Lullabiess

Chapter 2

Senior Vice President, Virginia Boone stomped angrily past the cubicles of her nosy employees, ignoring their probing stares and low snickers. They could barely contain their joy. The Ice Bitch was finally gone. They thought she didn know what they whispered behind her back, but she did. She knew everything the close to one hundred employees she supervised said about her. They thought she was a sad, lonely, pathetic frigid bitch. And maybe they were right.

Shed worked for the Newton International Hotel Corporation ever since shed graduated from college. And over the past twenty years, shed steadily climbed the corporate ladder, sacrificing everything to achieve one goal—to become CEO of the largest hotel chain in the world. She had always remained professional and distant from her employees, running her division with cool efficiency and precision. The marketing division was undoubtedly the most productive arm of the company. So when Tom Salkind retired earlier that year as CEO, shed been sure the job was hers.

She wrenched open the door to her corner office with the amazing view of downtown Atlanta, stepped inside, and slammed it behind her. She wasted no time in grabbing a Xerox box full of new stacks of paper. Dumping the unopened packets to the floor, she began to clean out her desk.

As she haphazardly stuffed her most personal belongings into the box, she replayed the words that had changed her life forever.

”…So, it is with great pride and enthusiasm that I introduce to you Newtons newest CEO, my grandson, Steve Newton. ” She had sat there stunned when the owner, Gerard Newton, had delivered the news to the twelve-member Board of Directors, the new CEO, Steve Newton, and to her.

She gritted her teeth at the thought of him. She was being usurped by a twenty-nine-year-old Harvard Business graduate whod only been with the company for two years. He was barely out of grad school and now he was the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.

The sound of her office door closing caught her attention and she whirled around to face the last person she wanted to see.

”Virginia, Im sorry. I didn know— ”

She held up her hand to halt his next words. ”Its fine Steve. I could tell from your shocked expression that it was news to you too. Still, congratulations, ” she said stiffly, before twisting back around to finish packing.

”I couldn believe you stormed out of there—hey, what are you doing? ”

”What does it look like Im doing? ” she snapped as she continued to dump her things into the box.

She froze at the touch of his hand against her arm. Blowing out a long, jagged breath she turned around to face him. And as soon as she met his gaze, and glimpsed the hurt look on his handsome face, she instantly regretted her terse words. It wasn his fault. Actually Steve didn deserve any of her anger. Ever since hed joined the company two years ago as the CFO, hed been nothing but kind toward her, even though shed always kept him at arms length.

”Don quit, ” he said softly.

She shrugged his hand from her arm, flashing him a weak smile. ”I have to. ”

”But, I need you—, ” he said, and she almost swore she saw something flash in his eyes that hinted at a more intimate need, but then it disappeared and she figured it had just been her imagination. He cleared his throat. ”—to advise me. You have the most experience of any of the senior staff and I need your expertise. ”

”Im sorry, Steve, but you know I can stay, ” she said quietly, holding his penetrating blue gaze.

”What will you do? ”

She shrugged as she curled her lips into a wry smile. ”I don know and for the first time in my life, I don care. ” It was true. She had lived her life for so long always striving to accomplish her next goal. Well, for the first time ever she had no goal and it felt good.

The disappointment on his face tugged at her, and for just a moment she experienced a pang of guilt. Feeling compelled to do something she was sure she would later regret, she grabbed one of her business cards and scribbled on the back. ”Here is my home number. If you find you have a question just call me. ” She shoved her card into his hand and whirled back around to finish with her task.

She heard him mumble ”thanks ” followed by the soft click of the door closing shut. Contrary to what her employees thought, she did have feelings and she felt bad for dumping her anger on Steve when hed had nothing to do with the events that had transpired earlier. But she couldn help feeling a twinge of resentment. He now held the position that shed coveted for the last five years. Still, that had been no excuse for her abrupt dismissal and downright rude behavior. She toyed with the thought of going after him to apologize, but quickly abandoned the idea.

