Seduced by Mr. Right(6)

By: Pamela Yaye

The door swung open, and Antwan stood in the grand foyer, dressed in one of his trademark suits, grinning from ear to ear. “Good morning, beautiful.”

Sharleen held up her cell phone. “I was just about to call you. I thought maybe you forgot about our appointment.”

“I could never forget you. You’re my future baby-mama, remember?”

“Yeah, right! Life coaching is my first and only love, so you’re fresh out of luck, my friend.”

“Just wait. One day you’ll be singing another tune!”

No, I won’t. Men and careers just don’t mix.

“I’m glad you’re here.” Antwan gave her a hug, one that lasted longer than necessary, and kissed her cheek. “Have any trouble finding the place?”

“No, as usual your directions were bang on. Thanks, Antwan.”

“Don’t sweat it. You know I got you.”

After taking her hand, he led her inside the mansion. Everything in the vestibule gleamed and sparkled. The foyer was dripping in gold, and it was elegantly decorated with Italian furnishings. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the vintage lamps, decorative bowls and glass sculptures were eye-catching. The air smelled of hazelnut coffee, and the heady aroma made Sharleen think of her parents.

Memories of her childhood played in her mind. She thought of all the mornings she’d made breakfast with her mom, the summer days she’d helped her dad wash his rusted, old Buick and their family movie nights at the local drive-in. Biting the inside of her cheek kept her tears at bay, but there was nothing she could do to alleviate the crushing pain in her heart.

“After we finish up here, I’m taking you out for lunch,” Antwan announced. “I was at Sushi Huku a few weeks ago, but it just wasn’t the same without you.”

“I can’t. I have another consultation at noon.”

He made a puppy-dog face, but Sharleen wasn’t moved. Antwan was used to having his way with women, but his childish antics had never worked on her. Not even when she was a lonely college graduate with no friends and a broken heart.

“Tell me something.” Eyes narrowed, he studied her like a painting hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “How come you shoot me down every time I ask you out?”

Oh, brother, not this again. Sharleen groaned inwardly, but maintained her bright, everything’s-great smile. Dating Antwan had never crossed her mind. Not once. Why would it? He collected women like trophies, and she wasn’t interested in being his flavor of the week. “Knock it off,” she quipped, playfully swatting his shoulder. “I came here to meet Emilio, not shoot the breeze with you.”

His grin was back. “I rarely get to see you, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone.”

Dodging his gaze, she turned toward the pale blue walls to admire the framed photographs hanging above the mahogany side table. There were pictures of family barbecues and birthday parties, and even a Christmas-day wedding. The images were touching, not at all what she’d expect to see inside Emilio Morretti’s estate. Again, Sharleen thought of her parents. They always loved the holidays, especially Christmas—

“This cat-and-mouse game has gone on long enough.” Antwan leaned in close and affectionately squeezed her forearm. “Why are you playing hard to get?”

Who’s playing? Sharleen respected Antwan and valued their friendship, but they could never be more than friends. He didn’t have a faithful bone in his body, and if he ever discovered her secret, he’d run for the hills.

Didn’t they all? She was damaged goods to the opposite sex, and that would never change. Although Sharleen longed to have a family of her own, she knew she had a better chance of winning the lottery than finding her one true love. No matter. Advancing her career was all that mattered, all she cared about. Being a life coach was her passion, and she woke up every morning excited to go to work. She wished she had more time to spend with her girlfriends, but she wouldn’t change her life for anything in the world.

“Where’s Emilio? We have a lot of ground to cover this morning, and I’m anxious to get started.” To prove she meant business, Sharleen took a clipboard and a pen out of her purse. “Are you going to take me to Emilio, or do I have to find him myself?”

Antwan wagged a finger in her face. “We’ll talk later, because this isn’t over.”

Oh, yes, it is. You and I would never work, so quit while you’re ahead!

Sharleen spun on her heels and was surprised to see that Emilio Morretti had silently entered the vestibule. Her heart stopped dead in her chest. Her head felt fuzzy, as if she was hungover, and her pulse beat out of control.

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