Drew Jameson couldn’t believe his eyes.
Genevieve Wells, the most feared and hated woman in the entire company—who also happened to be his boss—was crying.
She wasn’t just wet around the eyes with a few ladylike tears rolling down her cheeks, either. She was genuinely crying—almost sobbing—her slender shoulders shaking and her face buried in her hands as she sat behind the large, glass and brushed stainless steel power desk she’d been given as part of her last promotion.
He’d only meant to come up and grab a file he’d forgotten. One of the questionable perks of having to take personal time to attend a company party after hours was that he didn’t have to make a thirty minute drive to get the forgotten file—he was already here. Eight o’clock on a Friday night and he was at the office with no date and nothing but work on his mind.
Nothing until he’d seen his boss crying that was. And though he had the manila envelope he’d come up to his office for clutched in his hand, Drew found himself rooted to the spot.
I should go, he thought, not moving an inch. But what the hell could make a woman like Genevieve cry?
It was that question more than anything else that kept him where he was. He’d been working under Genevieve Wells for the past three years, bucking for a well-deserved promotion and putting up with all her crap to become what he wanted to be—a senior marketing executive for Spiritual Soul Mates, the company they both worked for.
In those three years he’d seen her deal with difficult clients, handle Stuart Solomon, the CEO and founder of the company, and fire countless fellow employees who weren’t up to the Spiritual Soul Mates standards. But never once, no matter how thorny, complex, or stressful the situation, had he even seen her break a sweat—let alone bawl her eyes out.
“The Ice Queen,” the other employees—especially the ones unlucky enough to report to her directly—called her. “The Dragon Lady” and “that Frigid Bitch” were also popular nicknames. Genevieve had been called everything under the sun but no one had ever accused her of being too emotional. She had an icy veneer of calm that never cracked, no matter how intense the pressure. It was probably this quality that had allowed her to become head of marketing and promotion.
She was now thirty-seven and had held the position with no difficulty for years. Drew himself was twenty-six and had witnessed her meteoric rise first hand—the last part of it, at least. She was absolutely ruthless but she got results like no one else, which was probably why Stuart Solomon called her “my right hand man” with no irony whatsoever.
Yet here she was. The Ice Queen. The Frigid Bitch. Here she was sitting alone at her big, expensive desk and crying.
Leave. Just leave now. You’ll be a hell of a lot better off if she doesn’t know you saw.
It was the voice of reason and Drew knew it. Yet he couldn’t help himself—he was curious. Knowing it was going to get him in trouble but unable to stop, he stepped into her plush corner office and knocked lightly on the open door.
For a brief moment he thought Genevieve was so lost in misery that she didn’t hear him. He was on the verge of clearing his throat when she looked up, her beautiful face a mask of tears. For a moment she stared at him mutely then she wiped hastily at the tear tracks on her cheeks and sat up straighter.
“Drew, what are you doing here?”
He shrugged awkwardly. “I just came up to get a file and heard you. Genevieve, are you…are you okay?”
Not that he should care. This was a woman he regularly fantasized would be hit by a bus. She’d made him work nights and weekends, given him difficult assignments he disliked, and had generally been the boss from hell.
But somehow, seeing her sitting at her desk with her big brown eyes filled with tears and her elegantly upswept hairdo coming down in wisps around her flushed cheeks, he couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.
It wasn’t the way she looked—although with her curvy figure, high cheekbones and full lips, she was very attractive. In fact, every man in the office lusted for her and hated her at the same time. But what made Drew feel for her for the first time wasn’t lust but the heartbroken expression on her face, the sheer vulnerability he had never seen before on her usually cold and emotionless features. For just a moment she wasn’t his hard-as-nails bitch of a boss anymore. She was a lost child—a little girl he wanted to take in his arms and comfort…
That last thought snapped him back to reality. As if Genevieve Wells would tolerate anyone taking her in their arms to comfort her or for any other reason. It would be safer to hug a porcupine.
She wore a huge rock on her finger and Drew had met her husband at one or two company functions—he was a corporate lawyer rumored to be as cold and heartless as Genevieve herself. So presumably he was safe hugging her—not that Drew could imagine it happening. But there was no way a lowly peon like himself would get away with it.
“I’m fine,” Genevieve said, breaking his train of thought. Then she shook her head. “No, that’s a lie. I’m not fine. Not fine at all.”
