Gianluca: An Enemies to Lovers Office Romance
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"By far, one of the best romance novels that I've read to date!" - Victoria
Arrogant men are not my style. He despises all things American. But desires can't escape the touch of the Italian moonlight...
I long to see Europe before I start community college. So I‘m ecstatic when I land a fashion internship with one of Rome's top fashion houses. But when my boss turns out to have an ego bigger than his industry, I fear this Italian dream is about to turn into a hellish nightmare.
I want one thing in life: for the world to recognize my talent. Nearing my takeover of the Ravelli Group, I‘m certain the upcoming winter styles photoshoot is the perfect chance to seal the deal. But as the big event approaches, I‘m less than thrilled to be saddled with a naïve American assistant with no fashion experience.
As we travel to sun-soaked Tuscany for the shoot, we both do our best to fight the growing attraction between us. But will the sparks between us burn down our ambitions or ignite a lifetime love affair?
Gianluca is the first book in the steamy Marini Workplace series. If you like charming Italian atmospheres, swoon-worthy characters, and hot-and-cold relationships, then you'll adore Isabella Cassazza's tale of grande amore.
Buy Gianluca for a catwalk to remember today!
Release date: November 17, 2020
Print pages: 284
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Gianluca: An Enemies to Lovers Office Romance
“Next one.” I bounce my knee under the table while I wait for a junior manager to hand me another image.
A quick glance is all I need to figure out it doesn’t fit the campaign. “Have someone edit the photo. I want stronger contrasts. And more shadows here.” I point at the dark red evening gown on the glossy picture in front of me. “At the moment, the emphasis is on the model’s face. She’s stunning. But the dress is the star. Not her,” I say without looking up.
“Yes, Signore Marini,” one of the junior managers answers. No one in this building dares to refuse my requests. My reputation precedes me.
“What?” I cock one eyebrow but don’t bother to look at whoever is talking. It could be the same junior. It could be another. I couldn’t care less. My attention is already on the next—and thank God, last—image for today.
The male model wears our suits with the confidence and grace it deserves. I place it on the approved stack.
“Carla quit last week. And Claudio the week before. I’m not sure who else can edit…” This time I’m sure it’s the same voice that hits my ears again even though it wobbles a little.
Inwardly, I roll my eyes.
Why am I surrounded by amateurs?
The junior managers know that my schedule is packed. I don’t have time to go through hundreds of photos when I should already be concentrating on an upcoming shoot. But instead of preparing a final selection for me to approve, they requested this meeting.
With an unyielding deadline looming above my head, I had no choice but to sit down with them. It was time someone taught the juniors how to improve campaign images.
I clench and unclench my fist under the table. The senior manager responsible for them is on vacation right now. He’s in for a surprise when he sets foot inside the Ravelli headquarters again. I can’t wait to tell him exactly what I think of the incompetence of his personnel.
The moment I lift my gaze, the girl shuts her mouth. She’s pretty. But I need employees who can do their fucking jobs. Not ones who lack substance in the brain department.
“How long have you been working for the Ravelli Group?” I grit my teeth and stare right into her eyes.
She shrinks back in her seat. “Uh—”
“Too long is the correct answer.” I reach across the table and press a button on the interoffice intercom. “I need security in meeting room one.” Then I tilt my head and point my index finger at another junior. “You. Make sure she clears her desk. Once that’s done, tell security to escort her out of the building. You’re also responsible for changing the image.”
The young man jumps up so fast his chair topples over behind him. This time I roll my eyes for everyone to see.
“Yes. Of course, Signore Marini. Come, Paola. Let’s go.”
Paola sniffles. Not that I bother to learn names until someone’s made it at least to senior level. Turnover is high in this building. Only a handful of people survive the first weeks working for the Ravelli Group.
Big tears roll down the girl’s cheeks when she follows the guy through the door. I ignore them. My time is too valuable to waste it thinking about people who aren’t a good fit for the company. Getting rid of those always means one problem less on my ever-growing to-do list.
According to the management newsletter that lands in my inbox every week, your immediate agenda should fit on one piece of paper. I can’t remember the last time when mine was shorter than two pages.
