It was a key. Inside of the box was a car key with the Audi branding carved on it.
I didn’t want to open the box in front of him, but he insisted I open it because he told me he was not keen on surprises. Why wrap it all up if that was the case?
I frowned in confusion. I didn’t know why he was giving me a key, unless…
“Don’t give it that look,” he said, his eyes still focused on the road. “You’ll find the car in front of your friend’s apartment when you go home. It’s an Audi A5. I’m just not sure if you’d like the color.”
I blinked, still confused. I slightly clenched the key with my sweaty palm. Apparently, I didn’t like how much close he was. His arm brushed mine multiple times now while firmly maneuvering the steering wheel. I’d like to wipe my gaze away very much. I didn’t know driving could be so sexy. And his scent filled the air I couldn’t think straight.
“Um… Why would you give me a car? If it’s alright to ask.”
“Of course, it’s alright to ask, for god’s sakes, Miss Hopkins.” He briefly glanced at me. “Am I making you nervous?” A ghost smile curved in his lips.
I felt my cheeks flushed. Cocky bastard.
He knew very well his effect on women. He knew his effect on me. I could feel it in my flesh and bones. I’d really like to roll my eyes at him, but I didn’t think it was a good idea.
“I’m not nervous,” I murmured, which I thought he didn’t hear.
“You always blush when you lie, do you know that?” he commented, smirking.
I looked away, setting my eyes on the windows.
“Anyway, I’m not giving you a car. It’s company issued. It’ll be inconvenient for an executive assistant to ride with her friend whenever she goes to work or take a bus when she needs to sort out an errand.”
Right of course. It was the reason. Oh, how I wanted to remind this man that I wasn’t his slave. And since he had decided to make me his assistant, officially, I’d very much like to talk about my exact job description. I was pretty sure, covering his ass up to the media by dating tons of superstars was not in it.
“Then when are we going? This is not the way back to the company.”
“I can’t take you back to the office now, so you are coming with me.”
I frowned in confusion. I couldn’t remember he had an appointment this afternoon. I was the one arranging his schedule. “Where are we going? Is this a personal itinerary?”
“Not exactly. I’m going to a gala tonight. Remember Rivera?”
“The Italian designer? I spoke to him on the phone once.”
“Yes. I need him to design with us for our summer campaign. I am going to give him a slot. It’s more like a collaboration between two brands—his name and ours. He’s returning to Venice tomorrow so we agreed to meet tonight. He’ll be attending a corporate gala in the opening of Camelot Arts.”
“Oh, the Camelot. I heard of it. It’d be fun to see the exhibit,” I commented.
However, I looked down at my outfit, and I was pretty much not dressed for the occasion. I was wearing a pantsuit—which I wore for a job interview. But then I realized I was going there to work. Why the heck was I thinking about dressing up now? I blew out a sharp breath.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
A couple of minutes later, we finally stop in front of a Nieman Marcus. A luxury department store that retails top brands such as Christian Louboutin, Fendi, Gucci, and Armani, and of course, Stark’s finest apparel.
Oh my. My mouth dropped at the anticipation my boss knew what I was thinking. Or was it really?
“Wait.” As he was about to step out of the car, I reached out for his arm, which sent me tiny bolts of electricity. I didn’t mean to be so bold. I backed away in an instant.
“What is it?” He raised an eyebrow.
I gulped my throat dry. “Um, nothing. I’m sorry.”
I followed Gabriel as he stepped inside and greeted a tall woman in a shimmery black dress. Two women in uniform stand at her sides.
“Gabriel! It’s good to see you!” she greets in her alto husky voice and boldly kisses Gabriel in his cheek.
“Veronica.” Gabriel accepted her as a gesture as well. “I’d like you to meet Audrey Hopkins. My new executive assistant and she needs your help fetch a dress for tonight. We are attending a gala.”
My cheeks heated. “Mr. Stark, there’s no need.”
“First impression last, Miss Hopkins.” His lips curved into a half-smile.
Veronica grinned and looked at me from head to toe. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Hopkins.” She reached a hand to me.
I shook her hand. “It’s my pleasure to meet you, Miss Park.”
“Just call me Veronica.” She winked. “Come here, darling. You will look absolutely wonderful tonight!” she said as she turned around, checking me out inch by inch. “You have a great figure, love, and a nice skin tone. Oh, how beautiful you are. Are you sure you’re Gabriel’s assistant?”
I blinked. What’s that supposed to mean?
I glanced at Gabriel whose eyebrow arched.
“Please follow me,” Veronica initiated.
I followed her and the other staff towards some room that turned out to be the dressing room. There, Veronica picked up a crimson red dress from her hang rack and handed it to her staff.
“The color would look good on your skin tone. Do you mind a little bit of skin? Just a little bit at the back.”
I shook my head.
“Well. this dress is pretty new from Givenchy.” She smiled and brushed her thumb on my cheek. “I’ll transform you into a gorgeous, stunning young lady. All guys will be smitten on you tonight, I promise.”
I giggled. Although I didn’t really think of that, her statement made me feel giddy. Would Stark look at me differently?
Oh, I was sure he won’t.
“But, wait. Isn’t that expensive? I don’t think I can pay—”
“Don’t worry, my dear,” she cut me. “Your boss would absolutely take care of it. This won’t hurt his wallet; you know? After all, he comes here all the time.”
My eyes grew wide. All the time?
I gritted my teeth secretly. Just how any mistresses of his did he bring here?
Thirty minutes later that almost seems like forever, I slipped on my matching heels and step out of the room I came into. Gabriel was sitting on the waiting area with his eyes focus in his phone screen, Veronica called his attention.
“Gabriel, my darling. I present to you, my work of art!”
Gabriel’s lifted his head, and our eyes instantly meet. He sprang up abruptly, holding my gaze, wearing an unexplainable expression.
My face heated. The dress Veronica made me wore was a backless crimson evening dress with a high-rise front and lengthy trail, and for the final touch, she laid a ruby necklace around my neck and matching dangling earrings.
“So what do you say, now, Gabriel?” she said to him.
He flashed out a pleasant grin and nodded in approval. “Perfect.”
Gabriel paced towards me, without breaking eye contact. His gaze was burning, and every inch of my skin was tangling and self-aware as if I was almost bare in front of this man. I noticed he had changed as well, wearing a Cucinelli black tuxedo.
“Great job with this, Veronica.”
“Oh, thank you. I’m excellent, aren’t I? But isn’t she a vision?”
“Yes, and just what I expected from you.”
“Thank you, Veronica,” I said, smiling.
She breathed in awe and clasped her hands. “You are very much welcome.”
Stark briefly smiled at her, then focuses his eyes back at me. “Shall we?” he whispered in my ear, scorching me with his hot breath, making me squirm against my thighs. I felt my nipple hardened.
I nodded, still couldn’t look at him.
“A lady should be treated, like…” Gabriel took my hand and gently placed it on his arm. “Well, a lady.”