“This is the last straw!” Sydney Stewart muttered out loud. I’d asked politely, then nicely, and even one time more forcibly. The work crew wasn’t getting the message that they shouldn’t block my parking spot. A sleek, black SUV with darkened windows and a ‘Butler Industries’ sign on the side was parked just enough in front of the entrance to my space that I couldn’t get my car in.
There was no wiggle room to maneuver my vehicle into the slot. Mr. Ashton, from the accounting firm on the fifth floor, had parked his car with the wheels smack dab on the painted line separating our adjoining spots.
“Am I expecting too much?” I mumbled, continuing to present my case to no one in particular. Entering the construction site adjacent to my office building, I focused on searching for the idiot who had done this. Trying to dodge potholes, most containing water from the rain during the night, I grimaced when I stepped in one, my favorite shoe disappearing below the surface.
“Lady! You can’t go in there. It’s a hard hat area!” A guy hollered.
“Watch me,” I answered, never breaking my stride. Although in retrospect probably not loudly enough for him to hear.
Making my way up the metal steps to the door of the trailer posing as an office I flung it wide open, not even reacting to the loud sound it made hitting the trailer’s outer wall.
Seven pairs of eyes, belonging to men in work clothes and the required yellow hard hats, turned their attention from the blueprints scattered on the table in front of them to the irate woman standing in front of them - me. Stamping my wet foot hard, I began to question my judgment.
A man in a blue plaid shirt raised a quizzical brow. “Uh, ma’m?”
“Whose vehicle is that?” I pointed in what I hoped was the right direction.
After looking at each other for clarification, a guy in the back spoke up, “It’s the boss’s.”
“Where is he? I want to speak to him.” When no one made a move, I added, “Now!”
“He’s in his office, ma’am.”
“Where’s his office?” It was like playing a warped form of the game of Twenty Questions, but I planned on winning.
“The twentieth floor,” the man said, pointing back toward the direction of my office building.
“Perfect.” As I turned on my heel, a short guy with blond hair reached for his cell phone before I stormed back outside.
Yeah, you’d better tell him I’m coming.
So unlike me, I was surprised as I began to like this feeling of righteous anger.
Retracing my steps, I glanced at my car, now blocking half of Mr. Ashton’s car which made me mad all over again. My only thought was that this needed taking care of before he tried to leave. He always seemed like a nice man, smiling and nodding when I met him in the hall and I didn’t want to inconvenience him.
While taking the elevator up to the top floor, I called Maria, my receptionist/secretary/friend to let her know I was running late, but would be in shortly.
When the elevator doors opened, the smiling, perky receptionist seemed to be expecting me and directed me through a glass door. I entered the office of an administrative assistant who sat at a desk just to the left of a set of dark, forbidding double doors.
“Good morning, Miss . . .”
“Stewart, Sydney Stewart.”
“Yes, Ms. Stewart. Mr. Butler will see you now.” She got up from her chair and came around her desk. Looking back to make sure I was following, she knocked once sharply before opening one the double doors.
“Mr. Butler, Ms. Stewart is here.”
I continued farther inside, as she stepped back and closed the door behind me.
The room I found myself in was huge with a wall of windows overlooking the city of Loganville with an extensive view of the harbor. The light from outside made the room seem darker than it really was. I blinked several times trying to adjust my eyes to the contrast. A massive desk sat several feet in front of me. The top smooth and polished to a dull shine, and devoid of the usual stacks of papers one would normally find there. Hmm . . . wouldn't even have to push the papers off to have passionate sex on top of it. I shook my head to dislodge the picture.
Rising from a large leather chair, a man came toward me with an outstretched hand. He was impressive, not so much in size, but in demeanor. The electricity in the air crackled with each step he took. A dark charcoal suit emphasized the whiteness of his shirt and gray and red striped tie which looked crisper and cleaner. His hair was shiny and black as coal, a lock escaping and hanging across his forehead. The ice blue of his eyes so penetrating it was like being X-rayed. I looked down to check if I still had clothes on.
