Novel Name : He Has Changed


  “Your new lover?”
  Silent, Marcos stood at the living room window and broodingly watched the car pull away with Virginia inside it. From the penthouse, the Lincoln looked like a sleek black beetle, slipping into the intermittent traffic before the apartment building.
  The pressure in his chest mounted with the distance.
  His blood still pumped hot inside his veins and his head swam with a thousand thoughts, all of them X-rated.
  “Or a mistress maybe?”
  Twisting around, he faced his newest guest, the inquisitive Jack Williams—ex- corporate spy and now self-made millionaire. He was helping himself to a bag of nuts he’d obtained from the bar.
  “My assistant,” Marcos said tonelessly, swirling his newly poured Scotch in his hand. The cubes clinked in the glass.
  Jack had arrived promptly at eleven as promised—the tall, blond Texan was never late, and, like a golden retriever listening to a particularly silent whistle, he had cocked his head when he spotted Virginia almost in Marcos’s arms. As she whispered goodbye, Marcos’s own instincts had flared to life and whispered that she wanted to stay.
  But when “Williams the Bastard”—as the press had dubbed him—said he’d deliver, he delivered. And unfortunately what Marcos expected couldn’t wait.
  Still, he couldn’t allow his friend to get the wrong impression of her, so he lifted his glass in a mocking toast. “She makes good coffee.”
  Jack popped an almond into his mouth and munched. “Aha. In bed?”
  Marcos crossed the living room and headed back into the office, Jack trailing behind him.
  Cranky, frustrated and exhausted, he set the glass atop a stack of papers on his desk and sank into the high-backed leather seat. “I’m not that man, Jack. Never mix business with pleasure, remember?”
  But Virginia’s sweet, fragrant scent lingered in the air. A torment to his straining body. A mockery to his words.
  He respected his employees, took pride in being regarded as a man with moral fiber. And yet when it came to Virginia Hollis, it seemed he was reduced to the instincts of a caveman.
  His friend’s smooth, easy chuckle coming from the threshold somehow cranked up his frustration. “I remember. But the question is: do you? Should I have fetched a spoon, buddy? You looked ready to eat her.”
  Marcos would have scoffed. He certainly didn’t welcome the canny twinkle in Jack’s eye. But then he remembered the desperate urge he’d had to kiss Virginia…the exquisite scent of her skin, so close to his…the surprisingly fine feel of her in his arms, stirring and enticing beyond belief…
  His chest cramped with emotion as he dragged a hand down his hot face. “Perhaps the old adage is true, and some rules are meant to be broken— especially if you’re the moron living by them.”
  “Don’t go there, Marcos.” Jack pushed away from the door, dead serious. “I’ve been there. Not fun, man. Not fun for you, definitely not fun for her. Office affairs always end badly—no matter how well you plan them when you begin.”
  Marcos pondered the massive, crowded bookcase on the wall across from him. A near bursting sensation was lodged in the pit of his gut. He didn’t want to hurt her. Hell, he hadn’t wanted to want her.
  Diablos, but he’d been sexually frustrated since the day he’d hired her. She was demure, desperate and determined, and Marcos had feared she’d be a distraction. But he hadn’t counted on the fact that his primitive response to her would reach such a fever pitch.
  “I’ve never gotten involved with an employee in my life—but she’s different, Jack. And yes, I am aware of how that sounds.”
  Reclining in his seat with a grimace, he opened his cuff buttons and rolled up his sleeves.
  He was actually considering, perhaps he was even past considering and had already made up his mind, giving them both what they’d wanted for months.
  He was a man, flesh and blood like all the others. There was only so much he could stand. And Virginia…no matter how energetically she tried to conceal her reactions to him, she responded. Viscerally, primitively—a woman underneath the tidy assistant after all. A sweet, lovely woman who knew instinctively when a man wanted her. No, not wanted—Marcos burned for her.
  And now he’d asked—practically demanded—she spend a week with him. Pretending to be his lover. At a time when all his energies, all his attention, needed to be on the one prize he’d sought to gain for so long.
  He hadn’t been certain whether to ask her as escort. She was too much a temptation to play lovers with, and in order to successfully achieve his goals, focus was key.
  But tonight the lovely Virginia—alone and financially abandoned by her family, something Marcos could identify with—had turned to him for help.
  Tonight, as he’d gazed into her bright, fierce eyes, he couldn’t deny himself any longer.
  He wanted her.
  He’d offered her a position for a week, true, but that was merely a guise for what he really wanted to do.
  Her powerful effect would linger with him long after he left his office at night. He thought of her continually, every hour. He relived their encounters in his mind sometimes, enjoyed hearing her laugh at Lindsay’s antics when his office
  doors were parted. He could not push her image away at night and loathed to see her in trouble when she seemed to seek so little of it for herself.
  He’d made a mental list long ago with plenty of valid reasons to leave her alone.
