Geneva had the best of reasons for walking away—but she's never told Michael why. Now Michael seems determined to win back his bride and Geneva is hoping he still has a vacancy for her—as his wife!
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PICTURE him naked.
Geneva Porter was familiar with the technique public speakers used to calm nerves, but it wouldn't work for her. This wasn't public. She wasn't speaking. And she'd already seen Michael Sullivan naked.
However hot the memory, seeing the sexy Mr. Sullivan without his clothes was partially responsible for the disastrous series of events that had landed her right here, right now—waiting to see him and find out if she was Las Vegas's latest events planner without a job.
Unemployment would be bad. Seeing Michael Sullivan again... It was going to be very bad.
But he was her boss as of a week ago when his deal to buy this hotel finalized. One by one he'd met with the existing managers. Now it was her turn. Time to get it over with and brazen out their first meeting since... Well, since she'd last seen him. On the bad scale, that time had been off the chart.
Taking a deep breath wouldn't help but she took one anyway as she knocked sharply on his door and let herself in. It was a spacious corner office with two sets of floor-to-ceiling windows, giving him two different and fabulous views of the Las Vegas Strip, Bellagio on one side, Caesar's Palace on the other. Michael was sitting behind his desk oozing power and charisma.
"Hello, Michael." One look into his dark eyes dropped her stomach like the Insanity ride on top of the Stratosphere. Her heart pounded and her hands shook. "You look great."
How stupid did that sound? This was worse than bad.
She'd met him over a year ago when he'd started the process of buying this property. He hadn't changed a bit. He looked just as handsome, with his dark hair and a face that was all lean angles. But it was his smile that she'd fallen in love with and she wasn't seeing it now.
"Geneva." His eyes narrowed and a muscle jumped in his jaw. "How long has it been?"
What game was he playing? "You know as well as I do how long."
He looked steady and thoughtful but that didn't fool her. The jaw muscle tightening again was a clue.
"Oh. You mean the wedding," he said.
"Of course that's what I mean."
"The one where you left me at the altar."
She winced. How simple he made it sound. How easily he said the words. But it hadn't been simple or easy and seeing him again dredged up all the painful feelings that had compelled her to leave him that day. She feared making a mistake, a mistake too much like her parents had made by marrying each other. Feared that Michael had never loved her, that he'd proposed only because she'd been pregnant with his child, a baby she'd miscarried in the first trimester.
He'd been willing to go through with the wedding—because he'd given his word. But, Geneva wanted more than just willing. She wanted love—the head-over-heels kind. The only kind that could fill the emptiness in her soul for the baby she'd lost. The only kind that would make a marriage work.
Brushing nonexistent lint from the skirt of her black suit, she said, "About the wedding—"
He held up a hand to stop her. "That's not why I called you in."
"But it's why you're going to fire me."
One dark eyebrow rose. "Why would I do that?" She badly wanted to say "duh." Instead she put as much sass as possible into the look she shot him.
"Maybe because I left you at the altar?"
"That was a year ago."
As if she didn't know. "So you're over it?"
Of course? Just like that? So now she had new and different feelings yet to be identified. She didn't want him to brood over her. She hadn't wanted to hurt him in the first place. But he was dismissing her like an afterthought. She should be relieved. If she worked hard enough, maybe she could pull it off.
"Good," she said, nodding. "I guess that explains why you went ahead with the hotel deal."
"It's business," he snapped.
"It's Vegas," she countered. "Mergers and acquisitions are announced every other week. A gazillion things have to fall into place before anyone signs on the dotted line. Deals fall apart all the time."
"You thought I'd back out because of you?" he asked. His voice could've frozen a glass of water in the middle of July.
"Wouldn't it have been easier?"
"I don't take the easy way out." His gaze locked on hers and clearly said—not like some people. "And I'm getting the feeling you don't want to work for me."
Probably because she didn't. Not if she had to see him regularly. "I don't have a choice. It's called a contract. Although as the new owner of this hotel, you can terminate it."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because you're angry and want revenge. What happened between us was very public and—"
"Very over," he interrupted. "It didn't change my mind about the deal. I wanted this hotel for the adjacent land."
