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Authors: Coleen Kwan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories & Anthologies, #Short Stories, #Romance, #Contemporary, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Single Authors

All Work and No Play

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY

(Serendipity Book 2)

by

Coleen Kwan

Anna Reynolds is stuck with the
infuriating Giles St Clair. If she wants to meet her project deadline, she
needs the highly sought after consultant’s help. But everything about Giles annoys
Anna, from his posh English accent to the way every woman swoons at his feet.

And the worst
thing about Giles?
She can’t help being attracted to him. Not that
she’ll ever act on that attraction. A messy office affair would stall her
career, and she’s not interested in being another notch on Giles’s bedpost.

When a close encounter in a
stationery cupboard forces the truth out, Anna forgets all her own rules. She
and Giles need a circuit-breaker, and one steamy summer night together might be
just what they both need.

But is one night enough?

Serendipity Romance

Fireworks
At
Midnight

All Work and No Play

Copyright © 2015 by Coleen Kwan

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked
status and trademark owners of the following word marks mentioned in this work
of fiction: Burberry, Vegemite, Neighbours, Diet Pepsi, Snickers,
House
& Garden.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental.

Cover design © 2015 Coleen Kwan

Cover photo ©
IuriiSokolov
/
Bigstock.com

Chapter One

It was the first working day of the
new year
, and Sydney, having shaken off her hangover from
New Year’s Eve, was in the grip of a heatwave. The city sweltered under a
relentless sun. Sensible people flocked to the beach.
Or hung
out by the pool.
Or hunted for bargains at the
department store sales.

But Anna Reynolds was at work. Not just putting in an
appearance, but hard at it, while half of the employees at
FrogLeap
were away on leave. She didn’t mind that; an empty office meant less noise and
distractions, and that was important given the tight deadlines of her project.

“I need a coffee,” a familiar male voice said behind her,
accompanied by the sound of a chair being pushed back. “Can I get you
anything?”

Anna swivelled round to find herself eye-level with a lean
pair of hips clad in elegant grey pants, a narrow leather belt emphasising the
trim waist. As she realised she was staring at the man’s crotch, she hastily
averted her gaze.

Giles St Clair’s sky-blue eyes filled with amusement as if
he knew exactly what she’d been doing. “Anna?”

She did not blush easily, thank God. “A cappuccino would be
nice,” she said.

Last week he’d offered to get her coffee several times, and
she’d always refused, but now she decided she should try treating him like any
normal colleague, and besides she could really go for some caffeine to
kickstart
her brain. She reached for her handbag. “Here,
let me get you some money.”

“No need. Coffee’s on me.”

Like hell it was
.
She pulled out her purse. “I can’t let you do that.”

Ignoring the banknote she waved at him, he narrowed his eyes
at her.
“Why not?”

If only she could blurt out the truth. Ever since Giles St
Clair had sauntered into
FrogLeap
, preceded by his
impressive reputation overseas, he’d managed to rub Anna up the wrong way. As the
only female IT project managers in this male-dominated workplace, and one who
had worked harder than most to get to that position, she might have objected to
the way the red carpet was rolled out for Giles, but it wasn’t that that irritated
her. Instead, it was the little things, each one petty on its own, but enough
to put her teeth on edge.

For a start, he was English and
upperclass
,
and spoke in that toffy drawl that made him sound oh-so-superior. And he was
rich, too.
The kind of rich who could afford bespoke shirts
and suits and hand-stitched shoes.
He always appeared elegant,
unflappable, in control. And he was stunningly handsome, of course, with an
athletic frame and wavy chestnut hair and cool blue eyes and that maddening,
slightly superior set to his face that seemed to say
Yes, I know I’m good-looking, but please let’s not make a fuss
.

FrogLeap
had hired him as a
consultant at an exorbitant rate, and management were eager for him to spread
his expertise wherever he could, and Giles didn’t hold back. He was happy to
give his opinion whenever asked, including, in Anna’s case, when he wasn’t.
He’d quizzed her on methodology in a way that had made her defensive and
resentful. She might not be a highly sought-after consultant or be mobbed at
tech conferences, but she knew her stuff.

She’d gone out of her way to avoid him, but since last week they’d
been working together, and in a half-empty office too.

“I like to pay for my own coffee,” Anna said, holding his
gaze.

He frowned as if he couldn’t make her out. Probably he
couldn’t understand why she didn’t swoon at his feet like all the other females—and
some of the men—in the office did. Then, his brow cleared as he stood back.

