His Plain-Jane CinderellaBy: Jennie Adams
She fought for control against a widening of her eyes as she took in a broad chest that seemed to fill her vision: shoulders encased in a fitted white T-shirt with a corduroy tan jacket pulled over the top; blue jeans; work boots.
He had a square jaw, straight nose. His features and his attitude denoted strength, presence.
Her gaze shifted to his mouth, to a set of lips that could only have been made for long, slow kisses. His eyes were a deep hazel, green, blue and grey fringed with sooty lashes. At the moment, they were examining her with focused attention.
This was a man who would not turn his back on a challenge, nor step away if things became difficult.
Had he seen Gary’s nudge and wink? Had he heard Gary’s parting words?
As for the new owner, what was Stacie doing, thinking of kisses? And of ‘strong’ and ‘tough’ as something appealing and way too interesting?
It was thanks to the actions of her ex-boyfriend four months ago, thanks to a number of disappointments in that department over the years culminating in such hurt. Thanks to two people Stacie had loved that she shouldn’t be thinking of any such things.
Her chin jutted. She had chosen to be single now and she would be far happier alone. That was her resolution, and already she was happier!
And what she’d noted of the new plant-owner’s appeal had been an ‘observation’ style of thought. Only that!
‘Hello.’ She cleared her throat against the breathy tone that had suddenly invaded it. Dust in the air, probably. Well, maybe not. It was a clean plant.
Just get on with it, Stacie.
‘You’re the new owner? I’m Stacie Wakefield, the administrative assistant here.’ She stuck out her hand. He probably had a wife at home enjoying those kisses, or a steady girlfriend. Of course there’d be someone. Just as, for Stacie, there’d been a sister waiting…
Thinking about that wouldn’t help her.
Embrace her fresh start. That was what Stacie wanted to do.
And she was doing it!
She’d moved here to the township of Tarrula, positioned as a stopover destination between Sydney and Melbourne, and had got this job to keep her going while she built up her home business until she could live independently from it. And while Stacie was employed here at the plant, even if it was really just typing, filing and answering the phone, she would give the job her best. ‘Carl apologised that he couldn’t be here to officially welcome you this morning. He’s unwell, but expects to be back on deck tomorrow.’
The manager had come down with a migraine at the last minute before work this morning.
‘Then I’ll be staying longer than I’d intended today to fill the managerial gap. Troy Rushton.’ Broad, capable fingers closed around hers.
Just like that, he embraced the situation and took ownership of it.
‘Stacie…’ she started, and stopped because she’d already told him her name.
Nerves; this tingling in her fingers had to be nerves; the buzzing in her brain that made her lose the thread of the conversation must be from the same source. Stacie wanted to make a good impression on the new owner. She valued her job. The spill had stressed her out. She was off-centre because Carl had phoned in sick at the last moment.
As Stacie dropped her hand away, she got as far as smoothing her navy pencil-pleat skirt and stopped herself. She was perfectly presentable, if not in any way stunning.
She kind of wished she hadn’t included the iridescent pink stick-ons over her blue nail-polish today, though. But her nails were her one indulgence in terms of beauty efforts. Short, but rarely forgettable.
When they had all been younger, her sisters had said her nail-decorating choices were ‘tacky’ and ‘so not sexy, Stacie’. Two beautiful Cinderellas and one very plain duck.
The ‘gorgeous’ genes had gone to those older sisters. That hadn’t mattered until Andrew and Gemma.
‘I see there’s a problem here. Who’s the floor manager today?’ Troy’s gaze searched her face, skimmed over nose, mouth and eyes and the straight brown hair that fell to the middle of her shoulders.
Stacie thought he might have paused; was that a flicker of interest?
A moment later Troy’s gaze turned to the troubled production area. He probably hadn’t even noticed what she looked like, let alone had any other reaction. How silly she was being—silly on two levels, because she shouldn’t be aware of him in the first place. Stacie was done with putting herself on the line with all of that.
And she hadn’t truly faced up to any of the hurt of the situation she’d tried to leave behind when she’d moved here.
Stacie had been back for a visit with the family. What more was she expected to do?