Home > The Contract (The Contract #1)(6)

The Contract (The Contract #1)(6)
Melanie Moreland

“And the woman?”

“We break up. It happens.”

“Any ideas who the lucky lady is going to be?”

I shook my head. “I’ll figure it out.”

There was a knock and Miss Elliott entered, placing a bagel and fresh coffee on my desk. “Mr. Maxwell, can I get you another cup of coffee?”

He shook his head, smiling at her. “I told you, it’s Brian. Thanks, Katy, but no. I have to get going, and your boss here has a huge project to work on.”

She turned to me, her eyes wide. “Is there something I need to do, Mr. VanRyan? Can I help in some way?”

“Absolutely not. There is nothing I need from you.”

Her cheeks flushed, and her head dropped. She nodded, exiting the office, closing the door behind her.

“God, you’re an ass,” Brian observed. “You’re so rude to her.”

I shrugged, unrepentant.

He rose from his chair, buttoning his jacket. “You need to watch your attitude to have a chance for your plan to work, Richard.” He indicated in the direction of the door. “That pretty girl is the exact sort of person you need to interact with Graham.”

I ignored the pretty remark, gaping at him. “Interact?”

He smirked. “Do you really think he’s going to accept a name and a brief introduction? I told you how involved he is with his staff. If he decides to hire you, he is going to want to meet your lady—more than once.”

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I thought I could get someone I knew to pose for an evening, but Brian was right. I would need to keep up the façade for a while—at least until I proved my worth to Graham.

He hesitated at the door. “I assume Miss Elliott isn’t married.”

“That should be obvious.”

He shook his head. “You’re blind, Richard. Your solution is right in front of you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re a smart man. Figure it out.”

He departed, leaving the door open behind him. I heard him say something that made Miss Elliott laugh, the sound unusual coming from her area. I grabbed my bagel, tearing off a bite with more force than necessary.

What the hell was he suggesting?

A niggling thought began to grow, and I glanced at the door.

He couldn’t be serious.

I groaned, dropping my bagel on my plate, my appetite gone.

He was totally serious.

Fuck my life.

RICHARD

THE NOISE OF THE TREADMILL was a steady hum under my feet as I pounded away. I had hardly slept last night, and my mood was dark. Sweat dripped down my back and face. I picked up my towel and wiped it away roughly, tossing it to the side. My iPod blared with heavy music, and still it wasn’t loud enough, so I turned it up, glad the condo was soundproofed.

I kept going, almost at a frantic pace. I had gone over all my options and plans in the dark of the night, coming up with two ideas.

My first thought had been if Brian and Adrian got me in, I could try to bluff my way through an interview, telling Graham only vague details of the woman who supposedly changed my outlook and therefore, me. If I approached it right, I could manage to keep up a façade until I had proven myself to Graham, then have the unspeakable happen—this perfect woman leaves me. I could play heartbroken, and throw myself into work.

Except from what Brian had explained, my idea probably wouldn’t work.

It meant I needed to produce a physical woman—one who would convince Graham I was a better man than he believed me to be. Someone, as Brian put it, “real, warm, and down-to-earth.”

I didn’t know many women who would fall in those categories, unless they were over sixty. I didn’t think Graham would believe I could fall in love with someone twice my age. None of the women I fraternized with would be able to pass his inspection. I rolled around the idea of hiring someone—an actress perhaps—but that seemed too risky.

Brian’s words kept repeating themselves in my head. “You’re blind, Richard. Your solution is right in front of you.”

Miss Elliott.

He thought I should use Miss Elliott as my girlfriend.

If I took a step back and tried to be objective—he had a point. It was the perfect cover. If Graham thought I was leaving Anderson Inc. because I was in love with my assistant and chose her—and our relationship—over my job there, it would score major points with him. She was unlike any other woman I had ever been with. Brian found her warm, bright, and engaging. Other people seemed to like her. All pluses.

Except, it was Miss Elliott.

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