They dropped the many bags on the floor. Apollo happy to have her alone again, went to the wet bar to pour himself a drink.
“Is there some white wine over there? If so, I’ll take that.”
Apollo looked at the list of items in the refrigerator and smirked. “Mmm. I think we would’ve been better off buying some wine outside the hotel. Your one glass of wine is gonna cost me thirteen dollars.”
Sateria smiled. “You still owe me for the Chinese food, remember? So stop complaining.”
Apollo chuckled. “Are you still holding that over my head after all this?”
“If you would’ve just shown up, I wouldn’t be reminding you at all.”
Apollo looked over his shoulder and grinned. “I didn’t have a date you know. I just wanted to make you mad to see how far you’d go.”
Sateria smirked. “Me acting like a total bitch toward you gave you your answer?”
“It did. You’re sexy as hell when your eyes light up. Did you know that?”
She smiled. “Come on and sit down. Tell me about you. I wanna know what it is about you besides your damn good looks and skills in bed that makes me want to be near you.”
Apollo moved across the room and handed her the glass of wine before he sat down himself.
“Where to start?”
Apollo chuckled. “Well, how about we skip some stuff right after birth?”
“Okay,” she said and waited for him to start.
“My mother, like Johnny’s parents, is from Greece. She came to America for the same reason most immigrants do. A better life and money to help the family back home. According to her, she met my father when she was about twenty five. She worked for him as his assistant. Long story short, they ended up falling in love, and my father’s business died.”
“That’s why you feel the way you do about office romances?”
Apollo nodded. “It is.”
“So why didn’t you just tell me?”
“Cause I wanted you. I had to figure out away around my beliefs.”
“So is that why you quit?”
“No, I quit because you pissed me off.”
“You can come back, you know.”
“Pheonix told me. But we’ll see,” he said sipping his drink, and continued his story. “I’m a native of Chicago, and had a pretty rough childhood. That coupled with the fact that we were dirt poor lit a fire in me. As I grew, I was determined not to fail in anyway. I was going to be the best me I could be, and no one was going to stand in my way.
“I’m the youngest of three boys. My oldest brother died very young before I was born in a playground accident, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Sateria nodded. “Okay.”
“My other brother is alive, gay, and living in New York with his lover.”
Sateria cringed. “Sorry to hear about that.”
“His sexual preference is his own as far as I’m concerned. It didn’t set well with my parents though.”
“I can imagine.”
“I still talk to him at least twice a month, and as long as he doesn’t drag me into his lover’s quarrels, we’re fine.” Apollo sipped his drink.
“So how did you get to be the VP of Sales and Marketing at AJG?”
“I was a pretty smart kid with a head for numbers. My mother wanted me to go to Columbia after I graduated from high school.”
“Such an awesome school.”
“I agree. But it wasn’t for me. Ivy League? Way too expensive and I didn’t want to hang out with a bunch of rich snobs. So I chose Northwestern University at Kellogg. I could stay close to my family, and save them money at the same time. My mother folded after I brought home the comparing facts on the two schools. So I left, and worked hard. By the time I was in my junior year, I decided that Marketing was my calling and decided to get my Master’s.
“Two and a half years after I graduated, I got my Master’s. I was almost twenty five and spent months going to interviews. I wasn’t going to give up on my degree. Marketing was my calling, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to make it happen.”
“Then you met Johnny.”
Apollo nodded. “And then I met Johnny, and I was glad that I did. He saw something in me the multiple others didn’t. Exactly two weeks after I interviewed I was on the team. Over the next couple of years I did my best to shine. Always wanting to be better than the others. One day Johnny invited me to one of his family barbeques. I really didn’t want to go, but I had to if I wanted to get ahead.”
Sateria laughed aloud. “You kissed his ass.”
Apollo chuckled. “Hey, a man has to do what a man has to do right? But Johnny and I had developed a relationship. We were friends.” Apollo adjusted in his seat on the sofa and took another sip of his drink. “It was at that party that I saw one of the most stunning creatures I’d ever seen.”
