Professional Boundaries(13)

By: Jennifer Peel

“The food is excellent,” he finally said.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Like why you’re here?”

He thought for a moment more. “I’m here to find … success.”

“Because selling your own company for millions wasn’t enough?”

He took a deep breath. “Kelli, the digital ad software you’ve helped develop is a very unique concept, and I believe, with the right feature enhancements and marketing, it could put Chandler Media on the map as the leader in digital marketing software.”

“I still don’t get it,” I said exasperated. “You could have just started something on your own again.”

“I like a challenge, and this is a unique challenge.”

The way he said that and looked at me, I couldn’t tell if he was just talking about my product. Ok, it wasn’t just mine. It was my idea, but it was Matt, our software developer, who made it into reality. I was just the architect and the one who made it look pretty after Matt worked his magic.

“Fine, then why didn’t you tell Gary you knew me?”

He smirked. “Why does that matter to you?”

Oh, the nerve of him. I grabbed my bag and retrieved some cash and threw it on the table. It would more than cover my half of the meal. “Goodnight, Ian.”

His eyes widened and he jumped up. He hesitated, but he gently reached for my arm. “Please don’t go.”

“Why does it matter to you?” I threw back at him.

What was wrong with me? I wasn’t usually this snotty. He definitely brought out the worst in me. He didn’t used too. In fact, he used to bring out the best in me. But in my defense, I cried for months over him once upon a time, and now he’d taken my job.

He looked down at me. I had forgotten how tall he was, or how short I was. I had also forgotten how much I loved the way his eyes darkened the closer I got to them and how good he smelled.

“I’m sorry. Please sit down,” he implored.

He let go of me and watched me as I slowly sat back down. He picked up my money and handed it back to me. “I insist on paying for dinner.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

“Why do you have to be so obstinate?”

“I don’t need your charity. I may not be a multi-millionaire, but I’ve done well for myself, and I’ll be fine without this job.”

He rubbed his chin. “Kelli, this isn’t charity. I know you’ve done well for yourself. Look at it like two old friends catching up.”

“Ian, if that’s the case, you’re the worst friend I’ve ever had,” I tried to say it kindly.

He lowered his eyes. “I suppose I deserve that.” But then he sat up taller and all business-like. “Kelli, professionally speaking, today is going down as one of the most unpleasant of my career. I apologize for not being as forthcoming as I should have been with Gary. I didn’t realize the personal and professional relationship that existed between the two of you. Let’s just say he wasn’t very impressed when I told him how I knew you and that I hadn’t disclosed it.”

I tried not to smile.

“Honestly, I think if there wasn’t an iron clad contract in place, he may have fired me today. I’ve never seen anyone so upset about losing an employee, and then there was the executive secretary.”

“I think the word you’re looking for is admin assistant, or you could just call her Delfia. She hates to be called a secretary.”

“Thanks for the heads up, but she already detests me.”

Ok. I couldn’t help but smile.

He raised his eyebrow at me. “So, I’m sure you’re going to assume that I only want you to come back to make my life easier, but honestly Kelli, I would be a fool to let such a talented employee go. I know what you bring to the table. I’ve been very impressed. So name your terms.” After his groveling, or as close as he ever came to groveling, he sat back against the booth and looked at me like he was daring me.

As I thought about what to say and do, Jose came and brought our check. He handed it to Ian. I pushed my money back over to him.

“Please, Kelli.”

I reluctantly took it back.

“Are you ready to dance?” Jose asked. I grabbed my bag and scooted out of the booth. “Yes.” I looked at Ian again. “Thank you for dinner.”