A Sentimental Heart Ch. 01bytotallyatease©
Author's Note: So here we go again, another slow burner (Groan) I hope that you enjoy it, and thank you for reading.
(A cool head against a warm heart; which will win out in the end?)
"I insist that you stay," he told her firmly.
"But it's just as easy for me to go home for a couple of hours; and come back later for Peter and his friends!" she protested with a polite smile. "Besides what would I do with myself around here for the next few hours?"
He guided her inside the house with a firm hand and she didn't like to make a scene by struggling - besides, she seriously doubted that she would win anyway!
"There's a small sitting room you can use, I'll get someone to bring in a tray of tea -- or coffee if you prefer; and some food... and there's a television you can watch too; if you would like."
The room he led her too, was delightful and Miranda couldn't hold back her little exclamation of pleasure as she looked around at the flowery room and the comfortable looking sofa.
"Oh well if you insist," she told him ruefully; and he smiled down at her for the first time.
"Good! You should be quite comfortable in here." He glanced around quickly as though checking the room, before looking down at her again, with that smile still in place.
She looked up at him and his smile; and then lowered her gaze again quickly. She was here to drop off her brother and his friends not to start lusting after the host for the evening.
"Thank you... I'll be fine," she responded huskily. "And coffee would be very nice -- if it's not too much trouble?"
"Not at all... there's plenty of extra staff on hand; hired especially for tonight..."
He seemed to hesitate for a moment, almost as though he wanted to say something more to her; before turning abruptly on his heel and leaving her alone.
"I'll have a tray sent in for you," was his parting comment, thrown casually over his shoulder as he reached the door.
Miranda sank down onto the sofa with a shaky little sigh. "Oh dear," she murmured softly.
Picking up the television remote, Miranda aimlessly flicked through the channels.
There was a discreet tap on the door and a waitress hired for the evening, came in carrying a tray. "I was asked to bring this in for you miss, and to tell you that if you were to want anything else; to just use that telephone over there, and press three." She placed the tray on the table in front of Miranda and with a friendly smile she left again, obviously with things to do; judging by the speed she was going.
The tray contained a large coffee pot complete with cup, cream and sugar and several small covered plates, and bowls, with sandwiches, cakes and snacks on or in them. Her channel hopping had stopped on the Friday night movie, which was a romance tonight. Miranda kicked off her shoes and curled her legs under her. Then she settled back with a contented sigh, all ready to enjoy her unexpected indulgence for the evening, a chance to wallow in a chick flick complete with tasty treats!
Marcus Phillips Junior -- acting host for the evening -- circulated with the easy smile and polite chit chat flowing nicely. All the time, he smiled and talked though; a part of his mind was suffering a crisis of conscience. He worried about the girl shut away in the sitting room at the back of the house. He'd left her there all on her own and it really grated on him as the host for the evening. He didn't dwell on the other designated drivers for the evening, who were all happily entertaining themselves, in the kitchens; or even attending this party. She had refused to come in to the actual party, saying that she wasn't dressed for it. She had only intended to drop off and collect at the end of the evening; and wouldn't feel comfortable mixing with all the other revellers.
Personally he had thought that she had looked very nice in her black trousers and pretty blouse. But he didn't like the idea of coercing her into doing something that made her uncomfortable or unhappy. He had been floored by her smile and thought that to see her cry would upset him, and to be the cause of her distress would destroy him!
He walked around the room once more stopping here and there to talk for a little while. At one point he found himself talking to Peter Redmond and had to force himself not to ask him about his sister. He just couldn't seem to get her out of his head - and so finally he gave up the internal battle; and excused himself politely from the conversation he was at that moment engaged in.
Miranda was deep into the movie as it reached its climax, with the hero grabbing the heroine and kissing her passionately. She sat, with the tears running down her cheeks, riveted and uncaring of the sound of the door opening and then closing behind her. When Marcus stepped into view she almost hit the roof.
Her eyes were swollen and red, her nose was pink and her cheeks were blotchy from her tears. He thought that she looked absolutely beautiful. "I just came to make sure you were alright in here," he told her wryly.
