Penny looks pleased to see me, as usual. Her cognitive abilities are deteriorating, but at least she still knows who I am.
She’s been in a care home since we turned nineteen and her needs were more than Mom could cope with full-time, while I was away at college. I came back having dropped out and started my own million-dollar tech business and found Penny the best care money could buy. She loves it here.
This is the other secret I keep from the press, and another reason I don’t get too close to people. The last thing I want is reporters turning up here. The place is an idyll for Penny and the other residents, partly due to the money I’ve poured into it, and I want it to stay that way.
“I think I’ve finally met someone you might like,” I tell her, and even though she doesn’t reply I’m sure I can see a flicker of interest in her eyes. “Hopefully one week I can bring her to meet you. She’s very pretty.”
“But I have to ask her first,” I confess. “So far, she just cleaned my office. Not the best start, huh?”
Penny smiles again. I know she has no idea what I’m talking about, but she likes me talking to her, so I continue, telling her all about Rose, and about my day at work, and the awful board meeting I had before leaving. Penny starts to nod off at that point.
I wish her goodbye, kiss her on the forehead and get up to leave. One of the caretaker’s appears behind me and walks me to the door.
“This Rose sounds like a lucky woman,” she says, and I realize she heard every word of my one-sided conversation.
“I don’t know about that,” I say with a wry smile. “She doesn’t even know that I like her, yet.”
“Then tell her,” the middle-aged woman says, shaking her head at me. “If she’s as pretty as you say, someone else will snap her up if you don’t.”
I bristle just at the thought of any man thinking of her like that and know that I’m not about to let that happen.
“Not a chance,” I growl.
“So, you’re going to ask her on a date?”
“Tomorrow,” I promise. “And then you can hear all about it next week.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” she laughs as she shuts the door behind me, and I walk back to my car.
I drive back to my luxury apartment that cost about as much as a small island and look round at the fine surroundings dispassionately. Then it hits me.
I have everything, according to the newspapers, but I’m lonely, and chasing the next deal or the next tech innovation just isn’t filling that hole anymore.
But ever since I set eyes on Rose, I think I may have discovered what I need.
Now I just have to work out how to make her mine without coming on too strong and completely freaking her out. I’m used to getting my own way and subtlety is hardly my strong suit. I want what I want, and I’m used to getting it, and no one stands in my way.
Except now Rose holds the power in her hands, and she doesn’t even know it.
Sebastian’s office isn’t on my rotation this morning. The usual manager is away and her replacement it seems has no idea of the situation. I need to speak with Adrian. The last thing I need is to waste time… but then, maybe I can get some juicy gossip from the Operations Manager whose office I’m cleaning instead.
Of course, I don’t actually want to. I like Sebastian too much.
Which is not good. What kind of journalist will I be if I back out of chasing a story because I fall for my target?
And is that what I’m doing…falling for him?
No, you’re crazy, says a reasonable voice in my head. You don’t know him. You’ve only just met him. Get a grip. Get in, get the story, get out.
The Operations Manager, Mike something, turns out to be nowhere near as clean and organized as Sebastian. I take one step into his office and feel my stomach sink. There are papers everywhere, food in the wastebasket and half-drunk coffee cups on every surface. It’s like a teenage gamers bedroom…and my brother back home is a teenage gamer. Mom doesn’t go into his room unless absolutely necessary.
I have nothing but admiration for people who do this job full-time, I think as I gingerly start clearing up. There’s a musty, slightly moldy smell that you don’t expect to come across in a state of the art office like this, and I suspect a whole can of my air freshener isn’t going to cut it.
I take a ruffle through the papers on the manager’s desk, wondering if there is anything juicy to be found, but everything looks above board. There is no financial information or anything which I could get checked out. Although I doubt Adrian would settle for a story on inter-corporation fraud. He wants the dirt on Sebastian and nothing less. Like he said, everyone has secrets.