​“Ms. Bradley.”

“Yes?”

“The gentlemen from Cozza are here.”

“Have them wait.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Why would you do that?” Josh asks with wide eyes.

My smile grows wider from the pleasure I feel knowing they’re waiting. “Because I can.”

He laughs, nodding while he covers his mouth. “Fair enough.”

I lean back, relaxing into the chair and wishing I’d received the aspirin I asked for earlier. “You gather the troops, and I’ll head to the lobby and welcome the Cozza reps.”

“We’ll be in here before you get back.” Josh disappears into the hallway, heading toward the executive office area. Nothing will be discussed without them. Their fate is just as tied to the outcome of this meeting as mine.

I check my email, letting some time go by because I figure our “guests” can wait and stew. They’re on my clock now. Since their advance on us is unwanted, I’ll make it as uncomfortable as possible. They have us on the edge of our seats, and I’m more than happy to waste their time.

They want to take what doesn’t belong to them. Interstellar isn’t for sale. I’ll protect it like a mother bear protecting her cub and use any means necessary to do it. As the CEO of Interstellar, it’s my duty to go down swinging instead of being a passive bystander. I’ll have my people work on a solution night and day until it’s resolved, leaving Interstellar intact, with me still sitting at the head.

I didn’t work my ass off to become number two again, or worse, out of a job altogether.

When I decide they’ve waited long enough, I slowly walk to the lobby with my head held high and my shoulders back, ready to play hardball.

Show no fear.

They are the enemy.

My sleek black business suit caresses my skin, fitting me like a glove as I stroll down the hallway with my heels clicking against the marble floor. The sound of my power heels gives me a little more confidence and makes me feel powerful.

Every girl has a pair. The ones that make you feel fierce and unstoppable. Yesterday, I wasn’t prepared; I didn’t know about the Cozza shitstorm that was about to hit, or else I would’ve worn them. But now, I’m ready. Ready to cut the head off the snake that is trying to slither its way into my company and eat us alive.

Cassie walks toward me with a glass of water. “Sorry I didn’t bring them sooner,” she says, holding open her palm and revealing two white pills before shoving the glass between us.

I look over her shoulder as I take the aspirin from her palm, but I can’t get a clear view of the reception area. “How are the Cozza people doing?”

She smiles, watching me swallow the pills before taking the glass back from me. “Annoyed.”

I laugh.

Perfect.

“One guy is pacing around like a rabid animal.” She giggles softly, covering her mouth to stop the sound from reaching their ears.

“Even better.” I grin.

As I walk toward the reception area with Cassie on my heels, I feel a sense of calm wash over me. I know I can handle Cozza, and with the backing of the board and shareholders, there’s no way they’ll be successful in their takeover bid.

Four men are sitting, and the one that Cassie described as “rabid” still paces but his back is to me. “Gentlemen.” I keep my face devoid of emotion.

Even though this feels personal, I know it isn’t. They may have been trying to take Interstellar, but it isn’t mine. Either way, I’ll do anything I can to stop them.

The pacer stops, turning to face me as the other men stand.

Standing before me in a perfectly pressed black suit with dark gray pinstripes, a crisp white dress shirt, and a silky red tie is none other than the smooth-talking, panty-dropping charmer from last night. 

Lou.

The Lou who was between my legs less than ten hours ago, giving me more orgasms than I’ve had in years.

I gape, unable to hide my shock.

What the hell? Nothing makes sense.

His face matches mine, confusion in his eyes as he takes in the sight of me. “Elizabeth?”

His head tilts, his hair flopping a bit in the most delicious way, before he takes a step forward in impeccable black leather shoes.

I snap my mouth shut. “Lou?”

What’s he doing here? Oh God. This can’t be happening.

“Who?” Cassie whispers at my side. “That’s Mr. Forte. His name isn’t Lou. It’s Antonio.” She points at him, but it still hasn’t clicked.

The people in the waiting room are gawking at us.

I blink twice, wondering if he is a mirage. There’s no denying that the man standing in front of me is the same man I had sex with more than once last night. We stare at each other, both considering the ramifications of the situation.

Oh, shit.

I lied about my name, but I never imagined he could be the enemy. Why in the world would he lie about his name?

My palms begin to sweat, and my heart starts to pick up speed as the reality of the situation hits me. Maybe he played me. I was just another pawn in the Cozza game. I rarely believe anything is coincidence.

I take a step forward, my eyes narrowing at him. “Did you know?”

He shakes his head and gawks at me. “No.”

A gentleman coughs and steps in front of Mr. Forte. “I don’t know what’s going on here, Ms. Bradley, but we’re here to discuss the future of Cozza and Interstellar. I’m Mr. Alesci, the president of Cozza’s legal division.” He holds out his hand, but I don’t meet his eyes as I shake. I’m unable to take mine off Antonio.

I’m still in a trance, maybe in shock, about the entire Lou situation. I shake Mr. Alesci’s hand and keep my eyes pinned to Mr. Forte. “Excuse me,” I say, glancing at Mr. Alesci for a moment before bringing my eyes back to the sky-blue ones boring into me. “Mr. Forte, may I speak to you in private please?”

“I don’t think—” Mr. Alesci starts to say before Mr. Forte places his hand on his shoulder and gives it a rough squeeze.

“Yes, Ms. Bradley.” Mr. Alesci glares at Antonio but is quickly dismissed. “We’ll be fine, Jim.”

Turning my back to him, I let every facial expression I wanted to make before break loose. What in the fuck just happened? How in the world could this be happening to me? What are the odds of the one person I sleep with in longer than I’d like to admit would actually be the one person I’m supposed to hate the most?

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