Path To Passion. Nana Prah
passed since he’d last seen Tanya. He’d been with more women than he could count during that time. Why the hell was he jittery about seeing her again? Sure, she’d been on his mind over the years and he couldn’t help comparing every woman he’d been with to her, but he’d gotten over his best friend’s sister. Right?
Momentarily distracted from his plight, Miguel smiled as he glanced at his watch and thought about how he’d used his marketing savvy to put the newly launched Astacio watch line in competition with established timepiece designers such as Movado and Breguet. Now people of prestige were wearing their Asombra watches.
Only ten minutes before her arrival. Pulling out a lavender shirt with a matching tie, he ignored the fact that it used to be Tanya’s favorite color. What did he expect from her? To be the same sweet, intelligent, loyal-as-her-brother woman he’d spent all night talking to back in school? He scoffed as he slid the gold-and-onyx cuff links into the sleeves. She owned a nightclub. How sweet could she possibly be anymore?
The thought calmed his agitation. He’d changed over the years so it stood to reason she must’ve, too. Of course he’d become more handsome, confident, charming and responsible. If she’d headed in the same positive direction as him, then he had every right to fear this meeting, because other than being Josh’s sister and two years his senior, she’d been damn near perfect.
* * *
Tanya Carrington had sat in her car for the past fifteen minutes willing herself to get out. Repeating phrases like “Turn off the engine. Unlock the door. Breathe, girl, breathe...” hadn’t helped one bit. The heater keeping her warm in the harsh Cleveland weather could attest to that. Not only did she want to avoid the blistering wind, she’d become paralyzed at the thought of seeing Miguel Astacio live and in person again.
It was one thing to daydream about him after watching him give some speech or catching the entertainment news feature him with his latest girlfriend. He couldn’t see how dejected she became every time his virtual presence crossed her world. She took a quick glance at the car’s digital clock—in ten minutes she’d be walking into his office to ask for the biggest favor of her life.
Her heart thundered just as it had all those years ago when she’d first met him and every time after. Her brother’s friends had never interested her. In college, her focus had been on her studies in order to keep the full scholarship that had allowed her to major in computer science at Ohio State University.
She’d been drawn to him the moment she’d walked into her brother’s room and locked eyes with the new transfer. She could’ve sworn she’d seen an answering flash of interest in hazel eyes set in the most flawless light brown skin she’d ever seen. His long eyelashes had distracted her until he’d smiled and two dimples had appeared, making her knees so weak she’d sunk down into the first chair she could stumble to. She didn’t know anything about him other than being the most handsome man she’d ever met in her life, but she’d known for sure that she’d wanted him.
While her nerdier-than-her brother had gone on and on about a sci-fi movie he’d just seen, she’d tried to pay attention, but Miguel kept stealing it. Not that he’d paid any mind to her after their initial introduction, where he’d tipped his chin up and said, “Sup,” before ignoring her.
She’d spent more time in her brother’s room those few weeks than she had in her own just so she could sneak glances at Miguel when he’d drop by. It took a while for him to warm up to her, but he had and they’d became friends.
Toward the end of their second semester, they’d gotten really close, and she could’ve sworn he’d liked her way more than a friend. But every time she looked at him, she remembered the forty pounds she needed to lose before a guy like him would even consider dating her. How many times had she attempted to lose weight to be more attractive to him? Every time she’d started a diet, the pounds she’d lost would rebound when she fell into a state of temptation.
What she’d detested him for was the fact that he’d humiliated her when finally she’d summoned the courage to tell him she loved him just before she’d graduated.
Why hadn’t she sought her best friend, Becca’s, opinion on it before exposing herself? That’s right, her stubborn self had already made up her mind and nothing would stop her. Becca may have told her to forgo the plan of revealing her true feelings for Miguel, which would’ve saved her from mind-numbing humiliation. Although the experience had left a lingering ache in her chest every time she thought about it, at least she never had to wonder how Miguel felt about her.
His rejection still rang in her ears. He’d never seen her as anything more than Josh’s older sister and a friend as he dated every woman on campus. At least she’d had sense to tell him how she felt just before graduation. The timing saved her from ever having to see him again.
Tanya gripped the steering wheel and took deep, controlled breaths. No need to dredge up the past when there was nothing she could do about it. The focus should be on fixing her business so she wouldn’t end up living in her car or, worse: moving in with her parents. In order to do that, she had to get out of the car, walk down the block to the fifteen-story Astacio building and ask advice from a man she’d once allowed to destroy her.
No big deal.
The fact that her brother had suggested and arranged this meeting with the king of marketing had forced Tanya to drag herself out of the vehicle, smooth her knee-length down coat and speed walk to the Astacio building so she wouldn’t be late. Just because Josh had had to convince her to attend didn’t mean she was stupid enough to annoy the marketing director by being late. What had she been thinking sitting in the car for so long?
The trepidation and mortification she should’ve gotten over a long time ago had held her bound. She made it to the ninth floor of the building with one minute to spare. The space reminded her of what she’d learned about him over the years. The word vivid came to mind. Weren’t offices supposed to be sedate and understated? No one must have given Miguel the message, because the reception area was the polar opposite of traditional.
Bright blues, yellows, greens and reds interspersed with white would’ve made teaching primary colors to a kindergartner fun and exciting. She blinked as she looked down at her conservative navy blue skirt suit with the maroon-colored silk blouse. She felt more than a little out of place.
She gasped as she turned to the right and saw what appeared to be a Jackson Pollock in matching colors to the office. Was it real? Just as she was about to step closer to the painting, the receptionist said, “Good afternoon. How may I help you?” His grin spoke of more than just politeness. He was amused by her reaction. His red suit and white dress shirt adorned with a canary-yellow pocket square fit right in with the trendy atmosphere.
“Hi. My name is Tanya Carrington and I have an appointment with Mr. Miguel Astacio.”
“Please have a seat. I’ll let him know you’re here.”
She nodded and sat, gripping her purse on her lap. For the hundredth time, she asked herself if she really needed Miguel’s help. She’d been in worse situations than having her livelihood snatched away. When had she started lying to herself? She’d never been in such dire straits. Josh seemed to think Miguel could help, so she’d trusted him and consented to him calling his best friend. Besides, she’d transitioned into a confident woman who ran a restaurant and nightclub. Did it matter that it was failing miserably and she was spiraling into a near-debilitating debt?
“He’ll see you now, Ms. Carrington,” the stylish receptionist announced.
She swallowed hard with a longing look at the watercooler as she forced a smile to her face. “Thank you,” she said while standing on shaky legs, making sure not to trip in her comfortable wedge heels. With the aim of going into the lion’s den with a strictly professional mentality, she ran through a couple of her favorite affirmations. I am worthy. I am great. I am successful.