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Authors: Delaney Diamond

For Better or Worse (6 page)

BOOK: For Better or Worse
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Cassidy smiled sweetly. “Hmm…Yeah, we wouldn’t
want you to get any bigger.”

Ronetta’s smile fell away, and a flustered,
uncertain look replaced it because she didn’t miss the dig.

Antonio jumped to his feet and placed his
brownie back on the plate. “We’re done, aren’t we?” he said to Ronetta.

“Uh . . . yes, we are.” Ronetta wrapped her
brownie in a napkin. “I think we covered everything, and if I have any
questions, I’ll send you an e-mail.”

“I’ll walk you back to your office. I have a
few quick questions. Cass, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

The hard look he sent behind Ronetta’s back
didn’t faze her. “I’ll be waiting,” she said.

After they walked out, Cassidy took a deep
breath. She’d never liked Ronetta from the first time she met her, and she
liked her even less now. When he’d hired her, she’d made her reservations
known, but Antonio had brushed them off and told her Ronetta had a stellar résumé
and was good at her job. That’s the only reason he was interested in her.

She gnawed on her top lip, thinking about the
comments Janice had made before she left work. Janice’s husband had cheated on
her with one of his coworkers.

Why did he have to hire Ronetta? An attractive,
dessert-making publicist with a voluptuous figure and who made him laugh.

Cassidy didn’t like the direction her thoughts
were taking, but she couldn’t stop them. Antonio was an attractive man, and he
held a position of power as the head of his own company. Women were attracted
to power. Her instincts had served her well in the past, and she couldn’t
ignore the uneasy sensation that had surfaced in her stomach, which meant she
shouldn’t ignore what she saw as only an innocent conversation between
coworkers.

She walked behind Antonio’s desk and slid into
his chair. Beside his computer was his smartphone, too. If she had enough time,
she could kill two birds with one stone. Shaking the wireless mouse, she
flicked her gaze to the open doorway. When the computer screen came alive, she
ran her nimble fingers across the keyboard and typed in a Web site URL.

She squashed the twinge of guilt in her chest
that warned she shouldn’t be doing this. She already knew that, but had made up
her mind within seconds of Antonio walking out of the office that she was going
to do it anyway. If he had nothing to hide, then she’d be proven wrong, and
everything would be fine, but she
needed to be sure. There was
nothing wrong with making sure, right?

Her fingers paused on the keyboard as pain
tightened in her chest. The sensation in her stomach magnified tenfold into a
full stomachache. Tears filled her eyes, and she shut them for a moment. Just
the thought of Antonio cheating on her was unbearable.

Some women—poor, pathetic creatures that they
were—didn’t have a clue about a cheating spouse until the other woman showed
up, or worse, out of the blue, she was served with divorce papers. She refused
to be one of those women.

She opened her eyes.
Her
fingers flew across the keys once again. She watched the downloading program
install on Antonio’s computer. Tapping her finger on the desk nervously, she
watched the doorway in case he came back before she was finished.

When the download completed, she sat there for
a moment, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth.

The lights seemed extra bright. They were like
a spotlight, glaring, bringing attention to the ugly thing she’d done. 

She took a quivering breath.

She couldn’t help it, though. She had to know.
She
deserved
to know.

 

Chapter Five

 

Cassidy, in one of the guest chairs, watched
Antonio come back into the office and seat himself behind the desk across from
her. She returned his penetrating stare.

“Proud of yourself?” he asked.

She shot him a defiant look, tilting her chin
up. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You know exactly what I mean. That little jab
you made at Ronetta was completely unnecessary.”

Cassidy shrugged. “I was expressing my concern
on her behalf.” She rose from the chair. “Anyway, I have to go. I brought
brownies from Sweet Treats Bakery. They’re not homemade, but you’ve always
enjoyed them in the past.”

Antonio shook his head and sighed. “What am I
going to do with you?” His eyes softened. “Come here.”

Cassidy glanced over her shoulder at the door.

“Don’t worry about the open door. We’re not
going to do anything freaky. I only want to kiss you good-bye before you
leave.”

“That’s all?” Cassidy sashayed behind the desk,
smiling to herself when his eyes lowered to the provocative movement of her
hips. She sat on his lap and looped her arms around his neck. The kiss was
light and affectionate.

“Mmm. Perfect.” Antonio grinned at her. “I’ll
see you later.”

“Okay.” Cassidy moved to get up, but Antonio
held her back.

“One more thing,” he said.


Yes
?” Cassidy purred, gazing into his chocolate-colored
eyes.

Antonio leaned in so close his lips grazed the
shell of her ear. “Remove whatever you put on my computer.”

Startled, Cassidy drew back, her playful
attitude immediately vanishing. “What? What are you . . . talking . . . ?”

One eyebrow rose in disbelief. “So you’re going
to lie to me?”

“No, I . . .” Her gaze skittered away from his
face to land on the second button of his shirt. “How did you know?” she asked
in a low voice.

“I didn’t, but I know you and the way you
think. Considering you’re about to take the
Ethical
Hacker exam, what
you did was extremely
un
ethical.”

Defeated and at a loss for words, Cassidy
twisted around and went through the steps to remove the hidden software. When
she finished, she wouldn’t look at him. “I’ll see you later,” she mumbled,
walking toward the door.

“Is this how you want things to be?” Antonio asked.
“Do you even feel bad about what you did?”

Cassidy stopped near the door. She straightened
her spine before she faced him. “Are you saying you never have doubts?”

