Standing next to her behind the podium, Christian slid an arm around her waist and shared a thousand-watt smile with the media. “Allow me to introduce you to Ms. Bianca Dawson.”
“Ms. Dawson, is it true you’ve been in a relationship with Christian Sabatino for four years?” a reporter shouted from the back.
Christian’s fingers tightened on her waist. She glanced up at him, and he smiled down at her in a way that made her heart skip a beat. If she didn’t know better, she’d believe he was in love with her. She nodded slowly. Tearing her gaze off his handsome face, she returned it to the reporters. Since she didn’t know what Christian had told them, she tried to play it safe.
After swallowing the lump in her throat, she simply said, “It’s true.”
“Bianca was never my father’s mistress.” Christian smiled at her with a possessive glint in his eyes. “She has always been mine.”
Bianca melted inside as he placed a soft kiss on her temple. His lips brushed her dark curtain of hair. Her eyes closed, and she allowed herself a brief moment of indulgent fantasy. What would it be like to be Christian Sabatino’s woman?
He held a hand up. “Before we talk about Bianca’s place in my life, I have another important announcement to make.” A hush fell over the crowd. No one spoke or moved as they waited for Christian to give them something juicy. “My father, John Sabatino was never in charge of the company. For reasons I will not get into here, my family wanted me to run Christinos behind the scenes. I have been in charge for a decade now. Our top executives and board members have known from the beginning, but we kept it a secret from the public. Our employees deserve to know that Christinos Inc. will continue to run smoothly as it always has. Nothing will change.”
There were a few murmurs of disbelief.
Bianca felt the need to step forward and defend Christian. “I worked for John as his secretary for years, and he was definitelynotthe CEO. He worked on the magazine with me and made sure our biggest clients stayed happy. That was it.”
“Are you saying your father was okay with you having all the power?” a young lady asked.
“Yes,” Christian replied in a clipped tone.
When he didn’t give details, another reporter asked, “What about your general employees? How do they feel about being lied to and manipulated for ten years?”
Bianca fumed. What was wrong with these people? Why were they trying to cause drama where there was none? She wanted to give them a piece of her mind, but Christian’s calm voice settled her nerves.
“I am sure they will be happy to learn nothing will change at Christinos. We will continue with business as usual. The only change is here on my right.” He indicated Bianca. “If you will indulge me for a moment, please, I would like to put this ring where it belongs.”
He showed them a stunning sapphire with tiny diamonds curved around one side of the blue jewel. He wore the ring just above the knuckle on his pinkie finger. A round ofaw’shit the air. Bianca tried not to react since she wasn’t sure what was happening. She kept her expression neutral. When he lifted her left hand and slid the ring onto her engagement finger, she experienced a brief moment of dizziness. The room’s temperature seemed to soar into the nineties, and her lungs refused to work properly.
The weight of the huge sapphire in a lovely platinum setting felt like an albatross.
Instead of speaking to her, Christian once again addressed the reporters in the room. “I proposed to Bianca before she went to work for Christinos, but circumstances kept us from marrying right away. Being the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company keeps me busy. We decided to hide the engagement. Bianca has a big heart. Naturally, when she found out my father and I were estranged, she wanted to reunite us. He had no idea we were a couple. I told her that her plan would not work, but she can be a determined lady.
“Slowly, over the last four years she won my father over. Unfortunately, he died before we had a chance to work things out.” Christian turned his amazing green eyes in her direction, and they enveloped her in the lies he spun so artfully. With a tender smile, he added, “I will always love you for trying, sweetheart.”
Stunned, she gaped at him. Never in her life had she heard such a convincing fabrication. Part of her believed they were engaged and she’d simply forgotten his proposal.
The questions flew at them without pause.
“When will the wedding be?”
“How does your family feel about you marrying a secretary?”
“Where did you meet?”
Bianca’s smile froze to her face, and her entire body stiffened. She hadn’t wanted to lie to the media for several reasons. The main one being they were good at digging up facts. All it would take was a single doubt to blow up her life.
Christian fielded a few more questions about her, about their relationship, and about the company. She barely heard a word after the ring was placed on her finger. Were the walls closing in on her or was she hallucinating? Feeling trapped, she didn’t know what to do, how to escape from Christian’s crazy plot. How far was he willing to take the charade?
Would he want her to sleep with him?
And why did the idea set her heart racing in anticipation rather than dread?
A horrifying thought hit her hard. With all the publicity their engagement would stir, her ex-husband and his family were bound to see it. What if they came forward to expose the worst mistake of her life?
Her ex-husband’s voice haunted her from the past. “You’re a frigid bitch! No one will ever want you.”
Was he right?