Seduced by the HeroBy: Pamela Yaye
“Annabelle did nothing wrong,” Sharleen insisted, her tone matter-of-fact. “It’s not her fault Ryder Knoxx propositioned her during their free consultation yesterday. She shouldn’t be blamed for his poor judgment.”
Feeling contrite, Dionne spoke in a sympathetic tone. “Entertainers are notorious womanizers with no conscience. Since it’s obvious Mr. Knoxx has a crush on you, I’ll assign you to another client and pass the aging rock star on to a more seasoned life coach.”
Panic flickered across her face. “No. Don’t. I like him, and we have a lot in common.”
“This isn’t about you, Annabelle. This is about doing what’s best for our clients.”
Her shoulders drooped, and she slid down in her chair, as if she were trying to disappear into the plush, soft fabric. “But we clicked,” she whined. “Ryder thinks we’re kindred spirits.”
Of course he does. He’s trying to get into your pants, and you’re too stupid to realize it.
Dionne struggled to control her temper. It was a challenge, especially in light of everything that had happened at the center in recent months, but she maintained her cool. “Your goal as a life coach is to encourage and support clients through their problems and issues, not become their BFFs.”
Annabelle started to speak to argue her point, but Dionne silenced her with a look. Her Southern drawl was charming, but she was a pain in the ass and she wanted to get rid of her. “Life coaching is about helping people improve the quality of their lives without expecting anything in return,” she continued. “It’s imperative you act professional at all times, and don’t, under any circumstances, accept money, gifts or favors from clients.”
“Does that mean I can’t attend the world music awards with Ryder next month?”
“That’s exactly what it means.”
“But nothing,” Dionne snapped, finally losing her patience. The more time she spent with Annabelle, the less she liked her, and she suspected the only reason the university graduate had applied to Pathways was to hook up with a celebrity. “You’ve only been working here for three months, and since you started it’s been one problem after another...”
Sharleen tried to interrupt her, but Dionne was on a roll. She didn’t believe in biting her tongue or sugarcoating the truth. She always spoke her mind. “I’m all for a woman using her physical assets to get ahead, but you need a make-under. Tone down the eyeliner, lay off the hair spray and, for goodness’ sake, cover your tits. This is a place of business.”
Sniffling, Annabelle cleaned her plump, tearstained cheeks with the back of her hands. “You’re right, Mrs. Fontaine. I’m sorry. I’ll do better, I promise.”
“You better, or you’re fired.”
Sharleen winced as if she were in pain, but Dionne pretended not to notice.
“Pathways is my life, and I won’t let you or anyone else destroy my agency.”
Nodding, Annabelle rose to her feet and straightened her low-cut, belted dress. “I better head back to my office. My next session starts at ten, and I need time to prepare.”
Annabelle hustled through the open door and closed it behind her.
Dionne was glad to see her leave. “You never should have hired her,” she said, reaching for her oversize mug and raising it to her lips. “She’s young and immature, and so damn gullible. It’s hard to believe she’s twenty-seven years old.”
“Annabelle’s a good life coach.”
“That remains to be seen.”
Sharleen released a deep breath. With her flawless complexion and delicate features, she’d always been a pretty girl, but since meeting race-car driver Emilio Morretti, she’d stepped up her fashion game. No longer self-conscious about the scars on her arms and legs she’d suffered in a tragic house fire, she’d traded in her dark suits for vibrant designer outfits. The oversize bow on the neckline of her red A-line dress was eye-catching, and her pearl accessories enhanced the femininity of her look.
“You’re being too hard on her,” Sharleen said.
“And you’re being too nice.”
“Leave everything to me. I’ll mentor her and show her how to be a great life coach.”
Dionne admired her optimism. Appointing Sharleen as her VP was the smartest thing she’d ever done. She hoped they’d be friends and partners for many years to come.
Not if Emilio Morretti has his way, whispered her inner voice.
The sports legend had proposed to Sharleen on her twenty-eighth birthday, and three weeks later she was still floating on air. Standing on the podium after winning the World Series All-Star Race, Emilio had stunned her friend—and the 1.5 million viewers watching worldwide—by popping the question on live TV. The happy couple were planning to exchange vows in Venice, Italy. Although Dionne had tried talking Sharleen out of getting married in December, her friend was determined to tie the knot in just three months’ time. She was convinced Emilio was “the one,” and she was so anxious to jump the broom, it was all she could talk about. Dionne only hoped Sharleen wouldn’t one day regret her decision—