My First Time with Dad's Billionaire Boss(9)

By: Lia Lee

God, I’m losing it.

He’s older than I am. Successful. Cultured. Intelligent. Polite. Other than that comment he made about my skirt during our first meeting, he hasn’t said anything even remotely personal.

And yet…

I spend more time than I should looking at him. And I’ve caught him looking at me. Unlike most men, he doesn’t do that whole “look away quickly and hope she didn’t realize I was looking at her” thing. No, Nathaniel doesn’t hide the fact that he sees me. I don’t know what to think of that, but it does all kinds of crazy things to my insides. Whether he means anything by it or not… I mean, he can’t, right? He’s probably just checking to see what I’m working on or something.

It only takes us a few moments to get to the bistro, and he opens the door for me. My eyes meet his, just for a second as I walk past him, and I feel heat rise to my face.

This was probably a bad idea.

The attendant seats us at a little table near the front windows, and we settle in.

“Wine?” Nathaniel asks me.

I smile at him. “Depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether you think they’ll card me or not.”

He gives a small frown, then nods. “Something else, then.”

“Unfortunately,” I say, and he smiles. A moment later, our server takes our order, and then we’re alone again, each of us with a sparkling water in front of us.

“You could’ve had wine anyway,” I tell him.

“It’s no fun drinking alone,” he replies in a wry tone, and I laugh.

“Fair enough.”

He smiles, then settles back in his chair, which creaks just a little with the motion. “Have you enjoyed your first week?”

“I have, thank you.”

He gives a small nod, and I feel like he maybe wanted a little more than that.

“I feel like I’ve already learned so much,” I tell him. “And it’s… being able to work in an environment like that, where I’m surrounded by art and by people who appreciate it, that’s so amazing and rewarding.”

“And you get to try to organize me, which is a thankless job,” he adds with another small smile.

I laugh, and his eyes change, just a little as he looks at me, appearing almost golden in the afternoon light. I swallow.

“Organizing you wasn’t too bad. I was mostly just afraid that you’d think I was overstepping it, but it needed to be done.”

“It did, and you came nowhere near overstepping it.”

“Well, boundaries are important,” I say with a shrug.

He studies me for a moment, then runs his hand over his chin, eyes still on me. “You haven’t come anywhere near my boundaries yet, Poppy. But you should feel free to test them whenever you like.”

I don’t know how to respond to that, so I cover my confusion by taking a sip of my sparkling water. Is he flirting with me? Testing me? I have no idea how to handle someone like Nathaniel. He isn’t like the college boys I’m used to or the older, slimy men who’ve tried to pick me up on occasion.

Men like who my father used to be.

I shove the thought aside. I’d rather not think about Bruce and his past issues just now.

“Is something wrong?” Nathaniel asks softly, and I realize I’m furrowing my brow the way I often do when I’m irritated.

I shake my head. “Nothing that has anything to do with you,” I say, recovering and giving him a little smile.

“Feel like talking about it?” he asks.

I shrug. “Do you get along with my father?”

Nathaniel watches me for a moment. “I do. He’s a loyal employee and a hard worker. I don’t quite know what he’s doing working for me, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your father went from being the CEO of one of the top financial firms in this city to being a driver and errand boy for someone like me? How does that even work?”

I grimace. This is not a conversation I want to have with my dreamy boss. I want to kick myself for bringing my dad up at all, but he’s always there; the specter of how unthinking, manipulative, and dishonest men can be. I know that things I’ve learned about my father have affected the way I deal with men. I grew up with a great example of why it doesn’t make much sense to put my faith, or my life, in the hands of another man. Till death do us part is bullshit.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Nathaniel says, seeming to sense my discomfort.

“It’s fine. When my mother passed away, he kind of…” I shrug. “He kind of lost it. His drive, his sense of humor… he just kind of shut down. There were things between them that were unresolved,” I say. I can’t look at him, so I look down at my glass of water. I’m fidgeting with the corner of my napkin. “The only thing that finally forced him to get back out there was the fact that we were about to lose even the inexpensive apartment we’d moved into. By then, he had no desire to do much of anything. He lucked out finding work as your driver. He seems to enjoy the work.”