He infuriated me. I came to New York for a fresh start and a good job. I thought I had a no strings, one-night stand and now here I was staring down what could be another huge mistake. In the end, I only had myself to blame, but he could have been honest about who he was. And what was even more annoying was the way my body tingled and sent all the good parts into hyper drive with one flash of his green eyes.
“You said you were just passing through.”
“It’s my hotel,” he sat back, “and I think I’ll stay in town for a bit.”
“Am I fired?”
“Why would I fire you?”
“Because you tricked me into sleeping with you and—”
“Tricked?” He sat forward and rested his forearms on the desk. “If memory serves you begged me to f**k you.”
All the air in my lungs burned and I couldn’t let go of the breath I was holding.
“Like I said,” he continued, obviously happy he had rendered me speechless. “I’ll be staying for a while. Due to recent developments, it’s clear my staff needs a more hands-on approach in management.”
“I am management,” I grated between clenched teeth, my mind flashing back to last night.
“Yes, you are. And I can see why we get such high ratings in hospitality.”
My blood boiled out of control, my vessels serving no more purpose than a pressure cooker. Embarrassment flooded and every pore was tainted with confusion. Had he called me in to simply mock me?
No way was I going to be the butt of another joke, let alone another man.
“You know what,” I stood up, “I’m an adult and proud of the person I am. I’m not the type of girl who makes a habit of having a one-night stand but last night I did, and that’s all you were. If you want to try to make me feel bad or cheap about that, you’re wasting your time. So either fire me or get over it.”
The slightest grin tugged at his lips. “Was I your first?”
“What?” I snapped.
“Was I your first promiscuous sexual encounter?”
I bit my lip to keep the truth from spilling out. Yes, he was. He was actually the only encounter other than my ex Brian. And that one night had been more amazing than all two years put together with Brian.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said. “Now, it is neither my intention to fire or degrade you. But I must admit, I’m exceedingly angry with you.”
“Why?” The question came out as a stunned whisper.
“I am your boss, I have made an attempt to be honest with you and have a conversation, yet you tell me I was nothing more than a single night.” He pouted a little, which I didn’t buy for a second. “That’s hurtful you know.”
I wanted to roll my eyes, but I was balancing somewhere between fear and awe. He was harsh and dominant, yet had a seemingly easygoing personality. But I didn’t know how far that humor went. It was like walking on a mirror slicked with oil, any second you could either slip and cut yourself or fall on your ass. Either way, it was going to be messy.
“I’d like you to dine with me tonight.”
I frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Strauss, you’re my boss and as I said before, I’m not that type of girl. What happened last night was a fluke. I don’t normally act like that.”
“Are you dumping me?”
“What? No, I—”
The smiled playing on his face stated that he was obviously toying with me.
“You intrigue me, Megan. I’d like to have a meal with you.”
I shook my head.
“Why? Because you’re not ‘that kind of girl’? Then tell me, what kind of girl are you?”
I decided to go with honesty because at this point, the only thing I had left to save was my job.
“I’m the kind that likes relationships built on trust and respect. Where both people know what they’re getting into.” I paused and glared at him for good measure. “And I want a legitimate connection.”
He nodded as if thinking over an offer. “These are practical terms.”
“What? I didn’t mean—I wasn’t proposing any terms.”
“You know the one thing I find odd about this whole situation, Miss Riley?”
“You find only one thing odd?”
“You don’t seem to care who I am.”
Oh God, here we go. I get it. He had probably a billion dollars and hotels around the world and blah, blah, blah. Lots of people had money and things. The fact that he owned the hotel I currently worked at—thus having power over my job—didn’t sit well. But beyond that, no, I didn’t care. Money had never intimidated me. Besides, I had been around Adam, Kate’s fiancé, a lot and he was as rich and domineering as they came.
“No, I don’t care who you are, Mr. Strauss.”
He nodded. “You’ve given me a lot to consider. I’ll be in touch Miss Riley.” I opened my mouth to argue again but he cut me off. “Unless the next words out of your mouth are, ‘Yes, Preston, I’d love to have dinner with you tonight,’ then you can see yourself out.”
“Hi Honey, I’m here,” my mother’s voice rang out over the line.
The cab took a hard right, weaving through afternoon traffic as I headed back to my apartment. It wasn’t the ideal place to take the call, but I was happy I hadn’t missed it.
“I’m on the line as well, Megan,” Dr. Forman said. “I’ve been speaking with your mother and wanted to share your father’s prognosis.”
“Okay.” I chewed my thumbnail and stared blankly at the back of the blue driver seat.
Lukewarm terror slugged through my veins and my fingers felt cold. Fear. Pure fear was slowly simmering.
“Your father’s cognition is rapidly changing and worsening. The rate of decay I detected after examining him has me leaning toward vascular dementia.”
“And what does that mean? Is it treatable? I read that dementia can be treated in some cases.”
The doctor’s long pause didn’t do much for my confidence in hoping that my father would—could—get better.
“Megan, vascular dementia is typically caused by a series of small strokes.”
“But my dad has never had a stroke.”
“Yes, he has, honey. We just thought it was best, with everything else going on, to…we didn’t want to worry you.” My mother’s voice was strained and I could hear it in her tone that she was blaming herself.