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Best of Bosses 2008(9)

By:Kate Hardy

That accounted for the suppressed restlessness she’d spotted earlier. ‘Music?’ she asked. Did he want to follow the dream he’d given up ten years before?

‘I’m too old. Too out of practice. I only play for myself nowadays, anyway.’ He shook his head. ‘I don’t know. I can promise you one thing, though—I’m not intending to sell the business or make you redundant. I just need…time. To sort a few things out in my head. And I need someone to help me. Someone to give me that time.’

He needed someone.

And he’d asked her.

‘How about we have a month’s trial, with a week’s notice on either side?’ she asked.

The smile he gave her was like that of a drowning man who’d just been thrown a lifeline. ‘Sounds good to me. When do you want to start?’


‘HOW about tomorrow?’ The words came out before he could stop them. Too eager. Stupid, Gio berated himself mentally. If he wasn’t careful, he’d scare her off.

‘Straight from one job to another, without a break?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Very stupid, he amended silently. Hell. Now she was going to say no. Because he’d rushed her. Of course she’d want a break between jobs. Time to recharge her batteries. Would he never learn not to jump in feet first?

And then she smiled. ‘Well, it beats sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Tomorrow it is.’

He could’ve kissed her. Except officially, they were working together now. And Gio had seen too many good business relationships messed up when sex had got in the way of business. He wasn’t going to make that mistake. Even though he was definitely attracted to Fran and every time he looked at her he felt that low, humming excitement in his blood.

A feeling he’d just have to keep in check.

He settled on taking her hand and shaking it, instead. ‘Thanks. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.’

Time to let her hand go, now.


Because this was teetering on the very fine line between being a handshake and holding her hand. And he was aware of a tingling in his palm where her skin touched his.

This wasn’t the time. And in the middle of his aunt’s restaurant was definitely not the place. As it was, Marco had assumed that Fran was his girlfriend, and despite Gio’s denial the family grapevine was probably already buzzing.

He knew he’d get a call from his mother tonight, asking him how come he’d taken his girlfriend to meet his Aunt Netti before meeting his mother. Not to mention texts from Bella, Jude and Marcie staking their claims as bridesmaids, demanding full details of their new sister-in-law-to-be, and offering dinner invitations so they could meet her and grill her for themselves: his family didn’t seem to believe in taking things slowly.

Just as well he’d switched his mobile phone to ‘discreet’ mode. Pity he couldn’t switch his family to ‘discreet’ in the same way.

‘Appreciate what?’ Marco asked, overhearing Gio’s last comment.

Gio resisted the temptation to wring his cousin’s neck, and let go of Fran’s hand. ‘Perfect timing, cugino mio. I’d like you to meet my new office manager.’

Marco stared at Fran, and then at Gio. ‘Office manager?’


‘You’re telling me you’ve just been conducting a job interview—over dinner?’ Disbelief filled every note of his cousin’s voice.

‘It’s the civilised way to do things.’ Gio gave a wry smile. ‘And as I have to eat anyway…’

‘You decided to multi-task it.’ Marco made exaggerated quote marks with his fingers around the word ‘multi-task’, and rolled his eyes. ‘You’re unbelievable. Fran, he did warn you he’s a workaholic and his favourite phrase is “multi-task it”, didn’t he? Don’t let him take advantage of you.’

‘She’s too efficient to do that,’ Gio retorted.

Fran coughed. ‘And I’m also quite capable of speaking for myself, thank you very much.’

‘Indeed. And I apologise, Fran. My family’s bad habit—’ well, one of them, Gio thought ‘—is that we talk too much.’ He spread his hands. ‘Speaking of which…I’d better sneak into the kitchen to see my aunt. If you’ll excuse me for a little while?’ No way was he taking Fran with him to meet Netti. He needed to stop the family rumours before they spread: and he didn’t want his new office manager frightened off by the idea of his family claiming her as his new girlfriend.

Which she wasn’t.

Because he didn’t have a girlfriend.