Leigh Michaels.

The Boss's Daughter





Leigh Michaels has written almost seventy novels for Harlequin Romance. Her sparkling, warmly emotional style has captivated readers around the world, and she has over thirty million books in print. Translated into more than twenty languages, her stories feature characters that women everywhere, from all nationalities, can relate toand enjoy reading time and again!

For fresh, emotionally exhilarating novels, look out for Leigh Michaels!

Bride by Design (#3720)

Leigh loves to hear from her readers. You can write to her at P.O. Box 935, Ottumwa, Iowa, 52501-0935, U.S.A. Or e-mail: leighmichael@franklin.lisco.net.

Books by Leigh Michaels

HARLEQUIN ROMANCE

3628THE CORPORATE WIFE

3637THE BRIDAL SWAP

3656A CONVENIENT AFFAIR

3672HIS TROPHY WIFE

3691BACKWARDS HONEYMOON


From boardroomto bride and groom!

A secret romance, a forbidden affair, a thrilling attraction?

Working side by side, nine to fiveand beyond.

No matter how hard these couples try to keep their relationships strictly professional, romance is definitely on the agenda!

But will a date in the office diary lead to an appointment at the altar?

Find out in this exciting new miniseries from Harlequin Romance.

A Professional Marriage (#3721)

by Jessica Steele

The Bosss Daughter
Leigh Michaels



www.millsandboon.co.uk

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ONE

AMY hesitated outside her fathers hospital room. Then she took a deep breath and pushed the door open. No matter what Gavin Sherwood wanted to tell her, she knew that delaying wouldnt make it any easier to take, so she might just as well get it over with.

Inside the room, she paused to look at the man lying propped up in the hospital bed, surrounded by high-tech equipment. There was less machinery now than there had been three days ago, when shed seen him in the intensive care unit right after his heart attack.

He was still very ill, there was no denying that. But his color was better, and he was no longer nearly as fragile-looking as he had been a few days before. He was going to make it.

So whatever Gavin had on his mind, Amy told herself, she would listen patiently and politely and then do precisely as she pleased. She wouldnt exactly blow a raspberry at him, of course, no matter what he saidbecause he was still her father. But she wasnt going to be manipulated into making any deathbed promises to a man who clearly wasnt on his deathbed.

Gavin opened his eyes. You finally got my message, I see.

He sounded a little querulous, Amy thought, and his voice hadnt yet regained all its poweror perhaps the feeble quaver was intentional.

Amy moved closer to the bedside. Message? It sounded more like a summons to me.

Took you long enough to get here. Where have you been? Out all night?

As if he has any right to ask. No, I got up early and went out for a walk. What is it you want, Gavin?

Its a bit involved, Im afraid. Sit down, Amy.

No, thanks. I didnt come for a leisurely chat, and Id just as soon not be here when your fianc?e gets back from the cafeteria or wherever shes gone.

Honey went home for a while.

Amy lifted an eyebrow. So she could rest, or so you could? she wanted to ask.

This has been an ordeal for her.

She was obviously under a lot of stress the night you came into the hospital, Amy agreed. In fact, she seemed to regard your illness as a great personal inconvenience.

Shes very young, Gavin Sherwood said quietly. Shes never faced serious illness before in anybody she truly cares about.

And perhaps she still hasnt. Amys tongue was getting sore from biting it, but she knew better than to say what she thought. Her father was already quite aware that his soon-to-be trophy wife was a major thorn in his daughters side, so it was unnecessaryand hardly sportingfor Amy to take cheap shots at Honeys expense. Even more important, if she kept criticizing Honey, her opposition would only drive Gavin into defending his choice, further deepening the chasm between father and daughter.

But as long as Honey wouldnt be popping in at any moment, she might as well make herself comfortable, Amy decided, and pulled up a chair. So what did you want to talk to me about? The message you left on my answering machine wasnt exactly chatty.

The nurses were hanging around when I called. Hows the job hunt coming along?

Quite well, thanks. Which I could have told you on the phone. So why was it so important that I drive over here?

Gavins fingers plucked at the sheet. My doctor says I can be released from the hospital in a few days. But of course Im still facing a long recovery. I wont be able to do much for myself at first.

Im sure Honey will make a terrific nurse, Amy said firmly. Itll give her a preview of the real meaning of for better or for worse. And she looks stunning in white.

