Black Ties and White Lies: Chapter 18


Ezra gives me an unreadable look as he finishes loading the last of Margo’s things into the trunk of our city car. All of the bags almost didn’t fit, they wouldn’t have if some of the items purchased today were actually in stock instead of being delivered at a later date.

Margo and I drifted from one store to the next, establishing an entirely new wardrobe for her. She stands next to me, anxiously messing with the sleeve of her sweatshirt she insisted on wearing out of the store despite the tens of thousands of dollars of new clothes I just bought her.

“I’ll never be able to repay you for this,” she says softly, looking at the pile of bags and boxes in the back with regret.

I angle my body toward hers, my fingers twitching at my sides to reach out and touch her. In fact, ever since I got to taste and touch her in that dressing room, I haven’t been able to think of anything else. Which is unfortunate, because I can’t be intimate with her in public. Not yet. Ezra no doubt has questions about Margo’s sudden appearance in my life, but it wouldn’t be preferable even if he were to see us pretend to be anything but boss and assistant for a little longer. For us to keep up the charade, people must first believe us to have had some sort of professional relationship before announcing to everyone that things turned serious.

“I’d be livid if you ever tried to repay me for it,” I reply. She chews on her bottom lip, clearly not getting any reprieve from my words.

“It just feels weird for you to buy me all of that. Some of that stuff was so expensive.”

I shake my head at her. “The price doesn’t matter. I’ve got enough money to go around, trust me.”

She tucks her hands into the large pocket on the front of her sweatshirt. “Well, I tried choosing the less expensive things, but it’s hard when most items don’t have their price even listed. What’s the point of that, anyway?”

I watch Ezra close the trunk. He nods at me, cueing me that we’re good to go. He steps around us and opens the rear passenger door even though neither one of us steps to get in. “Most people shopping there don’t necessarily care about the price,” I offer. It feels weird coming out of my mouth. She does have a bit of a point.

I turn to slide into the backseat of the car, but she stops me by grabbing my sleeve. My head turns, watching her curiously wondering what she wants to add. Taking a deep breath, she watches Ezra get into the car before she focuses on me once again. “I just wanted to say thank you. Really, truly,” she emphasizes. “No one has ever done that much for me, and I know it’s because you have to be seen with me at work and don’t want to be embarrassed by my clothes, but it still means a lot. I would’ve been fine just getting clothes at Target or wherever.”

My lip twitches in amusement. “Yeah, but are Target dressing rooms so…fun?”

Her eyes get wide. The slight chill in the air isn’t what’s causing the tinge of pink spreading over her cheeks.

I leave her with a smile, hoping she’s replaying our kiss in her head like I’ve been doing all morning. My body glides over the leather seat as I climb in the back of the city car. It takes a few moments before Margo follows suit, a dazed look still on her face.

She’s silent the entirety of the car ride. Not that I had time to talk with her much, anyway. My phone rang with constant calls, people needing me nonstop.

Margo looks at me confused when Ezra pulls up to a large building, the top of the sky-rise building appearing to kiss the clouds all the way from the bottom.

“Where are we?” she asks, looking through the window.

I tap her thigh with my knuckles moments after Ezra opens the door. ‘We’re looking at your new office, Violet. Scoot. I’ll give you a tour of the place.”

Her eyes go wide in horror as she looks down at her body. “You didn’t tell me we were going into work!” she hisses, pulling on her baggy sweatshirt. “I would’ve worn one of the countless new outfits if I knew someone would see me.”

The panic in her voice is quite obvious—and totally adorable. I give her leg another shove. “Go, Margo, it’s fine.”

She shakes her head furiously, looking at Ezra with an apologetic look. “I’m not going in there looking like this,” she demands. Her body settles deeper into the seat. The tantrum reminds me of a toddler, but she does it way cuter.

“Margo,” I warn, sliding into her space and getting her body to move an inch just by pressing my thigh against hers. “You can get out of the car or I can make you. I can’t get out on my side without risking a crazy New York driver ramming into me, so I cannot get out until you do. Sooo, get out.”

Her fingernails attempt to dig into the leather to keep herself planted.

“I can’t have the first time all of my coworkers see me be in an old NYU sweatshirt.”

Ezra and I share a look of humor. I shrug. “Why? Are you scared they’ll think you’re a tourist?”

She scoffs. “I bought this on campus when I attended there, thank you very much.”

I push my hips into her harder, making her body move a few more inches until she’s basically hanging off the side of the seat. People walking by give us curious looks, but none of them stop to say anything. The fact that some people have even noticed us is shocking enough in a city so busy.

“No one is going to see you,” I reassure her.

“You don’t know that,” she argues.

I tilt my head back and forth, pressing my lips into a thin line. “Actually, I do. I’ve made it an unspoken company policy that no one is supposed to come into work on Sundays or holidays. Work life balance and all.”

My words seem to take her off guard. Her head swings my way in shock. “You did?” This disbelief in her voice should offend me.

I nod, nudging her until she finally obeys and climbs out of the car. At the last minute, she almost trips over the curb. Ezra and I both reach out to catch her at the same time.

Once she’s steady on her feet, I finish climbing out of the car, Ezra closing the door behind me. “Typically the only person ever there on the weekends is me. I promise you.”

Her teeth dig into her lip like she has something else to say, but at least for the time being, she keeps it to herself.

No longer putting up a fight, she tilts her head up to look at the building towering over us. “You own this?”

I chuckle, laying my hand on her mid-back to guide her toward the entrance. “No, we rent the top seven floors.”

