Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of The Unmasked CEO from yesterday. Ready for the next one? Here it is!
“Hi, Simon. What are you doing here? I thought you’d started your one-month leave.”
Simon smiled at Nadia, the flight attendant at Ingrid Lawrence’s flight. Thank God Ingrid didn’t want him wearing a chauffeur’s uniform or he’d have a hard time explaining. “I just forgot something in my office. I’m not hanging around.”
“So are you going anywhere special? I was surprised to hear you’ll be away for a month. I don’t remember you taking any time off before.”
“Well, I realised that too,” he said with a chuckle. “So I decided I deserve a bit of a long break. I’ll be travelling around, visiting friends and family that I haven’t seen for ages and generally just chilling out. How was the flight?”
“Smooth and uneventful. And Rolf is just so cute,” Nadia said, seemingly swooning.
“Mrs. Lawrence’s dog. So adorable and well behaved. Makes me want to get myself a puppy.”
He laughed. “Right. Anyway, I gotta run.”
“Sure. Enjoy your break. I’ll see you when you get back.”
He hurried away and went to an empty meeting room at the top of the corridor leading to the executive lounge, where Mrs. Lawrence and Geri were enjoying some welcome-to-Sydney refreshments. He’d have to hide until Elle confirmed it was safe to come out. Good thing that Elle was not only the best account manager he’d ever had, but she was also a trustworthy relative. He was comfortable sharing his secret plans with his younger cousin.
But Elle took customer satisfaction seriously. She’d given him a hard time about his lack of experience working as a chauffeur and bodyguard. He’d had to convince her that he’d do a stellar job, having been driven around by many chauffeurs himself and knowing what was expected from the dual role.
His phone finally buzzed with a text from Elle, informing him that their clients should be ready to go in five minutes. Good. They’d have to leave before the next charter flight arrived. He didn’t want to be seen by any more of his employees.
He checked a few emails from his phone for a couple of minutes, then exited the meeting room, looking around cautiously for any sign of his staff. All he saw was a brunette with long silky hair wearing a beige knit dress and ballerina flats. She was checking out the series of photos hanging on the wall outside the executive lounge, engrossed in the pictures of different cloud formations taken from the air.
This had to be Geri Blaine. He was surprised that she looked to be in her mid-twenties. He’d pictured her as a forty-something woman from the no-nonsense, efficient way she’d sounded on the phone. He also hadn’t expected her to be this… attractive.
Simon approached her.
His footsteps made Geri turn to him with a ready, polite smile. Then her eyes—a beautiful pale blue—widened a fraction, her mouth slackening.
Aha! She was attracted to him too.
His smile widened. Geri, if this was indeed she, wore very little make-up and just a touch of lip gloss. That only highlighted the fact that she was naturally very pretty.
“Hello,” Geri said a little breathlessly, her face flushing.
He opened his mouth to respond when Elle poked her head from out of the executive room. “Simon! There you are.”
“Hi, Elle,” he said, only glancing at his cousin for a second before bringing his attention back to Geri. He was pleased to see Geri’s eyelashes batting in recognition of his name.
“How was the drive here?” Elle asked in a louder-than-usual tone.
Simon dragged his gaze back to Elle, who narrowed her eyes as she gave him an almost imperceptible shake of the head. He suppressed a sigh. Elle didn’t want him sweet-talking Geri at all.
“Geri, this is Simon James, your chauffeur for the month. Simon, this is Geri Blaine, Mrs. Lawrence’s personal assistant,” Elle said.
Simon offered his hand. “Glad to have finally met you in person, Geri. Thanks again for hiring me.”
“You’re welcome, Simon,” Geri replied, taking on a businesslike tone. “Like I said on the phone, I was impressed with your references. Some well-respected business people obviously think very highly of you.”
“Thank you,” Simon said, tempted to keep on holding Geri’s hand, but reluctantly letting it go. It was slightly clammy. That would have been from her reaction to him, right?
“Yes, Simon is very professional and reliable,” Elle interjected, giving him a telling look. “Come on in and meet Mrs. Lawrence, Simon.”
“Sure.” He motioned for Geri to go into the executive lounge first, then followed after her. He found the sprightly-looking Ingrid Lawrence sitting comfortably in one of the chairs, her dog on her lap while she watched the big TV hanging on one of the walls.
Elle made the introductions before excusing herself to print out some information that Mrs. Lawrence had requested.
“I’m glad that we have an able-bodied young man driving us around,” Ingrid said brightly, looking him up and down with interest. “Always good to have a chauffeur who can double as a very good-looking bodyguard.”
Simon chuckled. He liked his new client already. “I’m more than happy to keep the undesirables away from you as we travel around, Mrs. Lawrence.”
