Authors: Ambrielle Kirk
Alexia would be out of her element and he would be encircled in his. She hadn’t forgotten that he was the type of business man that thrived on social networking. People automatically flocked to him. Not only was he extremely attracted, but once people got to know him they all agreed that he was a down to earth guy. That simple fact hadn’t changed since high school. He was, indeed, the extrovert.
A soft gust of night air hit her legs when Shawn opened the door. He reached inside and offered his hand. She took one last swallow and accepted.
The Brownstone Country Club was famous for being the oldest, most well established meeting place in the town. It was undoubtedly where the elite class in town came to talk about money, spend money, and make money.
“Thanks for joining me,” Shawn said as they walked to the entrance. “I have to admit that I felt completely out of element the last couple of times I was here.”
“Why? I thought you loved the crowd.”
“I do. Some of Brownstone’s members are already my clients, but I’ve never considered myself as…on their level.”
Alexia turned to assess him and contemplate his statement in disbelief. “Don’t pretend you’re not making enough dough. Isn’t it why you got the invite?”
He smiled and shrugged. “Could be. They’ve been soliciting my membership for a while now.”
“You’d fit right in.”
“You know, thirty years ago, someone like me would never have been welcomed in this place. It’s one reason why no one in my family is a member.”
Alexia’s eyes swept over him. Not many people knew that Shawn was the product of an interracial marriage. He took after his Caucasian father, all the way down to his good looks. She had never seen his African American mother in person, but it was said that she worked in Europe as a model before meeting Shawn’s father.
“Times have changed, Shawn,” she said.
“Yes, they have.”
As soon as they entered the place, they were greeted right away by a host and offered drinks. Naturally, Shawn charmed everyone he came in contact with. Not one time did he fail to introduce her, but Alexia knew who they were really interested in. She was by no means jealous. As far as she was concerned, she had a lot to learn from Shawn.
Alexia downed the rest of her champagne just as they took a seat at an empty table.
Shawn got the attention of a server and placed two more glass of champagne between them. “That wasn’t so bad. This is where I usually take a breather. As I thought, I know most of the folks in here.” He tipped his chin the direction of the outdoor patio. “Including the owner. At most of these events, I get a lot of referrals. That’s how most of my leads come. By word of mouth. Now is the time when I assess who I don’t know. If they’re not interested, they usually have a friend or family member who is.”
“So, it’s all about the business…even at personal events.”
“Half of my clients are met on leisure time. I may not have offered anything to them at first meeting, but once they learn about what I do for a living and how I’ve helped people, it’s not long before they’re asking what I can do to help them. On the other hand, I run an office in the city, so I do obtain drive-by clientele.”
She grinned. “Cool. You seem to have enough knowledge and experience to gain trust with someone’s money.”
“Knowledge, experience, a proven system, and track record…all that is key to attaining the client’s trust. Here’s one way of looking at it, and also an example I use with my clients…If you weren’t a mechanic, would you change your own oil, repair your own transmission, or even rebuild your engine. I don’t get many mechanics seeking my help, unfortunately, but most of them would never attempt to do those things on their own and risk ruining something they saved up many years to obtain. The same way people trust you to fix their cars, is the same way they trust me to fix their debt or money problems.”
It was no wonder that Shawn was so successful. Back in the day, he had the charm to talk the panties off many girls…now that same charisma was used to get big spenders to open their wallets. Alexia couldn’t blame him. He made his living doing what he knew how to do best.
She picked up her chilled champagne and took a sip. “I guess at some point we should talk about how you might be able to help the Reilly business. Maybe—”
“Hey, Shawn! Is that you?”
Alexia looked up from her glass. There was a red-headed woman rushing toward them. By the eager look on her face, she’d been the one who’d interrupted her and made the outburst. A man followed closely behind her.
“What are you doing here?” she asked Shawn, then smoothed the back of her short white sundress and plopped down in the seat next to him.