For a moment Drew thought she was going to start crying again but she lifted her chin and nodded at him regally instead.
“You might as well be the first to know because I’m sure the good news will spread soon enough. Effective tomorrow morning I will be leaving Spiritual Soul Mates.”
“What? But why?”
Drew was stunned. From what he understood Genevieve had been with the company from the very beginning. In fact it was her marketing savvy that had turned the founder, Stuart Solomon’s ideas, from a blurry infomercial at three in the morning stuck in between a spot for the Magic Bullet and the Shamwow, to a household name. Because of her, Stuart Solomon had been on Oprah numerous times and was the leading name in couples counseling—the relationship guru.
Genevieve might be a bitch but she was a damn hard worker and a very intelligent woman—he couldn’t imagine her leaving of her own volition.
Something or someone must be forcing her out, he thought, scanning her tear-stained face.
“I am in breach of my corporate contract,” she said, confirming his suspicions. “And as I’m not interested in letting myself be terminated, I’m going to give my notice.”
“You? In breach of contract?” Drew almost laughed it was so ridiculous. “What did you do—embezzle the funds from the new Spring marketing campaign?”
“Hardly,” she snapped and there was a sudden fire in her large brown eyes that her underlings—Drew included—had learned was a warning sign of bad things to come. But this time he wasn’t intimidated. Genevieve had a crack in her armor and he was interested to know how it had gotten there.
“What then?” He came and sat on the edge of her desk, looking down at her coolly.
“It’s nothing.” She blushed suddenly and looked away, not meeting his eyes.
“Wow, must be a full moon out tonight. First I see the ruthless Genevieve Wells cry and now she’s embarrassed.” Drew shook his head. “Whatever you did it must be pretty bad.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” she snapped, standing up to put them at eye level. “It was just…foolish. And you might do well to remember that at least for tonight, I am still your boss.”
Drew didn’t back down.
“You might be my boss but you’re also a very unhappy person with something to get off her chest. Something I think you want to tell someone or you wouldn’t have started talking in the first place. So come on, Genevieve, finish the story. What did you do?” He dropped his voice a little, looking her in the eye. “Tell me. I won’t breathe a word of it to anyone else if you don’t want me to.”
She looked at him scornfully. “You expect me to trust you with the details? How do I know you won’t just feed the company gossip mill the minute you leave here?”
Drew held her gaze.
“Have I ever given you reason to doubt my integrity?”
She glared at him for a moment before looking away and sighing.
“No.” She dropped back into her chair. “That’s why you get the toughest assignments over the more senior staff—because I know you’ll do them right without cutting corners.”
He was surprised at the sudden compliment. Genevieve wasn’t known to praise her employees. But the continuing out-of-character behavior only made him more curious as to what was going on with her.
“Come on, Gen…” He leaned forward on her desk, close enough to smell her expensive perfume with its warm notes of amber and honey. Or maybe it was just the scent of her skin. Looking into her big brown eyes he murmured, “Tell me.”
“Fine.” She came around the front of the desk, her arms crossed protectively over her breasts. Drew noticed she was wearing a little black dress that managed to emphasize her lush curves even as it covered them and the six inch heels that were her signature footwear.
Though she caused grown men taller than Drew’s own six foot four to tremble in their tracks, Genevieve was a diminutive five foot three herself. But no one who saw her striding through the office in her severe yet sexy designer shoes would know it.
“I’m waiting.” Drew was still lounging on the edge of her desk. With her standing and wearing those incredibly high heels, they were almost eye to eye.
Genevieve took a deep breath. “I breached my contract by not attending the mandatory counseling sessions the senior staff is supposed to have with Stuart if they start having marital problems.”
“Wait a minute.” Drew held up a hand to stop her. “You’re telling me you signed a contract saying you’d have counseling if your marriage started going to the dogs?”
She nodded shortly. “What a lovely way to put it but yes, I did. It’s mandatory for all senior staff.”
“But…why? I mean, what business is it of Stuart Solomon if your relationship is on the rocks?”
“Think about it, Drew,” she said patiently. “Spiritual Soul Mates not only promises to help people find their one true love—we promise to help them hang on to that person for life. It’s even in our latest brochure. Stuart is quoted as saying, ‘let me help you find true love and keep it—the way I’ve helped my extended family here at the Spiritual Soul Mate offices.’” She sighed. “I wrote that damn line and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass! But the point is, Stuart councils all the senior staff. So it doesn’t look good if we start divorcing our ‘soul mates’ now does it?”
