and start working. Alone. Was that too much to ask? Anger and adrenaline flooded through her system; it had been a long journey, she was jet-lagged and irritated and in need of a sit-down and a coffee. She’d had enough. Officially.
Polly turned and walked crisply towards her small en-suite cloakroom and bathroom, this time uncaring of the loud tap of her heels. The door swung open to reveal a wide, airy space with room for coats and shoes plus a walk-in wardrobe where Polly stored a selection of outfits for the frequent occasions where she went straight from work to a social function. She gave the room a quick glance, relieved to see no trace of Raff’s presence. It was as if he had been wiped out of the store’s memory.
That was fine by her. He had made it quite clear he wanted nothing to do with Rafferty’s—and although they were twins they had never been good at sharing.
Another door led into the well-equipped bathroom. Polly allowed herself one longing glance at the walk-in shower before grabbing a glass from the shelf and filling it with water, making sure the cold tap ran for a few seconds first for maximum chill. Then, quickly so that she didn’t lose her nerve, she swivelled on her heel and marched back over to the chaise longue, standing over the interloper.
He had moved again, lying supine, half on his back, half on his side revealing more of his features. Long, thick lashes lay peacefully on cheekbones so finely sculpted it looked as if a master stonemason had been at work, eyebrows arching arrogantly above.
His wide mouth was slightly parted. Sensual, a little voice whispered to Polly. A mouth made for sin.
She ignored the voice. And she ignored the slight jibe of her conscience; she needed him awake and leaving; if he wouldn’t respond to gentler methods then what choice did she have?
Resolutely Polly held the glass up over the man’s face and tipped it. For one long moment she held it still so that the water was perfectly balanced right at the rim, clear drops so very close to spilling over the thin edge.
And then she allowed her hand to move the glass over the tipping point, a perfect stream of cold water falling like rain onto the peacefully slumbering face below.
Polly didn’t quite know what to expect; anger, shock, contrition or even no reaction at all. He was so very deeply asleep after all. But what she didn’t expect was for one red-rimmed eye to lazily open, for a smile to play around the disturbingly well-cut mouth or for a hand to shoot out and grab her wrist.