Bachelor Boss - By Christie Ridgway

Chapter One
Lucy Sutton disliked first days.

Standing before the half-open door leading to her new boss's office, Lucy admitted to herself that in truth she hated first days. As family legend had it, she'd hidden at the back of her closet on the first day of kindergarten. While that wasn't clear in her memory, she could recall in vivid detail the first day of high school, the way the tag on her new shirt scratched the back of her neck, how she'd scratched at her nerve-induced hives. The worst, however, was the first day of a new job. Without a mother's hand to hold or a gaggle of girlfriends with whom to get through the hours, that initial eight-to-five at a new place of employment could be excruciating.

Which didn't help explain why Lucy had put herself through quite a few of those new days since graduating from college with an accounting degree three years before.

Swallowing to ease her dry mouth, she reminded herself that despite how her employers had liked her and her work, each of those three number-crunching jobs had not been quite right for her. Still, she knew that more than one of her relatives thought it was Lucy who wasn't right for successful employment. That was family legend, too, that Lucy, nicknamed "Lucy Goosey" thanks to one of her ultraperfect elder siblings, was just too flighty and too fluffy to take anything seriously - or to be taken seriously by anyone.

Worst of all, though, was how legends like those had an uncomfortable way of becoming fact.

"Not that legend," Lucy murmured to herself, steeling her spine and scratching at a rising bump on her left wrist. "This time I'm going to show every other Sutton that I'm as capable as they are." This job would be different.

Even though it was only temporary secretarial work, she'd stick with it and succeed. Then she'd move on to finding the very best place for herself and her accounting skills. The right position was out there and this was her stepping stone to it.

Her gaze slid over to the nameplate on the wall beside her new boss's office door. Carlo Milano. She had something to prove regarding him, too.

Specifically, that she was over him.

Taking a deep breath, she rapped gently on the grained wood.

"Come in," a man's voice called out.

Lucy found herself hesitating, and instead of moving forward she thought back to the last time she'd seen Carlo. It had been at a big do a couple of years before at her sister, Elise's, home. He'd been making one of his rare appearances, leaning his rangy, six-foot-two body against a wall in a corner of the kitchen, dressed casually in jeans and a button-down shirt. Yet he'd looked anything but casual, his incredible face serious and leaner than ever, as if any soft and approachable thing about him had been pared away.

Pared away by heartaches she knew he wouldn't speak of.

Oh, she'd attempted to lighten his mood that night. Nobody ever said Lucy wasn't one to bring fun to a party. But after trying to get a laugh - she would have settled for a smile! - out of him with an amusing story about an old roommate, Carlo had merely shaken his head.

"Goose," he'd said gently - yes, he'd actually called her Goose - "Use your pretty smiles and your charming wiles on someone who'll appreciate them."

Then Carlo had drawn his knuckle down the side of her suddenly heating cheek. In response, and on impulse - another of her weaknesses according to family lore - Lucy had risen to tiptoe and tried one last thing to give Carlo a little jolt of life by brushing her mouth against his.

Seven hundred and thirty-four nights had passed since then, and her lips still burned at the memory.

Her pride still smoldered around the edges, too - because within seconds Carlo had pushed her away and left his corner...never to be seen by her again.

Until now.

"I said 'come in.'" Carlo's almost impatient-sounding voice interrupted her reverie.

Showtime, she thought, and with one last stroke of right-hand fingernails against her itchy left wrist, Lucy walked into the office.

Her breath caught.

Carlo's massive desk stood in front of her, the leather chair behind it empty, but the wall behind that - ah, that was really something, a whole expanse of glass that revealed a spectacular view of San Diego Bay. It looked like a huge, ten-by-twenty-foot postcard, in which Crayola sky-blue met grayer-blue waters dotted with sailboats and motorboats and