Kylie suffered as well. It hadn’t been common knowledge that she was involved with my interviews, and the fact that she not only had been, but also as a stand-in for Cole himself, called her competence into question. Requests she would make without Cole’s direct influence would go ignored; she was occasionally ridiculed behind her back, and had already taken to disappearing into her office. It was even rumored that she was barely eating, and she made no attempt to contact me while I was here.
The second walk of shame came when I had to lug the box of my supplies back across the offices. It had been my hope that I’d miss mostly everyone, including Larry, but unfortunately there had been a large meeting. To prevent the total shutdown of operations, several of the executive staff had decided to lecture the entire company on accountability, and split everyone into one of two groups – one to be shouted at before lunch, and one afterwards. The latter group was delayed due to something coming down the pipeline from a major client. That meant the main passage flooded with thirty-something furious and exhausted people while I was strolling to the elevator.
I was confronted with a lot of disgusted, angry looks – but the one that really stood out to me was Larry. He paused angrily, ready to heatedly say something to me, but shook his head and perished the very thought. Nobody would say a word, of course. You don’t openly criticize the owner of the corporation’s new fiancée.
It still hurt. Larry wanted so little to do with me that he couldn’t fathom the thought of pulling me aside and demanding my side of the story. Not that I would have given it to him even if he had.
I rode the elevator back down to the street level, wandered towards the underground station, waited for the subway, and forty minutes later I dropped the box onto my table and collapsed into bed.
Goddammit all, I thought to myself.
My cell phone buzzed again, for the tenth time since Friday night. I knew that it was Cole, desperate for my attention. His stupid little plan and his little buyout idea was probably on the rocks. I hadn’t heard anything about when the marriage was going to happen, but that was my fault. I’d made myself incredibly scarce all weekend to punish the headstrong billionaire for his actions.
Of course, all good things come to and end. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t avoid the jackass for long.
* * *
The second Sunday after the Quarterly Party – just over a week later, I guess – there was a knock at my door. Curled up with the last of my ice cream, I had been deep in the throes of a Netflix marathon.
“Yeah? Who is it?” I called out, halfway expecting to hear Aiswarya. She was probably wondering where I was.
“Let me in, Kiona,” the familiar cold voice called out.
Dammit, should have stayed quiet.
“What do you want?”
“We have an arrangement that you’ve been breaking. Come and open this door.”
“Yeah, that’s…not going to happen.”
“That’s no way to speak to your fiancé, Key.”
Furiously, I muted my television and climbed out from under my blanket on the couch. Aware of how awful I probably looked in my slovenly pajamas, I ripped the door open and glared at my former boss.
Cole Andrews was as handsome as ever, standing in a crisp, three-piece suit outside my ramshackle apartment. His high cheekbones, thick brunette hair, and piercing blue eyes were delicious at one point – but now they mocked me, filling my veins with icy cold hate.
“Aren’t you going to invite me inside?” He asked politely.
“Hell no,” I told him, jutting a finger into his chest. “You made a complete mockery of me in front of my staff. You screwed your own employees over. I know I’m going to be fine, but do you have even the slightest idea of how colossally you’ve fucked up? Have you ever taken a minute to think through the long term repercussions of your actions?”
He sighed deeply, averting his gaze.
“I’ve…made a huge mistake, yes.”
“God. Did you even think to consult anybody at that company before you pulled that little stunt? Did you stop to consider what that effect that approach might have on the staff?”