Defiant Mistress, Ruthless Millionaire

By: Yvonne Lindsay

One


“I don’t feel comfortable with this, Irene.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth Callie knew she’d said the wrong thing. A mere shift in Irene’s expression was all it took. A barely perceptible change, but it was enough to forewarn her of her employer’s displeasure—displeasure that generally had most staff at Palmer Enterprises scurrying for the nearest hiding place.

“Why is that, Callie?”

“Well,” she foundered a moment, lost for words. “Is it even legal? He’s bound to want me to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

“Should that be your worry?” Irene countered. “As one of our valued employees, you know we’d look after you if there happened to be any fallout.”

The older woman’s subtle emphasis on the word valued sent a chill down Callie’s spine. She owed the Palmers—and in particular, Irene Palmer—everything. Without Irene she would have had nothing—not her education, her job, where she lived; even the designer shoes on her feet.

“This works to our advantage, you know,” Irene’s voice interrupted Callie’s thoughts.

“What do you mean?”

Callie looked up at her boss and mentor—the first adult to ever give her hope for a future. The woman who’d actually made her believe she could make something of her life rather than disappear down a drain lined with drugs and crime.

Only no one had ever told her that with debt came a duty to repay it. After twelve years Callie had been forced to ask herself, when would enough be enough?

“Obviously any other time I’d miss having you here as my assistant, but the Guildarian honorary consul position will be announced on Christmas Eve. That’s in, what, nine weeks’ time?”

Callie nodded, her gaze locked on Irene’s face.

“Don’t you see, Callie, it’s the perfect opportunity. Everyone knows you’re my assistant and the whole of New Zealand knows the announcement of Bruce’s appointment is only a matter of time. And while it’s well documented how fiercely loyal you are to me, when Bruce and I move to Guildara you will be forced to seek other employment.”

At Callie’s in-drawn breath, Irene waved a graceful, perfectly manicured hand in the air.

“Yes, I know you expected to head up the new special developments team, but if we don’t identify Tremont’s mole, and nip his steady undermining of our business firmly in the bud, there won’t be a special developments team for you to head because in all likelihood, in a couple of years, there would be no Palmer Enterprises.” Irene leaned forward in her chair, her eyes suddenly bright with unexpected tears. “I will do whatever it takes to protect Palmer Enterprises and you’re going to help me. This is the ideal opening for you to be seen to be seeking something else.”

Callie felt sick to her stomach. She knew Josh Tremont’s activities had affected the Palmers—but to the extent that he could destroy the business within a couple of years? Things were worse than she thought.

Inevitability settled like a fatalistic dark cloak around Callie’s shoulders.

“So I’m supposed to go in there and spy on him?” She fought to keep her voice level.

“Well, far be it from me to suggest such a thing,” Irene blinked back the remnants of weakness in her eyes and composed a smile, the action barely creasing her smooth complexion.

No one would guess, from looking at her, that she was sixty-five. She had the kind of elegant beauty that was timeless, ageless, although there was an air about her that didn’t invite confidences. Not many people ever got close to Irene. Callie was one of her chosen few.

“Of course not.”

Callie’s answering smile was equally lacking in humour. Irene would never stoop so low as to verbalise such a command, but the implication was clear.

“My dear, you know how grateful we will be,” Irene said with an inclination of her elegantly coiffed head. “Essentially, you’d still be working for us, just…differently, that’s all. You know I’m not one to over-dramatise things but, right now, you’re our only hope.”

Suddenly filled with nervous energy, Callie pushed up out of her chair and stalked back and forth across the carpet.

“We don’t even know that he’s going to offer me a job,” she blurted. “He only asked me to meet him for lunch.”

A small crease formed between Irene’s brows. “Don’t be naive, Callie. I taught you better than that. Of course he’s going to offer you a position. It’s how he works. Each one of the key staff he’s poached from us has been invited to lunch with him first. It’s not as if he hides his intentions.”

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