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The Boss's Daughter - Chapter 1

Prologue
 

Vivian Westfall sipped her Riesling as she glanced around the company’s conference hall, trying to find something to gain her attention away from Sarah and Bonnie. The two members of the sales department stood next to her, gossiping about the latest news in their division. Vivian was Chief Financial Officer of Bridger Holdings, a company that bought and sold commercial properties around the globe. After four years in the job, she still found the work interesting. Though the people Gregory Bridger employed left a lot to be desired. One thing Vivian couldn’t stand was idle gossip.

“Can you believe that, Viv?” Sarah lightly touched Vivian’s forearm.

“Hmm?” Vivian looked back at Sarah, her brain trying to fill in what had been said while she was busy daydreaming of getting home and soaking in a hot bath.


Sarah frowned at her. “I said, can you believe Marcus from the sales team is gay?”

Vivian blinked at the duo, not sure how to respond. Was it so unusual to work with someone who was gay these days? I guess they don’t know about my own preferences. Vivian smiled internally. She wasn’t closeted, but the need to come out at work had never arisen. She was, by nature, a very private person. She didn’t think anyone even knew if she had any siblings. “Is that a problem?” She hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with homophobes this early on in the evening. Bridger Holdings were having their annual spring party. Gregory liked to celebrate the end of the fiscal year by throwing an elegant bash, one that every employee was mandated to attend. Vivian knew it was his way of showing off how successful he was. In the time she had been working at Bridger, the company always turned a huge profit. She couldn’t fault Gregory for being pleased with himself. He might be conceited, but he knew how to run a business.

“Um, no,” Sarah said, her brows pinching ever so slightly. “It’s just that he’s so hot.”

“Hot people can’t be gay?” Jesus. Some people are so uninformed.

“Of course they can,” Bonnie chimed in. “Sarah’s just annoyed, because she asked him out and he shot her down.”

“You don’t have to tell the world, Bon.” Sarah’s cheeks flamed.

Vivian had to bite her lip to stop her laugh bubbling out. Apparently, it was okay to gossip about other people, but not to have the gossip be about her. “His loss.” Vivian shrugged, doing her best to appear sincere. She really couldn’t wait to get out of there.

A commotion over the other side of the hall grabbed her attention. She gazed across the dance floor to the makeshift bar set up along the far wall. Vivian had never seen the tall, lean blonde before. The woman was gyrating next to a horrified looking Patricia, the wife of one of the company’s biggest clients. The dancing woman held a drink high above her head, sloshing the contents everywhere, some of it hitting herself.

“Oh, Christ,” Bonnie whispered.

Vivian glanced at her. “Who is that?”

“You don’t know?”

Vivian frowned, shaking her head.

“That’s Lauren Bridger. The boss’s daughter.”

Vivian looked back over at Lauren, who was now gesturing wildly to the bartender. Of course, Vivian knew Gregory had a daughter but didn’t expect her to be the drunk idiot across the room. Lauren was a world away from the pretty eight-year-old girl Vivian had seen in the picture frame on Gregory’s desk. In the four years she had been there, she was yet to meet Lauren. Last she heard from office gossip, Lauren was off travelling the world on Gregory’s money. She didn’t imagine that his daughter would be so obviously drunk and making a fool of herself in front of her father’s employees and important clients.

“Christ,” Bonnie repeated. “The local MP is here. If he sees Lauren acting like that, he’ll for sure pull his support of Gregory.”


Vivian glanced over to where Bonnie pointed, spotting Adam Marshall in a small group of people. Bonnie was right. Gregory had extolled his own success plenty of times, with the story of how much he had done for the community. He had wanted to reinvest into the place he grew up in and keep his business local. Not many people had liked seeing a high-rise built in the centre of a seaside town, but Gregory had convinced the council to allow him building permission. He’d promised to donate funds to local causes and to employ as many local people as possible. He had kept that promise over the last thirty years. Adam Marshall had become a close friend of his. Seeing Lauren act this way would surely cause friction between them.

“Excuse me.” Vivian handed her drink to Sarah and strode across the empty dance floor. She may not like a lot of the staff that worked there, but she would always be loyal to Gregory. He had been her father’s best friend growing up, until life drifted them apart. It was at her father’s funeral that she met Gregory for the first time. He was genuinely saddened at his friend’s death. At the wake, Vivian spoke with him at length, and they kept in contact for a couple of years. When Gregory called asking if she wanted to be his CFO, it was serendipity. She had recently lost her previous job and was glad to move to Cornwall where her father grew up.

Vivian pushed through the small crowd of people gathered around the bar. They all watched Lauren, who was now singing loudly out of tune to a Gloria Gaynor track. Vivian stepped in front of Lauren, grasping her flailing arm at the bicep. She took Lauren’s fresh drink off her and placed it on the bar.

“Hey!” Lauren glared at the interruption. “Get off me.”

Vivian held tighter, as Lauren tried to pull away. Lauren was a couple of inches taller than her own five-four. Lauren’s hair had a messy but stylish look, cut just above her shoulders. Through the alcohol, Vivian detected hints of apple. A slow roll moved through her stomach, as Lauren’s sky-blue eyes flashed with anger. God, she’s gorgeous. Vivian shook the disquieting thought from her mind. “Come with me.” She tugged Lauren’s arm, surprised by the lack of resistance. She led Lauren through a back door and into the corridor that led to an emergency exit.

Lauren stopped, pulling her arm free. “Who are you?” she asked, her words slurring.

