Baiting the Boss

By: Coleen Kwan

Oh yes, she was keen all right. Keen to complete her assignment so she could get home to Sydney. Filemu Island might be delightful, but she had a career waiting to be kick-started, and besides, she’d always been a homebody. She became aware of the children surrounding them, listening to every word they said. The girl in the red-and-white sarong had been following the entire conversation, her dark eyes darting between Grace and Jack.

“Perhaps we could go somewhere more private?” she asked. “I have something to discuss with you.”

An abrupt stillness descended over Jack. His body tensed as his gaze drilled into hers. “Bad news?”

She inhaled sharply. “No! Oh, no, it’s not what you think—”

Oh, damn, how could she have let him suspect…? But, of course, once he’d recognized her, that would have been his first thought. That she was bringing him bad news about his grandfather or someone else in his family. How crass of her, especially since she’d been with him in his office when the call had come that his wife had died in a car accident. The memory still pierced her—how the silence had clotted when Jack put the phone down, how he’d reeled as if the life had been punched out of him, how his eyes had burned as he walked out of the office. He’d looked like a condemned man marching to the hangman’s scaffold.

Impulsively, she grabbed his right hand in both of hers. “It’s nothing like that, I promise. I just—I just need to talk to you, that’s all.”

He glanced down at his hand imprisoned in hers, and she dropped it like a hot coal. Suspicion crawled across his hardened features. “Okay. You can come up to my bungalow.”

Not exactly a heartfelt welcome, but then again she had dropped unannounced into his tropical paradise. “Thanks.” She grabbed hold of her suitcase again.

He paused and frowned at her suitcase. “Leave that here. I’ll get someone to take it to Tupua’s place.”


“I’ll do it.” The girl in the red-and-white sarong sprang forward. Before Grace could protest, she’d grabbed the suitcase handle.

“Sefina, it’s too heavy for you,” Jack protested.

“Not too heavy.” The girl skipped away, her thick rope of hair bouncing down her back. “See you later, Jack.”

Jack shook his head before moving off, but the flirtatious note in the girl’s voice hadn’t escaped Grace’s notice. In an island bursting with beauty, Sefina stood out like a siren. Grace pursed her lips. She’d always suspected persuading Jack back to Sydney wouldn’t be easy, but what if it was impossible? Grace hated to fail, and in this case, failure wasn’t an option.

Granddad isn’t dead. That thought remained uppermost in Jack’s mind as he led the way to his bungalow. Mixed emotions weltered through him. All too clearly he recalled the last time he’d seen his grandfather—that ugly confrontation at his grandfather’s house, and how his hawk-like face had contorted with rage as he roared at Jack. Ungrateful sluggard. If you quit now, don’t ever bother to come crawling back. Jack had stalked out of his grandfather’s study, convinced that he’d never, ever crawl back to that despot.

He owed Lachlan nothing. Although the irascible old man had raised him after his parents had died, Lachlan’s idea of child nurturing meant a rotation of nannies and housekeepers until Jack was old enough to go to boarding school. Before Jack had graduated from university, his grandfather had lashed him to the wheel of the Macintyre ship and ordered him to stay there come hell or high water.

So what was Grace Owens doing here on Filemu Island? It could be nothing good. He cast a surreptitious glance at the woman walking beside him.

Who would have thought Grace of all people would turn up on his doorstep? She must be—what, twenty-five now? He’d known her just a few brief months when she’d joined Macintyre Inc. as a graduate. She’d been hardworking, intelligent, and eager to learn. He remembered the stiff, corporate suits she used to wear and the conservative leather pumps, the carefully applied makeup, the hair twisted up in a bun. Grace had been so keen to emulate her superiors. No job was too much to ask of her.

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