“Your very address of her as a ‘creature’ would be apt,” Elizabeth said, grinning.
“I informed her that I would be paying you on my terms. I took a look at the paperwork and saw how the money would be divided. I already wired Rhonda and her business the percentage they automatically take off the top.”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow as I stuck my hand into the front of my suit coat.
“This is your percentage of the initial pay, along with a tip I think is worthy of the efforts you put in this week. I’m well aware that sometimes places like the ones you work for don’t always give you the cut they say they do. I wanted to make sure you got it.”
“You didn’t have to do that, Phillip.”
I slid the envelope out and handed it over to her. Such an impersonal gesture for a week I deemed as close to personal as something had ever gotten for me. She took the envelope and tucked it away in her purse, a gesture that seemed so fluid for her. It slapped me across the face, the reality of her situation. I wondered how many clients had paid her in much the same way. Given her a stingy envelope of money for whatever salacious activities she had been expected to perform.
Was it forced even though there was a willing exchange of money?
“My driver will take you anywhere you wish to go. You have him until ten o’clock tonight. On the seat of the car is another envelope with some money in it. I want you to treat yourself to something.”
“Phillip, the job is done. We’re back home. I’m not your employee any longer. You don’t have to keep treating me to things,” she said.
“I’m not treating you to them because you’re my employee. I’m treating you to them because you deserve them.”
I watched her posture relax toward me, and I wanted to reach out for her. I wanted my hands to land on her hips and draw her into me. I wanted to get in the car with her and ride off to our next destination. Our next adventure. I wanted to sit by her and be a pair of eyes that studied her while she went and did whatever it was she wanted to do now that she was home.
It was a good thing we were parting ways now. Because I was getting way too close to her for my liking. It was best to rip the Band-Aid off quickly and hoped the wound underneath healed without the onset of infection.
“Thank you, Phillip. From the bottom of my heart.”
“And thank you for all of you help. Like I said, had it not been for you, this trip would have not been successful. I want you to know that.”
“Well, if you ever need another fake fiancée for anything, you know where to find me,” she said, grinning.
I chuckled along with her giggle, but I knew I wouldn’t call her. I couldn’t. The risk of distraction was too great. I’d miss that sweet voice of hers, though. I’d miss the way she made me feel.
I guided her around to the door and opened it for her. I took her hand as she slipped in, then closed it and stood there as they drove off. It was for the best. At least, that was what I kept telling myself. I didn’t have time for a relationship. And having her temptation and distraction around would make me lose focus. The quicker I could send her off, the quicker I could get my head back in the game and get working on this contract I had just signed.
But when her car rounded the corner, something grave settled into my heart.
“I don’t mean to intrude, but it is about to rain. Are you ready to go home?”
My eyes met with the other driver I had acquired for my journey home, and the answer wasn’t what I figured it would be. After a long, hard, grueling week of entertaining the whims of an old, gout-ridden man, I figured I’d be happy to get home. Happy to get back to my world.
But instead, I found myself missing Elizabeth.
Fuck. I’d gotten in way too deep.
“I am, but we’re making a pit stop beforehand. Several, in fact,” I said.
“Where to?” my driver asked as he opened my door.
“Follow the car that just left. Wherever it stops, you stop along with it.”
“Of course, sir.”
My car pulled away from the airport, and it didn’t take us long to catch up with the car I had put Elizabeth in. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but I sat there as we trailed behind it. What would she do with the extra money, I wondered? Between her cut of the initial payment, the jewelry, the tip, and the money on the seat, I’d easily forked over five hundred thousand dollars to her personally. I figured she would treat herself to a spa day, especially after such a long flight. Maybe get another outfit or two for her next client. Possibly pick up another matching set of jewelry.