Chapter 17

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"This is a crisis."

Ferrero threw up his arms and marched into my apartment without preamble.

"Won't you come in," I offered to his back.

He whirled around on me as I closed the door. "It has come to my attention," he boomed, "that you are a sales executive."

He looked tired.

"That is true."

Fashion week was always stressful for him, and I had heard there were problems with suppliers and an embargo on a tiny Eastern European country that exported handmade glass beads. Top it off with the whatever had thrown him into a tizzy and no wonder he appeared on my doorstep looking haggard and pointing out a well-known fact.

"That is unacceptable," he continued, pacing nervously on my living room rug. "A muse cannot be concerned with... business."

He said it like it was a bad word.

"Well, at the moment, I'm not really-"

"Unacceptable." Stopping in the center of the rug, Ferrero faced me with a determined set to his jaw. "I should fire you."

I gasped. Was he really firing me? Fiona had said there had to be a catch. Well, hello there, catch. Welcome to the party.

"No," I replied. "You can't fire me. I quit."

I gasped again. Had I really said that? Out loud?

This was all Bethany's fault. She had pushed me into saying I would think about focusing full time on my jewelry. Otherwise I never would have said something so rash. But if Franco was firing me, what did I have to lose?

He was struck frozen for the space of two seconds before his lips spread into a beaming, cosmetically-whitened smile. "No, I said I should fire you. But I am not."

I glared at him, more than a little skeptical.

A yip from the direction of my bedroom drew my attention to Fiona standing in the doorway with Dyllie in her arms. From the scowl on her face I knew she had heard everything. She looked ready to gut him from neck to nuts. Fiona might have a bit of a flakey streak, but she was loyal to the point of violence.

Straightening her spine, she pasted on her own brilliant smile and strode into the room like she owned the place.

"I don't think we've met." She extended a hand to Ferrero. "I'm Fiona, a friend of Lydia's."

Oh yeah, that should clear things up, since Ferrero still didn't know my name. Still, he took her hand, lifting it to press a gentlemanly kiss on her knuckles.

"Miss Vanderwalk is an inspiration. And you," he said, lowering but not releasing her hand, "are a vision."

Fiona smiled politely, but lacking genuine warmth. She was well-versed with the social platitudes of the world of fashion. It was often her job to smooth the feathers of designer and model alike at a show-gone-bad.

"Thank you, Ferrero," she replied, and when he began to correct her she added, "Franco. You are very kind to say so. Now what were just saying about not firing Lydia?"

"Oh yes." He turned back to me. "I am not firing you. Instead," he continued, "I am offering you a choice."

"What kind of choice?" I asked before Fiona could ask for me.

"I offer you a promotion to junior Vice President of Marketing," he said, and all the air left my body. "Or a creative position as lead accessories designer, to start your own line within Ferrero Couture."

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