The Rings that Bind(6)

By: Michelle Smart

And then in had walked Rosa Carty, the model of calm efficiency.

Her Russian was flawless. Perfect. He would trust her to organise a state funeral.

He had offered her the position immediately and she had started on the hoof, with no training or guidance. She had stepped into the breach as if she had always been there.

She had never flirted with him, had never dressed as anything but the professional she was, had never brought her private life to the office. She had been perfect.

Marriage had always been an institution he admired but one he had long accepted would not be for him.

Five months on and he had been in his office with Serge, his finance director and an old friend from his university days. They had been going over the figures for his buyout of a Californian mine when there had been a sharp rap at the door and Rosa had walked in.

He had known immediately something was wrong. She would never have dreamt of interrupting a meeting unless it was important.

‘We have a slight problem,’ she had said in her usual understated fashion. ‘There is a discrepancy with the output figures.’

She had lain the offending document before him and pointed to a tiny section highlighted in pink. The figure in question had been out by less than an eighth of one per cent, but in financial terms equated to over a million pounds.

At least ten pairs of eyes, including his own, had gone through the document. Rosa was the only person to have picked up on the error.

After agreeing on an action plan, she had set off to implement it. He’d had no doubt the whole thing would be rectified by the end of the day.

‘Your PA is really something,’ Serge had said with a shake of his head when she’d left the office. ‘When Madeline comes back from maternity leave can I have Rosa in my department?’

Nico had shrugged noncommittally. Even at that stage he had known he wanted to keep Rosa as his PA—had been busy strategising ways to keep her working directly for him without landing himself with a lawsuit from a disgruntled Madeline.

‘Is she married?’ Serge had asked with a sudden knowing look in his eyes. ‘She is exactly the kind of woman a man like you should marry.’

If Serge hadn’t been one of his oldest friends Nico would have fired him on the spot for insubordination.

‘There is nothing worse than a newly married man,’ he said drily.

‘Marriage has been the making of me,’ Serge countered amiably. ‘Seriously, my friend, Rosa would be perfect for you. She’s got the same coolness as you. You have mentioned breaking into the Middle East. Socialising is a big part of their business culture and marriage is very much respected. Rosa would be an asset to you. Besides,’ he continued with a flash of his teeth, ‘a man can’t stay happy all his life!’

Days later he had travelled to California with Rosa and an army of workers. As the days passed, Serge’s words had kept repeating in his head.

By their last day he had almost convinced himself that his friend could be on to something.

He had engineered things so that he and Rosa were alone after the celebratory meal, sitting in the balmy night air, drinking vodka. Usually his employees’ private lives and private time were strictly off-limits, but that night he had wanted to test if their compatibility in the office could be matched in a social setting.

The constant buzz of her phone had driven him to distraction. Well, it had been more the fact that she’d kept ignoring him to answer those annoying messages that had irritated him. And the fact that he’d disliked her responding to someone who was so clearly deranged. So he’d thrown her phone into the ocean.

She had simply glared at him, a small tick playing under her left eye. ‘That was unnecessary.’

‘Every time you respond you give him false hope,’ he pointed out. ‘The only way to be rid of him is to cut all communication. I will replace your phone. Now, drink your shot.’

For the breadth of a moment he thought she would throw the glass at him.

Instead she lifted the shot and downed it. In one. Done, she slammed the glass back on the table and eyeballed him with caramel eyes that swirled with amusement. ‘There. Happy now?’

A bubble of laughter climbed his throat. He had never imagined his starchy, temporary PA possessed a personality.

‘So you never contemplated marrying...?’

‘Stephen,’ she supplied with a hiccup. She put her hand to her mouth and threw him a wry smile. ‘No. Never in a million years would I have married him. Although I’d love to marry someone, right now, just to get him off my back.’ She shook her head. ‘I do like the idea of marriage, but I’d be a rubbish wife. I’m married to my work and I much prefer my own company.’

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