56. The Importance of Being Nice

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"Please, Mr Linton." That broad smile still on his face, Mr Ambrose gestured for me to come in. "Please don't just stand there. Close the door behind you and sit down, please."

A smile.

He had a smile on his face.

Rikkard Ambrose had a smile on his face. And he had said please! I tried to remember whether he had ever said please to me before, and couldn't recall a single instance. And now he had said it three times in a row.

Maybe I was still asleep. Maybe this was dream and I wake up soon.

"Won't you sit down, please?" He repeated, still displaying that dazzling smile.

Don't be a fool, Lilly! A tiger smiles too-but that's no reason to sit down next to it!

But Mr Ambrose's smile... It transformed his whole face. Where previously there had only been harshness, there now was splendour and magnificence. It nearly took my breath away. If I had thought he was handsome before, that was nothing compared to the sight that was now in front of me.

He gestured to a chair, again inviting me to sit.

Don't! Don't do it!

I was about to take a step back-when Mr Ambrose stepped towards me and, looking deep into my eyes, took my hand. At the feel of his touch, a shock shot up my arm. His touch wasn't harsh as I had expected, nor was it gentle. It was just right. My hand lay in his as if it had been made to be there.

Listen to yourself! You sound like Ella!

"Come," he ordered. Only it wasn't the kind of order he usually gave. Not a "Bring my file XYZ!" shouted in a voice like a sergeant major on mission in Antarctica. No, this time his voice was full of a darker, deeper meaning I couldn't hope to fathom.

My feet started to move without consulting my brain.

Oh well, if this was a dream, I might as well enjoy it while it lasted. A chance to sit down in the presence of his Mightiness Mr Ambrose the cold and terrible might not come so quickly again, even in a dream world. I let myself be led over to one of the empty chair in an outrageously unfeminist manner, unable to take my incredulous eyes off his smiling face. When I sat, he didn't immediately take a seat himself, but instead just stood there, holding my hand, gazing into my eyes.

"Are... are you quite well?" I asked, carefully. Maybe this was real after all and he just had a touch of brain fever.

"Yes, I'm very well, Mr Linton. Thank you very much for your concern."

The fourth "thank you" in one morning! Something was clearly wrong with him!

"Are there no more files to go through?" Looking around, I saw that there was nothing on his desk. The door to my office, which yesterday had been open practically all day, was firmly closed.

"No, Mr Linton, no files today."

He still hadn't let go of my hand. It felt as if it were smoldering. With his thumb, he started rubbing circles on my palm, heating the delicious burn to even higher temperatures.

"And..." My voice sounded a little off for some reason. "And letters to write? Is there correspondence?"

"No, Mr Linton. No letters, either."

Now, his other fingers had joined the fun, caressing the back of my hand in a complex pattern that played havoc with the rhythm of my heart. This sort of thing surely wasn't part of my contract! What the hell was going on? I should wrench my hand out of his grasp and demand an apology! Yes! I definitely should!

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