Authors: Abigail Barnette
Tags: #bdsm, #billionaire, #contemporary romance, #kink, #billionaire alpha, #billionaire alpha male
Copyright © 2013 Abigail Barnette
All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for
your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or
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This book wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support
Deelylah Mullin, who tirelessly edited,
re-edited, triple-edited, and listened to me worry, whine and
complain throughout the entire writing process.
Bronwyn Greene, beta-reader and cheerleader
extraordinaire. “This is going to be so big for you” needs to be
cross-stitched onto a sampler somewhere in your house.
My street team: You guys are too numerous to
list here, but thank you to all of you who bullied friends,
loved-ones, and coworkers into giving this story a try. Thanks for
dropping links in news story comments and catching spelling errors
in the early releases of the chapters. Thank you for
But mostly, thanks to everyone who went along
for the ride. This has been the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire
career. I was convinced the universe had made a mistake and was
working to replace me. I was ready to give up writing entirely, and
then 2012 turned into a miracle. Thank you all for helping me see
what a bad choice quitting would be.
There are days
that just feel off, and you don't know why until something
momentous happens. Then you look back on your morning - on the
coffee you spilled on your ghost white Yamamoto jacket, the
persistent smell of garlic from the break room fridge, the lipstick
you had on your teeth while you flirted with the breakfast guy -
and it all makes perfect sense.
I was having one of those days.
For the past year and a half, every day of my
life has been a roller coaster, so I'm usually ready for anything.
As the first assistant to Gabriella Winters, Editor-in-Chief of
magazine, I spend company time doing anything from
ogling male models at a Calvin Klein underwear shoot, to taking a
chronically constipated Yorkie to his monthly colonic. It's
certainly not how I envisioned my career in the fashion industry,
but I'd like to think I'm starting to get a handle on things.
This morning, I reported at eight-o'-clock as
usual. On my way I picked up Gabriella's breakfast, an egg white
omelet and Nova Scotia salmon from Barney Greengrass - made
specially for her before opening every day except Fridays, when she
fasts - and grabbed coffee for myself and Penelope, the second
assistant. I came back to the office, set out the breakfast on
Gabriella's preferred Waterford china, and ahead of her projected
8:15 arrival, emailed a copy of her schedule to all pertinent
office staff. I thought things were going pretty well so far when I
noticed it was 8:12, and hadn't yet heard a peep from
That was really strange. I usually would have
received a breezy, borderline rude phone call from her by now,
demanding something seemingly impossible. I slumped into my office
chair, took a sip from my still scalding latte and choked, bubbling
a bit over my lips and down the front of my jacket.
At least you got the drama over early
, I thought, shaking my head as I dabbed the stain.
Oh, I wish I had been right.
When Gabriella's car didn't arrive by 8:30, I
started to get worried. When I called her phone and couldn't leave
a message because her voicemail was completely full, I panicked. I
buzzed Jake, one of the editors on the floor. While his line rang,
I looked out the tall glass doors. I couldn't see the outer office
from my desk, just Ivanka in reception, drumming her fingertips and
shooting worried glances at the elevators. The glare from the
fluorescents showed me the faint shadow of my own reflection, all
dark hair and pale skin and what looked like two black voids for
"Jake,” he answered, and I jumped. His tone
was short, and I could immediately imagine the look of worry on his
face. His big blue eyes would be wide, and he'd probably be leaning
one tattooed elbow on his desk, a hand buried in his sandy hair as
he hunched over his laptop.
"Do you know what's going on this morning?" I
asked, rising to venture to Gabriella's gleaming lacquered desk.
There was a fingerprint beside the leather blotter, which I rubbed
away with my sleeve. "Everyone is acting really weird."
"It's not good, Soph. We're still waiting for
confirmation from Bob, but it looks like Gabriella is out."
"Out where?" I squirted some hand sanitizer
into my palm. As soon as it absorbed, I hovered my hand over the
rapidly cooling omelet to check the temperature. Gabriella hated
microwaved food almost as much as she hated germs.
"Out, as in, fired."
This is fixable. You call Barney Greengrass
and ask them to remake the omelet. Penelope can pick it up on her
way in if you catch her right now -
A record scratched somewhere in my brain,
jarring me back to what Jake had said. "What?"
Jake hadn't caught on to my disbelief. "I
don't know the details. But I think it's safe to say, Gabriella
won't be coming back." He paused, and I could hear his irritation,
not with me, but with every facet of this day, in his noisy exhale.
"I have to go."
After I hung up, I wandered around the office
a bit. Gabriella was... fired? Did that mean I was fired? Should I
start looking for a job?
I sat on the floor beside Gabriella's desk
and reached up for the china plate. I stared disconsolately at the
weave of the low-pile carpet as I ate the expensive imported salmon
my boss wouldn't be enjoying this morning. Oh shit, I paid for the
fish on my credit card. They would reimburse me for that, right? I
didn't know she was fired when I picked it up.
I mentally calculated everything I hadn't
bothered to get reimbursed for this month. The only way Gabriella
was out was if the magazine was folding, so would they be able to
pay me? There was no way
could run without her. She
was like the single support structure in a badly built house or
I stopped chewing at that thought. I'd never
really thought of
in a negative light before. But
Gabriella really had been the glue holding the whole thing
together. In the sixteen years she'd run the publication, she'd
only ever taken two sick days, and they were the stuff of legend.
