“You ready?” He asked.
I glared at him. “No.”
“Where’s that adaptable spirit I like so much?”
“Maybe next time, don’t crush it in front of fifty people.”
“We’ll talk about that,” he admonished me, “but the important thing for now is that we get ourselves out of here and into the car…”
He took the other suitcase from me, and I opened the door.
The flash of cameras and loud, self-styled journalists was immediate and overwhelming. Cole was right, though – I had to be adaptable to get through this. I quickly receded into the persona of a strong, capable young woman who was used to being bombarded at all times by the tabloids.
“Hello, Kiona! Can we get a word?”
“Miss Walker, how long have you known Cole Andrews?”
“Mr. Andrews, how long have you lusted for your employee?”
“Miss Kiona, is it true that you fabricated your work history and lied to get close to your billionaire boss, in order to seduce the gentleman?”
“A word, Mr. Andrews?”
He held them at bay as I confidently locked the door behind myself. As he pushed through the crowd towards the car, the driver opened the door just in time for us to slip in.
“Miss Kiona, wait just a–”
The door slammed shut, and the driver circled around and climbed into the driver’s side. “Home, Mr. Andrews?”
“Yes, Gregory, and make it fast.”
“Right away, Mr. Andrews.”
He pulled us out of the crowd, maneuvering us onto the street and through the next intersection. Soon, we were on our way as the crowd of cameras faded far behind us.
I found myself grateful that it was a Sunday.
“How did you even find out where I lived?” I asked Cole, demanding answers. “I fabricated that part, too.”
“You worked for me for months, Key. If I couldn’t find that information freely, what kind of employer would I have been? I didn’t exactly build my brand by being loose with the details, after all.”
Of course, I grumbled furiously.
“So, what’s next?” I asked.
“I’m taking you back to my home, where you will stay for the foreseeable future. Besides the obvious perks of living under a billionaire’s roof, you’ll be free from the grasp of the paparazzi; they’ll be unable to reach you in the penthouse.”
“Go on,” I told him.
“You’ll also join me on a few company trips to meet with clients, and we’ll vacation for a couple of days. Somewhere where we will be briefly seen, adding to the tabloids.”
“I thought the point was to get away from the tabloids,” I muttered.
“The point is to keep you safe from them, yes, but we still need to give them something to cover. Our marriage needs to be ironclad.”
“…Which reminds me.”
He reached for my hand. I displayed the engagement ring that I had reluctantly accepted in front of dozens of people who now hated my guts.
“Good. We need to finalize that soon… Are you ready to tie the knot?”
“Good,” he answered, averting his gaze.
I realized that there was sadness in his eyes, but he steeled himself almost immediately, dispassionately staring out of the window. Fifteen million dollars, I thought to myself. Sure, he was a little brash and maybe his timing on the marriage announcement could be better, but I had to keep my eyes on the prize. Yeah…I think I can probably work with that.
When we arrived at the building, Gregory dropped us off near the front. I led Kiona into the grandiose lobby, where the concierge behind the main counter briskly stepped aside and unlocked a small flap for us.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Andrews.”
“Greetings, Samantha. Long day?”
“The longest,” she smiled, guiding us through a nearby door. We stepped into a small entryway, with only another door nearby. “Can I have anything sent up for either of you?”