Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress(9)

By: Natalie Anderson

Barry was laughing as he made the return introductions. ‘I’m just the front man. Truth is I sold out the controlling share of the company a couple of years ago but my boss likes to keep private. It’s Jared here. You should be talking your talk to him.’

So it was the worst. Jared was the CEO—the person she had to win over today.

As if that would ever happen.

Jared spoke, inclining his head towards Bronwyn but keeping his eyes on Amanda. ‘I’m sorry for the confusion.’ The look in his eyes said he wasn’t sorry at all. The look in his eyes grew in sharp amusement.

‘But it shouldn’t make much difference.’ He kept talking. ‘Fresh is a privately held company and I’d prefer it that you don’t disseminate the management information. At this stage Barry is still very much the face of the company—until you guys do your stuff, of course.’

He smiled suddenly. That killer charm of a smile again. It was all too rare but when it flashed it had any female in the immediate vicinity weak at the knees and needy in the womb.

Amanda, still recovering from her exposure to it last night, felt a double impact.

Last night. Her brain clicked on—whirring while she read the continued amusement in his expression—and the implication became obvious. Her blood beat faster. He was not surprised to see her here. He had an expectant air—he’d known she was going to be at this meeting.

Her anger built as images from the flight flashed—she’d been working on the presentation, or at least trying to, for half the time in the air. He’d been right beside her; he’d have seen her screen easily. In fact, she knew he had. And she’d even told him for whom she worked.

But he had said nothing. Given no clue that they were destined to meet again today. It had to have been deliberate. A red mist of rage swirled before her eyes as she remembered his parting words about maybe meeting each other again ‘soon’. Totally deliberate.

The swine. The arrogant, calculating swine.

‘I want to retire,’ Barry was saying in his jokey manner. ‘He keeps working me too hard.’

Amanda didn’t smile back. Too angry, she turned. This just couldn’t be happening. She needed to win this pitch, Synergy needed the account, and she needed the money for Grandfather. She pressed her lips together, refusing to unleash the venom she ached to vent.

The men got seated on the other side of the table and Bronwyn sat too, leaving Amanda to launch into the presentation.

She switched on the screen. But it stayed blank. She switched it off and then on again. Still blank.

‘Mandy?’ Amanda hoped that the sharp hint of panic in Bronwyn’s voice was audible only to her.

‘One moment please,’ she said. This was so not what they needed right now.

The power cord led right past the chair where Jared now sat. As she bent to check the plug was pushed right into the socket he murmured, ‘Mandy? You’re never a Mandy.’

She straightened and met his eyes for one furious moment. He was laughing—laughing. She knew her face was flushed, could feel it growing all the more so as she absorbed the full extent of this living nightmare. Was this just some trivial joke for him? From the expression in his eyes he wasn’t expecting anything much at any rate. He was out to enjoy himself, not take her seriously.

For a moment hopelessness swept over and almost sank her. Had this blown all chances of them actually winning the contract?

Heck no, she couldn’t allow that to happen. Her fighting spirit kicked in. Their pitch was a good idea, it was her first chance to prove herself and more than anything she needed the money. And now she had quadruple the incentive. She was going to ace this presentation and really show him exactly what she was made of.

She made herself smile at him—as if there were nothing wrong—and then stepped back to her computer. She saw the question in Bron’s eyes and gave her a smile to reassure her—hoping she’d read her strange new skin tone as a sign of nerves, not fury. This time the cords were in right at both ends and light flickered on the screen. All systems go.

She paused, looked at Barry with his broad, unmistakable grin and then she looked at Jared. No grin, but all cynical challenge and underlying amusement. He really didn’t think she could do it. She inhaled, mentally tossed the ball high and hit him with her most powerful serve.

Twenty minutes later Jared had his fingers to his tie, discreetly trying to loosen it, wondering why the hell he’d worn it in the first place. Barry had already ribbed him about the suit—his usual work attire was jeans and a shirt. He’d hardly worn a suit since his banking days. The casual vibe of the company was half the reason he’d bought it and he only wore suits on the days when he needed to assert authority. So what was it about today that he felt the need to assert authority?

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