The Boss's Fake Fiancee

By: Inara Scott

Chapter One

Do not panic!

Melissa Bencher repeated the statement like a mantra, forcing the air in and out of her lungs. She plastered a smile on her face as her miserable, lying, cheating ex-boyfriend approached from across the crowded convention hall.

Do not hyperventilate. Do not faint. Do not vomit on his shoes.

On second thought, the last of those three didn’t sound half bad.

Melissa tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. Waves of remembered humiliation washed over her as she thought about the last time she’d seen him, his pants around his ankles, screwing her best friend.

It wasn’t your fault.

She wanted to believe this, but it was hard when she’d missed all the signs. The late nights at the lab. The secret emails. His new cologne. Things any other woman would have noticed, but she hadn’t wanted to see.

She straightened her skirt, maintaining her smile through sheer force of will. She had known she might run into him here. The robotics and artificial intelligence community was actually rather small, and given that her new boss, Garth Solen, was there to give one of his rare keynote addresses, everyone who was anyone had come out to listen.

Melissa darted a look at the elegant, dark-suited figure sipping from a bottle of water in the AV area beside the stage. Garth was the founder of Solen Labs, a technology company that specialized in building advanced computing systems. Called one of the most brilliant businessmen and inventors of his time, he had built a technology empire in a little over a decade through sheer force of his will, creativity, and intelligence.

That’s what the papers wrote about him. In person, of course, the first thing you noticed wasn’t his mind: it was the sexy curve of his mouth, his broad, rangy shoulders, and thick black hair. Right now, he was clean shaven, but by the end of a long day he would have an astonishingly sexy five o’clock shadow that only seemed to accentuate his piercing gray eyes.

Not that she looked.

Okay, she looked. Some might say she had a crush. Melissa didn’t think so, but if staring at someone’s hands during meetings, finding herself occasionally unable to concentrate after a conversation in the hall, or memorizing the way he took his coffee was a crush, then fine, maybe she had one.

An AV tech stood next to him, showing him to how to adjust a headset. Garth didn’t do podiums. It was remarkable he could work at a computer at all, given the amount of restless energy that constantly surged within him. In meetings, he’d spend half the time pacing around the room. He didn’t slow down and didn’t explain things twice.

It was like working for a tsunami.

Or a tornado.

Except way, way hotter.

Melissa hadn’t expected that when she met him. She’d seen pictures, but they didn’t do him justice. His mouth alone gave her goose bumps… Really, it wasn’t fair that one man could combine sexy and smart in one six-foot package.

Not fair at all.

His only flaw—if one could call it that—was precisely the same thing that made him so intriguing. No one, it seemed, really knew Garth Solen. In the three months she’d worked for him, they’d seen each other almost every day, but she still couldn’t get past his polished exterior. She knew his mind and the way he thought; he bounced ideas off of his employees constantly, challenged them to think beyond their assumptions, and never gave up when it came to making a product better. His ethics were absolute; he refused to take short cuts and was rigid about delivering quality.

But the person behind that? The human, vulnerable part of Garth Solen? He so rarely engaged in normal human rituals—small talk simply wasn’t part of his vocabulary—she couldn’t even guess what movies he liked, or which books lay beside his bed. He didn’t do cocktail parties or social hours. When he came to conferences, he delivered his speeches, answered a few questions, and then left.

Mark stopped a few feet from her. “Melissa, is that you?”

She jerked her gaze away from Garth. Luckily, her unholy fascination with her boss had momentarily distracted her from Mark’s approach, eliminating the need for a paper bag over her head.

“Mark?” She assumed a pleasant, nonchalant tone, though her insides shrank. “Fancy meeting you here.”

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