He looked startled for a moment and then sighed. “You may be right about that. Look, I understand you having some sour grapes toward me, I really do.”
“That’s big of you.”
He frowned. “But not my company. You built a name for yourself with Très Bon.”
Seriously? He was going to use that argument about this—whatever this was. “A name that you dirtied with your rotten, not to mention untrue slurs.”
“I told you, I was smarting from our breakup. I exaggerated some things. I wasn’t myself.”
“You made stuff up with the creativity of a fiction writer.”
He grimaced. “You may have a point.”
She was so done with this conversation. “So, you’re here to apologize?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
“To do what exactly?” Piper asked, still bewildered as to what her ex was talking about.
“To get me off Zephyr Nikos’s most wanted list.”
Now, that was unexpected. “Zephyr? What has he got to do with you, or Très Bon for that matter?” Très Bon was not the type of design firm Zephyr used on his projects. They lacked the innovative approach he considered a must.
“He’s been blackballing my company in circles that have debilitating influence.”
“You don’t honestly believe I convinced him to blackball you?” Piper asked, deeply offended. “You know me better than that.”
“I thought I did, but a man like that wouldn’t go after me without motivation. I’m beneath his notice.” And didn’t it pain Art to admit it?
“If he’s been slandering you, why haven’t you filed a lawsuit?”
“Right, like the man would be stupid enough to say anything he could be held liable for in a court of law.”
“That’s the first thing you’ve said that makes any sense. Zephyr is a very busy man. Why would he take even a few minutes from his jam-packed schedule to besmirch your company’s vaunted reputation?”
“Ask him! All I know is that Très Bon is on the verge of bankruptcy and it’s all that bastard’s fault.”
“First, don’t you ever insult Zephyr Nikos in my presence again. He’s a hundred times the man you are, or could even hope to be. Second, if you’re on the verge of bankruptcy, it has more to do with the way you run your business on the edge of overextension and always have done.”
“His smear campaign has cost me business!” Art insisted.
“Campaign? Now I know you’re lying. Zephyr simply would not waste that much time on you.”
Zephyr enjoyed Piper’s staunch defense, but it was time to step in. “For a man in my position, it only takes a comment here and there,” he said as he walked around the personalized paint chip display that blocked his view of Piper and Art.
Piper’s expression lit up as she unfolded her crossed arms and gave him a bright smile. “Hi, Zee. I didn’t know you were stopping by.”
“I got word Arthur Bellingham was in Seattle.” He gave the other man a once-over, not impressed with what he saw. Piper had been married to this? “I had a feeling he’d come crying to you rather than be a man and face me himself.”
“Be a man?” Art asked in outrage. “I’ve never even met you, Mr. Nikos. How would I get an appointment?”
“Did you try calling my secretary?”
Art checked as if the idea had not occurred. “No.”
“She has instructions to put your call through.”
“You’ve given your secretary instructions about Art?” Piper asked, clearly attempting to assimilate that knowledge with her heretofore stated belief Zephyr had nothing to do with the shift in Très Bon’s reputation. “You had some kind of travel alert set on him, too?”
Zephyr shrugged, not as relaxed as he wanted to appear. “I am a thorough man.”
“You’re a petty tyrant, is what you are,” Art said, blotchy color rising in his face.
The man was every bit the idiot Zephyr had thought him. “Calling me names isn’t the best way to try to get on my good side.”
“Once you’ve set a course of action, you don’t change it. There is no getting on your good side,” the dissipated-looking designer huffed.
“I almost have to respect your foresight in not trying the rational one-businessman-to-another approach.”
“Once I realized you were the man behind the fall of my company’s reputation in the international development community, I did my research. Words like stubborn, highly intelligent, ruthless and deceptively charming are used to describe you. Reasonable is not.”