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Copyright Mandy Rosko 2016
Cover Art by Jennifer Munswami
With sweaty palms, Isla King stepped off the elevator on the top floor of Calendri Corp, holding her heavy satchel like it was a shield. Even she couldn't help but be impressed by the wealth around her, despite the fact she'd grown up pretty well off herself.
Her stomach quivered as though she was about to throw up last night's sushi.
It was why she hadn't eaten anything for breakfast. The last thing she needed was to get sick and embarrass herself, especially when she was here with her tail between her legs, intent on begging for her life, so to speak.
Her heels clicked on the dark floorboards as she marched with her shoulders back toward the rounded reception desk. Isla held her chin high and pretended as though this was her company, as though she was still important to the people who ran this place. Not that she was ever important to them at all. No one here even knew who she was.
The girl behind the desk seemed young enough, though it was hard to tell an exact age. She had one of those youthful faces. She could be late twenties, or she could be in her early twenties and only here because someone had gotten her a connection.
Either way, she was on the phone and taking notes with a stylus on her tablet.
"Yes, Mr. Calendri can do that for you. The meeting will have to be pushed back though. No, there will be no exceptions."
Despite the soft brown hair and innocent enough face of youth, Isla swallowed. In this place, even the receptionist was so high up that she could speak to people in that demanding tone.
The girl’s gaze flicked up, and Isla tapped her recently manicured nails onto the black marble.
Better to pretend to be impatient when really she was just jittery.
The girl went back to her call. She didn't so much as signal to Isla that she was going to need another minute or so to finish the call.
Isla puffed out a breath, and this time, she didn't have to pretend anything. She actually was getting kind of irritated.
"All right, we can do that. Please don't be late," said the girl. The name on the desk said Sylvia. Then those calm brown eyes were looking right up at her, and once again, despite her girl-next-door innocence in appearance, Isla was left with the feeling she was an ant sitting under some sadistic kid's magnifying glass. "Can I help you?"
The girl's eyes looked Isla up and down. Well, as up and down as could be, considering most of her body was hidden behind the reception desk. All the same, it really did look as though this girl was sizing her up. Checking her hair, her makeup, her clothing, and her nails, making absolutely certain that she wasn't riff-raff who'd gotten up here by accident, trying to pitch or sell something without an appointment first.
She had an appointment. Sort of.
"My name is Isla King. I'm here to speak with Arturo Calendri regarding Baciami Boutique."
The girl frowned at her, then looked down at her tablet and started swiping and searching.
Jesus. Wasn't her family name even important enough to remember? She had thought for sure that the mention of her name would get her through those wooden double doors in an instant.
More frowning, more searching, then finally, "Ah, yes, I see it here. You're here on behalf of your grandfather—"
"To help Mr. Calendri with the sale of the business, yes," she finished, impatient, and not wanting to hear those exact words coming from this little girl's mouth.
The girl smiled sweetly up at her. "Let me just make sure he's available."
"I have an appointment. Why wouldn't he be available?"
"Mr. Calendri is very busy. He can't always keep his appointments," said the little secretary girl who Isla suddenly wanted to punch in her perfect, tiny nose.
Who in the fucking hell did this little twit think she was? Isla couldn't believe it. It was out of this world that anyone would speak to her like this.
But, at the same time, it wasn’t the first time someone had brushed her off and acted as though she wasn't important or worth notice since Vincenzio Calendri bought her grandfather's business out from under him—taking it over like a thief in the night—and then tried to sell it.
But she wasn't here to see Vincenzio. She was here to see his eldest son.
If the rumors were true—and why the hell wouldn't they be after what happened?—then Arturo Calendri hated his father with a passion. He would have no problems giving back something his father had taken.
Sylvia didn't so much as speak a word. She tapped against her screen and waited. Was she seriously sending him a fucking text message? Wasn't he right through those doors? Couldn't she go and ask him? Or buzz him? Something?
Maybe he really liked his silence. Maybe Isla was old-fashioned and hadn't known it. Did all billionaires send texts back and forth with their secretaries? Her grandfather certainly hadn't.
Or maybe this little girl wanted to say something about her that she didn't want her to hear.
That got her pissed off all over again. At least she wasn't thinking about her stomach anymore.
Finally, Sylvia got to her feet, and the little smile she was biting down on was enough for Isla to know that the girl was holding back some sort of laughter at her expense. That got Isla's inner-bitch side sitting up on its hind legs and hissing.
What she wouldn't do to call this girl a no-nothing little twat right about now. "Mr. Calendri is available to see you despite being late, right this way."
"I'm not late," she said, frowning.
Sylvia, looked up to the big round clock on the wall behind her. The elegant large hand was pointed just slightly beyond the brass Roman numeral, indicating she was a minute or two late.
She so wanted to argue that it was because she'd had to put up with the passive-aggressive bitchiness, but that would just make her later.
She tried to calm the catty beast inside of her—barely managing that—and sucked it up.
Sylvia put her hands on the door handles. They were shaped like two letter C's for Calendri Corp. The doors looked heavy enough, but Sylvia’s willowy body was able to push them wide open with ease.
The office was large; it seemed to take up most of the top floor, with the exception of the waiting room and the receptionist’s work-space.
The wall immediately behind the massive mahogany desk was entirely glass, showing the vast city outside. Only then did she realize how high up she was as this tower stood so much higher than a number of other skyscrapers.
Her family had become wealthy after her grandfather had opened his business, well before Isla's mother had even been born. She had always thought of herself as being rich, knowing that she could take a trip to Europe every year after school and she could spend her weekends at the cottage on the lake The fact that she'd gotten a convertible for her sixteenth birthday hadn't been bad either.
But this, this made her family look positively middle class. It was insanity.
