He ripped a chicken leg off and gnawed it as he stretched out on his sofa, with Pepper quivering on the floor beside him.
‘You’re on a diet.’ Luca reminded him. Half watching a detective show on the television, finally Luca relented and threw some titbits to the floor in reward for their new game—having recently found out that if he changed the word ‘Paw’ to ‘High five’ the outcome was the same, only much more satisfying.
It had been hellish breaking up with Martha—her tears and protests at the unexpected end had been unprecedented—as over and over she had asked how he could end something so good.
And she’d left Pepper—just hadn’t taken him, sure that Luca would crack and ring, would make contact— but what she hadn’t truly realised was that when Luca ended things, he ended them.
That Luca would rather deal with a senile, smelly old dog than face her again.
The detective show actually wasn’t that boring…
Three minutes from the end of the final episode of the season, Luca decided it was something he might actually get into.
And then the credits rolled.
And he knew this was what Emma had been talking about.
Knew she was watching it too.
He just knew it. And he wished she’d said yes to Paris.
IT WAS a quarter to five on a Thursday afternoon and the entire staff of D’Amato Financiers, excluding Emma, seemed— to be abuzz with excitement. As Emma walked back from a meeting with the manager of HR she could see make-up, slyly in some cases and blatantly in others, being applied at desks, and the general office area reeked of a clash of newly sprayed perfume. Even the guys were at it—appearing from the men’s room with a generous dash of newly applied hair product and a glint in their eyes as the end of the workday approached.
Thursday night in London, and it seemed everyone had plans.
Everyone except Emma.
She remembered with a pang when Thursday nights had heralded the start of the weekend. When Friday morning had been spent huddled around the coffee machine, dissecting the previous night.
She’d be lucky if she was out of here by seven and she had to visit her father and she had to be back here by six the next morning, to meet with Luca and then fly up for an eight-thirty a.m. meeting in Scotland.
Evelyn had had second thoughts—offering Emma the position the following day—and she had been in her dream job for six weeks now. And though it was still just that, a dream job, it was also extremely hard work—as Assistant Personal Assistant to Luca D’Amato, it wasn’t just her job title that took some explaining. Every minute of Luca’s time was valuable, Evelyn had explained on her first day. Beyond valuable, actually—which was why he had his own travel team, two assistants and looking for a third, four full-time drivers, in fact a whole fleet of staff that took care of the details and allowed Luca to get on with doing what he did best—rescuing struggling companies, turning them around and making an obscene amount of money in the process.
Emma’s job was varied, mostly exciting and yet also downright boring at times—dealing with his sister’s wedding, his dog, his housekeeper’s endless reams of days off. The list was endless.
Ducking into the ladies’room, Emma knew she ought to attempt a quick repair job on her hair and face before she headed back to her office and to whatever mood Luca was in, but it took for ever to elbow her way to the mirror and her curly dark hair had spent too long in an air-conditioned building because it was looking decidedly frizzy. She borrowed a squirt of serum from a snooty-looking redhead, re-tied her hair back in a low ponytail and then, sick of the coffee on the top floor, she grabbed a hot chocolate and a bag of crisps from the vending machine then headed back up in the lift, knowing— that in all likelihood this would double up as dinner.
As she walked out of the lift, Emma stepped back as a stunning, raven-haired woman stormed out of Luca’s office and into the lift, tears streaming down her face but watching his closed office door and just standing there, waiting for it to open, waiting for him to follow her out, to call her back, to no doubt tell her that it didn’t have to end like this, that he’d had a change of heart.
Of course he didn’t.
Of course he wouldn’t—no one delivered an ultimatum to Luca and came out smiling, not even this rare beauty, who, with a sob of frustration, finally pushed the lift button, her desperate eyes peeking out of the closing gap, still hoping that Luca would change his mind.
‘That,’ he said, first peering around the door and making sure it was safe to come out, ‘was not my fault.’ He put up his hands in bemusement and said it again. ‘Really, that time it wasn’t my fault.’ Still Emma said nothing, just watched with pursed lips as he helped himself to her hot chocolate, as he always did if she didn’t pour it into her mug before he saw it. ‘Honestly, it wasn’t!’
