“Good morning Signorina. Signor Alessandro requests you to join him for breakfast this morning.” Maria, the maid woke her up the next morning with these words, jolting Iris out of her sleep.
“Good morning Maria. I shall be down in a few minutes. Please give my regrets to Signore, but I shall be unable to join him. Could I have something on the tray while I get dressed please?”
“Si Signorina.” Maria departed hesitatingly, as if wanting to say something but not able to. Iris was too tensed to see that. She had shirked his company the evening before and eaten her dinner on a tray, pleading a headache.
The knowledge of her feelings had shaken her, to say the least. She had no idea Alessandro had planned to stay back. After her realisation yesterday afternoon, she’d spent the last night tossing and turning, her thoughts in turmoil. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t quit the job simply because she’d fallen in love with the boss. How would she meet his eyes the next time and control her expressions when they held ice or warmth? How would she keep her feelings in control when he was around or when he was with another woman? But she knew she had to. Acknowledging her feelings to herself was one thing, letting him know would be extreme foolishness. And yet, neither could she face him nor avoid him. Iris realized, she couldn’t avoid him for ever. She was answerable to him for her action as an employee and if she would see him only in the capacity of an employer, not a man she would be alright. Telling herself that again and again while eating her breakfast on the tray Maria had brought her back, Iris decided to go down and start with her work day.
She saw him as soon as she went down. He had his back to her and was talking to a man from the administration staff, so he hadn’t noticed her. It gave Iris to compose her features and calm her nerves with a deep breath as well as observe him. It was not hard to acknowledge that he would draw eyes of anyone who wasn’t blind and race their hearts.
Today he was dressed in casual chinos with a pale blue shirt, emphasising his dark tanned looks. The other man seemed to be describing something and he was listening to it, his hands in his pockets, inadvertently stretching the fabric of his exclusively tailored trousers over his taut rear and his shirt over his chest and displaying a powerful physique and bringing forth a spark of sensual desire in Iris. He had the build of an athlete rather than workaholic businessman, well known for his ruthlessness in business.
“Just goes to show how looks can be deceptive.” Muttered Iris to herself.
As if he had heard the words, Alessandro turned and looked directly at her, making her thoughts stop in their track. For a moment, Iris forgot that she had decided to be aloof from him and a smile almost made it to her lips. Quickly she wiped it away with a frown, nodded at him and briskly turned away, to go into the opposite direction- towards the olive groves.
Alessandro’s breath quickened as he tried to control his annoyance. He knew the exact moment when Iris had come down, but hadn’t turned to look at her because – he couldn’t. The sight of her delighted him. He had seen the smile that had made it almost to her lips and then hastily snatched back. His eyes narrowed when she nodded at him and left to disappear into olive groves.
He took his leave from the guy he had been talking to and walked towards the exit, deep in thought. The feelings Iris invoked in him made him uncomfortable. He wanted to go after her and yet, he held back. He didn’t want her to know that he’d missed her presence yesterday evening. This feeling he had still to rein in, because it was new. He never missed anyone apart from his sons, especially not any woman. He had no idea what had spooked her, but something sure had. After that kiss they’d shared yesterday afternoon, Iris had become distant. She had avoided him for the rest of the day and even declined to join for dinner at the plea of a headache. Come today morning, she’d again pleaded prior work schedule and denied breakfast with him.
He felt like kicking something, but that would be childish and he was no child. Damn the phone call yesterday that broke their kiss! He couldn’t deny that he was delighted to hear from his cousin sister, but it had made Iris aware of her surroundings quickly and taken her out of her sensual daze, that he had still be captured in. It had taken quite a while for his body to cool down after that episode yesterday, and he had a feeling, every encounter with Iris made his body hotter for her as days passed by.
He remembered the last conversation with her- before the kiss. Was it possible that Iris carried a torch for another man, for it was the question that had brought forth anger in her eyes, and also pain? Did she have a man in her past that his private investigators had forgotten to tell him about? The thought of her with another man, laughing, cuddling, sharing kisses or being made love to made him very angry and uncomfortable. In fact, it made him sick with rage to think of her with anyone else. He may have attracted her physically, but emotionally he could see that she kept him at a distance. The distant was more pronounced yesterday and today.
Gut instinct told him, it was much more than embarrassment that she had actively participated in that kiss. No, there was something else; something he couldn’t put his finger on, but he was certain that whatever it was, she was avoiding him because of it. It was also the reason why she’d met his eyes just now and turned away.
It had angered him, but he was quick to control it. It would not do at this stage to be annoyed with her. Iris was proving to be a challenge of different sort- an emotional level challenge as well as mental. Slow anger burned in him with this knowledge that Iris didn’t want to see him or talk to him. His plan was definitely not going his way. He had expected to ensnare her senses with the physical attraction they both shared, seduce her & make her fall for him in the next four days. He would have then taken her back with him to his house, where the twins waited to meet her.
It may be arrogant of him to believe that he could make any woman fall for him and adhere to his wishes, but that was the truth. Why should then Iris be any different? – the cynical part of him had argued. Women were susceptible to his charm and Iris would be no exception. Or so he had thought. Now he was not sure, and he hated to be unsure about anything.
Annoyance and anger were powerful combinations. It gave flight to his feet as he walked towards olive groves where Iris had disappeared. His eyes gleamed with the light of war. He would win this challenge and make sure he got what he wanted.
It had taken a lot of effort to drag her mind back from Alessandro and focus on work, but she had finally achieved it. She was busy taking notes on the type of olives that were grown in this particular farm when a lazy drawl stiffened her posture and made her lose her thoughts. Her pencil skidded to a halt as he said,
“Preparing for a clandestine meeting, tesoro mio? Anyone I know? ”