I nearly crashed into Dominic Monday morning. It was six-fifteen and I’d been awake since a little before five, barely able to sleep.
I hadn’t seen him since our oddly tense lunch on Saturday and, although I was certain I’d been imagining it, I could have sworn his eyes slid over me when I wasn’t watching, that they’d linger on my mouth, my breasts…lower.
When I all but toppled over in my attempt to stop our collision, his hands came up and caught my arms, steadying me. My heart gave an odd, hiccupping sort of beat as his hands fell away, without even a hint of a pause.
“Good morning, Mr. Snow,” I said, stepping back at the exact moment he did.
“Are you ready to get to work?” he asked, giving me a polite, distant smile.
It took me until we got back into the main room to realize that he was talking to me differently. There was no warmth in his voice, not like before. He wasn’t being cold, exactly, but it was definitely all business. Not even a hint of flirting.
I should’ve been grateful. The last thing I needed was a boss who felt like he could openly flirt with his employees. I didn’t want that. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a pang when I thought about how much I’d enjoyed his light, subtle flirtations up until now.
“We’ve already talked about how you’re welcome to use the kitchen,” he said as we headed down the steps to the first floor. “But Francisco is coming in today. If there’s anything you’d like to have ordered in, let him know.”
He paused and lifted a brow. “Be warned…you don’t want to use anything of his without letting him know. He’s temperamental.”
Francisco. Mentally, I compared that name to the list I’d spent the weekend committing to memory. He was the chef who came in a few days a week. He spent the rest of the week at the main house—which, I now knew, was another property of Dominic’s.
Other staff here at the penthouse included Dominic’s household manager. She wasn’t exactly a butler, as Dominic didn’t like to have a lot of people invade his personal space here, but she managed the cleaning personnel and helped arranged any events that might take place at the penthouse.
There was also a chef at the house in the Hamptons, a groundskeeper who headed an entire crew of landscapers, a butler at the main house, a household manager at the main house, a crew of housekeepers…the list went on and on.
Each of the people in charge were responsible for hiring’s and firing’s, but they might occasionally reach out to the household manager, or if she wasn’t available, to me. That wasn’t likely to happen any time soon, but she wanted me to be prepared and she’d be introducing me over the coming weeks so I’d be familiar with all of them.
“Whatever you want to have on hand for breakfast, make sure you note it down. Lauren or Cisco will make sure it’s here, okay?” he said as he opened the refrigerator and took out an energy drink. “You need to feel comfortable here.”
“Obviously, here in the city, there will be more interaction between us since there isn’t a separate entrance. Feel free to entertain around work, but I do ask that, unless we’ve talked about it, you limit it to your quarters. I don’t usually have parties here, but I do bring home women from time to time and it could be awkward if we both had company in the same place.”
I tried not to think about my own fantasies of being one of those women he brought home. Or the pang I felt when I thought about him having sex with someone else.
“Since you have the guest house in the Hamptons, I don’t really care what you do there, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work.”
I nodded again, acting like I was filing all of this away even though I was actually still trying to process everything that was happening. What he was talking about right now didn’t really matter anyway. I had one friend in the city and no romantic interest in anyone—unless of course I considered my bathroom fantasies. I wasn’t planning on bringing anyone back here or to the Hamptons anytime soon.
The sound of the door opening was followed by a quick and cheerful, “Hello!”
A grin flashed over Dominic’s face, one that brought a rush of heat to my belly and a knot to my throat. I wanted to see him smile like that when I greeted him.
And how silly was that?
Fawna appeared in the doorway and looked between us. “Well, the two of you are already up and moving.”
“You know me,” Dominic said, tipping his drink in her direction.
“Yes, I do.” She gave him a smile and then turned her friendly eyes toward me. “And Aleena…did you get settled in?”
“Yes.” Some of my tension faded away. “Mostly. I’ve gone over the paperwork you’ve given me, too.”
“Please tell me you didn’t spend your entire weekend working.” She tsked under her breath.
“No.” I glanced at Dominic and then back at Fawna. “I was able to get some shopping done as well. I needed to expand my wardrobe.”
“Ahhh…yes. That was actually going to be on the schedule for today.”
“I…” I blinked. “What?”
Dominic folded his arms. “Your wardrobe. I told Fawna I wanted her to take you shopping.”
“I’ve been shopping,” I said. I gestured at the neat black suit I wore. I knew they couldn’t find fault with it. It was Chanel. It cost two hundred dollars…used. There wasn’t anything wrong with it.
Dominic opened his mouth, but Fawna held up a hand and stepped between us. “I see you have. That’s a lovely suit, Aleena. It’s very flattering.”
I angled my chin up, fighting the urge to glare at the man standing behind Fawna.
“You’ll need more than one or two nice pieces for the job as my assistant, Aleena,” Dominic said, his voice flat.
“I can buy my own clothing,” I retorted.
Something that might have been surprise flashed through his eyes.
Fawna, ever the peacemaker, cut in again. “Aleena, perhaps you’ll allow me to look at your wardrobe. I have a good idea what you’ll need—I’m sure you can agree there.”
“I…” I stopped and then nodded.
“Wonderful. And if you are amenable, then you’ll allow Dominic to help you with your…wardrobe expansions.” She winked at me. “After all, you understand that your appearance reflects on Dominic and the Winter Corporation, yes?”
I fought the urge to grit my teeth as I mentally counted to ten, then back. Finally, I looked from her to Dominic. “I don’t believe in letting somebody pay my way,” I said quietly. Then I looked away. “But fine. I’ll let you buy a few pieces. Enough to last me a few weeks. After that, I’ll start buying a piece a week with my own money.”
“Aleena, it’s not like I can’t afford—”
“Perfectly reasonable,” Fawna said, interrupting Dominic.