“Damn it.”

– an excerpt from “Cross Your Heart” by Lorine S. Thomas

Shania’s foot slammed on the brake with a hard jerk. She had been so deep in thought that she almost ran the red light. Today was her meeting with the president of Austin Media, and everything had to go smoothly so her business could take off the way she wanted. Even though her advertising company, S & S, was well-known in the city, she wanted to take on bigger clientele. And Austin Media was the company to make that happen.
It had been purely by chance that she had received the information that Austin Media were looking for a new agency to work with. One of her designers had gone out for her lunch break and overheard a couple of employees from another agency discussing it. So, Shania had thrown together a portfolio and a proposal and sent it to Austin’s office. Now, the meeting of her life was ten minutes away.

The drive to the office was just the time she needed to compose herself. With the spring weather so perfect, she rolled down her car windows and let the cool, crisp air energize her. She hoped that after the meeting she would have a few moments to relax in the park before heading back into the office. As she approached the building, she admired the beautiful structure. The black and chrome gave the building a sleek, upscale appearance. Once she parked her car in the underground garage, she quickly made her way into the elevator and pushed the button for the seventeenth floor.
“Shania Phillips for Mr. Austin,” she told the receptionist as she stepped off the elevator.

The waiting room had the same sleek, upscale look like the outside of the building. The chairs, made of a rich, wine-colored plush, felt as comfortable as they looked. The room was painted a light red that succeeded in giving it a cozy feeling. The soft sound of light jazz flowed over throughout the air. As the receptionist buzzed Mr. Austin’s office, Shania briefly went over her outline. Soon, she was told that Mr. Austin was ready for her. He was seated with his chair facing the windows, seemingly admiring the city view, as she walked into his office.
“Mr. Austin, I am glad that you took time out of your busy schedule to grant me this meeting. I have worked very hard to ensure that I have the right ad that you are looking for, and I hope, the one you will find satisfactory.”

“I know that you are a smart and intelligent woman who knows her business, and who knows how to get the job done, and I believe that I will love any idea that you have, Ms. Phillips.”

Something about his voice made her blood turn icy. A vague familiarity that made her extremely uncomfortable. Mr. Austin swung his chair around, and it came to Shania in a rush. With recognition came an immediate shock to her system; Shania struggled to breathe, and she felt as though someone had suddenly sucked the air out the room. She thought of herself as someone who could handle just about any situation, but she knew she wasn’t ready to handle this. Mr. Austin was none other than Patrick Austin, her former college flame.

All the blood seemed to drain from her body as she stood there in complete silence. This was the man she spent the majority of her college nights dreaming about. This was the man who made her life a living hell. This was also the same man who, in the end, shattered her heart into a million pieces. Now, Patrick stood in front of Shania with her career in the palm of his hands.

“It’s been a long time hasn’t it, Shania?”
“Yes, a very long time, if my memory serves me correctly Patrick,” she replied, after finally finding her voice. “When I saw the name P. Riley Austin, I never in a million years thought that it was you. I would ask you how the years have treated you, but I guess I already know the answer to that, don’t I?”
“Yes, I have done very well, but I can see that I am not the only successful one here.”
“Business has been good and with any luck it will get better, and that’s why I’m here today. So, as much as I would love to play catch up with you, we both have other pressing matters. Why don’t we sit and get this meeting started.”

They closed the door and got down to business. As they went over the details, Shania tried but couldn’t keep her mind focused. It had been sixteen years since they last saw each other, and Patrick looked the same as he did in college. He was still as handsome as she remembered. His rugged, yet gentle, chocolate face was set off by the most beautiful pair of brown eyes ever to grace a face. Eyes that looked as though they could pierce the deepest part of your soul. His simple dress shirt and slacks highlighted his muscular frame and made his shoulders and arms look appealing and inviting. Just the thought of being wrapped up in those arms made Shania’s pulse race more than it already was. The remainder of the meeting seemed to fly by in a hurry, and Shania was very thankful when it was over.

The drive back to S & S was an absolute blur for Shania. Her heart was still pounding. She couldn’t believe what just happened. Through all the research she had done on the company and its president, never once had she found the slightest indication that the President of Austin Media was Patrick. If she had known that bit of information beforehand, she doubted that she would have even set up the meeting. As much as she wanted that huge contract, she wanted nothing to do with him. Shania knew it was wrong to put personal feelings ahead of professional needs, but she thought that sometimes that rule was meant to be broken.

What really ticked Shania off was that Patrick was much better looking now than he had been in college. As much as Shania hated to admit it, she still carried a small torch for Patrick. Though they hadn’t seen each other in years, the love that she felt for him so long ago had not died, despite her best efforts. Shania still found Patrick attractive; yet, as much as she yearned for his touch, she promised herself a long time ago that she would never be caught in his web again.