‘Your father would never stand for it,’ Amy said confidently.
‘My father is in hospital, Miss Hogan, and the running of this company is entirely entrusted to me.’
‘Which is ludicrous, considering…’
‘Considering…what?’ Cold blue eyes narrowed threateningly. He stood up, all six feet two of dominant alpha male, and stared at her, waiting for an answer to a remark Amy knew she should never have made in the first place.
‘Considering…this is probably small potatoes to you,’ she improvised rapidly. ‘A bit dull, I imagine. You must do things differently over in New York and you might want to consider that when you start making your decisions.’ Considering, she thought to herself, that you’ve seen your father the grand total of four times in a decade. She knew that because Antonio had told her, because he had sheltered her under his wing and she had somehow become the child he had never really had.
‘Thank you so much for your advice,’ Rocco drawled, flicking on his mobile so that he could tell his driver to come for him. He tucked it into the pocket of his shirt and smiled coolly at her. ‘Though I rarely follow advice. I have usually found that it tends to be loaded and not necessarily in my favour.’ She looked down but he could feel her stewing, itching to fling him some caustic remark, and the enjoyment he had felt earlier kicked in him again.
‘Friday,’ he told her. ‘At my office. Bring the books and everything to do with whatever you’re working on at the moment and whatever you may happen to have in the pipeline. I’ll be waiting for you at three-thirty.’
Outside, the gang of teenage youths had dispersed, replaced by two girls with pushchairs who were chatting. They looked young enough to be at school. Around him, the scenery consisted of cluttered streets leading off the main road. Edward was there, waiting. He must have just gone around the corner for a cup of tea until Rocco called him.
Rocco didn’t immediately go to the car. He stood and carried on his leisurely inspection of the area, then he looked behind him to the office.
Nightmare though it was to be thrown into this situation, when he himself had his own extensive businesses to run, he had to admit that at least it wasn’t going to be boring.
They might all be scuttling around right now, whispering about him behind his back, but they would be very happy when he dragged the company into the twenty-first century and quadrupled the profits, which he was pretty certain he could do without a great deal of effort.
That was one of the most disillusioning things about life, he thought grimly. Money always ended up talking…
AMY made sure that she was at the headquarters well before the appointed time of three-thirty. She had had three days to consider the threat that Rocco’s presence posed and several missed hours of sleep to work out that the best way of dealing with the man was to creep around him as much as she was capable of doing. Shooting her mouth off and turning up late for their meeting through some misplaced urge to prove a point would bring his wrath hurtling down on her like a ton of bricks.
It didn’t help that she had been to see Antonio the day before, to find that the cocktail of antibiotics being fed into him was not working as efficiently as they had expected. He certainly couldn’t be asked pivotal questions regarding the company. In fact, he dozed on and off for the duration of her visit and she was rewarded, on the way out, by the depressing news from the consultant that Antonio would certainly remain in hospital for at least another three weeks, after which he would benefit from a recuperative break in Italy where his relatives could look after him and where the concerns of his business would not intrude on his recovery. Rocco had been making all the necessary phone calls to get things moving in that direction.
Which left a worst-case scenario, as far as Amy was concerned.
Rocco would take over and begin making his changes, and change one would be to exterminate her and her fellow members of staff.
Depressingly, the only person she felt she could possibly discuss this with was Antonio, who was not available for comment. Antonio had always been the first person she turned to with a problem, the only shoulder she had really ever cried on, and having him out of reach was a severe blow.
She half expected Rocco to keep her waiting, having read somewhere that this was an age-old ploy for establishing superiority, but she was shown directly into his office to find him sitting behind his father’s desk with a stack of files in front of him that looked depressingly familiar.
His face was unsmiling and as coldly handsome as she remembered. A face that would drive any portrait painter into the throes of excitement, with its perfect bone structure and harshly beautiful lines, but one that just filled her with dislike. She found his stunning eyes hard and forbidding and his emotional detachment radiated around him like a dangerous force field. It was difficult to maintain her self-composure when faced with this and when he nodded to the chair facing him, she sunk into it with relief.
‘You’re on time,’ he drawled, leaning back in the chair. ‘Amazing. I gather from your colleagues here that your timetables don’t often dovetail with everyone else’s.’
Amy ventured a polite smile. ‘It’s difficult when you’re working out in the field, Mr Losi. Sometimes, things have a tendency to overrun and, with the long drive out to Stratford, I can get behind schedule with meetings. I’ve brought the files you wanted.’ She reached down to her briefcase, snapped it open and extracted a clear window envelope bulging with various project notes.
Instead of reaching over for them, Rocco didn’t move a muscle.
‘Bad news for you, I’m afraid, Miss Hogan.’ He tapped softly on the arm of his chair with one finger and continued looking at her with those incredible, shuttered blue eyes. ‘Although I suspect you already know what’s coming if you have been to visit my father.’
‘I think it’s excellent news if you’re talking about the doctor’s suggestion that he go to Italy to recuperate.’ Keep it upbeat, she thought. Don’t let him register any trepidation because Rocco Losi would be onto it like a shark scenting blood. Of course, he could do as he liked and no doubt would, but she wouldn’t give up without a fight and she certainly wouldn’t abandon her dignity in the process. ‘You have no idea how hard he’s been working over the past couple of years. He’s due for a rest, even if it’s not exactly in circumstances he could have foreseen.’
‘There was no necessity for him to be working flat out,’ Rocco said, not bothering to pull any punches. ‘Not if he had had members of staff on whom he could rely.’
‘I’m not about to be drawn on criticising anyone in this company,’ Amy told him. ‘Perhaps we should get down to the business of going through my files?’ Belatedly, she wondered whether she should have been a little less terse. Rocco Losi would have spent most of his adult life in a position of rising power, being fawned upon by people in the expectation that they might get something out of him. Men like him would be used to displays of subservience and would be conditioned to expect it. Putting him in his place wasn’t going to get her far, but then there was just so much ingratiating she was prepared to do. Criticising people who had supported her in the past was out of the question.
‘Oh, I have already had a preliminary look at some of the figures,’ Rocco said lazily. He sat forward and placed both elbows on the desk. ‘The last little project you did was cheap at a little over fifty thousand pounds, compared to the rest of your schemes…’
‘But only a small percentage of the total earnings of Losi Construction,’ Amy pointed out, stilling the nervous pounding inside her. ‘It was always agreed…’
‘I am so glad you used the past tense. Let me put you in the picture, Miss Hogan. I will be here for the next six months. Even when my father has fully recovered, it’s been recommended that he does not return to work full time. He will, naturally, remain