Say My Name
I plaster on my reception desk smile. “It’s just that we’re kind of under the gun here, scheduling-wise.”
I think I hear curiosity in his voice, and since that’s better than bland disinterest, I allow a little spark of hope to rise.
“Yes. I told you earlier that—”
I fight back irritation. “Okay, then. So can we talk?”
For a second, he says nothing. Then he lifts the brunette’s hand and brushes his lips over her fingers. “I need a few minutes.”
Her back stiffens, but she doesn’t protest. Instead she shoots me a vitriol-filled look, spins on her heel, and stalks off toward the bar.
“You’ve got ten minutes to make your best pitch.” He glances casually at his watch. “I suggest you start.”
“What?” I say stupidly. “Here? Right now?”
From the expression on his face, I think he’s going to make me do just that. Then he shakes his head. “No. I think this is a conversation best had in private.” He nods toward the far side of the room. “Upstairs, at the far end past the bar there’s a door that leads to a row of offices. There’s a keypad for entry. The code is six-one-three-one. The last one on the corner is a small conference room. Michael’s been using it this week to prep for the event. We can talk there. Be there in five minutes, or don’t bother coming at all.”
And then he turns from me, takes two long strides, and melts into the crowd, leaving me scrambling to remember the code and figure out where exactly I’m supposed to go.
Still, I try to put the time to good use, and as I plow through the crowd and make my way to the upstairs doorway, I keep my head down and my eyes focused on my iPhone as I try to organize some photos. Because, dammit, I don’t have a projector, much less any sort of PowerPoint presentation. I’m going to have to entirely wing it—and I burst into the corner conference room with forty seconds to spare, albeit slightly out of breath and more than a little frazzled.
More so when I see Jackson. He’s already in the room, seated at the far end of a polished mahogany table. He leans back as he silently studies me.
Whereas I am certain I look disheveled and out of breath, Jackson appears just the opposite. He is strength and power.
Most of all, he is completely in control. Everything from his choice of this room to his selection of a seat. Hell, even his decision not to rise when I entered was a deliberate power play.
It’s a trick I’ve seen Damien use over and over. The idea is to intimidate. To claim control of the room and make sure that everyone who enters knows who holds the power. All in all, I have to admit that Jackson is putting that trick to pretty good use. Because right now there is no doubt that I’m the supplicant here. And pretty damned intimidated, too.
Yeah, well, to hell with that. Aren’t I the one with the opportunity? Aren’t I the one who can hand him the project of a lifetime?
Damn straight, and so I take a step forward, determined to make him realize that while he might have granted me this meeting, I’m now the one who is running the show. “You said ten minutes, Mr. Steele. I can convince you in five.”
His expression is almost amused. “I’m listening.”
“I don’t blame you for rejecting the idea initially. I understand that our past factors into this, and that seeing me was a shock. But that’s a knee-jerk reaction. This isn’t personal. It’s business. And you’re about to see just what an excellent business opportunity it is.”
“Not personal? Everything between you and me is personal, Sylvia, and you damn well know it.”
“Because you’re making it that way. You want to be pissed? Fine. Be pissed. But take me out of the equation.”
“You’re not the only stumbling block, I assure you.”
“So I’ve heard. The rising star Jackson Steele doesn’t want to be lost in the sweep of Damien Stark’s shadow. Well, let me tell you something about Damien Stark,” I say before Jackson has the chance to get a word in. “The man is brilliant at business. He’s a goddamn powerhouse on the tennis court. And if the last charity event I saw him at with his wife is any indication, he’s one hell of a fine dancer, too. But he can’t do this.”
I slide my phone across the table, open to the image of the Winn Building that is the first in a slideshow of Jackson Steele buildings.
“That’s you,” I say as the images scroll. “Your buildings. Your talent. What you do with form, with structure, it takes my breath away.” I pause just long enough to emphasize my point. “This isn’t just a Stark project. This is my project. And with you on board it will be a Jackson Steele project, too.”