Zephyr barked out a laugh and she looked at him with a question in her eyes. “Your ex is quite the actor.”
“Oh, I think he’s every bit as despairing as he sounds and frankly, I understand why,” Piper responded.
“You feel sorry for him?” Zephyr demanded incredulously, his worry ratcheting up a notch.
“I know what it’s like to have your career ripped away by the careless words of someone else. I’d never wish that on even my worst enemy.”
“I have no problem wishing it on him,” Zephyr admitted in the spirit of complete honesty.
“Obviously.” She did not sound particularly condemning, but nor did she sound approving.
He couldn’t help morbidly wondering if their relationship was going to survive the revelation of the ruthless aspect to his nature. Though was it a revelation? She’d known his plans to fight for majority custody without him ever having to voice them.
Zephyr turned cold eyes onto the other man. “What did you hope to gain by coming here?”
Art looked like he was trying to decide how honest to be. Finally, shoulders slumped, he said, “Ideally Piper would convince you to say you’d been mistaken about my firm.”
“I do not lie.” And he sure as hell hoped she would not ask him to.
“I’d settle for you calling off the dogs.” Like he had any room to negotiate.
That was the most the other man could ask from Zephyr, but the request came with an inherent error in thinking. “I have not set any dogs on you. I did not have to.” It really had been just a comment here and there.
He certainly hadn’t offered favors for passing the word along.
“So you’ve implied. Everything is my fault, according to you.”
“That is how I see it.”
“So, you aren’t going to do anything to help me?” he asked Piper rather than Zephyr once again.
This time Zephyr let her answer.
“I don’t know what I can do,” she said.
“You could come back to work for Très Bon.”
It was all Zephyr could do not to bark out a decisive, “Hell, no,” but he respected and trusted Piper to get the point across on her own.
“Not in this lifetime.” There wasn’t even an ounce of maybe in her voice.
Art waved his hand, dismissing her denial. “Think about it, we can open up a West Coast office and you can head it up.”
“I’m not even flirting with interested.” Piper was no slouch at sarcasm herself.
“Then, I guess there’s nothing to do but claim bankruptcy and lay off all of Très Bon’s employees.”
Zephyr’s disgust meter reached red levels. “Don’t be a melodramatic ass. A halfway decent management consultant could pull your company out of the red with a stringent reorganization and consolidation of resources.”
“Not if you keep blacklisting us.”
Zephyr flicked a look at Piper and then back to the other man. “In future, you tell the truth about Piper’s talent and abilities and I’ll do my best to avoid having to tell the truth about yours.”
“I guess that’s the best I’m going to get.”
“I could suggest a consultant for your reorg.” See him be reasonable.
“I’ll find my own consultant and my own way out.” Art turned on his heel, his former bravado pulled around him like a tacky suit, and left.
“Man, you guys are better than the soaps,” Brandi said, a color board in each hand. “I just wanted to check these were the ones we planned for this design.”
“Yes, those are the ones.” Piper rubbed her forehead, fatigue clear on her features. She had not gotten enough sleep the night before to make up for her sleepless night away from him. “I’ll be gone for the rest of the day. If you need to contact me, call my cell.”
“Like always, boss. No worries.” She went back to the work area.
Piper sighed. “She thinks she’s Aussie and she’s never even been out of the States.”
“The idea of moving to Greece should appeal.”
“If I asked her to, I’m sure it would.”
That did not sound good. Something cold settled in his gut. “So, you are not planning to ask?”
“I’ve done all the discussing of my private life in my place of business I want to for today. Let’s go.”
He wasn’t about to argue. If she was going to tell him she had changed her mind about marrying him, he would rather hear it somewhere he had a chance at changing her mind. Somewhere private.
When they got to her apartment, Zephyr had his emotional game face on. The one that showed nothing except humor when he wanted it to. Piper wasn’t sure what made him draw into himself like that, but she wasn’t going to let the visit from Art drive a wedge between them. If seeing her ex had done one thing, it had driven home to her how lucky she was to have a man like Zephyr in her life now.