The Heiress's Secret Baby

By: Jessica Gilmore

She hadn’t meant to tag on the last line but with the imprint of his hand still burning her back and the taste of him taunting her mouth she really needed to be looking at something other than what seemed like acres of taut, tanned bare flesh.

Surely now, now he would show some contrition, some shame. But no, he was what? Laughing? He was mad or drunk or both and she was going to call Security right now.

‘Of course, your office! Polly, bonjour. I am charmed to meet you.’

What? He knew her name? She took an instinctive step backwards as he slid off the chaise, as graceful as a panther, and took a step towards her, hand held out.

‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ She stepped back a little further, one hand groping for the phone ready to call for help.

‘I am so very sorry.’ He was smiling as if the whole situation were nothing but a huge joke. ‘I fell asleep here, last night, and was confused when you woke me.’ His eyes laughed at her, shamelessly. ‘It’s not the first time I’ve been awakened by a glass of water. I am Gabriel Beaufils, your new vice CEO. My friends call me Gabe. I hope you will too.’

No, that was no better, she was still looking at him as if he were an escaped convict. Not surprisingly, Gabe thought ruefully. What had he been thinking?

He hadn’t. He’d been dreaming, stuck in that hazy world between sleep and wakefulness when he’d felt a warm hand on his shoulder followed by the chill shock of the water and, confused, had thought it some kind of game. After three weeks of eighteen-hour days, making sure he was fully and firmly ensconced at Rafferty’s before the formidable Polly Rafferty returned, he wasn’t as switched on as he should be.

Well, his wake-up call had been brutal. It was bad enough from Polly’s point of view that he had been catapulted in without her say-so or knowledge—and a wake-up kiss probably wasn’t the wisest way to make a good impression. He needed to make up the lost ground, and fast.

He smiled at her, pouring as much winning charm into the smile as he could.

There was no answering smile, not even in her darkly shadowed eyes. The bruised circles were the only hint of tiredness even though she must have come straight here from the airport. Her dark gold hair was twisted up into a neat knot and her suit looked freshly laundered. Yet for all the business-style armour there was something oddly vulnerable in the blue eyes, the determined set of her almost too-slender frame.

‘Gabriel Beaufils?’ There was a hint of recognition in her voice. ‘You were working for Desmoulins?’

‘Oui, as Digital Director.’ He debated mentioning the tripling of profits in the proud old Parisian store’s web business but decided against it. Yet. That little but pertinent detail might come in handy and he didn’t want to play his hand too soon.

‘I don’t recall hiring a new vice CEO.’ There was nothing fragile in her voice. It was cold enough to freeze the water still dripping over his torso. ‘Even if I had, that doesn’t explain why you were sleeping in my office and appear to have mislaid your top.’

Nor why you kissed me. She might not have said the words but they were implied, hung accusingly in the air.

No, better to forget about the kiss, delightful as it had been. Strange to think that the huge-eyed, fragile-looking woman opposite had responded so openly, so ardently, that she would taste of sweetness and spice.

Damn it, he was supposed to be forgetting about the kiss.

‘Polly, je suis désolé.’ This situation was not irredeemable no matter how it seemed right now. It wasn’t often that Gabe thought himself lucky to have three older sisters but right now they were a blessing; he was used to disapproving glares and turning the stickiest of situations right around.

‘I have been using this office until you returned—we didn’t know if you would want to take over your grandfather’s office or stay in here. But once again I was working too late and missed the last train back to Hopeford. It was easier to crash out on the couch rather than find a hotel so late. If I had known you were coming in this morning...’

He threw his hands out in a placatory gesture.

It didn’t work. If anything she looked even more suspicious. ‘Hopeford? Why would you be staying there?’

A sinking feeling hit Gabe. On a scale of one to ten this whole situation was hitting one hundred on the awkward chart. If she wasn’t happy about having a vice CEO she hadn’t handpicked then she was going to love having a strange houseguest!

‘Cat-feeding. Raff was worried Mr Simpkins would get lonely.’ He smiled as winningly as he could but there was no response from her.

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