One week later, on the 19th floor of the Yamada Industries building, Nadia Stone still could not get Ryochi Yamada out of her mind. The harmless, casual flirting had been fun, but her overt insults towards the company and her boss was not only unwise, but she may have very well risked her position in the company.
However, after a week of silence from the higher-ups, maybe it was safe for her to say that she had successfully dodged a bullet.
Of course, just because her job was secure, didn't mean gossip didn't continue. As soon as she had exited the elevator, everyone began to coalesce around the reception area, and among the pack was her obviously perturbed boss, Cassidee.
Just looking at the older woman, Nadia knew that she was in hot water. Despite being known around the company as a quiet, complacent worker, gossip in such confined corners was not uncommon. Nadia had just become cannon fodder for the wolves who had nothing better to do than speculate on the romantic adventures of their colleagues.
No matter, Ryochi Yamada was out of her league. He didn't go for women like her and certainly not the ones who challenged his egotism. Cracking her fingers, Nadia typed furiously on her keyboard, dead set on meeting the pushed up deadlines that Cassidee so unreasonably set forth. She was so occupied by her work that she didn't realize that her phone was ringing until her coworker, Jason Mikkos reminded her to answer the phone.
"Nadia Stone, Assistant Technical Writer."
She could hear nothing but the sound of crackling audio. She repeated her name and title a total two times before finally giving up and disconnecting the line. It was probably just a wrong number. She herself had accidentally called wrong numbers just by transposing a single digit. Besides, she didn't have time for chit chat. She needed to finish the final draft of the user guide of an upcoming Microsoft MP3 music player by week's end.
As her hands hovered over the keys, Nadia suddenly wondered if what she was doing really mattered in the scheme of things. Whether she worked at a furious pace, or as slow as a snail, she would still get paid the same, and she would remain a cog in the wheel of an industry giant. Like her father said "goals without ambition or initiative were nothing more than pipe dreams."
How many times had she bemoaned her fellow coworkers about the pointless drivel that they directed towards Cassidee? Though sycophantic gestures had never been her style, it had made a few of her coworkers become more alluring to Cassidee's eyes. Promotions had not been plentiful, and they came at the cost of one's dignity.
All of the butt kissing and insincere words hadn't got many of them what they wanted or where they wanted to be. Instead, Cassidee reveled in their praise, never once considering that they had dreams and aspirations of their own. Then again, Cassidee was like a thorny rose, beautiful and elegant, but also painful and prickly.
Frowning, Nadia stood and stretched, needing to get the blood flowing in her legs. Today just wasn't a good day for her. She had barely managed to finish some of the assignments and she was only just now meeting her productivity schedule. This was good news because she would be free of these projects by the end of week, leaving her time to go home and relax. Yet to whom was she heading? Max, her newly adopted Jack Russell terrier puppy Jacques was the man of the house.
Although he was cuddly and at times too cute for human comprehension, Max couldn't give her the affection that a human companion could. She wanted to be loved, kissed, and desired unconditionally. Unfortunately, her beloved pet could not satiate the needs that only a man could satisfy. Well, there was her Hitachi Magic Wand, but eventually she tired of self pleasure.
"Without loved ones, an empty home is not a home, but merely a place to hang your hat." Her mother's words echoed in her mind. Lettie Stone was not an easy woman to love, and an even more difficult woman to like. Her mother was not a cold hearted woman, but Nadia always felt as if there was something missing in their relationship.
She knew that her mother had loved her, but it was the sort of obligatory love that one shares with family. It was a silently conditional love, contingent upon success, wealth, happiness, and a man on her arm.
Shaking her head, Nadia patted her curls and decided to take the stairs. Yes, even her hair, with its natural elasticity had not been up to par for Mrs. Stone, and this, just like her weight, career choices, and the lack of man never would.
Once she reached the ground floor, a light sheen of sweat had already formed on her body, and she felt as if her legs were made of rubber. Nevertheless, she needed the exercise and the break away from the mindless chatter of her peers.
