Instead, Jessica had spread malicious rumors all over the office. Ellie was now despised by all the staff as a gold-digging slut. Ellie—a slut! She, who'd never even kissed a man before. Diogo had swept her up into his arms in Rio!
Thank God she'd finally given up on her dreams. She'd finally realized that her grandmother was right. Her heart wasn't hard or modern enough to survive city life. She'd given up. Given in.
Three weeks ago, she'd finally told Timothy yes.
He had left his prestigious job as Diogo Serrador's general counsel at Christmas, abruptly deciding to be a simple country lawyer in their small hometown. He'd pressured Ellie to leave with him, but she'd refused.
But after today she would never have to see New York again—or Diogo. She would be married to a safe, respectable man who loved her. A man she could trust.
Assuming Timothy still wanted her when she was pregnant with another man's child.
Mrs. Alvarez hung up the phone and turned to face Ellie. “I don't know what you've been doing in your spare time, but your work has been unacceptable. This is your last chance—”
Diogo's deep, accented voice interrupted her, booming through the intercom on the elegant dark wood desk. “Mrs. Alvarez, come at once.”
A thrill of panic raced through Ellie at the sound of his voice, causing her heart to nearly leap out of her chest.
“Yes, sir,” the executive secretary replied, then released the intercom button. Her critical eyes traced over Ellie's pale, sweaty face and shapeless dark dress. “I need you to create a new SWOT analysis on Changchun Steel in dollars.” When Ellie didn't move, she said sharply, “Get going, girl.”
“No,” Ellie whispered.
Mrs. Alvarez turned back with surprise and anger in her eyes. “What did you say?”
Shaking but determined, Ellie faced down the older woman. “I need to see him.”
She looked dumbfounded. “Certainly not!”
“Let her go,” Jessica muttered under her breath. “Once he sees her in that dumpy dress, he'll fire her for sure.”
Ignoring her hurtful comment, Ellie started toward the office door.
“Stop right there!” Sputtering in outrage, the older woman stepped in front of her, pointing at Ellie in an angry staccato as she spoke. “This is the last straw. Whatever you might think you've earned on your back, you're nothing here. I've had it with your incompetence. Your insolence! Collect your things. You are fired!”
Desperately, Ellie pushed past Mrs. Alvarez into the private office of her billionaire boss.
Diogo Serrador was having a week from hell.
After a year of nonstop work and millions of dollars spent, his hostile takeover bid for Trock Nickel Ltd. had just failed.
Because he'd lost his ally on their board of directors.
Because he'd missed an important appointment.
Because his junior secretary had written down the wrong time.
And it was only Ellie Jensen's most recent mistake. For the last few weeks, he'd seen her work performance fall to ridiculous levels. He'd seen her come in late. Leave early. Take long lunches and spend far too much time hiding out in the bathroom.
Cursing under his breath, Diogo got up from his desk and paced in front of the curved wall of windows that revealed the skyscrapers of southern Manhattan and Battery Park. For an instant, he leaned his forehead against the cool glass, staring across the New York Harbor to the distant Statue of Liberty silhouetted against the pale morning sky. In spite of Miss Jensen's inexperience, and in spite of the way he'd hired her—sight unseen, on his head lawyer's recommendation—she'd been promising enough for him to take to Rio for an important deal when Mrs. Alvarez had been ill. Ellie Jensen had been on her way to becoming a valuable asset in his office.
Too bad he'd made the mistake of seducing her.
Diogo ground his teeth. Biskreta, he never should have taken her to Rio. He should have fired her at Christmas, along with his treacherous ex-lawyer.
His body went tense just remembering the gleam in Timothy Wright's pale, feral face when Diogo found out what he'd done. “You should thank me, Mr. Serrador,” the man had said slyly. “I saved you millions of dollars.”
Thank him? The man deserved to burn in hell.
Diogo should have fired Ellie, too. Why trust a woman who was Wright's friend? But Diogo's conscience hadn't allowed him to fire her. Hadn't thought it fair.
And perhaps, he forced himself to admit, he'd liked having her in the office. Unlike many of the other secretaries, she'd always acted cheerful and kind. She hadn't stooped to gossip. She'd added brightness to his office.
Until he'd slept with her.
Diogo ground his teeth. He'd known the girl was fresh from the country, but since she was twenty-four years old, it had never occurred to him she might be a virgin. If he'd known, he never would have touched her. Virgins were off-limits. They took lovemaking far too seriously. They saw it as a relationship. Plus, they were usually boring in bed.