  She was an innocent, he was not. She was vulnerable, he could hurt her. She was his employee, he was her boss. There were dozens of reasons to stay the hell away from Virginia.
  The ways she’d looked at him tonight pulverized them all.
  “Here. I have just the thing to cheer you up.” Jack stepped outside and returned rummaging through his leather briefcase. He yanked out a manila folder and held it out. “There you go, big man. Your wish is my command.”
  Marcos plucked the file from his hand and immediately honed in on the name printed across the tab. Marissa Galvez.
  He smiled darkly. “Ah, my rainmaker. Everything here, I assume?” “Everything on Marissa and her sleazy little deals. She’s quite a busy little bee.
  You’ll find it to be riveting reading. Took me a while, as you can see—but I did
  give you my word to have it ready by tonight.”
  Marcos skimmed through the pages, not surprised that the file was as thick as the woman was scheming.
  Marissa Galvez. A shaft of anger sliced through him. The lady had hopes of a reconciliation before discussing numbers?
  Of course she did. She read Forbes. Was smart enough to realize the son was worth more than the father she’d left him for, not thousands or millions, but billions. She knew the company, which should have rightfully been his, was prime for takeover and it wouldn’t take much but a few savvy connections to learn it had been Marcos who’d been buying the outstanding stock.
  Unfortunately, insulting Marissa’s renewed interest in him wouldn’t do to accomplish his goals. But a beautiful, smiling lover would slowly and surely
  take care of her dreams of reconciliation—and let them get down to the real business at hand.
  Allende. My company.
  “Mind telling me how you’re going to convince the delectable woman to sell? Without succumbing to her request for some personal attention before discussing numbers?” Jack queried.
  Marcos lunged to his feet, waving the evidence in the Texan’s face. “With this. It’s my game now, my rules.” He met his friend’s sharp, blue-eyed stare and his lips flattened to a grim, strained line. “Allende is in a vulnerable position. Sooner or later, she’ll have to sell.”
  “Not to you, she doesn’t.”
  Marcos shrugged disinterestedly. “She knows she’s game for a hostile takeover. And she knows I’m the shark after her. She wouldn’t have called if she didn’t want to get on my good side.”
  And I’ve got my pretty, green-eyed “lover.” “Will she?”
  And her pretty little mouth. “What?” “Get on your good side?”
  “When you start wearing a tutu, Jack. Of course not.”
  Distaste filled him as he recalled her phone call. Dangling Allende up to him like bait, proposing they discuss it in her bed. She’d played with him as a naive, noble, seventeen-year-old boy, but it would be an ice age in hell before she played with the man.
  “She called because she wants you back,” Jack pointed out.
  “Fortunately, I have an escort,” he said and headed to the window, a part of him somehow expecting to see the Lincoln. “Being I will be conveniently taken,
  we’ll have to forego the personal and get down to the numbers.” “I see now. So the lovely lady is key.”
  Those eyes. Big, bright, clear green, and so expressive he thought she’d pummeled his gut when she’d looked at him so adoringly. She made him feel… noble. Decent. Desperate to save her ten times over in exchange for another worshipful gaze.
  When she’d called to request a moment of his time only hours ago, he’d allowed himself a brief flight of fantasy. He fantasized she’d been ready to succumb to him, ready to admit what already threatened to become inevitable. Even as he allowed himself the luxury of the fantasy, he knew she was too cautious and respectable for that.
  It was up to him now. What was he going to do?
  He shot Jack a sidelong look. “Marissa will get what’s coming to her.” And Virginia…
  Jack swept up his briefcase with flair. “The devil on a Falcon jet, yes.” He saluted from the threshold and flashed his signature I’m-Jack-the-Ripper grin. “I’ll let you pack, my friend.”
  “My gratitude to you, Williams. And send the bill to Mrs. Fuller this week, she’ll take care of it.”
  When Jack said an easy “will do” and disappeared, Marcos swallowed the last of his Scotch, his eyebrows furrowing together as he thought of the demure strand of pearls around Virginia’s neck tonight. His woman wouldn’t wear such little pearls. She’d wear diamonds. Tahitians. Emeralds.
  With a swell of possessiveness, he brought to mind the lean, toned form of her body, watched countless times across his office desk, countless times when it had been by sheer determination that he’d forced his scrutiny back to his work.
  A size six, he predicted, and promptly pulled his contact list from the top drawer and flipped through the pages.
  If she was playing his lover, then one thing was certain: Virginia Hollis would look the part.
  In the quiet interior of the Fixed Base Operator which specialized in servicing company jets, Marcos stood with his hands in his pockets. He brimmed with anticipation and gazed out the window from the spacious sitting area while the Falcon 7X jet—a sleek, white dove and one of his faster babies—got fueled.
  He’d like to blame his simmering impatience on the deal he was about to negotiate. But the truth was, his assistant was late, and he was impatient to see her.
  Now a door of opportunity was wide open for them. An opportunity to interact outside the busy, hectic pace of his office. An opportunity to step out of their roles and, if they chose to, temporarily into a new one.