Before I can wrap up the meeting, a knock sounds on the door. My executive assistant peeks her head inside.
“Signore Ravelli wants to see you in his office.” Alessandra turns on her heels the instant the last word leaves her mouth and leads the way down the long hallway.
I push my chair back, grab my smartphone, and hurry after her while I try to think of the most likely reasons for Il Signore’s request.
The meeting with senior management this morning went well, considering the sales figures for the evening gowns were below our expectations. He accepted my explanation that the current economic climate didn’t allow for better numbers. Or at least he made me believe that he did.
My phone is in real danger of breaking when I clench my fist around it. For the past several years, I’ve worked my ass off for his company. No one can say I didn’t earn my current position. But I can’t afford to make mistakes. Not when I want to take over the reins soon.
Think, Gianluca. What could he possibly want?
Does he want to talk about next year’s spring collection?
Does he want to approve the editorial images for the autumn campaign? The ones that I just spent hours sorting out?
Signore Ravelli is unpredictable. Sometimes he wants to be involved from the beginning to the end when it comes to projects and campaigns. Sometimes he just wants a brief summary of what’s going on.
Every day in this office holds new challenges and problems. Until today, I solved them all. I roll my shoulders. Whatever Il Signore wants. I got this.
I consciously inhale and exhale several times while I approach his office with long strides. Signore Ravelli might just want to discuss the new suit collection.
Yeah, that has to be it. I went over the new designs yesterday. I’m familiar with the new fabrics. But I haven’t memorized every little detail yet….
Never enter Il Signore’s office unprepared. I learned this lesson on my very first day.
Back then, a senior manager was let go for what I thought was a minor mistake. Signore Ravelli wanted to know the exact name of a specific shade of blue right away. The guy even described the color to perfection, but it was the name the boss expected to hear.
I take another deep breath.
My boss doesn’t know it, but I had to improvise more than once when my workload didn’t allow for perfect preparation. Each time I was afraid he’d see right through me with his cold silver eyes. So far he hasn’t.
I straighten my back.
There’s no point getting agitated about something I can’t change anyway. I’ll find out what he wants in a minute. And then I’ll fix whatever he tells me to.
Alessandra knocks on the only wooden door in the building and opens it for me to step inside. I brush past her with a curt nod and walk into what hopefully soon will be my office.
I deserve it. After the promotion, everyone will know I made it to the very top of my game.
“Gianluca.” Signore Ravelli doesn’t stand up. He only motions with one hand for me to take the seat across from him.
I pull a chair away from the enormous mahogany desk and sit down carefully. The wood creaks when my weight hits the ancient thing. For the hundredth time, I vow to throw these god-awful chairs out the moment this office is mine.
While the rest of the Ravelli headquarters features sleek glass designs, marble, and modern furniture, Il Signore’s office still looks like an antique shop. And smells like one too.
I wrinkle my nose. “How—”
“I found the perfect solution to your problem.” His silver eyes stare me down while he speaks.
“My problem?” My fingers tense around my smartphone.
He draws his eyebrows together. “Alessandra is going on her honeymoon next week.”
I nod. Shit, I’d already forgotten about her absence.
When I didn’t approve her initial request for time off a few months ago, she filed a complaint with human resources. The department manager reported the matter to Il Signore, who to my surprise approved the entire vacation.
Since his granddaughter left Rome, my boss is getting more unpredictable each day. I wish there was a pattern to his behavior. But so far, I haven’t figured it out.
Alessandra got a Christmas present and a bonus from me every year since she became my executive assistant. Why does she need a trip around the world for her honeymoon? Can’t she just go to a secluded beach villa for two weeks and celebrate her love match there? It’s true that she hasn’t taken time off for over a year, but….
Most of the time we work well together. Alessandra’s a loyal and reliable employee. She also doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
I can’t say that about a lot of other people in this building. But our views about how long one can enjoy time away from the company couldn’t be farther apart.
Once I’m in charge, I’ll replace her.
“I assume you’ve already arranged for a wedding present?” my boss then asks.
