The Boss’s Valentine (UK)/Her Italian Boss (US)

February 1, 2003

February 1, 2003

February 1, 2003

February 1, 2003

Preview

When Poppy sent the tall, dark and handsome Santino Aragone a valentine’s card to cheer him up, Santino responded by making love to her.

Suddenly, Poppy was expecting her boss’s baby, and he was determined to put a ring on her finger…

US Edition: also contains “RAFAEL’S PROPOSAL” by Kim Lawrence. Natalie’s boss, Rafael Ransome, thought she couldn’t be a single mom and do her job. But then he offered her a stunning career move – a Valentine’s Day marriage proposal!

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Excerpt

IT HAD been a hideous day at work.

On the way home, Poppy called into the corner shop and the first thing she noticed was that the big valentine card she had admired over a month earlier was still unsold. She couldn’t understand why nobody had bought it for she loved its glorious overblown pink roses and simple sentimental verse. She wondered why all the cards her more fortunate friends received were joke ones with comic, cruel, or even crude messages.

On an impulse, Poppy lifted the card and decided to buy it. Why shouldn’t she send a valentine card? True, nobody had ever sent her one, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t use the card as a means of brightening someone else’s day. As to the identity of that special, lucky someone, there was no doubt in her mind about who would receive the card…

Poppy had fallen head over heels in love with Santino Aragone in her first week working at Aragone Systems. She was all too well aware that Santino was as out of her reach as the moon. Santino was a hugely successful entrepreneur, blessed by spectacular sleek, dark Italian looks, and he had a never-ending string of gorgeous women in his life. But in an emergency Santino Aragone could also be incredibly kind. On her first day at work, when she’d got her finger trapped in a door, Santino had taken her to the hospital himself. When he had fainted dead away at the sight of a needle, Poppy had known he was the man for her…she had thought that was so sweet.

Starry-eyed over the idea that her small, anonymous gesture of a card might at least bring a brief smile to Santino Aragone’s brooding dark features on what she knew would be a difficult day for him, she was unlocking the door of her bedsit before her thoughts roamed uneasily back to her own horrendous day at work.

Desmond, the slick new head of marketing, had asked her if she had been born stupid or perhaps she’d got that way with effort? Having spilt coffee on his keyboard, Poppy had cleaned it up without telling him and in the process somehow wiped his morning’s work from his computer. Although she had made grovelling apologies, Desmond had still put in a complaint about her to Human Resources and she had been issued with a formal warning.

Her colleagues would have been surprised to learn that Poppy, famed for her laid-back nature, was even angrier with herself than Desmond had been. If she had not been so busy chatting, the coffee would never have been spilt. Time and time again, a lapse in concentration led to similar mistakes on her part. Sometimes she wondered if the problem had started when she was at school and her parents had, without ever meaning to, managed to undermine her every small triumph.

‘I’m sure you’ve done your best,’ her mother would say with a slight grimace when she scanned Poppy’s school reports. ‘We can’t expect you to match Peter’s results, can we?’

Her elder brother, Peter, had been born gifted and his achievements had set an impossible standard against which her more average abilities sank without trace. Punch-drunk with pride over their son’s academic successes, her parents had always concentrated their energies on Peter. Poppy would have liked to go to university, too, but when she was fifteen, her parents had told her that, as further education was so expensive and Peter would still be completing his doctorate, she would have to leave school and train for a job instead. It had seemed to her then that there was no point in striving for better grades. But it had been a conviction that she had since lived to regret.

Now painfully conscious that she didn’t have much in the way of academic qualifications and that she had been lucky to get a position in a slick city business, Poppy worked hard as a marketing assistant. She was willing, enthusiastic and popular with her colleagues, but employees who made foolish mistakes were frowned on at Aragone Systems. In addition, the warning she had received that day was her second in six months and if there was a third, she could be sacked. Ironically, it was not so much the fear of being fired that sent a chill down her taut spine, it was the terrifying knowledge that if she was fired she would never, ever set eyes on Santino Aragone again…

‘Is this someone’s idea of a joke?’ Santino Aragone demanded with incredulous bite when he opened the giant envelope two days later and found himself looking at the most naff of valentine cards awash with chintzy roses in improbable clashing pinks.

‘I’m as surprised as you are.’ His PA, Craig Belston, thought with considerable amusement that no woman could have chosen a worse way of trying to impress his sophisticated employer. Or indeed a worse day or even year to make such a declaration.

The staff Christmas party had been postponed after the sudden death of Santino’s father, Maximo, and rescheduled to take place as a Valentine’s Day event this evening. As bad luck would have it, Santino was attending another funeral of an old schoolfriend that very afternoon. Furthermore, it might be a little-known fact but Santino loathed Valentine’s Day in much the same way that Scrooge had loathed the festive season.

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