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Best of Bosses 2008(10)

By:Kate Hardy

Didn’t want a girlfriend.

Didn’t need a girlfriend.

OK, so his life wasn’t absolutely perfect at the moment. He couldn’t shift this restlessness, this feeling that there was a black hole in the middle of his life. He had no idea what he was looking for or what might fill that black hole—but he was pretty sure that it wasn’t settling down, getting married and having babies, whatever his family might think.

The second he walked into the kitchen, he was greeted with a hug and then a cuff round the ear by his aunt.

‘I’m too old and—at nearly a foot taller than you—too big for that,’ he said with a grin.

‘That’s what you’d like to think. I’m older and wiser and I know better. So where is she, then?’ Annetta asked.


‘This bella ragazza Marco’s told me about. Francesca. This nice Italian girl.’

‘Netti, dolcezza, you know I adore you. But you’re jumping to conclusions.’ He kissed her cheek. ‘First of all, Fran’s not Italian.’

‘With a name like Francesca?’ Annetta scoffed. ‘Come off it.’

‘She’s not Italian,’ Gio repeated. ‘Secondly, she happens to be my new office manager. You lot have been nagging me for months and months and months to pace myself and take some time off—aren’t you pleased that I’m finally taking your advice and hiring myself some help?’

But his aunt refused to be diverted. ‘Marco says she’s nice. She has a pretty smile. And that you don’t look at her as if she’s a colleague.’

‘Yes, she’s nice,’ Gio agreed. ‘But Marco’s just become a dad and he’s sleep-deprived. He’s seeing things that aren’t there. She’s my colleague. And I’m not looking to settle down.’

‘You’re not even looking at going out with anyone, let alone settling down! And you need a social life as well as your work,’ Annetta said, pursing her lips. ‘You need someone to take you in hand. Why not this so-called “new office manager” of yours?’

‘Because.’ Gio knew better than to get drawn into this argument. He’d be here all night. ‘Netti, cara, I should get back to Fran, before she decides I’m going to be a terrible boss and changes her mind. And Marco did say you’d made us crème brûlée with raspberries…’

‘Don’t think you’re getting out of it that easily,’ his aunt warned, but she smiled and handed him the two dessert dishes. ‘Ring your mother tonight. You don’t call her enough. And you work too hard.’

‘Sì, mia zia. I know. That’s the way I’m made. It’s how Mazetti men are.’

She threw up her hands. ‘You’re impossible.’

He kissed her cheek. ‘Thanks for the pudding.’

‘My pleasure, piccolo.’ She shooed him towards the door. ‘Off you go, then. Back to the bella ragazza.’

Uh-oh. She clearly hadn’t listened to a word he’d said. That, or she’d decided not to believe him. ‘Please remember, Netti, Fran’s my office manager, not my girlfriend. Whatever you, my mother or Nonna would like to think—or dream up between the three of you,’ he said.

Annetta laughed. ‘You can tell Nonna that yourself. You know she’s coming over from Milan in about three weeks.’

‘I’m not sure,’ Gio said, ‘whether that’s a threat or a promise.’ He laughed, and fled from the kitchen before his aunt could flick a wet tea-towel at him.

Gio placed the dish of crème brûlée in front of Fran. ‘This will be the best you’ve ever tasted,’ he told her.

It certainly looked good. ‘How was your aunt?’ she asked politely.

‘Fine. I was told off for not taking you to meet her. But…’ He shook his head. ‘As one of four kids, you’ve got a better chance than most people of coping with the Mazettis. But you’ve only just agreed to be my office manager. I don’t want them scaring you off before you’ve even started.’

‘How would they do that?’

‘The women are—how can I put this nicely?—bossy. I grew up in a house with four women, so I can just about hold my own with my mother and my sisters—and my aunt. But when they add Nonna to the mix…’ He groaned. ‘She’s coming over from Milan in three weeks’ time. So I’m going to have to go into hiding.’

‘Your grandmother’s really that scary?’

‘No-o. Not exactly. She’s very straightforward—she tends to tell things like they are. I don’t think you’d have a problem with that. But…’ he sighed ‘…as I said, she’s got this thing about wanting me to settle down. Mum and Netti are her sidekicks, and they’ve got Marco on the team now—his wife had a little girl two weeks ago, and he’s just besotted with his wife and daughter. He thinks I should do what he’s done: find the perfect wife for me and have babies.’