“Who is that?”
She knew before she even turned around that it was him. After an entire night of him staring at her, their short clipped conversations during the sales pitch placed by her and her boss and his boss and him, she just had a feeling he’d be here. Whether or not she’d admit it to herself, she’d been deliberate when she said exactly where she was going after dinner.
She always met this group of people out on Thursdays. This place was on their regular rotation, with their table for eight in the middle of the lounge.
She spun around, careful to hold her double whiskey steady as she turned on the heels of her stillettos. She’d specifically worn them tonight with her little black dress, the high collar and open backed one that showed off the curves she worked hard on. She was going to make this statement whether he was listening or not.
He smiled, nervously when she turned around. She smiled at him, being sure to be as genuine about it as she could be. He made her nervous and it infuriated her. Something about him made her want to be somewhere different, with him.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said, smiling, “but you left this behind.” He held her black wristlet, the chain wrapped around it, keeping it closed and looking like some sort of weapon.
Was this a Freudian slip? How had she walked out of the restaurant without realizing she didn’t have it? Her phone sat idle on the table behind her, her keys next to it. The contract for the sale and a black ballpoint pen were in the wristlet. When his boss had told them that he wanted to wait to sign, she’d never picked her wristlet back up from the table.
“Thank you,” she murmured, stepping closer to him. Just then, she caught sight of a familiar face strolling towards her, his golden tupee a long standing point of amusement.
“Margaret. There you are!” Jameson’s voice. His boss. “Mark! What are you doing here?”
Mark stared back at her for only a moment. “Just returning Margaret’s wristlet.”
She turned, squaring her shoulders towards Jameson. This was the moment; it was sell it now or lose it forever, and she wanted to be the hero. She wanted him to see her in her zone, making the kill.
“Jameson! What brings you to this end of the street?”
“I was thinking about what you said. And I have a counter offer.”
She smiled at him, acutely aware of Mark’s eyes boring into her. He was close enough to reach out and grab. In this moment, she was closing a deal and creating a need for another.
“I’d like to offer you a job. Come on board, be our full time marketing person. I’d rather have you on my staff than on some third party’s where I can’t be sure you’re looking out for my interest first.” Jameson beamed as he said it, sure that the young sales woman wouldn’t possibly say no.
But of course, he was wrong.
“Jameson, let’s be honest. You don’t want to pay me. I’m an expert; that was not an exaggeration. Experts are expensive, and I’m used to a level of flexibility you’re not going to be able to give me. But let me be clear. Even if I worked just for you, I’d tell you to take this deal. Because it’s an amazing one, one that will make you a lot of money and build you a reputation here that you need. Plus, it helps build the reputation of Mark and Hannah, and let’s face it; you’re not getting any younger. Mark and Hannah will take over your Firm, and you want them to have a reputation for excellence. That’s what I’m offering you. A shitload of money and a reputation for excellence.”
He just stood there for a moment then began to laugh. “A shitload of money and a reputation for excellence? Tell me how you really feel Margaret.”
Margaret swirled her drink, looking down at the dark amber color. She squared off again, making eye contact with Jameson as she did, watching Mark through the eyelashes of her peripheral vision. “Take it or leave it Jameson. But if I were you, I’d take the opportunity to grab what you want.”
She heard Mark inhale, but kept her eye contact on Jameson.
“You have yourself a deal, Margaret. I’m in. I’ll stop in Monday to your office to sign the papers.”
“Sign them now.” Margaret twisted open the wristlet and clicked the ball point pen. “Sign here.”
“Have you had this in here the whole time? I’m feeling a little like I gave in too easily.”
Margaret smiled. “You just recognized an opportunity when you saw it. It’s my job to make sure you get to take advantage of it.”
Jameson signed, then shook her hand. “Margaret. It’s been a pleasure. I’ll see you Monday.”
She smiled. “Thank you. See you Monday.”
As he walked away, she touched the sleeve of Mark’s jacket. “Wait here a moment please.”
He stopped, stilling immediately when she touched him.
She picked up her phone, hitting the buttons silently, smiling at the table of people congratulating her. “Yeah, Vick? Mike? Aiden? I got him. I got it. Celebratory drinks on me! Come to the Second Badger.”
She hung up the phone, and turned back towards him. “You.”
She walked up, standing close, still holding the wristlet in her hand. “You.”
He looked down at her, suddenly aware again of the way the stilettos made her legs look. She was suddenly nearly eye level, and as he maintained eye contact with her he had to look away. He nervously ran his hand through his hair. “I just…”
She stepped closer. “I know.”
His head snapped up. “You know?”
She stepped closer. “I know. It’s something you can’t figure out and you hate it. But you can’t leave it alone. There’s something about it that makes you want it, but you don’t. You don’t want it because you know you can’t go back once you’ve had it. But something about it… it leaves you feeling bothered, hot…and if you can admit it to yourself, it’s where your mind goes when it wanders.”
She stepped even closer, so close he could see the lines of dark grey and brown in her green eyes. She heard his sharp intake of breath as she leaned forward.
“Thank you for this,” she said, tapping the side of her wristlet against him. ”Good night Mark.”
As she tried to pull away he grabbed her wrist. She stopped and looked directly into his eyes. “What do I do about it?” he growled at her.
“Nothing. You go home. This would wreck my life, but I’d rebuild because I always do. That’s who I am. But you,” she looked down and then back up at him through her eyelashes, “this would burn your life to the ground.”
He let go of her. “What if I want it to burn?”
She leaned in so close he could feel her breath on his face. “This will destroy you, Mark. Go home to your life.” She turned away, her long hair whipping around her.
She turned over her shoulder, smiling at him in a way that made him want to melt. She was the heat; like looking at the sun, and in that moment, he couldn’t imagine not staring until he burnt up.