“I’m sure you do,” he said with a small smile. “So I’ll let you
get the next round. Okay?”

He strolled off, leaving her still clutching the banknote.
Unbidden, she couldn’t help noticing how well his tailored pants hugged his
taut arse. With a silent curse, she swung back to her computer.

The very worst thing about Giles St Clair was that, despite
all her denials, despite the many ways he annoyed her, she found him extremely
hot. She’d never been remotely attracted to anyone in the workplace, and that
had been a blessing because in her position the last thing she needed was a
messy affair.

Only recently promoted to project manager, she knew there’d
been some rumblings because of her youth and gender. Some people were just
waiting for her to fail, and the first project she was in charge of definitely wasn’t
going off without a hitch.

She’d barely received her new business cards when without
warning she’d lost both her programmers. Oscar had fallen in love and decided
to follow his new girlfriend to India, while Neil had defected to a rival
company, both men taking with them vital knowledge and experience. Anna had
assumed her manager would extend her deadline and provide her with two new
programmers. Instead, he’d told her the deadline had been moved up but as
compensation Giles St Clair had been assigned to her, and the two of them would
have to finish the programming. Considering the stratospheric rate Giles was
being paid, Anna was supposed to consider it a privilege having the super guru
on her project.

Well, Giles had been working for her for a week, and it was
beginning to feel like torture. Oh, sure, he was a genius when it came to
programming and design, but having those cool eyes and cocky smile and gorgeous
body in close contact all day long was starting to do her head in.

Giles came back twenty minutes later. The temperature
outside was over thirty degrees, but he’d barely raised a sweat. His beautiful
cream shirt was as crisp as ever, and he smelled deliciously of some subtle
cologne she didn’t recognise. Probably an individual scent made specifically
for him, she thought as she took her cappuccino from him, careful not to brush
her fingers against his.

“I scored some free biscotti,” he said with a grin, laying a
napkinful
of biscuits on her desk.

Chocolate and hazelnut biscotti.
Anna weakened. “Those are my favourite.”

“So I noticed.” He dropped into the empty desk next to hers.
They were the only two people in this corner of the office, and the layout of
their pod meant they were screened off from everyone else.

Anna looked at him. “You noticed? Have you been spying on
me?”

“It’s not hard to notice you like chocolate and hazelnut
biscotti when you have one almost every day.” He reached for one himself and
dipped it in his coffee before eating it very neatly without leaving a drop on
his shirt or tie.
“Mm. Almost as good as dunking a chocolate
digestive.”

“You dunk biscuits?” Anna raised her eyebrows at him.
“Aren’t you too posh for that?”

“Hmm.
So you think I’m posh, do
you?”

“Well, just look at you.” She waved a hand in his general
direction. “The accent, the clothes, the general attitude of...”

“Of what?” he asked mildly.

Of superiority, she’d almost said. “Never mind,” she hastily
replied.

He studied her in silence, and she felt herself get antsy
under his scrutiny.

“What is it?” she finally burst out. “Do I have a booger
hanging out of my nose or something?”

“No.” He frowned down at his coffee for a moment before
fixing her with his cool blue stare. “Do you have a problem with me, Anna?”

His bluntness almost had her choking on her coffee. “What
makes you think that?”

He shrugged. “Oh, just that you weren’t too keen to have me
on your project, and you seem to bristle whenever I try to be friendly, and you
enjoy taking little digs at me, for instance, at my so-called poshness.”

Oh, crap. There was no place to hide from those penetrating
eyes of his. She set down her coffee so she wouldn’t spill it and smoothed down
her skirt, while her brain tussled with the problem. Clearly this called for
some project management skills here; she could not be less than professional.
If Giles wasn’t happy, he might complain to Lionel, her boss, and she couldn’t
let that happen.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Giles,” she said, keeping her
voice neutral. “If I’ve made you feel uncomfortable, then I apologise. I didn’t
mean to, and I’ll definitely try not to do so again. I hope we can still work
together.”

“So you don’t dislike me merely because I’m a Pom?”

“Of course not.”

“Maybe you dislike me for other reasons?”

Her cheeks grew hot. Christ, where was this coming from?

“Giles, it’s not a popularity contest here. Just because I
don’t kowtow to you like everyone else does, doesn’t mean we can’t work well as
a team.” She stopped short. Had she really uttered those words?

