However Long It Lasts!
The bodyguard watched as the rental car paused at the entrance to corporate headquarters. He watched the gatekeeper lean into the driver's window, nod his head and raise the gate for the car to pass through. He had been waiting at the front entryway to the building, and now he stepped to the curb and watched as the driver opened the passenger's door. He was there to greet the CEO's next appointment and escort her to the penthouse office.
He wasn't expecting a Rottweiler to jump out and was momentarily startled. The dog had to be about 100 lbs. and it sniffed him very deliberately. The driver held the slender hand of an attractive woman, helping her from the car.
She spoke softly. "Thank you, Matthews." Looking in front of her, she spoke to the dog. "Ivan, I need you. Come to me." The dog nosed her hand and she took hold of his collar with her left hand.
The man's first impression of her was very favorable. Trim and very pretty. Before he had time to get a closer look, he was startled once again. Another Rottweiler followed her out of the car. This one was smaller than the first, but only slightly, and it immediately leaned on the woman's other side.
"Emma Rose, you're too heavy. Stand, please."
"Ma'am," he said. "I'm Jonesy, Mr. Davidson's personal assistant. I'm here to escort you to his office." He nodded at her. "If you'll just follow me." He wondered what his boss was going to say about her dogs. I wonder why she brought them.
"Jonesy? If you would give me your left elbow," she said, continuing to speak softly, but firmly. "I'll be able to follow you better."
"I'm Pirco Jameson. The chairman of your board of directors told me he would..." she paused. "He didn't tell you, did he?"
"No, ma'am, he didn't. But I know now." Jonesy stepped to her right, in front of the smaller of the two dogs and placed her right hand on his left elbow. I wonder if the boss knows she's blind.
Carefully and with gentleness, Jonesy led the way, guiding her into the building, signed for her visitor's pass, and hooked it to the strap on her shoulder bag. He led her into the elevator, sidestepping the two large animals hugging her side.
She kept a hand on the larger dog while the other one sat directly behind her.
"What are the dogs' names, ma'am?"
"This is Ivan," she nodded to the one she was touching. He's 120 pounds of loving protection and he's my eyes. The little girl behind us is my sweet Emma Rose. She weighs 100 pounds, and she's the mischief maker - always poking her nose where it doesn't belong."
"I see you don't use a harness and neither of them are wearing 'guide dog' jackets. Does Ivan ever get away from you, ma'am?" It was hard not to admire the handsome animals but he couldn't help wondering why she had two of them in attendance.
"No, he doesn't. Ivan never leaves my side. And he doesn't like the harness. It restricts his movements and when he's in a hurry, it gets in the way. As for the guide dog jackets, it invites conversation from people I don't know. Fewer people notice me and... I prefer it that way."
Jonesy arched a brow but didn't respond to her cryptic statement as the elevator doors opened on the penthouse floor.
"A cup of coffee while you're waiting, Ms. Jameson?"
"Yes, please. That would be nice."
The busy outer office adjacent to the break room came to a dead stop when everyone spotted the two large dogs. Conversations halted and most of the staff stood very still. Most wanted to immediately pet the dogs but easily recognized that they were working dogs and didn't want to create a scene.
"Will you be comfortable waiting here, Ms. Jameson or... perhaps, you'd would rather come into the break room with me?"
"I know I'm more than a few minutes early Jonesy, and if it's all right, I'd rather go with you. I really could use a cup of coffee right now." He placed his hand on hers, making sure she held onto his elbow and led her to the small kitchen area.
Pirco released her hold on Ivan's collar and both dogs obediently trotted behind her. When Jonesy told her they were at the kitchen door, she told both dogs to sit and stay. They sat on either side of the door, like guardian sentinels, Ivan's ears twitching and tuned toward the kitchen - Emma Rose's eyes on the people in the office, her ears aimed forward.
She was just sipping her coffee when Carl Davidson, the company's CEO, decided to stretch his legs and head toward the kitchen for a cup of the same. He wanted to get a refill before his next appointment and he didn't want to exchange small talk with his secretary. The chairman of his board was his former college roommate as well as a close personal friend and had asked him to help the woman resolve a problem surrounding monetary benefits for a friend of hers. It wasn't really his department, but his friend, Marley, considered the matter personal. Carl respected Marley's judgement and would respond to the request, look into the matter or assign it to one of his staff members. He also didn't understand why Jonesy had to escort her into the building. It wasn't that difficult to find his office.
When he spotted the dogs, his eyebrows rose, his curiosity piqued and his quick temper began to simmer. What the hell? There had better be a good explanation for this. The dogs sniffed his legs as he strode past them into the kitchen, but stayed in their position just outside the door.
Entering the kitchen, Carl barely opened his mouth. "Jonesy...?"