“Elizabeth…hi,” Shawn said, suddenly straightening his back in his chair. He stood and offered a hand to what appeared to be the red head’s date or husband. “Shawn Morgan.”
Rick sized up Shawn with a strained smile on his face, and took a seat next to Elizabeth.
Alexia had learned how to read body language during her lawyer days, and Shawn looked as uncomfortable as an army recruit being interrogated by his Drill Sergeant. What did this woman do to make him look unnerving?
“This is Alexia Reilly,” Shawn said, turning to introduce her.
Elizabeth gave her a quick sweeping look with a slight frown on her face, and muttered, “Hi.”
“Hi.” Alexia grabbed her drink and took a long sip. It was apparent that she’d come to see Shawn all along.
“How are things at the office?” she asked him. “Have they found my replacement?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, they have. Our new receptionist started last month.”
“It didn’t take long, huh?” Elizabeth shrugged, and then smiled brightly. “Hey, I heard you were up for district manager.”
Shawn nodded. “Word does get around.”
“Excuse me.” Rick placed his hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “The table we asked to be seated at is vacant.”
“Well, what’s wrong with sitting here?”
Rick got up and put both hands on the back of her chair. Alexia thought he would pull it out from under her, but Elizabeth gave Shawn an indifferent look and finally got up from the table.
“Nice seeing you again, Shawn.” She waved a hand, and following behind her date.
Alexia couldn’t help but to laugh. She covered her lips with her fingers. “Well, that was certainly…strange. Let me guess…your ex?”
Shawn turned and lifted an eyebrow. “Not entirely.”
“What does that mean?”
He shifted in his seat. “That’s not something I’d rather talk about. Not here. Not with you.”
She shrugged. “Oh, I get it. I’m not privileged to that information.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Well…I asked you what you meant.”
Shawn exhaled loudly. “Okay. She’s someone I met right before she got hired with our company. It was a short fling.”
It all made sense now. The way he looked on in surprise at Elizabeth. The way he shifted in his chair as she spoke. These were the actions of a man who was embarrassed, and maybe a little regretful about the encounter.
“So, is that the kind of woman you prefer?” Alexia asked, nonchalantly.
“My type?” Shawn wrinkled his nose as he glanced at her in deep thought. “Sometimes you don’t know what you prefer until she’s staring you directly in the face.”
Alexia dropped her gaze to the table when he refused to stop staring at her. “Don’t you ever answer questions directly?”
“Nah.” Shawn shook his head. “She’s easily influenced. Something like you…on the other hand…”
“You’re right.” Alexia matched his smile. “Someone like me isn’t so easily influenced. And I’m not quite convinced that you would know what you wanted even if she was staring you directly in the face.”
“And she is…”
She shook her head. “I’m not your type.”
“Are you telling me?” He raised an eyebrow. “Or asking me?”
“In all honesty, Mr. Morgan, I’m a grown ass woman now. I’m not the innocent girl who you stole the calculator from long ago. I doubt you would be able to handle me now.”
Shawn grinned. “With all due respect, Ms. Reilly, I’ve been known to prove people wrong.”
Shawn would have never thought that he’d catch himself daydreaming this long about a woman. He didn’t remember over the last year about a time when he thought heavily about anything other than making his bank account bigger or developing a plan to retire over the next five years. It was easy to delve on materialistic things when you had nothing else that truly mattered. Besides spending time with his mother on routine occasions, he couldn’t recall going out of his way to please or impress anyone else.
As he entered his home through the garage, he threw his keys down on the island in the center of the kitchen. Just as he leaned to grab a beer from the refrigerator, he noticed the blinking red lights on his answering machine. Every day, after work he came home to at least a dozen phone calls. There was always one that caused him to pull out his briefcase and work after hours and sometimes throughout the night.
To hell with those calls tonight, there was someone else on his mind.
He took a swig of beer, and then pulled his cell phone from his pocket. It had been several days since he’d last talked to Alexia. Most of their calls were short and had been strictly business. He’d find out right now if he was meant to stay home on a Friday night hunched over his laptop crunching numbers.
