“I hadn’t realized that Joan didn’t explain who I was the other day. I just assumed…” He laughed again as he picked up his wine glass. “My mother always did say that only fools make assumptions.”
“She wasn’t terribly impressed with me. I think she was in a hurry to get me on the elevator.”
Miles tilted his head slightly. “That does sound like Joan.”
“Has she worked for you long?”
“Joan has worked for my family in one way or another since I was a toddler. She was my father’s personal assistant. And then she moved out here—too retire—and I talked her into helping me with this new business. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks, but I can’t seem to convince her I’m capable of running things on my own.”
“She must care an awful lot about you.”
He smiled as he lifted his glass to his lips. “I hope so. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
There was something genuine in his voice that made me warm to him a little. He’d lied to me—at least, he’d lied by omitting his real name—and he dragged me out here on the pretense of a date only to turn the subject to something else, a job, maybe. So far, he didn’t seem like the kind of guy a girl could trust. Yet, that little bit of genuine feeling in his voice made the walls I was beginning to build against him fall a little.
The waiter arrived a minute later with a large bowl of fresh salad, complete with a lovely Italian dressing. I’d had it before, but it always seemed like a new sensation when you took that first bite. I helped myself to a huge plateful, starving after a long day of serving coffee to Waco’s stressed and fatigued.
“Have you lived in Waco all your life?”
I looked up. “Since I was five.”
“Do you like it?”
“Yes. But I don’t really have much else to compare it to.”
“Have you ever been to New York?”
I shook my head. Lisa and I dreamed of travelling someday. She wanted to go to NYU and live a bohemian lifestyle, but her parents wouldn’t pay unless she went to Baylor, like me. However, she still wanted to go, and I was still planning to follow, as I always did when it came to anything Lisa did.
“I don’t travel a lot.”
He served himself some salad and tucked into it, taking a large bite and then making something of a face when the bitter vinegar of the dressing touched his tongue.
“I grew up in upstate New York. It’s beautiful there.”
“I’ve heard that.”
“The Catskills in the summer…that’s great, too.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I began eating my salad, too. It was so good. I sighed with the first bite, closing my eyes without really realizing it. When I opened them, he was watching me with something like a smile, but not really.
“You should travel,” he said. “I bet you’d love Italy.”
That was a dream of mine, to visit Europe someday. Lisa thought it sounded like too much trouble, all that getting a passport stuff. However, it was something I’d always wanted to do. Italy and Paris and Spain. In fact, I had my passport. I applied for it over a year ago in the hopes that I would be able to find a job that would afford me the benefit of international travel. But that was before I found out what my aunts had done to pay for my education.
He pushed his salad plate away and sat back, sipping his wine again.
“We did something of a background check on you when you applied for that job.”
He nodded. “Mostly public records. Credit history, education, birth records.”
“It’s standard practice with most businesses these days. Want to make sure we’re getting an employee who won’t disappear on us after the first payday.”
He played with the stem of his glass, acting nervous again. I found it kind of sexy, the lack of confidence, but it was also a little unbalancing. It made me wonder just what it was he wanted to ask of me. Was it illegal? Why else would he seem so nervous?
“The thing is, you weren’t qualified for that job. Not by a mile.”
“Surely you knew that going in.”
I did. Of course I did. But I wasn’t about to admit that to him.
“But you are qualified for something else I need.” Again, his eyes dropped to the glass and his big fingers sliding up and down the delicate stem. “You’ve never been arrested, never had a ticket, and you vote Republican. I couldn’t have found a more perfect candidate if I’d sent out a list of qualifications to every bridal magazine published in the world.”