"Mr. Davidson. Sir, may I introduce Pirco Jameson, your next appointment?" Carl acknowledged the introduction, and with a curt nod, dismissed him. He turned to speak to the woman leaning against the counter, but she spoke first.
"Mr. Davidson?" Pirco smiled and extended her hand in front of her. Carl was standing just off to her side and smiled with understanding. Taking her hand, he greeted her warmly.
"Ms. Jameson, it's a pleasure to meet you." And it was. Carl liked what he saw. Her dark brown hair was cut Peter Pan style - like a pixie but slightly longer. She was trim - medium height, very easy to look at and curvy where he liked to see curves on a woman. He wanted to see her eyes, but the dark glasses she wore covered them.
Pirco liked the sound of his voice. It was a soft drawl and easy to listen to. "Your friend and colleague has told me all about you," she innocently remarked.
Carl raised his eyebrows, his lips curved in a slight smirk, thinking about what his old pal probably told her. "And what did he say?" he asked, grinning and admiring the pixie in front of him.
She couldn't see his facial expression but the sound of his voice told her that his question was slightly caustic. "Well, he said quite a bit about your character," she quipped with a slight chuckle. "And he said..." She paused in mid-sentence and looked in his direction. "Sir, do we have an audience?"
Carl laughed. "No, not yet, but I'm sure others will be in shortly - especially since everyone is curious about your dogs, including me. Why don't we go into my office?" he invited. "We'll have more privacy and you can tell me..." He bent his head to whisper next to her ear. "Everything!"
Pirco laughed softly. They were hitting it off right away and she was pleased. "You're smiling, aren't you?" He agreed. "That's a good sign. It means you can't be *all* bad."
With that cryptic statement, she smiled as well. Carl took her coffee mug, offered his elbow and escorted her to his office. Ivan was immediately at her left side, occasionally brushing his shoulder against her thigh so she'd know he was there. Emma Rose trotted behind them, briefly sniffing anyone they passed.
He settled her onto a comfortable couch and sat beside her while the dogs made themselves at home not far from her feet. "Are they always close by?" he asked, admiring their sleek good looks.
"Yes," she smiled, putting a hand down to touch Ivan's head. The large dog leaned his head back and nosed her hand. "This is Ivan. He's the good cop and is always within my reach. That troublemaker over there," she pointed in front of her, "is Emma Rose. She's the bad cop."
Carl reached for her hand and wrapped it around her coffee mug. He looked at the dog in question and thought she did seem to have a mischievous look about her. "What makes her a troublemaker?"
Pirco's face became more animated. "Emmero, short for Emma Rose, is one of those independent spirits. She's fairly diligent in taking care of me, but knows Ivan will pick up the slack. She teases him unmercifully... and he takes it." She put a hand to the side of her mouth and lowered her voice. "You'd think they were an old married couple and he's henpecked!" she whispered.
Carl laughed. "Does he mind?"
"No, not at all," she smiled. "Emmero does have a few faults that are troublesome, though," she explained. "She's generally nosy about other people's business and very short tempered. If she doesn’t like the tone of voice she hears when I'm having a conversation with someone, she gets in that person's face. Scares the devil out of everyone."
Looking at the large animals, Carl could understand that. "Whereas, my sweetie here, is always diligent in taking care of me. If someone gets angry with me or acts up, he warns them with a growl. Emmero skips the warning and just charges forward. It's often downright embarrassing and I have to explain her behavior."
"You call this big handsome fellow sweetie? He looks more like Ivan the Terrible."
Pirco looked in his direction. "He's actually more of a sweetie unless I'm threatened in any way. Does it bother you that they're here in your inner sanctum?"
"No," he chuckled. "It doesn't bother me. They're just doing their job, and what makes you think my office is an inner sanctum?"
Removing her glasses and lightly rubbing her eyes, she laughed softly. "I've heard this is where you... um, verbally discipline any staff that doesn't perform up to expectations. So, if this is where they get their... um, butts chewed..." She could feel the color begin to flood her face. "...Then it stands to reason that... I'm not saying this very well, am I?"
He had been grinning the whole time she was speaking and now he laughed out loud. "You're saying it very well. This is where my staff get their verbal discipline - when it's warranted," he confirmed, "and fortunately, that's rare." He focused on her eyes. They were a beautiful shade of gray - almost smoky. He thought she was lovely.
"Sort of like being sent to the principal's office for not toeing the line?"
"Sort of," he agreed. "Now, Ms. Jameson, before we get down to business, tell me what my old college roommate said about me. Perhaps, I'll be able to erase the slate and redeem myself."
"All of it?"
"All of it. I want to hear *every* word!"
"Maybe I shouldn't be holding this hot coffee. Can I... may I hold your hand while I tell you what he said? That way, I'll know where one of them is in the event you fly off the handle."
