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Tasmanian Tangle

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Tasmanian Tangle

  Tasmanian Tangle - Jane Corrie

  Tanya had always loved Kade Player

  Tanya Hume had idolized her father's business manager, Kade Player. As a child she'd been rebuffed by his obvious disinterest. Now, on her return to the farm after her father's death, she hoped things would be different. But Kade could be kind and sympathetic to others— toward her he was unfailingly cold and businesslike. What had she done to earn his displeasure? Why was he determined to make her life a misery?

  Printed in U.S.A.

  OTHER Harlequin Romances by JANE CORRIE


  Many of these titles are available at your local bookseller.

  For a free catalogue listing all available Harlequin Romances, send your name and address to:

  HARLEQUIN READER SERVICE, M.P.O. Box 707, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 1430

  Canadian address: Stratford, Ontario, Canada N5A 6W2

  Original hardcover edition published in 1979 by Mills & Boon Limited

  ISBN 0-373-02335-9

  Harlequin edition published June 1980

  Copyright © 1979 by Jane Corrie.

  Philippine copyright 1979. Australian copyright 1979.

  All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher.

  All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.

  The Harlequin trademark, consisting of the word HARLEQUIN and the portrayal of a Harlequin, is registered in the United States Patent Office and in the Canada Trade Marks Office.


  TANYA HUME swept down the passage that led to the secretary's office. Her blonde head was held high, making her diminutive five feet four height appear at least two inches taller. Her lovely grey-green eyes had taken on a definite green sparkle as she entered the office, not bothering to knock. This time she had gone too far, she told herself as she walked over the vast airy office towards the desk and stood facing the cool, lovely-looking brunette who sat in isolated splendour at her desk.

  Tanya's blazing green eyes met the cold blue ones of Melanie Black, who glanced up at her with a hint of impatience in her look. 'Would you mind telling me why you fired old Mr Davidson?' Tanya demanded without preamble.

  Melanie's eyebrows lifted fastidiously as she answered laconically, 'Because he's old, and what's more important, because he can't do his job. Any more questions?' she added with a touch of insolence in her voice.

  Tanya's eyes took on an extra glint at this. 'He can't do his job because he's doing Ted Broom's as well,' she answered coldly.

  'The staff are expected to double up when someone's sick,' retorted Melanie sharply, adding cynically, 'He should have been replaced long ago. He has trouble managing his own job as it is.'

  'Sick!' repeated Tanya scornfully, preferring to ig-

  nore Melanie's unfair comments on John Davidson's work. 'Ted Broom doesn't pull his weight when he does deign to put in an appearance. I don't know all that much about the business as yet, but even I've noticed that much.'

  Melanie's cold blue eyes studied Tanya's golden complexion and her bright flushed cheeks. 'Yes,' she drawled softly. 'You don't know much about the business,' she repeated slowly, making Tanya's flush deepen at this criticism, for that was what it amounted to. It wasn't her fault that Kade Player, the autocratic manager of Orchard Farm, had always found a good reason as to why she shouldn't get too involved with what, after all was said and done, was her business. 'So why don't you leave the decisions to people who do know?' went on Melanie, taking full note of Tanya's discomfort. 'Now if you don't mind, I've some letters to get in the post this evening.'

  Tanya refused to be sidetracked and stood her ground; the memory of John Davidson's face as he had savoured the news that he had been dismissed spurred her on. 'Well, you'll just have to reinstate him,' she said firmly. 'If anyone deserves the sack it's Ted Broom,' she added acidly, knowing full well that the young assistant accountant was a particular favourite of Melanie's. His sleek good looks and fawning behaviour towards Melanie had up till now guaranteed his position, but not at the cost of old John's job, Tanya thought grimly, not if she had anything to do with it!

  This time it was Melanie who had lost some of her cool, and she glared at Tanya. 'I think you'd better make your comments to Kade, don't you?' she queried sweetly. 'He usually leaves that sort of thing to me, but

  as you're set on revoking my orders then you'll have to deal with him.'

  'Very well,' replied Tanya stoutly, feeling a tiny tug of worry. Kade did not like his staff's decisions overruled, and Melanie had been with him for many years. If the rumours were right, then she was more than a secretary. At this thought Tanya swallowed. The thought hurt more than she cared to admit, for she loved Kade---had done ever since she could remember, but she was only one of a devoted following of females from the typists' department to the mailing office; they all sighed over the tall handsome man who ruled the business with an iron hand.

  It was odd, Tanya thought as she left Melanie's office a few minutes later, after the secretary had told her with a glint in her frosty blue eyes that Kade would be in about ten that morning, and if she was still in the same mind then she should come back to see him, odd that she had known Kade long before Melanie had applied for the job of secretary to him, yet Melanie's words would hold far more sway than hers would. He would automatically back Melanie's decision, and Tanya would have a hard time proving that in this case Melanie was wrong—not only wrong, but unfair, and somehow she had to make him see that.

