Authors: Lucia Jordan
Copyright © 2015 by Lucia Jordan
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Table of Contents
The music blasted from the stage and slammed into Taryn Jones. Her head pounded viciously to the harsh beat. She glanced around the crowded bar, her gaze swiftly scanning dancers, tables, and the long, gleaming bar, but she didn’t see her sister. Figuring her twin was running late as usual, she sought a booth as far from the screeching band as possible.
Plopping down, she massaged her neck. What a day! Three job interviews—two callbacks, one first interview. And still no job. She sighed. She’d bet what little she had in the bank that the day had been a waste. There had been no good vibes from two of the interviews, and the third was a no go on her part. The guy doing the interview had been more interested in her chest than her resume.
“Hey Sis! Sorry I’m late.” Karyn Jones slid into the booth. “How were your interviews?”
Taryn smiled at her sister, and then narrowed her gaze. Karyn’s eyes were puffy and red. With their shared blonde hair and fair skin, any signs of crying showed for hours, even through expertly applied makeup.
Taryn tapped a nail on the table, wondered what had upset her twin. “Not so good. One guy assumed that, because I’m blonde, I’m also dumb and can’t possibly handle the high stress of a top admin job. I bet he believes I was sleeping with my last boss.”
“You? God, he’s not very good at reading people, is he?”
Taryn shrugged. “The second interview was with an older woman. She took one look at me and figured I was competition. I won’t hear back from her. And the third?” She shuddered. “He was practically drooling and asked if I was available to work nights and travel.”
“That sums up my day. So what’s up with you? You sounded upset on the phone. Fight with Stefano?”
Her twin’s shoulders slumped. “Worse,” she said. “He’s being sent to the New York office to oversee a special project. It’s going to take at least three months, if not four.”
“What’s the problem? You’re his admin. I assume you’re going as well?”
“No. I’m being reassigned.” Karyn’s eyes filled with tears.
Taryn reached across the table and took her sister’s hand in hers, giving it a firm squeeze. “He’ll be back and you’ll go back to being his admin. This’ll give you time to plan your wedding. And you have enough money saved. You can take a couple weekends and fly out to see him.”
Karyn burst into tears. “I don’t think there’s going to be a wedding. Stefano thinks his brother is trying to separate us.”
“What? Now come on. This isn’t the middle ages. He can’t stop you guys.” Digging into her oversized purse, Taryn came out with a travel pack of tissues and slid it across the table. The band finished their song and set their instruments down.
Thank god for small mercies
, she thought. She signaled a waitress and ordered both water and wine.
“You don’t know him, Taryn. Giovanni DeMitri is the head of the family. He rules everyone and he’s in charge of the family business. If he says jump, you don’t ask how high. You just jump! He doesn’t like me. He thinks I’m just after Stefano for his money and status.”
“You? A gold-digger?” Taryn laughed. “No one who knows you would ever believe that.” The idea was so preposterous—she shook her head.
“It’s true. He even told Stafano that’s all I was after.” Karyn twisted and shredded the tissue in her fingers. “That why he’s sending Stefano away and reassigning me.”
Taryn sighed. “Well, it won’t work, so what’s the problem?” Of the two of them, Karyn was much more fragile, sensitive, and emotional, along with being a social butterfly, while Taryn was stronger, more independent, and quieter, preferring her own company over that of the bar and party scenes. It angered her that some man, who clearly didn’t know her sister, had pegged Karyn wrongly and was causing her such pain.
Before she could tell Karyn to buck up and deal with it—after all, what else could she do—a young, good-looking man slid into the booth next to her sister. He sent Taryn a smile, but she saw the worry in his eyes.
“Did she tell you?” he asked.
Nodding at Stefano, Taryn said, “Yes. Your brother is obviously not a very good judge of character if he thinks she’s in love with just your money.”
Stefano sighed. “Gio is overprotective and takes his role very seriously. I have to admit, he has reason. His first wife was only out for what she could get and, when I was younger, I fell in love with a woman who loved my money more than she loved me. Our sister? Well, she chose right the first time.” He put his arm around Karyn and drew her close. “And this time, so have I.”
