Everything would be fine. At worst, she would end up laughing and assume he was pulling her leg or at best she would take the offer without another question.
Justin Dunne's workday was coming to an end. Any minute now his assistant Jennifer would be coming to let him know she’s heading home for the day. And when she did, he would conjure up the nerve to ask her what he had wanted to ask her all day. The worst part is that he didn’t have enough fingers or toes to count how many times he had to rephrase his question. He suddenly felt small in his large office, dreading what he was about to do. But what was the worst that could happen? If she said no, she would just leave and show up to work the next day like nothing happened. Maybe. She could also assume the worst and think this was his way of sexually harassing her.
But if she said yes, his plan would work perfectly.
Would this count as sexual harassment? He contemplated this as he sat at his desk drumming his fingers impatiently on its surface. Irritated he stood up and walked around his desk to sit on the edge, but no pose could erase the sense of doom that lingered on the border of his mind. He took a deep steadying breath and said, “Everything would be fine, just breath, ask her what you want and let the chips fall where they may.”
There was a slight knock on his door, and he quickly moved around to sit behind his desk again, trying his best to look at ease.
“Come in!” he called and cleared his throat. His tongue felt thick in his mouth.
With her purse in hand and her coat dangling over her arm, she walked into his office and smiled, and Justin stood up. It was not an out of the ordinary gesture, since he was taught etiquette by his mother from the day he was able to stand. You always stood up in the presence of a lady. But right now, he felt awkward to say the least.
"Mr. Dunne, I’m heading home now, is there anything else you need me to handle before I go?”
He nodded and reached for a pile of files, then motioned for her to sit, “Actually there is…” he started, but his courage hung on a thread over a gaping chasm waiting to swallow it whole.
“Of course,” she said, her smile fading ever so slightly.
He couldn’t blame her, of all the staff; she’s always the one who stayed behind to tie up his loose ends. Over time he had grown so used to it that he had taken her for granted. Sooner or later she was going to get fed up or find the love of her life who will insist she worked her nine to five day and focus on a relationship, or worse a family.
"How have you been?” he asked wanting to kick himself, he never asks her how she is, why start now?
Jennifer looked at him quizzically as she tilted her head, “Is there something wrong?”
Instead of sitting down, he rounded his desk and walked past her and headed for his personal mini-bar. Which, low and behold, thanks to Jennifer, was always stocked with drinks. If he wanted to he could live in his office and not have any reason to leave. He had a closet full of clean work clothes, a bathroom, a bar and a single phone call could have any meal of his choice brought to his office.
"Drink?" he asked, as he poured himself a glass of bourbon.
The bar was near a floor to ceiling window that gave him a magnificent view of the city when he looked out of it; just one of the perks of having a penthouse office. The view was breathtaking but the vertigo-inducing height didn’t help his trepidation right then.
Justin regarded her where she sat with her legs crossed causing her skirt to ride up slightly, it wasn’t not enough to be inappropriate, but enough to catch his eye and distract him without any intention. He was professional but he was not blind. Jennifer's hair was a rich chestnut tone, with lighter brown highlights throughout. She was of average height and even in heels, she was still quite a bit shorter than him. Being on the swimming team in high school and college had given her an athletic build, which emphasized a generous chest that her conservative work blouses did not hide.
* * *
Jennifer sat at the desk watching her boss's back as he poured himself a drink.
"No, I'm fine thank you, but what is this about sir?" she asked again. She was sure that she had done everything he expected to the book, and if she had missed anything at all, surely he would follow the proper procedure and let HR handle any enquiries. In fact, he had never appeared so casual and so completely strange all at once. Mr Dunne was always in control, the epitome of sheer class and caliber. Something serious must be on his mind. And she had a sinking feeling it somehow involved her. And that she might possibly find it unpleasant.
With his back turned against her, she took a moment to admire him; it was what every woman in the entire building did when he wasn’t watching. His jacket, vest and tie had been discarded on the leather sofa against the wall, and he had rolled his sleeves up. He had thick, sinewy forearms, which were certainly not built from hours of pencil pushing and corporate meetings. He worked out, once again, no secret. Come to think of it, she knew almost every detail of his life, from his favorite coffee to his preferred restaurant. She knew he had his own private gym and he had his own personal trainer. On that level, he was an open book.
