2. Knock on the guy’s stupid sexy door.

I almost laughed until some wind pulled at my dress and briefly terrified me. Squaring my shoulders, I strolled around the fountain in front, made my way up the stairs, and rang the doorbell.

A few seconds later of shuffling from the other side, and the door squeezed open. Cole Andrews stood in relaxed attire, a wide grin spreading across his face.

“Ever been in a billionaire’s home?”

“…Can’t say that I have,” I answered meekly.


Cole grinned. “First time for everything. Come inside.”

Chapter 7

Cole

I welcomed Kiona Walker into my home, and she did her best to hide how absolutely out of her element that she was. For a few seconds, her wide eyes darted around everywhere, taking in the perceived opulence of the penthouse. As she composed herself, I smiled and took it in stride, inviting her through the foyer and for a grand tour of the place.

It occurred to me as I led Kiona through the penthouse that the only other employee of mine who had been here was my executive assistant, Kylie.

For a brief moment as the realization hit me, I reconsidered the entire thing. It was possible that I was perhaps making a huge mistake with this entire ridiculous plan. Alphonse was likely to see through the entire charade.

But under my deceptively aloof eye, I noticed something interesting. When I had first greeted Kiona at the door, it was the thinnest veneer of restraint that kept her from collapsing onto the floor. However, as we moved further into my home, through a hallway here and a few chambers there, she grew visibly comfortable with her surroundings. With a glance, I noticed that her eyes were quickly scanning every last piece of expensive decorum around, every tapestry and painting, building up an internal database of…my belongings?

No, that wasn’t right, she wasn’t objectifying my worth or focusing on the details. It was apparent that she was studying the general level of affluence, and adapting to suit it. Yes, she was walking straighter now; her chin lifted higher and her gaze grew colder.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by now.

“Can I offer you anything to drink, Kio–” I paused, correcting myself, “I mean, Key?”

“I’ll take some water, if you’d please,” she smiled warmly with radiant, inviting eyes.

“How about some wine?”

Something changed in her eyes. “Red, if you’d be so kind.”

I nodded, then stepped a few rooms over to the kitchen. Featuring an ultraviolet-proof glass door with black interior and royal purple LED lighting, my premium, stainless steel wine cooler stood at the ready for just this occasion. Opening the door, I slid out one of the ten shelves of bottles, selecting a vintage pinot noir, then carefully pouring two glasses before setting everything back.

When I strolled back towards the hall where I’d left her, Kiona was nowhere in sight. A glance through the staggered glass panes showed me that she had excused herself outside, admiring the view from across the rooftop. Gripping both wine glasses between my deft fingers, I let myself out through the nearby door, walking across the grass towards her.

My guest was standing against the concrete lip that surrounded this outer area, leaning with her forearms down against the surface. The wind whipped at her hair, the beautiful sunset only making her look more beautiful than before. I paused, hesitant to disturb her as she enjoyed what must have been an exhilarating view for her.

I began to approach, before she could notice me staring. Pushing myself back a couple of years, I tried to remember what it was like to see this view for the first time – long before company buyouts and international corporate flights. I had never had the time to dwell on the luxuries afforded my lifestyle now. I’d spent maybe a few weeks total out of the last several months, constantly wining and dining potential clients, going on tours of existing clients, and so on. Despite my introversion, I believed in applying the personal touch – I wasn’t averse to making the right appearances. My reputation for being a mere flight away in the face of catastrophe had rewarded me handsomely, along with distinct skills and razor-sharp intuition.

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