Like D had mentioned, corporate (well more like some of their reps) was making their rounds. The week came and they had decided to come in a little later, something about unforeseen interruptions. It didn’t matter to any of us at our office as we were prepared for them. We were a boring lot anyway, we rarely had any issues that we knew would hinder us from running our “shop” the best way possible. Our employees were satisfied, happy even. Service seemed to be the best it could be this month, so numbers were shooting up. It looked like the corp folks were in for a treat!
The day I decided to be a little on the late side was when I walked into the conference room, and was immediately hit with a musk of strong cologne. The smell overtook the entire space it felt like, and it was debilitating to my sense of smell, but I smiled through it. Choking was a tender word for what was happening to me at that moment.
I walked in and was immediately introduced to a few chairmen, one chairwoman (Carla; I only remembered because she was the only woman and she smelled very sweet), and finally, the man we had all been waiting for: Andrei. He was very tall. That was the first thought that came to mind when I saw him. His handshake was very firm, he barely smiled, and he didn’t really say anything. He just nodded his head like that was enough. His eyes were definitely worth remembering, as they were a very confusing thing for me because I couldn’t tell if they were hazel, green, gold, or what! I just knew there was something about him. Something more. I let that stay on my mind as I mingled around the room. I ended up getting stuck with talking to chairman Bob Rossford. He was old, wrinkly, pale, and probably was the reason for the over indulgence in cologne. As I was speaking with him, it was wafting off of him quite viciously. He kept trying to get closer to me and I kept backing away bit by bit, without trying to look like I was trying to escape. He wasn’t funny but he thought he was. I just humored him by laughing when he did. My fake laugh wasn’t too bad.
And while I was trying to give him some of my attention, I let my eyes slide over to where Andrei was. He was quietly watching everyone. He wasn’t talking to anyone. And then he caught me looking. I tried hard not to look too much but it was odd that he didn’t feel like talking to anyone in the room. I took the time to take notes on him with every sneaking glance I had of him. He had dark wavy hair, maybe even black, with a part to the side. You could tell he took pride in his appearance as no hair was really out of place but also looked like he wasn’t trying too hard, if that was possible. He had a nose that looked like it had been broken once, as there was a scar on the bridge of his nose. His skin was very tanned, more tanned than D, and D was a beautifully sun-kissed Greek. He had a bit of a mustache that didn’t interrupt the fullness of his top lip that led into the fullness of his bottom lip. He had dark lashes that were so thick that it looked like he was wearing mascara, but he wasn’t. His navy suit was expertly tailored and fit him like a glove with no tie, top two buttons undone on his almost grey dress shirt. He appeared to be at least 6’2. I considered myself somewhat good at judging height and that’s what I was getting from him. His shoes were hard-soled, black, and shiny. And under all that, was an energy. A great sense of power, like you knew he was the man in charge of everyone in the room. His silence spoke volumes.
I was almost tempted to bother him but someone beat me to it. D walked over and introduced himself and finally Andrei cracked a genuine smile, or it looked genuine, as they shook hands. And Andrei started talking. I wanted to lean in closer to their direction to hear what his voice sounded like but I didn’t want to be too rude to Mr. Rossford. Well, anymore rude than I probably already was unbeknownst to him. He was in good spirits and needed someone to stick around and humor him. I obliged but I kept throwing my eyes in D and Andrei’s direction. I caught a bit of their conversation because D was just that loud, and it sounded like they weren’t speaking any English. And I finally caught a hint of what Andrei sounded like and it was a deep and haunting voice. Smooth and thick like molasses. He played with his mustache a little, almost like it was a nervous touch that he did but I didn’t know him at all or enough to make that sort of assumption. Then he caught my gaze again. It was getting unnerving for me to keep letting that happen but I was being nosy. So it was my own doing.
Then it looked like Andrei was excusing himself and was walking over to me and Mr. Rossford’s direction, and he was. He put his hand on Mr. Rossford’s shoulder and Bob looked up at him. “Oh, Mr. Vulpes, care to jump in on this little conversation?”
Andrei smiled. “No, Bob, I just came to dismiss you while I spoke to this young lady who seems to have a staring issue.” He pronounced the ‘s’ in issue like you’d say ‘sue’, the name. His accent was quite thick. I couldn’t place the accent though.
Bob gave a hearty laugh. “Well, let me leave you to it!” Bob turned his attention back to me. “Seems a little reprimanding is in order for you. No one has ever told you that staring is rude?”
I was confused and probably looked it as I watched Bob walk away and harass Morissa, who didn’t seem like she had the patience for it.
“I’m Mr. Vulpes, your name is?”
I returned my attention back to Andrei who had his arms crossed and was giving me stern eyes. “I’m Makaela, and I wasn’t staring. Well, I wasn’t trying to,” I told him, and it was true. I really wasn’t trying to stare but he was rather odd to me.
He didn’t say anything, just looked at me. Maybe even through me. Then I saw him look me straight in my eyes then his eyes went down like he was sizing me up, then back up into my eyes. I was wondering if I should be offended in that moment. “What do you do here?”