There was no one inside this massive office with the floor-to-ceiling glass wall on the one side and thick mahogany bookshelves on the other. The shelves were filled with books on business and law, which were probably mostly there for show, with the odd small statue thrown in for decoration.
"Where is he?" she asked, following Sylvia inside. She walked confidently though the office as if she owned the place.
There was a door on the far right, closest to the glass wall, and Sylvia rapped her knuckles against it.
When the door opened,
Isla expected to see Arturo Calendri, but instead, a giggling blonde, with hair flowing in a sexy tangle behind her, quickly stepped out.
She said nothing to Sylvia, or to Isla, though she did give her something of a smile as she ran by, her high heels in her hands, skirt a little crooked, and her free hand holding her blouse shut.
Isla stayed perfectly still, her entire body immobilized by what she'd just seen.
The blonde left the office, presumably off to whatever floor she worked on, if she even worked in this building, and only then did he step out.
It was like watching nature’s beauty in slow motion on the Discovery Channel. Arturo Calendri was naked from the waist up, his skin glowing and shining ever so slightly from the sweat of his workout with the blonde. He shoved his hand through his black hair, which fell in waves, and grinned down at Sylvia, who grinned back at him.
"Did you have fun, sir?"
"Very much so, thank you," he replied, as if his secretary asking him about the women he fucked was perfectly normal.
It probably was.
Right, there was no mistaking the fact that this guy was in fact the Arturo Calendri. Isla already had a pretty good hunch that it was, and, well, now there was no mistaking it. He wasn't some hired help or one of the Calendri brothers, who was just messing around on company property, so she should probably get some moisture back into her mouth because that scene was not as hot as her stupid body was making her think it was.
He grabbed a shirt that had been carelessly flung over one of the leather chairs in the office and pulled it on his broad shoulders. He kept it wide open, however, and unlike the blonde, he didn't seem to be in much of a hurry to do up the buttons.
Which meant she got to see more of those abs. They were, like, Mr. Universe type abs, deep and sharply cut.
His dress pants hung incredibly low on his hips. So low that she could perfectly make out the V shape of his pelvis as it led down to his barely clothed penis.
If he walked the wrong way and his pants went down anymore, she would see it. She was an enormous sucker for the treasure trail of hair leading from a man's navel down to his cock.
He didn't have too much or too little of it either, and with the door to… whatever room that was wide open, Isla could smell the musky scent of sex.
The beauty of his stomach and chest wasn’t even marred by the scar she saw that ran along his side. She’d barely noticed it at first because he was just that good looking, and now it was a little harder to see because the shirt blocked most of it, but it was definitely there.
The problem was, when she tried to see more of it by angling her head just a little, her eyes got distracted by that V shape again, and oh, God, why did this guy have to be so good looking? It was like looking at a Photoshopped model in real life.
Her pulse quickened, by a lot. A stupid kind of a lot. She swallowed hard and actually needed to count backward from ten. If this man saw the way her pulse was racing in her throat, she would die.
Arturo stopped smiling at his secretary, who was so much shorter standing beside him, and his gaze locked on Isla, his mouth in a grim, straight line.
She stiffened under his stare and swallowed hard again.
It was overly hot in here. That was what it was. It wasn't because she was blushing from head to toe and knew he could see it.
His mouth turned up slightly, no longer quite so serious. It made him look even more handsome.
What the hell was wrong with her?
"I didn't think you would have this reaction to me," he said. He quickly nodded to Sylvia, and she grinned before walking from the room and shutting the doors behind her to give them some privacy.
She wasn't so sure that was a great idea, considering what he'd just been doing.
She held her satchel in front of her, trying to make it look as though she wasn't shielding herself, which she kind of was.
Pretty crappy shield since it only covered her waist.
Or maybe that made it the perfect shield. "What reaction did you think I would have when I came in here and saw you having sex?"
"You didn't see anything. We were done," he said, propping his feet up on the desk as though it, and his shoes, didn't cost thousands.
Even with the money her family had while she was growing up, Isla would have gotten such a slap if her parents had caught her disrespecting her things like that.
Arturo craned his head to the side slightly, his gaze roaming her up and down, almost in the same way Sylvia had done when Isla had first introduced herself. He checked her hair, her face, her clothes, her satchel, and even her shoes.
He even looked at her skirt and legs, and now she was really starting to question wearing such a short skirt and the cleavage she'd decided to let loose.
Isla cleared her throat. Forget this. She came here for a reason, and that meant getting down to business. She opened her satchel and searched through her papers. "I know my appointment was to help you disband Baciami Boutique, but I came here to ask if you would sign these instead." She held out the papers for him.
"And what are those?"
"Contracts for you to give Baciami Boutique back to my grandfather." These contracts would make her family's problems go away.
"Not sell back. Why?" he asked, noting the problem immediately.
She clenched her jaw. "Because we don't have the money left to buy it back."
It hurt a lot more than she thought it would to say that out loud. If anyone in her family knew she was here, begging like this, her grandfather especially, she would be knee-deep in shit.
His mouth, those gorgeous lips above his square jaw, turned up in another smile as his dark eyes looked her up and down again.
Why did she feel like an injured gazelle in a room with a lion? Better still, why the hell wasn't he answering her already?
The smile remained, only something predatory sparkled in his eyes. A shiver tingled up her spine as she stood under his stare, feeling a lot like she was in a trap, had been this entire time, and just hadn’t realized it until now.
“You don't remember me, do you?"
Author's Note: Thank You So Much For Reading! I'm going to schedule every chapter to drop on a Friday to keep updates coming at a nice pace, and sometimes I'll post them a little sooner than that ;) so please subscribe to stay in the loop on when chapters will hit!
I'm new to Tapas and really looking forward to being here ^_^ Also learning how commenting works so please be patient with me :D Once again, thank you so much for reading!