“Well, Rolf didn’t bark at you, so that’s a good sign. He can usually sense if someone’s not good to have around, can’t you, Rolf?” Ingrid said, scratching her dog behind his ear.
Rolf wagged his tail faster.
“I bumped into Nadia, your flight attendant,” Simon said congenially. “She said that Rolf is really cute and well behaved. I have to agree she’s right.”
“Oh, yes. I have to say, though, this pooch loves Geri more than me. Look.” Ingrid put Rolf beside her on the seat and picked up her cup of coffee.
Rolf deftly made his way to the low ottoman next to Ingrid’s seat, then jumped the short distance to the ground to run to Geri. He let out a soft whine as he looked at her, as if begging for Geri to pick him up.
“See?” Ingrid said, rolling her eyes. “It’s like he was just putting up with me.”
Geri let out a laugh. “I think he’s pleading with me to take him outside for another toilet break. I better take him out.”
Simon watched as Geri hooked a leash onto the harness Rolf was already wearing, her face lit up as she chatted to the dog as if talking to a child. And he couldn’t help but follow her with his eyes when she led Rolf to the door at the far side of the room that opened to a side yard.
“Rolf keeps Geri happy travelling with an old woman like me for weeks and weeks.”
Ingrid’s voice startled Simon, making him swivel around to face his new “boss”. Ingrid had a watchful look, her lips tugged up in a half-smile.
“I have to ask you, Simon. How will you cope with not going home for a whole month? Do you have a partner or a family that you’ll miss a lot?”
“No, ma’am. And you don’t have to worry about me not coping. One month is not that long. I’m really looking forward to driving you around. I’d enjoy playing tour guide to the both of you.”
“How did you end up being a chauffeur?”
Ah, he had a ready answer for that. “When I was about six or seven, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told them I wanted to be a driver and drive different types of cars. Well, I’m doing that now.”
There was some truth to what he’d said. He did own several cars and enjoyed driving all of them. But when he was a kid, he’d wanted to become a pilot and fly his own planes. Being a son of self-made millionaires who believed in letting him forge his own path, he’d been able to follow his passion as well as learn business from a very young age. He’d started Alexander Jets when he was only twenty-two. Ten years later, here he was.
“It’s wonderful that you’re doing what you love,” Ingrid said. “My grandson was the one who suggested we hire the Lexus LX SUV for our road trip. What do you think of the car?”
“It’s a great car. Today’s the first time I’ve driven it, and I’m impressed.”
Elle came back to the room, holding a document folder. “Here you go, Mrs. Lawrence. I’ve printed everything that Geri has in the file that she’s given me online access to.”
“Thank you! Poor Geri has to cope with me changing my mind all the time about where I want to go. I find it easier to make comparisons looking at paper rather than computer screens or those tablets. But maybe we should discuss this with you, Simon, since you’re our self-appointed tour guide.”
“Sure. I’ll be more than happy to help create an itinerary,” Simon answered.
“We’re back,” Geri called out from the other door.
Simon glanced at Geri. She really was pretty. Beautiful, in fact.
“Shall we go, then?” Ingrid asked. “I’d like to get to the house Geri booked for us so I can nap for a couple of hours before I meet my grandson for dinner.”
Elle put a hand up. “I just need to speak with Simon for a quick minute, if that’s okay, Mrs. Lawrence?”
Simon followed Elle to the meeting room he’d waited in before.
“Simon,” Elle said in a low voice. “Geri is not the kind of woman who’d want the mile-high experience with you.”
“Oh, really? Did she tell you that?” he asked lightly.
“Of course not. But you know what I mean.”
“I agree she’s not the mile-high-experience type. But she definitely seems like a nice girl. Remember that I’m looking for a potential long-term girlfriend now?”
Elle rolled her eyes. “As if you’re serious about that.”
“Hey, I am!”
“Sure, sure,” Elle said in a tone that said she wasn’t buying it. “But please behave yourself with Geri. I don’t want Mrs. Lawrence complaining about you, boss. And I want to have an unblemished customer satisfaction record on all my accounts so you can give me a generous bonus at the end of the year.”
“I’ve never put the company in trouble before because of my dating life, have I?” Even though he’d slept with a few of his female clients, those were all instigated by them, not him.
“No. But you’ve never spent a whole month with a pretty client while pretending you’re not you,” Elle said pointedly. “It’s different when the girls know who they’re fooling around with. But you don’t have any intention of telling Geri who you are.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t intend to hit on Geri.” Unless she hits on me first.
“Good,” Elle said. “Anyway, I have to say I can’t wait to see if you do find yourself a real, honest-to-goodness girlfriend somewhere in your travels.”
