Glimpses of Gianni’s billionaire lifestyle are revealed. And the more Leah’s understands, the more she loves him. He becomes controlling in new ways, and the intensity causes their passion to blaze to life. When Gianni takes Leah to meet his family for Thanksgiving, he fears he has given the wrong impression. Quickly, he regains control, but the heated scene that follows begins to crumble the walls around Gianni’s heart.
Gianni is emotionally distant, despite his vow to try and open his heart. Yet his craving for Leah only increases. If he lets it go further, Gianni will be forced to reveal secrets that could tear them apart. How long can he wait? Will he tell her the truth?
Leah is swept up in the power of her love for Gianni, but she knows he is holding something back. As much as she wants to please him, there are limits. And when Gianni pushes her too far, she fights back. Yet she knows there is a dark secret that torments him. Can she persuade him to tell? Or will the past be their undoing?
Leah was early, so took time to stop for coffee on the way into work. She sipped her Americano while scrolling through pictures. The social media sites were flooded with photos of her with Gianni. He was devastatingly handsome, and she was happy to be with him.
The media was talking about her like she was a step down for him. Gianni was dating an underling, and worse, a woman who worked for a competitor. Controversy was what it was all about, and Leah knew the press would find some angle to make their relationship appear shocking.
She smiled that they had no idea what the real nature of it was. If they did, the headlines would sizzle: Gianni Rinaldi, High-Profile Billionaire, Seduces Leah Ivers, a New Face in the New York Fashion Scene, into Sexually Submitting to Him.
Of course, that part of it was their secret, and no one needed to know. Nor would they. If news like that was published, Leah wouldn’t be able to show her face in public. Not that she was ashamed of what she had with Gianni. On the contrary, she treasured it.
But that didn’t mean she wanted to shout it out to the rest of the world. It was theirs to share and experience. The story going viral was all about what a sought-after bachelor Gianni was. And intrigue about what made Leah desirable aroused public curiosity.
That was a good question to pose. Self-doubt didn’t really go away, even though Leah pushed it aside as best she could. If she examined the situation too closely, her self-esteem issues pressed into view. And Gianni didn’t like her making less of herself.
It was good of him to feel that way, which did a tremendous amount for her morale. Yet it was hard to get her head around the fact that Gianni wanted her. Usually, Leah brushed unwelcome thoughts aside, and focused on the time she had with him.
The weeks—now months—together were special. Leah knew that. It inspired her to overcome any lingering doubts in order to give herself to Gianni completely. After the blow-up, he had been sensitive to her emotional needs.
And what were they? Leah admitted she needed love. If Gianni did love her, so far he was unable to speak the words. But he was committed to her, more than before. And he vowed to try to open up. She would give him time. What choice did she have?
In the weeks they had been apart, Leah had suffered unbearably. Anything she experienced while with Gianni had to be better than being separated. Whatever it took, she would do it. Eventually, that cold heart of his had to melt. She was sure about that.
For now, the sex with Gianni was even hotter than before. He seemed determined to make her feel loved, though he was unable to express the sentiment. Earlier limits held no sway, and he pushed Leah deeper into experiences she couldn’t get enough of.
The media had one thing right: Gianni had seduced her. But it wasn’t a bad thing, as they portrayed. He was charming, polite, and considerate. Yet in the bedroom he took charge, and could be unyielding. More and more, he led her into submission, each scene as memorable as the last.
There was no turning back. Leah couldn’t imagine her life without him. He gave no assurance that what they had would last. But it calmed her to know that he showed no sign of wanting to end it. In fact, Gianni had been just as devastated when they had broken up.
That had surprised her. Leah would have understood if he had moved on. She was a lot of trouble. Yet Gianni seemed to think she was worth it. He seemed to have strong feelings for her—and if not love, at least a searing passion that he made no effort to hide.
There remained the mystery of what had happened in Gianni’s past. Something had frozen his heart, but he wouldn’t speak about it. Leah knew it would do no good to press. He would tell her when he could.
When he talked about his family, Gianni’s eyes filled with warmth. She knew he was capable of love, but something had occurred that locked up his heart. Maybe forever. Leah couldn’t allow those thoughts to linger. She refused to believe his ability to love couldn’t be revitalized.
Leah loved him enough to be patient. It made her feel good that he knew how she felt. Confessing her love had been difficult, considering that Gianni was unlikely to do the same. Yet it was better for him to know. Secrets were unsettling.
And it had become impossible for Leah to be as intimate with Gianni as she was, and still hide the fact that she was in love with him. Her reactions to him, the look on her face, and even certain things she said, would have given her away.
It was best to be honest. At least for her. Gianni was another matter. Although he wasn’t exactly being dishonest, he wasn’t telling her the whole truth. She was as aware of it, as he was. If only Leah knew of a way to help him.
But she didn’t. All she could do was care, and to show her love in the bedroom. He seemed most receptive there. The physical was a medium he understood, one he could participate in. So in their private moments Leah held nothing back, and clung to the hope that eventually Gianni would do the same.
