tagNovels and NovellasSoul to the Highest Bidder Ch. 04

Soul to the Highest Bidder Ch. 04

byFrumiousBandersnatch©

I awoke to a faint clanking noise. It was my maid -- Melanie, I think -- taking the tray off my desk. She smiled apologetically for waking me. I just smile and told her that I was happy to wake up. I had had such a wonderful sleep. My weary bones and sore muscles were refreshed and aching to move. I wanted to walk, everywhere. I couldn't help but romanticize the idea of just endlessly walking around and exploring this country; but, winter might pose a bit of a problem with that.

Melanie left my room, promising to return with some breakfast and coffee. I just flopped back in bed, staring out the window waiting for my maid to return. I knew I would have to get ready for work soon, but I just wanted a few more minutes to appreciate the picturesque beauty of the view and snuggled under the warmth of the plush down duvet. I freed my hair from the elastic it had been bound in, and rubbed my sore scalp. Though styling my hair looked great, it hurt like hell. Nothing felt better than letting my hair fall freely down my shoulders; but, it was so curly and unruly that it could never appear professional. Too bad.

I laid nude in bed, concealed by the duvet, in the huge bright bedroom; looking around, checking out my surroundings. There was a fireplace, with a real fire crackling away in it, on the far wall. Two large winged chairs and a tufted ottoman sat before it. The fire place was flanked with two huge windows. The antique writing desk sat against the wall near the end of the bed and a gigantic solid wood armoire stood against the opposing wall. The walls were a crisp white, decorated with large colourful artwork. There were no curtains covering the windows - I suppose there wasn't really a need for the privacy when I had 20 empty acres behind the house; so, the bright morning sun poured into the room.

I heard noise down the hall -- an opening and closing of a door. I heard the same noise a few more times. I assumed it was Melanie doing her work; at least I did until I heard my door open, followed by a deep masculine voice.

"I find it a little disconcerting, Miss Tanner, that I have to personally retrieve my employee from bed." He said as he landed his intense and angry glare upon me.

I immediately sat up stammering apologetically, "I'm so sorry I..." I paused due to his wide-eyed interested expression.

He was staring directly at my- . Oh, shit. I yanked the duvet up to my chin, which just left my bright red face exposed topped by my halo of curls. Mr. M still stood, rooted to the spot, with that glazed look in his eyes. Eventually, I just pulled the duvet up over my head, seeking to hide my tears of embarrassment and shame. I was mortified; I had just flashed my boss. Hell, maybe I would get a raise out of it. But, I realized that was a short lived hope when he spoke.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" he asked sternly.

"No sir." I replied meekly, from under the sheets.

I heard him release a slight growl before beginning his tirade, "It is 10am. You have had more than enough sleep. No more lazing around. It is time to get to work. Now, I want to see you down stairs in ten minutes; and, you better be presentable." He firmly enunciated the presentable part.

I heard my door slam a second later.

"Fuck." I cursed as I jumped out of bed and began digging through my luggage.

I managed to find the only single pair of dress pants I owned -- Deborah had apparently decided I didn't need anything other than short skirts -- and a fitted silk turquoise v-neck blouse. I jumped into my clothes and pulled my hair up into a conservative bun. I slipped my feet into a pair of open toed gray crocodile skin heels. I did a quick glance in the mirror, frowning as I realized I hadn't got to enjoy my morning cup of coffee, before I ran out my door. I made it downstairs in six minutes.

"Better." Mr. M muttered from behind his newspaper when I stood waiting before him.

I controlled the blush this time. I really had to start getting that under control.

"Now, if you will follow me over to the main house we can sit and have a coffee while we go over today's schedule." He said, from behind the paper as he turned to lead the way back to the main house. He stopped at the door.

"You will need your jacket Miss Tanner. It is quite cold out there today. You don't by chance have any boots, do you?"

"No Sir." I replied as I grabbed a cashmere scarf and my long wool jacket from the coat stand.

I couldn't help but notice, as we walked through the falling snow and bitingly cold wind, his lack of coat and lack of discomfort, over the freezing temperatures. I shivered just looking at him. By the time we reached the house my toes were ten sticks of ice. I would have to get some winter boots. Hopefully Mr.M would not be angry at me for not getting everything I needed for the trip; Deborah must be slipping.

