The Price of Scandal (Bluewater Billionaires) - Lucy Score



The south Florida humidity hit me like a hot, sweaty fist the second my heels touched the sidewalk in front of my office building. It was a little early for swelter, even by Miami’s standards.

Between the mosquitos, the lizards, the worst drivers to ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and the oppressive heat, Miami had a natural defense system built in against people who didn’t belong here.

I, however, belonged.

My mother had lobbied for a more respectable address, and my father, a Miami native, had eventually compromised with the family penthouse in Manhattan for the summer months. But my heart remained firmly attached to the neon lights and swaying palms.

“Thanks, Jane. I should be ready to head to lunch by one,” I told my assistant slash driver slash occasional security detail. Jane was shorter than my five feet seven by enough inches that I towered over her in heels. Free from the demands of permanent public scrutiny, she consistently opted for sensible sneakers or boots and wore her dark hair in a tight bun. A nod to her time in the Marines.

She dated like it was a competitive sport and dabbled in adventure sports on her days off.

Sometimes I wished I’d been born a Jane instead of an Emily.

“Need me to text you fifty-six times to remind you, boss?” she quipped, closing the door of the Range Rover behind me.

I tapped my coffee to hers. “I think I can manage,” I said dryly. “Now, go do whatever it is a Jane of all trades does when she’s not babysitting me.”

Her brown eyes lit up. “I could squeeze in a breakfast hookup. Or a workout. Or maybe I’ll just drive around and yell at people out the window,” she mused.

I grimaced behind my sunglasses. Jane had a freedom that I never would. And I wouldn’t know what to do with it even if I had it.

The air conditioning in the marble lobby fought a never-ending battle against the heat outside. Nodding to the security desk, I went directly to the elevator.

I checked my emails again on my way to the sixty-second floor. My day had started hours before my arrival at work. I’d already taken care of the “urgents” and “priorities” that cropped up during my five hours of sleep.

But there were always more.

The glass doors with ‘Flawless by Emily Stanton’ etched in gold script slid open to greet me.

“Good morning, Ms. Stanton. Divine dress,” the receptionist said. At twenty-four, she was a breathtaking beauty who wanted a foot in the door at Flawless more than she wanted attention for her looks. I liked that about her, and once her eighteen months on the front desk were up, I’d be happy to move her into marketing or research or wherever her summa cum laude University of Miami heart desired.

“Morning, Rosario,” I said with a wave as I continued past the desk.

The Flawless offices were sophisticated and feminine. Photos of women with unlined, dewy faces decorated the ivory walls in heavy silver and gold frames. The sofas were sleek, creamy linen. Vases of fresh white and pearly pink flowers were delivered twice a week. The carpet, a luxurious cream cloud of it, cushioned busy feet in stilettos.

There were mirrors everywhere for discreet lipstick and teeth checks. And a reminder of why we were occupying the top floor of one of the most exclusive buildings in the Miami skyline. We trended female on our staff and not just because we sold the world’s most effective wrinkle reducer.

Flawless was my baby. My legacy. My reputation. To others, my company was a billion-dollar game-changer. To me, it was my life. And I hired people who would be invested in the jobs I paid them handsomely to perform.

I passed two conference rooms full of people I employed who were working on ways to make more money on the products we developed. At this level, I knew all of their names. But there were hundreds more in distribution, sales, and, of course, research and development.

It didn’t keep me up at night as much as it had. The ever-present responsibility of employees. People and families who depended on me to make the right choices in every area of my life. This work, this company, paid peoples’ mortgages and sent kids to college. It bought homes and built retirement savings.

The ten-chair on-site salon was almost empty. Employees had the option of starting their day with a professional makeup application and blowout, a perk many enjoyed.

I preferred to do my