“I did, yes. I hope you enjoy it,” I said, clearing my throat.
“Potato dumpling with pork roast and apple strudel for dessert. The latter part of that shouldn’t shock me.”
“It’s a hard treat for me to pass up. Especially when we’re in the hands of a competent and professional chef.”
“Here. Allow me.”
He walked over to my seat and pulled it out for me. He ushered for me to sit down, but then he quickly removed his hands from my chair. I didn’t know how to feel about Phillip any longer. On the one hand, he was attractive. Kind. Well-read. Intelligent. On the other hand, his revulsion for me was obvious. There were moments where I knew he wanted me. Where I knew he wanted to take me. Then, there were moments like that one, where he couldn’t get away from me quick enough. Where his repulsion brought me back to a stark state of reality.
That I was nothing more than a common whore to him, fucked by every man and left as nothing more than damaged goods.
At least, that was what I thought he felt, anyway.
I knew better. I knew my standards. My boundaries. I knew how many men I had truly slept with over the course of my career. And it wasn’t the thousands he obviously thought there were. As he sat down in front of me and placed his napkin over his thigh, I figured I would allow him to make the next move. I’d teased him, tempted him enough. I’d been as open as I could be to the possibility that he could take advantage of all my services if he wanted. There was nothing more I could do. The food sitting on the table in front of us pulled me from my trance, and silently I began to eat.
I didn’t wait for him to start. I didn’t wait for him to toast. And I didn’t wait for him to say anything else. But one thing we did need to do was keep getting to know one another. At the very least, I needed to continue getting to know him. If he was going to walk away from Cristoff and me like he had back at the stables and leave me to fend for myself, then I needed to know more about his childhood. About him as a person. About his likes and dislikes. Not knowing those simple things about each other would blow the roof off this entire week before the two of them could talk shop.
“What was your schooling like?” I asked.
Phillip raised his eyes from his plate and locked them with mine.
“I told you a little bit about my schooling. Tell me a little about yours,” I said.
“I went to public school like every other suburban kid,” he said, shrugging.
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Did you actually enjoy it?”
“As much as any glasses-wearing, pimply kid could.”
Well, he was just full of stories for me to use.
“When did you know you wanted to make your career in the technology industry?” I asked.
“In college. I designed software as a hobby with a couple of friends of mine while going through school. It sort of took off from there.”
“That’s fun. Do your friends help you run your company now?”
“Is it still a hobby only for the other one?”
“What do you do for hobbies?” he asked.
My eyes danced around his face as he took another bite of his pork roast.
“You’ve already asked me that question,” I said.
“You’ve already asked me what I do for fun.”
“Then enlighten me again.”
“You’re going to have to remember this kind of stuff if you want this to work.”
His eyes locked with mine, and something akin to anger shot behind his eyes.
“I read. I told you that on the plane.”
“Forgive me for not being as alert as I normally am at five thirty in the morning. Do you do anything else?”
“I garden. I dance. I play piano.”
“You play piano?” he asked.
“You ask that as if it’s somehow above my station.”
“That isn’t what I meant.”
“I’m not sure what you mean sometimes. Maybe use those words of yours and elaborate instead of keeping your mind on a one-track railroad of single-handedly tanking this contract of yours,” I said.
“You want to run that by me again?”
“You’re the one who hired me to be a fake fiancée. Got it. I’m nailing my end of this bargain. But you’re not. Cristoff isn’t convinced, and it’s because of how you act around me. I get it—you not wanting to be near me any more than you have to. I understand the mindset. You’re not the first to not want my physical services. Believe it or not, men do turn that down when it comes to me. But the more distance you put between us and the more you shift between this want and this repulsion of me, the more you break down this ruse in front of Cristoff’s eyes. You want this to work? Then buckle in and learn a few things about me in the process. Engage him more than I do. Because right now, he looks to me to speak for you because you aren’t speaking for yourself. So if you’re going to thrust me into that role, at least give me a couple of anecdotes from your high school days to throw at him to keep him on the hook.”