Jessica Hart

Under the Boss’s Mistletoe

Release Date: 2009

In high school, Jake Trevelyan was Casie Grey’s dream rebel. He surfed, rode a motorbike – now he’s her new boss! It’s events planner Cassie’s job to transform Jake’s mansion into a snow-kissed wedding venue. NOT to relive her old fantasy that they’re the ones getting married. Posing as the happy couple for a publicity photo shoot, Cassie pinches herself as Jake leans in for a show-stopping kiss … but it’s just for the cameras, isn’t it?


Jake watched Cassie practically fall out of the door, struggling with a weekend case on wheels, a motley collection of plastic carrier bags and a handbag that kept slipping down her arm. With a sigh, he got out of the car to help her. He was double parked outside her office, and had hoped for a quick getaway, but clearly that wasn’t going to happen.

He hadn’t made many mistakes in last ten years, but Jake had a nasty feeling that appointing Cassie to manage the transformation of Portrevick Hall into a wedding venue might be one of them. He had been secretly impressed by the fluent way she had talked about weddings, and by the way she had seemed to know exactly what was involved, but at the same time, her lack of experience had been obvious. And yet she had fixed him with those big brown eyes and distracted him with that mouth, and before Jake quite knew what he was doing, he had agreed to give her the job.

He must have been mad, he decided as he took the case from her. Cassie had to be the least organised organiser he had ever met. Look at her, laden with carrier bags, the wayward brown curls blowing around face, her cardigan all twisted under the weight of her handbag!

She was a mess, Jake thought disapprovingly. She was casually dressed in a mish-mash of colourful garments that appeared to have been thrown together without any thought for neatness or elegance. Yes, she had grown into a surprisingly pretty girl, but she could do with some of Natasha’s poise and sophistication.

He stashed the carrier bags in the boot with the case. ‘What on earth do you need all this stuff for?’ he demanded. ‘We’re only going for a couple of nights.’

‘Most of it’s Tina’s. She came to London months ago and left half her clothes behind, so I’m taking them back to her. She’s invited me to stay with her,’ Cassie added.

Jake was sleeping at the Hall, and he’d suggested that Cassie stay there as well, but Cassie couldn’t help thinking it all seemed a bit intimate. True, the Hall had bedrooms to spare, but they would still be sleeping in the same place, bumping into each other on the way to the bathroom, wandering into the kitchen in their PJs to make tea in the morning … No, Cassie wasn’t ready to meet Jake without her make up on yet.

‘I thought I might as well stay for the weekend since I’m down there,’ she went on, talking over the roof of the car as she made her way round to the passenger door. ‘I haven’t seen Tina for ages. I might talk to some local contractors on Monday, too, and then come back on the train.’

Cassie knew that she was talking too much, but the prospect of the long journey in Jake's company was making her stupidly jittery. She had been fine until he appeared. Joss had given her unqualified approval of the plan, and Cassie had been enjoying dizzying fantasies about her new career in project management.

It had been a strange experience seeing Jake again, and she’d been left disorientated by the way he looked familiar but behaved like a total stranger. In some ways, that made it easier to dissociate him from the Jake she had known in the past. This Jake was less menacing than the old one, for sure. The surliness and resentment had been replaced by steely control, but it was somehow just as intimidating.

But at least she had the possibility of a job, Cassie reminded herself sternly as she got into the car. She had to concentrate on that, and not on the unnerving prospect of being shut up in a car with Jake Trevelyan. He had come straight from his office and was still wearing his suit, but having slammed the boot shut, he took off his jacket, loosened his tie and rolled up his shirt sleeves before getting back into the driver’s seat.

‘Right,’ he said briskly, switching on the ignition, ‘let’s go.’

It was a big, luxuriously comfortable car with swish leather seats, but Cassie felt cramped and uneasy as she pulled on the seatbelt. It wouldn’t be so bad if Jake wasn’t just there, only inches away, filling the whole car with his dark, forceful presence, using up all the available oxygen so that she had to open the window to drag in a breath.

‘There’s air conditioning,’ said Jake, using the electric controls on his side to close it again.

Air conditioning. Right. So how come it was so hard to breathe?

‘I was half expecting you to turn up on a motorbike,’ she said chattily to conceal her nervousness.

‘It’s just as well I didn’t, with all those bags you’ve brought along with you.’ Jake checked his mirror, indicated and pulled out into the traffic.

‘I always fancied the idea of riding pillion,’ said Cassie.

‘I don’t think you’d fancy it all the way down to Cornwall,’ Jake said dampeningly. ‘You’ll be much more comfortable in a car.’

Under normal circumstances, maybe, but Cassie couldn’t imagine anything less comfortable than being shut up with him in a confined space for seven hours. They had barely left Fulham, but the car seemed to have shrunk already and she was desperately aware of Jake beside her. Her eyes kept snagging on his hands, strong and competent on the steering wheel, and she would find herself remembering how they had felt on her arms as he yanked her towards him.