Thats not what Im concerned about. Of course shell be there for me.

I hope youre right, Amy wanted to say.

Its the auction house, you see. My doctor says I cant go back to work for several weeks, so someone will have to step in, and of course youre the obvious choice His voice trailed off as he looked up at her.

Amy was already shaking her head, and her voice was steady. I dont work there anymore, Gavin. Remember?

Officially youre still on a leave of absence, you know.

I told you I quit, and I meant it. It was your choice not to accept my resignation.

Gavin didnt seem to hear her. And if it hadnt been for that silly misunderstanding, you would still be there. So its only sensible that you come back and

Silly misunderstanding? I walked into your office and found you on the couch with Honey, and you call it a silly misunderstanding?

Of course you were upset, Amy.

Darn right I was. Remember? That was the first clue I had that you were planning to divorce my mother.

I know. And I truly wish you hadnt found out that way.

That, Amy said tersely, makes two of us.

But to actually leave your job, to turn your back on the family business, over something like thatHonestly, Amy, now that youve had a chance to cool off and think it over, dont you agree that you were being a little excessive?

Amy considered. Yes, she said finally. I was a little excessive. I should have gone back to my desk and written you a polite resignation letter instead of screaming I quit! at the top of my lungs in the middle of the executive suite while Honey was still trying to get her sweater back on. My technique left a lot to be desired, I admitput it down to the shock of the situation. But if youre asking whether I have regrets over my decisionno, I dont. After a display of that sort of bad judgment, Id have trouble trusting any boss.

Gavin looked at her shrewdly. You cant expect me to believe that you dont miss the auction house.

He was right about that, Amy conceded. She couldnt honestly say that she didnt miss Sherwood Auctions. Shed worked in her fathers business, in one capacity or another, ever since she could remember. Before she was a teenager, shed been running errands, cleaning offices, watching the cloakroom. Later shed moved up to writing catalog copy, spotting bids during auctions, and researching merchandise. And as soon as she had her degree shed joined the full-time staff, though shed still moved from department to departmenttaking a hand wherever she was needed.

Leaving a firm which had occupied so much of her life wouldnt have been easy under any circumstances, but that fact didnt mean she was sorry shed done it. Once she was finally settled in a new job, shed be contented again.

It was time for a change, and Im looking forward to new challenges. She knew she sounded evasive.

Gavin bored in. Doing what?

Im not absolutely certain yet. But just because I havent accepted a job doesnt mean I dont have any prospects.

But the bottom line is that youre still out of work, Gavin mused. Even after more than two months of looking.

Blame yourself for that, because you paid me well enough that I could take my time and look around instead of jumping at the first possibility. And if youre speculating on why no one seems to want meas a matter of fact, it looks as if Im going to have three different offers any day now. Good offers, too. Ill have a hard time figuring out which one I want to take.

Gavin said slowly, And each of them will give you a big change and a new challenge? Is that really what you want, Amy?

Yes, it is. Im sorry, but She could afford to be gentle, now that he finally seemed to be hearing her.

Thats exactly why you should come back and run the auction house instead, Gavin pointed out brightly. Thatll be a big change and a new challenge, too, because youve always worked in the separate departments. Youve never before tried being in charge of everything.

And thats why Im the wrong person for the job. Youve got a personal assistant who already oversees all the details. Why not promote him?

His name isnt Sherwood.

So maybe hell change it if you ask him nicely.

Gavin looked at her narrowly. You still havent forgiven me for hiring Dylan instead of giving you the job, have you, Amy?

Where did you get that delusion? I didnt want to be a glorified secretary, making phone calls and excuses.

Dylan is not a glorified secretary.

Great. If hes been so involved in the business, hes capable of taking over for a while. I dont know why you wanted a personal assistant in the first place if you arent going to use him to advantage.

Dylan is very good, Gavin said, but Amy thought the tone of his voice sounded far less certain than the words. But you know how personal the auction business is. Its a matter of trust, and Ive worked for decades to build up that trust. My clients trust Sherwood Auctions because they trust me.

So if youre saying that no one can take your place, Gavin, whats the point of asking me to try?

Because the next best thing to the Sherwood theyre familiar with is a different Sherwood. Its just the same as when my father handed the business down to me, back when we were still selling farm machinery and odds and ends instead of antiques and fine art. His clients were willing to give me a try, because I was his son. And you dont only have the name, Amy, and the instinctsyouve got twenty years of experience in the business.

