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Lovely Liaison

Zoey Curtis is desperate to get out of her current job and away from her asshole boss! But when she is offered a job as an assistant for billionaire playboy Julian Hawksley, she is unprepared for the yearning desires he sparks within her…

Age Rating: 18+


Lovely Liaison by Mel Ryle is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.



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Zoey Curtis is desperate to get out of her current job and away from her asshole boss! But when she is offered a job as an assistant for billionaire playboy Julian Hawksley, she is unprepared for the yearning desires he sparks within her…

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Mel Ryle


Since graduating from the University of Illinois six years ago, things hadn’t gone quite to plan.

Which might have had something to do with the fact I didn’t really have a plan.

I used to. Have a plan. For everything.

But that was a few years ago, and things had gone a little off target since then.

My degree had been a BA in Business. I had wanted to be an Advertising Manager.

I loved the strategy of the job.

Being plugged into an organization at all levels.

Discovering what the organization really was and what it really needed.

And how to show that to the world without telling them.

I loved what I did.

Well, what I was pursuing.

I hadn’t quite got there yet.

When I first got out of college, that was what I called myself.

“An aspiring Marketing Manager.”

But using that title got harder and harder as time went by.

A family health scare—my mom being diagnosed with hypertension—really knocked me off center.

I’d never experienced something that made me look at my life so intensely.

At what my priorities were.

I wanted my career to develop and take off and soar. Everyone in my family wanted that for me.

But if it cost me time with what mattered most, could I allow that to be my top priority?

I eventually had to decide: pursue the job that could be the first step in my career or help my mom and dad through the hardest time in their lives…

The choice was, at the time, easy. I followed my heart…and put my career on a brief pause to help my family.

We were lucky, and my mom’s condition stabilized. But by that time, the internship and subsequent job sailed by in the rearview mirror.

I never regretted the decision.

I was glad I had the chance to help when my mom needed me, and I didn’t begrudge the delay in advancing my career.

I didn’t mind working hard.

Burning the candle at both ends.

Any number of clichés.

…But, truth be told, some days at some jobs tried my patience.


“Zoey? Oooooh, Zoey?” I heard Mr. Daniels calling through the wall and rolled my eyes.

I was on my break in the employee lounge, reading an online magazine article, trying to keep a low profile.

I turned on my earphones and focused on my article.

Hawksley Has a Hot One! Eccentric CEO’s New Land Development Project is an Ambitious Endeavor

I was an architectural enthusiast, and each headquarters and hotel Hawksley Enterprises put up were architectural marvels. I followed everything they did.

I had studied them in college, during the Business degree I was currently putting to exactly zero use.

At twenty-seven, I wouldn’t be blasting to the top of the corporate ladder anytime soon.

College felt like a lifetime ago, and at no point in time had it been part of my plan to wind up a secretary in an ad agency.

But I had responsibilities.

To my parents. Now that my mom couldn’t work, they needed some help paying the bills.

To my boyfriend. Whenever he happened to be in town.

To my landlord.

And now, unfortunately, to Vlashion, the ad agency I’d discovered flipping through the “Wanted” ads in the paper two years ago.

They needed a secretary, and I needed a job.

I lost my momentum after college and was having a hell of a time getting back into my old networks from my business school days.

I didn’t despair that my career hadn’t taken off yet. I just needed the right job to get me started.

Not that it would be this job.

Since the day I started, I knew that the same thing that had driven me out of my last couple of jobs would be what drove me out of this one sooner or later.


Mr. Daniels, or Don as he would sometimes ask me to call him, didn’t subscribe to the same notions of professionalism, respect, or consent as the world around him.

And I was his target.

Hearing him stomping around outside, I silently scooted my chair around the wall of lockers. If he entered the lounge, maybe he wouldn’t see me.

If I didn’t read quickly, all I would think about for the rest of the day would be coming up with excuses for denying the date, after-hours drink, or nightcap he offered almost every day.

Enough about that stupid creep, I scolded myself. You’ve got ten minutes. Read!

Hawksley Enterprises had thrown a celebratory gala at their newly finished UK headquarters in London, complete with billionaires, celebrities, fashionistas, you name it.

The article highlighted the company’s impressive track record in real estate across the United States, Australia, and Europe, and discussed how it was also trying to spread its wings to Asia and Latin America.

“Show some global initiative!” their CEO Julian Hawksley was fond of saying.

It seemed that soon enough, ‘Hawksley’ would be as much a household name as ‘Rockefeller’ was.

