“Damn, damn, damn!” swore Max.
Striding across his office, he leaned one elbow against the floor-to-ceiling window. The fabulous view from his 20th floor office usually cheered him up, but this time the twinkling city lights seemed to be gloating at him.
He turned his back on them and, with a sigh, wandered over to his desk and sank into the oversized, leather CEO-chair. Why oh why had he trusted Alison to buy his tickets for the Winston charity ball? She was the worst secretary he’d ever had. Yet somehow he kept falling back into the mindset of those golden days when he’d had an assistant who had done the things he asked without argument or objection. His new secretary, Alison Fellam, wasn’t even a real secretary. She was just the bored daughter of a business associate. George Fellam had begged Max to give his daughter a job after she’d been kicked off her management programme. It had seemed like a good solution to Max. Hire Alison to fill the hole left by his former assistant, who had just moved across the country with her husband. Unfortunately, Alison’s failure at her management course hadn’t dented her confidence one tiny bit. She had an unshakeable belief in her own opinions with regards to what Max ought to be doing with his time, and she organised his schedule accordingly. She apparently hadn’t deemed the Winston ball to be worthy of his notice, as evidenced by his lack of tickets for the sold-out event.
If it had been any other event, he wouldn’t have been so devastated. But Liam Hannik - owner of a multinational company and a potential future client - would surely be there. The Winston ball was set to be the unofficial venue for the next stage of their negotiations as he and Max danced the to-and-fro cajolery of potential business partners. If Max didn’t show up, Liam would doubtless deem him to be unreliable and strike him off the list of possible suppliers. It would mean losing a contract potentially worth millions for Max’s company.
And aside from the negotiations, there was the issue of Rynda. Max cursed again, and then sighed. Rynda Rowall. Clear, cappuccino skin, a flawless face and a reputation for single-minded determination in climbing the social ladder. It had taken months of pursuit for Max to convince her of the advantages of being seen with him in public. He’d promised her an evening of fine champagne, sparkling conversation and good publicity. He’d known that he could rely on the Winston ball to provide exactly that. Just a few hours ago, Rynda had sent him a photo of the elegant gown she’d purchased for the evening.
That was before he’d asked Alison for the tickets and discovered his gross miscalculation. How would Rynda react when he told her that he was taking her to a nice restaurant instead? Scratch that, he knew exactly how she’d react. Women like Rynda didn’t offer second chances. She’d disappear from his life in a swish of silky chiffon.
Resting his head in his hands on the mahogany desk, Max groaned out loud. This was going to be a hard evening to recover from!
“It’s bad form to show your feelings so openly. Didn’t you learn that in CEO school?”
Max’s head snapped up so fast that he felt a twinge in his neck. Ouch! Rubbing it, he looked around the empty room. “Who said that?”
A petite, blonde woman walked out of nowhere. It was as if she’d been hiding behind an invisible screen in the middle of his room and then stepped out from behind it to appear in his office. She had long, curly hair, and wore an exquisite yellow dress that had wings attached to the back of it. Or perhaps they were real wings? They flapped slightly as she wandered over to his desk and hopped up to sit on the edge of it. “Hello!”
“Um, hi.” This was weird. Max grasped for something to say. In desperation, he blurted out “Do you have an appointment?”
She beamed. “Family don’t need appointments, silly.”
“Am I related to you? I mean, are you related to me…?” Max trailed off. The small-talk skills he’d developed through years of business networking events hadn’t prepared him for this.
She swung her legs forward and back. “I’m your fairy godmother. You can call me Effie.
She looked annoyed. “It’s my name. You don’t want to be forced to say ‘Fairy Godmother’ every time, do you?”
There was a pause. He realised she was waiting for a reply. “No?”
“Good. Now I’m here to help you with this little problem of yours.”
“How did you get in exactly? Did security let you past the barrier? Wait, did you fly up here?” He stared at her wings.
She flapped her hand impatiently. “Never mind that. Do you want to go to this ball thing or not?”
Ball thing? Max sucked in a breath. “The Winston ball! You can help me get in?”
She smirked. “My dear, you shall go to the ball!” Swinging her legs faster, she added, “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
The situation was surreal, but it also offered Max a glimmer of hope for salvaging the evening. If he could somehow avoid letting Liam and Rynda down, then it would be worth any amount of strange women in his office. He hadn’t got to be CEO without learning to take a few risks now and then. “What do I need to do?”
She jumped down from the desk, and said with a business-like air. “Okay. I’m going to need the following…”