Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress

By: Natalie Anderson
Chapter One



AMANDA snatched a second to glance up, checking the manufacturer’s plate detailing the date and location of construction, on the upper inside of the door frame. Yes, it was real, it had been built in a proper factory and fingers crossed it wouldn’t fall out of the sky with her in it. Only once she’d scanned it did she step over and onto the plane. She’d never board without seeing that little rectangle of metal with its punched-in lettering first.

Ritual reassurance achieved, her gaze dropped again, right to the floor, thus avoiding the censorious glares of the air stewards as they grimly gestured to her seat. She knew they were cross, had heard the huffing and puffing from the internal phone system. Taking two steps down the narrow aisle she could feel the equally burning glares of the passengers—having held them up for a full five minutes. Not that long in the grand scheme of things, but seemingly an eternity for plane passengers. She could hear their murmurs of grumbling discontent.

Too bad. She tilted her chin and tried harder to ignore them. This had been an emergency—too many people were counting on her. Thank heavens for her old university buddy Kathryn who’d got her onto the flight last minute and managed to get the ground staff to hold the plane for her as she’d sprinted down the corridor. One second later and that door would have been shut. And if she hadn’t got this, the last flight out today, she might not have made it back to Auckland tomorrow in time for the meeting. The risk of fog in the early morning was too great. So she’d made the hour drive from Ashburton to Christchurch in record-breaking time—just keeping within the legal speed limits—and then Kathryn had worked her magic.

Without so much as a glance at the person occupying the window seat next to her aisle one, she pushed her laptop bag into the stowage compartment in front of her feet. She’d get it out again as soon as they had levelled out and get to work. The flight was only a little over an hour but every minute counted. This pitch had to be perfect—the company needed the business to stay afloat and she needed to keep her job. Money mattered—and yes, it was a life and death thing.

She snapped together her safety belt; the plane was already taxiing down the runway and the stewards were quickly covering the mandatory safety basics. She could just about recite the phrases with them—having made this trip too many times in the last two months. It was only then that she noticed that she was seated in the small business class section. She hadn’t travelled in this exclusive section of a plane in years.

Bless Kathryn.

But as the plane paused at the head of the runway the old anxiety sharpened. She put her head back, closed her eyes and mentally ran through all the probabilities—facts and figures and how it was planes actually stayed up in the air…

It didn’t work. The cold sweaty feeling spread.

She’d think about the pitch—that would take her mind off it.

Impossible.

She’d think about Grandfather.

Equally impossible.

Her heart was beating high in her throat—clogging, choking. And she was sweating more than when she’d been challenging the record for fastest airport dash ever. The last thing she could do now was have a panic attack and cause more disruption to the others on the plane. But her heart pounded harder, louder.

Just think about breathing.

Her lungs jerked, resisting as she took a breath. The engines roared. Her blood competed, trying to beat a louder noise in her ears. She curled her fingers around the edge of the arm rest, clinging on tight. Squeezing her eyes tighter, she concentrated on flexing her muscles. Never mind that she was supposed to start at her toes and tense then relax them, it was all she could do to focus, to stay aware. Now was not the time to faint. Or scream. Or worse.

Breathing. In and out—was how you did it.

‘Of course, someone inconsiderate and selfish enough to hold up a plane? It could only be you, Amanda.’

She opened her eyes and turned her head. That voice had cut through the din like a diamond on glass—silencing everything.

Eyes darker than the dead of night stared back at her, framed by thick black lashes. The bridge of his nose had a slight bump from an ancient break, his cheekbones were high, his forehead broad. His lips were full, but there was no hint of a smile. Not for her.

It was a face she knew better than her own, yet she hadn’t seen it in years.

‘Hello, Jared.’

She hardly heard the bellow of the engine as the plane kicked off from the ground. Head pressed back against the seat, she couldn’t look away from the cool derision in his face.

‘It must be at least ten years,’ he drawled. ‘I’d have thought things might have changed but I guess not.’

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