Stella's Awakening(2)

By: R.K. Ryde


Flustered, I divert attention, making a sweeping gesture toward the beautiful gems showcased in the windows before us. “I do it for inspiration,” I babble, keeping my gaze fixed firmly on the windows. “It’s my ritual. Coffee and Tiffany’s. I find it a great way to start my day.”

Apprehensively I brave a glance back to him. He’s looking at me, interested. Once again I’m floored by his classic good looks. His long hair and designer stubble give him a bad boy appeal, while his crisp, white business shirt, polka dot tie and well cut navy suit scream elegant power. He’s a walking dichotomy – Bad Boy verses Professional Businessman.

“Well, I’m sorry if I disturbed your ritual,” he says, a roguish grin playing on his lips. “Care to walk with me?” He holds out his crooked elbow like some eighteenth century gentleman waiting to take me onto the ballroom floor. “That’s, if you’re ready. I don’t want to rush you. My building’s just up this way.” He points up the street with his chin. “It would be my pleasure to escort you.”

I blink back at him like a giddy teenager. I’m lost for words. I’m never like this. I can’t be like this. It’s not right. It’s not allowed.

Get a grip! I mentally scold myself, struggling for equilibrium.

Gathering my senses, I tug on the hem of my grey blazer and square my shoulders. I lift my chin and smile confidently, meeting his gaze. “My office is just up this way too,” I gesture. “But I don’t need the elbow thanks. I can manage on my own.”

I can’t risk physical contact again. Besides, what if we are seen together, walking along the street arm-in-arm? Just walking normally together would be bad enough.

“You never know in those killer heels of yours ...” Conrad says, and I follow his gaze down to my fire-engine red stilettos that match my square handbag. I put them on this morning, adding a splash of colour to my pencil-cut calf-length grey skirt and matching blazer.

My eyes return to his and my coffee flips a cartwheel in my stomach. This could be a big mistake, but throwing caution to the wind, I take a deep breath and, ignoring his elbow, fall into step beside him.

Merging with the quickly paced pedestrians, we wordlessly walk the short distance up the bustling sidewalk. As we walk, I train my eyes straight ahead, working hard at playing it cool, pretending I’m not acutely aware of his body next to mine with his long strides and tall frame.

“This is where I work,” I manage on an exhale, grateful to arrive at the 1930’s art deco building which houses my office.

“I’ve always loved this building,” Conrad muses, tipping his head back, taking in the small, six-floored building.

I take a long, satisfying look, drinking in his smooth throat and extruding Adams apple. I can’t tear my eyes away. I’m fascinated.

He turns, catching me ogling him. I flush, averting my eyes to examine the building. “Me too,” I blurt. “It was designed by Percy Edgar Everett.”

“Interesting,” he replies, drawing my eyes back to him. I regret it instantly. He’s rubbing his stubbled jaw and regarding me shrewdly. I don’t know what he’s referring to as ‘interesting’ – me, or the building.

My flush deepens. “Well, I’d better go in.” I need to get away from this strangely alluring man. The effect he’s having on me isn’t right.

“It was a pleasure to meet you Miss Golightly, I mean, Stella,” he says, his eyes sparkling mischievously.

A childish giggle pops uninvited from my throat and I mentally slap myself. “You too,” I say, clearing my throat. And with a small wave, I walk deliberately into the building, using all my strength not to turn around for one more look at the intriguing blonde Adonis who crossed my path this morning.





CHAPTER TWO




I step into the beautifully restored elevator with its dark mahogany panelled walls and brass fittings. The little light illuminates the number four beneath my shaky index finger, and I heave out a heavy sigh as I lean back against the wall.

Absentmindedly I look up, watching unseeing as the brass needle curves its way around the half-moon of the floor indicator. The ‘ding’ announcing my arrival snaps me back to the present and I glance around guiltily, worried my thoughts may have been seen or heard.

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