Teasing the Boss

By: Mallory Crowe

Doubt crept deeper in her mind as she got on the elevator and it started its descent. What had changed since that morning? He’d seemed so sure that he wanted nothing to do with her. Maybe he wasn’t even there for her. He could just have another appointment in the building.

Or she could’ve seen wrong. Her wishful thinking had convinced her that the handsome redhead below her was exactly the redhead she’d wanted to see.

But as soon as the doors opened, there was no mistaking Simon West talking in a hushed voice with the security guard who stood next to the receptionist.

“Mr. West,” she called, making sure the guard knew he was an acceptable guest.

He turned; his dark eyes found hers, and Grace took a deep gulp. She had the distinct impression that he could’ve talked his way past the guard if given enough time. Quite a feat considering hundreds had tried to get past in the last few days.

“Ms. Bell,” said the guard. “I’m sorry for any misunderstanding.”

She tore her gaze from Simon as she approached the desk. “It’s not your fault at all, Jared. I didn’t realize Mr. West was stopping by today, or else I would’ve told you.” She focused on Simon once again, but, if anything, his scrutiny had only intensified. “Um,” she muttered. “I’m sure you understand that things have been a bit…hectic recently. Jared has been instrumental in keeping the vultures out of my office.”

“I completely understand. It’s great that you’re going through such lengths to help out Grace,” he said as he moved in closer to her.

The use of her first name seemed somehow off…too intimate. But she let it slide as she shot Jared one last smile. “Thanks again.”

Before she could lead Simon to the elevators, he was already ahead of her, as though he’d been there plenty of times before. She quickened her pace to catch up with him as he hit the up arrow. “I’m so happy you reconsidered.”

The doors opened and he held a hand out to signal her to get on first. He followed her in and the elevator climbed. “I did a bit of research on your case, and I think there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”

She let out a sigh of relief. Finally! Someone who believed she wasn’t a home-wrecking trollop and would help her convince the world. “Did you get a good look at those atrocious photos? I thought it was pretty obvious that nothing was going on between us.”

His brows drew together. “He was holding you in his arms.”

Grace deflated a bit. If the pictures hadn’t convinced him, what had? “I admit the position was a bit compromising, but there was absolutely no chemistry in those photos.”

“I didn’t realize that it was possible to keep the ‘spark’ when being mobbed by the press.”

The doors opened, and this time, Simon let her take the lead as she maneuvered through the drab hallway to her office. “One of the services I offer is photo coaching.”

He halted and frowned down at her. “Really?”

“It’s unofficial, but the clients love it. People who’ve never taken a good photo in their life suddenly can look at any camera with the right head tilt and smile. The events I work on only last a night, but if there are photos taken, those are what will stay with the client. So it’s win-win if they happen to look fantastic in the photos. Trust me, I can take a look at a panoramic shot of a crowded room and probably point out who’s doing it, who’s getting divorced, and, lately, I’ve even developed a rather impressive gaydar.”

He nodded, and his thick red brows drew together again.

“You think I’m crazy now,” she muttered. Darn it. She should’ve played her cards closer. Kept her more outlandish business tricks and secrets to herself. Now he was probably sure she was some vain floozy who’d been caught red-handed with the senator.

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” he assured her. “I just had to reassess your intelligence.” She opened her mouth to ask what the hell he was talking about, but he answered before she spoke. “I mean you’re smarter than I thought.”

She brought her fingers to her temple as the stress headache she was becoming all too used to came back. “Better than the other direction, I suppose.” She crossed the last few feet to her office and punched in the code in the keypad to open the door.

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