"The day Gabriella missed work for Princess Di's funeral," people
whispered, with a touch of manic fear in their eyes. Gabriella
taking an unscheduled day off plunged the office into a
near-cannibalistic frenzy, apparently.
There was no way I was going out that door
today. My cell rang. "Sophie, what the hell is going on up there?"
Holli. Thank God.
I clutched the phone tight to my ear and
to keep the eggs from hitting the floor. "I
have no idea. Gabriella isn't here." I suspected Holli was headed
into the building, based on the loud
lobby noises distorting in the background.
"Is the shoot cancelled? I just saw someone crying and carrying a
printer out the front door."
"I don't know." Holli is my roommate. She's
also a model, and today she was supposed to be at the spring jacket
shoot on the seventh floor. By spring, would
be on the stands?
"Well, if this place is going down, I'll just
go home. I have hours of
DVRed that I have
to catch up on." Holli sounded almost bored at the idea of the top
fashion magazine in the country going into a tailspin. Probably
because no matter what happened, she would be fine. Holli didn't
have an ego about her job, and would just as happily do cleaning
product commercials as high-fashion shoots. I often used her
somewhat lackadaisical approach to her career to get some
perspective on my own.
But right at that moment, I didn't want
perspective. I wanted to run around screaming with my hair on fire,
just like everyone else. "No, I'm sure the shoot is still on."
Possibly. Probably not. "Go up to seven and see what they say. I
don't want you to get in trouble with your agency."
"Will do, boss," Holli chirped, then gasped
like a scandalized young miss in a Jane Austen movie. "O. M. G.
What if they gave you Gabriella's job? Like, since you're her
second in command?"
"I'm not her second in command. I'm her
assistant. And that kind of thing only happens in the movies." But
that left me with a very good question I hadn't come up with during
my moping. Who would be the new Gabriella?
The doors from reception opened, and
masculine voices drifted in. I shifted my phone from one hand to
the other and balanced the plate of eggs and salmon on my arm as I
rose on legs clumsy and prickly from sitting in one place too long.
"Holli, I have to go."
I didn't wait for her response before I ended
the call. I dropped the phone on the desk and slid the half-eaten
breakfast back into its place, just as muted footsteps entered the
I smoothed down my black skirt and raised my
head, trying to project an air of confidence that crumbled the
moment I saw the man who'd lead the way into the room.
Not him. No. I knew him. Or, didn't. My pulse
drowned out every other sound in the room as I took him in. A
sleek, sharkskin-gray suit, no tie, open collar, so different from
the casual attire we'd scattered all over that hotel room floor six
My throat was so dry I thought it might seal
itself off. That was probably a good thing, because it meant I
wouldn't be puking up eggs and salmon all over his shiny, expensive
black leather shoes.
"Are you..." I watched his perfect lips form
the words. Recognition flickered across his face and he raked his
dark ash blonde hair back from his brow with his fingers. I braced
myself for the impact of the words that followed: "Gabriella's
Anger and mortification fought over which was
going to send my blood into my head. I tried to will myself pale as
I nodded. "Um, yeah. Yes."
He put his hand out. "Neil Elwood, Elwood and
I wanted to snap, "Yes, I know that! We slept
together!" There was no way in hell I was going to say anything of
the sort. Not if he didn't remember me. Also, I didn't technically
know who he was. When we'd spent the night together, he'd told me
his name was Leif, and that he wrote for a car magazine. Apparently
he’d misspoken, because Neil Elwood didn’t write for magazines.
Neil Elwood owned magazines.
"Bad luck," he said apologetically. It
sounded much more polite in his posh English accent than it would
have if some guy from New Jersey had just said, "Bad luck," about
my losing my freaking job. His voice had caught my attention the
day we'd met, and it did wicked things to me now.
I took his hand and shook it, ignoring the
zings of awareness that travelled straight up my arm, lighting up
every pleasure center in my brain. I knew that hand. Both of them.
Had committed every detail about them and what he'd done to me with
them to memory. I smiled with clenched back teeth. "You're telling
"Look, I don't want you to panic." I think
that was what he said. My concentration had kind of a
dreamy-around-the-edges quality with tiny pinpoints of blackout
rage scattered around. It made it difficult to concentrate.
I can't believe he doesn't remember me. I
can't believe I'm losing my job.
"In the meantime, can you stay on here for a
few weeks? You can train whoever ends up as your replacement, and
we can find you something here that's a better fit."
I smiled in a really great impression of a
human with a functioning brain and said, "I would be happy to stay
on until you find someone."
I would also be happy to pay my half of the
rent, which would be difficult if I were unemployed. Still, I
couldn't believe how cool I was being about all this.
Then I realized that it was all going to hit
me, eventually. My job was over. My boss was fired. I was probably
tainted, and I was going to see it in the face of every person I
interviewed with for the next five years. I might as well move back
to Michigan and start cashiering at Pat’s Foods.
I'd practically tied one of those horrible
polyester aprons on when I realized that all was probably not
"Great. We'll be meeting with the editors at
nine, which is in about..." Neil or Leif or whoever he was
pretending to be today checked his watch, which was roughly the
size of a damn bread plate. "Ten minutes. Look, I don't really need
you for that, but what I will need is some coffee, and something to
eat. Can you do that for me and be back here by ten, for the