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Best of Bosses 2008(14)

By:Kate Hardy

‘Stir it,’ Gio said softly.

She did, half-expecting the coffee to stay black with just a tiny bit of foam clinging to the edges of the cup, but the crema reformed. ‘Wow.’

‘Now watch and wait.’

She watched as the thousands of tiny, tiny bubbles began to disperse. And as the caramel-coloured foam started to dissolve, so her awareness of Gio’s nearness grew. To the point where she was having a seriously hard time keeping her cool. It wasn’t that he was invading her personal space—it was that she wanted him to.

Which was a seriously bad idea.

He was her new boss.

Which meant hands off.

She’d seen what happened with office romances. The way the working relationship turned so awkward that one of them had to leave—and until that happened everyone was walking on eggshells. Messy. Complicated. Not something she wanted to happen here.

Gio glanced at his watch when the crema had almost vanished. ‘Just over a minute. Good. OK, you can do a second one. This time it’s for tasting.’

When he’d tasted it, he said, ‘Good. Just the right amount of smoothness. Try it.’ He held the mug to her lips.

Her mouth was right where his had just touched. Oh, lord. This was getting ridiculous. She’d spent years working without ever falling for a colleague or a client. So why was she reacting this way to Gio? Besides, he probably taught all his baristas this way, standing close to them so he could reach out and guide them where necessary.

This wasn’t personal.

It just felt like it.

‘Good?’ he asked.

‘Good.’ Her voice sounded very slightly squeaky; she really hoped he hadn’t noticed.

‘Excellent. Thus endeth your first lesson. We’ll do lattes tomorrow.’ He smiled at her. ‘See you tomorrow. I’m over in Holborn first thing, but you can buzz through to me if you need anything. And I’ll take you round the other branches tomorrow afternoon.’

Class most definitely dismissed, Fran thought, even though he’d done it in the most charming way. ‘Do you want me to stay and help clean the machines?’

Ouch. That sounded like an attempt to be the teacher’s pet.

‘No, that’s fine. I’ve kept you here long enough. And, Fran?’


He smiled at her. ‘Thanks. I appreciate what you’ve done today.’

‘No worries. See you later.’ She replaced her notebook in a tray in the office, collected her handbag from the bottom drawer, and lifted her hand in a casual wave goodbye as she left the coffee shop.

Putting distance between herself and Gio Mazetti was a good idea, she thought. And hopefully by the time she saw him again, she’d have it fixed in her head that they were colleagues only—and staying that way.


THE next morning, Fran felt awkward going in to work so late—especially as Gio wasn’t there—but Sally and Ian, the baristas, greeted her cheerfully enough. Sally had a mug of coffee ready for her just the way she liked it before she’d even reached the office. Gio had emailed her from Holborn, asking if she’d get some information for him about specific aspects of franchising, so she spent the rest of the morning researching, and the afternoon setting up a spreadsheet that would do automated graphs showing the figures for each coffee shop.

She knew the second that Gio walked into the coffee shop; even though she couldn’t see him from the office, she was aware of his presence. Something that made the air tingle.

So much for her pep talk, the previous evening, spent in front of the bathroom mirror, repeating over and over again that Gio Mazetti was her boss and way off limits. It wasn’t as if she’d been bothered before about being single or on the shelf. Why should things be different now?

‘Hi.’ He walked into the office and leaned against the edge of her desk. ‘Good day so far?’

‘Yes. You?’

‘Pretty good. I’ve got a new supplier coming to see us tomorrow morning—someone who does organic cakes. So we’ll need to do a taste test and, if we like it, work out what we’re going to have to charge to keep the same profit margin and where the break-even points are. She left me the price list.’ He handed her a folder. ‘Tomorrow, can you sort me out some suggested figures for a trial?’

‘No problem.’ She flicked into her tasklist and typed rapidly.

‘Thanks. Are you still OK for another half-hour lesson on baristaing, tonight?’ he asked.

So he was still going to teach her, not get Sally or one of the others to take over? A warm glow spread through her. ‘Sure.’ She tried for a light tone. ‘This is where I get to do the milk, yes?’