  It was not as if she was bent on making trouble, she thought miserably, though she was sure that Kade would see it that way. Without even trying she had somehow alienated herself from his good books. Her presence had always seemed to irritate him and Tanya had never understood why.

  One could almost say that it went back to when Tanya was only ten years old, and Kade had first come

  to Orchard Farms to manage the business for her father. Yet on the face of things this was ridiculous—for how could a ten-year-old child set up such a reaction? Particularly in someone she had taken a liking to. At this thought Tanya grimaced; liking was not quite the right word, crush was more the word. She had followed the handsome manager around the farm in those early days on her pony, taking great care not to get in the way of his work.

  She would watch him inspecting the acres of fruit and listen to his authoritative voice issuing orders, and whenever those piercing blue eyes of his would rest on her she would give him a timid smile offering friend; ship, but her tentative approaches were smartly nipped in the bud. Although not very old, Tanya had felt this rebuff keenly, and it had hurt. It still hurt, she thought sadly, for after an absence of ten years when she had returned home after her mother's sudden death, she found that she was treated as a complete stranger. Such was his welcome, as if it was her fault that her mother and father had separated, and her mother had taken Tanya away with her.

  It was not as if Tanya had not made spasmodic visits back to the Huon Va
lley where she was born—she had; her father had insisted upon this condition at the time of separation with his wife. Her mother, though, had never returned, and Tanya's visits were made at the agreed times and only for an allotted period, no more and no less.

  Her mother's recent premature death at the early age of forty-one, resulting from a skiing accident on the slopes of the Austrian Alps, had precipitated Tanya's arrival back in Tasmania, only to find that her father

  had died of a coronary two days before her return.

  Still suffering as she was from the effects of her mother's death, one more blow was hardly felt by the numbed Tanya whose grief was for her gay, lovely mother she so dreadfully missed.

  That was six months ago, and Tanya had since learned that she had inherited her father's business. This she was told by a brusque Kade after the funeral, and he had said that he would indoctrinate her into the business side of affairs. She could then, he told her with an almost disinterested air, contribute towards the running of the farm.

  As with his earlier treatment of her when she was still a child, this cold businesslike attitude towards her had hurt her, and she had tried to tell him that she had no wish to make any changes and that she would be grateful if he would carry on in the same capacity for her as he had done for her father.

  His reaction to her timid request had somewhat shaken her, for he had given a grim smile and thanked her for her confidence in his abilities. It had sounded a little sarcastic to Tanya's sensitive ears, and she could have cried at his rather obvious misconstruction of all that she had said.

  This had left her with a nasty suspicion that he had no intention of staying on once she was in full command of the aspects of the complicated retail business that she had inherited, but there was nothing that she could do about that, and she had had to steel herself against such an eventuality coming to pass in the not too distant future.

  She had long since given up any hope of piercing through the wall of Kade's dislike and mistrust of her.

  She did know that he had been extremely loyal to her father. She also knew that her father and his father had been school chums many years ago, and that Kade had chosen to work for her father rather than his own, who owned a vast chemical complex near Hobart, and would probably return there when he left the farm. As for the past, the fact remained that her mother and father had decided to part, and whatever had been the rights and wrongs that had led to the parting of the ways, Kade had sided with her father, that much was obvious, but as none of it had been Tanya's fault, she was at a loss to understand the reasoning behind his cool, distant treatment of her.

  At five to ten, she left the invoice department where she was at present working, or to be more correct, observing the various methods of invoicing employed by the firm, and made her way back to the office section inhabited by the hierarchy. Melanie's office in the forefront acted as watchdog to protect the senior staff from any needless interruption in the course of their duties, but mainly to preserve her illustrious boss's privacy at all times.

  Her curt nod on Tanya's entry and grim, He will see you now,' told Tanya that she had given Kade her own version of Tanya's interference in what was exclusively her domain.

  Tanya's legs felt decidedly weak as she crossed the large office and knocked on the door at the end of the room. The imposing notice that read 'Kade Player. Manager' did nothing to ease her tension as she waited for the imperative summons to enter.

  At Kade's curt 'Come in' Tanya opened the door and feeling Melanie's baleful eyes on her back she entered the office.

  Kade sat at his large cluttered desk immersed in paper work, and after glancing up briefly at Tanya who stood in front of the desk mentally rehearsing her defence of Mr Davidson, told her to wait a minute while he finished reading the article he had been studying before her arrival.

  He did not ask her to sit down, Tanya noticed with a pang of sorrow, although she supposed there was nothing to stop her doing so if she wished. However, she stood where she was and waited until he had finished perusing the article in a magazine that was holding his attention. It was a trade magazine, Tanya noticed, and it did occur to her that he could have carried on reading it after she had left, but that was Kade, and was his way of underlining the fact that she was taking up his valuable time. It ought to have infuriated her, but it didn't simply because she loved him, so she stood there looking at his dark head bent over the article, and at his strong lean fingers that held the magazine page as he turned it slowly over to the continuation of the article on-the next page.