Only if you count when I was six years old and I handed out catalogs to bidders as they came into the auctions, Amy muttered. I had to stand on a chair.

Gavin smiled. And our auctions in those days were still small enough that a child could handle the weight of a stack of catalogs.

Nostalgia is not going to change my mind, Gavin. Give your personal assistant a chance. If this hadnt happened, youd have counted on him to keep the place running while you were on your honeymoon. Whats so different about letting him take over now? Its just a little longer, thats all. Amy stood up and firmly changed the subject. Speaking of honeymoons, is the date firm yet? Though I suppose it would be chancy to choose a day for the wedding before the divorce is final.

Gavin didnt seem to hear her. His hand went out to clutch at her sleeve. All right. I didnt want to tell you this, Amy, but I suppose I dont have a choice.

Now what was he going to try? Hadnt he already run the gamut of persuasive techniques?

You know, of course, about the financial settlement your mother and I have agreed to as part of the divorce.

I know you made an agreement, Amy said slowly. She didnt give me the details, and I didnt think it was any of my concern as long as Mother was satisfied.

Well, thats the problem, you see. She may not be satisfied for much longer.

Amy sat down again. Perhaps youd better take this from the top, Gavin.

We agreed to split our assets as equally as possible. After being married so many years, I felt it was the only arrangement that was fair to Carol.

Also the only arrangement shed have accepted, considering that you were the one who wanted out of the marriage, Amy said, almost under her breath.

But it was impossible to split everything straight down the middle. For instance, Carol wanted the house and Iof coursewanted to keep the business. But because the values of those two things werent anywhere near equal, I agreed to make her a lump sum payment as compensation for her share of Sherwood Auctions. Its quite a large amount, and its due pretty soon.

If youre threatening to withhold that payment unless I cooperate, Amy said, youd better think again.

Im not trying to blackmail you, Amy. Gavin fidgeted a little. The fact is I cant pay Carol, because I dont have the money. My expenses these last few months have been heavier than I anticipated. All the attorneys fees, you know. Ive ended up paying your mothers as well as my own, and the legal bills are still coming in. And of course it isnt cheap setting up a new apartment from scratch.

To say nothing of the cost of tickets for a honeymoon in Italy, Amy agreed. Poor DaddyHoneys obviously been a lot more expensive than you anticipated.

It isnt as if I havent been working on it, Gavin said. He sounded almost defensive. There are a number of potential clients Ive been working on for some time. You know the routine, Amyit takes people time to decide to part with treasures theyve collected. Time, and gentle handling, because they have to be comfortable with the decision. I was planning to see several of those people again in the next couple of weeks because I think theyre ready to confirm some deals. But then this happened. He waved a hand at the machinery that surrounded him. And Im stuck.

I dont suppose youll be making any goodwill calls for a while, Amy agreed.

Without the personal approach, those people are likely to change their minds altogether, or else take their business to another auction house. I cant really blame them for thinking that they might not get the kind of attention at Sherwood that they would if I was there. He shot a sideways look at her. Unless you take over, Amy. Because youre my heir, you see, the reputation of the firm is just as important to you as it is to me, so youll work just as hard to uphold it.

Or at least the clients will believe that, Amy murmured. How could they possibly know the truth?that Dylan is probably a lot more concerned about the reputation of the auction house than I am. Its his bread and butter, after allnot mine. Not anymore.

You already know, Amy, that perception is everything in this business. What the clients believe is important. And in any case, its trueyouve lived and breathed the auction business all your life, my dear, and whatever you say, you dont want to see it destroyed. All Im asking is a few more weeks. And its really more for your mothers sake than mine.

Cunning of him, to put it that way. Amy shrugged. Now thats a thought. You could just turn the business over to Mother for a while. After all, shes lived and breathed it even longer than I have, and with her financial future at stake

Gavins eyebrows tilted. Youre joking, surely.

Well, yes, I suppose I am, Amy admitted. But couldnt you just talk to her? Explain whats happened?

Gavin shook his head. I cant see her being very understanding. And I cant blame her, exactlyI got myself into this predicament.

