Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress(2)

By: Natalie Anderson


It was nine years. Nine years, seven months.

‘Some things change, some things don’t.’ She flicked a glance over his clothes. Jeans. Jared always wore jeans—in school, out of it, when working the ride-on mower, when stacking boxes of files, when cleaning cars…

Under the blazing summer sun and on the coldest winter morning, Jared wore jeans. Maybe he knew how fit he looked in them?

But as she looked at the dark stitching she saw the jeans were different now. His jeans today were designer—not old and faded with dust on the thigh, holes in the knees and fraying ends. She looked up at the black wool jersey—fine merino.

Yes, some things changed.

The plane soared higher and she barely noticed.

Jared James—of all people. The trickle of cold sweat slid down her spine while her heart thudded even more uncomfortably. Well, today had been awful—why should she have thought its last few hours would improve any? She leaned around, looking longingly down the aisle at the rest of the plane. Hoping to spot a spare seat, but all she could see were shoulders and bits of leg protruding all along the edges.

‘You’d go to cattle class just to avoid me?’ he murmured. ‘How touching.’

She twisted further, trying to scan the window seats as well as the aisles. Surely there must be another seat. She couldn’t be held responsible for her actions if she had to stay near him. Not tonight.

‘You’re still only thinking of yourself?’ His brows lifted. ‘Look how busy that woman is.’ He pointed at the steward, efficiently pulling out the trolley to serve refreshments. ‘Are you really going to bother her more?’

Amanda felt both embarrassment and rage burn through her like twin rockets heading to Pluto. The twisting mass of resentment Jared inspired in her had been on the backburner for nine years, seven months and now it blasted off with enough power to make that longest journey.

Some things could never be forgotten.

He was wrong—things could and did change. Like her cringe-tastic crush. Two years in the brewing, it had taken only one night for him to destroy it.

Because of him she’d been forced to leave the town she’d spent all her life in. Because of him her relationship with her grandfather had been damaged. Because of him she’d had to live out her last years at school in loneliness and isolation.

And ever since there was never a time when she returned home without thinking of him—seeing his shadow on the land, hearing his heavy-booted tread along the path. Always she had the momentary wondering of where he’d gone, what he’d done—before quickly stamping out the errant thoughts. She didn’t want to know; she didn’t want to think of him.

Because she had cared. No matter what he thought she really had cared. And he’d left a wrinkle on her heart that she couldn’t iron out no matter how hard she tried—no matter how much she told herself she was over him. Such a mistake—a young girl seeing a hero where there was only a heartless youth. His action had resulted in a punishment far more severe than her silliness had warranted.

Why had she been so foolish to have believed herself to be in love with him?

Then she turned back to face him and saw exactly why. No inexperienced sixteen-year-old could possibly resist those darkly handsome looks. His Latin colouring—the olive complexion and almost-black, dangerously gleaming eyes, the thick dark hair that had always had that slightly rough, tousled look. Mystery, rebellion, a hint of scarring—he was too intriguing, too much of an enigma for her not to be curious. Add to that the toned physique honed by hours of hard, heavy work. And then there was the attitude. No man had attitude like Jared James.

She hadn’t been immune—no female in town had. But she had been the most foolish.

‘Amanda Demanda.’ His laugh rasped across her like a sand-roughened desert wind.

The old name still had the power to hurt. She’d known about it. Had heard it muttered behind hands when she’d walked past. But no one ever said it to her face, only Jared. And now he’d managed to do it more than once.

His eyes taunted her, mouth teased her. But there was no warm humour. Amanda’s chin lifted. There was only one way to handle this. Icy politeness. Manners maketh the woman, right? And manners weren’t something Jared tended to bother with—at least not with her. Not that she could really blame him. There’d been a time there when she’d been rottenly ill-mannered towards him—rudely insisting he carry out her orders around the property. It had been an immature girl’s method of getting his attention and it hadn’t succeeded. At least, not in the way she’d desired. So then she’d tried something far more stupid. Having heard the way the girls talked about him, looked at him—the rumours that he was a dangerous, demanding kind of lover, and one they all wanted. She’d naively thought that if she offered him everything she’d get the kind of attention she craved from him.

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