Since when does Signore Ravelli care about weddings? And especially presents?
Other than Christmas cards, the Ravelli Group never sends out anything for free. Not even pens.
The more I think about it, the more I’m certain that his grandchildren play a big role whenever he’s acting out of character.
They’ve weakened him. The only time I’ve seen him smile was when the twins and the latest addition to his granddaughter’s family turned the headquarters into a tollhouse a few weeks ago.
“Of course,” I say with fake confidence in my voice. Please don’t ask what I got her, I silently repeat three times while my head reels about what he would consider an appropriate wedding gift for my executive assistant.
He leans back in his chair. “About Alessandra’s vacation. Emilia has recommended an intern. She’s her own assistant’s niece. The girl arrives in Rome on Friday. Her first day of work is Monday. Pick her up from the airport and make sure she has everything she needs. According to Emilia, she’s already booked an apartment but doesn’t speak Italian. Calliope James will replace Alessandra during her absence. It’s her first internship. But Emilia tells me she’s highly motivated and learns quickly.” His silver eyes cross over my face for a split second.
I sit up straighter. Then I blink twice.
Calliope? What kind of name is that?
Fucking Emilia. A highly motivated American intern with no prior experience?
Did Il Signore just say he had the perfect solution for my problem?
How can an inexperienced intern be an adequate replacement for an executive assistant I had to train for years to meet my requirements?
“Alessandra has all the information you’ll need.” He dismisses me with a stern look down his long nose.
I jump up from my seat, give my boss a curt nod, and close the door behind me on my way out. Then I storm down the hall.
How am I going to manage the upcoming photo shoots for the winter collection with only an inexperienced intern for help?
I need to make this campaign bigger and better than any other before. It’s the perfect opportunity to convince him I’m ready to lead the company on my own.
The past winter collections didn’t sell well. So I spent weeks analyzing the most likely reasons for that. And then even more hours on how to change the classic winter designs to meet our customers’ demands.
I’m certain this collection’s gowns and suits will surpass everything the Ravelli Group brought to life to this day. But without an advertising campaign that tells the perfect story for each dress, the clothes won’t sell as well as I need them to.
That’s why I spend countless hours planning the upcoming shoot. But from experience, I know photo shoots never go exactly according to plan. And since the set isn’t in Rome, I need someone at my side to run last-minute errands…
I’d thought Signore Ravelli would lend me his assistant. Elisabetta has over twenty years of experience in the fashion industry and knows how to handle any kind of problem. Instead, I’m saddled with an intern. Fuck. My. Life.
I pick up the pace. My workload is going to be insane.
“Here is the information about Calliope James.” Alessandra hands me a folder when I pass her desk. I pause and stare at the paper in my hand. An American girl. Double fuck my life.
My ever-efficient executive assistant then stands up, rounds her desk, and opens the glass door for me with a fake smile on her lips.
Sending a grimace in her direction, I head into my office and throw the stack of paper on the desk with too much enthusiasm. My eyes stay glued to the thing while it glides over the edge and plops on the floor.
I crack my knuckles. Then I bend down to retrieve the folder while Alessandra watches me with a mocking smile on her face.
Fucking see-through door. I don’t envy animals in zoos anymore. After working in a glass cage for the past several years, I know how annoying it is to try to avoid curious glances for the better part of the day.
It makes sense to observe the lower-level employees at all times. Who knows what they’d be up to without supervision? They might just sit around and do nothing.
But senior management and above deserve a work environment where they can concentrate on their demanding tasks and don’t have to worry about wrinkling their forehead too much or sitting with one’s shoulders slumped when others walk past their offices.
I place the CV on the table and scowl when I take another look at the girl’s picture.
“Alessandra,” I yell.
My executive assistant jumps from her chair, smooths her skirt, and enters my office.
“Yes, Signore Marini.” The compliant tone in her voice is as fake as her smile.
“What is this?” I shove the piece of paper in her direction.
Alessandra bends forward at the hip. A wave of her perfume hits my nose. The smell is fresh and inviting. But she and I never had that kind of relationship. I don’t fuck the employees.