And he'd only wanted her for the baby. That still hurt deeply. "I see."
His gaze narrowed. "Are you wondering if I still have personal feelings for you?"
"I'm wondering if your personal feelings are about getting even with me," she said, putting a finer point on it.
"I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind. I'm not a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy."
No. He was a man-of-action kind of guy. They'd barely been introduced when he swept her off her feet. After all this time apart, just a few minutes with him showed her she was still vulnerable to the Michael Sullivan brand of charm. And he wasn't being charming.
Still standing in front of his desk, she squared her shoulders and linked her fingers together, refusing to let him see that her hands were shaking. "Did you call me in to ask for my resignation?"
"I called you in because you're the hotel events planner." Something dangerous flared in his eyes. "I want you to plan an event." He held out his hand, indicating the chairs in front of his desk. "Why don't you sit down?"
Did she have a choice? She needed this job. She had a year left on her contract. If she walked, he could sue her for breach of contract and she had no doubt he would—because he wasn't a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy. Defending herself against a lawsuit could get expensive and ruin the professional reputation she'd been working so hard to build in Las Vegas. On top of that, she'd refinanced her condo and borrowed against the equity to pay Michael back for the wedding.
"Okay." Since she couldn't walk out, she sat.
"As you know, I have real estate and hotels in the east, and this is my second hotel in Las Vegas."
He folded his hands and rested them on his glass and chrome desk as he leaned forward. "I'm planning a luxury high-rise on the land that adjoins this hotel. It's a fairly new concept to Las Vegas and will give the Vegas Valley its vertical identity. The tallest residential super tower west of the Mississippi will also make this a flagship property for the upscale Sullivan brand's global footprint."
"I'm an ambitious man. This is the only city in the world that reinvents itself every day. And now it's my city with all its possibilities—and risks."
She knew all about risk. She'd found out she wasn't a risk-taker but that hadn't saved her from regrets. With an effort, she pulled her thoughts back to what he was saying.
Dark intensity sizzled in his eyes. "It's a good location, with spectacular views of the lights on The Strip and close to downtown restaurants, shows and high-end shopping."
"Sounds like New York west."
"That's the plan. But we need to hit the ground running at the grand opening."
"Did you have any thoughts about what tone you want to set at the sales release?" She was the planner, but it was his event.
He nodded. "Glitzy, in a three-ring circus kind of way. The biggest dog and pony show you can possibly pull off."
"I can pull off whatever you want."
He didn't respond, but the muscle in his jaw jerked, and she wondered if he was thinking about the day she'd walked away. She shouldn't still care what he thought, but he was her boss and all she had was her job. So she'd best start doing it and focus on the here and now instead of on the past.
She sat up straighter and met his gaze. "Glitz would include Hollywood A-listers. Entertainment personalities with a lot of money to spend and wealthy noncelebrities. It should be invitation only, and we send them out to everyone you know or ever hope to know."
"You're the expert."
Did he really think that? Or was he setting her up for a fall? "Then I'll brainstorm some promotion and giveaway ideas. Nothing brings people out like a spectacle and freebies. Did you have a theme in mind?" she asked.
"Again, that's your field of expertise."
"Sullivan Towers, the sky's the limit," she said off the top of her head. "Or 'Living the High Life."
"Not bad." His dark eyes gleamed with reluctant approval.
Geneva felt the power of that unwilling positive reaction deep down inside, pressing against a place she'd closed off a year ago. It was a Pandora's box of feelings: messy, confusing, disturbing and embarrassing.
Yes, she'd called off the wedding. Her mistake had been in waiting until just before saying "I do." But until that moment, she'd tried to convince herself that Michael actually loved her. If she'd gone through with the ceremony knowing he didn't, she'd have been destroyed.And so would he. But he'd never given her the chance to explain that she'd done him a favor.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fast and very enjoyable read. I liked both of the main characters in this story. They had their faults and they faced them. I think that Geneva was especially courageous and honest with herself about her feelings and what she wanted from life and marriage.