Bargaining with the Boss

By: Allison Gatta

Chapter One





Italian Playboy Played



Late Saturday evening, Italian billionaire mogul, Franco Del Rossi (pictured above) was seen allegedly arguing with supermodel girlfriend, Gianna Torreini. Sources state that the couple has been on the outs for weeks now, often appearing separate even when attending events together...





Natalie Gains shoved the tabloid into the top drawer of her desk and slammed it closed. Stupid. She should have known better than to pick up the filth. She'd just seen Franco's face and thought...

Well, it didn't matter what she thought. If there'd been a problem, Franco would have called. He knew better than to let her read about his life in the papers. She hoped.

"So, who are they from?"

Natalie’s secretarial trainee, Eliza, shook her from her thoughts. The petite brunette was staring down at her, or, more accurately, at the volleyball-sized roses that covered half of her desk. They were exact arrangement she'd had delivered to her a long, long time ago.

Back when she'd been an entirely different and far more gullible person.

Thankfully, those days were far behind her.

Ugh, she should have known to toss the damn things. Again. To think she used to like the smell of them. After the last week of constant deliveries, that feeling had long since gone. Now, they smells pungent and unctuous and...bitter.

"Nobody." Natalie plucked the card from the center of the flowers and tossed it into the trashcan without a second glance. She should have shredded it too. And stomped on it. Maybe lit it on fire...

"You sure? If someone sent me something like this, I think I'd—"

"I'm sure. Are you back from lunch yet?" Natalie glanced from the paper bag to Eliza, trying her best not to tap her nails along her desk in impatience. Not that it was Eliza’s fault she was on edge.

It wasn’t the girl’s fault that these flowers kept harassing her every day. Or that Franco couldn’t keep his name out of the papers. Or that she was what felt like the millionth secretarial trainee.

"Um, yeah. I think I’m ready." Eliza tossed the bag into the can and it landed with a satisfying thud on top of the card. Good. Now if Natalie could get rid of the damned roses without anyone thinking twice about it, it’d be like the noxious things had never been there in the first place.

She cleared her throat, and then cast a dark glance toward the mahogany desk sitting beside Brooks Adam's door. "Good, if I had to man Hugh Heffner's desk over there when he got back from lunch, I'm pretty sure I'd have murder suicided this whole place."

God, how she loathed that man.

It felt like every month she was training someone else to sit there and tend to his majesty's commands and every month she was helping the last girl to pack up her nail polish and lipstick when the job inevitably didn't work out.

Probably because Brooks was determined to hire candidates based on the shortness of the candidate's skirt instead of the contents of her brain. Or the acuity of her verbal skills. Like, say, the ability to read.

Typical men. They didn't know what they wanted until it hit them in the face, and more often than not the thing that hit them would be a Russian stewardess with a limited command of the English language.

Or, at least, that had been the case with her first husband.

"Come on, Natalie. Brooks--er, Mr. Adams--can't be that bad. He's been very nice to me and--"

"Did he tell you to call him Brooks?" It was important to remember not to roll her eyes. This wasn't Eliza's fault. It was that big, stupid oaf's.

"Yeah, he said he hoped we could be friends and--"

She groaned. She couldn't help it. "Don't listen to a damn thing he says. All you need to know is what I teach you and please pay attention to the first lesson: Brooks Adams is--"

"Standing behind you. But please, go on." A deep rumbling voice interrupted her, and a wave of self-loathing joined the rush of heat flooding to her cheeks.

Perfect. This was exactly what she needed.

A big, healthy dose of pain-in-the-ass on top of all her other problems.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Adams." She said through gritted teeth.

"So formal, Natalie. You haven't even called me a bastard yet today." He rounded the desk, nearly knocking over her bushel of flowers in the process. Even with the roses practically crowding her, the smell of him blocked everything else our—spice and sandalwood.

The smell of a guy who always got what he wanted. Just like husband number two.

She ignored his taunt and pushed on, "I figured your secretary should learn that on her own. I'm impressed you finally found one who could type."

"Barely." Eliza whispered the word and Natalie fought the urge to hiss at her.

"I've always had a knack for picking—"

"Up women?" Natalie finished, hoping it might take that taunting laugh out of his voice once and for all. Instead, he winked. As if he knew that would further infuriate her.

"You know me well."

"Unfortunately."

Brooks laughed, and then fingered one of the flowers in her bouquet. "Who are these from? Husband number...how many did you have? Four?"

She grit her teeth and ignored the question. "Would you believe me if I told you they're from your brother? Sympathy for having to work with you?"

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