Fake Marriage with the CEO(4)

By: Amanda Horton

“Don’t say that!” Lexi was on her feet immediately. “You’re being unfair to yourself thinking that way.”

“I’m a realist,” Miranda shot back. “And I’m sick of being hurt.”

Lexi hesitated. “I worry about you, Miranda. I just want you to be happy.”

Miranda nodded. Lexi’s willingness to go above and beyond the role of assistant was what got her the job. She was never too busy to help the other staff or give advice. Miranda took a deep breath and found a smile. “I know. I’m such a loser. I think it’s time I focused on the true love of my life — the one I know will never let me down.”

“True love?” Lexi blinked.

Miranda took a deep breath, and squared her shoulders. “Cooking. It’s never disappointed me. If a recipe doesn’t work, I can throw it away or tweak it until it comes up perfect. You can’t do that with people, certainly not with men.”

Lexi stared at her boss in silence. Then her mouth twitched. “Is that why I saw you sweet talking the mesclun yesterday? And when you tasted the Pasta Primavera, I swear you did a jig — or was that a waltz?”

“I did no such thing,” Miranda protested, then saw the mischievous look on the girl’s face. “Lexi!”

She roared with laughter. “Honestly, the chef has a beef to settle with you. I told him the guests can tell if you did the preparation or if he did. They say yours tastes better.”

“It’s the same recipe, I swear.” Miranda blinked as she realized something. “That’s what I mean. It’s my heart and soul that they taste. I can always trust my cooking never to let me down — unlike men.”

“Yeah, but you can’t cuddle a plate of pasta.”

“But pasta doesn’t dump you for having a shitty past,” Miranda retorted. She headed for her desk, coming to a sudden halt. “I almost forgot. I found the most perfect spot for my catering business. I swear, it’s ideal. It has a kitchen at the back, and it’s huge! I can actually combine the soup kitchen idea with the business I’ve always dreamed about.”

“Great!” Lexi welcomed the change of subject enthusiastically. “When do you see this grand scheme taking place?”

“The owner messaged and said the lease was mine anytime I had the deposit.” Miranda’s shoulders sank, as Kyle’s parting taunt came back to her. “But the bank will release funds only if I come up with a guarantor.”

“No problem then,” Lexi nodded. “You can always ask Noelle to be your guarantor. What bank will say no to a Senator’s wife? You’ll have the funds tomorrow.”

Miranda shook her head. “I can’t. They’ve done so much for me already.”

Lexi clapped her hands together. “Talk to Hawkins Pharmaceuticals. They’re already doing work in that field. They’ve got a community outreach program dealing with the homeless. They cure the sick. You feed the poor. It’s a match made in heaven.”

Miranda hesitated. “I don’t know. A huge company like that? They’ll probably just shuffle me off to PR. I prefer talking to someone who understands.”

“At least give it a try.”

Miranda shrugged. “I'll think about it while I’m at the Center.” She volunteered three times a week at a homeless center, a commitment she’d kept up even while running NOELLE’S. “You can manage while I’m gone, right?”

“Sure.” Lexi deadpanned. “Just so you know, I can take over your job anytime you want.”

Miranda laughed. “Right. But you have to go through Noelle to get that chair.”

Lexi pantomimed a face palm. “Way to crush my dreams, boss.”

“C’mon, let's go check the prep area and torture the chef.” Miranda grinned. “You can be the mesclun whisperer and I’ll seduce the pasta.”

Chapter Two

Wolfe Hawkins stood at the window of the conference room, watching as the department heads of The Hawkins Pharmaceutical Company filed into the meeting. Behind him, the skyscrapers of New York rose like a steel and glass jungle, competing to catch the eye.

Usually, the view gave Wolfe a feeling of immense satisfaction. From the lofty heights of Hawkins Pharmaceutical’s office, located on the penthouse floor of the intimidating Hawkins Tower, he looked down on the surrounding buildings. The windows’ triple-glazed facade was so clear that looking out felt like watching a high-definition movie screen. Outside, the glass held up the blue sky and the New York panorama like a mirror, giving away no clue about the building’s interior.

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