Unconsciously I pushed an errant, auburn curl behind my ear. I hoped I presented myself as a force to be reckoned with - in a professional sort of way - wishing that I had chosen my outfit this morning for that purpose. Straightening to my full five-feet-three-inches, I focused on why I was there. Then blinked, as a sex scene flashed across my vision. An unexpected little gasp slipped from my lips.
“Ms. Stewart, I’m Desmond Butler.”
“Yes, well. I’ll get right to the point, Mr. Butler. I’ve asked your workmen before, but to no avail it seems, to not block parking spots that aren’t theirs . . . uh . . . yours. Now I’m demanding that you make certain they, umm, don’t.”
My breath left my body along with my words and most of my anger. I resisted the urge to pull them back and put my hand over my mouth to prevent their escape again.
His lips formed a straight line like they had been drawn. How long had it been since someone had spoken to him in that tone of voice?
“My driver must have parked the car there. I’m sorry you were inconvenienced.” He grasped my right hand in both of his.
His condescending words refueled my temper. “Your driver? You’re going to stand there and tell me it was your driver’s fault?”
“Yes, Ms. Stewart. You have my guarantee that I’ll fire him immediately.” With that, he turned and walked back toward his desk.
I found myself watching him, unable to look away. He moved like a jungle cat, possibly a male jaguar, one who made every movement count. Without a doubt he’d be great in bed or even on the desk.
In a matter of seconds he went back to his chair, talking on the phone. He motioned with his pointer finger for me to come closer and I followed his silent command. I knew instinctively there was no defying him.
“Phyllis, I want you to find Mark, give him two week’s pay, and tell him his services are no longer necessary.” He hung up the phone and faced me with a distasteful look on his face. Obviously, he
hadn't wanted to
fire the man.
My eyes narrowed. And I wasn’t about to pat him on the back because he’d fired someone. That’s not what I’d expected. The realization that someone had lost his job, took me aback.
“You can’t fire your driver.”
“But I thought you wanted the situation taken care of and that’s what I did. I’m afraid I don’t understand.” His face was painted with confusion.
“Of course you don’t. You sit up here and pull strings and someone loses his job. It’s nothing to you!”
When I looked at him again, he seemed genuinely surprised by my reaction. I was certain now that he wasn’t used to anyone daring to speak to him that way. His lips had become a straight line again and creases had formed on his forehead. He lowered his gaze, and his jaw twitched. I must have crossed an imaginary line. He tried valiantly to regain his composure. After a second, he looked up at me, his face showing none of his previous irritation.
“So what do you want, Ms. Stewart? I’ve fired the offending party. What else can I do to make this right?”
His words were said quietly, almost too quietly. I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where I was pitted against him because he’d win.
I swallowed hard and took several deep breaths before answering.
“I want you to fix the problem, Mr. Butler. The real problem. Send a memo to your men reminding them to be considerate of others and especially be mindful where they park. I do not want anyone losing their job over this.”
“Oh . . .” I deflated. The confrontation had cost me. My adrenaline had been fueling me and now I was depleted. As I began to sway, suddenly, he was at my side putting one arm under my knees while the other went around me, catching me before I fell. He carried me to a leather couch and set me down.
“Sydney, are you okay?” The concern in his voice warmed my heart. He might have some redeeming qualities after all. He held my hand again and I let him.
“Just give me a minute, please.” I needed the time to collect myself, and my thoughts. The electricity from his touch ran through me and sent sparks to places I had long forgotten, like jumpstarting a car. My clit gave an involuntary twitch but stopped just short of turning over.
“Can I get you anything?”
“No.” I reached up and brushed a strand of hair off my face. “I didn’t have time for breakfast this morning. I’ll be fine once I get my first cup of coffee.” My answer did nothing to lighten the mood or excuse my behavior.
