MAX SLAMMED DOWN THE phone, his face set and determined, coldly furious. Striking the desk with the flat of his hand, he shouted into the intercom, “Beauchamps, my office, now! Bring the Colombian deal papers with you.”
“Right away, Mr. Denver.” Celine turned to Llana and spoke in a hoarse whisper. “Well, you may as well meet the 'Man'. He's in a rare mood. Here, help me with these papers and I'll bring along the rest.” With the timbre and tone of his furiously demanding voice still ringing in her ears, Llana walked determinedly behind Celine as they entered Max's inner sanctum, not sure what to expect.
He was on the phone again, “Where the hell is Sebastian? I've got to find that shipment today or the deal is lost. Find me Sebastian or I'll have your ass.” He punched the hold button as he looked up from the gleaming surface of the solid marble and glass desk that was as cold as his expression. Unexpectedly, Max Denver smiled. Llana couldn't believe the transformation. “Beauchamps. Who might that be hiding behind your beautiful skirts? Come out, honey. Let's have a look at you.” In contrast to Celine's deep rich black curls and dark sombre eyes, Llana stood out like a rose in a thistle patch. She was immediately aware of a microscopic scrutiny, of pale, cold, blue eyes which started at the tip of her toes, worked their way up her shapely legs, lingered for a second mid-thigh where her butter-cream coloured suit skirt began and then the eyes continued upward, slowly, caressingly, lingering again this time on her cross-over halter top, flickered momentarily on her cleavage and finally those eyes met hers. Llana felt a sensation of charged magnetism that kept her rooted to the deep carpet. She could not muster the strength to pull her eyes away, the hypnotic power of the man behind the eyes and the charming smile reached inside right to the very core of her. He touched her soul. She felt hot, then cold. She shuddered for no apparent reason. Her thoughts were mixed, the power of the man was enslaving, hypnotic, and she was unable to stem the rising well of passion and intimidation within her body as she faced Max Denver. She heard Celine introducing her and she mumbled something, which sounded stupid to her own ears, “It's my pleasure to meet you Sir.”
“Call me Max, lovely Llana. Beauchamps, these aren't all of the papers. Where's the last part of the contract?” His expert scan of the documents revealed that a page was missing.
Llana stood tall, swallowed her fear and embarrassment and approached Max's desk. “I believe these are what you're looking for...Max.” Their hands accidentally touched as Max reached for the extended papers, Llana tried to draw her hand back quickly but he had reached to cover her hand with his own. The contact was unnerving. With knees shaking and her voice trembling, she murmured, “Please, M-M-Max, can I have my hand back now?”
As he threw his head back and laughed at her embarrassment, his dark curly hair caught the light from the ceiling to floor windows and Llana noticed he was deeply tanned as well as the handsomest man she had ever seen in her entire twenty years.
The laughter gave her a moment to collect herself and her self-assurance and confidence returned.
Celine was asking, “Will that be all Mr. Denver?” When he turned to Llana and gestured for her to please sit opposite him, it was apparently clear that he wanted to find out a whole lot more about her. He waved Beauchamps (her eyebrows raised knowingly) out of his office. As she closed the door behind her, the phone rang.
“Please, excuse me, Llana isn't it? Max….Speaking….Sebastian… Where the hell are you? The shipment is due today and it’s not in the goddamned (s'cuse me honey) warehouse?”
Sebastian asked if he was alone and could he talk as they were on Max's private line.
“Yes, and no.”
“The Coast Guard went over the shipment with a fine tooth comb boss.” Sebastian waited.
“Yeah, and...? Let's have it, man, I don't have all bloody day to chit chat!” Max shouted. Llana was glad to be sitting down throughout his tirade and felt a deep sympathy for the person at the other end of the receiver.
“No, relax, they didn't find it. The stuff is safe and the deal will be made as scheduled. Call your people and let them know that it's in Warehouse #4. Talk to Tim the night man.”
“Good man, Sebastian. Get the hell in here as fast as you can. We've got a lot to do before Friday.”
Llana shifted and re-crossed her lovely legs, the embarrassment and discomfort she was feeling now evident as a growing flush painted her cheeks. She was about to rise and leave his office when Max noticed her sudden movement and said, “Sit,” and sit she did. I suppose if he tells me to roll over, that's what I'll do, she mused. He slammed down the phone.
The sudden quiet in the room was unnerving. Max asked Llana to stand up, “Now, turn around, slowly, walk to the door, turn and then come back this way.”
Once again, she did as he ordered, her walk not overly affected, but became rather stilted because of her nervousness. She had a poise that was rare and wonderful in this day and age.
Max said to her, “Relax, Miss Nillson. Now please, remove your suit jacket.” She did as he asked.
“Lovely, lovely, simply lovely. A little change here and there, a few lessons and honey, you'll be on top of the world.” Max looked like a kid on Christmas morning. “Please, sit yourself down. I'm about to make you an offer. If you go for it you're going to make a lot of money and me a very happy man amongst other things. Celine, could you have Personnel send up Miss Nillson's file? Right away.” He released the intercom button and they were alone again. Llana felt short-of-breath, her heart was hammering in her chest, sending a rush of adrenalin throughout her body. His handsome face became her focal point as he outlined his plan.
“I'll be honest with you, Llana. You are exactly what I've been waiting for to come through that door for the last ten years. If you agree to a few finishing touches by experts, hair style, clothes, modeling and speech lessons, plus a few fine arts courses, I'll make you my personal assistant at an annual salary of l00K. I'll buy the finishing touches and you'll do as I say, when I say, and how I say...no questions asked.” He paused, momentarily studying the incredulous look on her face. “Think about it tonight, let me know tomorrow..., now I've got work to do. My office, tomorrow, nine a.m. sharp...your decision.” Llana stammered, caught her heel in the carpet, recovered her balance and strode proudly out of his office. Once outside the door, she leaned heavily against the magnificent solid oak frame trying desperately to catch her breath and regain her composure, willing her knees to stop shaking.
Beauchamps came over to her, a glass of cold water extended as she led her, all the while carefully supporting Llana, to her desk. “What did the intrepid beast of a man say to you honey?” Celine asked worriedly. She had seen a few lovely young things overwhelmed by her Boss, as she had once been, but Celine had overcome her feelings for Max, put them in perspective and now enjoyed the best damned job this corporation could offer so long as she kept her lips sealed.
“He made me a deal but I can't talk about it until I think it over. Please give me something to do so I won't have to think until tonight.” Celine handed her a stack of files, instructed Llana to enter them into the computer and then send the pile down to storage after she had filled the disks' database. Glad to so some manual, practical work, Llana got down to the task at hand and the afternoon flew. She reflected upon the recent past. Three months had gone by as she had worked diligently at the 'Denver Group' and had not seen Max even at a distance. The office pool had described him as thirty-five years of age, ruthless, heartless, calculating and the richest bachelor in New York. He was worth at least 500 million and owned everything outright. No board of directors, a few top executives, department heads and his right hand man, bodyguard, chauffeur and accountant, 'Sebastian'. This latter employee was described as having the character of a 'pit bull.' No one got to Max unless Sebastian had screened himher first. The gossip was that Max had saved Sebastian's life under carefully guarded circumstances and Sebastian repaid him by being his loyal watchdog. The relationship was strange, but it worked. If Max sent Sebastian to finalize a deal everyone involved knew it was goddamned important and no one dared to cross him. A few top people who had tried, had been at their desks one day and were gone the next, no explanations given. The aura of mystique and covert secrecy worked wonders. Do your job, quit your grumbling and you'll be amply rewarded. If not...bye-bye- top job and don't expect to get another one on the East Coast.