Book 1: Revolving Door
The tick-tock of the mini grandfather clock reminded me to watch the time. “So can I tell him yes?” came Ann’s high-pitched voice over the phone. Her enthusiasm was not surprising.
“No. No way.”
“You really need to get out more, Vee.”
“So you keep telling me.” I grimaced, glad she couldn't see me.
“It’s been too long. You know I’m right.”
“There’s no rush. Seriously.”
“Clean out the cobwebs, open the windows, and just get the hell out there,” Ann sang.
“No, I’m your best friend. And it takes one to know one.” She laughed.
“I have to go, or I’ll be late for work. And when did you start getting up so early?”
“I told you, I’m your best friend. Call me later.”
“Same here. Bye.”
Today was a big deal, and I’ve dressed the part. I had meticulously blow-dried my hair and liked how I looked in a navy blazer and white blouse.
As a recent hire at Oliver and Harold, I was joining my boss, Paul Anders, at the Paramount Hotel in Toronto.
We were meeting with lawyers from Laurier and Stone on the merger of two banks—E&B Dominion, their client, and Berkley’s, who was ours.
I made my way down the street. Damn, I’d forgotten my hat. But I wasn’t going back; I could see the speckled steps of the subway just ahead of me.
It was rush hour, so the howl of the oncoming train made me and the crowd move a little faster.
Back on the street, I wrapped my red scarf tightly around my neck. There was an advertisement for an exhibit at the museum in May, the French Royals. That might be interesting.
I walked another block, and the Paramount was just ahead. Checking that I had everything in my bag, I blindly took a step forward. Bang! My laptop bag brought the revolving door to a sudden halt.
Startled, I looked up. There was a man stuck between the glass panels. His dark blue eyes drew me in. I blinked—his face was a piece of rare art. He was absolutely stunning.
Collecting myself, I said, “I’m so sorry, I should’ve been watching where I was going.”
The man looked down at me. His almost-black hair was short and layered, and he was impeccably dressed. He had a navy woolen coat draped over his arm.
I wanted to tell him it was cold out so he should put his coat on, but I didn’t.
The man had a dignified manner and reprimanded me with just his look. Stepping aside, I looked up at him, and he stared down at me with no change in his expression.
My eyes demanded another look and followed him down the hotel steps. As he was about to get into a black sedan, he glanced back, and our eyes met just before I went inside to meet Paul.
We were meeting in the Bayview Room on the third floor. Just as the elevator door was about to open, I heard Paul’s friendly voice coming from behind. “Good morning, Violet.”
“Morning. Are you all psyched up for the meeting today?”
“It’s all I’ve been thinking about since we left the office on Friday. Do you have our files?” I nodded and pointed to my bag.
Inside the room, I pulled the blinds halfway down, still allowing in some natural light. There were eight black leather chairs around a boardroom table and two flipcharts off to the side.
I set up my laptop on the left, closest to the electrical socket. Paul motioned to ask if I wanted a coffee.
“No thanks,” I responded.
He poured one for himself, then took the seat next to mine and began flipping through the files in preparation for the meeting. Two of our associates, David Hershey and Mark Burns, came into the room.
Paul was meeting with Adam Stone, the senior partner at Laurier and Stone. From what he’s told me, Mr. Stone was renowned for heading up the merger of two major international fast food companies.
It wasn’t easy as both were key players in the market. But, apparently, he had managed to find common ground, resulting in a successful merger for them and a very lucrative deal for himself.
The merger was in the news and made international headlines. He was only twenty-five at the time. Shortly after, he partnered with Laurier, the opposing lawyer.
Just before nine, a man and woman came in and introduced themselves as associate lawyers from Laurier and Stone. They informed us that Mr. Stone was only minutes behind them, wrapping up a conference call.
My spine forced me fully upright. The tall and well-dressed man coming into the room was the same one I had trapped this morning. Paul walked over to greet Mr. Stone.
“Adam, it’s nice to see you again.” Paul shook his hand.
“Good morning, and thanks for making the arrangements to meet here.” He had a deep, masculine voice that could easily be on radio or television. He nodded at his two lawyers and then at David and Mark.
Paul looked my way. “This is my paralegal, Violet Cole. She’ll be taking notes for us. I hope that’s okay.”
Mr. Stone walked over, extending his hand as I stood up. “Good morning. You look familiar.” He squeezed my hand, and I swallowed as some magnetic force swept over me. “It’s nice to meet you.”
My cheeks felt like cherry tomatoes. “Good morning, Mr. Stone. It’s nice to meet you too.”
He stared with a slight smile, and I stared back until I realized I was standing in the middle of a room with six lawyers. I took my seat and watched Mr. Stone walk to his side of the table.
As the meeting began, I diligently paid attention. There was something about the banks’ computer systems not being compatible. At one point, Mr. Stone said, “Are you okay over there?”
I looked his way. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks.” He nodded, seeming satisfied.
Lunch was being catered, but I needed some air. “Paul, I’m stepping out for a bit. Do you need anything?”
He looked appreciatively at me. “No, I think we’re good here.”
“Back for one?” I asked. Paul nodded before turning to David, who was asking him a question.
On my way down the stairs, I bundled up in my coat and scarf. The clouds were heavy when I looked up. I found a coffee shop down the street and sat on one of the barstools by the window with a latte and apple crumble.
Now and then, my mind wandered back to him, the renowned corporate lawyer, and I could hear Ann’s voice in my head, “You need to get out more.”
I had to admit, I was excited that I had a few more hours with him this afternoon. I thought back to the encounter at the revolving door.