As she walked into the modest building, she could see that aside from a few patrons, the building was relatively empty. The lunch crowd had just left an hour ago, which meant a nice peaceful meal. The menu listed foods that she could hardly pronounce, but she had learned long ago, not to judge a book by its cover.
Besides, those who were hungry had no right to complain. The ambiance was nice, if not quiet and comfortable. There was a soft harp playing on the speakers above, mingling harmoniously with what sounded like a lute or violin. Listening to the music, she became lost in her thoughts oblivious to others around her.
Then she felt an unfamiliar cool breath on the nape of her neck. Turning swiftly, she came face to face with the Japanese Adonis she met earlier.
His smile was brighter than before, and he glanced at her like he was a cat who caught the canary. While his face may have seemed unnaturally handsome, Nadia knew enough about him to know that she wanted to be near him as much as she wanted a root canal. He joined her table, unasked, all while motioning for the waitress to return with his order.
"Okay, Ms. Stone, I think that you are starting to follow me. It must be kismet that we meet again like this."
Yeah right, she thought. They both just happened to be hungry and interested in Thai for lunch today. Rolling her eyes, Nadia leaned back against her chair, sizing him up. He accepted her nonverbal challenge and did the same thing. This confounding woman was clearly not his type, yet he wanted to know more about her.
"Shouldn't you be at work by now? I thought your lunch break was an hour and a half ago."
He mused, as he focused on his sepia colored eyes at her dazzling ones. His eyes traveled a little lower, admiring her ample cleavage which she tried to hide by wearing conservative clothes that met work place standards but wouldn't stand the scrutiny of most fashionistas.
"Are you keeping tabs on me, Mr. Yamada? Then again, this is not at all surprising considering the fact that you are the CEO."
She said with a smile as her chicken salad arrived. Ryochi silently regarded her demeanor as she ate. There was nothing remarkable about her meal choice, but he did note that she ate daintily and quickly. She was obviously not one of those women who felt that they had to regurgitate a meal previously eaten or survive on two carrots and a grape for sustenance.
Ryochi had eaten lunch earlier. He couldn't help but notice her from one of the restaurant's window as he headed back from his own lunch next door with his best friend Takashi Honda. He wasn't even going to say anything to Nadia, but since he hadn't seen her since last week, he thought it would be fun to catch up.
Still, he couldn't help but notice that this woman was not like the Greek supermodel with whom he had once been enamored, or the Russian rock climber that he dated previously.
They had been two sides of an extreme that as a regular gym guy, he couldn't abide. Janeane Papadakis was one of the world's top grossing models with classic Greecian features. Her skin was like ivory cream and her hair a healthy apple red. Her beauty was genuine, which astounded him considering the fact that she was a truly vain and superficial person on the inside.
Then there was Katherine Sidorova, the rock climbing expert who he met on a resort trip with friends. She was gorgeous, all five feet of her. She had a great smile, pretty eyes, and the cutest button nose. Their relationship ended when she insisted that he wake up each morning for yoga exercises, followed by calisthenics, which was preceded by strenuous Pilates.
Then there were the sea weed and kelp energy boosters which were disgusting going down, as they were going up because of his unsettled stomach.
She argued that as an Asian male, raised in a country where seafood was pervasive, he should be able to stomach, nay enjoy the revolting liquid drink.
Needless to say Katherine and her racial stereotyping, along with her over stimulated wackiness didn't last long in his bed or his heart. Still, she was great in the sack. Now that was a fact that he would never contend.
All of the reminiscing about past flames drew his mind back to the intriguing female in front of him. She seemed completely unaware of how interesting she truly was. She had the Atlanta Journal Constitution spread out in front of her, her mind deeply engaged in the stories, completely ignoring his presence.
His fingers tapped out an uneven, nervous rhythm on the lacquered wooden table as his lunch partner munched on croutons. Tired of her blatant dismissal of him, he cleared his throat loudly, leaning over to enjoy a sip of his passion fruit medley beverage. She looked up at him, mildly amused by his antics.
"Something to say Mr. Yamada?"
