The clock on the wall seemed frozen and Candy sighed. The afternoon had dragged on and on until every minute seemed like an hour. Everyone was on edge as, one by one, they had been called in to the new boss’s office. Candy was so tightly wound, she could snap any minute.
“Oh. My. God,” Amanda said in Candy’s ear as she sidled up to her.
Candy looked at Amanda’s wide blue eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked and a current of fear crept up her spine. “Did you get the sack?”
“No,” Amanda replied in a low voice. “It was worse than that.”
Candy frowned and Renae moved in on them.
“What happened?” Renae asked.
“I met the new boss,” Amanda replied. “Mr Hammond.”
Candy's heart raced. “Is he an ogre?”
Amanda looked fit to burst. “Worse!”
“Worse?” Candy said, as she bit her bottom lip. “How bad is he?”
The laughter burst out and Amanda put a hand over her mouth. “You should see the look on your faces,” she said, grinning.
Eyes turned towards them. “Shh,” Candy said, with a finger to her lips.
“Come on, spill the beans,” Renae ordered, as she moved in close.
“Mr Hammond is...” Amanda began and took a breath.
Amanda’s face glowed. Candy was confused. What was the big secret?
“He’s...the most gorgeous man I’ve seen in a long time,” Amanda confessed.
“What?” Candy said, scowling. “I thought it was something bad.”
Amanda laughed, her brown curls springing about her face.
“That wasn’t very nice. You scared us,” Renae said.
“Oh, but you should be scared. I walked into his office and didn’t hear a word he said. I’ll probably get sacked tomorrow,” Amanda declared.
“Amanda, sometimes you drive me crazy,” Candy grumbled.
“Me too,” Renae added, her arms folded across her chest.
“Oh, chill out,” Amanda told them flippantly. “I was only having a bit of fun. Everyone’s walking around with frowns on their faces. Besides, he has a big gold ring on his wedding finger.”
“Well, thank heavens for that,” Candy said. “I don’t think I could handle another handsome man in the spate of two weeks.”
Amanda punched her playfully on the arm. “Go on, rub it in. So did you get your man’s phone number?”
“Why not?” Renae asked.
“I...he was asleep...”
Amanda stared at her and Candy quickly looked at the floor.
“And you ran out on him?” Amanda asked.
“And you say I drive you crazy? Why would you do such a thing?” Amanda queried.
She shrugged. “I didn’t want a relationship. I just wanted a fling.”
“But to run out on the poor guy...” Renae started.
A voice broke through their conversation and Candy turned to see Mary standing only two feet away. How much had she heard?
“Candace,” Mary said, patting the flawless knot of hair on her head. “Mr Hammond would like to see you in his office.”
“Oh. Of course. I’ll be five minutes,” she replied, and watched Mary walk away. “Do you think she heard anything?” she whispered to her friends.
Amanda shrugged, “Who cares? Let her have something to think about.”
“Easy for you to say.” Candy frowned and smoothed down her black pencil skirt and tucked her white shirt neatly into the band. “How do I look?” she asked.
“Neat as a pin,” Amanda answered and moved her hand to the loose strand of hair on the side of Candy’s face, tucking it behind Candy’s ear.
“Good luck,” Renae told her with crossed fingers as Candy began her walk to the boss’s office.
Candy stared at the closed door and swallowed. Her gaze took in the bare name-plate where her boss’s name used to be. She slowly brought up her fisted hand and knocked.
“Come in,” said a muffled voice.
She took a breath and walked in the room, closing the door behind her.
The room was light and airy. She stood, silent, looking at the man seated behind the huge wood-carved desk. He had his head down and pen up.
He was a large man. She could tell by the span of his shoulders and he had dark, tousled hair. Her brows furrowed. There was something about him…
The scent of spicy cologne reached her nostrils and she chewed on her bottom lip. There was something familiar...
“Sit down, Miss Walker,” the deep American voice resonated. “I won’t bite.”
‘Well, only if you don’t want me to’.
As the words fought their way back through the recesses of her memory, Candy gasped and took a step back, her back to the door.
“What...?” he began.
She watched as he looked up. Saw his frown. Saw his eyes turn to slivers of ice. With her hand behind her, she worked desperately to find the door handle so she could escape...
“Stop!” he bellowed, and quickly stood.
Where was it? She had to get out of there!
He began moving towards her, a mountain of a man dressed in black pants and a grey shirt, and her heart thumped relentlessly in her chest.
There, she found it. She turned the handle but before she could run out of the room a large hand covered hers. A hand that knew far too much.
Her chest heaving, she looked up at him. His ruggedly handsome face was only inches away.
“Well, well,” he snarled. “If it isn’t the elusive, Candy.”
She felt his breath on her skin and closed her eyes. The memories of their time together came crashing into her mind and made her put out a hand to steady herself. She found cotton-covered, hard, solid muscle and quickly pulled her hand away.
He laughed then, throaty and cruel, and stepped away from her.
She opened her eyes. He moved back to his desk and sat on the edge. The king in his domain. What now?
“Well?” he asked.
“Can’t find your voice, Miss Walker?”
She couldn’t find her brain! Everything was jumbled and her stomach was churning.
He shook his head and moved back to his chair behind the desk. “If you haven’t anything to say then you may leave the room.”
What? Did he say she could leave? The buzzing noise in her ears was deafening.
“Go,” he said louder, and motioned towards the door with his hands.
The glint of the gold band on his finger almost blinded her. She was the other woman. She felt sick to her stomach.
“Oh, and Miss Walker,” he began, looking at her with eyes that sent a shiver down her spine. “I never mix business with pleasure.”
Her heart pummelled her chest. Did that mean she was fired?
With eyes wide, she looked at him one more time before getting the hell out of there.
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