“Yes,” Apollo nodded. “A couple inches shorter than her brother, beautiful hair, and eyes. She was a model. A late bloomer, but her unmistakable beauty was not going to hold her back for long. I had to get to know her. I wanted to know her. Johnny saw that I was taken with his sister, and used that to his advantage.”
“What did he do?”
“Johnny told me that he would not allow me to even look at his sister until I helped him, so he turned me into a thief.
“He’d been at it for a few years himself, and told me that the adrenaline rush after hitting a store and getting away was better than sex. Really wanting to get close to his sister, I helped him. After we’d hit a couple of stores, I was hooked.”
“And as your reward, you got to know Kalista.”
“I did.” Apollo stopped talking.
Realizing that she was touching on sensitive ground, she was willing to back off. “Apollo, you don’t have to talk about her if you don’t want too.”
Apollo sighed. “No, it’s okay.” He paused for a moment longer and continued. “As I said, she was one of the most beautiful women I’d met in my life. Not taking anything from you, babe. But this is before I met you, you understand.”
Apollo sipped his drink. “Smart. Oh so very smart. I often wondered why she didn’t go into business like her brother, but she told me there wasn’t enough attention in business. I asked her what she meant, and she told me she wouldn’t be the center of attention if she sat in a corporate office all day. That was something she wanted. Something she craved. Always wanting someone to look at her and tell her how beautiful she was. So that’s what I did.
“We were together for two years, and she was making a name for herself on the circuit. I wanted to marry her. I wanted to give her the attention that she could only get from me and no one else, so I asked her. She happily accepted, and the plans began.”
Apollo sat in silence for a few more moments. Sateria could see the pain in his eyes, and she didn’t want to push. She patiently waited for him to continue, because she knew what happened next.
He sipped on his drink twice before he continued. “Everything but the rehearsal dinner was planned. We decided where to have the rehearsal dinner. She loved seafood, so that is what we were going to eat.
“Instead of me picking her up, we decided to meet there. She had a quick meeting with her agent before hand, so it was just easier this way. She never made it.”
Sateria gasped, “Oh babe, I’m so sorry.”
“We all died that day. But Kalista’s death brought me and Johnny even closer. I had nothing else but my work and my closest friend. I kicked everyone else’s ass at everything we did at work, and before I knew it, I was where I am today.”
Sateria sipped her wine and gazed into Apollo’s eyes still seeing the pain of reliving his first love’s death. She stroked his cheek and tenderly kissed him on the lips.
“I can’t give this up just yet. You know that, right?”
“Babe, please. You have too.”
Sateria shook her head. “No I don’t. Your actions this weekend prove that I don’t. You can be in on all the hits, and keep me safe. And if you’re wondering about your job, don’t be. You’re just on suspension as far as HR and payroll are concerned. I will continue to pay you if you just can’t come back to work right now. But I do want you back at work. Please consider that.”
“Sateria, I can’t be around you for eight to ten hours and not want to constantly touch you, be near you.”
“You are not responsible for your father’s business dying, Apollo. You have to believe that. We are two adults living in a different decade. Times are different now. And one day you have to accept that. We can continue to walk around the office pretending that we can’t stand each other, and that works for me as long as you’re there. Please, come back to work.”
Apollo sighed. “I still have to think about it some more. Will you let me do that?”
Sateria nodded. “Sure. It’s a good thing that I told everyone you were suspended. Everyone is working like dogs, keeping their heads down,” she said grinning.
Apollo grinned back, but what was on his mind was not work. Her subtle green eyes were calling to him. He had to have her.
He put his glass down on the nearby coffee table, and grabbed the nape of her neck pulling her close. He kissed her gently. He felt for her hand which held the wine glass, took it from her, and attempted to put it on the table. Still kissing her, he missed. The glass dropped to the floor, splashing their feet.
They giggled. “Klutz,” Sateria said, and went back to the tender kiss she was receiving.
As he kissed her, he was certain that he loved her, and vowed to keep her as close as she would allow him too.
