His After-Hours Mistress

By: Amanda Browning

CHAPTER ONE




GINNY HARTE jumped at the sudden sound of a crash from the office next door, and glanced round to frown at the closed door which linked the two offices. As far as she was aware, her fellow director of the family-owned chain of hotels, Roarke Adams, was still at lunch. Her fingers paused over the keypad of her PC as she waited for another noise. There followed the distinct sound of something large, probably the wastepaper basket, hitting a wall. An unholy grin slowly spread across her face. All had not gone well, it seemed. What a shame. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, she thought, with a wry grimace.

Pushing back her chair, she rose gracefully to her feet, walked round the desk and headed for the closed door and the momentarily silent room. She was tall, even without her three-inch heels. Slim yet curvaceous, she had flashing green eyes, and the tempestuous nature her thick swathe of red hair indicated. Experience, however, had taught her to keep it in check and now, at the age of twenty-six, she presented a cool, calm demeanour to the outside world.

She had worked alongside Roarke Adams for a little over a year now, ever since his grandfather, the owner of the hotels, had hired her to co-ordinate the modernisation and decorating of the various properties. All other aspects of the business fell into Roarke’s court, but when he bought a new property it was up to her to decide what was needed to bring it into line with the other hotels. When he did his regular tours of the hotels she went with him to oversee any planned redecoration, and they had a surprisingly good working relationship. Which was nothing short of amazing considering the fact that they didn’t actually like each other.

It had taken under a month for them to sum each other up and decide the other was wanting. Battle lines had therefore been drawn and their verbal exchanges had become a source of much interest and amusement to the staff. Skirmishes occurred on a daily basis unless one or other of them was out of the office. Roarke never missed an opportunity to get in a dig at her and, as she had never been one to refuse a fight, she gave as good as she got.

She knew he thought she had ice-water in her veins instead of blood. He didn’t believe she had an ounce of passion in her whole body, and wouldn’t know what to do with a real man. He viewed Daniel, her boyfriend, with open mockery because he was everything Roarke was not. Loyal, steadfast, undemanding. OK, so it wasn’t a passionate relationship, but Ginny had trodden that path once, allowing her passions to rule her head, and it had led to disaster. It wasn’t a road she intended to travel again. Daniel was what she wanted now, and she was pretty sure he was going to propose soon. When he did, she had every intention of accepting him.

If her lifestyle was a joke to her co-director, his was only worthy of her scorn. Roarke, in her opinion, was little more than an unprincipled womaniser. Women went in and out of his life in a more or less constant stream. Like a modern-day Casanova. Any woman who came within range was fair game to him, and even the strongest of them turned to jelly when he looked at them with his glittering eyes and disarming smile. It wouldn’t surprise her in the least if he didn’t carve a notch on his bedpost for every woman he seduced.

Though she didn’t care for his love-them-and-leave-them lifestyle, she knew he was generous and knew how to treat a woman well, whilst his interest remained. And, to be fair, he never approached married women, or those who were otherwise spoken for. Roarke had a code of sorts. He only played the game with those women who knew the rules, and he never became involved with the women who worked for him. His life had two distinct areas, and the one only spilled into the other when she had to console the latest cast-off. A job she did not enjoy.

She had made her disapproval clear but, rather than taking offence, Roarke had been amused by it. He had mockingly informed her he wasn’t going to be reprimanded by a strait-laced harridan. So it had begun, and that was the state of affairs between them now as she reached the connecting door. A wise woman might have drawn back, but Ginny recognised an opportunity when it presented itself. There was no way she could work on without knowing what had happened, so she reached for the door handle.

Pushing the door open, she had to duck hastily as an object hurtled in her direction. Straightening up, she stared down at the pencils which littered the floor around her like so much strange confetti, then back at the man who now stood immobile by the desk.

Honesty compelled Ginny to admit Roarke was, without doubt, the best-looking man she had ever seen. At thirty-two he was in his prime. Tall and leanly muscular, he had thick black hair, roguishly laughing grey eyes, and a mouth that could quirk into a smile to take the breath away. Right this minute, though, he wasn’t smiling. On the contrary, his expression most closely approximated thunderous. It caused her lips to twitch.

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