Drew frowned. “I guess it never dawned on me before but I always thought it was strange that nobody in senior management ever gets divorced.”
“It’s not that they don’t want to,” Genevieve said grimly. “I know a few people who would just about kill for even a trial separation but they stay together for the sake of their careers and the excellent salaries Stuart pays them.”
“Wow.” Drew shook his head, thinking of the murderous glares he’d seen Dan and Nancy Clarksburg shooting each other over the buffet line at the party downstairs. “I guess the media would have a field day if the Spiritual Soul Mates staff started calling it quits.”
“Exactly.” Genevieve sighed. “Unfortunately for me, my husband—ex-husband I should say—didn’t give a damn about my career. He has an extremely lucrative law practice of his own so he didn’t need my income to get by.”
She shook her head and started pacing, her heels making no sound on the plush carpeting.
“We were headed downhill for a long time but I didn’t feel I had time for counseling and assumed that I could fix my problems on my own. Unfortunately, my husband decided that…”
She cleared her throat and looked away. For a moment Drew thought he saw tears in her eyes again but when she spoke her voice was dry and professional.
“He left me six months ago. So now I’m in breach of contract and have been for the last half a year since I’ve been concealing it.”
Drew still couldn’t believe it. “And that’s why you’re going to lose your job? How did Stuart find out you got divorced?”
Genevieve ran a hand through her hair which was coming down from the elegant chignon she’d had it up in. Honey blonde wisps and tendrils framed her flushed face making her look much more alluring than she did by day when she wore her hair in a severe bun at the back of her head.
“He hasn’t—yet. But I’ll have no choice but to tell him tomorrow because I won that damn grand prize raffle at the stupid Christmas party tonight.”
“The Intensely Intimate Couple’s Retreat?”
Drew had always thought it was kind of cheesy for Spiritual Soul Mates to give away free trips to its own resorts as grand prizes and gifts for company-wide promotions and contests. Still, the Spiritual Soul Mates facilities were supposed to be among the most luxurious in the world and he’d never heard employees that won complaining.
“Exactly.” Genevieve looked down. “And now that I don’t have a spouse to be, um, ‘intensely intimate’ with, the house of cards I built is about to come crashing down.”
“Make an excuse,” Drew suggested. “Tell Stuart you can’t go because your grandmother is sick or something like that.”
“I tried.” Genevieve went back around the desk and sank back down in her chair. “I went over to Stuart’s table and tried to reason with him for half an hour after the drawing tonight. But apparently he’s noticed Charles’—my ex-husband’s—absences from company functions over the past year. Little things like missing the Halloween party and the Christmas party—they really add up. Stuart informed me that he was very worried about my marriage and felt like Charles and I needed remedial attention. He said, and I quote, “I’ll be calling the resort personally to make sure you and Charles both sign in and are attending the sessions I recommended. And if you’re not…””
“If you’re not, what?” Drew asked, leaning forward.
Genevieve shook her head and put her head down on the desk on her clasped arms.
“He didn’t say but then, he didn’t have to,” she said, her voice muffled but understandable. “I knew what he meant—I’m as good as gone as soon as I walk through the resort doors tomorrow morning without Charles in tow.”
Despite his dislike of her, Drew hated to see her looking so down. This was the most personal information Genevieve, his cold bitch of a boss, had ever volunteered to him in all the time they’d been working together, but somehow he didn’t take joy in her pain. And he didn’t like the way she was sitting with her head down on the desk, as though she was already beaten. It was a gesture of defeat from a woman he’d thought was too tough to be hurt by anything. Why, he’d expected to have to fight her tooth and nail for that promotion and now…
Suddenly he had an idea.
“Does anyone at the resort where you won the retreat know what your ex looked like?” he asked.
“Hmm?” Genevieve looked up, rubbing her temples as though she had a headache. “No, not to my knowledge. It’s a new one we just opened up—Whispering Pines in the Blue Ridge—and the head councilor is new too. Doctor Phillips or something. Stuart is very enthusiastic about his ‘hands on’ approach to couples’ therapy but I’ve never actually met him.”
“Perfect.” Drew rubbed his hands together as the plan began to take shape. “So if nobody knows what you or your ex looks like, what’s to prevent you from taking someone else and passing them off as your husband?”
