Seduced by the Hero

By: Pamela Yaye

Like me, she thought sadly, swallowing hard. If I had known then what I know now, I never would have married Jules after dating for only six months.

“Annabelle has the requisite skills,” Sharleen continued. “She just needs to put what she’s learned in the classroom into practice, and I’m confident she can—”

“Well, I’m not. I think she’s a liability, and I want her gone.” Taking a sip of her green tea, she kicked off her Gucci pumps and reclined comfortably in her zebra-print chair. Dionne loved her office. It was bright, welcoming and feminine, just like her. She’d spent a fortune decorating it, and was thrilled her interior designer had brought her vision to life. Star-shaped chandeliers hung from the ceilings, teal walls evoked feelings of calm, her Versace furniture reeked of glamour, and the burgundy carpet was pillow-soft.

“Give Annabelle another chance. This is her first coaching job, and she’s still finding her footing,” Sharleen explained. “I believe in her, and you should, too.”

Dionne drank her tea, gave some thought to what Sharleen said. “I liked you better when you were single,” she teased, hoping to lighten the mood with a joke. “You used to be tough and tenacious, but now that you’re in love you’re a total softy.”

A smile brightened Sharleen’s face. It was obvious she was thinking about her fiancé. It took everything in Dionne not to roll her eyes to the ceiling when her friend sighed dreamily and gazed longingly at her engagement ring. It was the size of a golf ball, encrusted with diamonds, and it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry Dionne had ever seen.

“I can’t help it,” Sharleen said with a giggle. “I’m so freakin’ happy, I feel like dancing in the streets. I want to share my happiness with everyone I know.”

“I’m thrilled for you, but your romance is bad for business.”

“Bad for business?” she repeated, arching an eyebrow. “In what way?”

“Because of you, our female life coaches are secretly hoping to make a love connection with every wealthy client, and as a result are breaking the employee conduct rules.”

“My feelings for Emilio have nothing to do with him being famous, and everything to do with who he is as a person. He makes me feel special, as if I’m all that matters...”

They all do in the beginning, but it doesn’t last. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been married twice.

“If Emilio lost everything tomorrow, it wouldn’t change how I feel about him. I’d live with him in a cardboard box if I had to.” Happiness warmed her face, and she laughed heartily. “But enough about me and my amazing fiancé. How are you doing?”

Dionne finished her tea and put down her mug. “Great, fantastic, couldn’t be better.”

“I know the last few weeks have been tough on you, what with your in-laws bad-mouthing you to the press and the construction delays at the Seattle and LA offices, but I’m here for you, Dionne. You don’t have to deal with those issues alone.”

“Thanks, Sharleen, but I’m fine, really.”

“I don’t believe you...”

What do you want me to say? “My whole world is falling apart, and if I didn’t have Pathways to keep me going, I’d probably have a nervous breakdown”?

“It isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up.” Sharleen sounded wise, like a therapist counseling a distraught client. Her expression was filled with concern. “We’re a team, and I have your back. No matter what. You can count on me.”

Dionne shifted around on her chair and fiddled with the diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist. Every day, without fail, Sharleen asked how she was feeling, and every day, without fail, Dionne lied through her teeth. She didn’t want to talk about Jules or their contentious divorce proceedings. Not with Sharleen. Not with anyone. Working helped Dionne forget her hurt, her failures, and she’d rather suffer in silence than pour out her heart. She admired Sharleen and thought she was an exceptional life coach, but a woman desperately and madly in love wasn’t the right person to confide in. Neither were her two older sisters, Mel and Lorna, who both just didn’t understand what she was going through.

No one does—that’s why I keep my feelings to myself. Her gaze strayed to the window, and she peered outside. Pathways Center was in an attractive plaza filled with glitzy boutiques, cafés and beauty salons, but what Dionne loved most about the location was the hustle and bustle of Peachtree Street. Growing up in a large family, she’d always thrived in chaos, and having her business in a high-traffic area fueled her creative juices.

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