The following morning, they boarded the company jet and made their way back home. Sateria called into work sick that morning, but made sure she sent messages to the rest of the team to come to her house after they left work.
Sateria spent the day with Apollo. They had breakfast in bed, and she told him her story. She talked about how she never knew her father because he died when she was a baby. She talked about how she always helped her mother with everything she could, when she could. She wasn’t a native of Chicago, but was born in Missouri.
She talked about her breakup with Brad; she talked about her mother’s death. The rest, Apollo knew.
“I’m sorry babe,” Apollo said.
“It’s okay. As long as you don’t leave me, I should heal in about three or four years.”
Apollo loved her, and still didn’t want her in any danger. “Let’s talk about that.”
“I know you want to honor Johnny, but I don’t want you to do this anymore. I mean, we got away with this one, because the town was small. But we won’t always be hitting stores. Jayden already told you that we haven’t hit a store in years. We go after the big stuff now. Museum hits. Way more time, and way more dangerous. Hours, sometimes weeks of practice just to get the timing down. You don’t have time for that.”
“So you’re saying because I’m the president of the company I should just be president?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Johnny hardly ever went with us on trips, because he had to be here to run the business. Personally, that’s what I prefer you do.”
Sateria shook her head. “Nope. I can’t do that now. I can’t let you get shot just like you don’t want me involved. We’re in this together now whether you like it our not, Apollo.”
“Ugh. Okay, okay. So if that’s the case, I’m not coming back to work.”
Sateria’s mouth fell open. “You have to come back to work.”
“No I don’t. I can find another job somewhere else.”
“So what am I gonna do about my VP of Sales and Marketing?”
“Promote someone, Sateria. It’s not that hard. There are several well qualified people to take over my job. I made sure of that,” Apollo chuckled.
Sateria giggled. “I guess you did at that. So who do you suggest?” She asked grinning.
“Mark Redler. He’s junior VP, and knows what’s going on all the time because I drag him to all of our important meetings.”
Sateria cringed. “I don’t really like him.”
Apollo shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Of all my team, he’s the most qualified. Besides, he’s married with two kids, and can keep his relationship with you professional.”
Sateria laughed. “Don’t want him looking at me like he wants me?”
“Oh hell no.”
“So you’re really not gonna come back to work?”
“Babe, look. We have to have some sort of compromise. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. But if you want to continue to put your life in danger, this is the way it’s gonna be. You wanna be free, well; this is how it’s gonna work.”
Sateria sighed. “Okay,” she said and changed the subject. “Any news on your place?”
“No. Not good news anyway. So I’m stuck in the hotel until my place is done.”
Not sure she really wanted what she was about to ask, she went for it anyway. “Sweets, I’m in this big ole place by myself. I mean, I don’t know how Johnny lived here alone. I’m tired of being by myself.”
“Sateria, what are you asking me?”
“You wanna be roommates?”
Apollo chuckled. “No.”
“Aww babe, come on. It’ll be fun.”
“It might be at that, but I’m not ready.”
“Apollo, at least think about it. I mean, we don’t even have to sleep in the same room. I have three spares, are you kidding?”
He reached up and stroked her cheek. “Let me think about it, okay?”
Hoping she was going to get her way, she replied, “Okay.”
Two weeks later, Apollo still out of a job, and tired of his hotel room, showed up at Sateria’s building with the little he possessed. She hadn’t long gotten home from work, and sat down in front of her television to watch a movie she rented.
The squawk box buzzed, and Sateria went downstairs to answer it.
“Good evening, Jensen. How can I help you?”
“Mr. Leonard is here to see you ma’am.”
“Let him up.”
“Will do ma’am.”
Sateria stayed in the living room and waited for her doorbell to ring. When it did, she went to the door to find her handsome man standing there with four suitcases.
He didn’t give her a chance to finish what she was saying. He grabbed her and kissed her. He stroked her cheek and said, “Let’s do this.”Knowing exactly what he meant, she grinned.