Chapter 1.2 : A Wake-Up Call (part 2)

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This isn't the first time I've been awakened in the middle of the night — well, technically it's an hour or so before dawn — by a work call. Specifically, a phone call from Mr. Marin. I reach out toward the nightstand to switch on a lamp as I plug in my Airpods before swiping the screen to answer the call.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Marin," I say, adopting the tone I use for work.

"My aunts have called for a special meeting of the board of directors on Wednesday," Raul says. "What do you know about it?" His voice is slightly husky with sleep and I can't help the tingle that slides up my spine at the sound.

Stop it, Kate.

Unfortunately, my brain is already imagining what he's wearing at that moment. Does he sleep in his boxers? Naked?

Does he have a woman in bed with him?

At that last thought, I swallow a lump in my throat. Trying to focus on the topic at hand, I reply honestly, "Nothing." I don't bother trying to recall whether or not I've gotten word of a special meeting next week. I know I'd remember. "I hadn't been informed about this. But I'm sure tomorrow— I mean, in the morning I can find out—"

He cut me off. "They hadn't filed the paperwork yet. Which is why we didn't know about it until now. But it's happening."

There's something in his tone that tells me he has more to say about it. "What's the agenda?" I ask. I already had my Notes app ready to jot down anything important.

"They're firing me, Kate."

I feel my heart leap in my chest. "No," I whisper. "I mean, why?"

Wide awake now, I get up. I'm going to need caffeine for this.

I head to the kitchen as Raul explains the situation. My sister Maricar who is visiting is in the living room, still awake and bingeing something on Netflix. She frowns upon seeing me. She knows I'd gone to bed hours ago. I wave my hand to indicate that everything is fine. Knowing her, it's safe to assume she knows this is a work call. She's always on my case about how I need to have boundaries when it comes to my boss but she can lecture me about it in the morning. I meant to make myself a coffee. Instead, I end up sitting on the counter, an empty mug in my hand, listening to him speak.

"Oh," I say when he finished.

"You don't seem surprised."

I take a deep, silent breath. What can I say? This isn't a surprise. Granted, I didn't expect his aunts to take such an extreme measure as actually firing him from the CEO position. They were family, for God's sake. Surely, they could have talked about it first?

"Ms. Hernandez has made her thoughts about your ... lifestyle known. It's no secret she thinks it could make the company look bad." I wince at the last word. Raul Marin is a grown man of thirty-five. So long as he isn't hurting anyone, people have no right to make judgments about how he chooses to live his life. Not even his relatives. Even if the cold truth is that the rules are different for the CEO of a billion-dollar corporation.

Sure, Kate. Keep telling yourself you personally don't care he brings home a different woman every week. Tell yourself it's better than him being married and devoted to a single woman.

I lay my phone down on the marble counter to keep myself from gripping it too hard. Some days I wonder if he still loves his ex-fiancée, Gigi. If he still thinks about her.

The silence that follows tells me that nothing I just told him is anything he doesn't already know.

"I think," I say, then pause, thinking. "I think they're anticipating some problems with the acquisition of DS. That's why they're railroading this."

"Carmen and Grace will be nominating Bianca, I think."

I nod to myself. Bianca Hernandez-Smith is Raul's cousin and currently the company's Chief Operating Officer. "She's the obvious choice. And she's, well..."

"Married. A stable family life. Kids," he says.


Another long silence. "Your thoughts?"

I clear my throat. "Well, you can speak to your Tia Carmen—"

"No, Kate," he says, interrupting me. "What do you think about me?"

Gorgeous. Smart. Funny.

"Sir?" I feel my face flush. "I don't understand."

"Do you agree with my aunts' assessment of my character?"

"No, of course not. But they're not wrong." I know he expects me to give it to him straight. Still, it doesn't stop the nervousness that courses through me. "You told me that much of what constitutes leadership is good communication. Every action is a message. What you choose to show of yourself to the world and your company is a message too."

The truth is, Raul Marin doesn't need this job. He's the heir to his family's food manufacturing empire. Marin Elizondo was just one of their business interests. But it wasn't a matter of money or a job. This job — this company —was his passion.


I catch my breath at the sexy hum I hear over the phone. He does that when he's thinking. I should be used to it by now, having been his assistant for seven years. And yet, heat sparks in my belly upon hearing it.

"Do you have a plan, sir?" I say. I know we'll need to figure out a strategy before Monday. That means we have a little over twenty-four hours.

"No. But I will before Monday."

"I'll come up with ideas tomorrow after we've had a chance to talk about everything."

"Come over."

My heart skips a beat. "Sir?" I don't know why the idea of going to his home at three a.m. makes me nervous. I've been there before, many times. And in various times of the day — and night.

"Right now. Hurry."


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