There was a video clip embedded in the article: an interview with Julian and Jensen Hawksley, the owners of the company.

I hit play, watching the hustle and bustle of London whiz behind the two hunks.

Julian spoke first, answering an interviewer’s question. “The place is great—spectacular! We’ll take you for a spin through here, come on!”

Jensen, the more serious younger brother, cleared his throat, and Julian rolled his eyes and settled down.

Julian looked a little unsteady. He’d definitely gotten into the champagne, and he shrugged at his little brother, feeling no shame in celebrating.

Julian resumed, “We’re thrilled with the place, but I want to go for a fleet! We’re in London, we’re in New York City, a few more underway in Asia and Europe!

“I tell you what I’m excited about, though—breaking ground in the Windy City!”

Jensen nodded and spoke up, “Yeah, we’re looking into a new branch stateside. There’d be a lot of logistics to work out, especially for a building complex as big as we’d like. So don’t hold your breath—”

Julian grabbed Jensen by the shoulder, suddenly excited. “Don’t waste your breath! A toast!”

He drank from a champagne flute, but it was empty.

I rolled my eyes but smiled. Say what you will about a playboy like Julian Hawksley, he seemed fun.

Jensen said, “Anyhow, no time soon, there’s a big shopping list we’d need for it to work: access to coastline, transportation, close to downtown and the business hive of the city—there’s a lot…”

I thought about my home city, listing off the different spaces I could think of that matched the billionaires’ wish list, going neighborhood by neighborhood…

Wrigleyville… Lincoln Park… Streeterville… The Loop… South Loop…

I snorted out loud.

Who was I kidding? I had about a 0.0% chance of this line of thought mattering at all. Don’t flatter yourself, girl, I told myself.

Keep your head down. You have responsibilities.

On the video, Julian had somehow got hold of a bottle of champagne and he burst off the cork, making it pop loudly.

Mr. Daniels must have had his ear to the door because, an instant later, the employee lounge door opened, and he stepped in. He craned his neck and spotted me in the corner.

“I thought I’d find you in here…” he began, closing the door quietly, hoping no one outside saw him slink in.

“Yep…” I replied, trying to ignore him, hoping he’d get the hint.

Mr. “Don” Daniels never got the hint.

“Oh, sweetheart, can’t you muster a little more enthusiasm? I know your heart’s not in this work—but it pays your bills, doesn’t it?” he said.

That kind of crap really got to me. I said, “I always perform my job with total commitment and attentiveness—”

He waved my words away, walking toward me and beginning to massage my shoulders. “I know you do. I just feel like…come on, you know.”

My body went stiff. Who the hell was he to touch me?

“No, I don’t. I know I have three minutes left on my break,” I said, putting my phone and my snack in my purse and trying to get up.

He let me go, but followed me to my locker. He leaned against it and said, “And what could we do for three minutes?”

“Excuse me, Mr. Daniels.”

“Zoey…Don, come on, just once. I want you to call me ‘Don,’” he said.

“Mr. Daniels, I want to leave this room now.”

“‘Don,’ I want…?”

I stared back at him, stone faced.

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “Jeez, so serious! Fine. I came in here to get more paper for the copier, you let it run out again—”

“That’s not true, it’s full! I fill it every morning!”

“Well, indulge me, would ya? I want to make sure we don’t run out. We make ads, can’t be running out of paper, grab a fresh box.”

I rolled my eyes, wanting to scream at him. Bullshit.

He didn’t care about running out of paper, he just wanted to see me bend down to pick up a box, so that he could inspect my curves.

We kept spare paper in the employee lounge near the fire alarm, so that the office had a tidier appearance for clients.

Unfortunately for me, there was no way to lift the box that didn’t flaunt my backside.

I crouched down, getting a grip on the paper box, when Daniels crept up behind me, pressing against me. “Help with your balance,” he said.

My mind raced. I didn’t think I was in danger, but I wasn’t going to leave it up to Daniels.

I had to get out of this room and away from him right now, and the first thing I saw was the fire alarm.

I didn’t think—I reached out and grabbed it and pulled it as hard as I could!

An endless RRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGGGG screamed across the entire office, and footsteps thundered around the building as everyone evacuated.

Mr. Daniels gawked at the commotion and was distracted enough that I was easily able to shove him away, thrusting the box of paper into his arms.

“You take it!” I said, and rushed out of the room, slamming the door.

