By: Sienna Mynx

“Ma’am, he asked that I escort you over.”

Kassidy’s heart leaped. She grabbed her purse and scarf, and left her seat. For her first face to face meeting with Tarek Kassidy wore a dark blue fitted strapless dress with a short waist blazer. Kassidy had a figure like her mother, or so she was told. She was trim at her waistline but curvy in the hips and breasts. She felt the stares of other men whether she wore sweat pants or yoga pants. And in this dress the simple sway of her hips made half the restaurant silent, and watchful. Tarek glanced up at her and his gaze meshed with hers. The midnight darkness of his stare refused to release her. She drew close. His hardened features didn’t look as menacing. She absorbed the impact of his handsomeness. Tarek had a squared jawline, perfectly sculpted bone structure, and high cheekbones. His mouth was wide and sensual. A slight tilt to the corner and awareness seeped through her veins. It made her body tingle with a deep yearning that she would never admit too.

Kassidy put on a sweet smile for him before taking her seat. “Mr. Marshall, I'm Angela Brown. I'm so pleased to finally meet you.”

Tarek stood. He grew in height before her. She remembered him to be tall when she was younger, but often attributed that memory to her youth. He was exceptionally tall, sheathed in an expertly cut dark grey suit. He had a woodsy, spice aftershave smell with a tinge of something akin to cider.

Kassidy extended her hand to him to keep the formality in place. He looked at her fingers and then his gaze lifted to level on her eyes. She stood stark still and kept her hand extended and waited. This only occurred in a matter of seconds, but for her it felt like hours. Never in her life had she been this nervous. Tarek’s large hand closed over her palm and fingers with gentle pressure and he accepted her handshake. His calloused palm glided slow and easy across hers as their hands parted. Instantly she felt an almost sensual welcoming—but she would not trust it. The darkness never left his eyes. He gestured for her to sit. She handed her things to the hostess and joined him. A wine glass was put before Kassidy. Whatever he was drinking with his dinner, before his scotch was poured from the bottle for her.

“You're a financial consultant?” he asked and flipped her business card back and forth between his three middle fingers as a magician would do a coin that he’d make disappear. Even though the chair he occupied was straight-back he sat with a leaned posture and his gaze trained on her.

“I am one of many consultants you've met at this convention I'm sure. But yes, I specialize in asset management, capital markets, mining, oil and gas industries. When I heard that this year MGS (Marshall Global Solutions) would be hosting The Natural Gas and Energy Expo I was excited to attend. Your company has an impressive global footprint.”

“And we have more consultants than we need,” he said.

“I like to consider myself more than just a consultant. Actually I disavow the word.”

“Disavow?” Tarek chuckled.

Kassidy smiled for him. “Consulting is a very broad, and misleading term. I'm more of an advisory. I work directly with my clients to give them guidance in their blind spots.”

“You think my company has blind spots?” Tarek asked. The tension in her stomach radiated out. Its heat weakened her limbs and her tongue. The gleam in his eyes was his only warning. He was reading her, really probing, and she felt almost like he could pry into her mind. Was that his magic trick?

“I think your company continues to win in the industry because you know oil. But if you really want to get the drilling up through the Midwest, you will need to know congress. And I can help,” she hurried through her line like that of a robot. And she knew it sounded rehearsed. Damn him. Would he stop with the flipping of her business card between his three fingers?

“Who have you lobbied for?” he replied in a dull uninterested manner. He wasn’t taking her seriously. But he was staring into her eyes.

“Brown and Associates, L&Y, Tristan Entities,” she said. “I interned for Congressman Nathan Dixon while in undergrad, and went in my lobbyist role soon after.”

An awkward silence followed her answer. And then the card stopped flipping. He set it flat to the surface of the table and pinned it there with his pointer finger. And then he began to tap it. Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap.

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