She worried her lip as he turned around, and feigned absolute patience as she waited for him to tell her what this was all about.
"You know about the deal with Pryor?" he said walking slowly past her as he rounded the desk.
"He's the one you want to buy the property from in Midtown," she responded and re-crossed her legs.
"That's right. He's shown additional interest in becoming an investor with us."
She was excited for him, but not quite sure where the whole cloak and dagger routine was headed. If he wanted a scheduled meeting with Pryor or whatever else, he could easily have asked her to do it in the morning. It wasn't that she didn't take her work seriously but she had a life, and that was in her one bedroom apartment, with her cat Ratchet having a love affair with her favorite TV series. Her workday was over and she couldn't wait to go home and kick her shoes off.
"It is. I'm having him over to my house for dinner to discuss the deal.” He paused, swirling the rich amber liquid around his glass.
She shifted in the chair and set her purse down, "Do you want me to schedule it? Get in contact with him? Send a car over?"
"No, none of that, I actually have a favor to ask you. You see Jennifer... there’s no easy way to say this…”
"What is it?" she asked, mulling over his very strange behavior.
"Well, I invited Mr Pryor for dinner on Friday, to talk about the deal and to introduce him to my fiancée."
He was engaged?! That morsel of information was a surprise. And somewhat deflating, though Jennifer cared not to examine that feeling right now. He never mentioned his fiancée in all her time working as his PA and now out of the blue, he was going to host a dinner and introduce her to a business partner. She clearly underestimated him; he wasn’t just a drab of a boss married to his work. He had a heart. She couldn’t wait to tell the others and watch their hopes and dreams shatter into a billion pieces.
She looked at him curiously and tilted her head, "I’m sorry Mr Dunn, but how does this involve me, do you need me to send a car for her?"
“That’s just the problem,” he said and tossed his drink back.
“I’m confused, you’re hosting a dinner and your fiancée will be attending, how is that a problem? And what is it that you need me to do exactly?”
"There is no fiancée," he said and dropped down on his chair, extending his hands behind his head, “There never was.”
Confused hardly covered it. He had no fiancée. This baffled the shit out of her, if he had no fiancée why then make arrangements like that?
"Then who is hosting the dinner with you? You want me to call Pyor and cancel it, or postpone at least?" she asked curiously.
"I’m hoping that it would not come to that, which is where you come in. What I want Jennifer, is for you to host the dinner with me."
Jennifer sat for a moment, searching his face for any mirth. There was none. If anything, the deadpan expression masking his face showed just how serious he was. His stormy blue eyes were filled with an electric charge capable of lighting up New York City. Jennifer panicked, suddenly realizing he was serious. His usually impeccably styled black hair was tousled like he'd been stuck in the ventilation system.
"Excuse me?" she asked tentatively as she clutched her purse in her hands, certain that she had cracked her cellphone screen. But wanting to clarify what he was implying before she jumped to the obviously ridiculous conclusion her brain was insisting on.
He leaned forward, and steepled his fingers together, "I want to introduce you as my fiancée.”
If it wasn’t for the serious expression on his face, she would have burst out laughing. It was an absolute outrageous idea, one that was clearly not well thought through.
"With all due respect sir..." she started.
"I know it’s a tall order, but..."
Jennifer huffed, “No, a tall order is expecting a republican to marry a democrat, or sending an inexperienced journalist to a war-torn country. What you’re asking is completely absurd and inappropriate,” she ranted.
She was beyond counting her words and running them through a filter in her mind. What he was asking her was to lie and cheat.
"I know it's a lot to ask…" he started and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It's not a lot, it's completely wild. It's crazy. You are asking me to lie, and no matter what the reason, it’s unjust and dishonorable,” she said angrily.
"I’m willing to pay you to pretend to be my fiancée for one night," he said without pausing for a breath.
He was simply relentless.
"That doesn't make it better. ‘Hey Jennifer, I need you to pretend to be my fiancée so this rich man can like me', was the absolute last thing I expected to be asked today!" she exclaimed.
Justin held back a laugh because she had deepened her voice mockingly to go with her imitation of him. Those hazel eyes sparked with fire and she was clearly upset.
