“Hello?” Mia’s voice sounded groggy as she answered the phone. Her eyes were still closed and she could hardly identify the voice on the other end of the line. “Sandra?”
Her eyes snapped open and her heart thundered inside her chest as she listened to the woman at the other end of the line. “Oh God! Is he okay?”
She listened again and felt her body going weak. She glanced at the clock and saw that it was barely two a.m. She'd just gone to bed after staying up and checking the schedule to make sure she had it right before turning in. “I'm coming.”
She hung up the phone and couldn't move for a moment. Sebastian was in a coma! She'd just seen him on Friday when she left the elegant high-rise building that was Bell’s Technologies. He'd told her that he wanted her in early on Monday morning as he had meetings to prep for and she had told him no problem. Now he was in a coma due to an accident. She swung her legs off the bed and when she stood up she felt the room sway with her. She closed her eyes and took deep steadying breaths before rushing to the bathroom. He had to live, she thought as she splashed water onto her face. He couldn't die. Please God, don’t let him die! She brushed her teeth and after quickly running slender fingers through her thick shoulder-length hair she went to put on some clothes.
It was the middle of November and the weather was decidedly unpredictable. She dragged on faded jeans and a thick cashmere sweater and wrapped a scarf around her neck before dragging on knee-length boots. She picked up her jacket and purse along with her keys and headed out.
She sat in her car in the parking lot of her apartment for a full two minutes before she pushed the start button. John Legend's voice filled the interior as she made her way out and the song managed to calm her down somewhat as she made her way to the hospital. The streets were practically empty as she drove and she forced herself not to dwell too much on what she'd heard. Sebastian Bell!
She stopped at the lights and waited for them to change. Tall, handsome dark-haired Sebastian Bell with those grey eyes that could see deep within your soul. Only he'd never seen what she felt about him and she had a feeling that if he had the faintest idea what she felt he would have fired her a long time ago. She'd been working at Bell’s Technologies for the past five years and had started first in the reception area but had worked her way up to being his assistant as she'd proven herself to be very valuable to the company. She anticipated his every move and need and practically knew what he was thinking before he did. He respected and admired her and the way she dealt with things in a professional manner.
Mia had had to endure
seeing him going out with the various women who fell at his feet.
She'd been the one to select the various expensive gifts he sent them
when he got tired of them, and she'd been the one waiting for him to
notice her. But to no avail. She'd tried falling out of love with him
but that had never worked. She'd tried going out with someone for a
little bit but had to end the relationship because she could never be
with anyone else.
She drove into the parking lot and hurried into the building. She knew exactly where to go. A man like Sebastian Bell would be put in a private wing with a private waiting room for family only. Sandra got to her feet as Mia walked in. There were several other people there as well and she recognized some of them as being men who were members of the exclusive club he belonged to. And his best friend Simon Clifton, who was also the company’s lawyer.
Sandra Bell walked into her arms and they hugged tightly. She was older than her brother and was plain compared to her stunningly handsome brother but had never had a problem with it. She ran the company along with him and was very good at her job. Mia pulled back and studied her face. There were tear stains on her cheeks and her lashes were wet.
“How about some coffee?” Mia suggested.
Sandra shook her head and led her over to one corner of the room. They weren't only employer and employee but were best friends as well. “They're saying he might not make it.”
Mia felt a tremor go through her body at that. “That’s not true.”
“It’s pretty bad Mia.” Sandra’s hands tightened on her friend’s as she searched her face. She was the only one who knew how Mia felt about her brother and had wanted to hit him over the head for not noticing this beautiful and talented woman right in front of his eyes!
“Oil spillage on the road and he was going too fast. The doctors are amazed that he didn't die on impact. The car is a total write-off. He has no cuts on his body but the impact jolted his brain. They have no idea how long he'll be out or if he'll even wake up.”
“And we aren't going to think like that.” Mia pressed her friend’s hands. “He can’t die.”
have told him, darling.”
Mia looked at her friend and understood what she was saying. “And have him fire me or, worse, reject me?” she said wryly. “I kept hoping that one day he would see me.”
“My brother needed prodding and now—“
“Stop!” Mia said with quiet determination. “He's not going to die.”
“How did I sound?” Sandra asked her as soon as the board members had filed out of the large conference room. Mia had come in expecting to see Sebastian seated at the head of the table or poring over something on his laptop and she'd felt a jolt as she looked at the empty chair.
“Like a pro,” Mia walked over to pour them both some orange juice and tipped a little of Sebastian’s bourbon into it. “Your brother would have been proud. You've got this.” She handed a glass to Sandra.
“Isn’t it too soon for the added zest?” she asked with a lift of her brow.
