Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Work and Pleasure

Robert entered the suite; Stevie assumed it was Rhoda returning with her iced tea. She looked up from the monitor to find Robert standing over her, holding a thirty-two-ounce cup and a straw in one hand, a small cup of coffee in the other. "I ran into Rhoda in the coffee shop," he said. "She sent this up for you. Extra large with lemon." The man's slacks, shirt, and tie were perfectly coordinated—as always—and his expression was winsome and friendly. Sometimes Stevie wished he weren't quite so perfect. "Yes?" she said, hoping he couldn't hear the loud thumping of her heart as she gazed up into his questioning eyes.

"Stevie," he said, "I know I came on a little strong and my timing wasn't the best when I asked you out to dinner before, but I was hoping you'd give me another chance. Is this a better time?" Her throat felt frozen. She knew, if she opened her mouth, not one word would come out. But how long could she sit there, speechless, while he waited for an answer? "Yes," she said, nodding her head in affirmation. "Yes, this is a much better time." Robert's relief was evident. "Wonderful," he said, smiling broadly. "So, how about tonight? We could combine business with pleasure, get to know each other while we finalize those statements before delivering them to the senator."

The proper response came to mind immediately: Thank you, Robert, but this is my last night at home before leaving for the weekend. I need to do laundry and pack. Maybe some other time. It was a direct, kind, and reasonable refusal. But when she opened her mouth, those were not the words that came out. "I'd like that," she heard herself say.

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