"What kind of woman do you think I am?" she asked, a pink- tinted blush washing over her cheeks.
"You’re clearly misunderstanding the whole objective,” he said calmly.
"There are women out there, who are professionals at this kind of thing, women who you can pay to accompany…"
He cut in, "I'm not hiring a prostitute Jennifer. You think I didn't consider all of my options before coming to you? My intentions were not to embarrass you but I’m asking you a favor as your employer. I need your help. Please."
He was officially begging, something he never thought he would be reduce to.
"Don't you have an ex or a friend or someone else who could help you out?"
"None that wouldn't use something like this against me. They will all have their own agendas and I need this to be completely discreet. We already work together and we are comfortable around each other, you know almost everything about me, and I wouldn't ask you if I thought you couldn't handle it."
He saw the cogs in her brain turning as she mulled over his proposal, and he mentally crossed his fingers, hoping that she would agree. He was expecting far more from her than any employer should, but he had his balls in a twist and if he didn’t show up with a fiancée, the deal would be grounded.
She sighed and rubbed her forehead as she stood up and paced the floor, “So what does it all entail?”
"You need to simply play the part of my fiancée for a while. We'll host a dinner and stay together until the deal with Pryor is signed, sealed and delivered,” he stated as he tucked his hands in his pockets.
"What do you mean by “a while”? A week, two, or three?”
"I can't say for sure... a few months at the very least until we can break-up and call off the engagement."
"Will you let me get back to you in the morning?" she asked wearily.
"Sure, take some time and sleep on it,” he said and walked over to her laying his hand gently on her arm, “I swear to you that this was a bitter pill for me to swallow, in asking you to do this, and if I had another way out, I would have taken it.”
“I have to get home,” she sighed and shrugged away from him, picked up her purse and marched out the door.
Justin dragged his hands through his hair and cursed under his breath. He hated what he had become, but Pryor surprised him with his terms, and by that time things were already too far along to turn back. He could only hope that Jennifer would agree to help him.
By the time Jennifer’s alarm screeched, waking up the entire apartment block, she was still laying in bed staring at the ceiling. Sleep evaded her all night, as she tried to figure out what to do. Worst of all was that she had always liked him; of course, she never showed it. Keeping her work and her personal relationships separate was a rule she lived by ever since she started climbing the corporate ladder. She made the mistake to fall for a senior member of a firm she worked for right out of college once before and it had cost her, not only her job, but her virtue. It took her a long time to finally forgive herself for being so naïve and stupid and she vowed never to fall in that trap again. And the fact that she secretly admired Justin was her own best kept secret. What woman wouldn’t hope for him to notice her?
Justin's target was Eugene Pryor who would only have to see them and buy their act for a night. While that was easy enough, the lack of evidence of them truly being together might make Pryor suspicious. If it was Justin's character he was trying to weigh, he would be looking out for articles about him in the news and tabloids. And if she was going to pretend to be his fiancée, it would mean that every person in the office would have to assume and believe they are together, when it’s all just a big lie.
She could probably pull it off since she so often fantasized about it, but that was then and this is now. Reality stared her in the face like a big bad wolf waiting to devour her, all she needed was a cape and to change her name to Lil Red.
What about his parents, would they be part of the ruse too? And even worse, what about her parents? She thought slightly panicked. She was going to have to either tell her mom and dad what’s really going on so that they didn’t get their hopes up, or pretend all the way.
Giving up on sleep, she got up and let in some bath water, maybe if she relaxed a little she could feel better about the decision she was about to make. She finally slid down into the warm water blocking out any sounds, if only she could get lost in the silence, but her mind was racing. Should she say yes?
She didn't know the answer to the question after her bath, after getting dressed, or after her coffee. She didn't know it after brushing her teeth and she still didn't know the answer when her phone buzzed suddenly, snapping her out of her reverie. She frowned, wondering who on earth would be contacting her that early.
