Path To Passion. Nana Prah

Path To Passion - Nana Prah

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her mind: I am screwed.

      * * *

      Miguel had lowered the heat, yet his fingers had difficulty grasping his pen due to the excessive sweat. He figured the busy look would be best when Tanya walked in. Unfortunately, a shaky pen due to his trembling hands was too telling, so he lay it down and waited for her to walk in while pretending to read a document.

      The woman who entered could’ve been a swimsuit model with her full hips and breasts, emphasized by a slim waist. His gaze settled on her flawless medium-brown complexion and lingered. Her beauty stunned him. Large onyx eyes stared at him from beneath finely arched brows. Her light hand with the makeup emphasized her sculpted cheekbones and succulent lips. Who was this woman and where was Tanya? He watched the door she’d closed and waited for Josh’s sister to follow behind.

      “Good afternoon,” the stranger greeted.

      He started at the sound of the familiar voice, and he snagged in a sharp breath. “Tanya?” he whispered. This gorgeous woman couldn’t be her.

      Her eyes turned cold although she smiled while extending her hand. “Good to see you again, Mr. Astacio.”

      The hard tone of her voice indicated otherwise. Pulling himself together, he ignored her hand the same way he did her lie. After how he’d treated her back in college, she’d probably never wanted to see him again, but at least he’d been honest. He extended his arms out to her, not missing the way she shrank away even though his smile was genuine. “There’s no Mr. Astacio among us. Bring it in.”

      Instead of coming forward as expected, she stepped back, reached for his right hand and pumped it up and down.

      Once again, the woman had shocked him. Everyone wanted a piece of him when he was willing to give it and yet she’d rejected his embrace. One thing hadn’t changed between them, though. The zap of electricity that hit him had been present every time they’d accidentally touched.

      Her eyes widened and her nostrils flared for a beat with her sharp inhale before she pulled her hand free. “It’s been a long time.”

      Unable to get over how much she’d changed, he continued to stare, wondering why he’d never known such a transformation had occurred. What good would it have done to ask Josh about her when he’d made the ultimate choice to maintain their friendship instead of pursuing a relationship? They didn’t run in the same circles so he never saw her. “You look amazing.”

      Shifting from one foot to the other revealed her nervousness. “Thank you.”

      “I’m being rude.” He waved a hand toward one of the two maroon leather chairs in front of his dark oak wood desk. “Please have a seat.”

      She nodded, perched on the edge of the chair and crossed her legs at the ankles. Her long skirt suit exposed no skin. Most women who came to see him for a favor wore midthigh dresses and didn’t sit as demurely. He wondered if he should be pleased or disappointed by her conservative demeanor. It would’ve been nice to see more of her legs. They’d always been beautiful.

      His breath got stuck in his throat as their gazes locked. “You look amazing.” Hadn’t he said that already? Perhaps he was dehydrated from the excessive sweating he’d done before her arrival. “Can I get you some water? A drink?”

      She opened her mouth to speak, but then shut it and shook her head. “No, thank you.”

      What had she been about to say? The woman he’d known in college had always spoken her mind, yet another trait he’d appreciated. And then he remembered that she’d come to see him because her nightclub was in deep financial trouble.

      He strode to the refrigerator hidden within a dark varnished cabinet that matched the rest of the furniture, pulled out a bottle of water and downed half of it before returning to his side of the desk. How should he play it with her? Keep it strictly professional or treat her like a friend? Asking her on a long-awaited date was out of the question. Nothing had changed and he refused to ruin the incredible friendship with Josh. Tanya was still off-limits. No matter how exceptional she looked or made his heart race.

      She opened her bag and took out a notebook and pen. “Thank you very much for seeing me. I’ll get right to the point so as not to waste your time.”

      Had her voice always been so husky? He’d remembered a lot about her, but not that. He nodded in response.

      “It’s no secret you’re the marketing expert of your family’s successful conglomeration. You can take any product, rebrand it and make it fly off the shelves.” Her throat bobbed with her swallow, and he wondered if she was rethinking declining the offer of a drink. “You’ve done it with food products such as your chocolate puff cereal and malt drink, your children’s multivitamins and quite recently, you’ve catapulted your newly launched watch line into the must-have category for the rich and famous. Time magazine said you had the ‘Midas-branding touch.’”

      Should he be impressed she’d done her homework? Once again, he had to stop comparing her to most women. She’d always shone above the rest.

      For the first time since walking into his office, her smile seemed sincere. “You had the gift even back in college. Thanks to you, the football, baseball and women’s volleyball teams got a whole new look from the money you helped them raise through getting students involved in fund-raisers. And when their looks changed, the next year so did their performance. It was nothing short of brilliant.”

      He hadn’t realized she’d been aware of what he’d done.

      Tanya continued her speech. “Toshia Covington bragged about your role in reviving her party-planning business. She said if it hadn’t been for you, none of her husband’s money would’ve done her any good in providing CPR for her business. She said she would’ve pumped it in only for it to flow back out.”

      The clenching of his stomach didn’t bode well. How did she know his sister’s best friend? And even more disconcerting was how she knew he was the one who’d helped her. “Are you friends with Toshia?”

      The hard shake of her head sent her thick wavy hair flying over her shoulders. “I’ve never met her. She gave an interview in Black Women Entrepreneur magazine and sang your praises.” She crinkled her brow. “I’m surprised you didn’t have people knocking down your door to tap into your branding acumen.”

      He chuckled as his body relaxed. The fear of stalkers was a real thing in his life, and he never took it for granted when someone had more information on him than they should. “I did. I had to take a trip to Argentina and then Jamaica to get away from the stress. Poor Franklin.”


      “My assistant. He absorbed the brunt of it.” At her slight frown of disappointment, he rushed on to explain, “I rewarded him with a fully paid vacation to a place of his choosing once everything died down. And besides, I was scheduled to take those trips a couple of weeks later for business—I just happened to push up the dates.” Why was he defending himself? She was supposed to be impressing him, not the other way around. After clearing his throat, he asked, “What can I help you with?”

      She gained an inch when she straightened her back. “Since you’re an expert when it comes to reviving products which are sorely in need of rebranding, I was wondering...” Her eyes flicked to the left toward the view of the downtown Cleveland skyline and then roamed over the room until it reached him again with her mouth open.

      He hid his amused smile behind his hand. Had she only just noticed this office? Would she comment or continue with her paused presentation? Most people noted the stark difference between his conservative decor and that of the reception area as they stepped into his office. She’d lost a point for not observing it right away. But then again, would he have noticed if he’d been in her position?

      Seeming to recover, she continued her spiel. “Would you kindly give me some tips on how I can revamp my nightclub back into one of the happening spots in Cleveland? If it could become a hot spot in Ohio, that would be great. And if we could

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