“No, because I trust you.” He rose and walked
slowly over to where she stood. “Should I have doubts? You trying to tell me
something?” His voice was low and quiet, and his eyes had hardened as he
focused on her face, as if searching for a telling twitch or some other damning
evidence of wrongdoing.

“Of course not!” Cassidy said hotly. “But let’s
be real, I’m a woman. If I wanted sex, I could just—” She stopped the impulsive
words too late.

He froze. “You could what?”

“Nothing.”

“You could what? Get it whenever you want?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just
talking.”

He reached behind her and slammed the door
shut, making her jump. He stood so close she almost had to step back. “You
better be just talking. Because if I ever find out . . .”

The heated words hung in the air, and she knew
what he left unsaid was not what he would do to her, but what he’d do to the
man.

He wagged his finger at her. “You know what,
I’m not going to let you get me riled up, because that’s what you want. You and
drama are best friends, but me and drama don’t get along.”

“I’m not being dramatic.”

Already turned around, Antonio crossed the room
to his desk. “I’ll see you tonight,” he said in a clipped tone. By way of
dismissal, he flipped open a file on his desk.

Cassidy stared at his bent head for a long
time, willing him to pay attention to her, but when he didn’t, she left the
office in a huff.

****

Hours later, Antonio pulled on his
jacket.
 

“I know this is hard on you.” Valentina
Rodriguez rested a hand on his shoulder in the dim light near the door of the
hotel suite. Her dark hair hung in loose waves down her back, and her alabaster
skin held a hint of guilty color as she looked up at him with concern in her
green eyes.

Antonio tensed when she touched him, and she
dropped her hand.

What had he gotten himself into? What was he
doing here in this hotel room, doing something that went against his
conscience?

Of course, he knew what.

His eyes shifted to the little boy she held in
her arms. The ten-month-old looked back at Antonio with the same brown eyes and
thick, curled lashes he and his siblings had inherited from their father.
Emilio was definitely a Vega.

“Have you told anyone?” she asked tentatively.

“No,” he responded in a terse tone, irritated
by the question. She knew he couldn’t tell anyone, and it seared his
conscience.

Valentina licked her lips. “I’m really sorry,
Antonio. I didn’t plan this.”

“Didn’t you?” The rhetorical question was harsh
and unfair. He knew better than to accuse her of entrapment because he’d known
her a long time, and she wasn’t that kind of person.

More color filled her cheeks. “No, I didn’t, no
matter what you think.”

He averted his eyes so he couldn’t see the hurt
in hers. “I’m sorry; that was unfair.”

“Yes, it was, because it takes two. And just to
be clear, I
am
sorry this happened, but I’m not sorry about
him
.”
Her voice was harder, and she underscored the words with a kiss to her son’s
cheek.

Antonio let out a heavy breath. “I’m not sorry
about him, either, but that doesn’t make this any less of a mess. Call me if
you need anything else.” He’d dropped off enough cash to get her through the
next couple of weeks.

He reached for the door, but at the last
minute, he turned around to watch her walking back into the main part of the
suite.

“Val.”

Her tear-filled eyes turned back to him, and
she waited, but he had no words of comfort to fix this mess. As good as he was
at his job, he couldn’t think of any way to create a positive spin on the
situation, and certainly more than words were needed here.

“Never mind.” He opened the door and walked
out. 

The elevator was occupied by a couple
with two kids whining about how they wanted hamburgers for dinner. He leaned
his shoulder against the panel and tuned them out. 

Hiding Val and Emilio away in a hotel
room made him feel like a hypocrite after his conversation with Cassidy, but
she had no idea how much women threw themselves at famous men on a regular
basis. No, she had an idea, but didn’t understand the full extent of it. Even he,
who was not even famous—having long since fallen out of the tabloids because
his parents’ lives no longer provided fodder for sensational headlines and
celebrity news shows—was propositioned on a regular basis.

Just a few weeks ago, he’d been out of
town at an event, and a woman had sneaked into his hotel room and offered to
blow him—among other things—if he’d get her into the event so she’d be in close
proximity to one of his famous clients. He’d had to call security to get her
out of there because she refused to leave even after he said no.

One night, he found out after the fact
that another woman had had sex with members of an entourage with the promise
that she’d get to spend the night with one of his NBA clients. She’d left
crying after the player told her he couldn’t trust her and was no longer
interested after she’d slept with all his friends. Another time, two best
friends made out with each other at a private party while a group of athletes
cheered them on, dousing them with bottles of expensive champagne. Sickened,
Antonio left the party early, went home, and curled up on the sofa in the living
room with Cassidy, watching movies and eating popcorn. 

As a celebrity kid, he’d shunned the
spotlight. Having traveled all over the world, and even with access to parties,
women, free-flowing liquor, and drugs, he’d never partaken in any of it. He
credited his parents, because they’d never participated in that life, and they kept
all four children grounded, causing them to be turned off by the excess. 

Eventually he realized where his passions lay.
Having spent the majority of his life around athletes because of his father’s
profession, he decided to work with them because he understood how the media
could misconstrue even the most innocent of actions.

His father’s face used to be plastered across
magazines, and he’d be rumored to be having an affair with one woman or
another. If his father even raised his voice, the next day there would be a
headline about his “hot Latin temper.” If he felt tired and wasn’t as friendly
when asked for an autograph, reporters pegged him a jerk.  

Because of that notoriety, Antonio
learned to walk a thin, straight line to avoid embarrassing his parents. He
adopted a calm exterior at all times, was slow to anger, and never shared his
personal relationships with the media. What he’d learned over the years from
experience, he used to help craft a positive public image for his clients.

BOOK: For Better or Worse
5.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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