The Only One(7)

By: Melissa Ellen

The sly little she devil! Rhett was her chaperone, and she knew who I was meeting with. I quickly typed a reply as Tom carried on, boring us with his credentials.

A: I can’t believe you didn’t tell me Rhett came with you.

V: Just following your rules. You told me to never mention him to you.

Damn it. She was right. I couldn’t very well be mad at her. I had that rule with all my family and friends. I put it in place to protect my heart, and now it looked like it was coming back to bite me in the ass. I had told her that after she tried multiple times to get us back together. She was like a kid between two divorced parents. I wondered if this was her attempt at pulling a “parent trap,” except for the fact Rhett was obviously in on it.

“I have brought you a portfolio of some of my recent work. Ava, here, has been instrumental in many of these projects,” Tom passed his marketing portfolio across the table to Rhett, snapping me back into focus on the meeting.

Rhett took the portfolio from Tom, breaking his gaze on me momentarily. “I would love to see it.”

He spent all of thirty seconds looking through the portfolio before closing it. He looked up, ruthlessly smiling at me before turning his gaze on my boss.

“Well Tom, it looks like this will be a great fit. Send me your numbers and the contract. I’ll review and sign it,” Rhett said decisively.

He had barely looked at the portfolio. How could he possibly know it was a good fit? I knew he had alternative motives for hiring Tom, making me feel guilty. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tell Rhett that he needed to find another architect, but then that would be completely unfair to Tom. This was going to be a huge opportunity for him. I would just have to ask Tom to reassign it to Joce. There was no way I could work on this project with Rhett.

“That’s great news! I’ll have the proposal and the contract sent over to you first thing Monday morning,” Tom beamed.

“I would like to get started immediately, but unfortunately I have another meeting to be at. How about we discuss over dinner, tonight? You and Ms. Conner will join me,” Rhett demanded assertively.

“I have plans!” The words came abruptly out of my mouth like verbal vomit before I could stop them. I immediately felt embarrassed and flushed by my outburst. Rhett raised a quizzical eyebrow at me. I didn’t even bother looking at Tom, who I am sure sat with a disapproving look. He was probably wondering what had gotten into me.

Tom took control of the situation, thankfully. “I apologize, Mr. Blackwood, it seems that neither one of us can make it to dinner. I hope this doesn’t complicate things.”

“Not at all. I am only in town for the weekend, though. Would it be possible for us to do lunch then, tomorrow? We could drive out to the site in Malibu, afterwards. I know it is a lot to ask for you to give up your Saturday.”

I already knew what was coming. Tom didn’t work weekends anymore with Marie’s situation at home. “Do you mind giving us a moment, Mr. Blackwood?” Tom asked.

“Not at all. I’ll just be over there, making a quick call.” Rhett stood, moving across the large conference room, pulling out his cell phone. He talked in a low hushed voice as he stared out the large windows, viewing downtown L.A.

“Ava, I hate to ask you to work tomorrow, but is there any way you can meet with him?” Tom pleaded, keeping his voice low.

I watched Rhett with his back to me, wondering how he could be so self-possessed while all the emotions were flooding my mind, unnerving me. He looked good. Better than good. He was sexier and more confident than before. The way he carried himself had me almost wanting to throw my resolve out the window. Almost. I wanted to tell Tom no way in hell. He looked so hopeful, though.

“Tom, you know I don’t mind working the weekend, but I think maybe Joce would be better suited for this project than me.” He looked at me confused and a little distraught by my suggestion.

“Ava, I’m a bit surprised you would give up the chance to work on this. I can give it to Joce if that’s what you really want. But I chose you, because I felt you had earned it. You have been doing excellent work for me over the last few years, and this is just as much a great opportunity for you as it is me. Plus, I would hate to switch points of contact after he has just met you.”