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With a smile, I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin, and donned an air of class. “Darling, I’m caught out without my proper clothes, and I could so use some refreshment…these rags are such a bother.” The attendant immediately nodded with large, sympathetic eyes. “Ah yes, tot-tilly understood. Ve shall feex you up, Madame…?” “Andrews,” I answered. “Madame Andrews,” she smiled. “I am Svetlana. Come vith me, and ve shall make you ze prize of ze city.” Thick-accented Svetlana led me along the store, helping me choose some extraordinary products ranging from shawls to boots to blouses and more. The darling little girl couldn’t have been older than eighteen years old, but she carried herself with the elegance and sophistication of a woman easily several times her age. I found myself charmed by the young, slender creature as she led me across the aisles – if you could really call them that – and eagerly grasped at rows upon rows of products. “Oh, Madame Andrews, you must try zis, and zis, and one of zees…” After thirty minutes of casually scrutinizing my shape and size between clothing recommendations, Svetlana ushered me towards a fitting room with a stack of clothing. While I tried outfits on, my lithe little attendant gracefully sat nearby on an ottoman, one leg dangled across the other, her thin fingers dancing along the smartphone in her grasp. “What do you think?” I asked, stepping from the room. Her eyes lit up as they trailed along the hundreds upon hundreds of dollars gracing my body. With a widening grin, she jumped up from her perch, the smartphone disappearing quickly into a pocket. “The very peekture of elegance,” she chirped happily, waving me back into the room. “I cannot vait to zee more…” Half an hour later, I walked out of the store with a massive smile on my face and three thousand dollars of clothing in a pair of premium bags. With my phone pointing me the way, I set my sights towards the next store in my shopping spree. I could seriously get comfortable being married to a young billionaire. Chapter 20 Cole I knew that it was time to come clean. Releasing my restraint for just a moment, I furiously punched the console of buttons as the elevator ascended. I threw another punch, snarling this time, then another with my other hand, and finally one last, desperate punch with a guttural, animalistic scream. Holding my battered knuckles, I backed up, slumping my weight against the glass side of the elevator while I bowed my head in defeat. My final days were upon me. I couldn’t pretend anymore. Alphonse Megami would be here in a week. The rate of deterioration told me that, in all likelihood, I would still be in reasonable enough condition to host him…but it was all going to be downhill after that. Everything hinged on convincing him that Kiona and I were a loving, functioning marital union – one that passed whatever silly test the foolish, sentimental man had concocted. If the two of us could show him what he wanted to see, then he’d buy my company, and I would disseminate the profits down to everyone who had stuck it out with me. They’d all get their cut. And Kiona would keep what was left to orchestrate my last little master-stroke. The will had everything laid out in broad strokes. The charitable foundation created in my name would endure and put a bigger mark on this world than I ever did. Kiona wasn’t going to be a billionaire herself. Still a millionaire, of course, after removing operational costs of my foundation, some extra little charitable donations I intended to leave, and then taking care of the rest of the company. I needed a way to encourage the employees to stay with the corporation during this transition period. Of course, I’d already thought of that. The condition of their payments was that they continue to work for the company either for one year after the sale, until they were terminated, or until suitable replacements were found for their position. That way, the assets wouldn’t be all that the Megami Corporation inherited – it would take my beloved employees and their combined talents. If they wanted to piecemeal themselves together a separate staff, so be it. If Alphonse wanted his people to come in and reorganize everything, firing everybody who worked for me, that would be fine as well, because my people would immediately receive their pieces of the pie.
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