A huge bouquet of flowers was sitting at the front desk when Lacey arrived in her office that morning. Big and beautiful, with roses. And wildflowers.
“They just arrived.” Mia, the receptionist, told her with a beaming smile.
Juggling Taffy against her hip, Lacey reached for the card tucked beside the blooms. She sucked in her breath when she saw John’s handwriting.
Lacey, I need to—
She crumpled up the note without reading further. “Send the flowers back.”
“Really?” the girl said sadly. “Just like last year?”
“Just like last year.” Grimly, Lacey carried Taffy to the in-house daycare down the hall.
Then she escaped to her private office, with its modern white interior, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park, all summery and green. The offices of Lacey Tremaine Interiors were bright. Usually Lacey was happy every day she arrived here.
But today, after her sleepless night, she felt like she was barely holding herself together. By the time she’d managed to get Taffy and herself dressed that morning, they’d arrived an hour late.
Sitting at her white desk, she squeezed her eyes shut to keep from crying. She couldn’t fall apart. She was a mother. And she was the boss.
The thought of attending the charity gala tonight was almost unbearable, when it was all she could do to keep herself from bursting into tears in front of everyone.
She forced herself to take a deep breath. She’d make herself go tonight anyway. Just as her mother had always told her to do when she was sad, she’d help someone else.
“Lacey?” Mia’s frizzy head poked into the doorway of her private office. “More flowers arrived.”
“I told you to send them back.”
“I did try.” She grinned cheerfully. “But before I could, three more bouquets were delivered, even bigger than the first one.”
Did John really think that flowers would make her change her mind and give up her whole life for a man who didn’t even love her? She blinked fast. “Send those back, too.”
“Fine,” Mia grumbled.
Lacey closed her office door. She had to find a way to move on. But how could she?
Thinking of him, remembering how she’d felt in his bed last night, her heart twisted with anguish.
She’d done the right thing, she told herself fiercely, wiping her eyes. A marriage between them would have truly been a disaster. No matter how much she loved him, he didn’t love her back. He wanted her to be someone else. Someone obedient and meek. And that just wasn’t her!
A knock sounded at the door.
“What now?” she demanded, blinking away the last of her tears as the door opened.
“Are you crying?” Mia said incredulously.
“Of course not,” she snapped.
The receptionist hesitated. “So… I just wanted you to know that ten more bouquets just arrived.”
“And then there’s the jewelry.”
“Jewelry!” Furious, Lacey rose from her desk. “Damn him!”
Following the receptionist back to the sleek, brightly lit front desk, Lacey stopped with an intake of breath.
The reception area was now filled with flowers. Every inch of the front counter was covered by boxes and bags from prestigious Fifth Avenue stores.
“You can see my problem,” Mia said wryly. She turned to sign as yet another courier came through the door.
“Delivery for Miss Lacey Tremaine.”
Hearing all the hubbub, two of her designers came into reception. “What’s going on?”
One of the designers frowned at all the flowers and jewelry. “Was the gala moved here?”
Lacey, with a scowl, opened a large blue box, revealing a sparkling, priceless diamond necklace.
“Who sent you that?” the other designer asked.
Lacey snapped the box shut. “A man who won’t take no for an answer.”
Mia, with a phone pressed against her ear, covered the receiver with her hand and sighed wistfully. “I wish I had a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wouldn’t say no for long.” At Lacey’s glare, she cleared her throat. “Um. You have a phone call on line two. It’s the charity director. About the gala.”
“I’ll take it in my office.” Lacey hurried down the hall. For her company to be a cosponsor of tonight’s gala was a big deal. She wanted to help the children’s charity, of course, but also get some PR for her firm—to show all of New York that Lacey Tremaine Interiors was now playing in the big leagues.
But the big leagues were expensive. They’d blown their whole PR budget to sponsor this event. The charity’s director had warned her that summer events were rare for a reason, as people left the hot, crowded city for the Hamptons or further afield, making any fundraising event risky. But Lacey had insisted it was an opportunity to stand out.
Now she was afraid.
What if the director was calling to tell her that their attempt at the big leagues was a failure? What if everyone else had been right, and she was wrong?
She didn’t think she could take any more heartbreak today.
Her hand shook as she reached for the phone. “Hi, Lorenzo.” She kept her voice steady. “You have the final count?”
“You genius!” the man exclaimed. “This is shaping up to be the biggest fundraiser in the history of our charity! And that was before we just had a new ten-million-dollar donation an hour ago.”
“I don’t know. The man wished to be anonymous.”
Was John trying to torture her?
The answer was obvious. She’d barely hung up the phone before she heard Mia’s voice on the intercom.
“What is it now?” Lacey bit out.
Mia sounded awed. “He’s here.”
“Who?” she croaked.
“The man, the one who…”
Lacey’s legs trembled as she rose to her feet. “I’ll be right there.”
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