“I figured that we both needed it,” Mia said with a ghost of a smile as she took a sip. “Marcus looked as if he wanted to tell you to get back into the kitchen where women really belong and Sylvan was looking at you the entire time as if he was wondering what kind of bra you were wearing.” She laughed along with Sandra. “These men still live in the dark ages and your brother knew that, honey. You just have to stand your ground.”
“I'm not as strong as you or Sebastian.” Her grey-blue eyes dimmed as she sat back down with the drink in her hand. “He never took bull from anyone and never gave a damn what anyone thought about him.”
“Stop talking about him in the past tense Sandra,” Mia said sharply, causing the woman to look up at her. Sandra had always said that she admired Mia's confidence and poise and the way she never allowed anything to nettle her. She was the only one who had never been afraid of Sebastian’s lightning-quick mood swings, and no matter how rude and cold he could become she never allowed him to get under her skin.
Sandra stared at her silently, and Mia wondered what she saw. Mia knew she was tall and slender with generous curves that were surprising with her slender built. She had generous breasts and shapely hips. That morning she was wearing a dark blue jacket suit with a red inside blouse and shoes with high heels. Her shoulder-length dark hair was caught on top of her head and secured in an elegant bun.
“I'm sorry,” Sandra finally said softly. “As ornery as he is I miss him being here.” She finished the drink and put the glass down. “Okay, let’s get back to work.”
Mia went into his office and closed the doors behind her. He was everywhere she looked. His large desk was still strewn with unfinished work from Friday when he'd left and she went forward to tidy up a little, letting her hand pass over the shiny mahogany surface slowly. In her mind’s eye she saw him seated behind the desk, his dark head bent over his laptop or his grey eyes meeting hers as she came in to hand him something or talk to him about the meetings he had coming up.
“I need a few minutes, Mia,” she could hear his deep voice in her ears. “I'm not finished.”
“You have everything you need Sebastian,” she would tell him calmly. She knew that when they were working on a new technology he hardly wanted to be disturbed but he'd keep the sales team waiting forever if she let him. She'd hand him the notes for the meeting. He would look at her with narrowed eyes and she would look back at him without blinking.
She never allowed him to see how he intimidated her and she had a feeling that it annoyed him to no end.
“One of these days I'm going to fire you,” he would growl.
“But not today,” she would tell him calmly. “And don’t bother going in there and eviscerating them. Hear them out.”
“You're telling me what to do now?” he'd ask her arrogantly.
“Don’t I always?” she'd ask him with lifted brows.
He'd stare at her for a few minutes and then stride out of the office, slamming the doors behind him.
Now she stood by his desk and wished fervently that he was there arguing with her instead of lying in a hospital bed with tubes attached to him. She blinked as she felt the tears overflow. She'd told Sandra the truth. He wasn't going to die and if she had to will him to live then that was what she was going to do.
“That will be all, Gloria,” Sandra said as she dismissed the maid.
“Shall I pour?” Simon asked her as soon as the maid had left and closed the doors behind her.
“You always do.” A ghost of a smile hovered around her lips. He poured the wine from the decanter and passed the glass to her. She'd stopped by the hospital to spend a little time with her brother, filling him in on what she'd done today. It was hard to believe that in a matter of days their lives had changed so much. “He looked so helpless lying there and I'm not used to seeing him like that. He has to wake up, Simon. I cannot run this company on my own.”
He reached over and closed a hand over hers. “You're not alone. You have me and, of course, Mia and the board members.”
“A group of old fogies who think I'm a joke. They feared Sebastian because he didn't let them get away with any bullshit but to them I'm a very faint substitute.”
“You've been running the company alongside your brother for years and you'll continue to do so,” Simon told her firmly. “Don’t let them intimidate you.”
She smiled slightly. “You sound like Mia.”
“She knows best,” he said lightly.
“She intimidates you,” Sandra said intuitively.
He shrugged. “She's
like a robot,” he admitted. “I remember one time I came
unannounced to see Sebastian and she had me sit in the waiting area
for half an hour. She knew I was his best friend as well as the
company’s lawyer and that did nothing to sway her.”
Sandra laughed at that. The movement lightened the mood. “I'm his sister and if he was in a meeting or on an important call she wouldn't let me in either. I had to wait.”
He grinned at that.
“She's quite something.”
“And the only one who isn't afraid of my brother.”
He nodded. He leaned forward. “We have to believe that he will
survive this Sandra.”
“I'm holding on to that. He's too pigheaded to die just like that.”
“That he is,” Simon said with a grin.
Mia put away the iPod and stared at him. She would come by every other day with or without Sandra and talk about what was happening at the company. She would talk to him as if he was listening to her and she hoped that he was. He'd been in a coma for three weeks now and nothing had changed but she refused to lose hope and she refused to let Sandra lose hope as well. She had to admit that she was perhaps going overboard with this hope thing.
