One Shade of Gray
Some said women who knew their own minds were dangerous. I disagreed. A woman who knew her mind, and her worth, was intoxicating.
She cleared her throat and I realized my thoughts had been wandering to the past. “My apologies.”
Her face flushed a pretty pink. “It’s fine just stop looking at me like that.”
“Like I’m more than an employee.”
I leaned out, about to pull her in again for another lesson but she stalled my hands, placing her small ones on the outside of my own. They were chilled slightly but the touch sent a heat through me I hadn’t felt in years.
“I think we just had this conversation.”
She leaned in and pulled her hands into her lap. “No, we had a lecture. You told me how you wanted it and didn’t give me the chance to offer an opinion.”
Fair point. “Very well, what is your opinion on the matter, Miss Vale?”
“Do you actually want to know, or are you going to do that playboy billionaire thing where you declare something to be and suddenly the universe aligns against the poor unsuspecting female you set your sights on?”
I chuckled. She was funny. Maybe Sibyl had been funny too, and I never took the time to notice. “I promise your opinion will be considered with appropriate weight.”
“That sounds like something a billionaire playboy would say.”
I didn’t respond to her taunts but waited instead for her answer.
She raked her eyes over my face and body, and I’d never felt more on display. I sat up straighter, which caused a little tick of a smile to appear at the corner of her mouth.
“I don’t want to date you, Gray. You’re technically my boss, and while you’re very attractive I can’t put aside my personal work ethic.”
My heart hit my feet and shattered like a boulder into a pile of rubble. Of course I wasn’t going to force her to do anything. But part of me had hoped my charm or appeal might at least give me the opportunity.
“Is there anything I can do to change your mind?”
She shook her head and gave me a sad soft smile, the kind reserved for deathbeds and christenings. Definitely not the reaction I wanted from her. Not the smile I wanted from her.
I nodded and stood up, unable to remain under her scrutiny once she’d made her opinion so very plain. “Of course. I’ll not bother you again.”
“And you’ll stop following me?”
I threw some bills on the table, slipped my arms into my coat, and buttoned it, all without meeting her eyes. The rejection stung. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever felt this particular mix of humiliation and sadness. Once I was put together and glued on the face I showed the world, I gave her my own version of the deathbed smile and a little bow. “Of course.”
I walked away without a word but when I reached the middle of the square a hand clasped my shoulder. Izzy grabbed me and held out the book I’d left on the table. I took it and met her eyes, unsure what she could see there, unsure what I could and couldn’t hide when I was around her.
She leaned in and whispered, “I’m not going to ask to kiss you but I will give you this as a parting gift.”