As he headed towards the exit, Luca’s agile mind was already busy conjuring ways he could make his plans come to fruition.
The ideal wife was someone who would not be able to afford to cross him, which meant she had to be poor, or at least desperately in need. She also had to be really good with kids but without any illusions about love.
With the hundreds of women working for his business empire, surely one of them could be his ideal wife?
One year later
Opening the door to the photocopy room, Vivian was surprised but pleased to find a common face. He was here again, Vivian thought with an inner gulp.
The sole other occupant in the room had glanced up the moment Vivian entered, and a pair of amazingly light blue eyes marginally softened at the sight of her. “Good evening, Vivian.” His voice was low and husky, with a strong Italian accent. Tall and dark-haired, the man had smolderingly good looks that had gotten Vivian all tongue-tied the first time she had seen him. He was just so manly, so much sexier than all the men she had ever known or even seen in her entire life, that Vivian hadn’t known what to do or say in his presence. On the first day they had met, and it was in this very room, Vivian had only been able to stare at him, mortifyingly aware of the need to speak up but also knowing that if she did, she would only end up embarrassing herself. And so she had waited, cringing and already dreading the moment the too-beautiful man would realize how painfully shy she was and make fun of her because of it, like most people did.
No, like everyone in her life did.
But he had not.
Instead, he had only smiled gently at her, asking in his deep, pleasant voice if she needed him to leave the room while she cleaned. When she had shaken her head vigorously in answer, he had laughed softly, saying, “You look like a wind-up doll when you do that.”
And that was the beginning of their odd friendship.
Every week, they would bump into each other several times in this very room, with Gian photocopying documents that she had always been too shy to ask him about. In fact, every time they had chanced upon each other, it would always be Gian asking the questions, patiently and carefully drawing Vivian out of her shell with his teasing smiles and friendly banter.
He had been such an expert at extracting information out of her that before Vivian realized what was happening, she had practically shared with him her life story, such as the fact that she was twenty three but had never had a boyfriend or that she had to quit college so she could pay off some debts.
“School loans?” he had asked sympathetically.
“Worse,” she had told him glumly. “When my dad died, I couldn’t bear seeing him in an ugly coffin or without a proper resting place, so I borrowed money…”
“Loan sharks,” he had guessed shrewdly.
“Stupid, right?” Vivian had mumbled.
“You did it because you genuinely cared,” he had said softly. “There is nothing stupid about that.” And then he had reached out to ruffle her hair, and it had been the most beautiful and terrifying feeling in the world. Because at that moment, she had realized she was infatuated with him.
Oh my God, that she could actually have this kind of crush at her age, and on a man who was completely out of her league!
Also, make that a man whose name she only knew, and that was just his first name. Other than that, she remembered him vaguely mentioning he was one of the company’s lower-ranking executives, but she remained clueless as to what exactly his job was.
For all she knew, he could be lying about being an executive. He might just be a supervisor, but not that there was anything wrong about that, Vivian thought wryly. After all, she herself wasn’t exactly high up on the career ladder with her cleaning job.
“Aren’t you coming in?”
Gian’s amused voice snapped her back to reality, and flushing, she pulled her trolley with her inside the photocopying room. “Sorry,” she mumbled. Seeing him take a sheaf of papers from the machine, she asked, “Are you working overtime again?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” he answered.
She bit her lip.
He raised a brow. “You wish to say something, Vivi?”
‘Vivi’ wasn’t actually her nickname, but it was what Gian liked to call her and somehow, the sound of it always made her feel like shivering in pleasure. There was just something so…intimate about it, even though she would never have thought him the type to come up with such nicknames. It was too oddly cute for someone as seemingly serious as Gian.
She said slowly, “You work too hard.”