I walked into the grand marble entrance foyer of the main manor, shaking the snow off my coat. This place was straight out of a movie; a large grand staircase, marble floors, enormous flower arrangements and large painted portraits on the walls. My heels clicked loudly on the marble floor as I followed Mr. M into an adjoining room, discovering it to be the study.

Book shelves lined the walls and a massive desk sat in the middle of the room. Mr. M sat down behind the desk, assuming his regular position while I sat down on a little chair in front of him. He still had his head buried in the morning paper, as per the usual Mr. Morrison- my boss. I was still embarrassed and in relative shock, from this morning's incident; so, I couldn't muster one polite conversational word. So, I just sat nervously, waiting for him to speak. Finally, I heard him chuckle and he lowered the paper to the desk. He assessed me with his shrewd eyes before speaking.

"It seems the critics here assume my company will fail in France. They believe that my American style will not meld with the French way of business. Do you agree Miss Tanner?"

"I believe the French would rather be romanced, than bullied." I replied hesitantly and cautiously.

Mr. M threw back his head and laughed- hard. When finally his laughter diminished he responded, "Never have truer words been spoken. And that, Miss Tanner, is why I have you."

It seemed as though he put an, almost possessive, emphasis on the 'his having me' part; and, a shiver ran down my spine at the suggestion of those words. I mentally slapped myself for letting my mind wander in irrational directions. My boss only ever thought of business; anything he ever did was a cold, calculated and controlled decision. He was interested in only profit, and global domination. Okay, so maybe the global domination was stretching it; but, he worked hard enough that he could achieve it.

My full attention was once again focused on Mr. Morrison.

"How so Mr. Morrison?" I asked perplexed.

He smirked before replying, "You are going to romance them."

I stared at him, slightly dumbfounded. "Me?"

"Yes, you. You will use your wit, charm, grace, beauty and most importantly your knowledge of their culture. And- don't look so horrified. You can and will do this, if you want a job to go home to."

"But sir, you don't understand. I don't know how to romance. I wouldn't even know what to do."

"You have your Masters in French Studies, how can you not know a thing or two about romance?" he demanded loudly.

I flinched at his cutting tone.

"I believe romance is not something that can be taught from a book, sir."

"Your damn right it can't, but did you not gain some knowledge or experience through your college years?" he asked hotly.

"No sir." I stonily replied.

I shouldn't have to explain my personal life to this man. It didn't matter that my experience with the opposite sex was limited. It was safer that way; less painful.

"Well, you best learn. I will not fail here, and I will get what I want." He boomed, slamming his fist down on the desk.

I flinched, cringing back in my seat. I stared at the floor, hiding my blush of shame and embarrassment.

"I will try sir."I faintly replied, biting my lip, like a hurt child. I kept my head down, so he would not see my weakness. I knew I could not fail or I would end up jobless and penniless, in New York.

After an awkward moment of silence in the massive room, I heard papers rustling and slapping down on the desk.

"This is our schedule, fact sheets on who you will be meeting and guidelines for appropriate conversation topics. I have us booked for a dinner party this evening; so, that way you will recognize some of the faces at the opening gala tomorrow night. Did you select a gown for tomorrow, with Deborah?"

"Yes sir." I replied robotically.

After a few tense minutes, Mr. M flatly stated, "I believe I will have to pass on our coffee, as I have some important work to do now. I want you to read through this package and know everything you need to know for tonight, before we meet at 5pm." He swung his chair around to stare out a tall window, "just ask any of the staff, and they will bring you one of the best coffees you have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Now, if there is nothing you need from me Miss Tanner, I would like to get my work done."

