Rio sat on the hood of his car, waiting for the doors of Experiences Inc. to open. He’d found the business card with its name on it—white with black scrip lettering—on the desk in his home-office, intentionally left behind, he thought, by Stardust, his girlfriend, well, his ex-girlfriend as of this morning. As it turns out, Experience Inc. was in the wedding planning business and since his ex-girlfriend had started his day with ‘I’ve found someone who wants to marry me,’ it made sense he was here seeking answers.
WTF was mostly what he thought, watching Stardust tell him all the ways they didn’t work, which basically amounted to she was tired of waiting for him to marry her. Which was surprising, since he wasn’t ever going to marry her and had told her so at the beginning. He wasn’t going to marry anyone. Ever.
So he was clueless apparently, a thing he rarely was, but was living a lie, thinking she was okay with where they were. The last nine months were all pretend, he guessed. Living with him, while seeing someone else who wanted to marry her, now was the real deal. Fine then, he thought, walking her to the front door, where her suitcases were packed, patiently waiting to be loaded into her car. He helped, of course, cause that was just who he was, stood watching her drive away, more than a little stunned and furious. What the hell.
He had work, the one thing he could always count on, which is how he’d come across the business card with the words Experiences Inc written across the front, along with its web address. One internet search later put him here, standing beside the hood of his car, waiting for the lights to come on and the doors to open.
Finally, he thought, watching a young woman moving toward the front door. She turned the key in the lock, then headed over to her desk, which was visible now. It was a nice enough office space, he thought, if not simple, maybe even elegant in its interior if he were being generous. He was not. Planked light colored wood flooring, walls painted a light grey, trimmed in white molding a backdrop to the other colors, yellow mostly from the sofa, more red and blue than yellow on the two chairs beside it.
“Good morning,” the young woman said, smiling back at him. Chipper he thought of her demeanor, maybe even slightly flirtatious, scanning his person quickly. African American and rail thin, her afro wider than her body, taking in the long hair naturally halo around her head. “I did not know there were so many handsome men in the world,” as he came to a stop in front of her desk. “Racy has this uncanny ability to find ya’ll.” She said. “Hi, I’m her assistant, Jayla,” she said.
“Nice to meet you, Jayla.”
“Back at you.” She said, chuckling, “Racy says weddings are the best place to find men. Is that where she found you? At a wedding? God knows we need handsome men for all categories? Boyfriends, fathers, groomsmen or, if push comes to shove, grooms. You can’t even imagine how picky people are these days. Makes sense right, if you can choose, why not pick handsome?” Chatty Jayla said, smiling.
“Is she here?”
“Yes, you’re her first appointment. What’s your name, and I’ll let her know her nine o’clock is here.” She said, moving her gaze to the computer on her desk.
“She’s not expecting me.”
“You don’t have an appointment?”
“But you have to. She won’t see you without one,” she said, moving her gaze to the computer screen on the desk again. Double checking, he guessed. “You’re right, though there is nothing on the schedule. Again I’m sorry. I’d be happy to make one for you. What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t,” he said, walking away from her desk, headed to the back. The only direction to go really was towards the back, unless you were leaving, which he was not. Not until he got what he came for.
“Hey, wait, where are you going? You can’t go back there!” Jayla shouted, reaching for her phone, taking it with her as she followed him down the hall. She’d fallen into a careful jog to keep up, as her heels weren’t meant to be jogged in. Ten yards to reach Racy’s office door. He was halfway there. Had just passed the restroom and the small kitchen to the left, the only other rooms before reaching Racy’s office at the end. “Sir, you can’t be back here!” she shouted, dang, but he moved fast, tall and long legs eating up the distance just like Lee, and why would he pop into her mind now? “Racy!” she shouted, alerting her boss her goal, as no way she could get Dwayne, the security guard responsible for their strip of stores here in time. He and his girth were slow on a good day.
“Yes.” Racy said, popping into the doorway of her office, surprised to see a man moving toward her. She would have bumped into him if he hadn’t stopped in time.
“I tried to stop him. Told he needed to make an appointment but as you can see, he didn’t listen. I’ve called Dwayne.” Jayla said.
“I’m not here to hurt you.” He said, meeting Racy’s gaze. His gaze was all hard and angry she could see, running her gaze quickly over the rest of him. Tall, thickly lean, dressed in a dark charcoal grey, white shirt, beautiful dark grey tie flecked with blue. Impeccable. Head full of dark straight hair, worn short, a contrast to the brown of his skin. No facial hair to speak of, slick, chiseled the one word that best described his face, not sure of the ethnicity, Latin and white mix maybe, and did she say dude had beautiful brown eyes. They were staring back at her as she subtly looked him over.
“I just want to talk.” He said, palms out, angry still.
“And you are?” She asked.
“Rio Vargas and you are Racine Hightower, owner of Experience Inc.”
“Do I know you?”
“You’re the wedding planner for my girlfriend, Stardust Nevada? My ex-girlfriend is what she is now, I guess.” He said, watching her face, noting the slight change in her expression. He was in the right place, he thought. “She broke up with me this morning. Told me she was getting married. If you could give me the name of the person she is marrying, I’ll be on my way.”
