Paige Harper can’t believe her little white lie has made the headlines. The only way to secure the adoption of her best-friend’s daughter was to fake an engagement with her boss. Now she can hear him marching down the corridor to fire her!
The press have spent years cultivating Dante’s devilish persona, but now he wonders if this ‘engagement’ could be an opportunity to change that. Paige will wish he had fired her when she hears his terms: if she wants his ring she’ll have to play the part of devoted wife in public and in private…
HER LITTLE WHITE LIE is out in the UK in January 2013!
“Explain this, or pack up your things and get out.”
Paige Harper looked up from her seated position and into her boss’s dark, angry eyes. Having him here, in her office, was enough to leave her speechless. Breathless. He was handsome from far away and, up close, even enraged, he was arresting. It was hard to look away from him, but she managed. Then she looked down at the newspaper he’d thrown onto the surface of her desk and her heart sank into her stomach.
“Oh…” she picked up the paper. “Oh…”
“I said explain, Ms. Harper. ‘Oh’, is not an explanation in any language that I am aware of.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest and Paige suddenly felt two inches tall.
“I…” She looked back down at paper, open to the lifestyle section, the main headline reading Dante Romani To Tie the Knot With Employee. Underneath the headline were two pictures. One of Dante, looking forbidding and perfectly pressed in a custom-made suit. And one of her, on a ladder, in a window at Colson’s, hanging strips of tinsel from the ceiling in preparation for the holiday season.
“I…” she tried again as she scanned the article.
Dante Romani, notorious bad-boy of the Colson Department Store empire, who just last week made headlines for the callous axing of a top exec, and for replacing the family man in favor of a younger, less attached man, is now engaged to one of his employees. (We can’t help but wonder if playing games with his staff is a favored past time of the much-maligned businessman. Either firing them, or marrying them at will.)
Her stomach tightened with horror. She couldn’t fathom how this had ended up in the paper. She’d done a fair amount of panicking over how she was going to fix the lie she’d told the social worker, but she’d thought she would have some time. She hadn’t expected this, not even in her wildest dreams.
But there it was, the lie of the century, shouting at her black and white print.
“That’s hardly more eloquent, or more informative.”
“I told a lie,” she said.
He looked around her office, and her eyes followed his, over the stacks of fabric samples, boxes with beads hanging out of them, aerosol cans of flocking and paint sitting in the corner and Christmas knick-knacks spread over every surface.
He looked back at her, his lip curled upward.“On second thought, why don’t you skip packing and just walk out. I can have your things express delivered to you.”
“Wait…no…” Losing her job was unthinkable, as was getting caught in her lie. She needed her job. And she really didn’t need child services to find out she’d lied during her adoption interview. Well, what she really needed was a time machine so that she could go back and opt to not lie to Rebecca Addler, but that was probably a bit too complicated as solutions went.
She looked back down at the article.
It’s hard to imagine that a man who so recently fired someone for being, reportedly, more devoted to his family than to the almighty dollar, could settle down and become a family man himself. The question is: Can this thoroughly average woman reform the soulless CEO? Or will she become another one in the long line of professional and personal casualties Dante Romani leaves in his wake?
Average woman. Yeah, that sounded about like her life. Even in her lie, where she was engaged to the hottest billionaire in town, she came out of it as the average woman.
She swallowed and looked back up at her boss’s blazing expression. “This is horrible journalism. Sensationalist nonsense, really. All-but an opinion piece, one might say. Fluff, even.”
Dante cut her off, his black eyes hard, flat. “What did you hope to accomplish with this? Was it fun gossip you didn’t think would spread around to this degree? Or was it something you wanted?”
She stood, her knees shaking. “No, I just…”
“You might not be newsworthy, Ms. Harper, but I am.”
“Hey!” The assessment burned, especially on the heels of the descriptor of her as ‘average’. Of course, she had to admit, looking at their pictures side-by-side, that average was a pretty kind descriptor.
“Did I offend you?”
“I guarantee it is not half so offensive as coming into work to discover you’re engaged to someone you have barely had four conversations with.”
“Actually, I’m sort of in the same boat you are. I didn’t expect for this to be in the paper. I didn’t…I didn’t expect for anyone to ever find out.”
“Be that as it may, they have. And now I have. It would be best if you were to see yourself out. I do not wish to call security.” He turned and started to walk out of the room and she felt her heart slide the rest of the way down.
“Mr. Romani,” she said, “please, hear me out.” She was nearly pleading. No, who was she kidding? She was pleading. And she wasn’t ashamed. She would get down on her knees and beg if she had to, but she wasn’t going to let him ruin this
“I tried. You had nothing of interest to say.”
“Because I don’t know where to start.”
“The beginning works for me.”
She took a deep breath. “Rebecca Addler frowns on single mothers. Not every social worker does, but this one…this one doesn’t like them. I mean, not that she doesn’t like them personally, but in general. And she asked me why Ana would be better of with me as opposed to a real, traditional family with a mother and a father and I just sort of told her that there would be a father because I was getting married and then your name slipped about because…well, because I work for you, so I see it a lot and it was the first name I thought of.”
He blinked twice, then shifted, his head tilted to the side. “That was not the beginning.”