"We're downstairs. Hurry down. I'll give you a ride." Justin hung up without allowing her to say anything else. She sighed. When he said he'd give her till that morning, he really meant that morning. She trudged down the stairs, her fingers trembling and her stomach felt like it was doing back flips on a trampoline. As she reached to open the door she paused, took a deep breath, and plastered on a fake smile. Outside, in front of her apartment was the hearse that will take her to her own personal funeral. Without a word, she slid into the Bentley beside her boss. He was pristinely dressed as usual, in his Armani suit and tie, and the car was filled with his masculine scent, a mixture of sandalwood and leather. Whatever you do, do not breathe, she warned herself and parted her lips. If she breathed through her mouth, she had no need to inhale his scent and she could actually think clearly. She hoped.
"Morning," he said with a smile that reached his eyes and caught her off guard.
“Morning Mr Dunne,” she attempted with her professional voice.
“Did you have time to think about my proposal?”
He said it as if he had asked her to marry him, if only it was that, but it was nothing but a business deal, and she felt as if she was on auction.
"I did," she said. Looking at him from under her lashes, "But I didn’t expect you to arrive at my apartment, it could have waited till I was at work.”
He chuckled and tapped on the front seat for the driver to get going.
"Perhaps, but I figured the sooner I know your answer, the better," he said and sunk back into the comfort of the seat, not once taking his eyes off her.
"Did you ever once consider that I may be unavailable on account of having a partner?" she said blankly as she stared out the window at the passing scenery.
"If you were, which you’re not, I would have made alternative arrangements,” he said.
She whipped her head around to look at him, "How would you know I am not involved?” she said, crossing her arms. "Have you been spying on me?”
"I wouldn’t call it spying, but truly, you work till late every day, and you’re always the first one at the office, you have picture of your cat on your desk, if you were involved, I would love to meet the lucky man willing to put up with a workaholic. It’s called being observant.”
What an arrogant ass, she thought and rolled her eyes.
"This is a terrible idea," she said, diverting her gaze to the outside world again.
“Is that a yes?” he asked.
She didn’t respond; for a moment, she contemplated her options and weighed the pros and cons. Doing this will change the dynamic of their working relationship completely.
"Look I'm sorry," he started, "I'm sorry about the way I've gone about this thus far. I should have been more considerate as to how this will impact your life, but I need your help Jennifer. I'm a desperate man with a lot at stake."
"At any given time, there are tons of interns working in various departments at your company. You could have picked any one of them,” she rubbed her hand down over her face.
"No," he shook his head, "I wanted you, you are smart, you can think on your feet and I’m confident that you are the only one who would be able to deliver a believable performance. I'm not going to trust any old wet-behind-the-ears intern with my future.”
Many people were rich. Jennifer knew this. Justin Dunne was not rich. He was wealthy. His riches had levels. From liquid cash, to assets, property, companies, the list went on. Whereas some were born with silver spoons in their mouths, Justin's spoon had been solid gold and diamond encrusted. Having a man that rich and powerful at her mercy should have given her more perverse pleasure but it didn't. She felt almost sorry for him. He was reduced to desperate measures.
"There have to be rules," she said, leaning back into her seat.
"Of course there will be, I have an agreement drawn up, which we both will sign once we agree on the terms.”
He left no rocks unturned, she realized, but if she was going to do this, she was going to make sure her terms were also met.
"Firstly, I don't want your money, I’m not a prostitute. I’m already on your payroll, that’s enough as is," she started.
"Fair enough, but extra money will come in handy."
She ignored that statement and continued, "I won't have sex with you," she said. "We need to look like a couple in public but behind closed doors nothing happens.”
Justin laughed at that and she scowled, “I’m serious, I’m not a whore."
“I had no intentions of getting physical with you, so trust me, your virtue will remain intact.” That stung a bit, he didn’t have to act like she had the plague. Maybe he didn’t find her attractive?
"I don't want this to get in the way of our working relationship…”
"I am going to be having someone else do your duties while this is going on," he interrupted and held up his hand.
“Excuse me? Then what happens when this is all over?”
“You’ll pick up where you left off; I’ll get a temp to take over from you for the time being. I can’t have my fiancée working like a normal employee.”
"And when it's over I get my job back? If this arrangement is going to cost me my bread and butter, I refuse to accept."
"Like I said, your job is safe. You can start again as soon as this is over."
