“You sound like you don’t expect me to stay.”
“I don’t. I don’t keep anyone past age thirty. My last assistant is now vice-president of a German bank. The one before that is the sales director of a multi-national food conglomerate. They all become millionaires or multimillionaires in their own right by the age of thirty-five.”
The waiter brought their salads and set them on the table.
“That sounds nice,” she said unenthusiastically.
“You're not impressed?”
“With all due respect, Mr. Pearson, my family might not have the money you obviously do, but I’ve been raised a rich man’s daughter. Money doesn’t impress or motivate me. Having an impact on my world, the things I do, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I wouldn’t be talking to you now if I felt my potential was being utilized. And, again, with all due respect, keeping your schedule straight and booking your hotel rooms isn’t going to do it for me.”
A slight smile played at the corners of Pearson’s lips as he cut into the unshelled lobster claw on his salad. “You think so?”
The way he said it stabbed a moment’s doubt in Chrissy’s heart. It would be awesome to travel the world and meet its movers and shakers. Was there more to this than he was letting on?
“I like your attitude, Ms. Serafina. Believe me, I don’t want people who take the job and exploit it for the next place to move on, though it is one of the perks.”
Now she was confused. She’d just shot down an offer before he made it, but instead of being perturbed or upset he kept talking to her as if they’d already made a deal.
“You are,” Pearson continued, “one of those rare people with principles. I seldom meet people like that, so I’m fascinated. Let me ask you—if I said the job paid half a million a year, would that change your thinking? That, on top of all travel expenses and a company car?”
Chrissy nearly choked on the piece of lobster she’d just put in her mouth. She coughed and cleared it from her throat. She pulled up her napkin and discretely spit the offending piece into it. Then she took a sip of water.
Pearson peered at her with an amused expression on his face.
“You can’t be serious. For an administrative assistant’s job?”
“Oh, not just a secretary. Mistress of my life.”
Now Chrissy was sure the guy was playing with her. “Mistress?” she sputtered. A blush crept from her breast to her throat, and onto her face. As the impact of his words hit her Chrissy stood, full of righteous indignation. Cocky son of a bitch. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Sit down, Ms. Serafina,” he said sternly. “I didn’t mean that in a sexual sense. Seriously, calm down. Do you always fly off the handle when someone says something off-color?” He stared at her with narrowed blue eyes, as if she were a little girl who needed to be punished.
Chrissy swallowed hard. Now she’d done it. She’d offended a rich and powerful man, a client of Charles’. A man like that could make things difficult for Charles, even speak against him to his rich and powerful friends. Possibly sour her reputation among people with whom she might seek a job. This was her fault? What a freakin’ mess! Saks came to her mind for a moment. She hadn’t called him or replied to his texts. Nor had he made any effort since her text. Somehow, she knew he’d never let a man like Pearson make her feel like a child.
She took a deep breath and sat down slowly. She didn’t like this man at all, but all she needed to do was to make it through the rest of the lunch.
But if he said one more creepy thing, he was toast.
“You must forgive me for flying off the handle at your off-color remark,” she said, more frostily than she intended. But now that she’d started with that tone, she couldn’t back off. “I’m not used to men talking to me like that, or making assumptions about what role I’ll play in their life.”
To her surprise, he smiled and then laughed. It spilled out, one chuckle after another, for a long time.
She sat there, stunned. Embarrassment crept over her until finally he wiped a single tear with his napkin.
“Very good, Ms. Serafina. You put me in my place.”
“Is that job requirement?” she said sarcastically.
“At times, yes.”
Her eyes widened in realization. “Were you testing me?”
“Guilty.” He held up his hands in surrender. “I had to see if you had the steel to keep things under control.”
“You keep talking as if I’m going to accept your offer, Mr. Pearson.”
The waiter brought the entrée and Chrissy stared at the huge, thick rib-eye on her plate.
“The money, the travel, and connections aren’t the only perks of the job,” Pearson said with a smile. “Did I mention that all meals are included?”
“Matt, this is a nice car. Very nice.” Saks leaned into the leather seats of the lawyer’s black Lincoln Continental.
“Thanks,” Matt said, settling behind the wheel. “You’re paying for it.”