An Imperfect Love Novella
By Stephanie St. Klaire
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Fake it until you make it. That was the mantra Cori Dash chanted as she chased a big city dream. The more you tell people you’re on top of the world, the more they believe it – just like they believed the embellished image she sold them with her knock off designer facade. It wasn’t lying if the truth stood somewhere in the middle – and she didn’t get caught.
Dominic Blackthorne owned half of that big city…and a reputation. Rather than dispel rumors or show the world the real Nick, he let his own fake image run free. Until Cori Dash – the only person who told him exactly how it was, even if it stung.
When Cori is faced with her ex-fiance, now engaged to her ex-best friend, it’s game on. In her boldest move yet, she concocts her biggest lie to date by introducing the first handsome stranger that walks by as her new fiancé. Happy to play the part, Nick is already planning the fake wedding of her dreams.
You know what they say about lying – the truth always comes out – and it hurts. Especially when Cori finds out she isn’t the biggest Liar in this game, and she’s been out played.
The whispers caught her attention before the man, almost to her office, did. She scanned the group, following the he’s coming this way, I’ve never seen him before, and is that really him to the doorway, and her heart sunk. The man who stepped off the elevator was the man from the park. It was Nick.
So, her original instinct had been right. He was a stalker, the creepy kind, and now he was standing in her office with her and her team. How on earth he found her, she didn’t know. He only had her first name, though she did mention she worked for the event sponsor. Still, getting past security? This guy was good and probably dangerous.
“What in the hell are you doing here?” she asked with her hands on her hips and a threatening glare.
Leaning against the doorway with his hands in his pockets and a cocky grin, he nodded at the watchful crowd before saying, “I’m here to see you.”
“Uh, I can see that. You need to leave. I was very clear yesterday, not interested. Are you stalking me?” she asked, quick to scan the group of eyes fixed on her with shocked expressions to match.
The whispers were louder, and the team so invested in the back and forth, the only thing missing was popcorn. Something was off, and she didn’t know what, especially when she heard didn’t think he was real and it’s definitely him. Who, she wondered? How did some of her employees know who he was, but she didn’t? Then a terrifying thought crossed her mind; what if they had seen his picture somewhere, like on TV…could he be a wanted man? A true stalker?
Her fury escalated, and she felt the sudden urge to protect herself and those around her. “I asked you what you’re doing here?”
“I answered.” He winked at a couple of ladies sitting closest to him. “I’m here to see you – my fiancé.”
Loud gasps filled the room, putting Cori on even higher alert. She tossed her hands in the air. “You know that wasn’t real, right? Do you know the difference between reality and fiction? I don’t know what kind of game you are playing, but you need to leave, now. Or I’ll…call security.”
He shrugged, maintaining his megawatt smile, which might charm the pants off of some but not her. The chatter didn’t die down, and some of the women seemed to be entranced by his rugged good looks and that flashy smile. This was getting out of hand, and she needed to bring it to a close, and fast. For all she knew, he had a gun or knife under that expensive Armani.
“Figures, I had to pick a crazy one,” she said while picking up her phone and calling the security desk. She couldn’t help but wonder why members of her team continued to gasp in shock, every time she addressed him. “Tony, we have a trespasser…in my office.”
“Your nose wrinkles when you’re mad. It’s…cute.” His compliment clearly offended her, but he found that just as cute as the wrinkled nose.
“Cute?! Bring back-up, Tony. He appears to be unstable.” She hung up her phone, knowing Tony would be there in no time, given the concern she heard in his voice.
She looked to her staff, “I need to you all to leave quickly; this is not a drill. Please follow safety protocol, and exit the floor. Justin, you are the safety manager for this floor; you know what to do.”
As the people quickly filed out of the office and went straight for the stairwell, she couldn’t help but notice the snickers and more whispers. Even a few heads turned and laughed before rounding the last corner. What on earth?
“Protecting your people – that’s honorable,” he said.
“What do you want?”
“A date,” he said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, given the circumstance.
“You really are crazy!” She reached into her nearby purse and pulled out her mace; you can never be too careful, she thought. “You come near me and I’ll unload this entire canister on you. Then, I’ll kick your ass…or…something.”
“Wow. New York has really rubbed off on you.” He chuckled.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing.” He shook his head, never losing that smile that would most likely work on her if he wasn’t crazy. “About that date.”
“I’m not dating you. I have a strict policy not to date psychopaths.” After dropping the insult, she thought better of it. If he truly was unstable, it wouldn’t be wise to provoke any particular violent tendencies he may possess.
“We should get to know each other – so we don’t blow our cover.” That nonchalant shrug of his was getting on her nerves, and he knew it.
“Our cover? What the hell are you talking about?” Her hand darted out in front of her, aiming her mace when he started to move toward her.
He held his hands up in surrender, indicating that he wasn’t a threat, “The Hamptons – Winnie and Phillip? Have you already forgotten?”
“Are you mad? That’s not happening. Do you really think I’d leave town with a stranger…or date one for that matter? I really can’t believe this is happening. My lie, lies really, are catching up to me! This…this is karma, isn’t it?”
“Don’t all dating couples start as strangers?” he asked, matter-of-factly.
“Well…yes, but we aren’t a couple, we aren’t dating, and I’m filing a restraining order the minute security tossed you on your…ass.” It wasn’t in her nature to swear or be mean, but she thought perhaps a few choice words would intimidate him a bit and let him know she meant business.
She looked around him, through the glass wall, feeling a sense of relief when Tony finally exited the elevator with his sidekick, Carmine, and headed right for her office, his hand resting on the stun gun he wore on the right side of his utility belt. Tony’s angsty expression froze, and his eyes went wide when he entered the office and the stranger, Nick, turned to look at him. Surely Tony wasn’t intimidated. He must be surprised by the man’s tall stature and clean cut tailored suit that didn’t scream sociopath, just like she had been.
“Wh-what seems to be the problem?” Tony asked, looking between Nick and Cori.
Confused by his question, she thought it was rather obvious what the issue was but clarified by pointing at Nick. “Problem? Him – he’s the problem!”
“But, Cori. I mean…Miss. Dash…” Tony stammered.
“But nothing – I want him removed, trespassed from the property and a police report filed so my restraining order will stand. There is no telling what this…” she waved her hand up and down, indicating that she was talking about Nick, “…loon is capable of.”
Tony’s voice turned to one of reason. He clearly saw she was upset, flustered even, but he wasn’t sure she knew what she was really asking. “Uh, but, Miss Dash.”
“Tony,” she interrupted before he could say another word. “I want him gone. Remember I told you about a…gentleman I met this weekend? Well, this is him. He found me, he’s delusional, and needs to go – now. Don’t be fooled by the knock off designer suit – he’s a threat. Now remove him.”
“Oh? OH! Well, Miss…” Tony tried, once again, without any luck.
“Tony…” she tried to interrupt him once more, frustrated with his unwillingness to his job. Why was Tony, head of security Tony, so reluctant to do his job?
“I…I can’t, Cori. He’s…”
“Crazy! I know! Remove him,” she shouted, tired of the charade Nick clearly orchestrated.
“It’s okay, Tony. I got this,” Nick said, patting Tony on the shoulder.
“Uh, yes, Mr. Blackthorne,” Tony offered, with emphasis on Blackthorne in an attempt to toss Cori a bone before she dug herself any deeper.
Too late…she was already filling the hole she was laying in when Blackthorne registered loud and clear. “Blackthorne? You’re Nick…Dominic Blackthorne…Owner of Thorne Industries…my…boss.”
The charming smile returned. “Pleasure to meet you, Miss Dash.”
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