The Secretary's Scandalous Secret

By: Cathy Williams

CHAPTER ONE


‘I CALLED. Five minutes ago. You failed to pick up.’ Luc Laughton flicked back the cuff of his shirt to look pointedly at his watch. ‘I don’t appreciate clock-watching in my employees. People who work for me are well paid for a reason.’

Cool green eyes swept over the small blonde huddled in a thick coat of indeterminate colour that looked as though it had been rescued from the local charity shop. There was, he was forced to concede, a pretty good chance that it had been, knowing her as he did.

Bright patches of colour had appeared on Agatha’s cheeks. Of course she had heard the telephone ring. Of course she had known that she really should have picked it up—but she had been in a rush, and it wasn’t as though she didn’t put in her fair share of overtime when it was necessary. In fact, it was already five-forty-five, so it was hardly as though she had raced to join the five o’clock Friday-evening exodus!

‘Because you’re here as a favour to my mother,’ Luc continued with that implacable edge of steel in his voice that made him so feared in the cut-throat world of high finance, ‘doesn’t mean that you can slope off on the dot of five whenever it suits you.’

‘It’s after five-thirty, and I wasn’t sloping off.’ Agatha stared down at the ground with ferocious concentration because it was a lot less traumatic than actually having to look at Luc Laughton. Looking at Luc Laughton always resulted in a thumping heart, a racing pulse and an inconvenient, prickly feeling all over her body. It had been that way since she had been a kid of thirteen and he had been eighteen—on the verge of manhood, fabulously good-looking and with the sort of dangerous, dark looks that made women stop and stare and then do a double-take every time he walked by.

How could she have failed to have a crush? All the girls in the village had had a crush on him, not that he had ever paid any of them a blind bit of notice. He was the rich kid who lived in the mansion on the hill. He had attended a top boarding school which had honed his razor-sharp intellect and invested him with the kind of cool self-assurance that Agatha had found both scary and weirdly compelling.

‘If it’s important, I guess I could stay on a bit longer…’ she mumbled to the carpet.

Luc gave an elaborate sigh and leaned against the door frame. He had known from the very beginning that this was where the favour to his mother would end up, but what choice had he been given?

Six years ago his father had died unexpectedly, leaving behind him a financial train-wreck brought about by gross mismanagement of his company by the person he had most trusted. While Luc had been living it up at university, on the verge of leaving for Harvard to begin a Masters in economics and history, the wealth that had supported a lifestyle way beyond most people’s wildest dreams had been unravelling faster than the speed of light. His charming father had played golf and entertained clients, and his unscrupulous finance director had played with the books and embezzled vast sums of money.

Luc had been summoned home to face a grief-stricken mother and a house about to go under the hammer to pay off the creditors who had been baying like wolves at the door.

Distraught at having nowhere to live, Danielle had been taken in by the vicar and his wife. They had looked after her and seen her through some tough times for the better part of a year, until the misery of her non-existent finances had been sorted. Sufficient money had been scraped together to rent a small cottage outside the village, which had provided her with a roof over her head while Luc had abandoned his postgrad plans and begun the process of savagely, ruthlessly and single-mindedly reclaiming what had been lost.

So when, eight months ago, his mother had told him that little Agatha Havers had been made redundant a few months ago and needed a job he had had no option but to provide one. Her parents had been an invaluable rock to his mother when she had most needed one, and thanks to them he had had the freedom to instigate the meteoric rise which, less than four years later, would see his mother restored to the house that was rightfully hers.


In the high-tech glass building with its high-achieving staff, however, Agatha stood out like a sore thumb. The daughter of the local vicar of a small parish in a small village in the middle of nowhere, trained in the vital skills of gardening and potting plants, was perilously out of step in his world of mergers, acquisitions and making money.

‘Has Helen gone?’ Helen was Luc’s personal assistant. Agatha felt sorry for her. She might get bits and pieces of his eagle-eyed attention, but Helen received the full brunt of it, because Luc was nothing if not an exacting task-master. Agatha could only shudder at the thought of having to be under Luc’s radar all day, only to return home to all the peace and quiet of four children and a husband.

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