Bought by Her Italian Boss(4)

By: Dani Collins

Gwyn had forgotten she was holding it, but she always grabbed it out of habit when she left her desk, and had switched it to silent as she came into this meeting. Now she stared at it, surprised to see it there. At least she could say with confidence, “No. They’re not.”

“You’ll let me confirm that?” He held out his hand.

On the surface it was a very reasonable request, but, oh, dear Lord, no. She had something on here that was beyond embarrassing. It would make this situation so much worse... So much worse.

She knew her face was falling into lines of panicked guilt, but couldn’t help it.

His nostrils flared and his jaw hardened. The death rays coming out of his eyes told her she’d be lucky to merely lose her job.

“This phone is mine,” she stammered, trying not to let him intimidate her. If she hadn’t already been violated, she might not have been so vehement, but he was going to have to knock her out cold to pry this thing out of her hand if he wanted access. “I get an allowance to offset my using it for company business, but it’s mine. You don’t have any right to look at it.”

“Can it clear you of suspicion or not?” His gaze delved into her culpable one.

She couldn’t hide the turmoil and resentment coursing through her at being put on the spot. “My privacy has been invaded enough.”

She was naked. On the internet. She supposed everyone in the building was staring at her image right now. Men saying filthy, suggestive things. Women judging whether her stomach was flat enough, saying she had cellulite, calling her too bony or too tall or too something so they could feel better about their own body issues.

Gwyn wanted to hang her head and sob.

All she could think was how hard she’d worked not to be pushed around by life the way her mother had been. At every stage, she’d tried to be self-reliant, autonomous, control her future.

Breathe, she commanded herself. Don’t think about it. She would fall apart. She really would.

“I think we have our answer,” Fabrizio said pitilessly.

She was starting to hate that man. Gwyn wasn’t the type to hate. She did her best to get along with everyone. She was a happy person, always believing that life was too short for drama and conflict. Being the first to apologize made her the bigger person, she had always thought, but she doubted she would ever forgive these people for how they were treating her right now.

A muted buzz sounded and Nadine looked at her own phone. “The press is gathering. We need to make a statement.”

The press? Gwyn circled around Fabrizio to the window and looked down.

Nadine’s office was midway up the tower, but the crowd at the entrance, and the cameras they held, were like ants pouring out of a disturbed hill. It was as bad as a royal birth down there.

She swallowed, stomach turning again.

Kevin Jensen was an icon, a modern day, international superhero who flew into disaster aftermath to offer “feet on the ground” assistance. Anyone with half a brain saw that he exploited heart-wrenching situations on camera to increase donations and boost his own profile, but the bottom line was he showed up to terrible tragedies and brought aid. He did real, necessary work for the devastated.

But lately Gwyn had been questioning how he spent some of those abundant donations.

Had this been his answer? A massive discrediting that would get her fired?

She hugged herself. This sort of thing didn’t happen to real people. Did it?

Her gaze searched below for an escape route. She couldn’t even leave the building to get to her rented flat here in Milan. How would she get back to America? Even if she got that far, then what? Look to her stepfather to shelter her? Who was going to hire her with this sort of notoriety? Ever?

She’d be exactly what she’d tried so hard to avoid being: a burden. A leach.

Oh, God...oh, God. The walls were beginning to creak and buckle around her composure. The pressure behind her cheekbones built along with weight on her shoulders and upper arms.

Nadine was talking as she typed, “...say that the bank was unaware of this personal relationship and the employee has been terminated—”

“Our client has stated that the photos were not invited,” Fabrizio interjected.

Gwyn spun around. “And your employee states that she’s been targeted by a peeping tom and an online porn peddler and a vengeful wife.”

Nadine paused only long enough to send her a stern look. “I strongly advise you not to speak to the press.”

“I strongly advise you that I will be speaking to a lawyer.” It was an empty threat. Her savings were very modest. Very. Much as she would love to believe her stepbrother would help her, she couldn’t count on it. He had his own corporate image to maintain.

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