‘It never is.’ Sarcasm dripped from Emma’s lips, which— might seem rude to some, and might be no way to talk to your boss—but it was because she did speak to him like that, because she did keep him at arm’s length and because she was very good at her job, that, despite— his stunning initial offer, in the six weeks she had worked there, Luca hadn’t even attempted to flirt.
Well, the odd time perhaps!
But it was quickly, expertly, rebuffed.
‘Did you get my messages?’ Emma checked, because— he never read them. ‘A Dr Calista called—he wants you to ring him.’
‘And your sister too—she wants to know if you’ve looked at the ties.’
‘She sent you an email of some photos of ties—for the groomsmen to wear at the wedding—and she wants to know if you’re staying. She’s rung a few times today.’
‘Remind her of my hourly rate,’ Luca drawled, ‘and if she keeps ringing, bill her.’
He didn’t mean it, Emma knew that, but he could be so scathing at times.
‘I do mean it,’ Luca said as if in response to her private thoughts.
‘You really want me to bill your sister for ringing you?’ She knew he didn’t mean it, knew he’d hit the roof if she actually did it, and just refused to play his games.
‘I want you,’ Luca said, very firmly, very clearly, ‘to practise some of the assertion this job demands—I am not to be bothered with these details, is that clear?’
‘Good.’ Luca said. ‘You choose the ties, you sort things out and you have my full authority to tell her it was me.’
He was turning now, heading back to his office, tossing the empty chocolate cup in the bin. Then he turned around.
‘Are you doing anything tonight?’
‘Actually, yes,’ Emma said through gritted teeth, ‘I’ve got plans.’
‘Well, cancel them.’ Luca shrugged. ‘Ruby was supposed to be coming with me to some awful dinner dance at Hemming’s. It’s plus one, so I’m expected to bring someone.’
‘I really do have plans!’ Emma repeated, because she was beginning to get tired of this—she worked hard, more than hard, but this would be the fourth night in a row that she hadn’t got to visit her father and it simply wasn’t fair—surely she was allowed to have a semblance of a life? ‘I need to visit my father,’ she reluctantly explained, loath to let Luca in on her personal life. ‘I told him I’d be over tonight.’
‘So, tell him that you are working.’
‘I’ve been putting him off all week.’ She just couldn’t do it to him again. ‘I’d really like to finish on time tonight.’ When Luca just frowned, she pushed a touch further. ‘Look, I don’t usually say no, but surely there’s someone else you can ask?’
Which was a stupid thing to say. There were plenty of women Luca could ask, and there was one reason and one reason only that he was asking her! ‘I was hoping for an early night,’ Luca sighed. ‘At least with you it would be just dinner!’Which was a rather strange compliment, but it bought a reluctant smile to her face. ‘I’ll ask Evelyn—where is she, by the way?’
‘No, don’t…’ Emma flustered, for Evelyn had sneaked off to the doctor’s to pick up her vials and needles for her final round of IVF, which she was starting in the morning. The last thing the poor woman needed was a night on the town with Luca. ‘I’ll just go. It’s fine.’
‘You’re sure?’ Luca frowned, just a touch guilty now that he had got his own way, as he knew full well where Evelyn was. ‘Tell you what—we can visit your father on the way.’
‘We can’t,’ Emma fretted. ‘I’ll be in evening dress!’
‘So?’ Luca grinned. ‘Go on, get ready and we’ll leave in an hour.’
It was testament to the nature of her job that she could get ready for a formal function within the hour. There was a bathroom on their floor and Emma stuffed her curls under a cap and quickly showered. She even had a wardrobe in her office—her day bag was already packed and ready for her jaunt to Scotland in the morning and Emma rummaged in it for her styling wand and spare make-up bag then set to work on her face, squirting drops in her eyes in the hope they’d sparkle and then working on her lips and cheeks.