How would she ever face the other staff when she returned? Everyone would be under the impression that they were an item, and if she just waltzed in and took over again, it will raise a few brows. Or worse, they would think Justin dumped her and that’s why she was back at work. She mentally groaned at the potential pitying looks that would be coming her way. But that was a bridge she would cross when she got there. There was always the slightest chance that she could find another job and eventually leave for good.
"Do you have any rules?" she asked.
Justin shifted in his seat and turned to look at her. She was paler than usual, and his gut twisted slightly, but in the long run he knew it will all work out.
"A few, firstly we have to stay in the same house. Same house... not the same bed," he said, seeing her eyes widen. "It gives more credibility to the relationship."
"Makes sense, what else?"
"You can't be involved with anyone else romantically during the time that we are together, I'm sure you can imagine why," he said.
She nodded, “Obviously.”
"One more thing, you have to wear a ring."
She raised her brows and rolled her eyes, “Seriously I don’t think wearing a ring or not would make any difference.”
“Of course it would, what man in his right mind would have a fiancée who doesn’t wear a ring? It’s like a promise of commitment or whatever you want to call it. The first thing anyone looks at is the ring when you tell them you’re engaged.”
She was modest, and he liked that about her. In all the time he got to know her, working with her, she was never one for flashy outfits and daily trips to a hair salon or a spa. Unlike the women he had dated in the past, all of which were always out to wear the most expensive outfits, drive the flashiest cars and owned shoes that would make Prada look like an outback retail store.
"Well in that case I have no problem switching fingers,” she said as she pried her birthstone ring from her right ring finger and put it on her left. It was a cute little piece of jewelry, with a small stone stacked on a band that looked like twined silver, the stone could pass as a diamond to the naked eye, but it was not what he had in mind.
“No sweetheart, that won’t do,” he leaned over and instructed his driver to take a detour to Harry Winston’s. If he was going to make this work, it was going to have to include all the bells and whistles.
Jennifer had never had any reason before to venture into Harry Winston. She knew that it was a jewelry shop but that was about it. And now she was standing, hand-in-hand with her boss looking at rings. He had looked over four, five, six karat stones asking her opinion on all of them. Only the commitment of her highest level acting skills had kept her from exclaiming loudly that he would be out of his mind to purchase one of those. It was a complete waste of money considering the fact that she’ll only wear it for a few months.
She tried her hardest to remain the calm and serene fiancée as they looked over rings that were more expensive than several years of her salary. She pulled out her best loving gazes and delighted faces in the shop, disguising her real feelings of utter shock.
After finally deciding on a ring that he wanted, and she simply agreeing with, they made their way out of the store. She felt fake, used and excited all at the same time. The kaleidoscope of emotions that flooded her was almost too much.
"Could you not have taken one of the less extravagant rings? Trying to impress people with material things is just a show boat.”
"Jennifer, please. The ring is nothing. I want to buy one. I’ll send for it to be collected as soon as it’s been resized and then we can make it official,” he said as he opened the door for her.
Jennifer slumped back in her seat and sighed. The words ‘make it official’ rang like loud church bells in her mind and she felt a headache slowly creeping up on her. When this is all over she’ll probably be tainted beyond repair, and if she does eventually meet someone, the lie will roll over and over and over. She would always be known as the one who was once engaged. She rubbed the back of her neck and forced herself to calm down. She can do this, she told herself and from somewhere deep down she found the courage to raise her chin and take on the challenge.
"Just by the way… not to rain on your parade or anything, the ring is beautiful and you have great taste but I think a family heirloom engagement ring would impress your future wife a lot more, just saying."
"Oh really?" he asked, amused.
"It’s much more sentimental, so if you ever do decide to propose for real, consider that as a winner.”
"My mother would sooner eat herself than part with Gran’s old jewelry," he said lightly.
"Your parents are still happily married?" she asked curiously. She knew Justin well enough but he had never made any mention of his parents.
"Yes, they will want to talk to you by the way. My mother would never forgive me if she heard about this in the news before we told her."
Great! She thought as she mentally constructed a list of things to conclude to make this work.
1.Tell the parents
2.Tell the news
3.Tell the employees
4.Pretend ALL the time
5.Sign the deal
6.Break off the engagement
She was sure that the list was going to grow sooner or later, but for now, those were the points she collected.