“Oh, Stefano,” Karyn gushed.
The young man glanced from one sister to another. “Have you asked her?”
Taryn frowned, not liking the way Karyn was avoiding her gaze or the pink creeping into her cheeks.
“Ask me what? You want me to talk to your brother?” She could do that. She had a few choice words for the man!
Stefano leaned forward. “Something better. We want you to take Karyn’s place in our company so Karyn can go with me to New York.”
“You’re identical twins and my brother hasn’t ever met you. He’ll never know.” Stefano looked desperate, his dark eyes pleading.
“Stefano, that’s crazy. I don’t know your job or the people you work with or the layout of the company. It’s not like changing clothes or make up or hair styles.”
Now Karyn reached across to take Taryn’s hands. “You’re not working right now. It’s a perfect plan.” Her blue eyes were moist with unshed tears and her mouth trembled.
“That’s crazy, Karyn. We’re not kids anymore. There’s no way this will work.”
“You’re a better admin than I’ll ever be and you know it. And I’m being reassigned so that’s not a problem. We’ll have the weekend to deal with your hair and go over things. And Stefano can even take you to the office and show you around on Sunday when no one will be there. Please, Sis. I need to go with Stefano. Say you’ll do it. Even if Gio finds out, what’s the worse he can do? Fire you? Fire me?”
Stefano kissed Karyn’s fingers. “If he tries to fire you, I’ll fight him. I do have some say.”
“Then why are you letting him send you away?” Taryn leaned back, tapping her nail on the table.
Stefano shrugged. “Because I’m the only one who can take this on besides him, and he can’t just turn everything over to me. I have no desire to take over his job, not even for a few months. I don’t want Karyn to quit. She’ll be part of the family and business and when we’re married. Gio will leave her alone.” His voice hardened.
Taryn considered. She
between jobs at the moment and knew she could easily learn her way around the office very quickly. What was the harm? “It might work. Tell me about the job and who’d I’d be working for.”
She narrowed her eyes when the couple across from her glanced away. Her sister looked guilty and her fiancé’s features had gone tight with anger. And suddenly, she knew. “Don’t tell me. You’ve been reassigned to Giovanni DeMitri.”
“Karyn! You’ve met the man. I haven’t. He’ll know!” Taryn protested.
“No he won’t. He doesn’t really know me.”
Taryn wanted to smack herself on the forehead. “You went to his home for Christmas.”
“But he barely talked to me.” Karyn reached across the table and gripped both of her sister’s hands. It’ll work, Taryn. Please say yes.”
Seeing the desperation on both faces across from her, Taryn sighed. Stefano’s brother sounded like an overbearing, arrogant bully and she didn’t like bullies. No one treated her sister like this.
She nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Giovanni DeMitri strode into his office. It was just shy of six and the corporate offices were nearly empty. He liked coming in early—he could get a lot done without annoying interruptions and distractions from the daily grind. He passed the clear, shiny wooden desk where his new admin would soon sit.
Karyn Jones. He’d studied her employment file and couldn’t find fault with her work. She worked hard, appeared efficient, and was well liked. Her biggest fault lay in being consistently late to work, but not by much. Six years working her way up from office drone to his brother’s admin. It showed she was smart and ambitious.
His lips twisted. He knew just how ambitious—knew her ultimate goal was to marry his brother and gain even more power and status. He smiled grimly. The woman was nothing more than a gold digger, a parasite who’d set her sights on Stefano. The two were officially engaged and if Gio didn’t do something fast, his brother would marry the woman and live to regret it. That was something Gio refused to allow.
Unlocking his office door, he entered, set his briefcase onto his desk, and then shrugged out of his coat. He hung it on the coat rack, strode over to the corner window, and glanced out. His office was on the top floor. On a clear day, San Francisco in all her glory spread out below, but today, it was overcast. The fog rolling off the bay greedily swallowed the street and buildings, blanketing his beloved city and obscuring his view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The dismal, depressing day fit his mood. He’d spent the evening fighting and arguing with his younger brother. Stefano didn’t mind being sent to New York to oversee an important buyout, but he resented not being able to take Karyn with him. Even their mother had sided with Stafano, but Giovanni remained firm and Stefano was now on his way to New York.
