"Good evening again, Ms. Lewis. It's Arthur." Huntington rolled her eyes. Of course, her ringtone had indicated who it was.
Huntington made her way back to the seat proud that she only dropped her crackers once. "I called the hotel to see if you had made it since your cell was off at the time. They said you hadn't, so I had Joy to track you down. She said you got re-routed through Birmingham and wouldn't be getting in until after midnight tonight. I figured I'd keep trying you until you picked up."
"Yes," Hunny responded. Of course he would keep trying. She could read his voice as well as she could the magazine in her lap. Something had him tense and whatever it was, he felt compelled to share with her. "It's already been planes, trains, and automobiles, but it's all right. I'm sure I'll make it into the office for the meeting on time tomorrow. You know I don't sleep much anyway."
"Well, did you have an opportunity to peruse the file?" he prompted.
"Peruse? Yes." When the other end remained silent, she continued. "I think I'm ready to do mock ups for the television and magazine campaign. I've also got some ideas for the web design. I know you like to wait until after my meeting, but I'm pretty sure what I want to do. The only sticking point I have so far is the CEO. Normally not a big deal with a pharmaceutical company as long as he plays golf, gets his wife to head up a charity, and stays discreet with lobbying, but this guy..." And, as Hunny took up her seat next to the older woman and thanked her with a quick winning smile, she set her drink and crackers down and started to thumb through the magazine as she talked. Arthur had a habit of wanting to talk to her non-stop when she was on large projects. She wondered absently if he did this to everyone else. Yes, probably. But, she would wait patiently until he came around to telling her what he really wanted.
She lost her train of thought as what she was seeing began to register. She stopped speaking though she was sure her mouth remained open in a horrifying silent scream. A heartbeat passed, then two as she desperately skimmed the article. "You have got to be kidding me." Well, that's what she meant to say, although she was pretty sure there had been some other not-so-nice words spliced into the sentence. Then, she clapped her hand over her mouth and shot an apologetic look at the older woman who had watched her suitcase. Bad habit, that. Something about being away from the office gave her a foul sailor's mouth. Her mama would have a heart attack if she knew.
Hunny, realizing that Arthur, who normally asked a lot of questions and gave a lot of needless direction, had said next to nothing since he called her, got his attention "Arthur?"
"Well..." he hedged. It was unlike Arthur to hesitate, but Hunny already knew she was not going to like whatever it was he had to say. "I can only assume by your outburst that you've discovered our slight situation."
"Slight?" Her tone was dry, incredulous. Arthur was uncharacteristically stalling. "Arthur Adam Gentry."
"Yes, Ms. Lewis?"
"Did you call to discuss our slight situation?" For a moment he was silent. Her heart started to race in anticipation.
"I was hoping to get in touch with you before you found out," he began. "However, you are--as usual--advanced in your information."
"Not as advanced as I'd like to be, I assure you," Huntington answered. "For example, I don't care that he's featured in four photos with four different women. But, I'd like to have been there to tell that jackass to keep it in his pants before he got involved with someone who worked for the Food and Drug Administration and was, at the time of the indiscretion, the girlfriend of the hottest running back of the century, Devon McAteer."
So much for keeping a low profile, golfing, giving to charity, showing a staid, conservative image. Hunny couldn't stop staring at the picture of the gorgeous man with brilliant white smile and the elegant beauty pictured beside him. She was tall and rail thin with thin lips, brows, nose and brown eyes. She wore a champagne-colored dress that melted against her cinnamon kissed peaches and cream complexion. She wore her straight black hair in a fashionable, tidy French roll making her look like Lena Horne in her prime. The woman was looking at him with such longing in her eyes.
He, all bulky and charismatic, was looking at the camera. Hunny almost felt like his eyes were right on her. He was dark-skinned, clean cut in his fastidious black tuxedo. That he was tall and his body thick and muscled was undeniable even in print. And that smile, that face. His jaw was square to frame full, soft-looking lips parted over strong white teeth. His black eyes were large and expressive. She breathed once, twice. She would stay quiet until she trusted herself to speak again. He was probably the most handsome man she had ever seen.
She reread the caption beneath the picture of him and Nicole Davidson. Two weeks ago, this picture was taken only two weeks ago. "What was he thinking?"
"Well..." Arthur started. Hunny had almost forgotten him on the other end of the line. "We've seen this before Huntington. In some industries, executives don't always understand their own celebrity. And even when they are in the limelight, in many instances, people like to think of CEOs as, well, bon vivants."
"In this industry, this CEO does not have to be a celebrity. He's turning himself into one, and not--might I add--in a good way. And as far as being a CEO who's a black James Bond type playboy--not a bon vivant as you so tactfully put it--I'm sure we can get him to sell tons of birth control and male enhancement gel--"
"Ms. Lewis." Arthur gasped.
"But, I don't see the--"
"Ms. Lewis," Arthur repeated. Hunny clamped her mouth shut. For a moment, Arthur said nothing as if testing whether his audience was truly captive. "Let's not forget that this multi-million dollar company wants us to help it become a multi-billion dollar company. Let's also not forget this is your career. Your job is to either tuck this CEO away or clean up his image."
Hunny nodded, though Arthur could not see it. "Yes," she agreed vocally. She had to pull it together. She'd had harder assignments. Besides, it was only a little part of a little column. Though, she didn't subscribe to the theory that any publicity was good publicity, she had to admit this was the only place she'd seen the article.
"Besides, the ended relationship isn't the big problem."
With those words, the hair stood up on the back of Hunny's neck.