That was my cue to take the papers off the desk and leave.I stepped out of the study, shut the door behind me and sighed a breath of relief. It hadn't gone well, per se, but I wasn't fired- yet. I strode across the foyer, with the papers clutched to my chest. I looked around, hoping to find someone on staff. Finally, as I perused the other rooms I found a young woman dusting the furniture. I asked her where I could find a nice quiet place to sit and read, besides the study. She recommended the conservatory, which was at the other end of the large manor. I requested a cup of coffee be sent there for me, before I thanked her and wandered off to find the conservatory. After three thwarted attempts, I finally found the beautiful bright room; it was full of flowers and in the center of the large room lay a hidden seating area. Beside one of the wicker chairs, on a little side table, sat a steaming cup of coffee. Nice. I had found my hidden paradise. Throwing the papers down on the small table, I sat down in the chair, leaned my head back and stared up through the glass ceiling at the clear blue sky. Where I sat was completely hidden, from any onlookers, by the dense foliage in the room; so, unless someone knew where to find me I was pretty much completely hidden from the world. I would have to remember to seek out that girl again, and thank her; as well as request she not let anyone else know about this spot. I wanted to keep this as my secret escape. Tearing my gaze away from the crystal clear winter sky, I reached for my coffee and reading material. Mr. M was right; this was the best coffee I had ever had. So, sipping my coffee I sat and read through the pages he had given me. It took me 2 hours to get through all the material and I intended to read through it fully once more. I got up, to take a little break and stretch out, and wandered out of the conservatory to check out more of the historic manor. When I ran into another employee, while perusing some of the large portraits on the hall's wall, I requested another coffee be sent to the conservatory. If I wasn't careful, I was going to become a coffeeholic before I left this country.

I gave myself 15 minutes before I headed back to my escape, to do a second read through. By the time I finished reading through and memorizing all the information Mr. M had supplied me, for a second time, it was three o'clock. I had two hours before I had to meet him. I decided I best go back to my manor to get ready. I did not want to incite more anger, by being late; even though, in France being late was considered fashionable. I ignored my grumbling stomach as I walked down the path to my manor. I had forgotten to eat -- more like I hadn't been given an opportunity -- and was ravenous because of it. I was looking forward to dinner.

I swept into the main manor at 4:58pm, wearing a sexy black Versace dress accented by a pair of low purple Jimmy Choo heels. Deborah had told me they were named 'Lolita'; which, I found quite fitting and amusing. Deborah had also informed me that I was always supposed to be able to name the brand of clothing I was wearing, in case someone asked me; this was part and parcel of hanging out with the crème de la crème. I definitely wasn't in Kansas -- or in my case New York -- anymore. I had wrapped a cashmere shawl around my shoulders for warmth. We wouldn't be outside at all, so I decided not to lug my heavy wool coat along. I sat in a small chair and waited patiently, in the foyer, for Mr. M. At 5pm exactly, he began his decent down the grand set of stairs. It felt like I was watching him in slow motion, as I took in the perfect image before me. I was awestruck, and completely baffled that I had never noticed how exceptionally gorgeous Mr. M was. He wore a sleek modern black suit with a crisp bright white shirt underneath, and finished off with white cufflinks and shoes. He looked... great.

Too bad he was my boss, and such an asshole.

He walked over to me and held out his arm. Slightly taken aback I sat staring at him, confused.

"I am offering you my arm, to escort you to the car Miss Tanner. The polite thing to do would be to accept said proffered arm."

I snapped up out of the chair and grabbed onto his arm. He looked at me with an odd expression. It seemed to be a mixture of amusement, frustration, lust and guilt. How all those emotions are conveyed through a look, I don't know; but, somehow those were what I felt through his gaze.

He escorted me to the car, lightly brushing a touch down my arm as he helped me into the backseat. I was acutely aware of his warm presence beside me. As the car rolled out of the lane, Mr. M offered me a drink. I accepted, taking a scotch on the rocks. His arched brow, in surprise, at my choice of beverage.

"Scotch? Are you sure Miss Tanner?" he asked. A small smirk danced at the corner of his mouth.

"Yes sir." I replied firmly.

He poured me my beverage and brushed his hand over mine as he passed it to me. I blushed at the slight touch, and turned away to face the window.

"Why scotch?" he asked, as I took my third delicious sip.

"When I was in university, every penny had to count; so, when I did drink I found scotch to be the most effective for the small amount. And, I enjoyed it. I love its tingling warmth, and that you can slowly linger over it taking your time to appreciate it." I watched the lights outside speed past, as I provided my answer to Mr. M.

A moment of silence passed before he said, "I find it hard to believe, Miss Tanner, that you have never been romanced, that no man has ever tried to earn your affections."

I felt embarrassed by his comment. I assumed he was making fun of the fact no man desired me.

"How a woman as beautiful and desirable as you has slipped through our fingers for so long, baffles me."

I looked over --expecting cold mockery -- to find warmth and truth in those emerald eyes.

I had assumed incorrectly. My heart rate elevated and my breathing became slightly erratic. I began to visualize what he would do to me if he were the one romancing me. I tore my eyes away from his, blushing, shocked by my response to his words. I diverted my attention outside, unable to respond. He found me desirable.

