Fake Marriage with the CEO(3)

By: Amanda Horton



***

Miranda stepped into the courtyard of the Blackwell Building still fuming over Kyle. The sight of NOELLE’S eased the storm in her heart. Seeing the cafe in its ultra-chic location still gave her a feeling of pride. The Blackwell building housed more than a dozen corporations. Noelle Mancini, now Mrs. Hunter Blackwell, had no second thoughts when Hunter offered the location to them. With Noelle and Hunter on an extended vacation in the Bahamas, Miranda was currently in charge of the establishment.



As she walked toward the cafe, her reflection walked with her. A striking woman wearing bright colors better suited to the quirky neighborhood location of the old building. Admittedly, she missed the nondescript side street where the café used to be. They had abandoned the old name, “Eats Well”, for a more modern upgrade. The restaurant was now known simply as “NOELLE’S” with the name written in brass. It was an immediate hit.



Noelle quipped that it was her notoriety that drew the crowd in. Who wouldn’t be curious about the unknown Italian beauty that managed to capture the heart of the playboy billionaire whose election to the senate was the result of a massive outcry from the citizens of New York City itself?



As Miranda stepped inside, she immediately calmed down. It might be Noelle’s notoriety that drew them in, but anyone who tasted her cooking would keep coming back. Noelle was like the sister Miranda never had. Not only had she supported Miranda through the darkest period in her life, but she also approved of Miranda’s desire to establish her own catering business. Miranda knew that Noelle would share her enthusiasm for combining a soup kitchen with the catering business she dreamed about.



She walked past the dining area, casting a practiced eye over the whole establishment. The front servers were working hard, as usual. She entered a hallway, passing the modern kitchen where the sound decibel was at bedlam level. Smiling, Miranda pushed open the doorway leading to her office. Bedlam was a good sign. It meant that the staff was on their toes, ready to feed the hungry horde.



“Is everything alright?” Lexi looked up from her desk as Miranda entered.



Miranda plastered a bright smile onto her face. “Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?”



Lexi stood in front of Miranda. “Kyle called fifteen minutes ago to say that you shouldn’t bother about your stuff at his apartment. He was sending it over by courier, and said that he never wanted to see you again.



Miranda swallowed. “I’m through with him — and the feeling’s evidently mutual.”



“The jackass wasn’t good enough for you anyway,” Lexi said immediately.



“A complete jerk,” Miranda agreed. She paused, noticing Lexi’s desk. “What’s with the tissues? You’re not sick, are you?”



Lexi shook her head. “You know me — healthy as the horse. I figured you might need them.” She watched Miranda closely. “I’ve got chocolate, too.”



“Now you’re talking.” Miranda sat at her desk, watching Lexi pull a block of chocolate from her bag.



Lexi handed the chocolate over. “You don’t have to tell me what happened. But—”



“But you’re dying to know.” Miranda smirked, and then sighed. “There’s nothing to tell. I told Kyle about my past. He couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”



Lexi’s face fell. “The scumbag! If I ever see him—”



“Don’t give him a second thought.” Miranda snapped a segment of chocolate from the bar. “He’s not worth it.”



Lexi looked sad. “You’ll find a man who loves you — really loves you—”



“Ha!” Miranda couldn’t suppress an apprehensive snort. “I’ve spent too long believing in that daydream. It’s time I faced the facts. Love is just not for me.”



“You don’t mean that.”



Miranda shook her head. “Love has never brought me anything but misery. Mom was always falling in and out of love, pursuing a dream. Each relationship was worse than the last. Then she brought me to America. Her obsession with love almost ruined my own life.” And dwelling more on it only brought back memories of the humiliation and shame she experienced from her stepdad.

“Miranda...,” Lexi’s voice trembled, “I’m so sorry for what you went through. But you can’t let your past hold you back.”



“It’s too late.” Miranda smiled sadly. “Kyle’s not the first to leave once he discovered how... damaged I am.” Her mouth twisted. As soon as men had an inkling of her past, they hurried to leave and never come back. “Unconditional love is just not for me.”

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