“What?” Genevieve stared at him blankly. “Are you serious? But why…who would I take?”
“Me.” Drew grinned at her.
“You?” Genevieve let out an incredulous laugh. “Absolutely not—it would never work.”
Drew was stung.
“Why not? I assume I’m not too hideously repulsive to pass as your other half?” He stood up and spread his arms, indicating his rangy but muscular six foot four frame. His inky black hair and dark blue eyes gave him a distinctive look that put him at a definite advantage with the opposite sex. Not that he thought he was God’s gift or anything but he didn’t lack for female company either.
“No, of course you’re not hideous. You’re actually quite—” Genevieve broke off abruptly and Drew could have sworn she was blushing again. But when she spoke her voice was all business. “It’s because of our age difference, Drew. I mean you’re young enough to be my…well, not my son but at least my younger brother. Who would believe we were married?”
“I would if I saw us on the street.” Drew settled himself back on the edge of her desk and grinned at her. “I’d think you were an enterprising career woman who had snapped up a slightly younger trophy husband in order to train him right from the start. Men are like dogs, you know.”
Genevieve gave him the barest hint of a smile.
“Why? Because you have to smack them with a rolled up newspaper to make them mind?”
“I was going to say because we liked to have our tummies scratched.” Drew gave her an innocent, wide-eyed look and then lowered his voice. “Among other things, of course.”
She looked down again, her cheeks getting considerably pinker.
“All right—say people did buy us as a couple. What’s in it for you?”
Besides the right to touch my gorgeous and unobtainable boss without repercussions? Drew thought but didn’t say. He’d had plenty of fantasies about Genevieve in the time he worked for her and not all of them involved her being hit by a bus. But now obviously wasn’t the time to admit that. Instead he arched an eyebrow at her. “There’s a senior marketing position open and I want it.”
Genevieve frowned. “I don’t know, Drew. You think you’re ready for that?”
“I know I am—it’s what I’ve been aiming at all along. It’s one reason I’ve put up with working under you these past few years,” Drew said frankly. “You have to know you’re not the easiest boss, Genevieve.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“I’m not the easiest wife either, Drew. You might be sorry we made this deal once you realize that. But by the time we get to the resort it’ll be too late to back out.”
Drew made a beckoning motion with his hand.
“Bring it on, baby. I’ll consider it a challenge—like the Perth account you dumped on me the other day after Jared mangled it.”
Genevieve looked thoughtful.
“I suppose you did do a good job on that.”
“I made a point of it. So what do you say, are we on?”
She looked troubled. “I don’t know…I don’t like lying to Stuart.”
“I’m sure you don’t, but who gave him the right to poke his nose in your personal business? Just because you work under him doesn’t make him qualified to judge what’s best for you and your relationships.” Drew crossed his arms and frowned at her. “I put up with a lot from you, Genevieve but do you think for one minute I’d stay here if you started trying to dictate my love life?”
“I guess I can see your point. God, I can’t believe I’m considering this.” She looked up at him. “Are you sure you’re up for this? This retreat goes right through Christmas, you know. Don’t you want to spend it with your family?”
Drew shook his head.
“Nah—my folks have my three older sisters and all their kids to keep them busy. They won’t miss me this once.”
Genevieve still looked indecisive.
“The counseling sessions at these retreats can get pretty intense from what I’ve heard.”
“It’s one long weekend of holding hands and looking soulfully into each other’s eyes—how bad can it be?”
Personally he probably would have pretended to be married to der Fuhrer for a few days to get the promotion and it would be considerably easier with Genevieve. Despite being a cold bitch she was beautiful and it might be fun to see how much he could melt that icy exterior of hers before their three days and nights together were over.
Genevieve sighed and put out her hand.
“All right—deal. You pretend to be my husband at the Intimate Couples Retreat and I’ll promote you. But only because I feel you’re ready for it. Okay?”
Drew clasped her slim, cool hand in his larger one. “Deal.”
Genevieve looked into his eyes.
“I’m trusting you on this, Drew. Don’t make me sorry.”
He wasn’t sure if she was talking about the impending promotion or the fact that they were about to spend a weekend pretending to be man and wife but either way he didn’t intend to disappoint her.
“I won’t.” He squeezed her hand slightly for emphasis, holding her gaze with his own. “I promise you, Genevieve, you won’t be sorry.”