“It’s the information about the new intern.” She straightens her back again.
“Why is there only a photograph, a name, her date of birth, and a phone number on this piece of paper? Is this how an American CV looks?” I raise an eyebrow.
She shrugs. “It’s all I got from Signora Ravelli-Walker’s assistant. Would you like me to ask for more information?”
I shake my head. “That’s all.”
Signora Ravelli-Walker. The fact that Emilia took on a double name says it all. The woman is crazy. I couldn’t care less if her stupid ideas didn’t interfere with my own plans.
I wait until Alessandra’s gaze finds the monitor in front of her before I pick up the CV again. Calliope James. The girl’s pretty. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. She has an innocent smile on her face. And is completely wrong for the job.
I grind my teeth. I don’t want young and pretty. I need someone experienced and competent at my side.
All I require is an assistant who can handle her workload and doesn’t need to ask unnecessary questions. This girl screams I have no clue.
It’s not even her fault. People like her are the reason why I don’t allow connections to rule decisions when it comes to hiring new employees in my department. I need the best. Not the ones who were lucky enough to be born with the right names. Or the ones who have the right friends in the right places.
One time I tried to take the shortcut route to the top myself. In the end, I was glad Emilia didn’t accept my proposal when I asked her to marry me. I’d rather earn my success than having it handed to me on a silver platter.
I itch to jump up from my chair and pace the room. But Alessandra looks up from her monitor now and then. And I don’t want her to witness my current state of mind. So I crumple the piece of paper with one hand.
Why the hell does Emilia have to interfere here in Rome? Doesn’t she have enough on her plate managing her hockey team in Boston?
Hockey, what kind of sport is that anyway? Half of the time they destroy each other’s faces and the other half of the game they bang each other into walls.
I cringe. At least she didn’t marry an American football player.
Soccer, that’s a sport full of strategy and excitement. Who in their right mind wastes their time with hockey or American football when a game as beautiful as soccer exists in this world?
It still stings that Emilia chose a hockey maniac over me. Apparently, some women prefer bad guys. The ones that use their fists instead of their brains.
I crush the paper even more. Let Alessandra witness it. I already loathe my new intern.
The girl’s a fucking inconvenience. But I’ll make damn sure she won’t destroy what I worked for since I set foot into the Ravelli headquarters for the very first time five years ago.
I’m close to reaching my goal. I won’t fail. Calliope is just another problem I must handle on my way to the top.
Still, Il Signore should know I have better things to do than pick up a fucking American girl from the airport and waste my time playing nanny.
He’ll never know it, but this will be his first request I won’t fulfill personally. It’s time to use my family connections.
I clench my fist until my nails bite into my skin. When I drop the piece of paper on the floor, it’s no more than a tiny ball.
* * *
“Cesca? Cesca, where are you?” I yell for a second time when my sister doesn’t answer right away.
“Be quiet, please.” Her voice sounds from the living room.
“Are you alright? Alessandra said you left the office at three?” I drop the grocery bag and hurry down the hallway.
“I’m just feeling under the weather.” Francesca sits up and smiles at me from the couch.
“You look pale.” I sit down beside her. “Do you have a fever?” I place my hand over her forehead. It feels cold against my warm skin.
“No, I don’t think so. I’m just a little tired. And just so you know, I finished the fitting. And I prepared the outfits for the winter campaign shoot before I left work.” She plops back in the cushions.
I draw my eyebrows together. “Thank you. I appreciate your help. But please don’t work when you’re clearly unwell and need to rest. I’ll make some minestrone for you. Why don’t you put on one of those chick shows I can’t stand?” I push myself up from the couch and leave the room.
“You’re the best,” she yells after me. As if I didn’t already know that.
“What else would I be,” I holler back, pick up the groceries, and head into the kitchen.
She laughs and coughs at the same time. Just feeling under the weather, my ass. We’ll see about that later. Francesca is my baby sister. And I’ll take care of her. No matter what.
In the kitchen, I heat the water while I chop the vegetables.
Cooking isn’t my favorite thing to do in the world. But I didn’t have much choice growing up. It was either spend time in the kitchen and learn how to handle pots and pans or survive solely on pasta and sandwiches. That’s all our dad could manage.