And Karyn Jones was in California where he could keep an eye on her.
Returning to his desk, he booted up his computer, gathered what he needed from his briefcase, and stowed the leather case behind him. Staring at the screen, he wished he’d stopped for coffee. He hated being at odds with his family but, dammit, since his father left, he was head of not just the household but also in charge of protecting the DeMitri wealth.
Hadn’t he learned the hard way the extent a woman would go to in order to snag a wealthy husband? He refused to think about Melinda, his cold, heartless, bitchy first wife. He’d vowed to protect his brother from the same fate and, by god, he’d do whatever it took to save Stefano the same pain and heartbreak.
Gio figured time and distance would bring his brother to his senses, but he’d overhead Stefano making plans for Karyn to join him on the weekends and there wasn’t anything Gio could do to stop that. Stefano had his own plan. So Gio had reassigned Karyn to be his admin. This way, he could keep her busy for some of her weekends and could get to know her better. In fact, he planned to get to know her intimately.
He leaned back, steepled his fingers, and stared at the door that led into the outer office. Giovanni DeMitri, bastard that he was, planned to seduce one Karyn Jones—to take her from his brother’s bed and into his own. Only then would his brother accept the truth that his fiancé, the love of his life, didn’t care which DeMitri she ended up with.
A noise from the other room drew his attention. He frowned and glanced at his watch. Seven. He stood, went to the doorway, and his brows rose when he saw Karyn stowing her purse in one of the desk drawers.
His gaze skimmed over her. She wore a black skirt, a pale blue blouse that matched her eyes and a matching black jacket. She’d pulled her blond hair back into a twisted braid of some sort and appeared businesslike, in control, and ready to begin.
From what he’d seen of Karyn since his brother had become involved with her, her normal wardrobe was flashy and colorful—the latest fashions—which made sense considering she used to be a runway model. From the moment he knew Stefano was involved with Karyn, he’d watched and studied the woman from afar. He knew her routine, down to how she took her coffee and the fact that she had a habit of being late each day, not an hour early. He mentally shrugged, figuring she was trying to put on a good show.
Look at me. The perfect, demure assistant—at work early and ready for her new assignment.
Her shoulders stiffened as she turned to face him. “Good morning, Mr. DeMitri,” she said, her voice cold, her stance combative.
Her attitude was a bit of a surprise. On the few occasions when they’d met, she’d been much more submissive, even shy and hesitant in his presence. He found it disconcerting to have those pale, arctic blue eyes regarding him as though he were a nasty bug.
He shrugged mentally. She was angry with him and that was too bad. Nothing mattered except saving his brother from being trapped in her greedy, grasping claws.
“According to your file, you’re usually late,” he said.
She shrugged. “New assignment. New boss. I wanted to get in and check everything out so I’d be ready to start work right at eight.”
“Good. I expect you to be on time every day. Unlike my brother, I won’t tolerate tardiness.”
She boldly held his gaze. “Before I officially start my job as your admin, let’s get something straight. I don’t like you, Mr. DeMitri. You’re arrogant, underhanded, and petty. You won’t get between Stefano and me no matter what games you play. You’re nothing more than a bully trying to get his own way. But understand this. When it comes to my job, I take pride in my work. You won’t have any complaints in that area.”
Fire sparked in her eyes and her entire face came alive. She vibrated with passion. A sliver of attraction slid beneath Gio’s skin with the same painful jab of a rose thorn piercing his flesh. Gio hid his shock by lifting one brow at her outburst. Tempted to tell her precisely what he thought of her, he held his tongue, telling himself he could and would tell her what he thought of her when he exposed her for the gold digger he knew her to be. He’d see how long it took to put stars in her eyes instead of daggers.