“We can move in a week from tomorrow. That is Saturday. Can you help? Maybe Petra and Jacob could help, and we could make a party out of it.”
Quip reflected on the activity planned as he responded, “Sweetheart, I will try to clear some items off the work schedule, but I know I can on Sunday. Bowen will be happy to help, and he can get a team of folks if needed. That gives you a week to pick out some furniture, either new or some of the antiques in the attic that Wolfgang suggested the other evening at his chateau. It is totally up to you. Petra and Jacob are out of town working on a special project with an unknown return date. We can do a party once they are back or just have a private one.”
EZ looked a bit sad but also unconvinced as she asked, “What is the special project they are working on? I thought once everyone returned here work would settle down until Julie has the babies. Why would they be traveling now? Why can’t they work remotely as they have done before? And Saturday is important to me. Can’t you take off one day? I mean, you aren’t running a country or anything.”
Quip was taken aback by the comment, and sadly it fit into the conversation he had planned anyway. He just didn’t want to fight about work really, now or ever. Maybe it was more difficult than he realized.
“Sweetheart, I know this is a totally different place than Georgia, but we have jobs and responsibilities which we put on hold to spend all that time in the states for the wedding. We have some projects and customers that need attention. You have seen firsthand some of our project work and the gravity some of them have. Your rescue being one of the most important.”
“Okay, then let me help. I am a good worker, and I learn quickly. I would love to know more about what you do, even see where you work. Heck, once we get settled into our new flat, I could bring you over lunch. I want to meet the others you work with like the ICABOD gentleman you spoke to when you worked remotely from the bed and breakfast we were at in Texas. He must be important and reliable from the parts I heard. I could come to your office tomorrow morning.”
Quip felt like he’d been sucker punched. He’d no idea this would be such a difficult conversation or that she was aware of details he had not even dreamed she knew. He knew he was going to be in trouble, but he had to be clear.
Quip cleared his throat and looked her in the eyes as he started to explain, “EZ, honey, I love you and am so glad you came here to see if we can make us work. All the effort in finding a place for us to make into a home and your openness to this, is, well, totally remarkable and well appreciated. I need to ask that you clearly listen to me as I don’t want any misunderstandings. Alright?”
EZ narrowed her eyes, but she nodded agreement. Quip knew he needed to walk softly through this conversation because EZ was no one’s fool.
“Honey, you can’t just come to my office. It is way off the beaten path. And, well, I don’t want you to know how to find it right now. It is for your own good, I promise. I work on stuff that isn’t shared outside of a very small circle of people, family really.”
EZ’s eyes widened, and she crisply retorted, “And you and I aren’t family? Really? You think I moved thousands of miles away from friends and my father because I didn’t think we would be family? And your idea of a celebration is to keep secrets!” She lowered her voice, but the tone was unmistakable as she continued, “That is simply not going to cut it, mister, Dr. Quip. We have full disclosure, or we have nothing! Got it!”
Quip certainly got it. This was going really badly, and he had no idea how to salvage it outside of as much truth as possible. It seemed the only way. His next sentence was interrupted as the waiter brought their food. It smelled delicious and looked like a picture. Even EZ had to take a break and thank the waiter, commenting on the beautiful presentation. Quip’s mind raced through the possible responses he could make while the waiter returned to fill water and champagne glasses, then stepped away. Quip was suddenly relieved they were seated at the far corner of the restaurant, very secluded.
EZ took a bite and smiled as she hummed in satisfaction. “You chose well, Dr. Quip, yummy! Now go on with what you were going to tell me before this ambrosia arrived.”
Quip had taken a taste and intended to keep his mouth full. After all, speaking with food in one’s mouth was socially unacceptable. Seeing the look from her, he knew that wouldn’t last long. The presentation was beautiful, but the quantity of this course was quite small.
He swallowed, then commented, “It is good. Did I tell you the head chef is a friend of mine? With this being so close to our flat, I imagine many romantic dinners here, if you enjoy this one.
“Fair enough, EZ, I owe you a level of explanation.”
She arched her eyes, just itching to jump in, but she remained silent as he continued, “I am part of a family business. This business is totally on the up and up, but was based on a close group or family since World War II. We simply keep our identity and our business ventures very close to the vest. We don’t allow others to see, outside of the lines they need to, to do their jobs. I actually have a voting right in this business since my grandfather, who was one of the founding fathers, passed away. I cannot tell you the details, as that is just how the family has always been. As for us, of course, you and I are family, but for now that cannot intersect with my original family.”
Tears filled EZ’s eyes and threatened to spill over as she asked, “How then does my father work with you on projects? How do Petra and Jacob seem so involved? I don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t know. And what about Julie and Juan?”
Quip reached over and took her hand in his two. He knew his love for her shown in his eyes. “Those are fair questions, but please don’t cry right now. It would be my undoing.
“Your father has been a contractor for many years. He provides telecommunications expertise and is one of the very best, most reliable and closed mouth men I have ever met. Andy, quite honestly, has driven me nuts now and again, but I respect him like crazy. Petra and Jacob are actually blood of the founding fathers of the family business. Fortunately for them, not the exact same bloodlines. ICABOD isn’t a person but rather a computer that I constructed and have continued to refine over the years. At some point you will meet ICABOD, as it were.”
EZ’s eyes were still shimmering as she replied, “Are you a good guy or a diabolical thief?”
Before Quip could respond the waiter approached and cleared the plates and brought the dessert, Bavarian chocolate flakes sprinkled over vanilla ice cream with a creamy sauce.
“It depends on your point of view, of course. Our adversaries would not agree, but I am a good guy, definitely a good guy. Even better with you! But I have to keep some secrets, at least for the time being. If it makes you feel better, Julie was asked to have a similar discussion with Juan. It is for your protection too, so I hope you will come to understand.”
EZ looked at him, and after a few minutes her sweet smile returned as she said, “Honey, I don’t like not knowing things, not one bit. But I have to respect a family business. Just so you know, Daddy suggested before I left that there might be things about you I would never know. I can’t very well get mad at you, when I promised my Daddy that wouldn’t make a difference in my decision to move here. I just love you too much to be without you, but I have to admit it hurts not being your full faith confidant.”
Quip beamed and signaled the waiter for more champagne. After their glasses were filled, he raised his glass to this beautiful creature across from him and clarified, “Here is to my love for you and our future. Cheers!”
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