Home > Between Here and the Horizon(4)

Between Here and the Horizon(4)
Callie Hart

I looked out of the window, away from her, not wanting to trade in strange expressions. “I don’t know. It seems like such a long time ago now. People…they forget.”

“Oh, no. No, that’s not likely to ever happen. New York doesn’t forget. We’ll remember those poor people for generations. Until the city falls into the sea. Probably longer.”

An hour and a half later, I was swearing under my breath, sweating, cursing myself out for not giving myself longer to get from the airport to the Fletcher building. West 23rd and 6th was a long old way from JFK, and I only had twelve minutes to spare as I hopped out of the cab and dashed inside the imposing, tall, spear-like glass structure that seemed to rocket up out of the sidewalk.

The lobby of the Fletcher building was modest and simple but spoke of money. The floors were cool, polished marble, and the seating area set back to the right was comprised of beautiful gray leather armchairs that looked like they cost more than my car back in L.A. I hurried to the reception desk, frantically patting down my hair, hoping against hope that I didn’t look completely frazzled, which I undoubtedly did. The woman behind the desk glanced up at me and smiled.

“How may I help you?” she asked. Her voice was smooth and cool, but not unfriendly. Her bright blonde hair was swept back into a perfectly styled coiffeur that made me want to weep with jealousy.

“My name is Ophelia Lang. I have a four o’clock appointment with Mr. Fletcher.”

“Ahh, yes. Miss Lang. One moment, please.” She rolled back in her chair and opened a drawer at her side, from which she produced a small laminated name badge with my photograph on it. She slid the laminate across the counter toward me, smiling. “It’s a good picture,” she informed me. “Most of the time they look awful.”

I glanced down at the photo and grimaced. It was more of a mug shot than an identification picture. I looked startled. My eyes, usually green, were tinged with red somehow, so I looked fairly demonic. The contrast on the image was way off, too, so that my long, light brown hair seemed almost black. My tan was non-existent, and my lips looked blood red. Basically, I looked like a vampire.

I gave the receptionist a polite, awkward smile anyway. “Thanks.”

She leaned forward and placed a hand on my forearm, speaking very softly. “Don’t look so worried. Mr. Fletcher can be a bit of a cold fish sometimes, but he’s a decent guy. He’s fair, and he’s a good boss. Everything’s going to be okay.”

I had no idea why she felt the need to reassure me, but her words actually slowed my pulse from racing quite as fast, and that was something.

“You’d better head on up to the penthouse office now, though, Miss Lang.” She pointed at a bank of elevators on the other side of the lobby. “While he may be a good boss, he also really does hate when people are late.”


The Offer

A stern looking security guard escorted me up in the elevator to Fletcher’s office.

I hadn’t travelled much. A weekend in Arizona here. A trip to Vegas there. I’d only been out of the States once, when Dad stumped up for a ten-day trip to Canada for the family—a graduation present, back when the restaurant was doing much better and money was nowhere near as tight. As I stepped into Ronan Fletcher’s private offices on the thirty-first floor, which also just so happened to be the very highest floor of the Fletcher Corporation building, I was accosted by the strangest, most wonderful sights, from countries I doubted I’d ever get to visit: African tribal face masks made out of intricately carved wood. Japanese silk fans, beautifully painted, perched on the walls like rare butterflies. Russian Faberge eggs the size of my fist, seated in gilded golden stands on walnut sideboards. A glass case ran along the entire length of the right-hand wall, where an array of golden necklaces and hammered copper earrings were arranged with delicate precision on top of rich, ruby red velvets. It looked more like a museum exhibition than an office. If it weren’t for the huge, imposing desk, complete with a ginormous iMac that sat directly in front of the wall of floor to ceiling glass windows, overlooking the city, then I’d have thought I’d stepped into the Natural History Museum and not someone’s place of work.

“Mr. Fletcher will be with you in a moment,” the guard told me. “Have a seat. And don’t touch anything.”

I wouldn’t have touched anything anyway—everything looked like it cost more than my life was worth. I sat myself down on the other side of the desk and tried not to fidget. I checked my watch: Three fifty-nine. Four o’clock. Four oh-one. Four oh-two. Ronan Fletcher was officially late. Unbelievable, really, given what the receptionist had just told me. Two further minutes passed, and I began to think that maybe Fletcher had already left to attend to his children, but then a door to the right opened and in walked the man himself, pulling on the white cuffs of his sleeves as he hurried into the room.

I watched him, dumbstruck, as he seated himself opposite me. Not what I had been expecting at all. Ronan Fletcher wasn’t some stuffy, overweight trader with an extended gut from too many late night, fat-loaded meals and beers at his desk. He was tall, over six feet; he would have dwarfed my five-foot-eight frame if we were to stand side-by-side. Dark hair, and dark eyes; he could easily have been of Italian descent by his coloring, but his skin was pale. His shoulders were broad, his arms muscular, straining at the expensive looking material of his button-down shirt. He didn’t look up at me until he had himself settled into his chair.

When he lifted his head and finally pinned me in his gaze, I was stunned by the harsh angles and lines of his face. They were magnificent—a rough sketch in charcoal, torn out of Michelangelo’s notebook, all sweeping, bold strokes. Strong jawline. High cheek bones. Perfectly straight nose. His bottom lip was fuller than the top, formed into a perfect Cupid’s bow. There was no denying it: the man was a work of art, as rare and exquisite as any of the artifacts mounted on his walls.

“Hello, Miss Lang,” he said coolly. “Thank you for taking the time to come out to New York. I know what an inconvenience it must have been.” His voice was lilting, a subtle melody teasing at the cadence of his words. Such a strange accent. One I couldn’t place.

“Not at all.” From my breezy tone, it sounded like I really meant it, that the journey really wasn’t a huge thing for me and I hadn’t minded it at all. Fletcher’s dark eyebrows dipped ever so slightly as he frowned.

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