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Best of Bosses 2008(7)

By:Kate Hardy

She could appreciate that. But the coffee thing…‘I don’t even have an espresso machine at home.’

He groaned. ‘Don’t tell me you drink instant coffee?’

‘No, I use a cafetiere. Same at work—well, used to,’ she corrected herself. She really had to get her head round the fact that she didn’t work at the voiceover studio any more. ‘I like my coffee fresh, not stuck in a filter pot stewing for half a day.’

‘Then you already have a feel for what we do. Fran, the best way to understand a business is to work in it for a while—and I’m short-staffed right now. I’m about to lose one of my baristas because she wants to go travelling.’

She flinched. ‘Like my boss.’

He smiled ruefully. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to rub salt in your wounds. But—to quote Nonna yet again—when one door closes, another opens. This is an opportunity for both of us. I need someone with your skills, and you’re on garden leave for five months. It strikes me you’re the sort who enjoys being busy and rises to a challenge, so if you work with me this will solve both our problems. I get an office manager who can take some of the weight off me and let me plan where to go next with the business and maybe let me bounce ideas off her, and you get a job that you can stretch to suit you.’

It sounded as if he had it all worked out.

‘And the coffee thing isn’t a problem. I can train you as a barista, teach you what you need to know. If you work a few shifts in one of the coffee shops, you’ll understand the business more and you’ll be able to bring that to the office manager job too.’ He looked thoughtful. ‘You’ll need a food hygiene certificate, but the course only takes a few hours and the exam’s pretty straightforward.’

Exams? Oh, no. This was where it all went pear-shaped. ‘I’m not good at exams,’ she told him. ‘I tend panic. I failed my A levels.’

‘But in day-to-day practical things, you’re fine.’

It was a statement, not a question. She nodded.

‘Then think of the exam as just another day-to-day practical thing.’

‘That’s what my parents said about the driving test. It still took me four goes—and Suzy and the twins all passed theirs first time.’

‘Suzy and the twins?’ he asked.

She shifted in her seat. ‘I’m the eldest of four.’ Sort of.

‘The same as me.’ He smiled. ‘Now I know why you’re brilliantly organised. You’ve had years of practice, bossing your siblings about.’

‘They’re a trainee dentist, a PhD student and a forensic scientist. Bossing them about wouldn’t work,’ she said with a rueful smile. They were all academic and brilliant at exams, unlike her. They all excelled in sports, too, had always been picked for the school’s first team, whereas she’d been hopeless—in sixth form she’d opted to do voluntary work at the local old people’s home on Wednesday afternoons rather than sports.

She was the eldest. And most definitely the odd one out.

Probably because she didn’t share the same gene pool.

Marco took away their empty plates and returned with pizza and a bowl of salad. ‘Mama says panna cotta would take too long, but crème brûlée is on the specials board and she can do you some with raspberries.’

‘Fabulous.’ Gio smiled. ‘Tell her she’s the joint best mother in the world, along with mine.’

‘Tell her yourself. There are big hints in the kitchen that she hasn’t seen her favourite nephew for months.’

‘It hasn’t been anywhere near that long,’ Gio protested.

‘Eat your pizza. Then go see Mama, if you want pudding,’ Marco advised. ‘Fran, would you like pepper? Parmesan?’

‘I’m fine, thanks.’ She smiled back at him.

‘Bene. Enjoy,’ he said, and left them to it.

‘You have to try this,’ Gio insisted, and cut a small piece from his pizza. ‘Here.’ He offered her a forkful across the table; it felt oddly intimate, leaning across to take a bite, and when her gaze met his she felt a weird shifting in the region of her heart, as if it had just turned a somersault.

Oh, lord. Don’t say she was falling for Gio Mazetti, a man she barely knew and who was just about to become her boss?

‘Well?’ he asked. ‘So what do you think of avocado on pizza?’


He laughed. ‘That’s the diplomatic answer.’

She shifted the conversation back to business before it drifted on to personal ground. Dangerous ground. Because if she was going to work with Gio, any other sort of relationship was definitely out of the question. ‘You said you were thinking of expanding or franchising. How big is Giovanni’s?’