Good Girl Gone BadBy: Carmen Falcone
To my besties Kristina Redmon and Marci Protsman. I love our girl dates!
Go screw yourself.
Marco Giordano read the text he’d received from Elizabeth. Of course, she’d already told him that an hour earlier when he’d proposed she sign a contract to become his temporary fiancée.
Sighing, he slid his Lamborghini into the parking lot of a strip mall.
What else could he do? In two weeks, his grandmother would turn ninety years old. He hadn’t planned on attending her birthday—hadn’t in several years—but a phone call from his cousin changed his resolve. Nonna wasn’t just celebrating a milestone. Due to illness, she’d most likely be celebrating her last year of life. Maybe even her last month.
He parked his car and sat for a moment. His gut clenched like someone had punched him. What a joke. Due to his size and martial art skills, a man would be an idiot to raise his voice to him, let alone hit him. Marco ran his fingers through his hair. He would take any beating, anything to buy his precious Nonna more time from her congestive heart failure. I should have visited more often. I should have been there for her.
He hadn’t been, and she could never find out the reason why he’d avoided her for years—that alone could kill her.
Shaking his head, he slid out of the car and shut the door behind him. His brother Nico had told him about this place, a small, rundown strip mall. It was strategically located in an area they planned on revitalizing into a cool shopping and restaurant oasis. A hip district. Their representative had been able to convince the owners to sell their retail spaces to them… Well, all but one.
Now he had to talk to Lily Jenkins, the owner of a hair salon. She’d also been stirring up controversy, telling the other owners not to sell and trying to stall negotiations.
Why did this matter?
He could simply send a lawyer to tell her that her chances of winning this battle were nonexistent. He’d looked into her situation. At one point, her family had owned the entire mall, but over the past several years they’d sold each office space to an investing company or direct buyer. This was the last piece of property she possessed. With the amount of debt she owed, most likely she couldn’t even afford an attorney. Yet, a part of him preferred to speak to her in person because he didn’t want bad PR. As much as he knew he was right, only one bad tweet in the world of social media could make people second-guess their opinion about an entire company. He didn’t want any dark clouds hanging over him before Nonna’s birthday. That meant avoiding negative headlines.
He’d been absent. Now, he’d make it up to his grandmother even if was that last thing he did for her—he’d show up with a good-looking lady he’d claim as a fiancée, too. Show his grandmother he’d marry someday. His nonna had always bugged him about settling down, and even if it were a false pretense, he’d fake it for her. Hell, he’d hire a struggling, unknown actress to play the part.
Marco strode by the boutiques and massage parlors until he reached the last shop in the strip. A sheer leopard-print curtain adorned the window. The space was small compared to others in the area—certainly minuscule compared to the place on Madison Avenue where he’d gotten his last haircut.
Still, there was a kitschy charm about the salon. He knocked on the glass door, but a petite woman with a colorful apron simply gestured for him to come inside. The woman. His heart skipped a beat.
She had to be Lily Jenkins. Due the size of the place, he doubted she could afford employees.
“Welcome,” she said. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Her green eyes twinkled, and he wondered if he’d ever seen a pair with such beauty. Specks of gold flickered around the irises, where a ring of avocado green encircled a brighter emerald color.
For the first time in his life, words failed him. He parted his lips to speak, but a huge lump in his throat prevented him from saying anything. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat. A sound finally traveled from the depths of his lungs, his voice coarse. “Hi.”
“Please sit down,” she said, gesturing at the chair in front of the large mirror. “I’ve been waiting for you.”