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HIS INVISIBLE WIFE
By SHELIA M. GOSS
URBAN BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Shelia M. Goss
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSleepless nights fueled Brianna Mayfield's desire to avenge the hardships that had fallen upon her father. She had watched Robert Mayfield go from a strong and passionate man to one who barely had enough energy to get out of bed daily. To see him lose hope after being rejected several times for a business loan had torn her up inside. If only he would have received the loan from JB Savings and Loan, their neighborhood bank. It would have been enough for him to keep his store, Mayfield Groceries, open; without it, he hadn't been able to compete with the chain stores. Seeing all his dreams deteriorate in front of her eyes had left a bitter taste in Brianna's mouth.
Brianna fantasized about the day the guilty party would pay retribution. She vowed to make it slow and painful. She wanted to see Jack Banks, the owner of JB Savings and Loan, suffer the way she had watched her father suffer until his death. During her research, she had discovered that his nephew, Jacob Banks, had a thriving business, Banks Telecom, because of funding received from JB Savings and Loan. Destroying Jacob's reputation in the business world would hurt his uncle, so Brianna had put her plan in motion and had gotten a job at Banks Telecom. When old man Banks died before she could fully implement her planto destroy Jacob's company, she had decided to continue on her quest. Getting revenge on his favorite nephew would have to suffice.
Brianna prided herself on her work and usually excelled at whatever she did, whether it was maintaining her straight four-point-zero grade point average in graduate school or handling multimillion-dollar projects. Because of her father, she had majored in business and had become a certified public accountant after taking the exam only once. Her original plan had been to take over her father's store and expand it. Some of her coworkers at Banks Telecom accused her of being antisocial, but she wasn't there to make friends; she was there to get revenge, so she ignored their rants.
"Slow down," one of her coworkers said when Brianna accidentally bumped into two people as she rushed to catch the elevator.
"Got a meeting, and I can't be late," she responded while pushing her hand in between the elevator doors just before they closed.
Brianna pressed the button for the fourteenth floor and waited. Her mind went over what she would say. Normally, when she met with Jacob Banks, there were other people in the room. She hoped the anger festering in her system would subside long enough for her to make it through the one-on-one meeting with the CEO of Banks Telecom.
When her manager had informed her that she had been summoned because of the fiasco with her last project, Brianna had scrambled to get her documentation together. Although she was guilty of setting up another employee by giving him inaccurate data, she refused to be the scapegoat for his mistake. As one of the lead accountants, Brianna had access to confidential company records and was regularly pulled in to work on various outside projects geared toward generating more money for the company.
She had used her position to hurt Jacob Banks internally and had done so without bringing much attention to herself. Brianna had a way of forging numbers and making things look better than what they were. Because of that, she knew it would only be a matter of time before Banks Telecom would face a financial crisis or she would be fired because someone was on to her. As she headed to this meeting with the CEO, she had a feeling she would know soon.
The elevator opened to a plush office filled with soft off-white carpet, and a petite, middle-aged woman sitting behind her desk immediately acknowledged her. "There you are. He's been asking for you," Joan Carlise stated as she escorted Brianna to Jacob's office.
Brianna glanced at her watch. According to it, she still had two minutes to spare. She sighed as the door to his office opened. Jacob stood up immediately and greeted her with a firm handshake. He was over six feet tall. He towered over her by at least five inches even though she wore heels.
"Thank you for coming at such short notice," he said as he motioned for her to sit down in the maroon leather chair.
She watched him walk back behind his long cherrywood desk as she took a seat and crossed her legs. The walls of his office were filled with small-business award plaques from various organizations. Up until the last quarter, Banks Telecom had been growing fast. Now the small company was facing a crisis.
"I know you're wondering why I called you here, so I won't take up too much of your time," he began.
Brianna remained quiet.
He tapped a pen on his desk. It annoyed her, but she tried to ignore it by focusing on his eyes. The twinkle in his gray eyes caused her to shift in her seat. She didn't have the cushion of having other people in the room. She was now face-to-face with Jacob Banks, all by herself. She rubbed her sweaty palms on her skirt.
"Brianna, you've been working for me for how long now?"
"For about a year," she responded.
"You trust me, don't you?"
Brianna looked away for a brief second before looking back into his eyes. "As much as the next man."
His eyebrows shifted. "I'll take that. How would you feel about a raise?"
Startled, because she was expecting a reprimand, she took a few seconds to respond. "I would welcome it with open arms."
"It's yours. I'll have my lawyers draw up the papers. After this year you can retire if you want, because I want to offer you a million-dollar raise."