Carl chuckled, but agreed, taking her coffee and offering his left hand.
"Are you right handed, Mr. Davidson?"
"Yes, I am."
"Can I... may I hold that hand instead?"
"Yes, but why?"
She ignored his question and held his hand in both of hers. The size and apparent strength of his hand instantly struck her. Her hands were dwarfed by comparison. Carl was also immediately aware of how small and soft her hands were compared to his.
She spoke slowly. "Will you call me PJ? Pirco is such a formal name. Almost as bad as Ms. Jameson."
"PJ? I like that. All right, PJ. What did Marley tell you about me?"
"Well, he didn't mention anything about your curiosity."
Chuckling at her wit, he realized he felt very comfortable sitting next to her with the dogs at their feet.
"He did say you have a quick temper." She paused for a moment. "Do you?" Though she couldn't see him, her gaze was aimed straight at him.
"'Fraid so," he admitted.
"Does telling you this make you angry?"
"No, not at all."
"Uncomfortable?" she suggested.
"No, it's the truth. I'm used to it," he assured her.
"You're used to your quick temper or you're used to hearing that you have one?"
"Both," he laughed.
"Whew! That's a relief. I would have hated being the first to tell you."
Carl found himself smiling at her. She was delightful.
"Does telling you what Marley said make you feel... unsettled?" She unconsciously rubbed her thumbs over the back of his hand.
"No, not at all. But having you hold my hand does for some strange reason.
"He also said you're a stubborn man."
"Getting what I want when I want it," he said matter-of-factly.
"Have you always been that way?"
"Even as a child?"
"Your mother must have had her hands full."
Smiling, "She did."
She leaned toward him and whispered. "Did you get sent to the principal's office a lot?"
Carl chuckled and whispered back. "Yes, I did, but you can't tell anyone. I'd hate to have to kill you."
PJ laughed. He really is the sweetest man, she thought. I can't imagine that he ever loses his temper. "What about your growing presence in this company? You couldn't have been stubborn initially or showed your temper, could you?"
"I was formerly in the military and it taught me discipline and to recognize when others needed it."
"Am I causing you to...? Am I in the way... with this appointment? Because... if I am..."
He squeezed her hand gently. "No," he said softly. "You're not." In fact, you're a welcome change. "Marley told you about my quick temper and that I'm stubborn. Anything else?"
"He said you're bossy too."
"Doesn't say much about me."
Still holding his hand, she spaced her words. "He also said you have character, honesty, and integrity," she continued. "And that you're loyal and supportive of your staff and protective of your people." She lowered her voice slightly. " ...And too bright for your own damn good."
Carl laughed. "What do you think so far?"
"You have an advantage over me. You can see me, but I can't see you or gauge your facial expression. You're tall, right?"
"Over six feet?"
"But under six - five?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"It was an easy guess. Not too many people over 6'5". The odds were with me."
He chuckled. "I'm six - three."
"Can I...? I'd like to know what you look like. It's terribly forward of me, but would it - would it be all right if - may I touch your face?"
There was no hesitation on his part. "Yes."
She reached up with both hands as he moved closer to her so she could touch him. He sat still and silent.
With a light touch, her hands moved over his face. Her palms brushed his cheeks, her fingers swept across the bridge of his nose, and then she traced his jaw line down to his chin. When she inadvertently touched his lips, she swiftly moved away from them and back up to his brow.
He caught a hint of cologne as her hands moved over him. It was a light scent and he couldn't place it, but he was definitely enjoying her soft touch.
Reaching up, she touched his scalp. "Oh! You're bald!" She smiled broadly. "Mmmm, bald."
Carl grinned. "You like bald men?"
Pirco blushed. "I... I'm pleasantly surprised that you are."
He remained still as her hands moved to the sides of his neck and then to his shoulders and down his upper arms. She stopped at his biceps. "...And hunky!"
Carl burst out laughing. She enchanted him.
She put her hands back in her lap. "And you're trim, aren't you? I mean, with those biceps, I'm guessing..." The color rose to her cheeks.
"So are you!"
"I'm not as tall as you are as you can see. And I'm not bald or hunky."
"No, you're not," he agreed. "But you are very trim. Do you exercise?"
"Yes. I do calisthenics, a few pushups and sit-ups and I really like to jog - but I'm at the mercy of a partner. Sometimes, when I'm desperate for a run, I go with the dogs, but if there's a squirrel around, I could end up in the brambles. I hold Ivan's collar and he always stays by my side, but Emma Rose is very independent."
"I jog almost every morning. I'd be happy to be your jogging partner one day."
"Really? Soon?" Her hand flew to her mouth and the color deepened on her cheeks again. "I am so sorry. That was rude of me. Please... please forget I said that."
Carl laughed. "Not on your life! How about Saturday?"