Set in London and Paris in 1964, this is the story of a young girl's move from a quiet country town to London and later Paris, to work as a secretary. Written in a style typical of the romantic fiction of the 1960s, the language, office routines, behaviour, and Lisa's naivety, are all true to its time.
Most girls would jump at the opportunity to model a new cosmetics line, but not Lisa. The last thing she wants is to be the ‘face’ of Golden Girl, until she learns it’s the only way she can save the career of the man she loves.
All too soon she finds herself sucked into a web of jealousy and suspicion that threatens to tear her apart. Only the final wishes of a dying man give her the strength to continue, and by continuing she discovers she can do far more than she ever imagined.
Snippet from Chapter 3
The beginning of her third week found Lisa, by now travelling to work on a red London bus, completely at home. She knew that Josie Gabriel was largely responsible for this. With Mr. Genet away, she had found the time to considerably lighten Lisa’s heavy workload, giving her time to find her feet. Now, sitting behind her desk and sorting confidently through the early morning mail, Lisa knew that she was enjoying her new job. She placed the letters into two piles and took the smaller pile into Mr Graham’s office. The others she would answer herself.
Intent on fitting a fresh sheet of blotting paper into the leather pad on the wide desk, she didn’t hear the door open, so was startled when a deep voice bade her good morning. Looking up, she caught her breath at the sight of a young man with thick black hair and clear grey eyes. A young man who reminded her achingly of the Paul she met when she was a teenager.
“Charles Graham has changed for the better, I see.” He smiled at her discomfiture as she hastily rose from the deep leather chair behind the desk.
“Please don’t let me interrupt you,” he said, walking across to the window. “I assume Charles will be here shortly?”
“Yes. He’s due any minute.” Her cheeks prettily flushed, Lisa smiled at him as she came around the desk.
His eyes widened appreciatively as he looked at her. She was wearing a coffee-coloured dress that clung to her curves while a matching belt accentuated her slender waist, and pale sandals shaped her long legs. They gazed at one another for several seconds as Lisa, her heart thumping uncomfortably, puzzled over his distinct resemblance to Paul. The same wavy hair swept back from his temples, while the tanned face, although younger and softer, had similar planes, from the straight nose to the determined chin. His eyes, light grey beneath heavy brows, wore an expression of lazy amusement as he watched her.
“Am I to understand that you approve?” he asked eventually.
Lisa, suddenly aware that she had been staring, blushed. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “It’s just that you remind me of someone.”
“Someone nice, I hope.” His remark, lightly spoken, dispelled her embarrassment, and they were laughing together when Charles Graham entered.
“So you two have met, I see.” His cheerful voice interrupted their conversation.
“I’m afraid we haven’t got as far as introductions. the young man admitted. He spoke in perfect English but there was a faint accent behind his words.
“Something that is easily remedied.” Charles Graham extended his arms. “Lisa, this is Alain Matthieu from our French office. Alain, Lisa Morgan is my personal assistant.”
Lisa was startled. Surely Alain Matthieu was too young to be company chairman. He was perhaps twenty-six, and the obvious admiration on his face as he smiled at her seemed out of keeping for someone of such exalted rank. Yet she was sure Josie had said Mr. Matthieu was chairman and as Genet Matthieu, for all its size, was still a private company, perhaps it was possible.
Saying that she was pleased to meet him, she left the office and spent a busy morning answering the pile of correspondence on her desk. Towards lunchtime a telephone call interrupted her when an overworked telephonist buzzed her and told her that she was holding an incoming call for Mr. Matthieu.
“Put it through.” Lisa waited while a series of clicks sounded in her ear and then, as the line cleared, she heard an angry voice rasping through the receiver.
“Alain! What the devil are you up to this time?”
“Please hold while I see if Mr. Matthieu is available.” Lisa’s voice was efficient and cool. “Who shall I say is calling?”
“To whom am I speaking?” The caller’s irritated voice snapped across the wires.
“My name is Lisa Morgan. I’m Mr. Graham’s assistant. Mr. Matthieu is in Mr. Graham’s office,” Lisa explained.
There was a long silence before the curt voice spoke again. “This is Genet, Miss Morgan. I would like to speak to Alain Matthieu.”
With a sharp intake of breath, Lisa hurried across to Charles Graham’s office. Alain Matthieu was standing by the window staring down into the street below. His strong brown fingers were beating a restless tattoo on the broad metal windowsill. As Lisa walked across the large expanse of grey-carpet, he turned, his admiring eyes sweeping intimately across the generous curves of her body. Flushing beneath his glance, she told him about the waiting telephone call. Frowning slightly, he followed her from the room.
His voice was cold when he spoke into the receiver and then he was silent for several minutes while he listened to the voice at the other end of the telephone. Lisa, busying herself with some files, was intensely aware that he was watching her every movement.
Suddenly his appraisal stopped as he rose abruptly to his feet and, with an extremely angry expression on his handsome face, delivered a torrent of French into the dark green telephone. This invective was apparently matched at the other end and for several minutes Lisa’s office was full of Gallic temperament. Eventually Alain Matthieu slammed the telephone down with considerable force. Lisa remained silent, unwilling to draw attention to herself while he continued to mutter under his breath.
Presently he turned, shrugging apologetically, the anger fading from his eyes. He took two steps towards Lisa and stood before her, a tall, handsome figure with blue lights glinting in the raven black of his hair. “Monsieur Genet and I do not always see eye to eye,” he explained. “Nevertheless, such behaviour in your presence is inexcusable. Perhaps…” he bowed slightly, his grey eyes mocking her, “…perhaps you would let me rectify the matter by having dinner with me this evening?”
Lisa looked at him in astonishment. She was still largely unaware of the power of her lovely face and figure, and too naïve to consider why someone so senior would invite her for a meal unless he had an ulterior motive. Nevertheless, she was surprised.
Seeing her hesitation, Alain Matthieu followed up his invitation persuasively. “I understand that you are new to London and, as I am merely visiting, we would be silly not to share a meal and be company for one another.”
“Thank you. I would like to.” Lisa smiled at him, reading only good manners into his polished suavity. She also admitted to herself that after two weeks of solitary meals, it would be pleasant to have company.
“Good.” His objective achieved, Alain Matthieu flashed her a dazzling smile, his even teeth very white against his dark face.