I joined the flood of office personnel heading for the exits. I shrugged along with my co-workers, feigning ignorance as to what was going on. “A fire drill?” “Who knows?”

As I filed out the door with everyone else, Daniels came out of the employee lounge with the paper box, scowling at me from across the lobby.

Not the scowl of an angry boss, but of a hunter whose prey managed to get away.

Every day wasn’t as bad as this latest episode in the lounge, but it wasn’t his worst behavior, either.

Enough is enough, I thought to myself.

I need a new job!


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Everyone from the building—about sixty people or so—stood around on the sidewalk outside while firefighters checked over everything.

I saw Daniels on the opposite side of the crowd, talking to a lead firefighter, no doubt explaining how the alarm had come to be pulled.

I was sure he was eager to give them a story that kept them from inspecting too closely.

I looked around. A lot of women worked at this company.

Was I the only one he did this to?

Did nobody see what he was doing?

Or was he just good at hiding it?

I never encouraged him; I didn’t dress differently from the women I worked with.

I guessed I just matched his tastes more closely than anyone here—it was the only explanation I could find.

My family always thought I was a potential victim: I wasn’t tall and I kept to myself a lot, at least at work.

I saw him look at me through the crowd, like a hyena leering at a gazelle through grass. He wasn’t done pursuing me.

But I wasn’t done defending myself, either. And he wasn’t going to corner me like that again.

Right then, I just wanted to be away from him. I took out my phone. It was time for reinforcements. I texted my best friend April.

Save meeeee!
Boss = asshole.
Zoey = needs to blow off steam, are you in?
Let me be your hero!
Was going to go out tonight w Amy, though.
Go for it
Amy! Are you there?
I gotta hang tonight!
Are you in??
Please be in! UR my only hope!
One sec…
Is it good news or bad news? Drumroll
Z, careful with that last emoji—I think it means something else…
It’s supposed to be me sweating…?
Get your mind out of the gutter
I work til 7, then I’m in!
Can you 2 meet me at The Grand Hotel?
Since I’ll be working til 7 and it’s in the middle of you two
And it’s hella convenient for me
I’m leaving work NOW.
Can’t be here another second. See you soon!
Well, don’t bother me at my counter
Better bring a magazine!

The Grand Hotel was one of the glitziest spots in all of the Windy City.

Amy had an office reception job there, and it was a good middle ground between me and April. Walking there would give me a chance to clear my head after the day I’d had.


I dropped into a plush seat in the lobby of The Grand Hotel.

The chair, meant for clientele to sit in for no more than ten minutes on average, must have been worth five times as much as the busted swivel chair I had to suffer in.

I’d complained to Daniels about it before, but he’d just used it as an excuse to check me out.

But I refused to give that asshole another thought. I opened my bag and took out Chicagoan’s Journal, my favorite local magazine, and flipped to an article I’d been eager to get to, especially today:

Ten Tips to Land the Perfect New Job!

I didn’t get any farther than Tip Two:

“Dress the Part!”

Well, I already do that…

“Excuse me?”

I looked up from my magazine and saw that a man had sat down in the seat next to mine. I nearly gasped.

Not just because he was a gorgeous specimen of a man—and he was—but because I recognized him.

It was Julian Hawksley, the CEO of Hawksley Enterprises!

My heart pounded. A pulse of heat washed through me.

I wasn’t single, but a primal part of me acknowledged the truth my chaste, committed, sensible personality didn’t want to say out loud.

Julian Hawksley was the most beautiful man I had ever seen.

But he was Julian Hawksley.

Also known as the Julian Hawksley.

What was he doing here?

I looked around for who he was talking to because it couldn’t be me…

He waved, noticing I was in a bit of a trance. “Hello?”

I blinked, coming back to myself. “Yes?” I asked.

“Hate to bother you, you look like you’re in a zone…but I was wondering…could I borrow your magazine?”

He had a charming face that could talk almost anyone into almost anything.

But I could see a trace of tension on his face, as if he really wanted to read my magazine.

I was starstruck. If he had asked for all my cash, my car keys, anything, I would have handed it over without a thought.

I gave him the magazine…

And hoped he would ask for something else—anything else.

“Thanks!” he whispered.

He opened the magazine and held it up close to his face, as if he was super interested in it, or couldn’t read it without glasses and had to hold it an inch from his eyes.

What was he doing? It was comical seeing a grown, beautiful, hunky man doing this. Was he playing a joke on me? Was this a prank?