His eyes—they had looked right through me, I was sure of it. I wondered what he had seen. I hoped it wasn’t… I shrugged it off as I picked up my fork.
I checked my watch and I headed back. Two accountants have joined the table of lawyers. Mr. Stone was saying to one of them, “I reviewed the Excel spreadsheets, and—” He looked up when I walked in and smiled.
At three, we took a break. On my way back from the restroom, he was coming down the corridor. As he stopped in front of me, I was forced to look into those dark-blue eyes again.
He took a manly stance, leaning a broad shoulder against the wall, the top of his shirt tightening around clear-cut muscle. When the air stopped, I realized it was me not breathing.
His magnetism consumed me and made my mouth dry. Then, with a voice like red silk, he said, “Are you managing to stay awake with all that legal jargon flying around?”
My lips felt parched when I opened them. “It’s not so bad, and I’m learning how to negotiate.”
“I hope I’m not giving away all my secrets.” He was smiling now. “I’ll see you back in there then.”
Then I watched as he strutted down the corridor. My insides buzzed, and I had to take a deep breath before going back into the room.
The meeting wrapped up at 6:30. I texted Ann to see if she could meet up for dinner.
Meet at our deli, see ya. xo, she replied. “Our deli” had delicious, inexpensive wine, which was why we liked it so much. They also made a mean corned beef on rye sandwich.
As I got to the train platform, a thirty-minute delay was announced. I was tired, but I decided to walk and texted Ann to let her know.
Then I ran back up the stairs. As Murphy’s Law would have it, giant snowflakes flew around my head as I walked out of the station. I wished then I’d gone back for my damn hat.
The wind gusted as I went back in the direction I’d come from. Head down, I walked faster on the now slick pavement. Three more steps, and bang, I’ve bumped into someone.
Thankful for not falling, I looked up. It was him. Shit! I was standing outside the hotel I’d just left.
“Are you okay?” He touched my shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Are you?” I was embarrassed for the second time today.
He looked down at himself. “Yes, perfect. Where are you rushing to?”
“I’m meeting a friend for dinner. There’s a delay, so I thought I’d walk.”
The black sedan pulled up, and a driver stepped out to take his laptop bag. Mr. Stone nodded at him and turned back to me. “I can drop you off if you like.”
“It’s really okay. I can walk.”
He looked at my hair blowing around my face and opened the car door. I had no choice but to get in or look rude. He slid in beside me and smiled.
I was now sitting next to the opposition and hoped to hell Paul didn’t walk out and see us.
“Where to?” he asked, and I told the driver. The plush seats and the warmth of the car felt good. “We seem to keep bumping into each other. Is it your boyfriend you’re meeting for dinner?”
I looked sideways and tried to keep breathing this time. He was hard to read, which made me nervous, and his natural height was intimidating inside the car. “No, my friend Ann.”
“That’s nice. Is it a good restaurant? Should I check it out?”
“It’s just a small deli, and we like it.”
“It must be good if you keep going back. If I weren’t busy, I’d join you.” He grinned to himself.
“Really?” I could only imagine Ann’s face if I walked in with him. She’d soon forget about any cobwebs.
“Yes, really. I always mean what I say.” My mouth felt dry again, and it was hard to swallow.
It wasn’t long before we were in front of the deli, and the driver opened my door. When I looked over at Mr. Stone, he nodded goodbye.
As I was halfway out of the car, he grabbed my hand. “Hey, remember to watch where you’re going.”
“I will.” He gave my hand another good squeeze, and I froze. Finally, I managed to say, “Thanks for the drive.”
Ann was at our regular table, and when I looked back, the sedan was still out front. I hugged Ann as she got up, and when I looked back again, the car was pulling away from the curb.
I had to admit I missed living with Ann some days, but other days I was glad for the privacy. This I would enjoy until my new roommate moved in at the end of August.
Brian was in his last year of a math degree and expected to be out of town with his girlfriend on most weekends. That was one of the reasons I chose him from the long list of applicants.
Ann and I ordered our usual corned beef on rye and the house red wine. I told Ann about the long day without mentioning any company names. “I expect the week to be a repeat of today—start early and finish late.”
“That’s going to make for a long week. So how the hell do you stay awake?”
I grinned. “The other senior partner is really hot.”
“What? Like you-want-to-date hot or just a little simmer?”
“You’re such a drama queen.” We both laughed. “He’s probably taken anyways. A girl can dream, though.”
Ann was smiling. “Maybe he’s the push you need to start dating again. So what do you like about him?”
“I don’t really know anything about him other than what Paul’s told me. My guess is he’s twenty-eight or nine, tall, with dark hair and blue eyes.
“He made a name for himself with that fast food merger that was in the news a few years ago.”
Ann put her wine glass down. “You noticed his eyes. That says something.”
“Is that all you heard?” I laughed. “It’s a silly five-second crush, and I’ll probably never see him again anyway.” The thought bothered me.
“I saw you get out of a car. Was that Paul dropping you off?”
“No, it was him. We ran into each other on my way here. It started to snow, and he was probably coming this way anyway.”
“He’s a gentleman. That’s nice.”
“Enough. How’s Ted doing?”
She beamed. “Everything’s going really well, and I like coming home to him. Remember I had my doubts?” I nodded. “I’m so happy, Vee.”
“You’re good together, and you’re both awesome.”
When we finished, we made our way to the train. Ann’s came first, leaving me waiting for mine.
It didn’t take long for Adam Stone and his paralyzing eyes to flash through my mind, and I wondered what he had seen when he looked right through me.
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