Bought by Her Italian Boss(10)

By: Dani Collins

“I care as much about the bank as it does about me,” she informed him coldly.

“Please stay seated, Gwyn. We’re lifting off.” He pointed to where the horizon lowered beneath them. “Let’s talk about your photo of me.”

A fresh blush rose hotly from the middle of her chest into her neck. “Let’s not,” she said, squishing herself into her seat and fixing her gaze out the window.

“You’re attracted to me, sì?”

She sealed her lips, silently letting him know he couldn’t make her talk.

Nevertheless, he had her trapped and demonstrated his patience with an unhurried sip of his own drink and a brief glance at the face of his phone.

“You smiled at me one day,” he said absently. “The way a woman does when she is inviting a man to speak to her.”

And he hadn’t bothered to.

“I play a game with a friend back home,” she muttered. “It’s silly. Man Wars. We send each other photos of attractive men. That’s all it was,” she lied. “If it makes you feel objectified, well, you have a glimpse into how I feel right now.”

Her insides were churning like a cement mixer.

“You’re embarrassed by how strong the attraction is,” he deduced after watching her a moment. He sounded amused.

Her stomach cramped with self-consciousness. Could her face get any hotter?

“This releasing of compromising photos is very shrewd,” he said in an abrupt shift. His tone suggested it was an item in political news, not a gross defilement of her personal self. His finger rested across his lips in contemplation.

“Jensen has very cleverly made himself appear a victim,” he said. “The moment we accuse him of wrongdoing, he’ll claim he only took advice from you and Fabrizio. Fabrizio may eventually implicate him, trying to save his own skin, but Jensen has this excellent diversion. He can say you came on to him, maybe that you were working with Fabrizio, that you sent those photos to ruin his marriage. Perhaps they were cooked up by the two of you to blackmail him into skimming funds. Whatever story he comes up with, it will point all the scandal back to you and Fabrizio and the bank.”

“I’m aware that my life is over, thanks,” she bit out.

“Nothing is over,” he said with a cold-blooded smile. “Jensen landed a punch, but I will hit back. Hard. If he and Fabrizio were in fact using you, you must also want to set things straight? You’ll help me make it clear you had zero romantic interest in Jensen.”

“How?” she choked out, wondering what was in his drink that he thought he could accomplish that.

“By going public with our own affair.”

* * *

Gwyn pinched her wrist.

Vittorio noted the movement and his mouth twitched.

She shook her head, instinctively refusing his suggestion while searching for a fresh flash of anger. Outrage was giving her the strength to keep from crying, but his proposition came across as so offhanded and hurtful, so cavalier when she couldn’t deny she was weirdly infatuated with him, it smashed through her defenses and smacked down her confidence.

“I don’t have affairs,” she insisted. She looked out the window at the rust-red rooftops below. The houses below were short, the high-rises in the center of the city gone, green spaces more abundant. They were over outlying areas, well out of Milan. Damn it.

She wanted to magically transport back to Charleston and the room where she had stayed during her mother’s short marriage to Henry. She wanted to go back in time to when her mother was still alive.

“It’s such a pathetically male and sexist response to say that sleeping together would solve anything. To suggest I do it to save my job—no, your job—” She was barely able to speak, stunned, ears ringing. Her eyes and throat burned. “It’s so insulting I don’t have words,” she managed, voice thinning as the worst day of her life grew even uglier.

“Did I say we’d sleep together? You’re projecting. No, I’m saying we must appear to.”

Oh, wonderful. He wasn’t coming on to her. Why did she care either way?

“It would still make it look like I’m sleeping my way to the top,” she muttered, flashing him a glance, but quickly jerking her attention back to the window, not wanting him to see how deeply this jabbed at her deepest insecurities.

From the moment she’d developed earlier than her friends, she’d been struggling to be seen as brains, not breasts. A lot of her adolescent friends had been fair weather, pulling Gwyn into their social circles because she brought boys with her, but eventually becoming annoyed that she got all the male attention and cutting her loose. The workplace had been another trial, learning to cope with sexual harassment and jealousy from her female coworkers, realizing this was one reason why her mother had changed jobs so often.

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