Brianna looked around for the hidden cameras and then looked over the rim of her glasses. "Mr. Banks, you should have told me we were going to be on TV." She ran her hand through her shoulder-length, straight jet-black hair. "I would have done something else to my hair."
"First of all, call me Jacob. No, call me Jake. All I need for you to do is to agree to be my wife for a year, and the million dollars is yours."
At this point Brianna couldn't control herself. She burst out laughing, because she knew this was a practical joke. This couldn't be real. Here she was, thinking she had been caught forging numbers, and instead, he was offering her a million dollars. "This is ludicrous. As much as I'm flattered by this offer of a raise, why would I take you seriously?"
"I've been watching you for the last few months. You're intelligent, and you're beautiful. What man wouldn't want you by his side?"
"True." Brianna knew she was attractive to most men, but it still didn't answer the million-dollar question. "But the question is, why would you?"
Brianna was confused by the whole ordeal. What in the world would make him ask her, of all people? From what she had observed, he had his pick of women, and she was sure any one of them would love to be Mrs. Banks.
"We would be good together. I've seen you in meetings. You're not afraid to speak your mind. I find that an attractive quality, especially since I have enough yes-men around me."
She folded her arms and leaned back in her chair as Jake tried to plead his case.
"I looked over your personnel file, and it seems we're around the same age. We like some of the same things, from what I've gathered from our brief conversations over the past few months."
Brianna's mind was running a mile a minute. She zoned out on him a few times as she tried to figure out his ulterior motive. She felt there was more to it than he was telling her, and she was determined to find out what it was. She interrupted him. "Let's cut through the bull. I need the real reason."
Jake blinked a few times. His beautiful eyes seemed to pierce her soul. Without blinking, he said, "My late uncle left me no choice."
Why would his uncle want him to marry her? Had he felt some remorse on his deathbed? The fact that Jack Banks had known how much pain he had caused her father made her stomach turn. The ache in Brianna's heart for her dad's last days threatened her sanity. She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind.
This could be the opportunity she had been waiting for. Brianna would have access to millions as his wife. She didn't want to seem too eager, so she pretended to oppose the idea. "I don't mean to sound crude, but Mr. Banks, I mean Jake, you're a nice-looking man, and I'm sure you can find some other willing participant. I'm not available."
"If you're talking about your boyfriend, Charles. I took care of him already."
Brianna uncrossed her legs and sat straight up. "Excuse me?"
"He was more than happy to take the money he was offered and backed down. He'll be calling you later to get his stuff."
"How dare you interfere in my life like this!" she snapped. She didn't know if she was more furious at Jake or Charles, her boyfriend of the last year. If Brianna's brown-sugar complexion had been lighter, Jake would have been able to see how flushed her cheeks were.
The throbbing in her head intensified. First, his uncle had interfered in her father's life, and now Jake thought that because he had a little money, he could interfere in her personal life. She didn't know what to think about Charles. As soon as she got a hold of him, she would tell him a few choice words as well. She clenched her fists. Her nails dug into her palms to the point where she almost screamed.
Jake seemed confident and smug. "Maybe I went about this the wrong way. Let me explain."
She inched to the edge of her seat, and it took all her might not to reach across the desk and slap the smug look off Jake's face. She had to take control of the situation. Brianna stood up and didn't wait for Jake's explanation. She stormed out of the room. His secretary called out to her, but Brianna ignored her. The elevator wasn't coming fast enough, so she took the stairs. Her coworkers curiously eyed her as she stormed to her cubicle.
She blocked out the noise in the office and leaned back in her chair. She hated Jacob Banks more so now than ever. Up until this point, Brianna's revenge had been fueled by Jake's uncle's actions; now Jake had made it about his own actions. All she could think about was how Jake had manipulated his way into her personal life without any remorse. His uncle had wreaked havoc on her life a few years ago. Now Jake was trying to impose himself on her world. Although her siblings, Bridget and Bradford, didn't support her actions, they understood her need for revenge.
Her plans weren't moving as fast as she had hoped. She was a wiz with numbers and manipulated them so much that even when projects for new telecom facilities passed through all the phases, when it came down to implementing them, there was always a glitch.
When Banks Telecom's internal analysts tried to figure out what had gone wrong, they were unable to tie the issues to the false figures. As far as they were concerned, Brianna's figures were correct, and it was mismanagement on the customer's end. She used a few of these failures to plant doubt in stockholders' minds about some of the decisions Jake had been making on behalf of Banks Telecom.
