It Was Only a Kiss

By: Joss Wood


Eight years ago...

‘So, in conclusion, I think the marketing strategy your people presented to you is hackneyed, stupid and asinine, and pays absolutely no attention to your demographics, to the market research or to where your competitors are placing themselves. It’s under-researched and knocked together, and if you follow it I guarantee that you will lose most of your market share in five years’ time—if not your business.’

Luke Savage looked across his messy desk at the earnest young woman perched on the edge of her chair, her face animated with youthful zeal and a healthy dose of arrogance. What was her name again? He glanced down at the file in front of him. Jess Sherwood. She was twenty-two, he read, and was currently doing her MBA in Marketing. The file did state that she was over-blessed with brains—her school and university achievements were, to put it mildly, impressive—but it failed to mention that she was solidly gorgeous as well.

A true brown-eyed blonde.

She was quite a parcel and, boy, did she know it.

Luke kept his face impassive as she draped one long, slim leg over the other and lightly linked her hands around a bare knee, an index finger tapping away. She wore a short, flouncy dress, falling off one shoulder and showing a thin purple bra strap, and belted at slim hips by a broad leather belt. Falling to mid-thigh, it was too short, too casual, and too sexy an outfit for work—but she wore it with careless confidence.

Luke, who was seldom surprised at much, was taken aback by her self-importance and her balls-to-the-wall chutzpah. She’d been placed as an intern for the summer holidays, to gain work experience within St Sylve’s marketing department—his marketing department, since he’d recently inherited the generations-old family vineyard. She’d ambushed him as he’d been about to leave, barged into his office and said that she felt ‘morally obligated’—he curled his lip at the phrase—to tell him that his decisions sucked and his marketing plan was dreadful. And now she had the temerity to predict the failure of his business.

Her mobile rang and Luke hissed his annoyance as she dived for her bag and pulled out the phone, squinting at the display. She flashed him a wide smile that was charming but devoid of apology. ‘Sorry—I have to take this.’

Whatever—I’m just your boss. Why don’t I just wait while you finish arranging your social life?

He felt twenty years older than her, rather than six, and he probably was in experience. University was a dim and distant memory, clouded by the fourteen- to sixteen-hour days he’d been working for the past seven years.

Lately he’d felt perpetually exhausted, but if he’d had the energy he’d have got up and yanked her mobile from her ear and torn her a new one. Which he intended to do when she finished cooing into her mobile.

Her words rattled around his brain... You will lose most of your market...

Hell, he was losing St Sylve. It was failing... Not his fault or his failure, because failure wasn’t what he did—well, it wasn’t what he’d been allowed to do. Sport? He’d excelled at most. Academics? Scholarships and huge job offers had translated into his being able to set up his own company three years of the youngest venture capitalists in the country. Marriage? Okay, he’d dropped the ball on that one, but in a couple of weeks the divorce would be through and he’d be rid of the credit-card- digesting monster he’d married.

Now, if he could get this other creature out of his office without strangling her, he’d consider himself a saint.

Jess snapped her mobile closed, slipped it back into her bag and looked at him expectantly. Stuck-up, arrogant little witch.

Sexy, though....

Luke’s boots dropped from the corner of his desk to the floor and he stood up slowly, knowing that his face displayed none of his anger. As a child, living with his volatile, demanding father—his mother had died when he was three—he’d learnt early that showing emotion of any sort could be used against him, so he’d perfected his stoic mask.

He watched her through half-closed lids. She looked relaxed, leaning back in the chair, a small smile edging the corners of her very sexy mouth upwards. Give her a couple of years and she’d be hell on wheels...if she could keep her cocky opinions to herself.

‘Interesting perspective,’ Luke said mildly. He saw her mouth open to speak and lifted a finger to silence her. ‘If I cared.’

Mouth open but no words was a start, Luke thought. Placing his hands on his desk, he leaned forward with a gesture that was meant to be intimidating and finally allowed her to see his fury. He felt marginally appeased when her eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip.

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