As much as I enjoy a well-made pasta dish, I didn’t want to eat the same one every single day. So I bought a few books and taught myself to cook various dishes. My siblings loved me for it. And I felt needed again.
While the soup simmers at medium heat, I exchange my suit for my sportswear. Until half a year ago I used to work out in the mornings. But more than once I needed to let go of my frustration with the help of my punching bag after a grueling day at the office. So I changed my routine.
Back in the kitchen, I taste the minestrone one last time. It’ll be perfect in one hour if it cooks some more at low heat.
Instead of heading straight into my gym, I check on Cesca again.
“Why are you watching this shit?” I pause in the doorway and grind my teeth.
“If you want to continue living with me, you better switch that off right away,” I snap.
She sits up straight. “Luca—”
“The soup will be ready in an hour.” I storm down the hallway and jump right into my grueling workout regime. But today it isn’t enough to clear my head.
I up the weights twice during my three sets of dead lifts. Still, my screaming muscles can’t distract my reeling mind. How can Francesca stand to watch… them?
After finishing my arm routine, I do pushups until I’m drenched in sweat. Then I zone in on the punching bag. The poor thing knows how to handle my frustration. I hit it until my arms are about to fall off. Sanity returns. If I don’t stop soon, I won’t be able to hold a pen tomorrow.
I drop my hands, lean my head against the cool leather of the bag, and take a deep breath. I got this. It’s not the first time I had to push unwanted memories to the back of my head. And it’s not the first time I need to forget certain people exist.
After a quick shower, I fetch two bowls of soup. Then I join my sister on the couch. This time she’s watching one of her chick shows.
“Be careful. It’s hot.” I place the soup on the coffee table. When she sits up, I put a cushion behind her back.
“I’m sorry.” She reaches with one hand for my arm and holds on to it for a second.
I meet her eyes and nod. “Just don’t do it again.” Then I sit down beside her and hand her the food.
She takes a mouthful. “It’s good.”
While we eat in silence, I contemplate how much to tell Cesca about my immediate problem. “I need you to do me a favor,” I say the moment she hands me her empty bowl. “But only if you feel better by Friday.”
“What kind of favor?” She leans back in the cushions.
“Emilia persuaded Signore Ravelli to take on an American intern.”
Francesca coughs. “An American? You mean from her hockey team?”
I sigh. “No, not from the Ice Tigers. I don’t know exactly why this girl is so important. Somehow, she is. Anyway, the intern will replace Alessandra during her honeymoon. As you know, I have a lot of work since Enrico is on vacation too—”
“You should take some time off too. You work too much, Luca. You know, there’s so much more to life….” Our eyes meet for a moment.
I rub the back of my neck and look away. “That’s not what I wanted to discuss. Anyway, Signore Ravelli wants me to pick up the girl from the airport and make sure she has everything she needs during the weekend. But I don’t have time—”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of her.”
I smile. “Thank you. But only if you feel better by Friday.”
“You’re welcome. And I’m sure it’s nothing.” My sister sits up and leans her head against my shoulder.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” I say into the silence.
Francesca places her hand on my arm. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—”
I put my fingers over hers. “Let’s forget about it. And thank you again.”
“You’re welcome.” She winks. “Want to watch MasterChef?”
“Sure.” I lean back in the cushions and let my mind wander.
In the beginning, I was against Cesca moving in with me.
When I left our home in Tuscany all I wanted was to get away from my family. But when my little sister needed a place to stay after she scored a job at the Ravelli Group without me knowing and without my help, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had an apartment that was way too big for one person.
Rome is fucking expensive. And since I wanted to protect Francesca from the moment my dad placed her in my arms for the first time, it was a no-brainer to offer her my guestroom for a while.
Cesca turned out to be the perfect roommate, so I asked her to stay. And our connection is stronger than ever before.
My sister respects my boundaries. She doesn’t ask questions when I spend the night somewhere else. And she takes care of the laundry.
I know I can rely on her. And there are not many people in this world I can say that about.
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