Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress(10)

By: Natalie Anderson



It was only Amanda—only the half-naked nuisance of a girl he’d walked away from almost a decade ago. Only the one he hadn’t been allowed—and stupidly the one he’d wanted most.

He hadn’t known what to expect from the pitch. But he certainly hadn’t expected to be impressed. And he was impressed. After a few minutes there he’d even stopped thinking about how delectable she looked and focused on what she was saying. What she was saying made sense.

Damn.

He’d never expected Amanda to turn the tables on him. He’d anticipated a flaky presentation. He’d anticipated a move afterwards. Take her out for a drink. Then somehow get to a place where they could light the fireworks between them and let them explode in a one-night extravaganza. Instead he got her cool ice-princess approach—concise delivery, punchy lines, and, once she’d got going, genuine enthusiasm. So bloody polished, so bloody perfect.

She’d always felt out of his league. And somehow she still did. Somehow just seeing her sent him into a sort of time warp where he was a teen again and fighting his way out of his lot in life. He’d been so at the mercy of those around him—dependent on generosity. He couldn’t afford to make a wrong move—not then. But damn this feeling—he was the one in control of everything now, wasn’t he?

He refused to relinquish that control.

Yet almost helplessly he watched her, able to see so much more of her today than he could last night. And she was incredible. Her hair was still tied up but looked as gold as it had been all those years ago. Her girlish curves had softened into the fuller shape of a woman. Still trim but with full breasts and a slim waist that was accentuated by the neatly tucked-in blouse and skirt. He wasn’t listening again—hearing only the racing of the blood in his veins. Heading south.

He looked down at the table forcing himself to concentrate on the words, not on the image of her.


Amanda was winding down her spiel, talking up the bit about the benefits of going with their agency and not one of the others she knew he was seeing later in the day. She was tired. Had been talking non-stop for nearly twenty minutes and she had no idea—none—about how it was going down. There’d been no questions, nothing. Barry had added a couple of smiles and nods while Jared had been the bronze statue across the way. The sense of hopelessness was returning—especially as she saw she’d lost his attention and he had a huge frown on.

‘Synergy is a New Zealand-owned company—’

‘Why is that a positive?’ Jared finally interrupted in a rough tone. ‘Wouldn’t we be better off with an overseas conglomerate that has a vast pool of talent and resources from around the globe?’

‘We can offer a unique viewpoint into your local market.’

‘How up to the minute are you?’ He fired the question.

‘As up to the minute as you can get.’ She fired right back.

‘So you’d say you’re “in touch” with the trends, then, are you?’

‘Oh, believe me, Mr James,’ she descended into sarcastic sultriness, ‘we’re in touch.’

There was a silence as Jared met her gaze coolly, triumph suddenly kindling in the dark depths of his eyes. Her heart pounded and her spine prickled as she recognised danger. She broke away, looking down to her notes.

Bronwyn and Barry were both quiet, Amanda snatched a quick glance at both. There was a question in Bronwyn’s eyes and a hint of panic—contrasting sharply with the amusement written all over Barry’s face. Amanda realised that the line between professional and personal had been crossed—she’d crossed it. The challenge in the air had been thrown up by her.

Jared suddenly smiled as he reached out and needlessly moved a piece of paper on the table. It was the merest flash of teeth, revealing his moment of satisfaction further. He’d needled her deliberately. And she’d risen to the bait all too easily. Again.

Rats.

She flashed a quick, vitriolic look at him. He must have sensed her attention because his eyelids lifted and his eyes met hers—veiled with apparent blandness, almost boredom.

Jerk.

But those hideous years at Eastern Bay School for Girls saw her regain her precarious control. She spoke quickly, clearly. ‘By choosing a New Zealand partner you’re helping strengthen your home economy. You’re helping to keep good talent onshore, and good businesses working, which is precisely what you like to do, isn’t it, Mr James? Isn’t that one of the fundamentals of your own company policy? To generate jobs locally?’

She’d done her homework—spent a good twenty minutes talking to one of the delivery drivers who supplied cartons of the juice to the café nearest to her work. He’d been delighted to talk about the company he worked with. In the last couple of years, he’d said, Fresh had expanded its production significantly. And it ran an in-house mentoring scheme and had a high number of employees who’d come from troubled youth intervention programmes—getting kids off the street and into a job. She’d been surprised—not aware that Barry had such a do-good streak.

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