Chapter 1 of 'Lynsey's Secret'
James Bolton stood in his room with his back to the main office, his hands in his pockets, and gazed out of the window at another sunny day. Two days in a row – bit of a record for Lanarkshire, he thought cynically. It’ll probably pour from the heavens tomorrow. He stared thoughtfully at the busy car park and wondered again about the new employee who was starting this morning. She had the personal backing of Jack Forrest, the Senior Partner, who had given James the impression, during their discussion after her interview, that Miss Robson was coming to work for them whether James liked it or not. He’d said that she came highly recommended by the recruitment agency. James hadn’t been able to get her out of his head ever since then and he could do without any complications at work.
Work was his solace. It didn’t just occupy his time; it was his escape. It kept him sane and kept loneliness at bay. Although her heavy make-up was off-putting, he admitted to himself that she was very attractive. The office ran smoothly and everyone got on very well together, and such an attractive young woman could only cause problems, he was sure. If the decision had been his alone, he would never have taken her on. However, he hadn’t been able to give Jack a good reason for not employing her, so he had reluctantly agreed to her appointment.
I won’t let him bully me like that again, he decided. He seemed to remember Jack being quite insistent about John coming to work with them a couple of years ago, too. Jack was a difficult man to say ‘no’ to. Not to worry, he promised himself, if the new girl becomes a problem I’ll get rid of her. Other problems in his life weren’t so easy to deal with, but at work he was in control, except when Jack went against him. He would have to be careful not to show too much animosity to begin with – then he would claim she was incompetent and sack her. Having made this decision, he turned back to face the office and began to think about the day ahead.
Lynsey Robson drove her little black Ka along Cadzow Street in Hamilton, Lanarkshire and turned into the car park of Forrest & Bolton, Estate Agents. The July sunshine gleamed on the glass-panelled front door of the building as she pushed it open, feeling both excited and a little apprehensive. She was on time, nothing had held her back en route, and she was wearing her favourite, softly-tailored blue trouser suit. The suit matched the colour of her eyes and contrasted well with her glossy black hair, which she wore in a short bob with a full fringe, and her reflection showed her that she looked better than she felt. First days are always difficult and she had a feeling this one was likely to be more so than most.
She was to report to Mr Bolton, who had said very little at her interview but had looked rather stern and unfriendly. John had warned her that her new boss sometimes had an abrasive manner and she should try not to take it personally.
‘I’ll take him as I find him,’ she’d answered calmly. She wasn’t inclined to accept other people’s opinions, preferring to make up her own mind about new acquaintances. During the course of the interview, she had felt that James Bolton could actually be rather pleasant and charismatic if he chose to. He was 40-ish and didn’t have movie star looks, being of average height and stocky build, with soft-looking fair hair and a lived-in face, but there was something rather attractive about him. He exuded an air of masculinity, which was fine from a physical point of view, but she didn’t like men who were aggressive and overbearing; kindness and sensitivity appealed to her more than any other qualities. She couldn’t really figure out why she liked him – she was just drawn to him for some reason.
Marcia, the receptionist, looked up as Lynsey approached the front desk. Lynsey admired her slim build and long, shiny brown ringlets. She was quite tall and elegant-looking, and as Lynsey was the petite, curvy type she was aware of a little twinge of envy. Marcia smiled easily, as most receptionists do, but there was genuine warmth behind the smile.
‘Hi, Lynsey, all set for your first day?’ she asked pleasantly.
‘Yes. Bit nervous, though,’ Lynsey answered, her Glasgow accent a little stronger than usual because she was anxious.
‘I’m sure you’ll be fine. I’ll show you where the important things are – the loo and the kitchen – then you can come and meet the guys.’ Her friendliness eased Lynsey’s tension a little.
She looked around the office. She’d liked it the first time she’d seen it. In contrast to the rather old-fashioned, heavy exterior, the inside was bright and airy. The overall layout was open plan, but Marcia’s desk was set at an angle in a little reception area, with a glass partition between her workstation and the rest of the office. Both Jack Forrest and James Bolton had their own rooms, which were next to each other; each had large external and interior windows. The interior windows were fitted with blinds, which meant that the occupants could see what was going on in the main office, or they could close the blinds if they wanted privacy.
‘How long have you been in this area?’ Marcia asked as she showed Lynsey where the coats were kept.
‘Oh, not long,’ Lynsey replied non-committally.
‘Don’t you miss the city?’
Lynsey was used to people asking her this and just said, ‘Sometimes’ in reply. The truth was she had spent her 25th birthday in her new flat with John and had enjoyed it so much compared to last year’s fiasco with her mother and stepfather, Tony, that she wasn’t really missing her Burnside home at all. She’d left the family home about six months previously and had been staying in a tiny bedsit in Glasgow and working as a temp.
Lynsey remembered being told at her interview that there were sixteen members of staff. The ‘guys’ all seemed very pleasant and friendly when she was introduced to them, and even James Bolton said, ‘Good morning!’ politely, if a little distantly. Marcia took Lynsey over to meet the members of the team.
