Lie to Me - Book cover

Lie to Me

Shala Mungroo

Chapter 2

The next morning, I prepped for my meeting, decked in my navy pinstripe power suit complete with pencil skirt.

I wore barely any makeup, save for kohl eyeliner and mascara and a hint of magenta lipstick. My look was in stark contrast to the bombshell look of the night before.

I had been working on this file for the last month since being assigned to it by my boss, Jacob Kline, one of the firm’s partners.

My firm represented the vendor of the StarFish Inn that had sat vacant for the last five years but was built on prime beachfront property.

While we’d gotten over fifty offers on the inn, my clients were difficult and insisted that when they met the right buyer, they’d know and then they would sell.

It didn’t help that the inn had been in their family for the last three generations.

My clients were not happy that all the offers intended to tear down the inn completely and replace it with high-rise condos or a luxury hotel.

While my intention was really to practice civil law, I had to admit that I liked the rush of closing a sale when it came to conveyancing.

I was actually enjoying my time working in Mr. Kline’s department…even though I had issues with Kline himself.

I poured my coffee in a to-go cup and wasn’t surprised to see Heather’s bedroom door still closed.

I punched in the request for an Uber, my usual mode of transportation, on my phone, while I read up a bit on the buyer I was about to meet.

North Shore Investments. I hadn’t heard of them before, so I did some digging.

They appeared to be a fairly new company registered within the last year, so there wasn’t much information on them online.

I did see that they seemed to be buying up all the derelict hotels near the beach in the last few months. Interesting. North Shore Investments had money.

Heather called me when I was in the Uber, cutting my search short.

“Justin is taking me to Bermuda for a week as my birthday present!” she practically squealed into the phone with excitement, making me wince and pull the phone away from my ear.

“That’s great,” I told her. “When do you leave?”

“Today! Isn’t he the sweetest?”

He really was. Even I had to admit that Justin was the best thing that happened to Heather.

He might look a little rough around the edges, but he treated Heather as if she were his whole world. I was a bit envious of their relationship.

I shook my head at myself. I couldn’t think about love or relationships.

My life was too complicated as it was, and with my job I barely had time to hit the gym, much less get into a relationship.

Besides, would I even be able to be the real me? Who was she, anyway? Sometimes I felt like I’d left the real me back home in Arizona.

“Sloane? You there?”

Heather’s voice snapped me back to the present.

“I’m so happy for you, Heather. Have fun, okay?” I told her, meaning it.

“Thanks, babe. And good luck today!”

We said our goodbyes and hung up just as the Uber was pulling up in front of my building in the middle of the city.

I took the elevator to the fifth floor and gave Lynn the receptionist a hasty greeting before heading to my desk.

I was in the middle of reviewing the file when I felt a dark shadow over me.

“Do you need me to sit in on this, Sloane?”

I looked up to see my boss, Jacob Kline, lounging against my cubicle. I groaned inwardly. Jacob Kline was married, in his late forties, with a balding head and was a total slimeball.

If I didn’t know he’d propositioned half the female staff, I’d have thought he was slightly attractive. He’d made a move on me once and I had politely declined.

He’d been a hard ass ever since, but it didn’t stop the way his eyes roamed my body as if plagued with lascivious thoughts.

I gave him a fake smile.

“I’m fine, Mr. Kline.”

“You sure?” he asked again, his eyes drifting to my legs, which were encased in sheer stockings. “You’ve been working on this file a long time. You should have closed this by now.”

I closed the file and stood up to face him, not liking that I felt vulnerable sitting down with him hovering over me.

“You know that was ultimately the client’s decision, Mr. Kline,” I responded calmly. “But I’ll try my best to work on them to close this one.”

He nodded, then licked his lips and walked away. I breathed a sigh of relief as my phone rang.

It was my clients, whose flight was delayed in Europe, and they couldn’t make the meeting this morning.

They filled me in on their thoughts on the North Shore proposal, and I was surprised that they were actually giving it careful consideration. They just had a few concerns.

I spent another ten minutes with them on the phone, taking instructions. Then I took a deep breath, picking up the file and my notepad and heading to the conference room.

There were ten other associates with me on this floor, but we usually stayed out of each other’s way. It was a very competitive environment.

Unless we were working on a file together, we usually kept to ourselves and I actually didn’t mind it that way. Besides, making friends wasn’t high on my agenda.

Establishing myself as a successful attorney was.

I took one step through the large oak door and then I stopped abruptly, causing my pen to drop to the carpeted floor and roll away silently.

Roman Braga was sitting at the head of the large conference table with two gentlemen on either side of him, but he stood up when I walked in.

I wasn’t sure who looked more surprised.

He was in a dove-gray suit this time and white shirt opened at the collar. No tie. His hair was in artsy disarray as if he’d just rolled out of bed.

I gave myself a mental shake at where my thoughts were headed.

