His Indecent PropositionBy: Aphrodite Hunt
She glares balefully at him as he turns tail and walks off. The elevator doors hiss shut again, and it’s up, up, up to top.
Her nerves are jangling when the doors slide open to reveal a wide passageway. At the end of it is the CEO’s office. It takes up almost the entire floor.
Susan steps out. She is wearing red heels, and they sink into the blue and cream carpet. Her blouse is red silk and her skirt is a pencil-silhouetted tartan. She looks every inch the powerhouse professional, or so she hopes.
Her steps are strident until she gets closer and closer to the office, and then she falters.
Why oh why am I so nervous?
Relax, you’ve got the goods. So what if Leonard gets the job? At least you’ve given it your best shot.
But I don’t want him to get the job! He’s never going to let me live it down!
Straightening her back with new resolve, she resumes her gait to the CEO’s office.
Ms. Radcliffe, the forty-something year old Executive Assistant who has been with the company since its inception, looks up.
“Right on time, Ms. Chalmers.” She smiles.
“Please call me Susan.” Never hurts to get on the Executive Assistant’s side.
“Go right in. He’s waiting for you.” Ms. Radcliffe jerks her head. “Good luck.”
Her nerve bundles are starting to fire up again. Susan swallows, grips both her fists, composes herself and heads in.
And almost stumbles.
The man sitting behind the large mahogany desk has always unsettled her, and even more so now. Channing Crawford is in his late thirties and he radiates a magnetic aura of great power. He doesn’t look his age though. He looks younger, possibly because he is so fit.
He is handsome – almost unspeakably so. His blue eyes are sparkling and vivid in a well-chiseled face. He has marvelous bone structure – a structure she can well imagine on ancient Greek kings and war frescoes. His dark hair is razor shorn into a buzz cut, and his body is bulked up and magnificent under his dark suit. His lips have a determined and ruthless streak to them.
She can’t look away from his eyes. Her knees begin to wobble again.
Damn. Now you remember why you take great pains to avoid meeting this man.
Not helping are the rumors of how he found his fortune. It isn’t a matter of luck or investment, though those came much later. Channing Crawford, William Peterson and Derek Fulham were Iraqi war veterans – battle-scarred and hardened army officers who had been decorated for many acts of valor. In Iraq, they had found hoarded gold bullion and claimed their share of the spoils.
The rumors speculated that the way they found the gold was not without bloodshed. Iraqi warlords were involved, even organized crime. There were whispers of a bloody raid, the detonation of an entire citadel and a chase across the desert.
Of course, no one could ever confirm what happened. Only Channing Crawford, William Peterson and Derek Fulham knew exactly what went down, and they weren’t telling.
With this gold, they came back to America and founded the company. William Peterson was killed in a surfboarding accident (also raising suspicions) and Derek Fulham sold his shares to Channing two years later. Now Channing Crawford holds the share majority in a company that has capital investments as far as China, Bolivia and the Middle East.
Susan can now feel the weight of speculative history emanating from this magnificent specimen of a man – mixed with a thrilling splash of mystery and danger. It’s as if she’s face to face with a drug lord, not a CEO of a much-admired company.
This is a mistake. She shouldn’t have come here.
Then she thinks of Leonard Drake in this very room, facing Channing Crawford down. Her mouth sets into a determined line. If you can’t bear to be in the same room as Channing Crawford, then you have no business being a VP of this company.
Channing says, “Yes? Susan Chalmers, isn’t it? You wanted to see me?”
Direct and right to the point. No pleasantries required.
“Yes, Mr. Crawford. I came to see you about the Vice-President’s job. I’m going to tell you why I think I deserve it.”
Before she can lose her nerve, she rushes into her well-rehearsed spiel about her list of accomplishments within the company. And yes, it’s a long list. As she states each achievement and contract she has brought in by rote – without once referring to any piece of paper – her voice grows steadier and her back becomes straighter.
Why, she thinks proudly, I do deserve this job.
Channing Crawford listens to her monologue with an intense look in his blazing blue eyes. When she finally finishes, he says, “Impressive, Susan.”
“Thank you, Mr. Crawford.” She has been standing all this while, and now her knees have a sudden urge to buckle.