The speed of her ejection from Aristo still stunned her but hopefully, if she pulled something magical off with this party, she might show them all what she was capable of, maybe then she’d be more welcome there.

She pushed the chaos of emotion aside. Decided to start with the fun stuff. The invitations themselves had to be something special. They’d give some clue to the style of the event and set up the expectations of the guests. She needed the most glam guests too. It took no time at all to compile a list of Aristan dignitaries and socialites who she knew would seal the exclusive nature of the event. The elite circle that in itself drew crowds.

She flicked over the file James had mentioned and decided to change most of the things already in place.

Just under two weeks wasn’t long to arrange things the way she wanted, but she knew she could pull it off.

She surfed on the Internet for ideas, and chose to ignore the fact that the new temp brought in to cover the secretarial duties she’d now abandoned had mastered the phone system and the internal accounts system in less than an hour.

If James wanted the best, she would give him the best. The finest foods, the finest wines, the finest décor —utter opulence. In a city of excess and extreme wealth it needed to be some party to impress the jaded palates of the Aristan elite.

James was surprisingly hands-off in his management of her. All morning he left her to her own devices.

She was pleased; she wanted to keep much of what she was planning under wraps so when all was revealed on the night it would have maximum impact. Because the person she wanted to impress most of all was him. She wanted him to lose that touch of sarcasm once and for all. Wanted him to be the warm, welcoming boss he’d been that first day when he’d thought she was his usual secretary.

Who was she trying to kid? What she really wanted was him—full stop. And that, she knew, wasn’t wise.

She watched as he walked out for lunch. The minute he’d gone she escaped the office too. There were some boutiques nearby she often browsed through—including a fabulous shoe store that had several styles she was eyeing up. Today was a good day—worthy of celebration, and that pair in particular called to her from its perch in the left-hand corner of the window. Temptation was too strong. She had to try them on.

And then, of course, once she’d tried them on, she had to own them. Handing over her credit card, crossing fingers that she hadn’t already maxed out the limit, she bought the soft slip-ons with her current favourite style of slim but very high heel. And, like all eager and true shoe lovers, there was no way she was leaving the store without them on her feet.

She laughed at her folly. But there was a lot to be said for retail therapy—it could be a temporary filler for her hunger for something else entirely.

As a result of the impulsive spree, she was a little later than she intended on her return to the office and found the door downstairs being held for her by James.

He glanced at the bag in her hand and then at her feet. A gleam, it could only be of amusement, put the golden touch to his chestnut eyes. ‘What is it with you and shoes? They’re ridiculous.’

‘No, they’re not.’ They were gorgeous, and felt light and cool on her feet. And sexy.

‘Suitable for five minutes’ standing and nothing more.’

‘I can do anything in these shoes,’ she declared rashly.

An eyebrow quirked and the gleam became decidedly devilish. ‘Anything? Race me up the stairs, then.’

Her chin lifted and adrenalin kicked through her body. ‘I’m actually pretty fast.’

His smile widened more but the reply was slow and mocking. ‘That I can believe.’

Her eyes narrowed; the need to justify herself galloped through her. She turned and faced the flight of stairs. ‘Marks, get set, GO.’ She took off and was aware of nothing moving at her side. At the top of the first flight she stopped and looked down to where he stood watching. ‘Why aren’t you racing?’

‘I’m giving you a head start. Those shoes really are a handicap.’

‘More fool you.’

She ran, light-footed and quick. But he, unlike she, could leap up three or four at a time. While her legs were long, she had to tackle the stairs one at a time, for fear of, well, breaking an ankle.

Naturally it was no time at all before he’d bounded by her side and in front. He stopped on the next landing.

‘Overtaken on the third flight,’ he mocked. ‘Admit it, barefoot you’d be better.’

‘My shoes are part of my self-expression.’

‘Beautiful and decorative and entirely unsuitable for anything useful.’

Tags: Natalie Anderson Billionaire Romance