He was no doubt right about his soon-to-be-ex-wifes lack of sympathy, Amy thought. Who could blame Carol Sherwood for still being furious over her ex-husbands behavior? Amy didnt think her mother would actually be shortsighted enough to put revenge ahead of her own financial interests. But Amy could understand why Gavin was hesitant to confess his predicament to Carol. If she did become vindictive, shed be within her rights to demand her money even if it required Gavin to liquidate everything he owned, and he didnt want to take the slightest chance of having that happen.

And postponing the payment for a few weeks wouldnt help much anyway, Gavin said heavily, if the business Ive cultivated so carefully goes somewhere else in the meantime.

Amy sighed. All right. Ill see what I can do.

Gavin gripped her hand. Thats my girl, he said. I knew I could count on you.

Amy paused for a full fifteen seconds on the sidewalk, looking up at the block-square brown-brick buildingoriginally a warehousethat housed her fathers auction business, before she took a deep breath and pulled open the main door.

It had been nearly three months since she had set foot inside Sherwood Auctions, and just an hour ago, shed have sworn that she would never walk through those doors again. But here she was anywaypretty much resigned to the fact, if not precisely happy about it.

She stopped in the small entrance lobby. The half-dozen comfortable chairs opposite the reception desk were all empty, but that wasnt unusual. It wasnt exactly early, but the auction business didnt really get moving till at least the middle of the day.

Behind the reception desk, a man in a dark suit was on the telephone, obviously scheduling an appointment for the caller with one of the auction houses expert appraisers. That might take a while, Amy knew. Though she tapped the toe of her sandal on the marble floor, the action was more to give her something to do than because she was feeling impatient.

Mrs. Gleason will see you on Thursday morning at ten, the man at the desk said. Thank you for calling Sherwood Auctions, Mrs. Carter. He stood up. Good morning. How may I help His question broke off abruptly as he got a good look at Amy, and he went on disbelievingly, Ms. Sherwood?

She didnt blame him for being startled. In the flesh, Robert.

But your father isnt He sounded a bit apprehensive. I mean, you do know aboutdont you?

About his heart attack? Relax, I havent been that far out of the loop. I just came from seeing him in the hospital. Im here because She paused. Because Im taking over. She hadnt even said it out loud to herself, and at the last moment she realized she couldnt get her tongue around the words to explain it to anyone else just yet. Not till shed had a little more time to get used to the idea herself. So instead of telling Robert the truth, she said, Because I need to see Beth Gleason. Has she come in yet?

Robert nodded. Go on up, Ms. Sherwood. He pushed a button on the desk and the inner door unlocked with a soft buzz.

Amy was just a little startled that he hadnt phoned Beth to come down to greet her. No one but the staff was supposed to wander around the building without an escort. In fact, considering the way Amy had departed almost three months ago, she wouldnt have been too surprised if instead of casually letting her enter, Robert had vaulted the reception desk, seized her by the neck, and thrown her out onto the street. Even if her father had sentimentally left her name on the employee roster, the rest of the staff had to know the truth.

Amy stepped through the doorway and into the main lobby. While the reception area was elegant in a very understated way, the two-story-high lobby on the other side of the locked doorwhere no client or bidder or visitor ever went without an escorthad been deliberately designed to overwhelm. Though it contained nothing but a branching staircase with a cloakroom tucked underneath and a matched pair of elevators, the room often drew gasps from the first-time visitor. Quite an understandable reaction, Amy had always thought, since the staircase had been salvaged from a centuries-old manor house, the linen-fold paneling which covered the elevator doors from a minor palace, and the arched ceiling from a small cathedral. None of them were the sort of thing often seen in Kansas City.

Perception is everything in this business, Gavin had said, and he was right. It had cost him a fortune to create the image of a solid, wealthy, timeless business, but the investment had more than paid for itself. When clients who had been doubtful about what to do with their treasures saw this lobby, they abruptly relaxed, certain that they and their possessions were in good hands. Amy had seen it happen a hundred times.

She could have taken the elevator from the lower lobby all the way to the top of the building where the executive offices were located, but she much preferred to climb the stairs as far as she could. She liked to let her hand trail along the satin-smooth railing as she climbed, liked to see the view from the top step as a second and even larger lobby opened out in front of her. To one side, across what seemed an acre of carpet, was a pillared archway leading into the auction room where the rare and unusual items that were Sherwood Auctions specialty were put under the hammer. On the other side of the lobby, smaller doors led into a series of museum-like showrooms where prospective buyers could inspect the merchandise days or even weeks before the actual auction.





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