Miranda smiled through her tears and blushed. "I'm wonderful thank you." She sniffed delicately. "Its ages since I've been able to indulge like this and I'm having the time of my life."
He glanced at the film guessing by the music what type it was. "I take it you like these slushy kinds of movies?" he asked, pulling a clean, and neatly pressed handkerchief from his pocket, and offering it to her.
"I'm afraid so; and not just films... books, songs, anything even remotely soppy; and I'm hooked!" she confessed with a self conscious laugh, as she dabbed delicately at her eyes.
He was about to speak when the door was pushed open and Peter staggered in, followed closely by Rick and Craig. "Ok sis we're ready when you are." His slur was only slight but that didn't stop Miranda looking a little amused at the three of them as she stood up.
"It was nice to have met you Mr. Phillips, and thank you for your hospitality," she said formally as she held out her hand to shake his.
"The pleasure was all mine," his tone was equally formal, although his grey eyes twinkled nicely at her.
Miranda felt her heart skitter in her chest again, as she looked away from the masculine temptation in front of her. Marcus's hand tightened briefly on hers as she would have removed it and she looked back at him in surprise.
"My name by the way is Marcus, not Mr. Phillips," he told her quietly.
Did it matter? She wondered to herself as she left the house, they weren't likely to meet again so what did it matter?
'Marcus though', she thought dreamily to herself, what an absolutely gorgeous name -- for a gorgeously sexy man!
As she loaded the car up with slightly tipsy young men she glanced up at the house. She could see the silhouette of a man in one of the upstairs rooms, Marcus! On impulse she lifted her hand and waved before climbing into the car and pulling away.
Marcus watched the car drive through the gates before turning for the door, to return to the party, determined to forget the dark haired beauty who had sat on his sofa - crying at silly movies.
"Hey you'll never guess what!" Peter exclaimed as he walked into the kitchen.
Miranda turned from the sink where she was peeling potatoes. "Well let's see," she responded dryly. "The lottery ticket we never bought has come up on this week's lottery, making us millionaires; so that I can sit down and put my feet up, while the new cook you haven't just employed is going to make us an absolutely delicious meal that will simply melt in our mouths." She raised her eyebrow hopefully.
"Don't be daft..." Her brother laughed. "Marcus Phillips is stepping in to take over the running of the company and he's invited me to interview for the position of his personal assistant."
Miranda's heartbeat quickened at the mention of Marcus Phillips, despite the fact that they hadn't met again since that party six years ago.
"That's wonderful news." She stepped forward to hug her brother, sharing in his delight at this opportunity.
"I've not got the job yet," he warned a little more seriously "But it's a real feather in my cap just being asked to apply for the position."
"I didn't realise that you had that much to do with Mr. Phillips junior?" she queried lightly.
Peter looked thoughtful for a moment. "I've only had a few dealings with him. He's actually been working away a lot for the last couple of years. But he always came in to the office to check on things and keep up to date with its setup when he was home, and I always seemed to be the one who was sent to assist him." Peter was thinking out loud and Miranda couldn't resist asking.
"By his request or just coincidence?"
"Coincidence I think..." He frowned a little. "I can't think why he would have asked for me personally."
"Well that's exactly what he's done now isn't it?"
"Yes but that's probably because I'm the person he's most familiar with by now," he argued.
"Well whatever the reason I'm sure that he would never have invited your application if he didn't think you capable."
"I certainly hope so, I don't know how many other people I'll be up against, but the fact that he asked me personally must mean I have a shot at it." Peter seemed to be asking for her encouragement as he felt the doubts begin to creep in.
"Absolutely," she declared with confidence. "He pretty much knows what he's getting with you already, so that must be what he's looking for?" she argued.
He grinned his relief at her kind of twisted logic, before turning towards the door. "Have I got time to take a quick shower before dinner?" he asked over his shoulder.
"I've only just started to peel the potatoes, so you've got bags of time."
"So, how did it go?" Miranda asked as Peter strolled into the kitchen.
He tried to keep a straight face and a glum expression, but the grin just broke through.
"The job's mine if I want it," he declared triumphantly.
