Mystery Buyer

Delauney pretended to sip her wine and smiled vaguely at Gen’s story of her puppy and her now ex-boyfriend’s shoes. It was a good story, but it was the fifth time she’d heard it this week.

Could their company’s new owners hurry up and arrive? Then they could get on with their happy meet and greet and she could smile, shake hands and get out to start her weekend.

As if summoned by her thoughts, the lift doors opened and a group emerged.

A gut-churningly familiar group. Oh dear saints under heaven please let her be wrong. Please let her eyesight be giving out.

Gen trailed off and turned, following Delauney’s stare. ‘Oh, they’re here. I mean, it has to be them, right? They look so…’

Delauney murmured. ‘Quite.’

David’s team were hard to pin with a description and when the man himself emerged from the lift, Gen’s breath left her lungs in an audible wheeze.

He scanned the room, gaze passing over her without a pause, although she did see a very faint uptick in the corner of his mouth as his eyes moved. Not enough to bring out the dimple, but enough to tell her he was pleased about something.

Gen nudged her. ‘Are you alright? You’ve gone pale.’

Delauney pulled herself together and replied. ‘Fine, just nervous.’

Gen patted her arm absently, attention returning to the new arrivals.

Delauney knew all but one of the five. The slim, possibly Indian woman with a notepad in one hand was new.

Her bosses bounded over with the enthusiasm of a couple of golden retrievers and handshakes were exchanged. They’d be making the tour of forgettable introductions now and she had no way to escape.

If she tried to sneak out, she’d just draw attention. Nothing to do but grit her teeth and smile as if they were strangers.

Brian and Steve sidled over to join them.

Brian muttered. ‘Did you hear? Our mystery buyer is David Woodforde.’

Gen gasped. ‘No! Which one is he?’

Delauney bit her tongue.

Steve leaned in. ‘The one not wearing a tie.’

He never wore ties, he said they choked him. He didn’t even wear one for their wedding.

Gen sighed and pouted. ‘Darn, there goes that hope.’

Delauney frowned. ‘What?’

Her friend held up her left hand. ‘He’s wearing a wedding ring.’

The men sighed, they were on the lookout for Prince Charming as well. Delauney tried to kick her mind back into motion. Why? Why was he wearing it?

She’d removed hers when she walked out. To be exact, she’d pulled it, and the engagement ring, off and thrown them both at the smug, manipulative asshole.

And now he was standing in front of her, blandly awaiting an introduction.

Alisdair, the agency founder, waved a hand at their group. ‘Brian James – Accounts, Steve Featherstone – Sales, Gen Reynolds – Reception and Delly – our executive assistant.’

David’s lawyer, Theresa, choked. David lifted a brow. ‘Delly?’

Alisdair chuckled, condescending git. ‘Delauney Masterton’s a bit of a mouthful, so we shorten it.’

He shortened it, no one else was quite so rude.

The new woman at David’d side jerked, Theresa bustled her off to fetch drinks.

David shook her hand. ‘Delauney, I look forward to working with you.’

She managed a pinched. ‘Likewise.’

He turned to the others and she watched him all but hypnotise them. He’d done this on purpose. She didn’t know why, or what, or how, but he was up to something, and he was about to try and drag her into it.

She’d quit. Polish up her CV over the weekend, find something else, even contract work would do, and get the hell out before he could pull her back into his puppet show.

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