Bought by Her Italian Boss(5)

By: Dani Collins

The way Vittorio Donatelli continued to emanate hostility made her want to crawl into a hole and die.

“How long have you been with the company?” Nadine asked.

“Two years in Charleston, four months here,” Gwyn said, trying to recall how much room her credit card balance had for plane fare and setting up house back in Charleston. Not enough.

“Two years,” Nadine snorted, adding an askance. “How did you earn a promotion like this after only that short a time?” Her gaze skimmed down Gwyn’s figure, clearly implying that Gwyn had slept her way into the position. Night school and language classes and putting in overtime counted for nothing, apparently.

Fabrizio didn’t defend her, despite signing off on her transfer and giving her a glowing review after her first three months.

Vittorio’s expression was an inscrutable mask. Was he thinking the same thing?

A disbelieving sob escaped her and she hugged herself, trying to stay this side of manic.

While Vittorio brought his own phone from his pants pocket and with a sweep and tap connected to someone. “Bruno? Vito. I need you in Nadine Billaud’s office. Bring some of your men.”

“For my walk of shame?” Gwyn presumed. Here came the tears, welling up like a tsunami with a mile of volume behind it. Her voice cracked. “Don’t worry. I plan to leave quickly and quietly. I can’t wait to not work here anymore.”

“You’ll stay right here until I tell you to leave.” His tone was implacable, making her heart sink in her hollow chest while another part of her rose in defiance, wanting to fight and rail and physically tear at him to get out of here. She was the quintessential wounded animal that needed to bolt from danger to its cave.

To Nadine, he added, “Confirm the photos belong to one of our employees. For privacy and legal reasons we have no other comment. Ask the reporters to disperse and enlist the lobby guards to help. Issue a similar statement to all employees. Add a warning that they risk termination if they speak to the press or are observed viewing the photos on corporate equipment or company grounds. Oscar, I need a full report on how these photos came to your attention.”

“Signor Jensen contacted me this morning—”

“Not here.” Vittorio moved to the door as a knock sounded. “In your office. Wait here,” he said over his shoulder to Gwyn, like she was a dog to be left at home while he went to work. He urged the other two from the room and pulled the door closed behind the three of them.

“Yeah, right,” Gwyn rasped into the silence of Nadine’s empty office, hugging herself so tightly she was suffocating.

A twisting, writhing pain moved in her like a snake, coiling around her organs to squeeze her heart and lungs, tightening her stomach and closing her throat. She covered her face, trying to hide from the terrible reality that everyone—everyone in the world—was not only staring at her naked body, but believing that she had had sex with a married man.

She could live with people staring at her body. Almost. They did it, anyway. But she was a good person. She didn’t lie or steal or come on to men, especially married ones! She was conservative in the way she lived her life, saving her craziest impulses for things like her career where she did wildly ambitious things like sign up for Mastering Spreadsheets tutorials in hopes of moving up the ladder.

The pressure in her cheekbones and nose and under her eyes became unbearable. She tried to press it back with the flats of her hands, but a moan of anguish was building from the middle of her chest. A sob bounced like a hard pinball, bashing against her inner walls, moving up from her breastbone into her throat.

She couldn’t break down, she reminded herself. Not here. Not yet. She had to get out of this place and the sooner the better. It was going to be awful. A nightmare, but she would do it, head high and under her own steam.

Gritting her teeth, she reached for the door and started to open it.

A burly man wearing a suit and a short, neat haircut was standing with his back to the door. Guarding her? He grabbed the doorknob, keeping her from pulling it open. His body angled enough she could see he also wore some kind of clear plastic earpiece. His glance at her was both indifferent and implacable.

“Attendere qui, per favore.” Wait here, please.

She was so shocked, she let him pull the door from her lax grip and close her into Nadine’s office again.

Actually, it slipped freely from her clammy hand. The room began to feel very claustrophobic. She moved to the window again, seeing the crowd of reporters had grown. She couldn’t tell if Nadine was addressing them. She could hardly see. Her vision was blurring. She sniffed, feeling the weight of all that had happened so deeply she had to move to the nearest chair and sink into it.

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