  She’ll pretend to be my lover.
  That she had accepted to aid him in this manner made him feel heady. For how long would they be able to pretend and only pretend? Three days, three hours, three minutes?
  In the back of the room, the glass doors rolled open. The sounds of traffic sailed into the building and Marcos swung around. To watch Virginia stroll inside.
  A balloon of protectiveness blossomed in his chest.
  The only thing untidy about his assistant today was her hair. Wild, windblown and uncontrollable. The ebony curls framed a lovely oval face and eyes that were green and clear and thick-lashed. Hauling a small black suitcase behind her, she paused to store a bag of peanuts in the outside zippered compartment. The mint- green V-neck sweater she wore dipped sexily to show the barest hint of cleavage. His mouth went dry.
  She straightened that agile body of hers and swiped a wave of ebony curls behind her shoulder. The scent of citrus—lemons, oranges, everything that made him salivate—wafted through the air as she continued hauling her suitcase forward. Christ, she was a sexpot.
  “Virginia,” he said.
  Her head swiveled to his. “Marcos.”
  He smiled. The sight of her face, warm in the sunlight, made his lungs constrict. She wore no makeup except for a gloss, and with her curls completely free, she was the most enchanting thing he’d ever seen.
  Licking her lips as he came forward, she pulled the suitcase up and planted it at her feet—a barrier between their bodies. “You got a head start on me,” she said. She spoke in a throaty, shaky voice that revealed her nervousness.
  He eyed her lips. Burnished a silky pink today, inciting him to taste. “I apologize, I had some last-minute work out of the office.”
  Dragging in a breath, he jerked his chin in the direction of the long table down the hall, offering coffee, cookies, napkins—all that Virginia liked to toil with. “Fix yourself coffee if you want. We’ll board in a few minutes.”
  “You? Coffee?”
  Somberly he shook his head, unable to prevent noticing the subtle sway of her skirt-clad hips as she left her compact black suitcase with him and walked away.
  He was fascinated. By the sweet-smelling, sexy package of Virginia Hollis. Five feet four inches of reality. Of pretend lover.
  Cursing under his breath, he snatched her suitcase handle and rolled the bag up to his spot by the window. The pilots were storing his luggage, consisting mostly of shopping bags from Neiman Marcus.
  He crossed his arms as he waited for their signal. The file the infallible Jack Williams had given him last night provided him with more than enough ammo to persuade Marissa to sell, yet even the knowledge of emerging victorious didn’t make this particular task any easier. You could crush a bug in your fist and it still didn’t mean you would enjoy it. But Allende—a transport company on its last breath, flailing for help—had his name on it.
  It was his. To resuscitate or to murder.
  Virginia drew up beside him and he went rigid, inhumanly aware of her body close to his. She was a subtle, scented, stirring presence.
  Without so much as moving his head, he let his eyes venture to the front of her sweater. The fabric clung to the small, shapely, seductive swells of her breasts. A wealth of tenderness flooded him. Virginia had come dressed as his assistant in the sweater, her typical knee-length gray skirt, the simple closed-toe shoes with no personality. “I’m afraid this won’t do,” he murmured.
  A smile danced on her lips as she tipped her face up in bewilderment. She seemed animated today, no more the worried siren begging for his assistance last night. “What won’t do?”
  Virginia. With her perfect oval face, creamy, elegant throat and bow-shaped morsel of a mouth that invited him to nibble. It really seemed easier to stop breathing than to continue saying no to those marshmallow-soft lips. “The sweater,” he said quietly, signaling the length of her body with his hand. “The skirt. The sensible shoes. It won’t do, Miss Hollis.”
  She set her coffee cup and napkin on a side table, then tucked her hair behind her ear. “I did pack a few dresses.”
  “Did you.” His eyebrows furrowed together as he surveyed her pearls. “Designer dresses?”
  “Why, no.”
  He raised his hand to the pearl necklace. “How attached are you,” he whispered, trailing his finger across the glossy bumps, “to wearing these?”
  She watched him for a moment, a telling wariness in her voice. “They were Mother’s.”
  “Pretty. Very pretty.” The pent-up desire that blazed inside him textured his voice. “You see, my lover…might wear something else.” He was playing with fire. He didn’t care. “My woman—” he plucked a pearl between two fingers “— would wear Tahitians. Diamonds. Emeralds.”
  Her eyes danced. “Are you afraid I won’t look presentable?”
  He dropped his hands and shot her a dead-serious look. “I’m afraid you will look too much like my assistant and not my lover.”
  But she kept on smiling, kept on enchanting him. “I see.”
  He frowned now. “Understand me, Virginia. If I’d wanted to be seen with my assistant, I’d have brought Mrs. Fuller.”
  This made her gasp, and the gasp did not make his scowl vanish. He nodded towards the Falcon. “Your new wardrobe is in the plane. There’s a room in the back. Change.”

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