Jessica Hart

Honeymoon with the Boss

Release Date: 2009

Top tycoon Tom Maddison is used to calling the shots – until his convenient marriage falls through. But rather than waste his honeymoon he’ll take his boardroom to the beach and bring his oh-so-sensible PA Imogen on a tropical business trip!

Imogen’s always secretly admired Tom but knows he sees her as super-efficient …not sexy! Yet on idyllic Coconut Island the turquoise water, white sand and inviting lagoons are weaving their magic …

Reviews

"A light joyous romance to lift the spirits" - Merrimom Book Reviews

Romance Junkies: ★★★★★

Book Illuminations: ★★★★★

Escape around the world

Honeymoon with the Boss launches a new sub series called Escape Around the World, which of course appealed to me as a frustrated travel writer, although for the first time it’s set - in the Maldives - somewhere I haven’t actually been. But I HAVE been to other tropical islands and swum in lagoons just like the one on Coconut Island, and for inspiration all I needed to do was to look up at the card that’s been pinned above my computer for years – I love this picture! The yellow dots are courtesy of my scanner, by the way – the original is just wonderful and makes me feel as if I’m swimming through that warm water …. (cue gusty sigh)

Excerpt

‘WHERE would you like to go on honeymoon?’

Imogen paused in surprise, her arm still extended in the act of handing her boss a folder of letters across the desk. ‘Honeymoon?’ she repeated cautiously, wondering if she had heard correctly.

It was unlike Tom Maddison to ask personal questions, let alone one so unexpected. Sometimes on a Monday morning he remembered to ask her if she had had a good weekend, but never as if he cared about the answer and she always said ‘yes, thank you’ in reply, even if it had been a disaster – as, frankly, it often was.

‘Yes, honeymoon,’ said Tom with an edge of impatience. He took the folder and opened it. ‘You know, after you get married.’

‘Er … I’m not getting married,’ said Imogen.

Chance would be a fine thing, she thought wryly. All her friends seemed to be settling down, but she was obviously doomed to remain single - and it wasn’t for lack of trying, whatever her best friend, Amanda, might say. Ever since Andrew had announced his engagement, she had thrown herself into the dating game, but no matter how promising her date seemed at first, Imogen always ended up making an excuse to leave early.

‘Pretend that you are,’ said Tom, skimming the first letter and scrawling his signature at the bottom before looking up at her with the piercingly light eyes that always reminded Imogen of stainless steel, so cool and unyielding were they.

He put down his pen. ‘You’re a woman,’ he said as if noticing the fact for the first time, which it probably was, Imogen thought. She was resigned now to the fact that as far as Tom Maddison was concerned, she was little more than a walking, talking piece of office equipment.

‘I have it on good authority that most women start planning their dream weddings when they’re about six,’ he said, ‘so you must have given it some thought.’

‘That’s true, but at six you’re only interested in pretty dresses,’ Imogen pointed out. ‘You’re not that concerned about the groom at that stage, let alone the honeymoon.’

Tom frowned as he pulled the next letter towards him. ‘So you haven’t thought about it since then?’

‘Well, I wouldn’t say that,’ she admitted scrupulously, ‘but my fantasies have never gone beyond getting married. Sadly, I’ve never been in a position where there’s any point in planning a honeymoon.’

‘You are now.’ Tom cast a cursory glance over the letter and signed it before reaching for the next one.

‘Pardon?’

‘I want you to plan a honeymoon,’ he said, his pen moving briskly over the paper.

‘But … who for?’

‘For me,’ said Tom as if it were obvious.

‘For you?’

Imogen stared at him. She shouldn’t be surprised, she realised. Tom Maddison was thirty-six, single, straight, and very, very rich. Why wouldn’t he get married?

It wasn’t as if he was ugly, either. You couldn’t call him handsome exactly, but he was tall and powerfully built and attractive in a way she couldn’t quite explain. His stern face was dominated by a beaky nose and those strange, light eyes under formidable brows. So, no, he wasn’t handsome at all. And yet …

And yet there was something about the line of his mouth that made the breath stick in her throat sometimes, something about the big, square, capable hands and the angle of his cheek and jaw that prickled excitingly under her skin and sent a little shiver snaking down her spine.

