Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
had an attack of
deja vu the
size of . Or the size of the man
opposite, listening to Phil Mount McKinley ,
but staring at her. Staring
at her, as though
she were wearing that same bit of lace as the last time they had met. Then he[MH1]
smiled slightly, and she knew he had seen her remember it, and
flushed dark red.
She turned to the conference table, blindly putting her materials down on the glossy cherry surface, trying to collect herself. She thought she heard Phil move toward her, glanced up, grateful for the distraction, and stopped cold.
He certainly was not half
this time. Just about where Phil’s eyes would be, she met with a gold collar bar
framed with brilliant diamonds[MH2] . Mesmerized by his appearance, she eyed his
subdued silk tie and pristine hand‑tailored
shirt. His suit was also obviously
tailored, fitting his large frame perfectly.
Vickie took a deep breath
try to steady down. She stopped
mid‑inhale , rattled. The enjoyment she had gotten from burying her face in
his naked shoulder that night had nothing on how
he smelled now.[MH3] Bottle it up and sell it as instant aphrodisiac.
He pulled out the chair next to hers. The sight of his well‑manicured nails and
artistic fingers startled her ,
incongruent with her memory of him as they seemed. Now why
hadn’t she noticed those unusual hands before?
Dimly, she was aware of Phil introducing them.
“Vickie Johnston, may I present the founder and CEO of the Hawkesclyffe Computer Company and inventor of the HCC300 chip, Sir Humphrey Hawkesclyffe.”
This was Humphrey Hawkesclyffe?
was shocked. Humphrey ?
Hawkes—oh, no —CLIFF!
Automatically, she took it
and received her third shock in as many minutes. She
had replayed the impact of his kiss, but had finally
dismissed it as an overactive
imagination, a tired woman, and a warm man. Now, fully rested, in the very
unromantic setting of the conference room, he was still a warm
man, and his handshake sent tingles up her spine and down to her …Vickie looked up, her blue eyes wide. He was
staring at her quite strangely.
Shaking herself, she forced a reply. “It’s good to see you again, Mr. Hawkesclyffe, under improved circumstances.”
“It depends on your perspective, Ms. Johnston. I found our last encounter—stimulating.”
Why, the little hustler,
’ she thought , ‘Phil thinks he has a lever now to get me to take the account. ’
She smiled sweetly at Hawkesclyffe. “Indeed, Mr. Hawkesclyffe. I was under the impression you found it rather routine.”
“Please, Ms. Johnston. I told you last time we met—call me Cliff.”
This would never do.
Phil looked like he did when the Giants had played
the Bills in the Superbowl, and he’d bet on the Giants. “I’m
sorry, Mr. Hawkesclyffe. You would have to call me Vickie before I could
“Of course, Vickie. Does that stand for
How did this infuriating man stay one step ahead of her? She sat quickly. “Phil, don’t you want to take Mr. Hawkesclyffe—er, Cliff—
“Your president?” Cliff slid smoothly into the chair next to hers. “We’ve met.” Phil smiled, nodded and walked away
, to Vickie’s severe discomfort. “Jerry
Fitzwater is already aware of how I feel about you.”
Even though he had delivered that searing kiss, he had otherwise treated her like a sack of potatoes. Could he
do you feel about me?”
“You are the
job. I will have no other.”
turned to her, and she received the full impact of his penetrating gaze
. Vickie felt her blood heat
faster than sugar in a microwave. ‘Cool off, Vickie. Sir Humphrey is
after your brain, not your body. ’ “He is prepared to
double your salary if you take
“It takes some time to explain, and I’m afraid the meeting is about to begin. I would prefer to discuss this later—perhaps over dinner?”
“Great. I’ll pick you up about six. We’ll go to
turned his attention to
, who was now standing behind the podium on one end
of the table , leaving Vickie gaping.
being between the sun and Pluto
she thought wryly.
Jerry Fitzwater rapped for attention
on the podium. “Ladies
and gentlemen. Today begins an historic occasion, and an historic collaboration…”
Vickie tuned out Fitzwater’s droning. She could not, however, tune out the warm scent of the man next to her. How had he done it? How had he, against her wishes, cornered her into going out with him? She sighed. All right. Truthfully, it wasn’t against her wishes. But it was against her best interests. Getting involved with a man like Cliff, who could leave an impression on her after an instant that blotted out
men, but who would never consider her anything but good business…no, that was
trouble she didn’t need.
She nerved herself
and turned toward him,
to whisper her regrets that she couldn’t make dinner that evening, and
in his lap as he rose to take the podium. Three strides accompanied by
enthusiastic applause (most enthusiastic from Tess and Joy, Vickie noticed)
brought him to the head of the table, a position which seemed to be made just
for him. He removed the podium from the table and stood comfortably
surveying the group. Then he spoke.
“An historic occasion
Perhaps. With the speed that new information and knowledge is coming to us, however,
I will settle for being on the cutting
edge of technology. Or, as some prefer, the bleeding edge.”
He stopped and, one by one, met the eyes of each person around the table.
could see his penetrating gaze assessing their mood, their
expectations , evaluating their reactions
[MH3]Originally I imply she's smelling good stuff "burying her face in his naked shoulder". But doesn't actually showing what she's smelling have more zing?