I was feeling nervous all of a sudden. I cleared my throat a bit, then spoke. “I’m the operations manager. And what do you do?”
I tried to be funny but it looked like it wasn’t going to work on him. He just kept on with that so-serious look. He didn’t answer my question, just kept on glaring at me. Almost like he was having thoughts. Maybe not nice ones. Or giving me a taste of my own medicine since I was stealing little stares at him earlier, or glancing. I was hoping I wasn’t going to be fired. He made a sound like ‘hm’ and smoothed his forefinger and thumb over his mustache. I noticed the cupid’s bow on his top lip was prominent and I liked that. He had nice lips but then I noticed the split in his top lip on the right corner, a scar. Then I snapped out of that and reminded myself he’s the boss.
“I apologize if I was staring, I honestly wasn’t trying to.” I took a sip of my water that I came into the room with. He still didn’t budge.
“Makaela. That’s a nice name.” He unfurled his arms from across his chest, to let them rest at his sides.
He definitely had a strong accent, and was confirmed to be one I hadn’t heard before, but a strong European accent for sure. Now that he was closer to me, I could see his eyes were indeed hazel, and they held gold and green flecks within them. He had high cheek bones. He was very well sculpted, accept for that nose. It wasn’t crooked or anything but there was a bump there, just a tad. He was looking me over too, I could tell. So we were both being a little rude in the moment, staring at one another. He smoothed his hair back a bit and it barely moved. He probably had a lot of holding spray in it for it to hold its shape the way it was. He was slim but more than likely an athletic slim figure, not without muscles. I could just tell.
I then felt like he was towering over me all of a sudden. I knew he was tall but he made me feel incredibly small in that moment, looking at him.
“I am a little unsure what to ask you about now,” I gave a nervous chuckle. He barely cracked a smile but he did allow for a bit of curl of the lips. His energy seemed to relax a bit as well.
“You are nervous and I don’t see why. I am just a worker, like you. I just happen to work from a higher…um…position. I am sorry, my English still leaves much to be desired. I do not visit the U.S. often. I only practice when I need to. So forgive me.” He tucked his right hand into his pocket. “My apologies. I’m Andrei. Vulpes.”
He still didn’t offer me his hand to shake so I just nodded. “Nice to meet you but you already introduced yourself. Some of us here were curious about you.”
“You shouldn’t be. I’m very stale.” He finally smiled. He was breaking a little at a time.
“Well, we just want to see the man behind the title.”
“Were you curious?” He asked as he kept his eyes on mine. It was making me uneasy, as he was my boss’s boss’s boss, and he was very attractive.
“I was. Kind of.” I was going to mention how Andy and Morissa were the most curious but I kept my mouth shut on that. “How do you like it here so far?”
He shrugged. “I’m not in love. Not my style. I miss my country honestly. I am here for business and business only, so I do not intend on getting too comfortable or familiar here. I will do my duties and see myself away from here soon enough.”
He sounded like he didn’t too much care for his new position and that was freaking me out because he was the CEO, and here he was, admitting that he wasn’t a fan already.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I wasn’t really sorry.
“It is quite alright. You have a lot of sushi here. Why?” He looked seriously perplexed.
I let out a snicker. “I don’t know. Sushi is very popular here.”
“You should show me a good sushi place. Maybe you can make me love it.” He looked serious again. I could tell he wasn’t joking, although I secretly wished he were. He didn’t look like someone who joked a lot. His English was sounding a bit better as well.
“Are you for real?” I was honestly astonished. I felt like my eyeballs were about to push through my lids.
“Yes, I’m very serious. I want to see what’s so delicious about this sushi. I don’t eat sushi.”
Um. “Oh. Oh. Okay. I can do that. Should we bring the rest of the group in on this?”
“No. They’ve had sushi. I have not. I don’t want them all around. I just want you.” He touched my arm tentatively. Then dropped his hand back to his side. He was being weird and it was making me feel awkward. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t scream sexual harassment. Not then anyway. This attention was my own fault. After he touched me, I looked around to see if anyone noticed. No one seemed to be paying us any mind.
“Well,” I started, then took another sip of my water. He was making my mouth incredibly dry. I kept looking into his eyes. I swallowed quickly and finally finished, “I don’t see the harm in showing you a good sushi spot. You sure you don’t want to bring someone with? Besides myself, of course.”
He shook his head, his hair still stayed in place. “No. Just you. Just me.”
I nodded quickly. I looked around again to see if anyone was watching us, and they weren’t, or appeared to be better at sneaking looks than I was. Now I was in trouble, all because I was looking too much. “Okay. I can do that.”
“Perfect. I will get your information and we will take a car service. I will arrange for this. You just make sure to think of the best place to show me.”
And he turned and walked away from me, leaving me to wonder what the hell just happened. I felt somewhat embarrassed and foolish. My boss’s boss’s boss basically was forcing me to go on a date with him, and he probably didn’t know it. Or, maybe he did.