Home > So It Goes (Twist of Fate #2)

So It Goes (Twist of Fate #2)
Author: Jennifer Probst

 


Chapter One

Malia Evergreen walked into the office of her least favorite client and swore not to lose her temper.

Not today.

It had been a perfect morning. After a solid night’s sleep, she’d managed to snatch the last croissant at her favorite bakery and the first cup of a fresh pot of Colombian coffee. She sailed over the Mario Cuomo Bridge on her way to Manhattan without the usual congested traffic. The sun shone bright in a cloudless baby-blue sky with no threat of rain. And she wore her favorite suit—a well-tailored candy-apple-red Vera Wang that screamed BOSS. Even her hair turned out perfectly, the multiple braided strands falling straight down her back.

Mr. Hot Billionaire couldn’t even screw this up for her.

Malia nodded at Cassandra, his adept administrative assistant, and was waved immediately in. After a full year of meeting with him every other Thursday at 10:00 a.m. sharp, Malia was aware of each detail of the routine. In the beginning, she’d been confused why the CEO and owner of the multimillion-dollar wedding empire would choose to meet personally with an advertising representative. God knew he had a ton of minions to run the lower-level marketing.

She’d learned the answer quickly and wished she never had.

Because he was a control freak who loved to involve himself in all aspects of his company. He also seemed to enjoy torturing her for his individual amusement, as if it kicked off his early weekend entertainment.

Not for much longer, though.

Satisfaction curled through her. She couldn’t wait to make the announcement.

Malia pasted a smile on her lips and breezed through the half-open door. “Morning,” she said, moving toward her regular seat at the conference table.

Her gaze swept over Emeril, his assistant, and Andrea, the creative director, flanking the head of the table like knights to a king. The two complemented each other nicely, both sharply dressed, keenly intelligent, and eager to do their king’s bidding. Emeril held a tightly bound energy in his body that made Malia wonder if he injected caffeine directly into his veins. Tall and thin, with dark hair and sharp features, he was a multitasking genius who tapped endlessly on his phone while engaging in dialogue and answering questions from his boss. Andrea was calm, with a short blonde bob, cat-eye glasses, and a tendency to dress in classic black pantsuits. For a creative leader, her appearance and personality seemed plain at first, but Malia now respected the hell out of her ideas and laser-like focus to launch dynamic ad creatives for the company.

They exchanged casual talk as Malia flipped open her laptop and got situated. When the clock on her screen switched to 10:00 a.m., Andrea and Emeril looked up expectantly.

Malia refused.

The door clicked shut quietly and footsteps softly echoed. The scrape of the chair and the creak of leather as he settled rose to her ears. The scent of clove and spice wafted in the air. Immediately, her skin prickled and a hot awareness shot through her body—the exact reaction she’d been experiencing steadily since the day they met.

It was a secret she’d never confess. Not even if she were tortured.

“Good morning, Ms. Evergreen.”

The deep, rumbly voice shot to all the hidden corners of her body and stroked. Fighting the horrid physical response, she finally looked up and met Palmer Matterson’s stare. His sea-green eyes drilled into hers and lingered, as if it were his right to see all of her.

Primal arrogance seethed from his very core. He knew he attracted women like he was a giant chocolate bar and they were gripped by PMS. That thick mane of gray hair was his calling card, falling over his forehead and brushing his collar with just a touch of unruliness. His features were pure aristocracy: the sharp blade of his nose, the curl of his full lips, the defined cut jawline. He wore his fancy Armani suits like they were casual denim, the fabric tailored to emphasize the lean, muscled length of his thighs and ass, the jacket stretching over his broad shoulders. He was a man who ran a female-centered business, surrounded by endless wedding couples and selling the promise of happily ever after. Yet, there didn’t seem to be a soft bone in his body or heart. It was a puzzle she’d been trying to solve for a year but was no closer to figuring out.

Malia ignored the punch in her gut like an expert. She refused to allow this man to evoke any type of reaction from her today. Not irritation. Not frustration. And certainly not sexual attraction.

“Good morning, Mr. Matterson.” She oozed saccharine sweetness. “It’s lovely to see you.”

A flare of surprise lit briefly in his eyes and was quickly masked. She usually addressed him in a chilly, polite voice, but he reacted smoothly. “It’s lovely to be missed. I assume you’ve seen the latest figures?”

“While ass-umptions are dangerous for multiple reasons, in this case, yes. I sent Emeril the stats, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased.”

Satisfaction curled in her belly when his gaze narrowed. She’d always danced along the edge of cheekiness, preferring to cloak her insults with clever folly, but he seemed to volley each of them in perfect retaliation. Malia admitted the man might be a giant jerk, but his banter was legendary. He must exhaust his many female companions.

Maybe in more ways than one.

“While many asses may disagree, I think there should be some assumptions in business in order to reach a common foundation. Don’t you?”

She refused to grin at his obvious jab. “No. Foundations can be reached by an open dialogue where both opinions and expectations are honestly shared until an agreement is reached. It’s called democracy, not monarchy. And it avoids making asses out of anyone.”

Andrea cocked her head and watched. Emeril tapped rapidly on his phone, but he looked up briefly with interest at the exchange.

“At least you didn’t call me a communist,” Palmer said mildly.

She widened her eyes in mockery. “I’d never insult you, Mr. Matterson.”

“Of course not. It’s just a shame you didn’t put your motto into action. We could’ve avoided the disaster of your latest Quench mailing.” His voice crisped around the edges, steering Malia right back to the ruthless businessman.

A shred of worry nagged at her current smugness. “What do you mean? The ad is flawless. The sales numbers are solid. The matching web ad clearly shows engagement.”

“Along with my competitor.” He motioned to Emeril, who slid the latest glossy magazine over the table. “Why would you allow my rival to purchase prime space next to mine?”

Malia blinked and stared at the open photo spread. Endless Vows Bridal Agency held the center ad in the limited quarterly print magazine that had become a staple at Quench, the company she and her best friends founded together. The photo of a bride running from the church easily caught the reader’s attention, spotlighting the gorgeous platform sneakers Palmer’s company had recently launched with the edgy tagline: DITCH THE GROOM, NOT THE SHOES.

Her red painted nail traced over the full-size ad. “There’s nothing else here.”

“Turn the page.”

She did. Then winced. The Cinderella-type stiletto shoes hit her full force, reminiscent of every royal princess and what many dreamed of wearing at their wedding. Pearls and crystals shimmered with a clear heel that only emphasized the classicism. The groom knelt before the bride, the shoe propped on his knee, and he stared up at her with a look of adoration. The text confirmed Malia was in deep trouble.

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