She felt her world crumbling around her. The volume on her voice dropped to a low level, devoid of hope. She tried appealing to him one more time. “The magazine is your father’s legacy.”
“Is it?” Green eyes narrowed. “Or is it yours?”
She nearly choked on her own saliva. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Let me ask you one question, and if you tell me the truth, I will consider keeping the magazine alive.”
Was he serious? The ruthless businessman was obviously up to something, and she cringed to think what he might ask her. She hoped it was something she could answer honestly without hurting herself or somebody else in the process. “What do you want to know?”
“How much did my father contribute to the magazine? How much was him, and how much was you?” He lifted a finger in warning. “I want the whole, unedited truth. Don’t try to make him into something he was not. Believe me. I knew my father’s weaknesses and strengths better than anyone. Tell me. Did you do all the work while he took all the credit?”
Her shoulders sagged. “Your father was a wonderful man, but he was getting on in age. He needed someone to help him focus. That’s all.”
“Yourevamped the magazine and made it a success. Admit it.”
The statement went unchallenged. What could she say at this point? John was gone, and he would be the first to tell her to take a bow for the hard work she’d done. It was her baby. “I did most but not all of the work. John was good at charming people, so he talked to advertisers and sometimes suppliers. I honestly couldn’t have done it without him.”
Christian wore a wry smile. “You are an enigma.”
“I don’t know what—”
“You were silly enough to fall for my father’s deception and believe his lies.” When she opened her mouth to protest, he raised a hand, instantly silencing her. “But you were smart enough to take advantage of my father’s true talents. You saw his flaws and put him in a position that would help, not hinder the work you were doing. Smart.”
She swallowed, afraid to ask the next question, but knowing she must. “Will you reconsider your stand on the magazine? Let me continue to run it. I’ll pull in a profit every year. I swear.” She shrugged. “And if I don’t, you can always dump it then. You won’t have lost anything.”
Christian circled the desk like a jungle cat stalking his prey. He closed in on her, and his close proximity made her tremble from head to feet despite her resolve to hold her emotions in check. She had thought he was intimidatingbehindthe desk. Close up, he was bigger than life. But it wasn’t just his size that threw her off balance. He wore a dark aura of danger like a second skin.
She stood her ground, swallowing convulsively. What was wrong with her? In her entire life, all twenty-four years, she hadn’t experienced such a strong reaction to a man. Regardless of the fact he was a heartless git, she wanted to kiss him... and maybe do a few other things as well.
In all her life she hadn’t felt such incredible chemistry, a palpable electricity that made her nerve-endings tingle with awareness. How could she possibly be expected to ignore it?
Bianca Dawson was a distraction he did not need. The smart move would be to keep to the original plan, hand her the check, and send her on her merry way after a stern warning about the Will. According to his mother’s legal team, they could tie it up in court for years. His father’s mistress wouldn’t see a dime. Although, Christian could offer her the same deal he gave the womenhedated: whatever material things they desired until he got bored. He didn’t mind it if she was only after his money. In fact, he preferred it that way.
He dismissed the idea the second it arrived. He was way too busy to get involved with anyone. Even after soothing the panic the general public felt in thinking the company’s CEO had died, he still had a great deal to do. Some stockholders had dumped their stocks the day John’s death was announced. If it weren’t for Christian’s quick handling of the situation, the stocks would have plummeted to a terrible depth that not even he could save them from.
Before his father’s death, Christian worked sixteen-hour days. Things would only get worse now that he needed to officially take over. If he had met Bianca under different circumstances, he would indulge in a nice, slow affair with her, perhaps take her to a tropical island and revel in her body for a week or two. But the fact remained that she was his father’s mistress. That was a complication he did not need in his life.
His gaze dropped to her lips, and she moistened them with the tip of her tongue. Had she done that on purpose? Oh,shewas good. He had the feeling he was dealing with a master manipulator.
Her lids lowered to partially conceal her lovely blue eyes even as her face tilted up. She obviously wanted a kiss as much as he did. Why shouldn’t he give in to the moment? It might be his last bit of satisfaction for a very long time.
The door opened.
Bianca jumped away from him, and he grinned at her reaction to almost getting caught in a lover’s embrace. A person might think she was a virginal innocent. Unfortunately, he knew that wasn’t even close to the truth.
“Your story has gone viral, boss,” Sullivan announced. “However, there is a lot of speculation that you are trying to cover up something important. The vultures are circling.”
Christian bit off a curse word. “Tell Davis to pull the car around and have my jet ready for takeoff. I’ll fly to New York, gather the board members for a group announcement, and tell the media everything. We can’t afford for our stocks to drop more than they already have. Take my place at the meeting with the employees, and promise them nothing will change.” He turned to Bianca. “I trust your passport is up-to-date?”
“Of course, but—”
He took her arm just above the elbow. “You are coming with me.”
Her eyes flew open wide. “To New York?”
“You worked for my father. Who better to tell the media he was CEO in name only and I was at the helm? I need you to back me up, tell them I have been in charge for a decade now. Nothing will change within the company.”