Fake Marriage with the CEO

By: Amanda Horton

Chapter One

The decrepit building was an inspector’s worst nightmare, but Miranda, who stood across the pavement to look up at it, couldn’t have been happier. “Perfect.” She shaded her eyes, stepping back to get a better look at the two-story red-bricked building.

Kyle snorted. “You said ‘old building’. This is a dump.”

Miranda’s boyfriend, Kyle had the physique of a gym rat, a beguiling confidence and a wicked sense of humor. But he definitely wasn’t enjoying the moment, sweating profusely and standing under the unbearable sun in his tailor-made suit.

She winced. Kyle had no idea how hard it was to find affordable real estate in New York. It must have been a glorious sight in its heyday but now it just resembled a discarded shoe box. Nothing could, however, overturn the dream that was becoming more vivid even in front of the derelict. Trying to convince him, Miranda said, “It has potential.”

“Potential for disaster,” he muttered.

Miranda frowned. Buoyed by a text message from the building owner telling her that the lease was hers, she’d impulsively invited Kyle to visit the site with her. She thought bringing Kyle along might make him more receptive to her dream. Suddenly that didn’t seem like such a good idea. He always considered it inane. The catering part was fine with him, but he couldn’t understand her desire to combine the venture with a soup kitchen. “It’s big enough to hold both a catering business and a soup kitchen,” she remarked.

Kyle sneered. “I didn’t realize you were still on that Mother Teresa crusade. But you’re right. That dump should match perfectly with all those hobos you so desperately want to serve.”

Miranda felt a spike of annoyance. “I’ve told you how important the soup kitchen is to me — oh, never mind. Stay here while I take a quick look inside.”

She approached the door and eyed it suspiciously. Hanging at a jaunty angle, it looked just about ready to fall. She gave a tentative push. The door creaked open. Miranda stepped inside the gloomy interior where tiny dust specks danced in the sunlight streaming through the window of the hollow shell. She gagged with the sudden smell of potent urine. With the heady odor came memories of months spent in Lagos, her home following her deportation from America.

Lagos, in Nigeria, was a city where two-thirds of its population lived in poverty. She’d gambled all she had on building a future in the States. With no money to start any business, Miranda had nothing to look forward to but a miserable future battling for necessities. Those were memories she’d rather forget.

“That’s over now,” she spoke firmly to herself. She wasn’t going to dwell on those dark days. “I’m back in New York. Noelle didn’t forget me.”

Even with the sound of New York’s incessant traffic passing by outside, the memory of being hailed by an official from the Nigerian embassy with news that her visa had been approved and a private jet was waiting to take her back to New York seemed like a dream. Miranda braced for the pain of waking up. But when the Gulf Stream landed at JFK airport, Noelle was there waiting for her with her husband, Hunter Blackwell, by her side.

“I’m alright now.” Miranda forced her attention back to her surroundings. “And that’s why I’m here today.”

This — her dream — had been the only thing that kept her going when the over-crowded, suffocating Lagos slums had been too much. She took a closer look at the end of the building. There was something different about this wall at the end. Two symmetrical, matching planks formed part of that back wall. Upon closer inspection, Miranda realized it wasn’t just a wall but another door.