"What? Just like that? What about the other applicants? Suppose there is someone more qualified, more, experienced?"
"There aren't any other applicants!" Peter told her excitedly. "At least not until I refuse it. Then they were going to advertise the position formally." Peter ran his fingers through his hair in disbelief. "Marcus told me that the time we'd spent working together told him all he needed to know about our compatibility - and my ability."
"This WAS a job interview and not a marriage proposal?" Miranda asked sarcastically.
Her brother didn't seem to hear her sarcasm though, as he continued as if she hadn't even spoken.
"He says that we'll work well together, that I won't need typing or shorthand, or any of those usual requirements of a PA. He says that there are enough typists already in the company." He took a deep breath and looked down at Miranda, his eyes bright with enthusiasm.
"It sounds like it's a done deal?" Miranda asked a little over brightly, her pleasure though was genuine - since she knew what this meant for Peter and his future prospects.
It seemed that just as Peter's star was rising, Miranda's was fated to fall.
The very week that Peter started to work for Marcus, Miranda went in to work to be told that the company was closing down.
"We've been struggling for some time now..." Mr. Harding her employer told her regretfully. "I was hoping that things would pick up but they never did."
"Oh John!" Miranda sympathised. "I knew that things were quiet, but I didn't realise that they were that bad; what will you do?"
"Well, Miranda!" he sighed. "I'm ready to retire any way, but I'm concerned for you and the rest of the staff... what will YOU do?"
She smiled reassuringly. "Oh I'm sure that something will come up."
"And I'll at least give you all glowing references." He smiled a little apologetically.
Miranda laughed lightly. "That certainly won't hurt our prospects!"
When she went home later; and told Peter about her day; her younger brother was nothing but supportive towards her.
"You're so skilled, your speed typing and shorthand, the fact that you were Mr Harding's Personal Assistant, and your position was of such a confidential nature... I'm convinced that you'll walk into another job... Easy!"
"It might take a little time though..." Miranda fretted.
Peter smiled reassuringly at her. "With my salary increase, we can get by... for a little while at least... until you get on your feet again."
Miranda hugged her brother gratefully.
"Thanks Pete... but I refuse to be a burden to you!"
"Hey now! Who was the one who supported me... after mum and dad died suddenly like that, in that crash, and I was only half way through college... I should have given up; and gone out and got a job; but it was you who wouldn't let me!"
"Well we had this house, and the inheritance money more than covered your fees, and living expenses; and I was working... it made sense that you finished what they had worked so hard to give you!"
"Don't you make out it was so straightforward!" Pete over ruled her. "I know that it took weeks for all the legal stuff to get sorted and that YOU had to cover the mortgage payments -- and YOU had to phone the college and work out some payment schedules with them... You thought that you were protecting me... but I wasn't stupid or blind..." His eyes suddenly looked suspiciously moist. "There was nothing I could do to help you, so like a first rate wimp, I hid behind you and let you shoulder the responsibilities."
"You were so young Peter... and you were still reeling from mum and dad!"
"And so were you! You lost your parents that day too!"
"Yes... well..." Miranda thought that this conversation was getting a little too heavy for comfort. "It all worked out in the end, the insurance finished the mortgage and so we own this place outright." She smiled as she glanced around her at their little three bedroom house, the house they had grown up in. "And I absolutely refuse to sit idle." She declared resolutely.
"So what will you do?"
She tapped the paper in front of her. "I picked this up on my way home, they had lots of job vacancies in it, so I'm certain that there's at least one or two that I can apply for."
"So let's take a look then -- shall we?" Peter said brightly as he scraped his chair alongside hers.
She smiled gratefully at him, as she turned back the pages.
Half an hour later, Miranda was feeling more than a little bit depressed.
"Three possibilities!" she sighed in disappointment.
"Well three is better than none... and you only need one -- if it's the right one!" Peter encouraged.
"You're right Peter... I know that you're right." She sighed again but this time it was resignation. "Okay, I'll write a letter to each of them, and put a copy of my curriculum vitae in with them."
"Have you got one?" Peter asked suddenly.
