The tension that had knotted itself in my gut, slowly started to ease as we rode the elevator to my one-bedroom apartment on the second floor. Having felt a total loss of control all evening, I gladly welcomed the warmth and security that washed over me as soon as we walked through the door. Turning on the lights, I took a deep breath in. The familiar smell of gardenia and freesia from the diffuser overtook my senses and calmed my nerves.
Thomas walked in after me and looked around. His eyes seemed to absorb all the details with great interest. “You have a lovely place Mia”.
I studied his expression to see if he was just trying to be polite. Afterall, this man is a multi-millionaire who was probably used to mansions and five-star hotels. His eyes, however, held nothing but sincerity.
I smiled. “Thank you. It’s small but it’s home. Come in and make yourself comfortable.”
Walking towards the open plan kitchen, I tossed my clutch on the counter. “Would you like something to drink?”
My face scrunched into a sad pout as I realised that I didn’t really have any interesting options to offer. “Unfortunately, the only options are tea, coffee or red wine.”
He chuckled as he took a seat on the couch. “What? No alcohol? I’m surprised. You seemed to be enjoying your drinks at the bar tonight” His tone was teasing and his eyes brimmed with mirth.
“It was only a few! And what were you doing there anyway? Spying on me?” Although I was only teasing and playing along, I was itching to know how he had turned up at the same place. It’s not as if Manhattan had a shortage of nightclubs or something.
He barked out a laugh. “Spy? Now why would I do that?”
I narrowed my eyes at him, warning him silently to quit with the jokes.
Running a hand through his hair he chuckled at my expression.
“I was meeting with one of my business associates and spotted you from the booth above and wandered over to say hello. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”
I snorted in sarcasm, remembering how he had “found” me at the club.
“To say hello? Really? Didn’t realise that you had to plant your hands and mouth all over the other person just to say hello. Tell me Mr Carson, is that how you greet everyone you see?”
His eyes flashed with a devilish glint at my question.
“Nope. Just you Miss Sutherland. And the last time I checked you seemed to hold no objection to my particular style of greeting.” He emphasized the last word with a flirtatious tone.
I blushed thinking back to what had happened in the club between us. The heat, the lust, all the moaning and the grinding. God! I wanted to disappear this very instant to hide my embarrassment but instead I turned towards the cupboards above the stove and withdrew two wine glasses and the red wine. Raising the bottle, I pointed it in his direction. “Wine?”
His lips turned slightly upwards at my obvious discomfort and deliberate avoidance.
“Sure. Why not.”
After I had handed him his drink, I settled myself comfortably on the armchair facing him. I studied him over the rim of my glass as we made small talk about his business and the company take over. To say I was unimpressed with his business portfolio would be a lie. They seemed to have a finger in every freaking pie! Hotels, real estate, nightclubs, casinos, mining – the list went on.
“What was the reason for buying a part of Ranford?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Good business. Merging it with ours will give us a solid foothold in the east which we have been keen to do for a very long time”
A slight twinge of irritation crept in. How can he be so nonchalant when people I have worked with have been let go without a second thought?
“So, you don’t care what happens to the employees as long as things work out fine for you guys?”
His shoulders tensed as his gaze turned scrutinizing at my reaction. Placing his glass on the side table, he leaned forward laying his arms on his thighs and clasping his hands together in front of him.
“It’s not that we don’t care. We are trying our best to retain as many as we can but there is a business need to fulfil. When employees don’t meet that need then they are either moved or let go. Its just business.”
I let out an exasperated sigh. I felt like he was missing the point.
“I get that. But do you really see what happens to these people? Most of them have bills to pay, kids to support and so on. Until they find something else, they are stuck. Severence packages barely cover anything.”
He remained quiet.
“What would you like me to say Mia? That I will change this? Give them back their jobs? Help them out? I can’t. There is a lot that goes into taking such decisions.”
Before I could open my mouth to argue, he continued, “Besides I’m not the sole authority on things relating to the company. There are others. Partners, stakeholders and investors. They all have a say. ”
He was looking at me as if he was challenging me to say something. Realizing that we would be here for forever if I continued to argue this point, I decided to let it go.
“Fine. I get it.”
Yes, I understood that this is how things work but that didn't mean I had to like it or agree with it. There was a petty part of me that wanted to blame him. But I realised that I had to tread carefully here. Pissing off my new boss was definitely not on my agenda irrespective of how many boundaries we had crossed tonight.
I was surprised when he suddenly rose from the couch and walked up to me. There was an unexpected grace in his stride for a person of his stature. He knelt down beside me and clasped my hands with his own. Lifting them up to his mouth, he left a gentle kiss to the back of my hand before looking up at me.
“I don’t like you being upset with me Mia. I understand where you are coming from but there isn’t much that I can do about it. Let’s not let things that we cannot control come between us. Please?”
I swallowed hard. His sad gaze and tone felt like a knife to my chest. I felt like a massive jerk for being shitty with him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to argue.”
He let go of my hands and raised himself slightly off the ground.
With his hands gripping the arms of the chair, he leaned in and crashed his lips over mine.