“He owns the hotel I work in. Tell me that’s not a bad idea.”
“Oh, that’s a terrible idea,” Emma instantly agreed. “But that’s not what I asked.” Heat stained my cheeks. “I knew it! You have it bad for him.”
“I can see it on your face.”
“A night of good sex after a drought can do that,” I defended.
“So it was good?”
It was beyond good. Everything about Preston was new and unexpected. Yet I instantly felt comfortable with him. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have slept with him or spoken to him the way I had earlier today.
“It doesn’t really matter. I need to just worry about keeping my job.”
Emma held out his wine glass and clanked it against mine. “Well if anything, I’d say you earned a raise.”
“Is there something you want to say?” Brooke asked and handed me a note.
It was Monday afternoon and I had just walked into the hotel to relieve Brooke and start my shift. It had been a long weekend and I was anxious to occupy my mind outside the four walls of my apartment.
“Excuse me?” I took the note from her and unfolded the piece of paper.
Have Miss Riley come to my office first thing when she arrives.
~ J.P. Strauss
I glanced up to see Brooke smiling at me.
“What’s going on with you and Mr. Strauss?”
She raised her brows. I straightened my stance, made sure my usual black pencil skirt and white button-up was crisp and neat, and made the long walk to the office, and person, I had been dreading all weekend. Of course that dread was interrupted by bouts of daydreaming and naughty thoughts, but still.
I wasn’t even out of earshot when whispers instantly began circling behind the front desk that I was getting fired. My skin broke into a cold sweat and my mouth went dry. Once again, a stupid decision made without adequate research was threatening to bite me in the ass.
How could I have slept with Preston Strauss?
A long elevator ride and too much silence later, I rapped lightly on the office door.
“Good morning, Miss Riley,” Preston said, opening the door.
“Hi.” I kept my head up, but my eyes averted.
No matter how much courage I tried to muster, I just couldn’t bring my gaze to meet his. A single look made me lose focus. Right now, shame was my name and I couldn’t lose my job. It wasn’t just me counting on the money. There wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do to keep my parent in that house, including beg, especially since I had three home-care services call me back with quotes this morning. And it looked as though I’d need to find a second job just to cover the cost of a part-time health-companion, which Medicaid didn’t cover.
“Are you unwell?”
I frowned and looked at him. “I’m fine. Ready to start my shift.”
“About that.” He rounded his desk, and that was when I noticed an older man with light gray hair and a suit that almost swallowed him. “Megan, this is my attorney, Lars Blackman.”
“Oh shit,” I breathed, and it wasn’t until Preston arched a brow at me that I realized I said it out loud.
Lars Blackman was a world-renowned attorney even though he looked like the sweetest thing in the world. At just over five and a half feet tall with small shoulders and wrinkly face, he resembled a Shar Pei. The man was ruthless. I wasn’t just getting fired, I was getting annihilated.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Miss Riley.”
Too shocked and terrified to do anything else, I sat, my skirt hugging tight as I crossed my legs and attempted to sit up straight and not burst into tears. No matter how hard I tried to look put-together and professional, the fact remained that it was this very uniform that had been rumpled and on the floor of Preston’s penthouse a few nights ago. I felt like a fraud. Like he could see right through me.
“Care for a drink?” he asked, sitting behind his desk. Mr. Blackman remained standing at his side. Two against one.
“No, thank you.”
Preston folded his arms and sat back in his chair. He looked incredible. Dark green button-up with white cuffs and collar. The first two buttons were undone and the dark gray pants and black leather belt completed the “rich and powerful” ensemble. Of course the reputably lethal attorney standing on his right didn’t hurt the image either.
Mr. Blackman handed Preston a hefty file folder. He placed it on his desk and threaded his fingers over the top of it.
“I have a proposition for you, Megan.”
I folded my lips together and tried not to fidget. “What kind of proposition?”
“A marriage proposition.”
My vision went blurry and it took me a good three seconds to realize it was because I was blinking my eyes rapidly. I looked at Mr. Blackman. He was stoic. Perfectly calm and not an ounce of rapture on his face. Then I looked at Preston. Same expression.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand?” My voice was somewhere between a laugh, scoff, and utter confusion.
“I’d like to marry you,” he said with no more emotion than explaining the weather.
I had to be hearing him wrong. “But I—don’t you mean you want to fire me?”
“No. Why would I fire my fiancé?”
“Why would you ask me to be your fiancé?” My heart was pounding and I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. I cupped my throat and tried to manually force myself to swallow. This was either a cruel joke or Preston Strauss was off his meds.
“I’ve given a lot of thought to your terms and I accept.”
“What? Are you crazy?”
“Not that I’m aware of.” He looked at Mr. Blackman and the lawyer shook his head, agreeing with Preston’s statement.
I was in the twilight zone, and not the kind with the hot tween vampires. No. I’m talking full-blown crazy town.
“You look pale, Megan.”
I felt the blood leave my face. “Ah, probably because I’m confused and shocked.”
“Well, it’s really very simple. I need a wife and you need money. We can help each other. Lars and I have spent the weekend going over everything and I have the contract drawn up and ready to go.”
“Whoa.” I swayed in my seat and wondered if it was possible to pass out while sitting down. I closed my eyes and placed my palm in her forehead, forcing myself to breathe.
A set of hands cupped my knees and the unexpected feel of rough palms on my skin sent shivers up my thighs. I opened my eyes and found Preston kneeling before me, those blazing greens burning bright with what almost looked like worry.