"Yes... John Hardy let me do one at work and printed off fifty copies for me... he said you can never have too many..." she smiled fondly.
"Great! Give me one and I'll hand it in to the Personnel Department at work... they've got that huge typing pool, and I'll bet with your speeds, they'll want to just snap you up!"
"Thanks Peter... that's actually not a bad idea..."
Peter scowled a little irritably. "Well; it's way below your abilities, but you never know... it's a large company and there's definitely room to grow..."
Miranda wrote out her letters that very night and Peter took them to post the next morning on his way to work.
Miranda hated waving him off, knowing that she wouldn't be going off to work today.
"Oh well," she murmured resolutely. "This place is overdue for a spring clean anyway."
She spent the day cleaning the little house from top to bottom, until every bit of it shone like new.
It took her all day, but at least it kept her busy; and didn't give her time to dwell.
It was late afternoon, and she was just sitting down to a well-earned cup of tea, when she heard the front door open and then slam too.
"Peter?" she called out in surprise. "Is that you? You're home early... is everything okay?"
She was in the process of standing when her brother charged into the room, literally brimming with excitement.
"You'll never guess what?" he began.
Miranda smiled. "Well let's see..." she began playfully.
But Peter cut her off impatiently,
"I took your CV in with me, and I told Marcus that I was going to hand it over to Personnel... and he asked me why..."
Miranda felt her heart flutter in panic, maybe Marcus objected to members of the same family working in his company?
"Well, I had to explain!" he defended, misreading her look of agitation.
Miranda sank back down into her chair as her knees buckled on her.
"Any way, he asked if he could take a look at your CV, and after he had he said -- and I quote! 'I think your sister will be perfect for a job vacancy in our offices'!"
"What?" Miranda's head shot up and her deep blue eyes lit up with hope.
"Yes!" Peter exclaimed excitedly. "He wants to come and talk to you... he wants to offer you a job... to start immediately... tomorrow in fact!"
Peter frowned as he seemed to see her for the first time... "He'll be round in a bit... to talk to you tonight in an informal way where you'll feel more comfortable... what HAVE you been doing... you look an absolute Mess!"
Miranda was on her feet and heading for the door.
"Keep him entertained if he gets here before I get down!" she threw over her shoulder as she ran for the stairs.
She was tearing off her clothes even as she reached her bedroom, and even though she knew that she was pushing her luck she simply HAD to have a shower.
She wrapped a thick towel around her damp torso and pulled a brush through her raven black locks, she winced as more than one strand of hair was ripped from her scalp, but by the time she was done, it was back to its normal glossy curls hanging around her shoulders, and literally crackling with life -- and static!
She yanked open a drawer and pulled out undies and tugged them on.
She grabbed a pair of smart black jeans -- she was after all at home, and so didn't want to overdo it.
And pulled her favourite creamy cashmere sweater over her head. It was so very soft that she loved how it felt on her, and how it looked on her as well; since she knew that it made her look dramatic... in a soft and feminine kind of way.
She brushed on a light blusher, thankful that her creamy complexion was so clear that she needed only a very little.
Her eyes were her real vanity though. Deep blue, against her pale skin and dark hair, they looked almost purple if her mood was right... and it was certainly right tonight!
She had heard the front door go more than five minutes ago, and so before she could totally lose her nerve, she marched over to the door and glided down the stairs, looking for all the world as calm as anything -- despite her racing heart and shaking hands; and a slight look of panic in her expressive blue eyes.
Peter was entertaining their guest in the kitchen, and as Miranda entered the room and Marcus stood up to greet her, she was thrown back in time to that night six years ago...
He had not changed... Not one little bit... his brown hair was still as curly as ever, and his eyes were still that amazing quicksilver colour, and when he smiled at her he STILL made her heartbeat stop!
"Thank you so much for coming to see me Mr Phillips!" she gasped breathlessly.
Marcus frowned slightly. "Marcus.... Please..." he almost pleaded. "And since our need is quite desperate... I thought it would be good to get it resolved tonight!"
"Oh?" Miranda slid into the chair across from him, and only once she was sitting did he take his seat again.