Amusement shone in his eyes as he stood, folded the newspaper, and tucked it beneath his arm. “Certain attributes that can be seen in a negative light are valuable in the business world.”
“You mean like being stubborn and not listening to anyone but your own inner voice?”
He seemed delighted at her description. “Exactly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to work. My housekeeper left some food warming in the oven for you. Help yourself.”
She scooped up Baby and followed him through the penthouse to the private elevator. Barefoot, she walked behind him across the cold marble floor. Dazzling orbs of light hung from the ceiling at varying levels, reminding her of stars. Some were tennis ball sized while others were more like golf balls. She’d never seen anything like it. Magical.
“What am I supposed to do with myself today?” she asked.
He turned to face her once he was in the elevator. Before pushing the button, he said, “Get the magazine ready to start publishing again. Sullivan will help you get everything organized as soon as he arrives. Knowing him, he has your whole day in order so you can simply slide in and do the important stuff. Remember, you’re the boss.”
Theboss? Her mental voice squeaked out the words with shock and awe. It was all happening so fast. In a little over twenty-four hours, she’d gone from getting fired to running a multi-million dollar magazine. If it went under, everyone would know she was to blame. She could hear the gossip now, people saying she must have been John’s mistress. Why else would he hire someone so incompetent?
“Something wrong?” Christian asked, his dark brows furrowed above his amazing green eyes.
An unexpected wave of desire hit Bianca, and she awkwardly swallowed. The last thing she wanted was for him to figure out she had a crush on him. That’s all it was, she reassured herself. A meaningless crush that would evaporate soon enough just like all the other infatuations she had gone through over the years. She’d learned long ago that if she did nothing to encourage the intense feelings, they would go away. Her last crush, the one on her musician roommate, had lasted a whole five days. Then she’d seen the light and realized how smart she’d been to keep the feeling to herself.
It would be the same with Christian Sabatino. The crush would run its course in due time, and she would escape unscathedifhe never guessed the truth.
Her gaze dropped to his mouth, full lips that applied just the right pressure during a kiss.
With a fierce shake of her head, she drove out the thought while answering his question. “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“You’re pale. Are you sure you aren’t ill? I can have Anya ring the doctor for you.”
He nodded toward the kitchen. “My housekeeper.”
Bianca stroked Baby’s fur and forced a smile. “I’m fine,” she repeated. When the doubt didn’t leave his face, she added, “If you must know, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
He pushed a button to keep the elevator door open, and he moved closer to her. “You have first day jitters. That is so adorable.”
His smile drew her in, and her only thought was of kissing him. In all her life she hadn’t experienced a need so great. She tilted her face up as he leaned down. Baby let out a high-pitched complaint and jumped out of her arms. They both watched the cat run from the room.
“Business,” Bianca said.
“You promised to keep it strictly business between us. Remember? We only kiss in public as the situation warrants, and no one is here to witness it now.”
He nodded slowly, a flicker of regret in his eyes. “You are so right. Thank you for the reminder. It won’t happen again.”
Like flipping a switch, he went from teasing lover to ruthless businessman in the blink of an eye, startling her. Once again common sense won, and she’d saved herself from what would be a huge mistake. She didn’t belong in his high-stakes, opulent world where the rich thought they could buy anything and anyone. Her ex-husband had taught her that much.
He pressed a button and spoke as the door closed. “Sullivan will arrive shortly. Do as he says, and you’ll be fine.”
That was it. The elevator began its descent down five floors to his office, and Bianca tried to breathe normally again. How could a man be so wonderful to her and so terribleforher at the same time? Better yet, how was she going to avoid being in the same room with him? She didn’t trust herself to pull back should he try to kiss her again.
With that in mind Bianca got ready for work.
Christian tried to get some work done so the day wouldn’t be a total write-off, but he kept getting interrupted by well-meaning colleagues and friends wanting to congratulate him on his upcoming nuptials. Word spread faster than he’d hoped. If the news of his decade-long reign as CEO traveled as quickly, Christinos should be in good shape. Stocks were already on the rise. If all went according to plan, his personal life would also return to normal soon. In a few weeks, after the media’s interest waned and the wolfhounds found another juicy story to chase, he and Bianca could stage a public break-up.
He leaned back in his leather chair and surveyed his office while wondering if he should make changes. The decor hadn’t been updated once during his ten-year reign. Although he was considered an adventurous man, he was slow to change the things that worked for him. He liked a certain routine to his day, and his office decor suited him. His massive desk had a stone front with the company’s emblem in twisted metal. A sitting area complete with a brown leather sofa and matching chair waited on the other side of the room. His corner office boasted two walls with floor-to-ceiling windows. On a clear day he could see across Central Park.
The entire room had been designed to elicit fear and respect in employees as well as rival businessmen. Crossed swords and assorted medieval art clung to the interior walls. He’d chosen them because they represented power and strength. Now he wondered if they were over-the-top symbols he could do without. Part of him was curious to know how Bianca would interpret his office design. The other part of him wanted to redecorate before she got the chance to see it.