“Have it framed and hang it on your wall?” she asked wide-eyed. The lady executive occupying one of the next-door offices was frequently likened to a female shark with an eye for rich widows like Mr. Collins.
“You just try,” Pippi’s grey-haired boss growled, and if looks could kill, the executive would’ve had her buried six feet under already.
“I was just joking,” she said with a grin as she rose to her feet.
In the mood to tease him, she looked at her boss over her back, asking innocently, “Or was I?”
“You…” But with his phone still ringing shrilly, Mr. Collins could only shoot his secretary a threatening scowl as he reached for the receiver. It was times like this he found himself wishing for the old Pippi back, he grumbled to himself. When she had just started, she was such a shy little mouse, never daring to answer back. And while she still did act like one with other people, she had long stopped being unsure of herself with Timothy. Why, these days he would be lucky if he didn’t have her nagging about his diet, his health – on and on the list went.
As Pippi prepared to greet their unexpected guest, she heard her boss answer his phone and later exclaim, “He’s here? What for?”
Mm. The astonishment in her boss’ voice piqued her curiosity. It was so rare for anyone or anything to catch Mr. Collins off guard like that. She was still thinking about this as she opened the door, her gaze thoughtful and her voice soft as she murmured, “Good afternoon.” And seeing that she was only at eye level with someone’s breast pocket, Pippi lifted her gaze up – and consequently felt her jaw drop.
Dark eyes glittered down at her, and Pippi’s heart slammed against her chest.
He was dressed entirely in black (bespoke Dior, she recalled reading from the society pages once), and the way it molded to every sinewy inch of his body was positively decadent. It reminded her of the longest three seconds of her life – her body on top of his – and the instant she thought of it, her cheeks were a goner, lost in the blushing heat of mortification.
Something glinted in his eyes, and because the only encounters she had with the opposite sex were work-related, the meaning of it escaped her at first. Why was he looking at her like he knew –
Her eyes widened in realization.
That was it!
He knew exactly what she had been thinking of.
Aghast with shock, her first instinct was to slam the door on his face, but then she heard Mr. Collins ask, “Who is it, Pippi?”
The words made her jerk involuntarily as common sense returned in a flash.
You do not slam the door on the CEO’s face, Pippilotta Jones!
She took one last apprehensive look at him, hoping futilely that what she had imagined wasn’t real – but it was.
The smile playing on his lips said it all. It was as sexual as it was predatory, and it made her want to hide herself under the covers and mutter to herself, ‘it’s not real, it’s not real.’
BUT IT WAS.
After twenty-three years of fastidious living and doing what she could to lead a life of blessed singlehood, the nasty Fates had still ended up having their way.
The Jones’ curse had struck again, and Pippilotta Jones, despite her greatest efforts, was now in a wealthy man’s crosshairs –
And there was just no going back from there.
“It’s Mr. Simonides, Mr. Collins.”
Discipline was the only reason Acheron’s face didn’t reveal his amusement as an unexpected scene unfolded before him, and a blank-faced Pippilotta Jones stepped back to let him inside Timothy Collins’ office.
She was the most reluctant little thing, with the way she avoided his gaze as she returned stiffly to her seat and focused her attention on her computer screen. It was only when her boss, known for his bluntness, asked Acheron for the reason of his visit that she became animated. He saw her suck in her breath, her body jerking in her seat just as her panicky blue eyes flew to him in horror.
It would serve the girl right if he made her squirm, Acheron contemplated. Looking back at Timothy, he murmured, “I wanted to speak with you in private about the Excalibur acquisition.” Fortunately – or unfortunately – for Ms. Jones, Acheron would rather punish her in far more pleasurable ways.
The girl relaxed visibly when her boss took his answer at face value, and he almost smirked. She was acting like he was the last person on earth she wanted to see, and the sheer novelty of it only made her more desirable in his eyes.
Poor baby, Acheron thought. If she had truly wanted to turn him off, she should’ve acted like other women and thrown herself at him the first chance she got.