Traveling to Italy for business sounded like a dream. Three glorious weeks of sightseeing and sampling the local nightlife.

Matteo Russo caught my attention from the start.

We met at a crowded nightclub. The gorgeous older man sauntered over, plied me with liquor, and whispered illicit invitations in my ear. It’s no surprise we ended up naked and horizontal in his bed.

The next morning, I made my graceful exit with a kiss, convinced it would be the last time we saw each other.

Imagine my shock when he popped up at the office. Turns out he’s the guy that’s trying to ruin my family’s business.

My job was to use whatever tools in my arsenal to force him to capitulate.

A Roman conquered my heart.

But secrets threatened to destroy us forever.

His Little Star is a standalone novella with a guaranteed happily ever after.

His Little Star contains all of your favorite tropes:

      • Sex Positive Heroine
      • Romance Abroad
      • Interracial Romance
      • Older Man/Younger Woman
      • Business Rivalry

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READ CHAPTER ONE

Chapter One

Naomi

 

“Call me when you land.”

The email was short and to the point. Coming from my father, it could’ve meant just about anything from “I want to go over the plan with you one more time to make sure you don’t screw it up,” to “The sewer backed up and exploded all over the hotel, and we’re about to go under,” or even “What kind of flowers does your mother like again?” Perhaps some words of encouragement, as his precious little girl had, once again, made him proud.

I prepared myself for the worst. When it came to my father, business trips were just that—business. From the moment I landed in Rome until the minute I took off for New York City, I’d be on the clock. In his eyes, at least. Ephraim Jackson didn’t take breaks, and as his daughter, I was expected to adhere to the same philosophy. Most of the time, we saw things eye to eye. However, I also understood all work and no play made for a rather tense Naomi.

A girl could have some fun, right?

For the sake of my father’s peace of mind, I would keep that bit to myself.

That being said, his email had me all kinds of curious. What did he have to say over the phone that he couldn’t have explained in a text message?

I’d worked for the hotel division of Cygnus Group for two years. In that short period, I’d learned the difference between my father and my boss. My father was funny and a good husband. My boss was a hard-nosed executive with a take-no-prisoners leadership approach. He possessed a sharp mind for contracts and used loopholes to finagle himself out of weak agreements. I took notes and aimed to be like him.

The familiar ding of the jet’s intercom system sounded. The captain’s deep voice boomed through the speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Anderson. We’re about to make our descent into beautiful Rome, Italy. The weather is a balmy seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit, or twenty-two degrees Celsius, with not a cloud in the sky. Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for landing.”

I finished off my distilled water before handing the glass to the flight attendant. I tucked away my laptop, fastened my seat belt, and relaxed in the plush leather seat.

Perfect.

Twenty minutes later, the plane was on the ground and taxiing to Ciampino International Airport’s private aviation terminal. When we came to a complete stop, I whipped out my phone and toggled from airplane mode. Before I could even dial, my father’s name showed up on the screen.

“Do you have ESP?” I teased, a smile playing on my lips.

“I’ve been tracking your flight.” His tone was all business. I imagined him standing in his office, looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows with one hand on his hip and the other tightly clutching the phone. He likely had a clenched jaw and barely controlled irritation blazing in his eyes. “We’ve got a problem.”

Four words I always dreaded coming from my father. The we in his statement meant me, and the problem would blow a hole in the plans I’d made for the next few weeks.

“I’m eager to solve it,” I said confidently.

Twenty-six years of being his daughter had taught me to respond to his heightened emotional state with an equal amount of coolness. That seemed to keep his emotions from spiraling out of control. My ability to be the “executive whisperer” was the reason I quickly became one of his most trusted advisors.

I looked down at my feet and released a low sigh. I wished he’d have been a bit kinder and more appreciative of my hard work.

“My assistant informs me that the locals have organized a protest outside the hotel property.”

I snorted. “Since when has that been a concern?” I scrunched up my nose. “Unless they’re getting violent. Am I about to be pelted with vegetables?”

“No one does that anymore.” Impatience permeated his voice, a signal that perhaps this wasn’t the time to turn on the charm.

“Tell that to my coat that got stained from a tomato in Nice.” I let out a huff of agitation.

Generally, the local townspeople’s protests were verbal and rarely became violent. The locals hated change, and then once it arrived, they sang a different tune. We’d saved communities with the increase in tourism we’d created.

Ignoring my witty remarks, my father got to the point. “This protest is about to get complicated in other ways. It has a wealthy supporter who isn’t hesitating to involve the entire town to get his way. The kicker: he’s a hotel owner himself.”

“He’s scared.”

“Yes. There’s a meeting scheduled with this man tomorrow to find a compromise that will get his supporters to back down. It’d be nice not to have to jump through all the legal hoops again.”

“We won’t open in time if that’s the case.”

“Precisely, and our VIP guests coming for the grand opening will be disappointed if they have to adjust their travel plans because of petty jealousy. The administrative team will bring you up to speed on the protest organizer. Don’t go in cold; the guy’s tenacious. Be sure to do your own research before the meeting.”

I nodded out of habit and got up from my seat so I could gather my work bag. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this covered. Whoever this guy is, I’ll have him eating out of the palm of my hand by the end of our meeting.”

“You’re a gem, my dear. Please be careful.”

“Thank you, Daddy.” I flashed a grin in response to the unexpected endearment. It felt like the good old days—before the pressures of work had changed our relationship. “I’ll give you all the brutal details afterward.”

I gripped my laptop bag and exited the plane, the widest of smiles on my lips. Many men had feared the type of conquest before me and had buckled under the pressure. I wasn’t a man, though, and I immensely enjoyed some good old-fashioned boardroom carnage.

 

 

Text Copyright © 2021 by Michelle Karise