I heard the click of heels on the polished floor and a second later, one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen strode by.

I’d seen her before in advertisements and entertainment videos: her name was Grace. She was a supermodel and was famously dating the man in the seat next to me.

Her eyes scanned the lobby, and then she turned and proceeded down a hallway.

Once the click of her heels faded away, Julian lowered the paper shield from his face and let out a sigh.

“Thanks…” He turned the magazine around to read the printed name in the corner. “’Vlashion Front Desk? Unusual name… What? Do you have a Great Aunt Vlashion you were named after?”

He grinned with a wrinkled brow.

I laughed in disbelief.

Was Julian Hawksley talking to me?

Was he flirting with me?

I opened my mouth, but I was tongue-tied. I always felt stupid whenever I was face-to-face with someone so attractive.

“No, I’m—not, that’s not, that’s where I work—I, my name is Zoey. Curtis. Zoey Curtis,” I stammered out.

My inclination was to run away, but I refused to stay silent, despite being super self-conscious.

I was a grown woman in a mature, monogamous relationship.

And this was a man I’d never met before.

And in that moment, making sure I didn’t look like a total idiot was the only worthwhile goal in the entire universe.

He laughed.

“Well, thanks for the assist, Zoey Curtis. I needed a breather.” He returned the magazine. “Lotta good stuff in there. Any of the tips working out for you?”

The heels clicked back in our direction; Grace was walking back. Julian huffed.

“I better go deal with that. Lovely to meet you, Zoey Curtis, of the aforementioned Vlashion Front Desk.”

He held out his hand to shake. I took it, expecting my hand to be crushed.

Instead, it was warm. I felt a current, a charge, an electricity flowing between us.

He held my hand a millisecond longer than the shake called for, and we both knew it.

He headed for the elevators and waited until Grace returned.

“There you are!” he announced loudly, pretending he’d lost her.

They got into the elevator and disappeared a moment later.

I was frozen on the spot until April and Amy walked over a minute later.

“Tell me you saw that!” I demanded.

But they didn’t need to say it—they were both giggling, dancing on their tiptoes, amazed by my moment with the billionaire playboy.


The ups and downs of the day blurred at the club that night.

We threw a few drinks back and danced for about an hour, but Amy’s night got cut short by a work call.

The place was loud, so she had to step outside to answer her phone. When she came back, something was definitely up, but she wouldn’t say what.

“I have to bail, sorry! Don’t be mad at me!”

How could we be mad at her?

Work was work. Chicago was a tough town to get a leg up in, and any decent work you could find, you had to make sure you kept. We hugged, and she left.

April and I didn’t stay out much longer. But I got my bad afternoon and bad boss out of my head, so the night was a success!


When I got back to our studio apartment, I saw lights on inside and hurried to unlock the door.

Ben must be back from Asia.

Of course he hadn’t let me know that, hadn’t prepared me for that.

It was an annoying communication issue that I could not get him to improve on, but there were worse things. At least he was trying to make something of himself.

Though he could try harder…

He was an artist early in his career, but he was finding enough success to get to travel the world and work on different projects with exciting painters and sculptors.

We hugged and cuddled…and did a couple of other things…before we caught up on each other’s lives since he’d gone away.

I told him about the latest with Mr. Daniels, expecting support, or an “I’ll kill the bastard!”, or a “You should sue!” But that wasn’t what I got.

“What were you wearing? I mean, I’ve seen your closet, babe…”

Was he serious?

I guess he could read my expression in the dark. “What? I’m just saying…”

“There is nothing inappropriate about what I wear. Daniels does what he does because he’s an asshole, full stop.”

I was too tired, and my day had been too long, to get into this with him. “Good night,” I said, and rolled over.

This was not how I had pictured his first night back.

I set the alarm on my phone and was about to turn off the light when my phone chirped with a new email. The subject line caught my attention:

“Invitation to interview for a position at Hawksley Enterprises @ our Chicago headquarters.”

Hawksley Enterprises?

I opened the email.

The Chicago office of Hawksley Enterprises has a position opening for standout, one-of-a-kind candidates.

Your information reached our hiring department. If you are interested in learning more, we would love to discuss it in person. Noon, tomorrow.

My information?

How did they get my information?

Why me?

This had to stem from my encounter with Mr. Hawksley earlier today.

I had no idea what I was in for.

But there was no way I’d miss the chance to find out.


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Age Rating: 18+ (Ableism)

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