Sweet Persuasion(5)

By: Maya Banks







CHAPTER 2



Serena walked into her office and paused by the window to stare over the Houston skyline. She was dressed smartly. Business suit, moderate heels. She knew she looked good. Efficient.

With a sigh, she turned around to face her desk. And the phone. The piece of paper with Damon Roche’s number was crumpled damply in her hand. She unfolded it and smoothed the edges as she sat down in the executive chair.

No, she couldn’t call from home the day before. She needed to do it here, where she could pretend it was just business. Here in her comfortable environment, she wasn’t nervous. It didn’t have to be about her. She could play it cool and pretend she was acting on the behalf of a client.

She picked up the phone and glanced down at the number again before punching it in. For several tense moments, she listened to the ring. About the time she decided no one was going to answer, a distracted voice muttered a terse hello.

She swallowed quickly. “Am I speaking with Mr. Roche?”

There was a distinct pause. “Who is this and how the hell did you get my private number?”

Shit. Damn Faith for not telling her this was his private line and apparently one he guarded closely. She’d managed to piss him off before she ever got to the hard part.

“Faith Malone gave me your number,” she said as calmly as her pounding heart would allow.

“Faith? Is she all right?” he demanded.

She hastened to assure him. “She’s fine. She gave me your number about a … business matter. I’m sorry to have bothered you. I hadn’t realized this was a private number.”

Before he could answer, she gently replaced the receiver and backed away from the desk.

Bad idea. Definitely a bad idea.

Her pulse raced, and she struggled to get her nerves back under control. She certainly wasn’t the assertive businesswoman today. With a rueful shake of her head, she turned her attention to her list of tasks for the day.

Her office door opened, and she looked up to see her personal assistant, Carrie Johnson, walk in, a warm smile on her face.

“Serena, I just got a call from Mr. Gallows. He was very satisfied with the work you did on his job.”

Serena sat back in her chair and smiled back at Carrie. “Oh, thank goodness. He was such a hard sale.”

Carried worked to keep a straight face. “It doesn’t help that his fantasy involved being head chef at Riganti’s.”

“Don’t remind me,” Serena said with a groan. “I may have lost my favored patron status with Carlos forever. He’s probably banned me from the restaurant over this.”

“I have it on good authority that the staff at Riganti’s loves you, and that Mr. Gallows’s short employment there actually went quite well. Mr. Gallows hinted that he was applying to culinary school in Paris, as a result of his experience.”

Serena sighed. “Oh, that’s lovely. It’s so nice when there’s a happy outcome. About half the time, the client figures out that some dreams are better left in the realm of fantasy and not ever brought to light. Reality is harsh, unfortunately.”

Carrie’s eyebrow lifted in surprise. “That doesn’t sound like you, Serena. Something going on that I need to know about?”

“No, not at all.” Liar. “I can’t be Pollyanna all the time. There is a certain risk in what we do. We have the power to make someone’s dream come true, but we also have the power to crush it forever.”

Carrie shrugged. “Sometimes a healthy dose of reality is needed. You can’t live in fantasy land indefinitely. I’d say you’ve done a lot of people a favor by making that clear.”

Serena shook her head. “That’s not my job. People don’t pay me to give them a wake-up call. They pay me to fulfill a fantasy. To give them something no one else can.”

“And you do it very well.”

“Maybe.”

Carrie cocked her head. “You’re in a strange mood, Serena. Maybe you should take the day off. Come back when you’re not so … morose. Or at least let me talk to clients today.”

A smile cracked the corners of Serena’s mouth. “I’m fine, Carrie. Really. I promise not to scare away potential clients with my dose of reality. Besides, today we have to outline the details for Michelle Tasco’s fantasy.”

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