“What’s the matter?”

“You did that?” She asked.

“Of course I did. What, did you think I was going to leave things as they were? Key, have a little more faith in me.” I felt somewhat disappointed – her expression clearly told me that she had. “Look, I sat everyone down and had a big heart-to-heart to the group. It was very productive. I explained my role in knowing that you were fabricating everything, and that I had personally hired you. It was made crystal clear that I didn’t hold anybody personally accountable for that.”

“Who’d have thought that Cold King Cole would have a heart-to-heart with anyone…especially his employees.”

“What was that? Old King Cole?”

“Oh, nothing!” She smiled, wide-eyed.

I narrowed my own eyes, but continued. “I also took the liberty of calling an impromptu executive meeting. There were some discussions with the board…and now I understand where I screwed up by firing you.”

“Coppersmith,” she replied.

“He’s been loyal, useful, and ultimately contributed a lot of success to my agency. I’ve rewarded him handsomely for it as well…but I’m afraid he has become something of a liability now.”

“That’s what Larry was telling me.”

My eyes narrowed again, and anger swelled up inside. These were not matters that supervisors should discuss freely with my staff. “Larry? What did Larry tell you, precisely?”


Kiona stammered. “No, I mean, he didn’t really know either. The only reason he said anything was because he wanted me to be his successor… I know it’s silly, but I’ve spent years doing jobs I only pretended to be good at. It was nice to be recognized for once. I enjoyed working at the company, and when Larry told me he was thinking about recommending me for the promotion…”

She looked disappointed suddenly, retreating inside.

“Look, Key,” I told her, my fingers curling around her chin and lifting it up. My god, she looks so beautiful with those wide eyes… “It’s all okay now. Larry isn’t in any trouble. As for Coppersmith…I’ll deal with him personally, in due time. I’m going to hire a new marketing head to replace Larry, and he’ll ascend to take Coppersmith’s role as Director. Everything will go back to normal. Besides, you’re going to be sitting on fifteen million and you had no intention of taking that promotion.”

Kiona nodded softly, gazing into my eyes. We were standing on opposite sides of an elbow-high divider, and I wanted nothing more in that instant than to sweep her into my arms and press my lips against hers, to swallow her essence whole. What the hell was wrong with me?

No, I thought to myself sternly. You know what you must do. I began to concentrate again, taking a deep, soothing breath as I closed my eyes. I can’t let her inside. I can’t let ANY of them inside. Just calm down…relax everything…and push the safety of those walls back up…

“Let’s get married,” I told her suddenly, as I pulled myself away.

“What, right now?” She muttered, gazing out the window. “Don’t you think it’s kind of late on a Sunday to do that?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I thought to myself. Truthfully, I had just wanted to break the tension before I did anything stupid. “But first thing in the morning. Let’s go ahead and make it official.”

“Yeah…alright then…but no church.” Kiona responded.

“No church?”

“Yeah. We do this secularly, okay?”

I turned to watch her, wondering why she was so insistent on that. She was clearly disappointed that I’d broken the moment, but my mental fortifications were already in place. I wiped my hands with a nearby rag, setting my wine glass aside, and glanced over at the setting sun again.

“That’s an easier arrangement to make anyway.”

She nodded in my peripheral vision.

“It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow,” I warned her with a false smile as I strolled towards my master suite. Kiona glanced after me, her wine glass held contemplatively as I left the room. “If I were you, I’d get my rest.”

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