She smiled for the first time since leaving Jake's office at the thought of him being berated by the main stockholders. Her smile soon faded when she saw Charles's number flash on her desk phone's screen. "Damn him," she blurted, hoping no one else heard her outburst.
Brianna opened up her top desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of aspirin. She stuck her tongue out and placed two white pills on it. She cringed as she swallowed the bitter pills without drinking any fluids.
It took a while for the pills to make her headache subside. She couldn't concentrate on work. Her mind replayed the incident in Jake's office over and over. She needed to find out more about this so-called proposal. She knew there had to be something in it for Jake, or else he wouldn't have brought it up. But what was it?
If she accepted Jake's proposal, she could convince him to share more about the business. If he trusted her with passwords, she could make it look like he was embezzling funds. Well, maybe she didn't have to take it that far; however, it would give her the leverage she needed to see Banks Telecom fail. The more she thought about it, the more she realized the proposal could be the answer to her prayers. She didn't trust Jake; however, she had a more immediate problem to deal with-Charles.
Chapter Two"Brianna turned me down. I thought I was most women's fantasy," Jake stated as he sat next to his best friend since grade school at a local bar.
After tipping the waiter, Trent turned around to face Jake. "What do you expect? That woman knows you as her boss, and then you spring something like that on her. Tact is something you're lacking."
"I like the direct approach."
"Well, if you ask me, your mental condition is hereditary."
"Man, you better be glad we're friends, or I would pop you for that comment," replied Jake.
"Just calling it like I see it. Your uncle asking you to marry some chick just to get your inheritance? Crazy, man." Trent held his drink up and took a sip. "Can't you get the money your uncle left for you another way?"
"I asked my attorney if there was a way around it, and there isn't. I need that money, or my business is going under. If I don't do something about it fast, we'll sink just like the Titanic."
"Do what you have to do. If it means marrying some stranger, then, by all means, do it to save the ship," advised Trent.
"Let's hope Ms. Lady comes around, or I'll be in need of a life jacket."
"How did you get yourself into this situation?"
Jake sipped his drink and paused a few seconds before answering. "I wish I knew. I thought everything was in place. My company takes the risk by investing the money and resources. All the vendors have to do is install the phone lines and towers where we tell them. Some of my vendors have been dropping the ball lately and causing some of the phone providers to not extend contracts in certain areas."
"That's bad business," noted Trent.
"Exactly. These vendors, though, are the only ones working in these areas, so my hands are tied."
"I feel for you."
The music changed from a slow jam to a more upbeat sound. Jake and Trent watched a group of women dancing on the dance floor.
"I can tell they're all high maintenance," Trent said.
"What woman isn't?" "I'll drink to that." Trent lifted his drink up off the counter and took a sip.
"Here's to Uncle Jack." Jake drank until the glass was dry. He motioned for the bartender and ordered another round for them both.
"So tell me. What's Brianna like?" asked Trent.
Jake remembered how he felt every time his and Brianna's paths crossed. If he were to admit the truth, he would say he would have eventually asked her out on a date without his uncle's use of force. Her mere presence seemed to fill a room. He liked the way she tilted her head slightly when in deep thought and how her eyes twinkled when she found something funny. He also liked to see the fire radiating from her eyes when she got upset. That's the last thing he remembered seeing before Brianna stormed out of his office earlier that day.
He responded, "She's not bad on the eyes. I would date her."
"How do you plan on getting her to agree to marry you?"
"I'm hoping she'll do it after I throw this Mac Daddy charm on her."
Trent laughed. "What's your plan B, because from what you said, your plan A is not working."
"Ye of little faith."
"Now that's one tall drink of water. I wouldn't mind sipping from her glass," Trent said as Jake followed his gaze.
"Sure, you're right. Heads or tails," Jake said as he took out a quarter and flipped it.
"You lose." Jake lifted his hand to reveal the other side of the coin.
"Go for it." Trent saluted him with his glass.
Jake placed his glass on the bar and walked over near the dance floor, where the tall, slender woman with a head full of Chaka Kahn hair stood.
"Can I have this dance?" he asked and extended his hand out.
"I don't think my partner would appreciate seeing me out on the dance floor with a man," said the woman.
"Your partner?" Jake said, sounding confused.
"Yes. There she is now."
A shorter woman approached them, and he watched as they kissed. His ego took a direct hit. "Ladies, enjoy the re rest of your night," he said.
Excerpted from HIS INVISIBLE WIFE by SHELIA M. GOSS Copyright © 2009 by Shelia M. Goss. Excerpted by permission.
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