Heat infused her cheeks at the odd question. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“My father was probably three times your ageand married.”
“I loved him.”
“He never would have left my mother, you know. You are either a naive fool or a consummate con-artist. I haven’t decided which.” He produced a rectangular piece of paper and held it out to her. “Either way, take your final check and go. You are dismissed.”
Her mouth opened and closed. She had practiced her speech several times that morning, a vicious rant that would leave him in no doubt of her contempt for the way he treated his father. What she hadn’t planned on was dealing with the violent heat currently spreading through her body. How could the man undo her well-rehearsed verbal attack with a single look?
“Just to be sure we are on the same page,” he said. “If you speak to the press about your unsavory association with my father, I will sue you for every penny you have and every cent of future earnings that you make. Are we clear?”
He stared deep into her eyes, unblinking.
His jaw tightened.
She met his steely gaze head-on, refusing to back down.
For a moment, Bianca didn’t understand what he meant. Seeing the smirk on his face, the truth dawned on her, and she wanted to force an apology from him. He thought she’d had sex with his father. John had a bad reputation for sleeping with his secretaries, but she was sure those rumors were exaggerated. He hadn’t made a single pass at her. In fact, he had become a father-figure to her, a mentor, protective and sweet. The whispers through the hallways at Christinos had bothered him more than her. She didn’t care what those people said about them, that she’d only gotten the job because she was willing to hop from bed to bed all the way to the top of the corporate ladder.
It bothered her now that Christian believed the nasty lies.
Her cheeks burned.
She tried to swallow the lump in her throat and failed. “I would never do anything to harm John’s reputation.”
Christian’s lips twisted in a sardonic smile. “I almost believe you mean that.”
Infuriated, Bianca searched her mind for a way to make him understand the loving relationship she had shared with his father. The backs of her eyes stung with tears threatening to pour down her face. She was determined not to cry in front of the cold-hearted jerk. It wasn’t easy. Her emotions had been scraped raw by the events of the past two days. After John’s heart attack, her roommates had blithely informed her they were getting married and she had to find a new place to live. Never mind the fact it washerflat, and she’d given them a place to stay when they’d had nowhere else to go. She could have fought them for the place, but it wasn’t worth the effort. She’d always hated that small, poor excuse for a flat anyway. Now she was without a job. She doubted anyone at the company would give her a good reference.
Her gaze dropped to the papers on John’s desk, and another wave of grief washed over her. She’d worked so hard on the magazine, building it up over endless months of long days that often flowed into late nights. “What will you do withLove Life? Will you hire someone outside the company to manage it?”
Dark hair spilled over his forehead, partially concealing one brilliant green eye as he looked down at the desk. “Actually, I was thinking of dumping the magazine. It’s a small drop in the Christinos bucket, and it has served its purpose.”
Her heart plummeted to her stomach. “But... we tripled distribution in two years.”
“Whose idea was it to change the format?”
She clasped her trembling hands in front of her body. “Your father saved the magazine by changing the content.”
Christian gave her a look of total disbelief. “My father came up with the idea of catering to the average woman on the topic of love?”
When John bought the failing magazine, the only subscribers were the wealthy one-percent and only a handful of those. Page after page of wine talk, where to buy ridiculous items such as pure gold golf tees, and everything a pretentious billionaire wanted to know about the most important people and how to get on every exclusive list.
John’s first idea had been to change it over to a sexy magazine with scantily clad women.
A hopeless romantic, Bianca convinced him to focus on the various stages of love. They did articles on how to know when you find the right man, making marriage work, and how to find love the second time around after losing your mate. There were also two special issues each year dealing with weddings, making them everything a girl could possibly want. The magazine boasted glossy pages with beautiful fashion, the best cosmetics, and articles on things of interest to women. Their subscribers varied in age from teen girls to the elderly, all of whom wanted to know more about love, how to find it and how to keep it.
Even after suffering a nasty divorce, Bianca was still a romantic deep down.
“People didn’t give John enough credit,” she said, determined to build him up in his son’s eyes. “He was a genius when it came to business.”
Christian scoffed. “I know you aren’t that blind. My father wasn’t capable of running a sandwich shop let alone a billion dollar corporation.” He threw his hands into the air. “That’s it. I am dropping the magazine. End of discussion.”
“You can’t do that!”
He shot to his feet, startling her. “I can do whatever I please! Christinos belongs to me, andLove Lifemagazine is part of that empire. It is my birthright, and nothing you can say will change that fact.”