  'I hear you've ordered Melanie to reinstate Mr Davidson,' he said suddenly, making Tanya jump as she thought he was still reading the article.

  'I requested that she should revoke the decision to fire him,' she answered quietly, letting him know that she did no such thing, at least not like that.

  'Might I ask why?' he requested in a silky voice, and Tanya swallowed painfully. He wasn't making it too easy for her to defend her action.

  'Because it's unfair! ' she burst out before her courage deserted her. 'I know he's old, but he can't be expected to do two jobs, not at his age, and that's what he's had to do.'

  Kade's brilliant blue eyes left the print and stared up at Tanya. 'Precisely! ' he commented witheringly.

  Tanya was pretty certain what he was going to add to this cryptic remark, so she said it for him. 'I know the staff are supposed to double up when someone's sick,' she put in swiftly. 'But Mr Broom appears to have a delicate constitution. I don't think he's put in a full week's work since he's been here,' she added meaningly.

  'Feeling the reins already, Miss Hume?' he queried sarcastically.

  Tanya flushed under this rather unfair remark and miserably wished that she didn't love him quite so much. She wouldn't let anyone else talk to her like that, but he mesmerised her.

  'Mr Davidson has been with the firm for thirty years,' she replied stiffly, unable to meet those piercing blue eyes still watching her closely. 'And I don't think he ought to be thrown out like that. In any case, it's my opinion that he does pull his weight—or at least he would if he wasn't bogged down with someone else's work.'

  'Your opinion?' Kade's voice still held derision, and his eyes were narrowed as he surveyed her coolly, making Tanya feel like a worm on the end of a hook.

  She looked away from him quickly. 'I know I've a lot to learn,' she said in a low voice, 'but I do feel strongly about this.' Her eyes had a pleading look in them as she turned to meet his again. 'Couldn't he be given another position? Or find someone else to help him until he's caught up with his work?' she asked softly.

  Her heart fell as she saw the familiar hardening of his jaw at her plea, and she wondered what she would do

  if he ever smiled at her, for he never had, yet she knew he could smile and could be quite kind to others, but not to her.

  Kade stood up, abruptly signalling the end of the interview, if it could be called that, and Tanya then had to stare up at his six-foot height as he towered over her. 'I'm making no promises,' he growled, 'but I'll look into it.'

  Tanya had to be content with that, but it didn't look very hopeful at all, and his last shot didn't give her much confidence in the outcome either. 'In future, Miss Hume, you'll leave these decisions to my secretary. When you are fully capable of taking over the business then you can make your own decisions, but until then leave the running of the works in the hands of my staff, understand?' he growled.

  Tanya nodded miserably and walked to the door; her hand was on the handle when he added softly, 'I take it you don't get on with Ted Broom.'

  That was all he said, but Tanya knew what he meant. Ted Broom was the office Romeo and it was considered an honour to be asked out on a date with him, for these invitations were few and far between, particularly as he had an eye for the main chance and had spent weeks cultivating Melanie's attention. Tanya could have told him that she had spent her first few weeks at the farm's offices warding off his unwanted attentions, but even s
o, she had received the definite impression that he thought that she was playing hard to get and was certain of eventual success.

  No doubt that bit of information would have surprised Kade, Tanya thought bitterly as she left his office and walked past Melanie's desk with her head

  held up high. Particularly as he obviously thought that Tanya was working off a grudge against him. She could even see the way Kade would look at things. Ted had overlooked her in some way and she was out to get even with him. Her mouth folded tightly on the thought. He'd rather see things that way than credit her with any kindness towards an old employee.

  Her eyes were bright with unshed tears as she reached the outer door of the offices. What had she done to him to make him treat her like that? Why would he never give her a chance to even be friends with him?

  Mistaking the reason for the look of distress in Tanya's lovely eyes, Melanie commented smugly, 'I told you not to bother, didn't I? You were lucky he consented to see you, particularly when he knew what it was about.'

  Tanya did not bother to answer this triumphant jibe of Melanie's but swept out of the office. Oh, how she wished she did know all about the business ! She'd fire Melanie for a start, just as she'd fired old Mr Davidson, and come to that she'd fire the manager too!

  By the time she had reached the invoice section she had worked off most of her temper. She couldn't imagine Orchard Farm without Kade, he was Orchard Farm. Since his arrival the firm had gone to the top of the export market and their inland sales had rocketed to astronomical heights, and he was the wizard who had worked the miracle.

  For the hundredth time she wondered why her father had not left him a share in the firm since he knew better than anyone Kade's worth in the business. To Tanya it had been one of the unexplained mysteries that she never hoped to unravel, since she was never

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