07. His Indecent Demands

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As the doors closed behind me, my eyes were drawn immediately to the dark figure standing in front of the window at the opposite end of the room. Heavy curtains half covered the large windows even this early in the morning, and the lean figure of the man was cast in shadows. I could not see his face. But I could feel his eyes on me.

Quickly, I glanced around. No landscapes on the wall. No tapestries. Not even a portrait of dear X with his wife Y their three large, hairy dogs. God, did this man have an allergy to decoration? Maybe I should have chosen the simpler of my dresses for this meeting after all. To my left, massive wooden bookshelves covered one wall, but the rest of the walls weren't panelled wood as was customary in most offices. They weren't even painted, but consisted of the same dark stone as the outside of the building.

Yes, I had diagnosed the decoration allergy correctly. And I didn't even have a medical degree.

My eyes returned to the man at the window. Suddenly, he moved and sat down at the large wooden desk that, besides the bookshelves, was pretty much the only piece of furniture in the room. Light from the window fell onto his face and illuminated the hard, chiselled features of Mr Rikkard Ambrose. Again it struck me that, for a man, he didn't look half bad – maybe not even a quarter. For some reason, my heart rate picked up as I looked at him.

'Welcome,' Mr Ambrose said in a cool voice. 'Kind of you to drop by. Take a seat.'

My mouth dropped open. I had expected him to be angry. Boiling mad, even. But there he was, as cool as a cucumber.

Hesitantly I went to the visitor's chair opposite his own. As soon as I had sat down, I regretted it. The thing was made of plain, hard wood and almost hurt to sit on. I straightened my back and it got a little better.

With agonizing slowness, Mr Rikkard Ambrose rested his elbows on the desk in front of him and steepled his fingers. Over the tops of his finely manicured hands, he regarded me with those dark, sea-coloured eyes of his. Dark eyes in which I could see something roil.

'Well?' he said, after two or three seconds of silence. 'I believe I already told you that I do not appreciate time-wasters, Miss... Linton, was it?'

I nodded.

'So what do you want?'

I swallowed, and said nothing. God, how to phrase this?

He regarded me coolly for a few more moments, then added: 'If you are concerned about me pressing charges against you, do not worry. I have no desire to ruin a lady's reputation, especially the reputation of a "lady" who is not right in the head.' He looked down at his desk and studied a few papers lying there. 'If that is all, Miss Linton...'

The dismissal was obvious in his tone of voice. But I didn't pay attention. I was still too busy processing the 'not-right-in-the-head' comment. Not right in the head? Why? Because I put on a pair of trousers? Because I wanted a say in the government of my country?

I'll give him not right in the head!

'Actually, no,' I blurted out, my voice coming out sharper than I had intended. 'That wasn't why I came. I came because you requested it. I came to take up the position of your private secretary.'

His eyes, having perused line after line of whatever document lay before him, froze. Then they snapped up to me. His face seemed not quite as expressionless as before. Silence hovered over the two of us, thick and heavy.

Finally he said: 'But you are a girl.'

I bowed my head in what I hoped would be a demure manner. But it probably looked more sarcastic than demure.

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