The Ex Who Hired Her

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Modern

Mar 2012

ISBN: 9780263892994

 

Harlequin Presents Extra

April 2012

ISBN: 9780373528639

Also released as:

  • UK hardback(Mar 2012, ISBN: 9780263226843
  • Australian paperback (date tbc, ISBN: tbc)

 


Behind the Book

I love reunion stories. And I loved writing this one - about two people who were torn apart because what happened to them was just too much for them to cope with. (Um, I'd better warn you now; you will need tissues, because I made myself cry when I was writing this.)

Ten years later, they meet again - completely unexpectedly - and knock each other for six. Except it takes them a while to admit it to themselves, let alone to each other!

Jordan does something amazingly romantic when he whisks Alexandra off to a place she's always wanted to see for the day (and night). Also very decadent, too, because it's Venice! (My working title for the book was "One Night in Venice".)

I have to admit that some of this comes from my research trip to Venice. I danced through St Mark's Square with my husband to that exact same piece of music. And we went on a gondola and it was really, really romantic (who says you can't be romantic when you have kids with you? Sure you can). The bits that Alex notices about Venice - yup. My fave bits, too. And no, our room didn't have a balcony!! (Though the breakfast terrace of our hotel was right on the Grand Canal and had the best view. I just transposed it to a roof terrace for the book.

The book is dedicated to my friend Lizzie Lamb and her parrot Jasper (whom I borrowed for the book - he did have a bigger part originally but my ed spotted him and he suffered the same fate as the reindeer) (but not as bad as the fate of the elephants: the very first words of the revision letter were "lose the elephants"!)

The book's recipe is piadina - something we all really enjoyed as a lunchtime snack in Venice.

The book's soundtrack

  • Def Leppard, "When Love and Hate Collide" - just fitted this so perfectly.
  • It Had to be You - the perfect background for dancing in San Marco Piazza.

Chapter One

Xandra Bennett.

Jordan would just bet she-d changed the spelling of her name, on the grounds that it made her sound more like a marketing hotshot than just plain 'Sandra'. He just hoped there was enough substance to back up the style. Maybe there would be; the recruitment agency had obviously thought enough of her to ask Field's for a last-minute interview. Though, after an entire day listening to the bright and not-so-bright ideas of the people who were desperate to become the next marketing manager of Field's department store, Jordan wasn't really in the mood for someone who was all style and glitz.

Last one, he told himself. Last one, and then I can get on with my work.

His PA opened the door. 'Ms Bennett.'

And, as Xandra Bennett walked in to his office, Jordan forgot how to breathe.

It was her.

Of all the department stores in all the towns in all the world, she walked into his.

Different name, different hair, and she'd clearly swapped her glasses for contact lenses, but it was definitely her. Alexandra Porter. His whole body tingled. Last time he'd seen her, she'd been eighteen, with mousy-brown hair that fell almost to her waist when he'd loosened it from its customary plait. And she'd worn clothing typical of a shy eighteen-year-old girl: scruffy trainers, nondescript jeans and baggy T-shirts that hid her curves.

Now, she looked every inch the marketing professional. A sharp, well-cut business suit that flattered her curves without making them look ostentatious; a sleek jaw-length bob with highlights so skilfully done that the copper and gold strands looked as though they'd been brought out naturally by the sun; and high-end designer heels that made her legs look as if they went on for ever.

And she still had a mouth that sent shivers through him.

He pushed the thought away. He didn't want to think about Alexandra Porter and her lush, generous mouth. The mouth he'd once taught how to kiss.

She masked it quickly, but he'd been watching her closely enough to see the shock on her face. She recognised him, too, and hadn't expected to see him here, either. . . or had she? He didn't trust her as far as he could drop his pen onto the desk. Back then she'd turned out to be a manipulative liar, and that wasn't the kind of personality trait that changed with age. Was Bennett the man she'd dumped him for? Or had she then dumped him as soon as she'd found someone else who could offer her more?

Maybe he should tell her that the position was already filled and he wasn't going to do any more interviews. Except that would mean explaining his reasons to his co-interviewers - explanations he'd rather not have to give.

***

Jordan Smith.

