Caught in the act
He moved in a world of power and privilege. She was merely his assistant. But that didn't stop Sheri Donnelly from falling for her charming playboy boss, French media magnate Tristan Sabina.
When fate gave her the chance for one night with Tristan, Sheri took it. But the next morning, their supposedly scandalous affair had made tabloid headlines. And now Tristan insisted Sheri play the role of his beloved fiancee--in every way!
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from The Wealthy Frenchman's Proposition by Katherine Garbera
"Bonjour, Sheri. Did the interoffice pouch arrive yet? I have sent something special in it for you!"
Sheri Donnelly smiled into the phone at Lucille Dumont's greeting. She loved her job at the Sabina Group. She'd been unsure what the future would hold six months earlier, when the small magazine company she worked for had been purchased by the large French conglomerate. But the change was working out beautifully.
Lucille was Sheri's counterpart at the publishing company's Paris office. Though they'd never met, Sheri always pictured Lucille as a chic Parisian. Partly because of the way she sounded over the phone and partly because their boss, publisher Tristan Sabina, had said that Lucille was nothing like her when she'd asked what his other assistant looked like.
"I sent you the latest copy of Le Figaro." Lucille was a devoted reader of all tabloid magazines. She often sent Sheri the French tabloids and loved to receive the gossip rags from the U.S.
"Tristan hates it when you do that."
"He doesn't have to know. And he's on the cover with a gorgeous woman."
"I might be interested in it," Sheri said. Tristan had become kind of an obsession with her. Not anything unhealthy that bordered on stalking, but more of an unquenchable curiosity. She wanted to know all about him. So far, she'd learned that he was demanding but gave praise easily. Plus he was extremely cute. And a widower.
"I thought you would be."
Sheri grimaced. Was she that transparent, even over the phone? "Was there anything else?"
"Yes. I want to know about the woman. She's a blond American actress, Kate or Jennifer or something. Do you know if he is seeing her?"
An actress? She'd been jealous of the coffee girl from downstairs whom Tristan flirted with every morning. No way could she compete with a beautiful blond actress. Sheri personified plain and dowdy, two things she knew about herself but had never been able to change.
"I don't have any details," Sheri said, smiling at the office mail guy as he dropped off the pouch. Now she was curious to see exactly what was in there.
"See what you can find out when he gets in to the office. You have the inside scoop on this one."
"I'm pretty sure that Tristan will fire me if I start gossiping about his personal life."
"You are right about that." The deep, velvety cadence of Tristan Sabina's voice made her start guiltily.
She gulped and looked up into his steel-gray eyes. "I've got to go, Lucille." She hurriedly said goodbye and hung up the phone, still holding Tristan's gaze.
His thick brown hair was longer in the front than in the back and his face had the healthy glow that came from spending time outdoors and not on a tanning bed. This morning he wore a blue pin-striped shirt, open at the collar, and a tailored navy suit. The sight of him made her want to stare dreamily, which was so not like her.
"Talking about me again?"
"Lucille and I have to talk about you," she said, trying for the cheeky tone she usually pulled off easily. "We're your assistants."
"True, but that did not sound like work."
She shrugged, unable to stop her speculative thoughts. Was he dating a Hollywood starlet? And when had it happened?
"What was Lucille calling you about?" he asked as he reached for his messages, and began thumbing through them.
"Oh, you know how she is, always thinking there's something exciting going on here in New York," Sheri said, looking down at her computer screen and hoping he'd just go into his office. She couldn't look at him and not tell him the truth.
"Hmm...?" she said, still not looking up. Her computer screen was infinitely fascinating at this moment. Please let him go away.
"Look at me." She finally did. "What did Lucille ask you about?"
"I told you," she said, dropping her gaze to his open collar. "Why will you not look me in the eye?" he asked, his accent very pronounced.
"Because I don't want to lie to you."
"Then do not lie to me."
She shrugged again. The last thing she wanted to talk about was his personal life. Liar. "It was something she saw in Le Figaro."
"About me and a woman?" he asked.
She nodded. He didn't say anything else, just stared down at her, and she started to feel really self-conscious. What if, somehow, he could read on her face that she was attracted to him? What if he picked up on that and it made working for him awkward? What if...?
"You have a conference call with Rene in fifteen minutes, and he just sent a lengthy e-mail that you should at least glance at before you talk to him," she said, holding out a copy of the e-mail, which she'd printed out for him.
For a moment she didn't think he was going to let her steer the conversation back to business.
"You are right, of course," he said, taking the papers.
"I highlighted the topics for you and jotted down the information I had on each one."
"Thank you, Ms. Donnelly.