Offset against that was the fact that she had worked for Tom Maddison for six months without any indication that he had any emotions at all. Not once had he mentioned his personal life. It was only thanks to her friend Sue in Human Resources that Imogen even knew that he was single.

She knew all about his professional reputation, though. In the City, they called him the Iceman. He was famous for the chilly precision of his negotiations and his cold-blooded approach to the failing companies that he was brought in to turn around. She knew Tom had been in New York for a number of years, transforming the fortunes of a succession of firms familiar from the Dow Jones Index, and that he had been lured back to London at a reputedly gigantic salary to be CEO of Collocom, which had been struggling in the competitive communications market.

But really, that was all she knew. Imogen had never met anyone so driven and focused. It was like working for a machine.

Maybe that wasn’t quite fair, she amended mentally. He was too brusque and impatient to be a machine. He was tough, even ruthless, but he was absolutely straight too. Tom Maddison wasn’t a man who played games, and she admired that. With Tom, what you saw was what you got.

Except now it turned out that there was another side to him.

‘You’re getting married?’ she asked him, just in case she had misunderstood. It was hard to imagine Tom unbending enough to even smile at a woman, let alone ask her to marry him. He must have had a conversation about something other than work. Amazing.

‘Didn’t I tell you?’

‘No,’ she said with careful restraint, ‘you didn’t.’

She was only his temporary PA, but he might have told her, she thought. Subsiding onto the chair, Imogen studied him across the desk as he scanned another letter and wondered what his fiancée was like.

Thin, no doubt. And probably beautiful, she decided glumly.

Funny how men with millions to squander never chose to spend them on average-looking girls who could do with losing a few pounds, wasn’t it?

‘Well … congratulations!’ she said brightly. ‘When did all this happen?’

‘At New Year.’ Tom looked uncomfortable with the personal turn of the conversation. ‘When you were in New York?’ Imogen asked, surprised. He had certainly gone his own – she knew because she had booked his ticket – and he didn’t seem the type to spend a romantic weekend with a stranger, let alone rush into marriage.

‘I’ve known Julia for nearly a year,’ said Tom as if reading her mind. He signed the last letter and sat turning the pen between his fingers with a brooding expression, giving a very bad impression of a besotted lover. ‘But we didn’t get together until just before I came back to London four months ago.’

‘Why didn’t you say anything before?’

‘There didn’t seem to be any need. We weren’t going to get married until next year. Julia is a financial analyst, and she obviously has to sort out what’s going to happen about her job if she moves over here, so I thought we had plenty of time.’

‘Oh.’ Imogen wasn’t sure what else to say. It certainly didn’t sound like a mad, passionate love affair, but perhaps Tom was different behind closed doors.

With a mouth like that, it would be a shame if he wasn’t.

‘So when are you getting married?’ she asked after a moment.

‘In six weeks.’

‘Six weeks!’ Maybe it was a mad, passionate affair after all! ‘Gosh, that’s not long.’

‘I know.’

Tom could hear the glumness in his own voice, and pulled himself up. He ought to be sounding more enthusiastic at the prospect. After all, getting married had been his idea.

It had made perfect sense at the time. Julia was a high flyer, like him. She was beautiful, intelligent, successful. Independent. To Tom, she had seemed everything he wanted in a woman. Their relationship had been mutually satisfying, with neither making any demands on each other, and Tom couldn’t imagine ever meeting anyone who would fit into his life with so little effort.

But that was before he had asked her to marry him and wedding fever had gripped her, transforming her in an instant from a cool, competent businesswoman into a neurotic fiancée obsessed with dresses and guest lists and flowers and fuss. It was all very alarming, and Tom just hoped that once the wedding over, Julia would revert to normal.

‘Julia has set her heart on getting married at Stavely Castle,’ he told Imogen, who was obviously wondering what the rush was. ‘We just assumed it would be a year before we could book it, but it turns out that they’ve had a last-minute cancellation, so Julia jumped at the opportunity.’

That cancellation had thrown out all Tom’s calculations. He had planned his proposal with care, just as he planned everything. He preferred his life under strict control. He didn’t do spontaneous. So he had thought it all out, weighed up the advantages and disadvantages, and prepared exactly what he would say to Julia. He had expected her to say yes, and she had.

