Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
Elissa didn’t want to hear them. She tried to block them out as she poured herself a cup of coffee as quickly as possible, almost burning herself as the hot, black liquid sloshed over the edge of her cup in her haste. She wanted to leave the office kitchen quickly in order to avoid their foul words but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t ignore them. In fact, she suspected that they were talking louder just to get a reaction from her.
The two men stood in front of the stainless steel coffee maker, leaning casually against the counter as they discussed their previous night’s sexual conquests. The room was large with steel cabinets and accenting black granite counters, smelling like gourmet coffee. The kitchen was reserved for the top brokers in Tillman & Hirshman, a stock brokerage firm in the heart of the financial district of New York City.
One of them snickered as she poured cream into her coffee, obviously thrilled with his escapades. “Yeah, she was incredibly hot. Did you see her last night?” Mark Callburn asked Jeff Walters, the man standing next to him in the kitchen.
Jeff nodded his head enthusiastically. “Oh, yeah. She was definitely built,” he said. Out of the corner of her eye, Elissa saw him make movements around his chest area. She understood that the woman in discussion was well-endowed but she turned her head away, not wanting to encourage the men.
Five minutes ago, Elissa had barely been able to register the world around her due to extreme fatigue but with their awful remarks, her blue eyes lit up with anger. She needed sugar for her coffee, but she considered dumping the black liquid into the sink or doing without sweetener, desperate to get away from the room so she didn’t have to hear more of the disgusting conversation. Elissa knew Mark’s wife was a very petite woman in all aspects so it was obvious that he was not discussing his wife.
It was only seven o’clock in the morning and Elissa had worked late the previous night in order to close a big deal. It had been after two o’clock in the morning before she’d fallen into bed and after six nights with only four hours of sleep or less, the caffeine was a necessity and not just a desire. Reaching behind the two men, she quickly poured some sugar into her cup and rushed out of the room, ignoring the spilled sugar crystals as well as their lewd comments about the women they had been with the previous night while their wives were home with their young children.
Back in her office, Elissa turned on her computer and pushed the two men’s unfaithfulness out of her mind. She had several meetings today and she still needed to prepare for them.
She took off her black, summer wool jacket revealing a white silk blouse underneath that contrasted perfectly with her black slacks. It was early spring in New York but for some reason the heat had come sooner than normal and the humidity was never far behind. She had walked to work this morning, hoping the morning air would wake her up a bit. But it had only created a mass of brown curls around her head that fell softly to her shoulders.
Twisting the pearl necklace around her fingers, Elissa pulled the information on her computer she needed for the meeting up on her computer and started editing the report she had to present in an hour to her client. She slowly sipped the overly sweet coffee, letting the caffeine ease into her tired body and wake up the remaining cells.
She was almost finished when a tall, perfectly manicured and suave looking man walked into her office, not bothering to knock. He sauntered towards her desk, then elegantly sat down in one of the visitor’s chairs in front of her desk.
Elissa ignored the spurt of irritation the man’s presence generated and continued to work on finalizing her presentation. “Hello, Derrel. What can I do for you today?” she asked emotionlessly, not bothering to look up from her computer screen.
Darrel Isenberg III picked up a brass paperweight from her desk and tossed it in his hands in a practiced manner, sneering slightly when all of Elissa’s attention was not immediately focused upon him as he was used to. He regrouped quickly, hiding his irritation in the hopes of making her laugh with his next comment. “Ah, Elissa, if you would only follow through on my answer, I would be a happy man,” he said, his smile showing off his perfectly capped, falsely white teeth.
Only by sheer force of will was she able to resist rolling her eyes at him. “Keep it to the professional and I’ll see what I can do,” she said, typing in some additional numbers.
Elissa typed in a few more numbers before replying. “No thank you. Burned twice, not interested,” she answered, referring to the recently-ended relationship they’d had. Elissa knew her heart had never been into the relationship because she’d only felt a mild disappointment at the breakup earlier in the week. What genuinely bothered her was the fact that Derrel had called her frigid because of her resistance to making their relationship physical. He had used their lack of physical intimacy as justification for seeing other women behind her back.
If she had bothered to look up, she would have seen his stunned expression. “But I’ve told you, the other women weren’t important. You mean a lot to me,” he said, his voice becoming borderline whining.
She couldn’t help herself this time. Elissa’s blue eyes rolled, the statement was just too ridiculous. He had mentioned that phrase several times over the past week, trying to convince her to re-establish their relationship. “Derrel, I really need to finish this up. If you’ll excuse me,” she didn’t finish the sentence as she walked out of her office to retrieve a file from the file room, assuming he would get the hint that the conversation was now over.
He followed her to the small room filled with cabinets from wall to wall. Elissa’s first sense of alarm came when she heard the file room door click shut. “What are you doing?” she demanded angrily, holding the retrieved, bulky file in front of her defensively.
Elissa looked around for an escape route but the files were packed high with only a small aisle between each row. Darrel was blocking her only exit, feeling powerful now that he had her full attention.