Today was the day for miracles, Racy thought. How else to explain Dwayne’s rushing through the front door, headed toward her with his hand on his gun. His eyes were as big as saucers. So calm was the word of the day or else Dwayne might accidentally shoot someone.
“I’m only here for a name.” His elbows had joined his hands in the air like Dwayne was the police or something.
“You hear that Dwayne? Mr. Vargas just wants a name,” moving her gaze to Rio again. “We’re okay, right? You not here to harm us are you?”
“Will he let me search him?” Dwayne said.
“Can he search you?” Racy asked, swinging her gaze back to Mr. Vargas.
“I don’t carry a gun,” removing his suit jacket, turning in a circle so she could see. Nope, she thought, couldn’t see how that was possible. Not with the fit of his clothing. There was nothing but a hard body underneath his attire that she could see. He wore the European cut shirt that hid very little. Dude had other weapons, though. His chest appeared hard enough for something, and his arms, muscular,were a different type of gun.
“Again. I’m not here to hurt you. I only want a name.”
“Right.” She said, meeting his gaze. He was angry, she thought, but she didn’t sense danger. “I’m okay Dwayne.”
“Jayla, when’s my next appointment” She asked, glancing at her watch.
“In an hour.” Jayla said.
“Give me a few minutes,” Racy said, pulling out her best no worries smile and plastering it on her face, hiding lots of apprehension. She didn’t feel threatened, so she took a breath and said. “Please, come in.” Stepping aside so he could pass, and smiling at everyone, a show of strength she didn’t feel.
“Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee, water, juice.” Jayla asked, ever the proper assistant.
“No, thank you. I’m fine.” Rio said, calmly it appeared to Racy. He was still angry, she thought, the eyes were hard still. But noted he could be polite even with the anger.
“Nope, thanks. I’m fine too,” again to Jayla’s worried expression.
Racy followed him inside, thinking too bad he was crazy, whoever this was, or he’d make a great groom or any other type of male. Father, son, or boyfriend. “You can sit if you like?” moving to stand behind her desk.
“I’m fine. I said I wouldn’t take long, so if you’ll just provide me with the name of the groom, I’ll be on my way.”
“I don’t discuss my clients.”
“So, she is your client?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny.”
“You mean you won’t confirm or deny.”
“It that makes it easier for you to accept, then yes, I won’t confirm or deny who is or is not my client.”
“No one will know you’ve told me.”
“I wish I could help you, really I do, but I can’t.”
“I’m willing to pay for the information.”
“You can’t know how attractive and offer that is. We are a start-up business and always in need of funds, but really I’m sorry I can’t and since I’m unable to help you, I need you to leave.” She said.
Without so much an apology for storming into her business, early this fine morning, or a thank you. Hell, even an angry goodbye. He turned on his heel and charged back down the hall, the same fast feet hitting the floor hard.
She blew out a breath and walked to her office door, stood watching as marched past Jayla and Dwayne, still standing at the beginning of the hall. They fell in behind him, and she behind them, back to the front of the office, passed Jayla’s desk, and to the front door, where they remained, watching him walk to his car, angry still if not more. The glare he sent in her direction before he slid behind the wheel of a slick navy BMW Sedan could kill were it a bullet, hell it could be a feather and the power in his gaze had it piercing her chest. Jayla and Dwayne both made note of the license number. A few minutes later, he sped out of the parking lot.
“You okay?” Jayla asked.
“I am.” wanting to reassure Jayla, who was starting into the hovering thing she did when worried. She could count on Jayla to hover. A drink would be nice, though, she thought. If it wasn’t nine in the morning, she find herself one. She blew out a breath instead. It was way too early for drinking and or confronting angry males. Not sure there was ever a good time for that, but anyway. What the hell? Stardust had a boyfriend, one she’d failed to mention. Ever. “Thanks you two for having my back.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll stay close in case he returns or something.” Dwayne said.
“Thanks,” watching him exit, and eventually settle behind the wheel of his golf cart.
“He moved so fast.” Jayla said, staring out the window still. “Dang, but Stardust’s boyfriend is fine. Why leave him for fake?”
“His temperament, for one. Angry, demanding to be seen, all of which he showed today, all good reasons for leaving him behind, fine or not.”
“True, but it’s an awful way to break it off with someone. She should have said something to us. That could get a person killed.”
“Yep.” Scanning the streets for signs of a blue BMW, thinking a call with Stardust was in order. Maybe she could consider dropping her as a client. She didn’t need the headache. She needed the money, however, so maybe a talk would be suffice. “I’m going to give Ms. Nevada a call.” Racy said.
“Good idea,” Jayla said. staring longingly at the street. “Too bad he has the anger thing. I mean, he has a good reason to be angry. I’d be pissed too if I were in his shoes. Still, he would have made a fine groomsman, boyfriend, whatever. He’s one we won’t soon forget.”
Racy laughed. “True,” heading back to her office, wondering why the name Vargas sounded so familiar.