I don’t belong here. Paul’s thoughts only added to the stress he was feeling under his tailored tuxedo. How do you get yourself into these things? Paul knew the answer to the redundant question that always popped up in his head at times like these. He wanted to be here. This was not about the executive office party. It was not about climbing the corporate ladder. This was about Paul’s ego. He had to prove to himself he could run with the big dogs, but for no other reason than proving he could do it.
Gerald, Paul’s boss, approached. “Good to see you, young man. I’m glad you could make it. I want you to know I’ve been working the crowd for you. No pressure, but don’t disappoint me.”
Paul gave a nervous laugh while he attempted to find the correct response. “No problems with me, Gerry. I would never let my favorite boss down.”
Gerald gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder. “Good, that’s what I like to hear. Now mingle. You’re among friends.”
Paul watched Gerry meander to a large group of people. Surveying the room Paul found the open bar and strolled over. After getting a beer, he turned around to see what conversation he could interrupt. He was slowing panning left to right when their eyes locked. Paul wanted to look away, but he couldn’t. Those are the most incredible eyes I have ever seen.
Her elegance pulled Paul in. He forgot why he was there, or even the rest of the room. Her long thick black hair accented the white sequined evening gown she wore. Her olive skin and dress seemed to blend into one beautiful piece of art. Paul tried to stop himself from imagining her silhouette beneath. He stood there admiring the woman when there was a tap on his shoulder. The woman smiled and looked away.
“I see you have expensive taste.”
Paul turned to see Gerry standing next to him. “Hi, boss. I guess I do.”
Gerald smiled and spoke softly. “You do know that’s our boss, right? As in the whole corporation, as in CEO.”
Paul smirked. “I know, but she’s also a beautiful woman. She’s out of my league, but I would never say no to a drink.”
A female both beside them said, “Neither would I.”
Both men gave each other a quick panicked stare. Neither knew the female voice, but they had an idea. Paul turned his head and stammered. “Oh, hi. I, um, I’m Paul. Um, Paul McCoy.”
The CEO laughed. “Are you sure?”
Gerry attempted to jump in. “He’s sure, Ms. Dufrey.”
Paul could not stop staring into her eyes. I may lose my job, but I don’t care. I would swear she is returning my gaze. Ms. Dufrey broke the connection and turned to Gerald.
“Gerald, I can handle things from here. Why don’t you go to talk to Lewis? I hear you two like golfing together.”
“Thank you, I’ll go do that.” Gerry’s shoulders slunk a little as he walked away.
Paul’s courage returned when he realized she wanted to talk with him alone. “Ms. Dufrey, this is a lovely party.”
She locked with his eyes again and put out her hand. Paul shook it and swore he felt the tingle of electricity. Her hands were soft and graceful. She held his hand for a moment longer and slid her fingers slowly off his. Hold it together boy. You aren’t that good.
“Please, call me Michelle. I hear a lot of good things about you.” Michelle smiled and took a sip of red wine.
Good things. Wow, the CEO knows who I am? Paul found himself caught in a tug-o-war between his ego and desire. He gave a sly smile and spoke. “If they were good then they were all true.” Both laughed. Paul continued. “Would I be out of line to compliment you on your dress tonight?”
Michelle gave Paul a coy smile and responded. “I suppose if it is out of line I am equally guilty because I find you quite handsome in your tux.”
Paul’s ego kicked up a notch and he moved forward. “I like the idea of being deviant with you.”
They both laughed once more. Neither noticed the number of glances they were getting, or at least Paul did not. He took a step closer and did his best to look even more deeply into her deep black eyes. “I think we should go to dinner sometime.”
Michelle took a half stepped back and smiled. “Aren’t you the little egotist.”
Paul’s soul felt crushed. What am I doing, she’s my boss? I’m not allowed to do this. At least, I don’t’ think I am. “I’m sorry, I was out of line.”
Michelle leaned in a little. “You misunderstand. You told Gerry you would go with me for a drink. What do you say we finish networking with the crowd? Then let’s leave this place and have that drink. I know a wonderful little Irish pub that stays open past 2am.”
Paul almost dropped his beer glass. “Yes, definitely, most certainly.”
Michelle allowed a quiet giggle to escape her perfect lips. “I’m glad you’re sure.”
With that she turned and walk over to a group of five people who Paul did not know. He turned and went to get another beer. I might like office parties more than I thought. He smiled at his own thought and went to work the crowd.