The Business of Desire

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"Oh. Christina. Hello." I know my voice is stiff and formal. But I can't help it. She's my former secretary, and I'd made the mistake of screwing her all those months ago, right when my uncle died. Not my finest moment — I'd always, carefully, chosen older socialites, women with money, discreet women here and there over the years, ones who didn't expect much and demanded even less.

But Christina was available, willing and had a decent sense of humor. She came from a rich Spanish family and had just graduated from a school in Miami when I'd hired her. It had been a favor to her father, who worked in the Spanish embassy and had bought a condo from me some years ago. A good family, the kind of family that my uncle would have wanted me to marry into.

So when my uncle died, all I'd wanted was comfort. Christina had hugged me softly that night, and one thing led to another. I couldn't resist her shiny, dark hair and long legs. She was single, I was single, and I needed something soft and warm to hang on to that awful and lonely night.

But I'd violated all my own rules. Don't sleep with the staff. Don't sleep with anyone more than five years younger than me. And never, ever let a woman stay the night.

Then I'd made the mistake of saying Justine's name in my sleep while Christina's naked body was wrapped around mine.

Which is why Christina not only left my house sobbing that morning, but quit soon after. Just thinking about it makes a brick of guilt appear in my stomach. I'd never meant to hurt the poor woman. I'd apologized with a bouquet of flowers.

"Are you in a meeting? I'm sorry to bother you." Her voice is higher-pitched than I remember and has a chipper tone.

I clear my throat, hoping to hurry this conversation along because I don't like making Justine wait. My body physically aches to be in that awful room with her now that we're in the same building. "Actually, yes, I'm about to go into a meeting. Can I call you another time?"

"Of course. Do you have my new number?"

I pause to think and scratch my chin. Do I? I doubt it, since she'd written me a fairly scathing text after we'd slept together, at the time she quit. The text came after I'd sent the apology flowers. I'd hoped we could stay friends, at the least.

I thought we had something more, Rafael. You're obviously not over HER.

"I switched phones recently, and I'm not sure if my secretary, uh, my new secretary, transferred everything," I say lamely. I'm not lying. But I also suspect I'd deleted her number after the text, not wanting a visual reminder of how weak I'd been in the days after my uncle's death. Like I said, not my finest moment.

"And I don't see your number on my phone. Why did you hide your number when you called?"

She laughs again, a high, birdlike noise. Her laugh always kind of annoyed me. It had been such a mistake for me to screw her. She'd been a great assistant for the year she worked for me. At least I didn't have to deal with her father in business circles; he'd left his job at the Embassy and returned to Madrid. Since I hadn't seen Christina around, I assumed she'd gone with him.

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