The Best Christmas. Chapter 3

Richard Hudson was a man who was rarely if not ever, surprised. However, after this somewhat strange meeting with the woman who had just left, he realized he had never felt as baffled as he did now. He was a pretty good judge of character and most of the times those who came looking for him wanted something from him, either money or an opportunity to make money of their own.

However, this was the first time someone had no idea of who he was, because he was damn sure that it was the article that had guided her here, and who had done the opposite, which was give him his money back, in a manner of speaking.

And the first time someone who didn’t look the type of woman he used to date, that had something stirring in the pit of his stomach, and was spreading inside him to every nerve ending.

Jonathan was busy typing away on his BlackBerry, probably waiting for Rick to be himself again.

“Yes, Jonathan?” He finally said.

“I came here to remind you that you still haven’t gotten a date for Angelo Castelli’s function tonight.”

“And whose fault is it?”

Rick checked his own phone when it beeped an incoming message when he heard Jonathan sigh. “Well, how was I supposed to know it wasn’t going to last with….what’s her name?”

“Caroline.”

“More like clawroline, the way she was so eager to spend your money.” Jonathan represented the word with his hand.

“Aren’t they all? And especially since that article came out.” Rick didn’t bother to hide his dislike. He’d agreed to the article, but not as a way to make himself known to all the women in Manhattan, but as a business deal which had saved his advertising department lots of money.

“Well, there’s bound to be one who isn’t, right? Anyway, it’s too late to cancel now so either go stand in the middle of Times Square and get a date or call one of your many exes. I’m sure any one of them would say yes in a heartbeat. Or, if you want me to help you out…”

“And now I need your help in finding a date?”

“You never know.” His assistant shrugged.

Jonathan was about to walk back to the door, when Rick’s eyes landed on the spot the puzzling Miley Stuart had been standing on. The idea was both ludicrous and if he’d been standing outside his body, he would’ve said a waste of time as well. Nevertheless, he called to Jonathan as he was opening the door. “Jonathan, maybe I do need your help.”

 

Miley was so glad to see the lobby get bigger and bigger and the exit closer and closer, she actually waved at the receptionist who gave her so much as a lift of an eyebrow. Unfortunately, just as her hand was about to reach for the door someone called behind her.

“Hey, Miss Stuart! Wait!”

God, now what did she do?

“Miss Stuart.” The personal assistant said as he tapped her shoulder and made her turn around.

“Mr. Hudson would like to see you again.”

“Why?” Her stomach gave an unexpected lurch. The kind of lurch that said she should’ve just let the man deal with his own credit card business.

“I don’t know. Please, he has a very busy day and he can only spare a few minutes.”

And what about her? Did it look like she had all the time in the world? This had been a huge mistake, Miley groaned inwardly, as all she was left to do was to follow the personal assistant as he returned to the elevators. Like she could afford to skip out from work and risk getting fired.

But it would’ve been useless to say so, especially when they were standing again outside the festivity-less office of Richard Hudson a few minutes later. This time there was no waiting outside. Instead, Miley was rushed into the office and then left there again alone with him. Again.

He was busy reading some papers when he heard the door close and lifted his head.

“Miss Stuart, please take a seat.”

“Is there a problem?” Miley eyed the chair with apprehension. Why had he called her back up again? Still, rather than show her unease, she went around the chair and sat, putting the magazine on her lap and waiting for him to answer her question.

“No, nothing is wrong. I just realized that I didn’t offer any sort of compensation for bringing back my credit card.”

Compensation?

“Compensation?” She repeated slowly. Then, understanding, she exclaimed.

“Are you out of your mind?” She shot up like an arrow and sent the magazine flying to the floor.

“Apparently.” His forehead creased as he seemed taken aback by her reaction, like he’d been expecting her to act the opposite.

“You think I did this because I expected something in return? Well, I didn’t. I did it because it was the right thing to do, that’s all.”

“Everyone wants something in return, Miss Stuart.” Richard leaned back in his leather chair.

“Well, I’m not everyone. So if you asked me back because of that, then you wasted your precious time.”

She went back to pick up the magazine and prepare to storm out.

“Stop.” The word made her spine stiffen. It wasn’t so much a plea as it was a command and judging by the deadening silence outside, Richard Hudson was a man used to having his orders obeyed. And, Miley sighed in defeat, she was someone used to doing what other people wanted. Not because she was a pushover, but because she liked to help others, and sometimes doing that meant tending to their needs. Even if that involved forgoing her own. It was a reason why she knew she was good at what she did.

“What now?” She muttered to herself.

