Mark talks with the same nasty chuckle I remember from Blake’s office. He tells Blake he will give me the message about what time to come and congratulates him on “making the best of the situation.”

He gets off the phone and shrugs.

“You’re in,” he says. I can see he has mixed feelings about the whole thing.

“I don’t know who raised you two, but he must have been a piece of work,” I respond bitterly, still re-living that misogynistic laugh they share.

“That’s his world, Julia. Not mine. If we get this right, neither one of us will ever have to be near it again.”

Chapter 21

My heels click loudly on the tile floor of the main lobby. The guard looks up and I nod at him, pointing to my shoes and giving him a cheesy grin so he knows I’m not trying to break the sound barrier on my way to the elevator. I wobble for a moment then gratefully find my feet on solid ground as I hit the carpet in the elevator car. The shoes were Mark’s idea. The whole outfit was put together by him, actually. A white blouse buttoned down the front with an accentuated waist, conservative black skirt, hose with garter belts and three inch pumps at a steep enough angle to give me a nosebleed. My hair is down, falling softly on my shoulders. A scarf completes the package.

I get off the elevator on the proper floor, look for Mark but don’t see him. He wanted to be here to help me so he pretended to go home at his usual time, and then drove a friend’s car back to the office building. He’s supposed to be lurking somewhere around here. However, unless he has mastered the art of invisibility, he’s not here. I put off entering the door of Sandstone Ventures for as long as I can, but I eventually get to the point where I can’t wait any longer.

The front office is dim, the light from the building giving it a shadowy appearance. It looks like a ghost town. Mark said when he left work Blake looked like the cat, preparing to meet the canary. My stomach rumbles and churns as I envy any bird that could fly away from this. A bright light comes from the left side down the hall. Blake’s office door is open and he sits behind his desk, pretending to work, waiting for me.

I knock on the door jam and stand there, the huge purse making me feel even more obvious and awkward. It only has a few trinkets in it and the fake folder. I pretend it’s heavy so he won’t be surprised when I set it down. Blake looks up, allowing a serpentine smile spread across his lips.

“Miss Sharp, how good of you to come,” he says with a fake air about him as thick as southern sweet tea. “I have longed to speak with you again.”

“I’m just going to put this out there,” I say. Mark said to pretend to be shaken and desperate but there really isn’t any acting involved. This whole situation has my voice and body in tremors. “I can’t lose Lynx. I can’t lose my job. It’s who I am. I’m here to ask you to reconsider.”

“You’re here to do what?” he asks drawing out each word.

“To ask you to reconsider closing my company.”

“To ask? Really? Ask? This time tomorrow, the waiting period is over and since no judge has issued any kind of stay, your company will be mine—lock, stock and stories. Your staff will be mine, your computers will be mine, hell even the copy machine will be mine. All you will have left is a fading memory of this monumental failure. And you’re here to ask me to stop this?”

“I’m here?um?I’m here to beg you,” I surrender breathlessly.

“Ah.” Blake leans back in his chair, sunning himself in my humiliation. “That’s more like it.”

I drop my head, far heavier than my purse, as my heart sinks. We aren’t going to fool him. He’s just playing with me like a cat toy.

“But why would I entertain any thought of helping you? What would it profit me?”

“You’d still have control of one of the up-and-coming news magazines in New York. I have contacts, I have ability, I can, well, I can be used to influence people who might not want to end up in our pages, or to provide collateral for higher risks.” Putting Lynx out there to be used as one of his bullying tools makes me feel as violated as the rest of tonight’s agenda, but I have to keep him interested.

“So, you would be of use to me?” he asks, the lecherous grin growing brighter.

“I would, yes.”

“Why would I believe you?”

“Because I keep my word. My word means everything to me.”

“Really? Because when Sandstone gave you the money to save your precious rag of a magazine you signed a contract saying you would support and respect the owners of this firm. And then just a few weeks ago you were in my hallway caterwauling like a mad woman, calling me all sorts of names and physically assaulting me. Do you consider that keeping a promise?”

“No. I was upset. I am sorry for that. Very sorry,” I say, swallowing the bile rising in my throat. I’m sorry I didn’t flatten you on your ass you big windbag. I control myself and continue to play the role of the contrite woman begging for a second chance.

“I’m supposed to believe you? I think you’ll need to prove it,” he says rising from his chair. He walks over and motions me to come forward. I am terrified he is going to kiss me, and if he does I might vomit all over him. But he stops by the shelf where his folder is hidden. “Do you know how you can prove it?”

“I think I have a good idea,” I reply staring at the ground. I set the purse beside the bookcase and try to stand in some kind of open posture.

“To be of use to me, you will have to be totally used by me,” he chides getting closer to my body as my knees begin to shake. “Are you ready to prove your usability?”

“Yes,” I mutter softly to the floor. I am hoping this interview concludes soon before I lock my knees and pass out.

“You’re a whore, then?” he asks only two steps away from me now as I back up against the bookshelf.

“Apparently so,” I answer dryly, my face burning red, my eyes unable to look up from the carpet.

“Well, let’s see if you’re a good one,” he chirps, grabbing me by the shoulder, sending shock waves through my body. I start to pull against him but realize he’s not pushing me over a chair or forcing me to the floor. He’s dragging me out of the office! I resist as much as I can, leaning over the grab the purse but I can’t reach it.

“Wait, I—”

“Leave it here, you can come back for it later,” Blake instructs. His voice gains a clarity, an urgency, it didn’t have before. “Don’t want any purse-cam pictures walking out of the office. My brother knows all about that little trick.”

Tags: Priscilla West Billionaire Romance