Home > So It Goes (Twist of Fate #2)(4)

So It Goes (Twist of Fate #2)(4)
Author: Jennifer Probst

Seeing Malia carefully sitting at the edge of the chair, poised for flight or fight, caused satisfaction to curl in his gut. Not because she was wary of him. No, it was her presence in his sanctuary and the knowledge he’d finally gotten her alone. They had always been surrounded by people since their first meeting. Palmer wished he’d decided to move faster, but he hadn’t foreseen her changing jobs.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked.

“No.” Malia tugged at the creeping hemline of her skirt. “I hope you understand Quench is dedicated to Endless Vows. I can guarantee it will be a smooth transition with Hana—she’s been personally trained by me.”

“May I ask what your new position will be?”

Her face tightened like she’d tasted a lemon. He tried not to chuckle at her obvious distaste in telling him. This may have been the only woman he’d ever met who aggressively chose not to like him. “I’ll be with our new not-for-profit, the Quench Foundation. We identify sponsors to help local charities and organizations with funding and programs. We were recently able to donate a nice amount to Dream On Youth Center in Nyack and begin an internship program for high school and college students.” Excitement laced her usual polite, detached tones, and those deep, amber eyes sparkled with a light he’d never spotted before.

Palmer dug a bit deeper. “I see. You’ll be leaving advertising completely?”

“Yes. But as I said, Hana—”

“I don’t care about Hana. I’m sure that will work out fine.” He dismissed the new name with a quick wave of his hand, his mind furiously working with this new information. “I’m surprised I didn’t receive any details about the foundation and opportunities there.”

Quench was a company he’d watched explode over the past few years. Female owned by Malia and her two business partners, it was a digital empire that served women in all aspects of their lives—relationships, beauty, fashion, health, career, and money. He’d realized Quench could aid his own needs at Endless Vows, because it was a platform not solely focused on weddings. By instituting an aggressive, consistent advertising campaign, he’d been able to level up to their broad consumer base.

“We just received the final legal approval a few months ago and needed some time to set up administration. You’re a valued part of the Quench family, Mr. Matterson. Once you see what an investment can do, we hope you’ll agree to a donation or sponsorship.”

Her spiel was courteous and all business, but he’d spotted the passion beneath it and didn’t want to settle for only this part of her. Not anymore. “What will you be doing for the foundation?”

It took her a moment to answer. He sensed she hated giving him more information than required, and he’d thrown her a curveball with his interrogation. “It will vary. I’ll be managing new staff, identifying and analyzing organizations in need of our assistance, and spreading the opportunity to clients interested in donating.”

Gotcha.

He crossed an ankle over his knee and regarded her under heavy-lidded eyes. “Like me?”

Her lips pressed into a thin line. “Of course. I’d be happy to give you all the details about the foundation and what we can accomplish with your donation.”

“Excellent.”

“I’ll have my associate reach out to you. Deanna is well versed in the not-for-profit sector.” Malia’s teeth flashed in a sharklike smile. “Since this is a new position for me and I’m still learning, I know you’d prefer working with a top-level, experienced staff member.”

Oh, she was good. Frustration mixed with admiration, creating a curious cocktail of emotion. She didn’t want to work with him and was trying to stick him with someone else. A slow smile curved his lips as he stared her down. “I want you.”

She blinked. Shock flickered over her face before she got it under control. “Excuse me?”

“We’ve spent the last year building a relationship on trust. I’d like to continue it.”

Her hand fisted, then relaxed. Her chest rose as she dragged in a breath. Oh, what he’d give to watch her finally lose her temper. Palmer bet it would be a glorious thing to witness.

Almost as much as her exploding with passion.

“I appreciate your kind sentiment,” she replied, “but if you’re even telling the truth, you’ll need to trust me to guide you to the correct person who can help you the most.”

Her words hit him like a slap. The fact that she didn’t believe he had honor scraped raw, but he continued to press her. “I’ve also learned in business that relationships can trump knowledge. Let’s just consider it an on-the-job training session that will push you to the next level.”

Something close to horror lit her eyes, and his ego winced. “Mr. Matterson, I’ll be happy to accompany Deanna for introductions and be here until you feel comfortable. It’s what’s best for you and Endless Vows.”

Oh, she was stubborn. Palmer watched his opportunity begin to shrivel, because this woman was fierce under pressure. It was time he got more direct to see what happened.

He pinned her with his gaze. “I think you’re the best for me.”

Malia’s jaw dropped. She tried to talk but seemed to struggle to find her words. He waited patiently, enjoying this rare glimpse of her off-kilter.

“But—you don’t even like me!” The words burst in the room like a gunshot.

Regret coursed through him as he unhooked his ankle, adjusted his position, and leaned in. He’d taken his ruse too far. It was time Malia knew his true intentions.

“I like you very much, Malia,” he said softly. Her name sounded rich and smooth, like butter melting on his tongue. “I have for a while, and I’m interested in not only continuing our business relationship but also getting to know you better on a personal level. I think we’re more alike than you know.”

A stunned laugh escaped her lips. “Funny, I think we’re galaxies apart.”

“I disagree. Why don’t we find out over dinner?”

Her eyes bugged out and she went speechless again for a few moments. Though he’d been hopeful for a more positive reaction, Palmer waited until she found her words. Her voice came out a bit higher than usual. “You want to take me to dinner? On a date?”

“Yes. I’m asking for you to give me a chance. I know I’ve seemed distant, and you had no idea of my interest. I apologize. I’d like to show you a more, shall we say, charming side of me.” He tilted his head and gave her a warm smile. Palmer knew he’d screwed up, but he’d never met a woman he hadn’t been able to eventually convince to go out with him, at least once.

Especially when there was such an intense chemistry neither of them could deny.

Malia took a deep breath and seemed to gather her thoughts. “May I ask a question?”

“Of course.”

“Is this invitation completely separate from the business of the foundation and our ad account?”

He hated that she needed to ask. “Yes. I guarantee your answer will in no way affect whatever decision I make regarding my involvement with Quench or the foundation.”

“Good. That’s important for me to know.”

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