She wrinkled her eyebrows together. “I really don’t see what that has to do with me—”
“I told him you were my fiancée.”
She laughed. It was utterly unexpected. It was a completely unfiltered, unpretentious, belly laugh. She laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. Geez. It wasn’t that funny. If this wasn’t a fake engagement, he might be insulted. He settled onto the couch, reclining against the back cushion as he waited for her to calm down.
Her eyes bugged out. “Oh, you’re serious?”
“As a heart attack.” Sensing her resolve about to crumble, he pressed his case. “It would be just for the weekend. No one other than Kingsbury would have to know. I can tell him that we’re keeping it under wraps because you’re a very private person. And, since you’re my employee, you didn’t want it to appear like I give you preferential treatment. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, I’d let Kingsbury know the engagement was off. No harm, no foul. And the company would land Kingsbury’s project, one that will greatly benefit our historical renovation department.”
Her eyes briefly lit up at the mention of her department. It was like the icing on the cake. Or a dangling carrot before the cart. He was hungry. With the booking mix up, he’d skipped breakfast. No worries, he’d order in to celebrate their “engagement.” He could see her undisguised interest… in the historical renovation project, at least. He pretended that didn’t wound his ego.
“I’d ensure you were assigned this project.”
She chuckled. “So much for not giving me preferential treatment.”
Sitting up straighter, he felt the faint stirrings of hope. “Does that mean—”
“A hard no?”
She shook her head. “This isn’t a negotiation, Mr. Grey.”
“Nick.” He offered her a charming smile. “I find, in business, everything’s a negotiation.”
“Not to me. I’m pretty uncomfortable with deception.”
“Honesty is an admirable trait. I value honesty.”
“Except when it comes to creating a fake fiancée?”
“You got me.” He ducked his head, grasping for the right words. This negotiation was a dismal failure. He had to hand it to her. His Bethany had integrity. That also ruled out straight-up bribery. What did she want? “What is your five-year plan?”
She looked startled, like she’d been anticipating a continuation of their sparring match. He held back a smile, throwing her off-kilter was surprisingly satisfying.
“After I finish my internship, I’d like to become a project manager.”
“That’s ambitious for an entry-level intern. This is your first year, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir.” She leaned forward, fixing her intense gaze on him. “I’m very determined.”
“A commendable trait. And one I share with you.” He hoped he looked sufficiently earnest. “The success of the company is important to me. Expanding into historical restoration has been a long time dream of mine. With the Kingsbury contract, we have a huge opportunity.” He looked away, pacing the execution of his grand finale. “I allocated significant resources on this expansion. If we miss out on this contract, Grey & Company might not be around to get another chance.”
Alluding to their dire financial position was a slight exaggeration, but he was desperate enough to play on her sympathies. She would respect his ambition—he hoped. He glanced up when she didn’t respond immediately.
She bit her lip, looking deep in thought. “You don’t know anything about me.” She spoke softly, like she was talking to herself.
He felt like an interloper, but he was too close to let a little guilt get in the way. “The company would’ve completed an in depth background check before extending an employment offer.”
She cast an exasperated look in his direction. “Which just means I’m not a criminal. We know nothing about each other. Certainly not enough to pretend to be engaged, even for a weekend. Your scheme—no offense—is crazy.”
“But you’re amenable to helping me.”
“I wish I could help you, but I can’t.”
Her tone was clearly dismissive, which meant the window of opportunity was closing fast. He leaned forward, grasping her hands within his. “You can help me. And I feel like you’re the only one who can.”