Vivian turned and glared at her. “I work for your father. I’m the CFO.”

Lauren’s gaze travelled over Vivian’s body, her lips quirking into a grin. “It’s about time Father hired himself some eye candy.”

Vivian felt a red-hot rage course through her body. Her hands tightened into fists, trying desperately to curb the urge to slap her. It wasn’t the first time Vivian had been called that, and it wouldn’t be the last. She wasn’t blind; she knew she was attractive. But having spent years trying to prove her brain was her best asset had been hard. At Bridger Holdings, she thought she had finally found a place to be comfortable in her own skin. Seeing Lauren leer at her the way some men did had angered her more than it should have.

“Don’t ever speak to me like that again.” Lauren flinched at the icy tone in Vivian’s voice.

“I was just having some fun. Chill out. Jesus.” Lauren backed up a step.

“What are you doing here?”

“It’s the spring party, where else would I be?” Lauren fished a packet of cigarettes from her pocket and attempted to light one. Vivian snatched it out of her mouth.

“No smoking in here.”

“It’s my dad’s business. I can do what I want.” She put another one between her lips.

“It’s illegal.” Vivian snatched that one too, and the pack out of Lauren’s other hand. She tossed the packet into the bin that stood near the exit.

“Spoilsport.” Lauren stepped around Vivian. “I need a drink.”

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Vivian reached out, grabbing her wrist and spinning her around, bringing their bodies within inches of each other. Lauren glared at her, then took a step forward, making Vivian back up until she hit the wall behind her. Vivian’s heart rate tripled. Her pulse pounded in her ears. It wasn’t just the alcohol that was intoxicating. She was transfixed by the ire flashing in Lauren’s gaze. Lauren reached up, tracing Vivian’s cheek with gentle fingers. Vivian’s eyes went wide, when Lauren dipped her head and crushed their lips together in a searing kiss. She should have pushed Lauren away but couldn’t. The raw passion and taste of her tongue glued her in place. Vivian gripped her shoulders, pulling her closer still. She hadn’t been kissed this well in a very long time. She found she was starving for more. Lauren’s hand somehow found its way under Vivian’s blouse, tracing her stomach, inching higher to her breasts.

Vivian’s eyes popped open at the first touch of fingers on her hardened nipple. She shoved Lauren away. “What do you think you’re doing?” Her breathing was ragged, her stomach in knots. She swiped a hand over her mouth. I can’t believe I just did that. “How dare you do that to me.”

“I didn’t hear you saying no.” Lauren inched forward. “Come back to my place. We can have a good time.”

Vivian narrowed her eyes, her anger returning full force. “If you think I’d go anywhere with someone as despicable and reckless as you, then you’re stupider than you look.”

Lauren moved back, eyes wide. The momentary look of hurt was gone in a flash, replaced with her own anger. “Don’t presume you know anything about me.” She stepped forward and poked Vivian hard in the chest. “You were the one who had their hand down my trousers.”

Vivian was about to refute the claim but stopped herself when she noticed her hand was damp. I didn’t do that, did I? Her hand trembled with the urge to bring her fingers to her nose to check if it was true. How could I have touched her like that and not even realised? She tightened the guilty hand into a fist. She wouldn’t give Lauren the satisfaction. How could I do that to Gregory’s daughter? Shame washed over her. I’m going to lose my job. Her fear must have been apparent. Lauren relaxed her stance and eased the space between them.

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell Father you wanted to fuck his daughter in a back corridor.”

“I didn’t. I don’t.”

“You’re a liar, but whatever. I have to go.”

Lauren turned away and walked toward the fire exit. Vivian stood against the wall, chest heaving. What have I done? She righted herself and headed back into the function room. She grabbed a wine from a passing bartender, swigging it down in four long gulps.

“Vivian. There you are.”

Vivian coughed the last mouthful down at hearing Gregory’s voice. He’d been absent from the party so far. Vivian was glad he wasn’t around to witness Lauren making a fool of herself. Or the episode in the corridor. She turned to greet him, consciously not holding her hand out to shake his. “Gregory, you did it again.”

Gregory glanced around the hall at the decorations and the staff, his eyes full of joy. “It has been another great year. And long may it continue.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. “I meant to give this to you earlier, but with the final preparations for tonight, I forgot.” He handed the envelope over. “It’s your bonus for a job well done.”

Vivian didn’t open it. How could she, when she had just had her hand in his daughter’s underwear? “Thank you, Gregory. You made it easy.” She smiled at him and hoped it came off as sincere. Inside, she was dying. “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m going to have to call it a night.”

“Oh?” Gregory raised his bushy brows. At sixty-four, he was still a handsome man. “I was hoping to steal a dance with you.”

“That’s very sweet, but with a new year comes a new budget. I want to get an early start on the projections.”

“Duncan would have been so proud of you,” he said, alluding to her father.

“I hope so.”

Gregory leaned in, hugging her tightly. “You’re a remarkable woman. I’m so pleased you decided to join us four years ago.”

I used to feel the same. I’m not so sure anymore. As he pulled back and stepped away, Vivian’s shame overwhelmed her. Of all the people to make out with, I had to do it with bloody Lauren Bridger. She just hoped she wouldn’t be seeing Lauren ever again. It was highly unlikely. They hadn’t met in the previous years, no reason to think their paths would cross again in the future. A fool’s hope. It’s sod’s law she’ll be back again sooner than I’d like.

 

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