Darrel worked out religiously every day in an effort to maintain his muscular arms and chest so he wasn’t a movable object if he didn’t want to be moved, especially by a five-foot, six-inch, exhausted woman with panic in her mind. Those muscular arms now wrapped around her, holding her still. “Elissa, we never really became intimate. Let me show you how good it can be between the two of us. Then if you want me to leave, I won’t say another word.”
She tried to wriggle out of his arms but he was too strong and the filing cabinets didn’t give her much room to maneuver. “Darrel, stop it! Don’t touch me,” She said firmly, hoping he couldn’t hear the rising panic in her voice.
He didn’t heed her request and his mouth descended towards hers. His mouth was hard as he tried to coax a response from her. She fought him initially, but his strength was no match for hers so eventually she just stood still and waited.
He had pulled back slightly to see her face but that was all the space she needed. She twisted in his arms and was able to pull free and rush out of the room. “Stay away from me, Darrel,” she called back, furious with him for trapping her in the file room but also equally furious with herself for not seeing what a slimy, irritating man he was months ago.
Elissa rushed out of the file room and back to the relative safety of her office. She felt dirty now. She wanted to rush home and shower again, needing to get the feel of his hands off her arms and back.
Thankfully, as soon as she returned to her office, there were messages and e-mails waiting for her so she was able to put Darrel’s tactics to the back of her mind. The day turned out to be just as hectic as all the others. She was in and out of meetings, working on the final details of a major sale throughout the day. She skipped lunch and ate a sandwich at her desk in the middle of the afternoon.
By the time she had a chance to think again, it was dark outside her office window. But the deal was done, she thought with a vague sense of disappointment. Elissa said goodbye to her client and hung up the phone, taking a deep breath. Then another. After the third deep breath, Elissa gave in and burst into the tears that had been held at bay all day long. The sobs wracked her too-thin frame, leaving her feeling worse than she did before she started crying.
After ten minutes, Elissa pulled herself together and repaired her makeup. Pulling a mirror out of her desk, she looked at her reflection as she tried to get her mind back together. Her brown, curly hair fell softly to her shoulders, framing her face and curling inward at the ends. She pushed the hair behind her ears distractedly, wishing she could have normal, straight hair that looked smooth and sophisticated instead of this mass of brown hair that had a mind of its own.
Her eyes were still the blue she remembered, but she didn’t know where the dark circles underneath had come from. She needed to get a little sun, she thought as she dabbed powder across her nose to hide the redness, the only color left in her face besides her blue eyes.
At that moment, Jim Tillman the managing director of Tillman and Hirshman Investments walked in preceded by a whiff of expensive cologne. Just as Darrel had done earlier in the day, Jim didn’t bother to knock. “Good job today. What kind of numbers did you close with?” he asked, walking around her office, picking up pictures and looking at them, then setting them back down on her shelf.
Elissa blinked and refocused on the computer screen, wishing she didn’t feel so completely tired. She wanted to shout at the man to get out of her office and leave her alone, but instead, she punched in a few numbers on her computer, calculating the gross profits for the day. “The Hartman account pulled in over a million dollars with my last phone call,” she said.
Where was the exhilaration she used to feel after a day like today? Where was the sense of accomplishment? She’d made a lot of money for several clients today but all she felt was a vague sense of restlessness and overwhelming fatigue.
Jim didn’t sense her feelings, preferring to concentrate on the monetary side of life. “That was only a few minutes ago, wasn’t it? You did some other good deals earlier today,” he said and nodded with approval.
“It was a good day,” Elissa confirmed, but she wasn’t interested in the numbers. The firm realized a ten percent return on all profits for each account and she earned a percentage of that. But she didn’t care anymore.
He stopped fiddling with the knick-knacks placed around her office and turned to look at her, a practiced smile on his tanned face. “I was wondering if you would consider a merger,” he said, his bland, gray eyes alighting at the idea.
Elissa didn’t like the sound of that, grimacing inwardly. She suspected that this was going to become an awkward conversation. Jim was a handsome man who had just divorced his third wife. He was tall with dark hair elegantly styled to show off his silver temples and wore perfectly tailored suits. she knew he earned a very good salary. with material wealth anymore. “Can you give me more details?” she asked cautiously just in case she was misreading the signs and this was an actual business proposition and not a personal one.
Since he was managing director of the firm,
Jim turned around and came over to her side of the desk. He sat down on the side, swinging one leg as he faced her. Elissa imagined that he practiced the pose in the mirror at home. “You’re a very beautiful woman, Elissa.”
Elissa was instantly on alert. This was not a good conversation. Jim had a reputation as a womanizer and he didn’t take rejection very well. “Thank you, Jim,” she said cautiously but making sure her face was completely blank. She didn’t want to encourage him in any way but she also didn’t want to show him her revulsion over his apparent lack of morals.
Elissa was instantly furious. How could everyone know about her breakup with Derrel only days after it had happened? She supposed Derrel had complained to too many people. He wasn’t a very private person, unlike herself. “That’s correct. But I’m not ready to jump into the next relationship just yet.”