Turning her head to remove them from her vision, Cassie found herself looking awkwardly out of the side window, but that was hard on her neck and before she knew it, her eyes were skittering back to Jake's side of the car, to the line of his cheek and the corner of his mouth and the faint prickle of stubble under his jaw where he had wrenched impatiently at his tie to loosen it.

She could see the pulse beating steadily in his throat and for one bizarre moment let herself imagine what it would be like to lean across and press her lips to it. Then she imagined Jake jerking away in horror and losing control of the car, which would crash into that newsagent’s, and then the police would come and she would have to make a statement. I’m sorry, officer, I was just overcome by an uncontrollable urge to kiss Jake Trevelyan.

It would be in all the papers, and in no time at all the news would reach the Portrevick Arms, where they would all snigger. Village memories were long. No one would have forgotten what a fool she had made of herself over Rupert and they would shake their heads and smirk and tell each other that Cassandra Grey never had been able to keep her hands off a man …

Cassie’s heart was thumping just at the thought of it and she jerked her head back to the side, ignoring the protest of her neck muscles.

Comfortable? Hah!

‘Besides,’ Jake went on, as Cassie offered up thanks that he hadn’t spent the last ten years learning to mind read, ‘I haven’t got a motorbike any more. I’ve left my biking days behind me.’

It would have been impossible to imagine Jake without that mean-looking bike in Portrevick.

‘You’ve changed,’ said Cassie.

‘I sincerely hope so,’ said Jake.

Why couldn’t she have changed that much? Cassie wondered enviously. If she had, she could be svelte and sophisticated, with a successful career behind her, instead of muddling along feeling much as she had at seventeen most of the time. She might look different, but deep down she felt just the same as she had done then. How had Jake done it?

‘What have you been doing for the past ten years?’ she asked him curiously.

‘I’ve been in the States for most of them. I got myself a degree, and then did an MBA at Harvard.’

‘Really?’ said Cassie, impressed. In all the years she had wondered where Jake Trevelyan was and what he was doing, she had never considered that he might be at university. She had imagined him surfing, perhaps, or running a bar on some beach somewhere, or possibly making shady deals astraddle his motorbike, but Harvard! Even her father would be impressed by that.

‘I had no idea,’ she said.

Jake shrugged. ‘I was lucky. I went to work for a smallish firm in Seattle, just as it was poised for expansion. It was an exciting time, and it gave me a lot of valuable experience. That company was at the forefront of digital technology, and Primordia is in the same field, which put me in a good position when they were looking for a new chief executive although it took some negotiation to get me back to London.’

‘Didn’t you want to come back?’

‘Not particularly, but they made me offer even I couldn’t refuse.’

‘You were head-hunted?’ said Cassie, trying to imagine a company going out of its way to recruit her. Cassandra Grey’s just the person we want for this job, they would say. How can we tempt her?

Nope, she couldn’t do it.

Jake obviously took the whole business for granted. ‘That’s how it works.’ He pulled up at a red light and glanced at Cassie. ‘What about you? How long have you been with Avalon?’

‘Just since the beginning of the year. Before that I was a receptionist,’ she said. ‘I did a couple of stints in retail, a bit of temping, a bit of waitressing … ‘

She sighed. ‘Not a very impressive career, as my father is always pointing out. I’m a huge disappointment to my parents. The others have all done really well. They all went to Cambridge. Liz is a doctor, Tom’s an architect and even Jack is a lawyer now. They’re all grown-ups and I’m just the family problem.’

Cassie had intended the words to sound humorous, but was uneasily aware they had come out rather flat. Rather as if she didn’t think it was such a funny joke after all. ‘They’re always ringing each other up and wondering what to do about Cassie.’

But that was all going to change, she reminded herself. This could be the start of a whole new career. She was going turn Portrevick Hall into a model venue. Celebrities would be queuing up to get married there. After a year or two, they wouldn’t even have to advertise. Just mentioning that a wedding would be at Portrevick Hall would mean that it would be the last word in style and elegance.

Cassandra Grey? they would say. Isn’t she the one who made Portrevick Hall a byword for chic and exclusive? She would get tired of calls from the head-hunters. Not again, she would sigh. When are you people going to get the message that I don’t want to commit to one job? Because, of course, by then she would be a consultant. She had always fancied the thought of being one of those.

Cassie settled herself more comfortably in her seat, liking the way this fantasy was going. All those smart hotels in London would be constantly ringing her up and begging her to come and sort out their events facilities – and probably not just London, now she came to think of it. She would have an international reputation.

Yes, she’d get tired of jetting off to New York and Dubai and Sydney. Cassie smiled to herself. Liz and Tom and Jack would still be ringing each other up, but instead of worrying about her, they would be complaining about how humdrum their sensible careers seemed in comparison with her glamorous life. I’m sick of Cassie telling me she’d really just like a few days at home doing nothing, Liz would grumble.

‘And what’s Cassie going to do about herself?’ asked Jake, breaking rudely into her dream.

‘I’m going to do what I’m doing,’ she told him firmly. ‘I love working for Joss at Avalon. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I’ll do anything to keep it.’

Even pretending to understand about project management, she added mentally.

Text copyright © 2009 by Jessica Hart

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin S.A.

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