By: Nina G. Jones

No, you are wrong. The wave of shame rolls over me and I feel that my secret has been unmasked. While most people may have been proud of the description he just uttered, to me, it is a reminder of what a disappointment I feel like. I was supposed to be a big deal, the girl that struggles to work her way out of poverty and become great. Instead, I work in my own little cocoon, accomplishing nothing of significance, allowing mediocrity to shield me from the possibility of reaching for greatness and failing. Many people would be happy to have my life, there is no doubt about that, but I am not. This could be my chance to restart, to work alongside greatness.

“How did you know about all that? You researched my life?” A sense of ambivalence regarding whether or not he has invaded my privacy creeps into my gut. He doesn’t even acknowledge my question.

“Ms. Ball, I have a proposal for you. If you accept this position, I will pay you one hundred and fifty thousand dollars as a starting salary, with benefits. I understand your concerns about working in a typical office environment, but due to my unpredictable lifestyle and business travel, that will never be the case.”

One hundred and fifty-fucking-thousand dollars! That’s almost an executive salary. Holy shitballs!

“There is one stipulation. This offer ends the second you walk out that door,” he gestures with his glass of liquor. “I am a busy man and I don’t have time for negotiations. I am offering a generous salary so that there won’t be any doubts. If you don’t feel this is right for you at this moment, then you should not take the offer. I want someone who is excited and committed to the opportunity. Of course, you will never discuss this conversation with anyone.”

The NDA! The man knows how to sell. I know these tactics. He is creating scarcity and a sense of urgency, and he does it so well. I can’t even leave to get a second opinion; he covered both of those bases with the NDA and the ultimatum. I know he means what he says and he is willing to let me walk away to increase his odds of closing with me right now. I know every move he is playing, and yet I am helplessly falling for every single one. My god. I haven’t made one independent decision since I agreed to this meeting, or maybe even since he asked me to get into his car.

I don’t have words at this moment. The experience thus far has been so surreal. I am not even sure who I will be working for. Will it be the gregarious man who gave me a ride after I spilled coffee all over him? Or will it be this man, in front of me...a shark of a businessman?

“Can I have a few minutes to think about this?” My voice cracks as my confidence finally wavers.

“Absolutely,” he says, and without hesitancy, he rises from his seat and tells me he will return in a few minutes.

He was so curt on the phone with Marsha. He wasn’t terrible, but very steely. I am not sure if I want to be this steely man’s “right arm,” whatever the hell that means. At the same time, this opportunity seems so rich, not just monetarily, but the way this whole situation just arose out of thin air makes me want to believe in fate. If I say no, I will walk out that door and wonder for the rest of my life what would have happened. Still, I am not entirely convinced of his reasoning. While I would like to think I am incredibly remarkable, I don’t feel deserving of this level of courting. Something does not add up. I guess he sees something in me that I don’t. Maybe that is the point of all this: He can show me what it is that he sees because I sure as hell have no idea what it is. The thing I do know for sure is that I am due for a change, and an incredible opportunity is here. Too many coincidences have lined up for me to just walk away. What a fool that would make me.

There is a faint knock on the door and I startle from being so deep in thought. I turn to face it; Taylor is already halfway across the threshold.

I turn again so that I am facing his desk, and I can hear his footsteps pacing calmly behind me. There is no haste in his gait. He is calm, confident, and measured. Everything about him, his dark hair, his glowing eyes, his long muscular frame, his calm aggression, reminds me of a panther stalking its prey. He sits back in the leather chair.

“Did you have enough time to think about my proposal?” His relaxed body language is that of someone who already knows the answer.

“There are a few minor logistics I would like to work out, but overall I accept.” Woah. I immediately feel an enormous amount of tension release from my body, only to gain an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

“You have made a wise decision, Ms. Ball.” He smiles for the first time since the car ride, but this time, his grin reminds me of the Chestershire cat. “What are the logistics you would like to discuss?”