The Billionaire's Proposal(3)

By: Avery James

“Was that file by any chance in the conference room?” Maggie asked.

“Probably, why?” Amy asked.

“Like I said, I happened to meet your aunt and your children in there. I think they were color-coding that file.”

“As long as they were coloring inside the lines,” Amy said with a laugh. “They weren’t supposed to be here for another hour. I guess we’ll have to cut this short. Are you sure you want everything we have?” she added.

Maggie thought about the toddlers happily coloring away. “When the time’s right,” she said. “I’ve got to find the right guy first, but for now I’m married to the job.”

“Good answer,” Amy said. “Now go get started, and make us proud.”

Chapter 2

Maggie surveyed the scene as she stepped into the lobby of the Avalon Key West. While it had been blindingly bright and hot outside, the lobby was cool and comfortably dim, with dark mahogany floors and warm lighting. It was a far cry from the stuffy facades and cramped offices of Washington, D.C. At the front desk, the concierges were dispatching bellboys and greeting guests. There were a few older couples in line, and Maggie couldn’t help but size everyone up as she looked across the room.

That was the first thing she’d learned over her time at Haven Communications—how to form an impression of someone in a split second and to act accordingly. In a crisis situation, a fast and accurate read could be the difference between diffusing a situation and making it worse. Maggie tried to remind herself that this wasn’t a crisis and that she could let her guard down for just a moment, but it had already become second nature.

As the line inched toward the front desk, she looked around some more. There was faint piano music coming the other end of the lobby, and light filtered in through the plantation shutters on the windows. There were couches and benches where people were relaxing and waiting for their loved ones. Maggie looked them over—a couple her parents’ age looking over a map, a family with two disinterested kids, an older man with a tan line on his ring finger trying to act natural with his much younger date.

A large percentage of Haven’s business was due to men exactly like that. Sex scandals were as much a way of life in D.C. as House votes and motorcades. At first Maggie hadn’t understood why men with so much to lose would risk everything for something so meaningless, but she’d figured it out quickly enough. It was the need to prove their power and youth. The only reason she was standing in the lobby was because Stanton Howard, the man who owned it, had embroiled himself in a sex scandal.

Maggie had come to a working hypothesis about the men her company helped. It wasn’t that they were fundamentally more flawed than other men; it was that their money and power allowed them to act on those flaws. It wasn’t about sex; it was about ego. Women their age got plastic surgery. The men got mistresses. It was the reason why she’d never date a rich guy. They were bound to screw up. Not that she’d have the time to meet anyone anyway. With her job, her social life was officially dead.

Stop it, she told herself. You’re here to enjoy yourself for two days, and then you have to bring a rich guy back to D.C. She thought back to Abby’s advice. Enjoy yourself. Meet a guy. Let your guard down. Be young. Maggie scanned the room again. This time she told herself not to be such a cynic. She caught a glimpse of motion out of her peripheral vision and watched a man enter through the front door of the hotel. She looked at the convertible behind him, a vintage Mercedes.

Normally, about ten alarms would have gone off in her head, all of them saying the same thing: trouble. He had brown hair tousled by the wind, a light polo that clung to his wide shoulders, and blue eyes. She watched as he tossed his keys to the valet. He walked into the hotel like a prince returning to his castle. There was something so effortless about the way he moved, a confidence that Ring Tan Man would never recapture and had probably never had. Already, she’d assigned him a name in her head: Charming.

Maggie felt a jolt of panic when she realized he had stopped and was looking right at her. His eyes were a brighter blue than even the tropical water. She smiled and looked away for a moment. This was the kind of thing she always did. The moment she got attention, she shied away. Maybe that’s what made her good at diffusing difficult situations. She could blend in, act without drawing attention. In her professional life, it was a strength, but on a personal level, it meant she blew every opening she had to make an impression.

Maggie looked back up. Charming was still smiling at her. She felt herself starting to smile too. Before she could change her mind, she gave him a wink. It was subtle, almost imperceptible, but she knew he’d seen it, and as soon as she did, she felt the color rushing into her cheeks. She wondered what to do next. What was her bold move? She wondered if she should walk over to him and say something.

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