The straight line of his lips was there again and the scowl was back. He got up and strode to the door, opening it. “Phyllis, get me a full breakfast—orange juice, eggs, toast, and some fruit.”
The breakfast was for me but I didn’t want him going to all that trouble.
“Please don’t bother. I’m fine.” I attempted to sit up. In what seemed like a flash he was at my side, standing over me.
Again with the orders, but nothing I said at this point would make a difference to him. So we stared at each other, neither one wanting to give in. “I need to get to work.”
“Not until you’ve eaten something.”
I caught myself before I laughed because my first instinct was to stick my tongue out at him. I was sure that he would not have the same appreciation for the act.
After a few moments, there was a knock on the door before it opened and Phyllis rolled in a cart carrying the requested breakfast items.
“Thank you, Phyllis,” he said tersely, with a nod.
“Certainly, sir. Is there anything else I can get for you?”
“No, thank you, this should be enough.”
Looking at all the food on the cart caused me to wonder who was going to eat all of it.
“Sydney, your breakfast,” Desmond pronounced as he rolled the cart over to me.
“I really appreciate this, but . . .”
“You will eat your breakfast,” Desmond stated. His phone rang and he headed back to his desk to answer it.
Looking at the food, my mouth actually watered. I picked up the glass of juice, taking delight in the fact that it tasted like freshly squeezed oranges, not the cheaper, watered-down kind I usually bought. Sighing, I spread strawberry jelly on a slice of the toast and ate half before trying the scrambled eggs. Everything was superb and before I realized it, there was little left on the plate.
When I looked up, he gave me an approving look which slammed me back to reality. Being in my own world of food heaven, I hadn’t noticed Desmond sitting quietly at his desk watching me; his fingertips pressed together making little tents.
“Well, um, thanks for the breakfast. It was wonderful. I enjoyed . . .”
“Most of it,” he finished.
“Yes, well, as I said before, I have to get to work. So if you could send that memo, I’d appreciate it.” I pushed the cart away and stood, brushing crumbs off my skirt. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Butler.” I extended my hand. “Thanks for the breakfast.”
He rose slowly and came around his desk. I quelled the desire to run away from him. This man was dangerous and exciting at the same time. I was in over my head dealing with him and I was glad that
normally have contact.
Or was I?
“Sydney.” The way he said my name washed over me like a caress. “I’ll see you.”
His hand went to the small of my back, very close to where the electric shocks I’d felt before were converging again. Just a couple more minutes and I was sure my internal motor would start. He led me toward the door, opening it for me. The phone in his office rang again. He hesitated for the briefest moment before giving me an apologetic smile.
“You’d better get that.”
“They can wait.”
His words warmed me. I headed toward the elevators, giving Phyllis and the receptionist smiles as I did. Desmond continued to walk me out to the lobby and to the elevators, where he pushed the down arrow. We waited; the silence deafening. “Thanks again for the breakfast. It was very nice of you, but I know you have a lot more important things to take care of this morning.”
The doors opened. As I stepped forward, he took my hand. “I’ll see you soon.”
I had no clue what to say to this, so I smiled while his touch caused a butterfly convention in my stomach.
As the doors closed, I had no idea what I had just agreed to with this man. I shivered, because the warmth was now gone.
A quick ride down ten floors and a few moments later, I entered the door of At Your Service. Although I hesitated to call it a job; I loved what I did. Starting by shopping for my friends, I’d built a reputation for being there for my clients and going the extra mile. If that meant I had to work through lunch or put in long hours, so be it.
Much later in the morning, back from an outside meeting with a client, I thought about my earlier encounter with the charismatic Desmond Butler. Maria gave me a big smile. When I opened my office
door, I understood
why. There was a vase containing two dozen blood-red roses at my desk. The arrangement was extravagant.
The card was signed “DB.”
Smiling, pleased that Mr. Desmond Butler must have been thinking about me, too.
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