He laughed. “By the way, you haven’t spoken to Geri or Ingrid Lawrence about Simon Alexander, have you?”
Elle shook her head. “There’s usually no reason to talk to our clients about our CEO, unless they’re the women wanting to book flights with us just to spend some time with you. But, honestly, I still think this incognito thing is hare-brained.”
He ignored Elle’s disapproval. “Good. Anything else?”
“Well, I want to say have fun, but you might take me too seriously and forget your promise not to hit on Geri,” Elle quipped before exiting the meeting room.
He was still chuckling to himself when they went back to the executive lounge. He had no idea what he’d gotten himself into, but he was truly looking forward to it. If nothing else, he was going to have a change of pace and scenery for a short period. Everyone needed a break from work every once in a while, and this was like a holiday for him.
He stopped in his tracks upon seeing Geri laughing at Rolf thumping his tail excitedly at the sight of a dog food commercial on TV. Funny how he felt so drawn to her.
He shook his head at himself. Pretty ladies surrounded him all the time, so he didn’t usually have a swift and strong reaction to total strangers no matter how good-looking they were. But his reaction to Geri surprised him. He already knew he’d like to date her.
Unfortunately, he’d have to wait for her to make the first move. Working for Ingrid was her livelihood. He had to respect it if she wanted to remain purely professional.
“I’ll load your luggage in the car, then I’ll come and get you,” he announced to the women.
“Oh, I’ll go with you,” Geri said, standing up to follow him. “Rolf’s car seat is in one of the bags and I have to set it up.”
“I can do it if you like,” he said hurriedly. The SUV was in the parking area where his staff came and went. He’d minimise the risk of blowing his cover if he loaded the luggage alone.
But Geri waved a hand dismissively. “It’s no problem.”
“Geri’s very particular when it comes to Rolf,” Ingrid said. “She wants to make sure his seat is adjusted to the exact right height that will make Rolf calm and happy. Let her do it now or she’ll just fuss around your work later.”
“Okay,” he acquiesced, not really having any other option. He took the trolley sitting in a corner and pushed it out of the room. Good thing Ingrid had selected a big car. The women’s three large suitcases and six smaller bags—plus his own luggage—wouldn’t have fit in a regular sedan.
“So you’re like a mother hen when it comes to Rolf, huh?” he teased Geri as they made their way towards the parking bays.
Geri laughed with embarrassment. “I know I shouldn’t feel like that because Rolf’s not mine, but yeah, I do feel like I’m his mama even though Mrs. Lawrence is his owner.”
“He’s so well behaved.”
“Thank you. We got him from a friend of mine who’s an expert in training dogs for shows and competitions. He helped me train Rolf every single day for several weeks before we started travelling—that’s why Rolf is so easy to handle.”
“Did you have—” His question died on his lips when Tony, one of the maintenance engineers, came out of a staff room they were passing.
“Oh, hello, Simon, ma’am,” Tony greeted them with a look of surprise as he eyed the luggage.
Ah, damn. Simon bet that Tony was thinking someone was slacking on the job for Simon to be pushing the trolley for a client.
“Going to the car? Let me push that for you, Simon,” Tony offered, already positioning to take over.
“It’s okay, Tony. Thank you, but no need,” he said with a smile.
“Okay,” Tony said. “Is there anything you want done?”
“No, thank you. We’re fine.”
“Okay. Have a good day.” Tony smiled at the both of them and walked the other way.
“Wow,” Geri said in a low voice as they continued their journey. “They’re very friendly and helpful around here, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Simon answered, letting out a sigh of relief. Lucky his staff called him by his first name. Imagine if Tony had called him Mr. Alexander. Fortunately, they made it to their vehicle without bumping into anyone else.
“Now, Rolf’s car seat is in here,” Geri murmured, grabbing one of the bags.
Simon opened the tailgate and started to load the first of the big suitcases.
“Hey, let me help with those. They’re quite heavy,” Geri said.
“No, thanks. I got them,” he said with a grin. Aw, she was so sweet to offer. And her smile in response was as equally sweet.
His heart thudded harder. Hm.
“Simon! I’ll do that!”
Oh shit. It was Peter, one of the regular drivers who took their clients to their hotels. Tony must have said something to him.
Simon glanced at Geri, whose mouth was hanging open at the way Peter was hurrying towards them.
Damn it, he didn’t want to be busted. Especially when he was so looking forward to spending one whole month with Geri Blaine as Chauffeur Simon James.
***End of Chapter Two***
I hope you enjoyed the first two chapters of The Unmasked CEO. Looking forward to reading what happens next? The book will release on the 24th of January and can be pre-ordered from the following stores:
Google Play and other store links will be available soon.
Have a great day!