“Mr. Braga.” I regained my composure quickly but couldn’t control the fast beating of my heart in my chest. I nodded at the other gentlemen as I made my way to the other end of the table.

I didn’t dare be close to him. He was distracting enough from a distance.

But it looked like he had other ideas.

“Sloane St. James, I presume.” That raspy voice was amused again as he took two steps that brought him in front of me.

I put out a hand professionally and watched as that dark eyebrow rose mockingly.

“Attorney-at-law,” I added, watching his lips spread into a grin as he took my hand in his. I gasped at that spark of contact and dropped his hand like a hot potato.

“Finally I know your name,” he whispered so that only I would hear him.

I turned to the table and smoothed my skirt as I sat.

“Should we get started?” I asked, ignoring his statement. I opened my file, and my heart skipped a beat when Roman took the seat to my left.

“By all means, Miss St. James,” he replied, clasping his hands together on the table and looking at me expectantly.

“I assume you own North Shore Investments.”

How did I not connect the dots? I already knew he was a real estate tycoon. I mentally kicked myself.

He shrugged, clearly unaware of my internal struggle. “I own many investment companies. But yes, North Shore is one of them. Gibbons and Toby over there are part of my legal team.”

Gibbons and Toby, who were suspiciously quiet, just gave a quick nod in assent.

“There is no record of you owning North Shore,” I blurted out.

His eyes sparkled. “You looked me up.” It was a statement, not a question.

“I did my research,” I corrected him briskly.

I cleared my throat to get myself under control and looked down at my notes.

“Unfortunately, my clients’ flight was delayed, so they couldn’t make it this morning. But they reviewed the proposal and have some concerns with your offer,” I began.

I suddenly felt warm and wanted to tug at the neckline of my turtleneck blouse.

I tried to get rid of the problem instead.

“Mr. Braga, there is no need for you to be here. I’m sure you have many pressing things to deal with, and your attorneys and I can─”

“I handle all my investments personally, Miss St. James,” he cut in smoothly. “My legal team is here as a formality, that’s all.”

“I see.” I mulled that over. I knew that there was no way Roman was going to leave my clients’ property intact.

He was notorious for buying properties, stripping them and selling them off for parts, or building luxury hotels like the Aluxor. This was not going to work.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Braga, but I don’t think my clients are interested in selling to North Shore Investments. “

I watched him frown as he considered me, and then his expression went carefully blank.

“I don’t think you understand, Miss St. James, but I mean to have that property. At any cost.”

There he went again with that “lord of the manor” attitude that immediately set me on edge.

“And as I just said, Mr. Braga, my clients will not be selling to you.” I made my voice firm when I really wanted to squirm under his intense scrutiny.

The room went silent for a full minute, as if even his legal counsel was afraid to make a sound.

“Can we have the room, please?”

Gibbons and Toby didn’t hesitate at the soft-spoken command. They grabbed their things and stood up quickly.

“No, no. I’m leaving. I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Mr. Braga.” I closed the file and pushed back my chair.

“Sit down, Sloane.” His voice took on a hard edge that had me slowly descending to the chair again.

He waited until the door clicked shut, leaving us alone, before his expression changed and he leaned back in his chair, watching me appreciatively.

“First things first, Sloane,” he said softly. “I have to say that this is an unexpected surprise, seeing you. Some might call it fate.”

I could hear the heat in his voice and a wave of pleasure coursed through me. But I couldn’t let it get to me, let him get to me, so I tamped it down.

“I’m an attorney. I deal in facts. I don’t believe in fate, Mr. Braga.” I crossed my legs nervously, making his gaze drift toward them.

He pursed his lips. “Well, that’s a shame.” He met my eyes again. “Have dinner with me tonight.”

I gasped. “Are you crazy? You’re a client, Mr. Braga.”

“Then let’s make it a business dinner,” he responded with a slight shrug. “You can tell me all your clients’ concerns then.”

“I think that’s a bad idea.”

“I think it’s one of my best ideas,” he countered.

“I don’t mix business with pleasure, Mr. Braga.”

“Call me Roman. And I’m happy you think being with me is pleasurable,” he said.

I rolled my eyes and took a deep, calming breath. God, he was disarming.

I shook my head decisively. “No.”

He leaned toward me then, bringing us mere inches apart. My skin prickled in awareness.

“Tell me you don’t feel it, Sloane.” His voice was urgent, and I could tell he was holding himself back. He looked like he wanted to grab me. Would I let him? I was undecided.

But then after today I wasn’t going to see him again, so I decided to be honest.

“I do, Roman. But that doesn’t mean I have to act on it,” I admitted softly.

A knock on the door made me jump.

He sighed at the interruption.

“I’ll be in touch.” And without another word, he got up, opened the door, and exited the room.

I could only stare at the door in a mix of confusion and some other feeling I couldn’t describe.

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