What he hadn’t expected was her excitement. He had assumed that they could carry on much as before for a while, with Julia’s job in Manhattan and his work in London. There was no hurry. They could have a year or so to get used to being engaged and plan the perfect wedding with precision.

But Julia had thrown his plans into disarray. She had thrown herself into planning the wedding with alarming enthusiasm, her ideas becoming more and more extravagant by the day, and once she had heard that the castle would be available so soon, there was no stopping her.

Tom couldn’t understand it at all. He had thought that Julia shared his pragmatic attitude to marriage. She had certainly seemed to agree that they could have a successful relationship based on mutual respect, admiration and attraction. It wasn’t as if she was a silly, romantic girl expecting him to start gushing about love and all that hearts and flowers stuff. Which just made her enthusiasm for the wedding all the more baffling.

‘It’s all very exciting,’ said Imogen encouragingly.

‘Yes,’ Tom agreed, but he knew that he didn’t sound very excited. It was all right for Imogen. Her life hadn’t been thrown into disorder.

‘Julia is coming over next week to start planning the wedding,’ he told her. ‘She’ll be dividing her time between here and New York, so she may need your help arranging things.’

‘Of course,’ said Imogen. ‘Whatever I can do to help.’

‘You can sort out this honeymoon business for a start,’ said Tom, flicking open a file, evidently having had enough personal interaction. ‘Julia’s dealing with the wedding, but she tells me it’s up to me to organise the honeymoon.’

‘It’s traditional for the groom to do that,’ Imogen agreed, wondering a little at the undercurrent of irritation in his voice. Poor Julia. She wondered if his fiancée had any idea of just how unexcited Tom was about his wedding.

 

‘I don’t know anything about honeymoons,’ he was grumbling. ‘It’s not that hard,’ said Imogen with just a hint of asperity. ‘It’s just a holiday. You’ll want a chance to relax after the wedding, so all you need to do is find somewhere romantic where you can be alone.’

Tom frowned. ‘What do you mean by romantic?’

Imogen only just stopped herself from rolling her eyes in time. ‘That depends on you. Everyone’s got a different idea of what’s romantic. What does romance mean to you?’

‘It’s no use asking me,’ he said unhelpfully. ‘I haven’t got a clue.’

Well, there was a surprise!

Imogen sighed. ‘Just choose somewhere relaxing, in that case.’

‘It’s got to be “special”.’ Tom used his fingers to put hooks around the word, barely able to contain his discomfort with the idea. ‘I can’t just book it as if it were a normal holiday. Julia is obviously expecting me to arrange something fabulous.’

‘I expect she is.’

‘I haven’t got time to research fabulous holidays,’ Tom objected.

He studied Imogen with critical grey eyes. When he had first arrived at Collocom Imogen had been assigned as his temporary assistant until he appointed a PA of his own.

At first sight, he hadn’t been impressed, Tom had to admit. She was younger and infinitely more casual than any secretary he had had before, and she had no experience of working at a senior executive level. As far as Tom could work out, she had drifted into secretarial work and was utterly lacking in ambition. It was symptomatic of the failing firm that the best assistance they could offer their new Chief Executive was a temp whose only relevant experience was a two week assignment in Human Resources, he had thought disapprovingly.

With that wayward brown hair and relaxed approach to the dress code, Imogen always seemed faintly messy to Tom. Her desk was an absolute disgrace, for instance, and in spite of her temporary status she appeared to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every member of staff’s social life. If Tom hadn’t had his hands full taking over the reins of a company whose shares were plummeting in value on a daily basis, he would have insisted on a more professional PA, but stopping the slide and turning Collocom round was his priority for now.

When he had the time, he would be looking to appoint someone qualified and experienced who would act as a professional PA, but in the meantime, Imogen had proved to be surprisingly competent. Tom might wish that she looked a little sleeker, a little crisper, but she was a more than adequate substitute in most things, so he had postponed the decision about replacing her for now. Her image might be unprofessional, but she got the job done, and for Tom that was what mattered most.

‘You’re a sensible woman,’ he told her. ‘I’m prepared to go on your recommendation.’

Sensible? It wasn’t exactly a compliment to make the heart beat faster, was it? thought Imogen, disgruntled. Why couldn’t he think of her as glamorous, or mysterious, or sexy, or exciting? Anything but sensible!

Text copyright © 2009 by Jessica Hart

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin S.A.

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