The Heiress's Secret BabyBy: Jessica Gilmore
Gabe came to a halt and stared at Polly Rafferty. Was that a smile on her face?
‘Rachel tells me you’ve been working all hours,’ she continued. ‘I just want to thank you. Obviously it was less than ideal that I wasn’t back before Raff left but it’s such a relief that you were here to help out.’
‘I was more than happy to step in.’ Gabe leant against the door frame and watched her through narrow eyes.
Polly seemed oblivious to his gaze. She was leaning back in his chair—correction, her chair—completely at her ease. She had taken off her jacket and it hung on the hat stand in the corner, her bag tossed carelessly on the floor beneath it. Her laptop was plugged into the keyboard and monitor, his own laptop folded and put aside. Several sheets of paper were stacked on the gleaming mahogany desk, a red pen lying on top of one, the crossed-out lines and scribbled notes implying great industry. It was as if she had never been away.
As if he had never been there.
Polly looked up, pen in hand. ‘You haven’t had breakfast so I suggest you take an hour or so while I get to grips with a few things here, then we can discuss how it’s going to work moving forward. Starting with a permanent office and an assistant for you.’ She couldn’t be more gracious.
In fact she was the perfect hostess. Gabe suppressed a smile; he couldn’t help approving of her tactics. Polly was throwing down the gauntlet. Oh, politely and with some degree of charm but, still, she was making it clear that absence or no absence this was her company and he was the incomer.
‘You don’t want your grandfather’s office?’ he asked. ‘I assumed that you would want to move in there.’
A flicker of sadness ran over her face disturbing the blandly pleasant mask. ‘This room belonged to my great-grandfather. The furniture and décor is just as it was, just as he chose. I’m staying here.’
But she wasn’t going to offer him the bigger room either; he’d stake his reputation on it.
‘I don’t need an hour.’ He pushed off the door frame. ‘I am quite happy to start in fifteen minutes.’
‘That’s very sweet of you, Gabe.’ The smile was back. ‘But please, take an hour. I’ll see you then.’
The dismissal was clear. Round one to Polly Rafferty.
That was okay. Gabe didn’t care about individual rounds. He cared about the final prize. He inclined his head as he moved towards the door. ‘Of course, take as long as you need to settle back in. Oh and, Polly? Welcome back.’
Polly held onto the smile as long as it took for the door to close behind the tall Frenchman then slumped forward with a sigh. It had taken her just a few minutes to reclaim the office but it still didn’t feel like hers. It smelt different, of soap and a fresh citrusy cologne, of leather and whatever was in that disgusting green drink Gabe had tossed down so easily. She’d sniffed the glass when he was in the shower and recoiled in horror—until then she didn’t think anything could be as vile as the look of the smoothie, but she’d been wrong.
Her coffee smelt off too. It must be the jet lag and all the travelling she’d done in the last week—nothing smelt right at the moment. Her stomach had twisted with nausea at the mere thought of caffeine or alcohol and even the eggs she had tried to eat at the airport.
Polly pushed the thought away. Whining that she was tired and that she felt ill wouldn’t get her anywhere. She needed to hit the ground running and not stop.
Walking over to the massive art deco windows that dominated the office, she peered through their tinted panes at the street below. Coloured in red and green it looked like a film maker’s whimsical view of the vibrant West End. Polly had always loved the strange slant the glass gave on the world. It helped her think clearly, think differently—helped her see problems in a new way.
And right now she needed all her wits about her.
‘Gabriel Beaufils,’ she said aloud, her mind conjuring up unbidden the tall man lounging at his ease, jeans riding low, bare chested, the water still dripping from his wet hair. What did that tell her?
That he was shameless. That he was beautiful.
Polly shook her head impatiently, replacing the image in her mind with the man that had just left. Leaning insouciantly against the door, wet hair slicked back. Still in jeans but now they were more sedately paired with a crisp white linen shirt. No tie. Laughter in his eyes.
That was better. Now what could she deduce from that? He didn’t care what people thought about him, what she thought about him. That he was confident and utterly secure in his charm. That he was underestimating her.
She could work with that.