Jessica Hart

The Blind-Date Proposal

Original Release Date: 2003 - Re-released in Blind-Date Grooms, a By Request released in June 2007

Kate Savage has landed herself with the boss from hell – he may be gorgeous, in a brooding sort of way, but he’s on her case 24-7! Kate’s friends try cheering her up by arranging for her to go on a blind date with an eligible widower. Only when Kate arrives for her date she’s horrified to discover that her mystery man is Finn McBride – her boss! Finn has a very interesting proposition for Kate – not only does he need a live-in nanny, he also wants her to pretend to be his fiancée. Kate’s ready to take on a challenge – but she hadn’t bargained on a blind-date proposal!

Order Online


‘WHAT time do you call this?’

Finn looked up, scowling, as Kate knocked on his door with some trepidation.

She looked at her watch. ‘It’s …er … nearly quarter to ten.’

‘And you’re supposed to start at what time?’

‘Nine o’clock.’

Kate was horribly aware of her pink face. She was hot and flustered, having run up the escalator from the tube and all the way to the office, where she had panted past the surprised receptionist to fall into the lift. Somewhere along the line she had laddered her tights, and a tentative glance in the mirror was enough to confirm that her hair, a mass of wild brown curls hard to control at best of times, were tangled and windblown.

Not a good start to the day.

She was at a distinct disadvantage compared to Finn, too. In his grey suit and his pristine shirt, her new boss had always seemed to Kate buttoned up in more ways than one. He had a severe face, steely grey eyes and strong dark brows which were usually pulled together in a frown and whenever he looked at Kate, like now, his mouth was clamped together in a disapproving line.

‘I know I’m late, and I’m really sorry,’ she said breathlessly, and oblivious to Finn’s discouraging expression, she launched into a long and convoluted explanation of how she had befriended an elderly lady confused by the underground system and intimidated by the rudeness of officials.

‘I couldn’t just leave her there,’ she finished at last, ‘so I took her to Paddington and showed her where to find her train.’

‘Paddington not being on your way here?’

‘Not exactly …’

‘One might even say that it was in completely the opposite direction,’ Finn went on in the same snide tone.

‘Not quite opposite,’ said Kate, mentally consulting her tube map.

‘So you got half way here and then turned and headed off in a completely different direction, even though you must have known that there was no way you’d be able to get to work on time?’

‘I had to,’ Kate protested. ‘She was so upset. There was no reason for everyone to be so rude to her,’ she remembered indignantly. ‘Her English wasn’t that good, and she couldn’t be expected to know where she was going and how to get there. How would that ticket collector like it if he had to find his way around … oh, I don’t know … the Amazon, say … where he didn’t know the language and nobody could be bothered to help him?’

Finn looked at her wearily. ‘You’re mistaking me for someone who cares,’ he said. ‘The only thing I care about right now is keeping this company going, and it’s not that easy with a PA who turns up whenever she feels like it! Alison makes a point of arriving ten minutes before nine every day,’ he added pointedly. ‘She’s always reliable.’

Not so reliable that she didn’t break her leg on a skiing holiday, Kate thought, but didn’t say out loud. She was sick of hearing about Alison, Finn’s perfect PA who was discreet and efficient and immaculately dressed and who reputedly typed at the speed of light. She could probably read Finn’s mind too, Kate had decided sourly after he had shouted at her for not being able to find a file that he himself had dumped onto her desk. Alison’s desk, of course, was always tidy.

The only marvel was that Alison had been careless enough to break her leg, leaving Finn to get through eight weeks without her.

He wasn’t finding it easy. Already two temps had left in tears, unable to cope with the impossible standards Alison had set. Kate was just surprised that she had hung in as long as she had. This was her third week, and judging by Finn’s expression, it might well be her last.

She wasn’t surprised the others had given up. Finn McBride gave a whole new dimension to the notion of grumpiness and he had an unpleasantly sarcastic edge to his tongue. If she hadn’t been desperate for a job, she would have been tempted to walk out on him as well.