This had been a huge mistake. She felt like she was going to get lectured or something for being a good samaritan.

“I’m not finished.”

“Well, I am. I have to get back to work. Which I skipped out on to do a good deed which it turns out, according to you, doesn’t exist.”

“In my world everyone wants something.”

Yeah, I can only imagine what…..

He motioned for her to sit down again. Miley sighed again and with her jaw set, she did and waited for whatever Richard Hudson had to say.

“Like I said, everyone is looking for something, and I am no exception. I need something from you. A good deed if you will. There’s a function I must attend to tonight and I don’t have a date. It is too late to cancel and like you said, it is a very busy time for me.”

Miley stared at him for a moment, speechless, unable to grasp what he wanted from her. Very slowly, she said.

“You have a function, and you need a date and you need my help?”

It made no sense at all.

“That’s what I said.” He said, nonchalantly.

It was so sudden. Miley went from bafflement, to snorting and then having to put her hand over her mouth to stop the bubble of laughter that tickled up her throat.

He, on the other hand, didn’t even flinch. Apparently, she was the only one who found his words hilarious.

“I don’t understand what is so funny about that.”

Her chuckles subsided when she saw his eyes glowing with fury, as he certainly wasn’t used to being laughed at. Not that she was doing it to be mean, it was just…….so not like she pictured this day to go.

“I’m sorry, but I have worked in Skyline for quite some time now and I have been asked by people to help them find books, cd’s, dvd’s, underwear, clothes, you name it. I just had never been asked to find someone a date.”

Now he did smile, but a smile that wasn’t reassuring. Far from it. It was dangerous and it would be even more, if she became fooled by it.

“Miss Stuart, do you think I would ask you or anyone else for that matter, help to find a date?”

“Isn’t that what you just said?”

“No, I didn’t. I said I had a function and I had no date and I needed your help. I was referring to you.”

Miley was grateful she was sitting down. Her hands gripped the sides of her chair and it was what kept her from falling down to the floor in shock.

“You are asking me to go with you? But…..but, you don’t even know me!”

“Precisely. I am a very busy man and the last thing I need is a complication, especially when it comes to women. I just need someone for this special function, that’s all.”

That’s all? Did he have any idea what he was asking? And who he was asking? This man could date any top model he wanted by simply lifting his hand in the middle of a fashion show. In fact, there was Miss Victoria’s Secret down at the lobby. Why didn’t he ask her?

“You’re insane! Of course I can’t do that!” She huffed, indignant.

“Why? Are you busy tonight?” His tone implied he would be very surprised if she was.

“I’m…….not now, but I might be.”

“Well, now you’re busy. You’ll be busy with me.”

That sounded so not what she was sure he had in mind. Those words conjured up images of ways this man could keep her busy, or rather, her body, very, very busy.

Stop it! You heard the man, you happened to be here when he needed someone, that’s all. She agreed with the voice though, women like Miley never ended with men like Richard Hudson.

“I can’t. I’m sorry. You’ll have to find someone else.”

“Why can’t you?” He asked, standing up now and starting to round his desk to where she was seated. Only before that happened, Miley stood up and moved closer to the door.

“Because I….” Damn the man, he was going to make her say it. A detail so obvious she couldn’t understand why he didn’t see it. Especially since after getting up so suddenly the first time, the belt of her coat had loosened and her bland uniform was in plain sight.

“Because? Please, Miss Stuart, I do have a million things to do.” He said, exasperated.

“Because,” she lifted her chin and challenged him to make fun of her with her eyes that turned into molten gold. “I don’t have anything to wear, that’s why.”

There was a moment of silence, interrupted only by the beep of his phone on the desk. He let it go on as he said. “That’s all?”

Wasn’t that enough?

“Yes.”

“Fine. Please give Jonathan your home address and I’ll send a car to pick you up at nine.”

And that, Miley knew, was his cue for her to leave. He hadn’t given her a chance to say no, or what was worse, say yes. He had just assumed that just because she had said what the real problem was that it was all settled.

Miley heard him pick up the phone and start talking with such control and cool, it was as if he hadn’t asked a total stranger to accompany him tonight.

She knew it would be pointless to stay and say no thanks, so she simply left in a sort of mixed up daze and stopped next to a desk outside where the man who had brought her here was also on the phone. He hung up only two minutes after Miley had been standing there, her mouth opening and closing like a fish as if she could still do something to get herself out of this absolute and total mess.

Miley recited her home address, only aware of a certain familiarity to the name of the street and the apartment number.

“Have a great day, Miss Stuart.”

Yeah, easier said than done.

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