We leave Ezra back at the car as we walk to the revolving door entrance of the building. Stepping inside, I give Tom a friendly smile as he sits at his desk, looking to be enjoying a calm Sunday here. On a weekday, this floor would be packed full of people coming and going. We share the building with some very well-known companies and law firms. This floor is usually full of people going about their business during and after normal working hours. I’ve learned over the years that Sunday is the safest day to come into work if I want to be around the least amount of people possible. I’ll still share the elevator with the occasional person or small group, but it’s nothing like the typical work days where it takes ten minutes just to catch an elevator.

Any other day I’d walk right past Tom, scanning my badge as I walked through the metal detector, but today I bring Margo and I to a stop in front of it.

“Good afternoon, Tom.” We share a familiar smile. It’s hard not to return his smile. We’ve developed an unlikely friendship, even though he’s old enough to be my father. You’d never know his age because his jokes and spunk remind me more of an eighteen-year-old frat guy. Plus, not being a prick to him like some of the other people who pass through these doors every morning gets me some VIP perks. For example, sometimes he gestures for me to take the employee stairs so I can climb to the second or third floor and catch an elevator that way instead of waiting in line in the lobby.

Tom gives me a knowing smile before he pins his attention whole-heartedly on Margo. I don’t blame him. Even in an old college sweatshirt, her beauty captures anyone’s attention. “Mornin’ Mr. Sinclair.” His voice is gravelly. My guess is from his fondness of getting home from work and smoking a cigar. I’ve given him a few rare cigars over the years, grateful for his familiar smile even when I come into work a brooding dick because some new investor has pissed me off or someone thinks they can take advantage of me.

He gives Margo a wink. “And who is this nice young lady you’ve brought in this morning?”

Margo beams at him, no doubt making Tom’s bad heart beat faster than it’s supposed to. “I’m Margo,” she answers, reaching across the desk to shake his hand. “Margo Moretti,” she finishes.

Tom looks a little shocked that she’s holding her hand out to him, giving him her full attention. He’s used to the pricks and uptight women who work here. None of them spare him a second glance, let alone take the time to shake his hand.

He takes it, his calloused hand enveloping hers. “I’m Tom. Tom Banks.” She stares at him in wonder. If it were anyone but Tom, I’d feel a tad jealous at the huge smile Margo aims in his direction. I do know that Tom has been married for thirty years, and the only thing he loves more than this job are his wife, children, and herd of grandchildren.

Margo laughs. The sound thaws my black frozen heart a little. It wouldn’t take much for me to get used to the sound. “Tom Banks? Like Tom Hanks but with a B.”

He smiles at her triumphantly, eating up the fact that she finds him funny. “Sure is. Except I’m much more handsome.”

“Well, obviously,” she responds, propping her elbows on the counter of his desk.

I clear my throat, moving an inch closer to her. “Miss Moretti here is my new assistant. Could you add her to the system for me and get her a badge? Most mornings she should be coming into work with me, but on occasion she’ll be coming in alone, and she’ll need the clearance so she doesn’t have to get a visitor pass.”

“Sure thing.” He’s quick at printing off a piece of paper, clipping it onto a clipboard and handing it to Margo. “If you could just fill out all of this information for me. Do you have a driver’s license?”

“I do actually,” she answers, pulling out her license and handing it to him. Margo gets busy at filling out the form as Tom works at getting her license scanned in. Most people here don’t have a license. I keep mine updated for when I travel, but I rarely ever drive. Most of the time Ezra drives or I’ll walk if it’s close enough.

Tom finishes up and places her license in front of her. He gives me a questioning glance. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to Polly, Mr. Sinclair?”

“You wondering if you’ll no longer be getting your homemade sourdough every Monday morning?” I tease.

Tom looks a little embarrassed as he shakes his head at me. “She’s always been kind to me. I just wanted to check in on her.”

I stop giving him shit. While I’m sure he does enjoy the homemade bread from Polly, I know I do, his intentions do seem pure in asking her status.

Margo hands the clipboard back to him as I take a breath before speaking. “Polly is still my executive assistant, but as she ages, I don’t want to make her travel with me like she used to. She’ll be handling my affairs here while Margo will be traveling with me and assisting me in other ways. Like getting my coffee.”

She narrows her eyes at me, trying to get a read on if I’m serious or not. I’m still deciding what tasks I’m going to have her do when we’re not traveling.

“Glad to hear it,” Tom mutters and focuses on his computer screen as he fills Margo’s information into the computer.

“We’ll see if Mr. Sinclair here will trust me getting his coffee or not.”

I lift my eyebrows. “And why’s that?”

She shrugs, a taunting smile forming on her lips. “I’m known to be a bit clumsy and absent-minded. I would hate to mess up or even spill your fancy coffee order.”

“Hot Americano, no cream with two sugars,” I deadpan.

“I pegged you for an oat milk in the coffee kind of guy,” she teases.

My tongue clicks. “Says the girl who betrayed New York and moved to the West Coast. Tell me, Margo, what’s your order?” I hold a finger in the air, stopping her from answering me. “No, wait, let me guess. An iced lavender oat milk latte.”

She bites her lip, a small frown appearing on her perfect lips.

I smirk, grabbing the badge Tom just made Margo and holding it in the air between us. “Am I right?”

Rolling her eyes, she plucks the card from my grip. “It’s a generic coffee order,” she gripes.

Margo mutters a quick goodbye to Tom before she steps away, clearly annoyed with how I got her coffee order correct. I’ve got a stellar memory. It’s annoyingly perfect. I have the inability to forget almost anything. Therefore, I remember her order from her trip to The Hamptons to meet my family.

Tom beams, watching Margo stop in the middle of the lobby. She pulls out her phone, giving herself some kind of distraction. “She seems like one that’ll give you a run for your money, Mr. Sinclair,” he notes.

I look away from Margo to look at him. I nod my head. “You’re probably right, Tom.”

He whistles. “I like her already.”

Me too. The problem is, it’s maybe a little too much.


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