She'd overheard a member of staff talking in the cafeteria about him not waking up and wondering what was going to happen to the company without him. She'd blasted the frightened man and had sent him scurrying from the room along with the others.
“I hope you can hear me, Sebastian,” she said softly. “I know how strong you are and that's one of the things I admire about you, among others. You never saw me before and I allowed you to look past me. I would stand by with my heart breaking and see the women come and go in your life and would put up with it. I was fearless when it came to guarding your territory but I couldn't for the life of me tell you how I felt because I feared that it would be the end of us. You're a pretty intimidating man—and an arrogant one as well. But I love you and I've loved you for so long that it's a part of me. I swear that when you wake up you're going to notice me. I will make you notice me.” She paused and touched his strong, tanned arm. “Please wake up baby,” she whispered. “I want you to wake up.”
Mia called out as she let herself into the house. “Where are
“Around the back.”
She dropped her coat and purse on the sofa and went around to find him. He was crouched in front of an ancient heater and was fiddling with it. “I'm trying to get this damned thing to work.”
“I told you that I wanted to put a new heating system in,” she told him mildly as she sat on the stool to watch him.
“You know how I feel about those damned modern things, baby girl.” He threw down the wrench he'd been holding and struggled to his feet to come over and hug her. She hugged him tight. He wasn't exactly her uncle but the man who had come into her life when she was three years old and had married her mother. He was the only father she knew and she loved him like one. He'd treated her like a princess and had spoiled both her and her mother. Mia’s father had died before she was born but she hadn't missed out. “Let me look at you,” he pulled back and studied her thoroughly. “Is it me or do you look more beautiful each time I see you?”
“It’s just you.” She laughed as she leaned in to kiss his weathered cheek. “So, will you let me call someone to deal with the heating?”
“Okay fine,” he said with a smile. “Since you have nothing better to do than spend your hard earned money on me.”
She linked her hand
through his arm as they went into the living room. “You're
right. Apart from buying tons of clothes and shoes—you know how
I cannot resist a pair of totally happening shoes!” She let him
go to sit on a well-worn sofa and waited until he sat across from
her. “And that SUV I bought for my birthday in June. I think
I'm going to trade it in. I'm not a soccer mom and at the rate I'm
going I doubt that I'll ever be a mom.”
“You're only twenty-seven-“
“Twenty-eight actually,” she told him.
and beautiful and extremely talented so I won't have you talking like
“I'm in love with a man who's in a coma and before that he might as well have been for all the notice he ever paid me,” she said dryly as she crossed her legs and leaned back.
“He was a fool
not to have noticed you,” Beres said mildly as he stared at
her. “And I've never known you to give up.”
“Who said anything about giving up?”
“You sounded that way just now. I've always admired your spunk. You never let anything stand in your way. You got that from Sheila.” His voice had softened as he talked about his late wife.
Mia stared at him for a moment. “She's been dead five years now, Uncle B. Shouldn’t you be moving on?”
move on from real love, girl. You've been in love with your boss for
many years now.”
“And maybe I should try to move on,” she said with a sigh. “I've seen him go out with blondes, redheads, brunettes and several Africa Americans but they had one thing in common. They were all socialites. I found myself wondering why a man who had so much money had to pick women who had money as well. Empty headed women with too much money for their own good.”
“And how long did they last?” Beres asked her with merriment in his dark brown eyes.
“Not very long,” Mia said with a smile. “He broke it off with the last one a week before the accident. I remember telling him that he should do his own dirty work and pick out something for the poor woman himself.” She shook her head. “I thought he was going to have a stroke the way he glowered at me.”
“And what did
“He ordered me out of his office and I calmly finished what I was doing before I left. He didn't speak to me for the rest of the day. I ordered his lunch as usual, a thinly crusted wheat bread ham and cheese sandwich with pickles and something to drink—his favorite flavored water—and took it in myself. He barely looked up at me but I put it in front of him and left.”
“You're not afraid of him,” Beres said with a pleased smile.
“I'm not afraid of anyone.” Mia sighed. “Maybe that’s the problem. He's used to being in charge and I don’t allow anyone to be in charge of me. Men are terrified of women who are so independent. I'm not one of those simpering idiots who think the moon shines out of his ass.”
Beres gave a shout of
laughter that had her joining him. “You're priceless and when
he wakes up he's going to start noticing you.”
She sobered at that. “What if he doesn't?” she said quietly.
“Girl, you know
better than to talk like that.”
“I'm strong because I have to be for his sister but when I'm alone I think of him not waking up and I panic. How did I get myself into this situation, Uncle B? He isn't only my boss but he's one of the hottest billionaires in the world. Not my words, but the trading magazine referred to him like that and they were right. He's totally hot and arrogant and ruthless and cold and should not be my type.”
“Except that you're in love with him,” he reminded her gently.
“Except that I'm in love with him.”