Designed by Destiny
“Where do you see your team, and indeed your company, in five years?”
Nick relaxed his stance, reverting into his trademark ability to think on his feet. Like a typical job interview, he sensed Kingsbury taking his measure not only through his words but by his demeanor. Kingsbury wasn’t just looking to hire Grey & Company, he was evaluating Nicholas Grey, the man. “We have interest in expanding our historic restoration department. Work completed on the Blackstone is just a fraction of what we can offer—”
Kingsbury held up his hand, halting Nick’s sales pitch. “You don’t need to sell me on your work. I’m interested in your vision.”
Nick faltered slightly, furrowing his eyebrows. Wasn’t it all synonymous—direction, vision? What angle was Kingsbury working?
“What will be your legacy, Nicholas? If I may call you Nicholas.”
Nick nodded. “An appreciation for varied architectural styles drew me to this industry, but I’m interested in more than making new contributions. Our role in preserving history is just as critical. And, if allowed the creative license, I see incorporating modernization with historical elements in our designs, like an architectural fusion.”
Kingsbury smiled approvingly. “Your vision sounds very innovative.”
“Would you have interest in working with us? I can meet—”
“Your work is impressive, but our majority shareholders are old-fashioned, expressing concern about your future.”
“Grey & Company is solvent, a financial position supported by multi-year pro forma statements which I can provide—”
“The shareholders have concerns about you, Nicholas. They want to invest in your company, but they would prefer more stability in your private life.” Kingsbury averted his gaze, looking uncomfortable for the first time during their conversation.
He placed his now empty glass on a strategically positioned cocktail table. “I can assure you, much of that reputation—” he made the air quotes gesture for further emphasis, “—is the result of bored tabloids looking for quick profit by any means necessary.” He scrambled for a semblance of a logical explanation that would satisfy Jamison Kingsbury’s old-fashioned shareholders without seeming contrite. Then, like the answer to an unspoken prayer, he spotted the beauty from earlier. “As a result, a precaution if you will, I am quite private. Enough of my life is misconstrued by the media, I don’t intend to hand them additional fodder.” He tilted his head, offering a conspiratorial smile. “In actuality, my fiancée is in attendance this evening.” He stepped toward the woman, took a fortifying breath—here goes nothing—and called out. “There you are, darling.”
The young woman looked up, peered around, but didn’t seem to notice him. He doubled his strides, needing every second to solidify his potentially disastrous scheme before Kingsbury caught on to his desperate deception. Fiancée? God, what was he thinking? Clearly, there was no thinking involved. Get yourself together, man. There would be plenty of time to berate himself later. Right now, he needed to save the game. He arrived at her side and whispered in her ear. “Just play along.” She stiffened and started to pull away. He caught her deer-in-the-headlights expression and knew it would surely tip Kingsbury off to his deception. He did the only thing he could. He cupped the back of her neck and captured her lips. Now, if she happened to look starry-eyed, there was a plausible cause. Her full lips were as soft as they looked. She even melted into his embrace like she’d been born to fit in his arms. He pulled away, breaking off the kiss before he could get carried away. He tucked her neatly against his side as a precaution, just to keep her from darting off.
“Well, well. I never thought I’d live to see the day the proverbial playboy settled down. And to this lovely creature, no less.” Kingsbury smiled, leaning over to kiss her hand. “Are you going to properly introduce us?”
“Maybe later.” Not knowing her name was problematic, but having her trembling like a leaf beside him was even more concerning. They needed to make a quick exit. It was always better to leave your audience wanting, right? He gave her a reassuring squeeze around her slender waist. She gave him a doe-eyed sideways glance, allowing him his first close-up of her brilliant blue eyes. “Right now, I need to steal my Blue Eyes away.” He offered Kingsbury an apologetic look—he hoped—before looping his arm in hers and leading them toward the exit.