The phone rang three times before Alexia picked up. “This is Alex.”
Her voice was a breath of fresh air, and he caught himself smiling as he walked past the foyer and into the living room. “It’s Shawn.”
There was a bit of silence on the other end. “You know what? I totally forgot I was supposed to call you back yesterday about the CDs. I got tied up in things at the shop.”
“I figured you were busy. Are you still at work?” He hoped he didn’t catch her at a bad time.
“I’m on the way to pick up dinner, and then I’m heading home.”
His shoulders drooped. It was probably a bad idea to ask her out on a date after a long week. He didn’t want to seem to be a bother. “This is probably bad timing, and you can say no or leave me alone or whatever, but…”
“I bought two spa packages earlier this morning and I was wondering if you would go with me. I talked to a few people and they’ve said nothing but good things about being pampered at the spa. I thought we could both use it.”
Her silent treatment was torture as he waited for her to speak. Shawn ran his hand through his head, and tried again. “The certificates are good for any day of the week, so if you’re busy tonight, I’ll understand.”
“A spa visit sounds tempting.”
Shawn grinned. “So, is that a yes?”
“Yes. I’ll be ready in about an hour.”
“I don’t want you to starve. I’ll make reservations for dinner. Which restaurant? Your choice.”
“I like Italian.”
As she and Shawn sat in the quiet dimly lit room following their massages, Alexia tried to recall the last time she ever felt so relaxed and stress-free. The tranquil, floral-infused ambience together with the soft music made her forget about those business matters that always tended to be so burdensome.
Alexia took a deep breath and took another sip of her chilled wine. She glanced over at Shawn who sat beside her on the chaise lounge with his eyes closed and face tilted to the ceiling.
“Thank you for the chance to just relax,” she said.
He turned to glance at her, and his thigh slightly brushed hers once more. “I’m glad you came along with me. I’d say that we both needed and deserved this.”
“Dinner was nice as well. I’ve never had Italian prepared quite like that.”
“We should do this together more often.”
She smiled. “Are you asking me out again?”
“I am. You don’t stress me out.” He downed the rest of his drink, and set it out the table beside him. “I regret that so many years passed until we met again.”
“But we barely knew each other in high school.”
“I feel like I’ve known you forever, you know, like we’re old friends.
He hit the nail right on the head. She felt that he was definitely friend material. “The massage therapist must have sensed that. I can’t believe she thought we were a couple.”
Shawn pointed to the mirror in front of them. “Well, we would make a damn fine couple.”
Alexia laughed. “You’re funny.”
His expression turned serious. “What’s so funny about that?”
She shrugged, and looked in the mirror at their reflections. With nothing on other than a robe and her unruly hair up in a ponytail, she wasn’t exactly dressed to impress. Good thing they had dinner first, as the moisture from the steam room had definitely messed up her hair and makeup.
They sat shoulder to shoulder on the chaise. Shawn’s robe was slightly open in the front, showing off a hint of muscles. He was certainly a heartthrob with his exceptionally good looks and chiseled facial features, but for her, personality was most important over looks.
The thing was, he had an outgoing personality and high-achieving work ethics. In her book, that was personality worth having, but why would he be interested in an ex-lawyer, former geek, turned entrepreneur like her?
He met her eyes in the mirror. “What are you thinking about?”
He lifted her feet with his own, so that their ankles were crossed with each other’s. His feet were surprisingly smooth, not rough as she would expect from a man.
“Reveal one thing about yourself that you haven’t already told me,” he demanded.
“Ummm…my favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry.”
He laughed. “I meant something more personal, but we can play this game. I prefer chocolate. Tell me something else.”
“I like playing and dancing in the rain.”
“Hmmm.” He pretended to think. “I’m not much of a cook in the kitchen, but I can grill a mean steak.”
She giggled. “Well sometimes you have to burn up a few good pots before you can declare yourself a cook.”
“This is true.” He nodded. “What else?”