Hed be fine. She on the other hand wouldn .

The knowledge that shed given up so much for a dream that had been snatched so cruelly from her was enough to send her spiraling head first to depression. Painful memories from the past twenty years of all the sacrifices shed made replayed themselves in her head. The main one being from three years ago when her ex-fiancé walked out on her shortly after shed miscarried their baby, all the while hurling accusations at her that her workaholic schedule had been the cause. She knew now that Toby was nothing but an asshole and a jerk, but at the time the pain and guilt had only driven her to work harder, making her even more determined to achieve the goal that had cost her the family shed always wanted.

Tears burned the backs of her eyes and she drew in a deep breath, as she forced them not to fall. She needed to hurry up and finish packing so that she could get out of there before she did what she so desperately longed to do—slump to the floor and indulge in a good cry. But her pride would not allow her to give into the impulse. The Ice Bitch did not crack, and she certainly didn melt.

****

Steve Newton flopped down in the plush leather cushions of his office chair and blew out a long breath.

How could his grandfather do this to Virginia—to him even? He ran an angry hand through his close-cropped, jet-black hair, disheveling it into wild spikes. When Tom retired, his grandfather assured him that Virginia would be promoted to CEO. So it had been a shock to him when his name had been announced instead.

Right after Virginia stormed out, hed pulled Gerard Newton aside for an expVirginiation.

”What was that about? You told me Ms. Boone was going to be promoted, ” hed accused.

His grandfather had shrugged his stocky shoulders and the lines of his face had deepened when hed spoken. He at least had the decency to appear remorseful. ”I wanted to promote her, but the Board refused to support her bid for CEO. They were really uncomfortable with having someone from outside the family in the position again. I had no choice but to appoint you. Im sorry Steve. ”

”Its not me you should be apologizing to, ” hed whispered angrily before spinning on his heels to follow Virginia.

He leaned back in his chair and stared out across Midtown Atlanta, his eyes vacant. Virginia didn deserve this. She had devoted herself to Newton Corp, and this was her thanks? If hed been her he would have quit too.

He glanced down at the card in his hand, twisting it between his fingers. Shed given it to him and told him to call her if he had any questions. A small grin flashed across his face. He had a question— would she have dinner with him Friday night? That had been the main question hed wanted to ask her since hed first laid eyes on the voluptuous older woman two years ago.

He remembered their first meeting like it was yesterday. Shed been wearing a form-fitting white turtle neck Cashmere dress that hugged her gorgeous figure down to her knees, where it teased the tops of her spike-heeled leather black boots. The soft white hue of the dress complimented the warm tones of her rich, chocolate complexion. Her shoulder-length hair had been pulled back into a severe bun and shed worn standard wire-rimmed glasses that obscured her beautiful almond-shaped brown eyes.

Shed shaken his hand with a cool authority and hed been smitten ever since. No matter how hard he tried to invite her to lunch or engage her in small talk, she had always remained polite, but aloof—the epitome of professionalism. Everyone called her the Ice Bitch if they were nice, worse if they weren . But he sensed beneath her chilly exterior was a warm and sensual woman who she worked very hard to hide, and it was that woman he wanted to discover. He wanted to get to know the real Virginia Boone, not the one she showed to the rest of the world.

He stared at the ten digits shed hastily scrawled on the back of the card. What would she do if he called her and asked her out? Or better yet showed up on her doorstep with an invitation to dinner? He knew the answer to both of those questions. She would give him a cool, but polite, no.

If he wanted to get to know Virginia more intimately then he was going to have to come up with something far better than a phone call or a visit.

A thought popped into his head and he sat up, ramrod straight, in his chair. It was a long shot, a crazy idea even. He curled his lips up into a smile and glanced back down at the card. Crazy idea or not, he was fresh out of options. He shot up from his chair and bounded out of his office just in time to see the doors to the elevator close with Virginia inside. His smile grew wider. Perfect timing.

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