The line from Casablanca flitted through Josh’s head. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...” He fisted his hands at his side and closed his eyes.
This morning, he’d hurried to work for a meeting with a new client. He’d worked on the presentation for weeks—a structural redesign of an Alumni Club for a local private school. It was different from most of the projects he had worked on before, and it sparked his creativity. They’d been awarded the contract and this morning’s purpose was to meet the client’s daily contact, the person Josh would work with throughout the span of the project.
He’d walked into the red and black conference room of his architectural firm and froze. Sleek, black, flawless coiffed hair. No way. Ramrod straight posture. It couldn’t be. And as she turned and approached him, she’d glided. Oh crap. Miriam.
His blood pressure rose and his head throbbed. She’d stuck out her hand and met his gaze, the picture of calm—confident, assured, as if she were in charge—while he had all he could do to keep it together. He’d swept his gaze from the perfectly straight part in her hair, past sparkling amber eyes, and over flawless, pale skin. He had lingered a moment at the v- neck of her sweater. Its deep gold made her skin glow.
After a moment, he’d met her eyes. They were unreadable. Her features expressionless, like a marble statue, she nodded and deferred to her boss.
He’d welcomed the diversion and focused on her boss, Tom, a stout, middle-aged man with thinning blond hair and a nervous habit of blinking, as if he couldn’t focus on what was in front of him. But based on Josh’s previous encounters with the man, he was sharp as a tack.
“Josh, this is Miriam Goldberg. She’ll be your liaison for the Alumni Club redesign. Miriam, Josh Lowenstein is the lead architect on the project.”
She gave no hint they knew each other, and his response that they were well acquainted remained unsaid. He wanted to know why she kept it a secret, but he never had a chance to ask. The meeting was short, filled with lots of information about the project, and there wasn’t time for any small talk. She’d taken charge, asked questions, offered suggestions, all of which led Josh to think she was lead project manager. Regardless of her intelligence and the validity of her suggestions, he burned with irritation.
He stomped back to his office and threw his pen across the room. It sailed in an arc over the two sleek black chairs on the other side of his black marble desk, banged against the dove grey wall and landed behind the steel and black credenza. A splotch of ink, resembling a Rorschach pattern, marred the once perfect wall. He swore to himself and ran his hand down his face. Of all the ridiculous, unbelievable, annoying coincidences, this one was the worst.
He swung around in his chair and stared out the window of his Manhattan office. Marvels of steel and concrete filled his view, and as an architect, he often found solace, inspiration and satisfaction from looking at them. A little pride, when he identified ones he’d helped to design. But today, he didn’t see them. He saw her face and he clenched his jaw in aggravation.
The last time he’d seen her, he’d watched her sashay out of his office, as if on wheels. Her sleek, black hair had whispered across her shoulders, somehow moving without getting a hair out of place. Her wool jacket had not hidden the shape of her backside or her trim waist. He’d stared, infuriated, aroused and intrigued.
She’d stopped by to defend her sister, whom she thought he’d wronged.
“Have you apologized to my sister yet?”
He remembered how her question had first annoyed him, and afterwards, angered him. His argument with Samara wasn’t her business. But she was like a pit bull and wouldn’t give up. She’d just repeated, “You need to say you’re sorry.” The phrase echoed in his mind. As did the image of her smooth, glossy hair swinging back and forth like a curtain of silk. Despite his anger at the time, he’d wanted to run his fingers through it. He’d tried to distract himself with a glance at her lips, but they had been lush and red and such a contrast to the irritating words pouring out of them. Her voice had grated in his ears. She’d been assured in her duty, confident she was right and he was wrong. His blood pressure rose as he remembered their argument, and how she’d glided out of his office before he’d had a chance to respond. That was a year ago.
It was stupid to still be angry with her. After this long, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d thought about their argument. He was no longer in love with her sister; in fact, he’d never been in love with the woman in the first place. He had accepted and eventually approved of Samara’s relationship with Nathaniel. What’s more, Miriam had been right. He had needed to apologize.
He was tired of her bossing him around. He didn’t like not knowing what was going on, and he didn’t like how he felt off-kilter at their meeting. If she thought he would put up with it, she was mistaken. He was a respected architect; clients begged for him to take on their projects. He controlled what went on around him. He led the projects. He knew what clients wanted often before they did. He didn’t need her meddling in his vision. One word to her boss and she would be thrown off the project.
He brushed his hand against the computer mouse and his calendar popped on screen. Their next meeting was Thursday. He would be prepared. He would take charge. And she would never know what hit her.
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