‘This is John Smith,’ she said, smiling and looking into John’s eyes. Her smile wavered a little as she watched Lynsey and John shaking hands and evidently trying not to grin at each other.
Behind John sat Tim and Nick, who were around Lynsey’s age, or a little older, and they exchanged appreciative looks when she came over to them. They said hello and smiled at her, and Nick even winked at her. She liked Nick on sight and Jo, who was the other secretary for the office, seemed really nice, too. She began to feel that things were going to be just fine and returned happily to her own desk to begin work. She was to be Team Secretary, so it was important for her to get on with everyone, not just one or two of the staff. She’d had enough of temporary jobs and wanted to settle in one place for a while. Being close to John was an added bonus and Lynsey was determined to make it work, especially as Jack had pushed her forward for the position.
Just before lunchtime, she took a fax over to John’s desk and he asked her nonchalantly if she would like to go out for a bite to eat in the pub across the road. She hesitated, thinking of the healthy lunch she’d packed earlier, and he told her that it was an office tradition on someone’s first day. He grinned confidently, knowing she wouldn’t be able to resist. When Nick and Tim raised their eyebrows and exchanged looks, John suggested they both come too, and they agreed. Lynsey was aware of Mr Bolton watching them through the window of his office, and judging from his face he was none too pleased, although she wasn’t sure why this should be.
‘Should we invite James, too?’ she asked the others, but they screwed up their faces and she presumed that was a ‘no’. She slipped on her jacket (helped unnecessarily by Nick) and the four of them left the office. She was sure she could feel James Bolton glaring at their departing backs.
‘I knew she was going to be trouble,’ he complained to Marcia as he was walking past her desk to go out of the front door. She’s already got everyone vying for her attention.’
‘Early days,’ Marcia assured him. ‘They’ll settle down once they get used to her.’ However, John’s reaction to Lynsey hadn’t escaped her and she didn’t feel quite so well-disposed towards the new girl as she had at the start of the day.
Although the morning seemed to drag a little, the afternoon passed swiftly for Lynsey. There was a great deal to learn and quite a backlog to be worked through. Every now and then she found herself glancing over towards James Bolton’s office, even though she kept telling herself not to. She knew he was married and she reminded herself that he was out of bounds and that she didn’t want to make a habit of becoming involved with married men. Her own interest in him puzzled her a little. He wasn’t exactly forthcoming with her. Maybe that was what it was, she told herself – he was the only person ignoring her and she felt put out. Still, it was annoying and she made a determined effort to ignore him. The very fact that it was an effort was unsettling.
At 5 o’clock Lynsey left the office, thinking that it had been a mixed sort of day, not all good but certainly not bad. John turned round and winked at her as he strode over to his car, which was parked near hers. She smiled and stuck her tongue out at him. He would come over to her flat this evening and they would relax and go over the day’s events together. This thought made her smile as she walked out of the door. Then her mobile rant – it was Jack.
He’d been out and about for most of the day, and on his way home he’d decided to give Lynsey a bell and find out if her first day had gone smoothly.
‘How did it go then, honey?’ he asked breezily. He barely listened to her answer, just laughed and said, ‘Give it time, give it time. Okay if I come over to see you tonight?’ it wasn’t really a question, he was telling her he’d be there. She could hardly refuse. After all, he had bought the flat for her. She’d protested, but he’d gone ahead with it anyway. She’d made a promise to herself that she would return the cost of the flat to him once she eventually sold it. If he’d been anyone else she’d have resented his interference, but as it was, she usually just gave in gracefully. Most people did, she knew, and Jack went through life using the force of his strong personality to get his own way without anyone really being aware of being manipulated.
Across town, Jack closed his phone and bent his long lean frame to slide into the driving seat of his bright red Lamborghini. The car was his pride and joy. This was his favourite model, but it wasn’t a new one and his wife had often reminded him that it wasn’t fitted with an airbag. But that had never been an issue for him before, and he didn’t see any reason why it should be a problem in the future. He fastened his seatbelt, then glanced in the mirror. Cool blue, intelligent eyes looked back at him. He ran his fingers through his thick brown wavy hair, which he kept under control by having it cropped very short. He had to go home and tell May he would be going out again that evening. He considered not going to see Lynsey, but he couldn’t resist it.
A little sigh escaped him. If he wasn’t careful, his wife would begin to suspect he was having an affair and that wouldn’t do at all. He wanted to tell her everything in his own time, not blurt it out in the middle of a heated argument. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat at the thought of facing her with the truth. He was not a man who usually suffered from nervous problems, but the prospect of confessing to her always had that effect on him, making him feel as if he couldn’t breathe properly. When the time came he would do it calmly and reasonably and she would understand. She would understand – he would make her understand. He drew in a long, slow breath and then drove off at his usual break-neck speed.
When Lynsey closed her mobile she called over to John to come round to the flat later on in the evening, when she knew Jack would have left. She was too tired for any sparring between them after coping with her first day in her new job.