Stirring from her thoughts, Leah glanced around the coffee shop. It was a two-level design, and she saw couples upstairs talking while sipping drinks. The interior walls were brick, and the counters were polished wood.
It was cozy, and Leah wished she could hang around longer, watching people tap away on their laptops or chat with friends. The weather was cooler, signifying that fall had arrived. She was glad for a reprieve from the heat.
Standing, she put her leather bag over her shoulder and picked up her empty cup to return it to the counter. In more of a hurry, she pushed the door open and stepped out to the busy sidewalk. That was the thing about Manhattan: there were no slow times.
It seemed no matter the time of day, people bustled along the streets, rushing to their destination. The atmosphere had a tone of excitement, as if there was something important going on, even if there wasn’t. Leah liked that about the city.
It was only a few blocks to Barrington, and Leah entered to see the clerk on duty. “Hi, Aida.”
Leah had made friends with her over the months, although their relationship was business-related only, so far—except for chatting in the coffee room, mostly about trivial stuff. The clerk was efficient, which Leah admired. And she was attractive, which went over well with buyers. Her red hair was cut in a trendy style, and her outfit was from an expensive designer.
“Good morning, Leah.” When Aida smiled, her green eyes lit up. It was good to have someone cheerful in the showroom to offset the eternal sourness that Vadim exhibited.
Heading for her office, Leah stopped when she heard him call her name. She angled toward Vadim’s door. When she stepped inside, he flagged her over.
Leah had hoped to make it to her office before encountering her boss. Over the weeks she had been sick from heartache, Vadim had left her alone, indicating he might have a kinder side to him. Now it appeared he planned to make up for lost time.
Leah let her bag slide off her shoulder, and took a seat in front of the massive desk. “Good morning.” She didn’t feel like smiling, so she didn’t.
“I see you are famous,” he said.
The start to the conversation put her on alert. Vadim was up to something; she needed to be wary. “I hardly think so.
The look in his eyes made her spine tingle. “I beg to disagree.” He reached for his phone and scrolled. Then he held the screen up so she could see it.
There was a huge photo of Gianni and Leah wrapped in an embrace. She didn’t take time to read the headline. It was best to keep her cool. If she maintained a casual attitude, then possibly her boss wouldn’t make such a big deal of it.
“I hardly think being seen at a fashion event makes me famous.” Leah appreciated her own tongue-in-cheek response, even if he didn’t.
Vadim leaned back in his chair. “Yes, but Gianni Rinaldi’s arm is around you. And the look in your eyes is not strictly professional.”
Her cheeks warmed, and Leah hoped the blush wasn’t visible. She didn’t want to give Vadim the satisfaction. “And your point is?” It was probably better to go on the attack than to cower, as he intended for her to.
The chuckle he emitted was laced with condescension, and it riled Leah. He was in for a fight if he continued to bait her. She waited for him to make the next move.
“This isn’t really news to me,” he said.
The statement caught her off guard, and she took a moment to consider the impact. For months, Leah had taken pains to hide the nature of her relationship with Gianni. Whether necessary or not, she had the idea that dating the competition would be frowned upon.
His next words told her the opposite: “Of course I knew. I’ve been to events. I’ve seen you together. You don’t hide your feelings well.”
That part was true, but it was too late for regrets.
“And I thought it was a benefit for you to be sleeping with one of my major competitors.”
She had seen it coming.
Vadim went on: “After all, you are privy to inside information on GR Showroom. And considering that you work for Barrington, I’m sure you won’t keep it to yourself.” He paused for effect. “It’s your job to help this showroom succeed…above all competition.”
The cut of his words annoyed her further. Vadim had balls; she’d give him that. But he went too far. To think that she would betray a man she was intimate with was degrading. He must not know her at all if he believed she would do that.
It wasn’t easy to come up with a good response. Leah stared across at her boss while her mind reeled with the possible outcomes. If she refused, he could fire her. But she would never agree, as she’d be lying.
“I think you know that Barrington’s success is a top priority. My work should reflect that.” Leah was angry, and had to bite her tongue lest she say what she was really thinking. “I think my personal life should be kept separate from my career.”
Even as she spoke, Leah knew it sounded ridiculous. She wasn’t dating just any man. She was dating Gianni. And there wasn’t a bigger challenge to Vadim. It was clear that her boss was vindictive, and would go to any lengths to leave GR Showroom in the dust.
She suspected it wasn’t all about business, but had no evidence of it. It seemed that her boss wanted the demise of GR Showroom, and Gianni specifically, as much as he wanted the success of Barrington. It wasn’t so much what Vadim said. Maybe she was reading too much into his expression, but Leah didn’t think so.
“You’ve made your choice,” he said. “Being the woman on Gianni’s arm instantly blurs the line between your career and your personal life.”
Vadim was implying more than he was saying. But he hadn’t fired her yet, so Leah took the brave approach. “If that’s all, I have work to do.” She stood up. When her boss made no move to stop her, Leah strode out of the office exuding as much confidence as she could muster.