He leaned back in the chair, a small, almost triumphant
smile on his lips, as if he’d wrung a confession out of her.

“I like you, Anna,” he said, looking so smug she wanted to
pour her coffee over him.

“Oh. Well. That’s
such
a relief.”

“I can tell.” His grin widened.

She gritted her teeth. “We should get back to work. Our
deadline’s this Friday.”

“I haven’t forgotten. Hey, want to try peer programming? It
might get us there faster.” He scooted his chair closer, looking ready to park
himself at her desk.

A flutter started in her chest.
“Uh, no
thanks.
I think we’d work better separately.”

No way would she be able to concentrate on work if they did
peer
programming. The technique involved two people sitting
and working together closely, one person writing the code while the other
reviewed it and provided impetus. Anna had done it plenty of times before, but
she wasn’t game to try it with Giles. Not when the office was half-empty and
her hormones were going haywire over him.

“Okay.” He rose from the chair and pushed it back into place
at the desk next to her. He seemed disappointed, and for a moment she regretted
turning him down.

“Thanks for the coffee.
And the biscotti.”

“You’re welcome,” he said as he returned to his desk on the
other side of the work pod.

The biscotti, she reminded herself, had probably been given
to him by some adoring coffee shop worker whom he’d effortlessly charmed. She pulled
her attention back to her work, determined to treat Giles like any other of her
colleagues.

When Giles had been assigned to her project, she’d thought
it best for him to finish Neil’s tasks, while she completed Oscar’s work. She
was reviewing one of Oscar’s programs when an uneasy feeling began to grow in
her. The uneasiness mounted as she checked more programs and ran through her
own suite of tests. By the time she was finished, her insides were knotted and
her hands were cold and unsteady.

This could not be
happening!
The last time she’d felt so nauseous was at university when
she’d rocked up for an exam only to discover she’d studied the wrong subject.
Back then, she’d only been in danger of dropping her grade point average. This
was far worse.

Frustration welled up in her, and she knew she was ready to
explode. She wanted to yell and punch her keyboard and hurl her stress balls at
the wall. Instead, she pushed to her feet and hurried to a nearby stationery closet,
a tiny, windowless room.

As soon as the door clicked shut and she was alone, the
bottled up yell tore from her throat. She stomped around the tiny closet,
fisting and
unfisting
her hands, while her mind
raced, trying to outpace the panic that threatened to drown her.

What had Oscar been thinking? Why had he done it? Neil, yes,
she could envisage him doing something sneaky like this.
But not
Oscar.
Why had he left so many bugs in his programs and tried to cover
them up with phony tests? She’d liked Oscar. She’d been happy for him when he
finally found a
girlfriend,
despite thinking the woman
was a little dippy. Anna had wished him well on his journey of love to India,
though he’d left so abruptly.

Now, he’d gone, and dropped her in the proverbial crap.
She’d have to comb through all the programs he’d written and re-test and debug
them. And that was on top of the other work she had to complete. And everything
had to be finished by the end of this week. No ifs, no buts, Lionel had warned
her.

She couldn’t go running to her boss and tell him about
Oscar. Not yet, anyway. If she did, it would look like she was making excuses
for not meeting her deadline. And that she wasn’t capable of managing her
subordinates. No, she couldn’t let that happen, not on her first project as
manager.

The door opened, and Giles stepped into the closet. “Anna?”

She instantly stiffened. “Yes?”
What the hell was he doing here?

He stood by the door, looking strangely diffident, almost
concerned. “I saw you come rushing in here, and you looked rather
discombobulated. Is anything the matter?”

A weak laugh escaped her. “Discombobulated? Me?” Her lungs
didn’t seem to be working.
Omigod
, was this a
panic attack?

Giles took two steps forward and halted right in front of
her. Strong hands grasped her shoulders. Calm blue eyes focused on her.
“Breathe, Anna. Just breathe.”

His unflappable attitude steadied her. She sucked in air,
released it,
inhaled
again.

“Thanks.” She stepped back, causing his hands to fall away from
her. His grip had calmed her, but it wasn’t a good idea to let him touch her.

“Are you going to tell me what’s happened?”

“Nothing’s happened,” she said, automatically defensive.

Giles pushed his hands into the pockets of his pants, his
demeanour saying he wasn’t going to be fobbed off by her. “For the past half
hour you’ve been clicking your pen, twisting your hair around your finger, bashing
on your keyboard, and muttering under your breath. That means something’s
happened.
Something that seriously bothers you.”

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