“Two for two. Continue.”
“…Or for fabricating my resume.”
His fork paused on the way to his lips; Cole’s eyes flickered for a brief second, not out of surprise but out of cool and calculating recognition.
“You’re on a roll so far.”
I stuffed another bite of asparagus into my mouth, mentally struggling for anything else. “So…I’m guessing you need me for something.” I swallowed a swig of water from my glass. “You clearly know more about me than I gave you credit for. You could blackmail me, threaten me legally or use your magical billionaire powers, but that’s not your style.”
Cole narrowed his eyes.
“…Probably not your style. Instead, you chose to treat me to what must be the most delicious meal I’ve had in years.” I dabbed at my lips with my napkin.
The billionaire chomped on another piece of asparagus. “That’s borderline criminal. A beautiful woman like you should get used to food like this.”
I ignored his change in tactics, quickly swallowing a large sip of water. “You could have chosen any other way to intimidate me, but that’s not your angle. I can only guess that you’re impressed with me.”
Cole nodded, setting his own half-eaten plate aside. “Perceptive as expected, Kiona.”
I inwardly sighed a breath of relief. “The only thing I can’t figure out, though, is what you’re going to ask me to do.”
A smile crossed the billionaire’s lips, and he leaned back in his chair, hands folded behind his head. I took another bite as I waited, letting the almost unbelievable taste roll over my tongue. I could tell he was savoring this moment almost as much as I was savoring this meal, and that only made me even more apprehensive.
“I’m going to ask you to marry me.”
That’s when I spit half chewed salmon all over him.
Kiona stared at me in complete disbelief, trying to determine what sort of trick I was playing as I picked the fish from my hair and brushed it from my shirt. I took a small level of satisfaction from the moment, before finally sitting forward and clarifying.
“You are an astute, beautiful young woman, always chasing the next opportunity. I’m told that you are charismatic, talented, and remarkably easy to get along with…and none of your superiors have the slightest notion that you’ve completely fooled them all. I know you don’t have even the slightest background in marketing, yet I’ve seen your work and it’s of the highest caliber… Tell me, how exactly do you manage to pull off the work that you do?”
Kiona tilted her head slightly and collected her thoughts, an indescribable look on her face. Her mouth was frozen, as if in mid-sentence. I could almost see the cogs spinning rapidly in her head. Finally, composing herself, her hesitant voice drifted across the table. “Marriage?”
“The work, Kiona. How did you do it?” I replied in the same tone I used in contract negotiation. She drew back away from the table, her eyes locked into mine.
“I studied your website for a day, cross-referencing it with a few other competitors of yours, then with some of your clients,” she began carefully. “I pinned a few common denominators and spent two weeks brushing up on my Photoshop skills while recreating last year’s award winning designs using logos and imagery from your client’s websites.”
“You’re telling me you taught yourself masters-level design skills in two weeks?” I asked.
“I’m telling you I learned enough to get me hired. I passed the first interview, revised my knowledge based on what I’d fumbled in the questions, took the second interview in stride, and then the third. Once I was in, all I had to do is apply myself.”
“That is a lot of work for a company with stellar background checks,” I prodded. “What made you think you could pull it off?”
“The fact that we’re having this conversation tells me your company isn’t the one who figured this out, Mr. Andrews,” she replied coldly.
“Compelling story,” I replied, studying her. “From what I’ve gathered, probably all true.” I took another sip of water. “Tell me, Kiona… Who sent you?”