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Hands On

Written by Clare Connelly

Chapter Two

“I PRESUME YOU KNOW my story.”

Emotions thicken his deep Irish accent, and his eyes flicker with a hint of resentment.

Of course I know his story. Who doesn’t? It was in all the papers when it happened—the kind of attention that somehow I just know this man would have abhorred. Photos ran of the pair of them. Jack and Lucy Grant on their wedding day. At various charity functions. He is handsome, smart, successful and rich and she was beautiful and kind, with a timeless grace. They had been the darlings of the society scene, for the brief period in which life was kind to them.

It’s not a question, but I suspect he’s waiting for an answer. I meet his eyes even though there’s something in them that makes my whole body feel supercharged and hyper-aware.

His expression hasn’t changed. He is impassive and commanding.

And yet, his chest gives him away. His powerful chest is moving as though he’s run a marathon. It inflates and deflates rapidly. As though his question has sparked a physiological response of near-panic.

He takes my silence as agreement, and continues, but his voice is thick with emotions that make my heart twist for him. “I don’t want someone looking for a line on their CV. This isn’t a normal nine-to-five job. The company is my life. More now so than ever.” His eyes flash and I understand. “But I can’t… I am not…” He pushes back in his chair, fixing me with a direct stare. A stare that makes my body tremble. It’s a wholly inappropriate response, given that we’re in the middle of a job interview.

“I need someone who will be me. This isn’t about showing up and getting given a list of priorities. This is a job for someone who’ll see what needs doing when I don’t. When I can’t.”

The admission is hard for him to make; I can see that. He is asking me for help, not just offering me a job. “I can do that.”

“I’m not easy to work with.” He lays the words down like a gauntlet. A challenge he expects me to shy away from.

But I like a challenge. “I’ve worked with some of the biggest bastards you can imagine.”

He pulls a face. I suspect he disagrees. That he thinks he might be worse than all of them.

So I push harder. “I want to be a part of something bigger.”

He rubs his fingers over his jaw, lost in thought. “And you think I’m it?”

I choose my words wisely. There is something between us. I feel it pulling between him and me like an elastic that will easily get to snapping point if we don’t take care.

I am careful not to make this about him, or me, so much as what the job is. “I think what you’ve done is remarkable. I think your achievements are…astounding. Yeah. I think this job is exactly what I want.”

The air between us seems to crackle.

He studies me a little more, nodding slowly.

“And what if you hate it—” he looks down at my résumé “—Gemma?”

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Clare Connelly

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