Her thoughts returned to Christian and the life-changing kiss. Her previous beliefs about him being a soulless jerk disintegrated at the press conference last week. Sure, he had pretended to have a long-term relationship with her and had lied to the reporters with ease. Her mother had told her to pay attention to the way a man kissed. So much could be learned from that one intimate act. She had felt sincerity and unbelievable passion in Christian’s kiss. Deep inside, she knew he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
Sullivan read her mind. Or maybe the young man just read her expression. He gave her a sad smile that conveyed understanding and sympathy. “It isn’t my place to say anything, but I would hate to see you get hurt. You seem like a good woman. Allow me to give you a morsel of advice. Do not fall for Mr. Sabatino.”
The blood drained from her face. “I never... I wouldn’t...”
“I have worked for Mr. Sabatino for six years. I think I know him pretty well. He’s a good boss, and a great businessman.” Sullivan took a breath before explaining his stand on the sensitive issue. “Basically, I would trust him with my life, but not with my sister if you know what I mean.”
She slowly shook her head. “I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.”
“Allow me to be blunt then. Mr. Sabatino will not give you what you desire. He will not develop real feelings for you.”
Old insecurities came rushing home. She automatically smoothed her hair, making sure every strand was in place. Then she straightened her clothing. “Why do you think he couldn’t want me?” She shrugged. “Just curious. Am I not classy enough? Not smart enough?”
“This isn’t about you. It isn’t personal.”
It felt personal. Her eyes narrowed on the tall, rail-thin man in the tidy suit, and her mind filled with questions about her new boss. Suddenly, she wanted to know everything about him from the mundane to the deep, dark stuff. She wanted to know what made Christian Sabatino tick.
Sullivan grimaced. “I really shouldn’t be discussing this with you. I’m afraid you are already too far gone to listen. Mr. Sabatino has vowed to never take a wife, and he is adamant about not having children.”
Her ears perked up, and she gave the conversation her total undivided attention. Could it be true? If Christian didn’t want children, she had nothing to worry about. She wouldn’t have to be afraid of losing him once he learned the truth. Hope sprang to life beneath her breast. Instead of putting her on alert and steering her away from Christian, Sullivan’s warning had the opposite effect.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “Are you absolutely positive he doesn’t want children?”
“We were working late one night, and the subject came up. He confided in me about his less-than-happy childhood. Believe me. Mr. Sabatino will live out his days as a bachelor.”
It was the best news the sharp, well-dressed man could offer her.
But then Sullivan added something that destroyed her newborn dream for the future. “Mr. Sabatino is what they call jaded, cynical even. He will never fall in love, I’m afraid, with anyone no matter how special.”
Bianca’s heart dropped to her stomach. She silently reassured herself that she didn’t care how Christian lived his life. Once she moved out of his penthouse their only interaction would be professional. They both wanted it that way. It was for the best.
“I think that’s awful.” She went to the doorway and stood on the threshold of her new office while looking out at the semi-organized chaos. She spoke to herself more than to Christian’s assistant. “No one should go through life without love.”
Sullivan sighed. “It’s his choice. He steers clear of nice women, preferring to spend time with those that are after his bank account. For some reason, he seems to trust them more.”
That was an odd thing to say. Bianca pursed her lips and changed the subject to a safer one. “Eight, you said?”
“To interview?” Sullivan stood up straighter. “That’s right. There are eight left, but I can reschedule them for tomorrow morning. You need to meet with the personal stylist now anyway. Linc Foster. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.” Sullivan pointed at the petite bald man getting off the elevator with a long rack loaded with clothes. “Allow me to introduce you.”
Linc Foster snapped his fingers at his two helpers before crossing the chaotic room. With a wide smile on his fifty-something face, he approached Bianca’s office. Introductions were made by Sullivan. Bianca hardly heard a word. Her mind focused on the outrageous offer of a new wardrobe. Christian wanted her to wear expensive clothes because he was embarrassed by her and her thrifty style.
Without a word, Linc Foster began pulling dresses off the rack and holding them in front of her. He spoke about her as if she weren’t a real person. Bianca wasn’t sure if he was talking to Sullivan, his employees, or himself. “This color washes her out,” he said. “Her chest is too small to make this look good. Here. Let’s try this one. No. Her legs aren’t long enough to pull it off.”
Cheeks burning hot, Bianca decided she’d had enough of Christian’s bullying tactics. She was not a doll to be dressed at his whim and would not allow herself to be treated as such. Foster held another garment in front of her body and clicked his tongue in disapproval. She ripped the shimmering pink concoction from his hands and threw it at him before storming out of her own office. People wisely moved aside when they saw her face. She stepped into the elevator, hit the button for Christian’s floor, and pulled the constricting sapphire ring from her finger. Time for Christian to discover he couldn’t buy everything.
He could not buyher.
After mentally rehearsing what he would say to Ava a thousand times, how the pretend engagement to Bianca was good for everyone, he settled back in his chair and reached for the phone. He’d put off calling her while she was out of the country on a series of photo shoots. Time was up. According to the voice message from her PA, she was returning to the States today.
His office door flew open without the customary knock and banged against the interior wall. Bianca stormed in looking angrier than at their first meeting. Blue eyes flashing and nostrils flared, she was a stunning sight. The urge to round his desk, grab her, and kiss her breathless took him by surprise. What was it about this woman that so completely captured his interest? Perhaps his mother was right. Bianca had gotten under his skin.
“How dare you!” She didn’t bother to shut the door, so he did. By the time it clicked she was already laying into him over his latest misstep. “You have no right to buy me clothes without asking me first, and you did it in front of everyone. You undermined me in front of my employees. I am not a mannequin to be dressed to suit you, Mr. Sabatino, and Sullivan probably thinks I’m your mistress now. He knows we aren’t really engaged—”
“Lower your voice!” Christian demanded. “I told you how important it is for the outside world to believe the charade, and I have kept my part of the bargain. The magazine is yours to run as you see fit.”