"Are they going to get the public or private version of the story?" Jennifer asked.
"I don't know yet," he admitted. "Your parents will probably want to know as well. Do they live in the city?"
"No. I moved here on my own. My mother and stepfather live in North Carolina."
"I didn't know you were from the South."
Jennifer burst out laughing and shook her head, what they knew about each other was minimal, she knew how he liked his coffee, what color ties he preferred, how he liked his eggs and steak. But those were minor details anyone could pick up on in one day. There was a lot more they had to learn about each other in order to look like the ideal couple.
"If you want people to believe we are about to get married there's a number of questions about me you have to be able to answer. I can type them up and send them to you to read at your leisure," she said and shrugged.
Justin chuckled, "That won't be necessary. We have today and tomorrow to get to know each other better. I'm not completely clueless."
"Yeah?" Jennifer sat up. "What's my middle name?"
"Mae. What's mine?" he laughed.
"Franklin. When is my birthday?"
"November 18th. When is mine?"
"Close, it’s November 16th. Yours is December 31st.”
Surprised that he was one step ahead of her, she laughed, "Okay then, so how did we fall in love?"
He looked at her, and smirked, “In my office, you dropped a pencil and bent to pick it up, and I liked what I saw.”
This time Jennifer couldn’t help herself, the mental image of her bent over and him staring at her backside was almost too funny to even consider.
"God no, we’ll have to come up with something random and corny. I suppose while working together, we were simply on the same wavelength and it was only a matter of time before you realized you couldn’t live without me,” she said and smirked.
"Or…” he started, “Your coffee was too good to resist, and you won me over with a cup and a donut?”
“Lame,” she giggled. "Okay, we can come up with something later. Why is this first that anybody is going to hear of me?"
He looked thoughtful at that. "So how did you end up here in the city?" he asked.
"I needed a break from home life. I was taking care of my father and going through the process of moving him into assisted living, and after that I figured it was time to start afresh."
"I’m sorry to hear that, it must have been hard to put him in a home,” he said and rested his hand on hers.
She didn’t pull away; his touch was gentle and he showed genuine sympathy. She looked down at their hands for a second then smiled softly.
"He has dementia. I go and see him every weekend I can, but most of the time he hardly knows who I am," she said.
"I'm sorry. I can't imagine how difficult that is for you," he said again.
"Don't worry about it," she said dismissively. "Where are we going?"
"I’m taking you home, so that you can settle in.”
“But I have work to finish and hand over to the temp,” she said nervously.
It was all happening too fast, first a yes, then a ring, now she’s moving in, all in one day.
“That’s all taken care of, we need to get the ball rolling, the dinner is Friday evening, and by then we need it all set up.”
"I don't have any of my things," she protested.
"Use the rest of the day to buy new things. Ryan will take you where you need to go."
"Don't be ridiculous. Just drop me off at home so I can pack."
"Jennifer, I'm offering. I'll cover the costs. Buy whatever you want."
"What's wrong with the clothes I wear?" she asked irritably.
Surely he wasn’t going to expect her to transform completely? she still had the right to cling to who she really was. Pretences aside, she was still Jennifer.
"Nothing…" he started.
"Then let me go home, I know where you live. I'll be there by this afternoon.”
"There is nothing in your house that you can't purchase something new of."
Seriously! Why was he so demanding and so impatient? It would take her an hour at most to pack, and at least that way she will have the last few minutes of her freedom without him hovering.
"I have to tell my landlord I am going to be away. I have to turn the refrigerator off. I have to organize for my mail to be delivered to a different address. I have things I need to take care of before moving anywhere, and don't tell me that you can hire people to do them for me."
Justin closed his eyes and sighed and Jennifer smiled inwardly. He was not going to run her life for her.
"Five o'clock. Be at my house by five o'clock," he said tersely. "We have a date."
* * *
Four-thirty, and Jennifer stood in front of the elevator in the upper-class apartment block. She had always known where Justin lived but she had never been here herself. She had packed modestly, figuring she would be able to go back to her apartment if she really needed to. Besides, Justin's offer to buy what she wanted was always an option. Since he was hell bent on turning her life upside down, maybe she should take advantage of some of his money after all.
