Boss With Benefits

By: Talia Hunter

“Here.” She picked up the notepad and flipped to the previous page. It was covered with more of her impossibly neat writing, with bullet points drawn as perfect little circles. She pointed to two names printed at the top of her list.

Instead of reading them, he scanned the rest of Rosa’s list. Rain plan. Sun protection. Ceremony and reception lighting. Microphones for speeches. Music for ceremony. Band or DJ for reception. Guest allergies and food preferences…

“You’ve organized weddings before,” he said.

“I did event management as part of my degree.”

Dalton typed the couple’s names into his search parameters, looking for any occurrence. Finally, he had to shake his head. “There’s nothing.”

She made a disappointed sound. “Okay. Well, thanks for trying.” She slumped back in her chair. Then leaned forward again. “Wait. What about emails? Do you think Tiny would mind if I looked through them?

Instead of answering, he opened Tiny’s email.

“Thanks.” Rosa peered at the emails. “A lot of these haven’t been read yet. Do you want me to go through them?” She glanced at him and this close, he could clearly see the green in her irises. They were also speckled with silver, which must be why he’d initially thought they were grey. He’d never seen eyes like them.

“You’d better.” Then, because he wanted to keep her remarkable eyes focused on him, he added, “It’s a big change for you, moving here.”

Her smile was totally unexpected, especially after the way they’d been going toe-to-toe, trading verbal punches. It was a beautiful smile with an enchanting hint of mischief, and it pricked uneven dimples into her cheeks. “Lantana is even more beautiful than I thought it’d be,” she said. “I can see why Tiny loves it so much.”

Dalton leaned against her desk, disarmed by her smile. “Tiny can’t stay. She can’t get the treatment she needs here.”

“Oh?” She frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that. And I hadn’t realized she was handling so much on her own. Organizing weddings, taking bookings, checking in guests, arranging tours. It must have been a lot of work. She offered me a job a few months ago, but I didn’t take it.” Rosa’s eyes dropped and she pressed her lips together. “If I’d come then, things might have been different. I thought she was trying to be nice and get me out of Sydney. I didn’t realize she actually needed help.”

It was easy to see what Rosa was thinking — her guilt was written into her face. Ridiculous to blame herself for Tiny’s stroke, but it meant that Rosa genuinely cared for his sister, and that made Dalton feel bad for being so harsh with her.

“I had no idea she was working so hard either,” Dalton said gently. “If she didn’t say anything, how were either of us expected to know?”

“You didn’t visit her much?”

He shook his head. “We spoke on the phone every week or so, but I haven’t been back to Lantana since my father’s funeral.”

“I didn’t speak to her that often, but she should have said something if she was under pressure. I wish I’d known that taking the job would help both of us.” Rosa shook her head, shifting in her chair. “Anyway, there’s even more to do now. Mere’s obviously been doing what she can, but…”

“You think you can handle it?”

Rosa lifted her chin. “Watch me.” She delivered the words in such a fierce tone, he felt himself start to smile.

Then he heard his mobile phone ring. He’d left it on his desk in the next-door office.

“I’ll be in my office if you have any more questions,” he told her as he headed for the door. “But mostly you’ll need to figure things out as you go.”

“I’ve got this.”

“I’ll bet you do,” he muttered too softly for her to hear.

When he answered the phone in his office, it was Frank, his company manager. They had a big deal in the pipeline. A chain of stores leaking money because they couldn’t compete with Amazon’s prices. He’d negotiated an excellent price to buy the entire business, and would triple his money on the buildings alone, let alone when he parceled up the stock to on-sell in smaller lots.

“I’ve emailed you the paperwork,” said Frank. “You’ll fly to Perth to work through the details?”

“Not now. I can’t leave my sister.”

Frank was silent for a moment, obviously surprised. “You sure?” he asked finally.

It was too big a deal for Frank to handle, and although Frank had been working for him a long time, the only person in the world Dalton really trusted was his sister. But she came first. Which meant he’d need to rely on Frank more than he wanted to.

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