Her smile turned into a smirk, as she lay the newspaper down. Folding her arms, she leaned back into her chair staring intently at the man who seemed to exude arrogance.
"You are quite the conundrum Ms. Stone. I'm amazed that you've yet to marry."
Arching a perfect eyebrow, Nadia rolled her eyes at the man who ran Yamada Industries. Not only was he presumptuous, he took some sort of pleasure in being a thorn in her side. What had she done to deserve his interest?
He was the kind of guy that at best would be nothing more than the man who thought he could say anything about anyone because of his wealth and power.
Nadia didn't know if she should be indignant or surprised by his comment. Where did he get off speculating on her love life? Biting her tongue, Nadia swallowed the last of her salad, eager to get away from the exasperating man.
"I didn't realize the love life of employees were the concern of Yamada executives. "
It was probably best to play things cool. She still needed a job after all and cursing out her boss at lunch time in a downtown restaurant was a great way to get fired.
"By no means do I make it a priority to know the romantic proclivities of my employees Ms. Stone. I just find your particular romantic entanglements," he glanced at her ringless fingers "or lack thereof very interesting."
Nadia looked at him cautiously, finding it hard to look away from his handsome face. He probably seduced many women with those sensual eyes, but she wouldn't fall for it. He may think that she is fun sport, but she is not some sort of chocolate diversion, here for his amusement.
"If you must know Mr. Yamada, no I am not married and my relationship status is not any of your business."
Ryochi shrugged his shoulders, clearly dismissing her aversion to his probing questions. He smiled genuinely then, leaning over and using his thumb, to wipe a little Italian dressing from her supple lower lip. He retracted his thumb, sucking the tangy vinaigrette off of his finger.
Nadia's breath hitched, and her heart began to thump vigorously. She had never experienced something so banal and sensual at the same time. This man was certainly aware of his charm.
"You had a bit of salad dressing on your lip. I couldn't resist."
Nadia smiled at him humorlessly and stood, grateful that was able to enjoy a lunch away from the noisy din. Reaching for her purse she signaled the waitress over.
Ryochi grabbed the receipt, leaving a crisp fifty dollar bill on the table. Ignoring her quirked eyebrow, he offered Nadia his arm.
"But you barely ate anything. You don't have to pay for my meal."
Nadia protested, reaching for the bill. She didn't want Ryochi to think that she couldn't even afford to pay for her own meals. She paused then, upset with where her mind had taken her. He may be the big kahuna at the office, but Nadia didn't really care about what this guy thought right?
"Ah ah, think nothing of the bill. It was my treat for a most entertaining meal. Shall we return to the office?"
Nadia removed herself from his arm, looking around to see if anyone saw her walking in linked arms with the CEO. This was certainly shaping up to be a weird day!
"I think that I can make it there on my own Mr. Yamada. Thank you for your company at lunch. Have a good day."
Nadia back away from him as they neared the lobby of the building. She didn't want to inspire further gossip by catching the same elevator as the boss again. He was charming and all, but certainly off limits.
"I have to rush for a late conference meeting. Perhaps we could have lunch again?"
They both seem surprised by his request. Ryochi didn't think that he would want to spend more time with this woman because she seemed to be uncomfortable with his harmless flirting.
Nadia obviously wasn't used to guys asking her out. Perhaps she was surprised that he, the CEO had asked for the pleasure of her company. Maybe she didn't want to get involved with a coworker, least of all the figurehead of the corporation.
She stared at him comically; her mouth slightly agape and he couldn't help but be amused. She shook her head, as if awakening from a catatonic state. When she gazed at him with her whiskey brown eyes and Ryochi felt his manhood briefly stir to life.
"What do you say Ms. Stone? How about you and me have dinner this Friday, hmm?"
Turning left and right and seeing no one, Nadia ushered him over to a secluded seating area. She leaned in so close to whisper in his ear, that Ryochi felt like he was sharing a conspiratorial secret.
"Mr. Yamada I do not think that it would be appropriate to involve myself with a fellow employee."
