“And how many dates have you been on in that time?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped.
Sullivan smiled. “Have there been too many to count or too few to remember?”
Bianca bit her lower lip to keep from admitting he was right. Sullivan had hit the target dead center, bull’s eye. The truth was she’d only gone on a handful of dates since the demise of her marriage, and those dates only happened because friends pushed her into going. She hadn’t been tempted to see any of those men a second time. It was too bad her taste hadn’t changed over the years. She was still attracted to powerful, arrogant men that loved themselves more than her.
She squared her shoulders. “You know what? You’re right. I should start dating.” She circled her desk and sat in front of the computer. “I think I’ll join a dating website and find some nice men. Perhaps several.”
That would teach Christian not to play with her heart. She wanted him to know she didn’t care if he didn’t want her. Maybe she didn’t want him either. Seeing her with other men might even make him realize he wasn’t God’s gift to woman-kind.
Sullivan shook his head and gave her a stern look. “You can’t go on a date, not yet.”
He reached across the desk, lifted her left hand, and showed her the beautiful sapphire ring. “As far as the world is concerned you are engaged to Christian Sabatino. If you do something to ruin the illusion, Christinos might suffer, and Mr. Sabatino would never forgive you.”
She sighed. “You’re right. I don’t want to loseLove Life. So I’ll have to play by his rules.” Slipping into professional mode, she said, “We’ll be having a new model on a future cover. Christian is sending her down to meet with the photographer.”
A light dawned in Sullivan’s eyes. “What bothers you the most? The fact he’s forcing you to change the magazine to suit him or the possibility that he has found a new playmate?”
“Both.” Bianca rolled her eyes. “Wait until you see her. She’s almost an exact replica of the last one. He sure does have a type. Tell me, is there a factory around here that turns them out?”
Sullivan caught a burst of impulsive laughter in his hand.
They looked through the office window as the so-called model got off the elevator. Tall and slender with legs that went on forever, Shari tripped twice on her way to reception. No one could accuse her of being graceful. When Sullivan snickered, Bianca figured he was laughing at the ungraceful way the woman walked.
Sullivan continued to chuckle behind a closed fist.
Hands on hips, Bianca glared at him. “What? What is so funny?”
“That is Ron Haskell’s latest mistress, my dear.”
Bianca turned to stare at the woman again. “Are you sure?”
“Quite. He introduced us last weekend in the Hamptons. My guess is he asked Mr. Sabatino for a favor, and Mr. Sabatino decided to allow you to believe he’s interested in her.”
Bianca nodded in understanding. “He wants me to break up with him so he doesn’t have to do the deed himself.” Her eyes narrowed. “Why that manipulative son of...”
“Do I see a plan forming? Remember, you want to bruise his ego a bit, not make him so angry that he fires you.”
Several ideas came to mind, and she carefully weighed the consequences of each one. A big smile stretched her lips. She placed a hand on Sullivan’s arm. “I have the perfect revenge plan, but I’ll need your help. Are you willing?”
He returned her smile. “As long as we don’t both lose our jobs, I am more than willing. Men like Mr. Sabatino need to be shaken once in a while.”
“Oh, he’ll be shaken all right.” Her eyes twinkled. “I’m about to make his worst nightmare come true.”
Christian staggered home after midnight in the hopes Bianca would be asleep in her own bed and he wouldn’t have to talk to her. He hated confrontations with weepy women that thought he owed them more than he was willing to give. When he stepped off the elevator, he noticed something odd. There were frilly pillows on the couch. He glared at them while pulling at the strangling knot in his tie. Anya, his housekeeper probably thought the foyer needed a feminine touch. He’d have to talk to her tomorrow about overstepping again.
At the moment he wanted to change his clothes, pour himself a stiff drink, and make some phone calls from his den. If he worked late enough, he wouldn’t have to chance an encounter with his beguiling houseguest. In fact, first thing tomorrow he planned to get Bianca moved into the empty apartment below him. Somehow he needed to make her think it was her idea. That way she wouldn’t fight it.
He went into his bedroom and froze. Taking two steps back, he looked around in an effort to find something that told him he’d gone to the wrong penthouse. It had to be a mistake. This was nothismaster bedroom. His confused gaze swung this way and that, taking in everything at once. Horror gripped him by the throat. His personal space had been invaded. Worse than that, it had been changed without his consent.
A floral comforter... a multitude of decorative pillows... a stuffed teddy bear... scented candles…
He reached for something to steady himself as his knees threatened to buckle. A hand came out of nowhere. He jumped away from it as if it was a snake, and he spun around to find Bianca. Only she wasn’t the Bianca he had seen earlier in his office, the one fearful he’d ruin her magazine. The Bianca standing before him had her hair in a high ponytail and wore a blue apron with what appeared to be a dusting of flour on the front.