‘I said I was sorry,’ she said a little sullenly. ‘Not that I should have to apologise for community spirit,’ she went on, still too fired up by her encounter that morning to be able to summon up the correct degree of subservience that no doubt came naturally to Alison.

Finn was unimpressed. His cold grey eyes raked her from head to foot, taking in every detail of her tangled hair and dishevelled clothes and stopping with exasperation on her laddered tights.

‘I encourage my staff to do what pay them to do,’ he said frigidly, ‘and that’s what they do. You, on the other hand, appear to think that I should pay you to breeze in and distract everyone else in the office all day.’

Kate gaped at the unfairness of it. She had made efforts to get to know the rest of the staff, but without any great success. They didn’t seem to be great ones for gossiping and on the few occasions she had managed to strike up a conversation, Finn had been safely shut in his office. He must have X-ray eyes if he had noticed her talking to anyone!

‘I don’t distract anyone,’ she protested.

‘It sounds that way to me,’ said Finn. ‘You’re always out in the corridor or in the other offices chatting.’

‘It’s called social interaction,’ said Kate, provoked. ‘It’s what humans do, not that you’d know that of course. This office is like working with robots,’ she went on, forgetting for a moment how much she needed this job. ‘I’m lucky if get a good morning from you, and even that I have to translate from a grunt!’

The dark brows twitched together into a terrifying glare. ‘Alison never complains.’

‘Maybe Alison likes being treated like just another piece of office equipment,’ she said tartly. ‘It wouldn’t kill you to show a little interest occasionally.’

Finn glowered at her, and Kate wondered whether he was so unused to anyone daring to argue with him that he was taken aback.

If so, he soon recovered. ‘I haven’t time to waste day bolstering your ego,’ he snapped.

‘It doesn’t take long to be pleasant.’ Kate refused to be cowed now. ‘You could always start with something easy like “how are you?”, or “have a nice weekend”,’ she suggested. ‘And then, when you’d got the hang of that, you could work up to trickier phrases like “thank you for all your help today”.’

‘I can’t see me having much need of that one while you’re around,’ said Finn nastily. ‘And frankly, even if I did, I don’t see why should I change my habits for you. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the boss here, so if you can’t cope without constant attention, you’d better say now and I’ll get Personnel to find me another temp for Monday!’

That was enough to pull Kate up short. She really couldn’t afford to lose this job. The agency had been reluctant enough to send her as it was, and if she messed this up, she’d be lucky if they didn’t drop her from their books.

‘I can cope,’ she said quickly. ‘I just don’t like it.’

‘You don’t have to like it,’ said Finn tersely. ‘You just have to get on with it. Now, could we get on? We’ve wasted quite enough time this morning.’

He barely allowed Kate time to take off her coat before she had to endure a long and exhausting session being dictated to at top speed without so much as a suggestion that she might like a cup of coffee before she started. What with befriending old ladies and diversions to Paddington, she hadn’t had time to grab her usual cappuccino from the Italian coffee bar by the tube station, and the craving for caffeine did nothing to improve her temper.

She simmered as her pen raced over the page - at this rate she would get repetitive strain injury - and could barely restrain a sigh of relief when the phone rang. A breather at last!

Holding her aching wrist with exaggerated care, so that Finn might take the hint and slow down - although there was fat chance of that! - Kate studied him surreptitiously under her lashes. He was listening to the person on the other end of the phone, grunting the occasional acknowledgement, and absently drawing heavy black boxes on a piece of paper on the desk in front of him.

Doodling was supposed to be highly revealing about your personality. What did black boxes mean? Kate wondered. Probably indicative of someone deeply repressed. That would fit with his closed expression and that reserved uptight air of his.

Although not with that air of fierce energy.

Or his mouth, come to think of it.

Alternative covers: