She looked up when she felt something heavy and warm settle on her shoulders. The sharp winter wind blew her hair in her face, and she tucked the loose strands of her bun behind her ear as the fur collar of his thick winter overcoat tickled her chin.
“Is the paycheck I give you not enough for you to dress properly in this weather?”
“It’s not sufficient compensation, given the amount of work I do for you.”
“If I give you another raise so soon, quite a few eyebrows will be raised. Particularly by the people who seem to have taken up the hobby of monitoring me.”
“I’m sure you can figure something out,” she replied while drawing his coat closer around her thin blouse. “You always do. Isn’t that why you’re the CEO of Britannia Enterprises?”
“CEO? Surely you mean the puppet for the board, a position that has no true power.”
“I’ve never heard of a puppet with a 7-figure salary.”
He cracked a smile at her quip.
“I never said there weren’t any benefits.”
He glanced at his watch before looking out onto the snowy driveway of the hotel.
“What’s taking Jeremiah so long?”
“He’s having trouble with the snow, apparently. He’s trying his best.”
“Should we go back inside?”
She shook her head. She didn’t particularly feel like giving up his coat. It was nice – when he had set it around her shoulders, it had still been warm from his body, and it was perfumed with his scent. The memory of the stolen kiss at the airport and that one night on that one business trip to Thailand flashed behind her eyes as his cologne made her heady, and it was all she could do not to sigh as she basked in the warmth and peace of past moments when they had both stepped down from their respective positions and had been just a man and a woman, even if it had only been for a few hours.
“What is it?”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Don’t accept Schneizel’s offer.”
She looked up sharply at his words. How had he found out about Schneizel? She had been promised that it would be kept a secret until she made her final decision. She had been foolish to trust Schneizel. Of course Lelouch would find out, Schneizel was his one and only rival. He knew everything there was about him – his sexual orientation, his hobbies, his political ideology, the birthplace of his mother. Everything that there was to know, Lelouch knew. Of course he would have received word about the offer.
“If it’s a matter of money or benefits, I can easily match his proposal. He knows how important you are to me, and he’s trying to carve away my support. Don’t go to him.”
“…Is that your only reason?”
The wind howled in place of his answer as they stared at one another. She shivered in the frigid weather, snow gently settling around their feet, until he stepped forward and was about to lean down, when a sleek sedan suddenly pulled up. Jeremiah burst out and rushed to open the door for his beloved employer. She watched as he turned to climb into the car, when he suddenly looked over his shoulder and said: “I haven’t forgotten about Thailand.”
“Yes, sir,” she said softly. There was a pause before he nodded and the door hid him away from her. She bowed as the car drove away before letting out the sigh that had been pent up inside her for so long. Standing on the steps, she imagined the sleeves of the coat to be his arms, wrapping around her waist as they had that morning when he had laid a trail of kisses along her collarbone and throat, whispering about a future where they wouldn’t have to keep pretending, where they wouldn’t have to hide.
Returning to the protection of the building, she made a note to call Schneizel. It was time that she tell him her decision. She and the CEO, they had gotten far too close for their own good. It was for the better if they just stopped before they reached the point of no return. She knew all too well how the Chairman would react if he were to hear how his son, the CEO of the world’s most powerful conglomerate, had fallen in love with a completely normal, insignificant woman. And that wouldn’t do.
That just wouldn’t do at all.