"Miss Tanner."

I didn't want to look at him. I didn't know how I was going to face him without blushing; and, stop the repeating visual of his naked body crushing mine. Grudgingly I turned to face him, and slapped on the most convincing, fake, smile I could manage.

"Yes Sir?" I responded robotically.

"Do you enjoy working for me?"

"Yes Sir. It's a wonderful job." I was taken aback by the question, and answered as diplomatically as possible.

"That is not what I asked you." He smoothly and firmly informed her.

"Pardon me?"

"That is not what I asked you. The question was, do you enjoy working for me?" he watched her sharply, waiting for an answer.

"I...I have enjoyed working for you very much." I carefully replied.

"Why?" he kept his shrewd eyes on me.

Shit. This was dangerous territory.

"Because, even though it can be very challenging at times, when I do succeed, it is that much more rewarding." I hoped that I had not offended him with my reply.

He assessed me coolly, and seemed to consider my answer.

"I need you to do whatever it takes to help secure our hold; because, failure is not an option here. I hope that you will not disappoint me." He said sternly, "can I trust you Miss Tanner?"

I hesitated. Was this why Ms. Whitecliff had refused to work with this man? What exactly was I getting myself into? Was I selling my soul to the devil?

If I wanted to keep my job, I knew my answer had to be, "Yes Sir."

"I am glad to hear it Miss Tanner." He said with a provocative smile. "I believe it indicated in your information that Mr. Laurent and Mr. Moreau are currently single and dating. I believe they will be quite fond of you, and most intrigued by you. I encourage you to be flattered by their attentions. This is to our advantage. You see, so long as I have something they want, I have leverage."

I felt cold indignation at his comment. I was not a pawn in this man's game. I was not a possession for this man to lend out at his leisure.

"What if I do not wish to encourage their attention or affection?" I asked coldly.

"I thought you said you had no current attachments?" he rebutted.

"I don't, but-", I replied resenting the fact I had divulged any personal information.

"Then what is the problem? I'm not asking you to do anything to compromise your honour, only humour a couple healthy, wealthy and influential men. It can not possibly be that horrible a prospect. Where is your joie de vivre, Miss Tanner?" he asked with a contemptuous smile.

"I, I..." I couldn't form a cohesive sentence. My temper was taking control.

This man was an arrogant, presumptuous, pompous, self-centered and soulless ass. To hell with keeping my temper in check, he had crossed a line.

"I am not your possession. You can not just sell me to the highest bidder because it serves your purpose. I will not sacrifice my honour and my pride to meet your ends. I may have no experience with men or romance, but that is of my own doing and choice. I am the only person who gets to choose what is done with my body." I stated lividly, my cheeks flaming with indignant anger.

I stared firmly into his deep green eyes. He broke eye contact first, while looking away to hide a smile.

"And what if you wished to encourage someone's interest, what if there was mutual interest?"

"Then that is my choice." I bit out.

"I see. I'm sorry Miss Tanner for offending you. I did not realize I was dealing with such an innocent. It is so rare, that I ceased to believe women like you existed." He stated, unaffected by my blow out.

"Women like me? What does that mean?" I bit out defensively.

"A woman who does not use her body or sex to her advantage. A woman who will not use a man for her own gain. A woman with a strong sense of self-respect." He replied coolly, sipping his beverage.

"I...oh, well, I uh accept your apology Mr. Morrison." I replied, shocked by his reply; and, shocked he hadn't fired me.

"Call me David tonight."

"Yes Si- , David."

We arrived at the restaurant ten minutes later, having spent the remainder of the car ride in silence while we both watched the city lights pass by, out the windows. I felt a warm tingle through my body from the scotch, which helped to ward off the cold chill on the short dash from the car into the restaurant.

I ended up enjoying the evening more than I could have thought possible, after my encounter with Mr. Morrison -- sorry, David -- in the car. Having the opportunity to converse in French was amazing, and with true Parisians. I drank the offered wine, and champagne toasts; and, was feeling very confident and relaxed from the alcohol. The two men - Mr. Moreau and Mr. Laurent - that Mr. Morrison had mentioned were very attentive towards me, praising me and lavishing me with attention. I found myself enjoying it; and, they were very polite, funny and respectful.

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byFrumiousBandersnatch© 12 comments/ 6938 views/ 4 favorites

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