She shook her head thinking about the argument they had had. She didn't want to take clothes from him; the ring was already too much. She didn't want him to turn her into the kind of Fifth Avenue princess that he would ideally be suited to. That was not part of the deal. Pressing the 'PH' button in the elevator gave her a slight rush. What did the penthouse apartment of a billionaire look like on the inside? What would Justin look like when he wasn’t dressed up in his suit and tie?
The elevator pinged as she reached the penthouse level and the door swooshed open, leading into a short corridor, with only one door ahead of her. She felt intimidated by the grandeur of it all. She raised her hand to knock, but it hit air as the door swung open.
“Your impeccable time management is commendable,” he said as he stepped aside for her to enter.
He was dressed in faded jeans and a black V-neck T, wearing no shoes. His hair was still wet, which meant he had time to shower. Jennifer took a steadying breath and inhaled his fresh scent as she passed him and her stomach flipped. Why did he have to be so good looking, why couldn’t he just have been an average guy that didn’t look like he belonged on some Men’s magazine cover, she thought as she placed her luggage on the floor.
Being that high in the air meant he had no use for curtains. That further meant that natural light suffused the open, comfortable space of his home. His furnishings were surprisingly light, from the pine laminate floors, to the white of the walls and the upholstery of various creams and off whites. The living space was so big the von Trapp family could have comfortably called it home. It was bigger than a bachelor would have any use for.
“Glad you made it on time, let me show you your room,” he said and picked up her suitcase.
She nearly freaked out when she noticed one of her bra’s hanging out on the side; it was a black lacy bra. One thing she was always pedantic about was wearing comfortable but classy underwear. Her mom always used to insist that a woman’s underwear was her pride.
“Uh… let me get that,” she said and reached for her suitcase, but Justin smirked and pulled it out of her reach.
“I’ve got it,” he said and turned left out of the living room into the corridor, “This is my room,” he said pointing to the door on the left, “This is my study, where you’ll find me most of the time when I’m home, and this,” he said, “is your room.”
Her room was a door down from his, which made her feel awkward but she tucked her emotions away. The room was beautiful, it looked like the rest of the place, perfect for a décor magazine, and in fact she’s almost sure she’s seen it before in a spread. The bed was queen sized, and the bedding was snow white, with embroidered leaves. She was almost too scared to sit on it in case she wrinkled it. At least the bedroom had curtains, which matched the linen. Other than a massive flat screen television that was mounted to the wall the walls were bare.
“This room is beautiful,” she said smiling as she ran her fingers along the smooth surface of the dressing table.
“Thank you,” he said and gestured to the door on the left, “That’s your bathroom, fully fitted with a bath and a shower.”
Jennifer glanced into the bathroom and it literally took her breath away. Gleaming granite tops lined the one side of the bathroom; in the middle was a Jacuzzi sized tub. The shower had no walls or glass; it was an open shower with a decorative tiled floor. Against the wall was an electronic panel where you could regulate the temperature and dispense soap, shampoo and conditioner. White towels were neatly stacked on an open shelf.
She stepped back into the room and smiled awkwardly, it felt as if her cheeks were jumping and she bit the inside of her lip. She had never ever been in such a grand place, not even when she stayed in the Hilton Hotel back when she visited Durban, in South Africa just after she finished college.
Justin looked at her curiously and then opened the closet door, “I’ve have taken the liberty of getting you an evening dress for dinner.”
Jennifer looked at the champagne colored dress. She looked at the tag and smiled, he had been smart enough not to leave the price on it, but he definitely knew her dress size. The name 'Elie Saab' didn't mean too much to her but she knew it meant the dress was foreign-made and expensive.
“You really didn’t have to go through all of this,” she said and closed the closet door, “I have clothes.”
“I know, but I thought I’d treat you to a new dress.”
Jennifer bit back a sneer. It’s already starting, Justin wasn’t happy with an average looking plane ol’Jane, and he was slowly going to try and transform her to fit into his glamorous life. It was something she was going to have to accept, and at least it would only be for a few months. Before she knew it, she would be back in her apartment with her cat Ratchet. At least she was able to get her neighbor to babysit Ratchet while she was pretending to be Miss Priss, and she had promised to visit him daily if possible.
“I’ll let you get ready,” he said and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.
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