Ryochi could easily tell that she was not being honest. What was she afraid of exactly?
"Are you saying this because I am Asian? Do you not date interracially? Is that it?"
Her eyes widened, as if scandalized by his accusation. Based on her reaction, that was obviously not the reason for her apprehension.
"No! I don't have a problem dating interracially. However, you are the CEO of this company! I am your employee. Can you not see the conflict of interest here? I am sure that a policy exists about fraternization of employees."
He leaned in close to her, so that they would appear to be kissing from afar. His warm breath on her ear made her shiver.
"Is that all you are worried about—it's no big deal. All we have to do is sign a few forms and submit it to HR. It is completely private so that there is nothing to worry about."
"I also do not want to be your little brown sugar on the side. Have you ever dated a black woman Mr. Yamada? I do not want to be your experiment on the wild side."
He smirked at her, giving her a look that in the past would probably have left the panties of many women sopping wet.
"I assure you Ms. Stone that you are no diversion. No, I have never dated a black woman, and I am not seeing anyone currently. Why should that stop me from asking you out? I find you very fascinating and I am interested in a date. I promise to be the perfect gentleman."
Glancing at her watch, Nadia headed back to the bank of elevators. She wasted too much time and if she didn't hurry she would be late getting back to the office.
Nadia was so engrossed in her thoughts, that she didn't see or hear Ryochi saddle up next to her. She looked at him warily when the elevator doors opened, obviously not eager to relive last week's stop elevator disaster.
"I have to get back to work Mr. Yamada."
"It's no reason why we can't ride up together. My offices are on the top floor. Besides, it will give us a chance to plan for our date."
Nadia rolled her eyes, apparently annoyed by Ryochi's arrogance. Why did the handsome ones always have to be egotistical?
"I haven't agreed to a date Mr. Yamada. In any case, I have to work overtime this week to finish two projects. I won't have time because I am a technical writer with several deadlines to meet."
He nodded, accepting her response for now. There would be other times to plan. She seemed to be pretty fun and after the disaster of his last few girlfriends, Ryochi wanted to see someone who was the complete opposite of the women he had previously dated.
"Well what about next week then? It's just one little date. You don't have to agree, unless you are scared that you'll have fun."
Never one to back down from a challenge, Nadia's interest was piqued. As the elevator reached her floor, she turned back to grace him with a small smile. Nodding her head in agreement, Nadia leaned in closely again.
"Meet me in the building's front entrance at 7:00 pm on Monday evening."
He gave her his most dazzling smile. Reaching for her hand, Ryochi gently pressed his lips to her wrist.
"Very well, I will wait with bated breath until we meet again Ms. Stone. Please, feel free to call me Ryochi when we are alone."
He released her, watching with delight as she walked off quickly to her cubicle. There was certainly the sway of her lips to like. She walked with a relaxed gait, which was very different from Aoi's more refined stride.
As he rode up to his office, Ryochi did his best to forget his ex-fiance Aoi Sato. She was out of his life for good, and he wasn't going to let an opportunity to explore this new whatever-it-was with Nadia Stone pass by.
So lost was he in his thoughts that he didn't almost didn't see the two elegantly dressed Asian women sitting on the sofa in his office. The older woman wore a traditional floral patterned kimono, which appeared to be made from the finest Japanese silk.
Her long graying black hair was expertly shaped into a bun. She wore colorful zori and the frown on her face indicated that she was less than pleased.
Seeing his mother in his office was uncommon, but not completely unusual. He could not think of a reason why his mother would come to the American based headquarters of the Yamada Industries. She hated the humidity of Atlanta, in addition to the loud, boisterous gaijin bustling about.
No, it was the young woman who was dressed in the finest that Rodeo Drive had the offer which caught his attention. Long black hair, flawless pearls, and a diamond ring on her finger, immediately alerted him to the trouble that was brewing. Aoi came with his mother, wearing the ring that he had given her two years ago.
"What the hell are you doing here?!"
Pleasant thoughts of Nadia and his good day just said sayonara.