Alexandra felt sick to her stomach. He was the last person she'd expected to see. Ten years ago, she'd vowed never to have anything to do with him again. She'd never forgiven him for not being there when she'd needed him most. For lying to her. For letting her down. It had taken her years to rebuild her life; and now, just when her dreams were in reach, he was right in her way all over again.

The tall, slightly gangly student she'd known had filled out; he was far from being fat, but his shoulders were broader and his build more muscular. His mouth still had that sensual curve, promising pleasure - not that she wanted to remember how much pleasure his mouth was capable of giving.

The scruffy jeans and T-shirt he'd usually worn back then had been replaced by a designer suit and what looked like a handmade shirt and a silk tie. There was the faintest touch of silver at his temples - well, of course hair that dark would show the grey quickly. And he definitely had an air of authority. He'd grown into his looks; more than that, he'd grown into the kind of man who just had to breathe to have women falling at his feet.

As the CEO of Field's, Jordan Smith would have the final say over who got the job.

Which left her. . . where? On the reject pile, because she'd be a permanent reminder of his guilt - of the fact that he'd abandoned her when she was eighteen and pregnant with his baby? Or would he give her the job, even if she wasn't the best candidate, because he felt he owed it to her for wrecking her life all those years ago? And, if he did offer her the job, would she take it, knowing that she'd have to work with him?

The questions whizzed round her head. Then she realised that one of the panel had said something to her and was waiting for a reply. Oh, great. Now they'd think she had the attention span of a gnat and would be a complete liability rather than an asset to the firm. Bye, bye, new job. Well, she had nothing to lose now. She might as well treat this as a practice interview. Afterwards, instead of licking her wounds, she could analyse her performance and see where she needed to sharpen up, ready for the next interview.

'I'm so sorry. I'm afraid I didn't catch that,' she said, giving the older man an apologetic smile.

'I'm Harry Blake, the personnel manager,' he said, smiling back. 'This is Gina Davis, the deputy store manager.' He paused for long enough to let Alexandra exchange a shy hello and shake the deputy manager's hand. 'And this is Jordan Smith, the CEO.'

Jordan had to be a good twenty years younger than his colleagues. He was only thirty now. How had he made CEO of such a traditional company that fast?

Stupid question. Of course Jordan would be on the fast track, wherever he worked. He'd always been bright; his mind had attracted her teenage self just as much as his face. A man who could speak three other languages as fluently as his own; who knew all the European myths, not just the Greek and Roman ones; who knew Shakespeare even better than she did, back in the days when she still wanted to lecture on Renaissance drama. Dreams that had shattered and died, along with -

Alexandra pushed the thought away.

There was no way round it; she was going to have to be polite and shake his hand. She forced herself to keep her handshake brief, firm and businesslike and to ignore the tingles running along every nerve end as his skin touched hers. But then she made the mistake of looking into his eyes.

Midnight blue. Arresting. His eyes had caught her attention, the very first time she'd met him. Sweet seventeen and never been kissed. Until that night. when he'd seen beyond her image of the geeky girl with the mousy hair and glasses who didn't really fit in with everyone else at the party and had come over to talk to her. He'd danced with her. Kissed her.

She swallowed hard, and looked away, willing the memories to stay back.

***

She couldn't meet his eyes, Jordan noticed. Guilt? Not that it mattered, because as far as he was concerned she wasn't getting this job. No way was she going to be back into his life, not even in a work capacity. He'd get through this interview, and then he'd never have to set eyes on her again.

As the personnel manager, Harry was officially the one conducting the interview, so Jordan sat back and listened to him take Alexandra through the same questions he'd asked the others. Her answers were pretty much as he expected, so he glanced through her CV again. And then something stood out at him. The date she'd given for her A levels was three years after the date he remembered her being due to take them. Why? She'd been a straight-A student, the last person he'd expect to fail her exams.

Had the guilt of what she'd done finally hit her in the middle of her exams, so she'd messed them up? But, in that case, why had it taken her three years to retake them? And she didn't have the English degree he'd expected, either. She'd planned to become a lecturer, so why was she working in business instead of in an academic role?

He shook himself. It was none of his business, and he didn't want to know the answers.

He really didn't.

Excerpt to follow

From the book The Ex Who Hired Her by Kate Hardy.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Heat
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 9780263892994
Copyright © 2012 by Pamela Brooks
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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