The Heiress's Secret BabyBy: Jessica Gilmore
‘I’ve spoken to Building Services,’ she said as she slid her pass through the door lock, turning with one hand on the handle to face Gabe. ‘I am going to turn Grandfather’s old office into the boardroom. It’s bigger than any of the meeting rooms, far too big for one person—and I think he’ll be pleased with the gesture. He is still President of the Board.’
Polly knew everyone expected her to move into the vast corner suite but couldn’t face the thought of occupying her grandfather’s chair, feeling him second-guessing her all the time, disapproving of every change she made.
‘And me?’ It was said with a self-deprecating and very Gallic shrug but Polly wasn’t fooled. There was a sharpness in his eyes.
‘The old boardroom.’ It was a neat solution. Polly got to keep her office, her grandfather would hopefully feel honoured and Gabe would get a brand-new office in keeping with his position. But not a Rafferty office, not one with history steeped in its walls.
‘Building Services are confident they can create a room for your assistant with no major infrastructure changes and there’s already a perfectly good cloakroom. You can start picking wallpaper and furniture this week and it should be ready end of next week.’
‘And where do I work in the meantime?’ His voice was still mild but Polly was aware of a stillness about him, a quiet confidence in his gaze. She didn’t want to push too far, not yet. Reluctantly she discarded her plan that he sit in her foyer, with Rachel, or that she find him a spare desk in one of the bigger, open-plan offices where the rest of the backroom staff worked.
‘We can fit a second desk in my room,’ she said. ‘Just until you’re settled. But, Gabe? No more sleeping in the office, no more using my assistant to sort out your laundry and...’ she swallowed but kept her gaze and voice firm ‘...you remain fully dressed and act appropriately at all times. Understood?’
Gabe’s mouth quirked. ‘Of course,’ he murmured.
‘Good.’ She pushed the door open.
This was it, this was where the magic happened.
Polly blinked as she stepped out. They had entered the home furnishings department on the top floor and the lights were switched to full, purposely dazzling to best showcase the silks, cushions, throws, ceramics, silverware and all the other luxury items Rafferty’s told their customers were essential for a comfortable home. Beneath them were floors and galleries devoted to technology, books, toys, food and, of course, fashion.
Polly’s heart swelled and she clenched her fists. She was home.
And yet everything had changed. She had changed.
She had hoped that being back would ground her again but it was odd walking through the galleries with Gabe. If her staff greeted her with their usual respect, they greeted him with something warmer.
And how on earth did he know every name after what? Three or four weeks?
‘Bonjour, Emily.’ Polly narrowed her eyes at him as they entered the world-famous haberdashery room. Had his accent thickened as he greeted the attractive redhead who had turned the department into the must-go destination for a new generation of craft lovers?
‘How is your cat? Did the operation go well?’ He had moved nearer to Emily, smiling down at her intimately.
Polly’s head snapped round. No way. He knew the names of every staff member and all about the health of their pets too?
‘Yes, thank you, Mr Beaufils, she’s desperate to go outside but she’s doing really well.’ Emily was smiling back, her voice a little breathy.
‘They can be such a responsibility, non? I ’ave...’
Had he just dropped an aitch? Really? Polly had known him for what, an hour? And she already knew perfectly well that Gabe spoke perfect, almost accentless English. Unless, it seemed, he was talking to petite redheads. She coughed and could have sworn she saw a glimmer of laughter in the depths of his almost-black eyes as he continued.
‘I ’ave been looking after Mademoiselle Rafferty’s cat for the last few weeks. He is a rascal, that one. Such a huge responsibility.’
‘They are,’ Emily said earnestly, her huge eyes fixed on his. ‘But worth it.’
‘Oui, the way they purr. So trusting.’
That was it. Polly felt ill just listening. ‘So greedy,’ she said briskly. ‘And so prone to eviscerating small mammals under the bed. If you’re ready, Gabe, shall we continue? Nice work,’ she said to Emily, unable to keep a sarcastic tone from her voice. ‘Keep it up.’ And without a backwards glance she swept from the department.
* * *
It had been an interesting morning. Gabe was well aware that he had been well and truly sized up, tested and judged. What the verdict was he had no idea.