Chapter 7 & 8
His voice sounds exactly the same in daylight, Meaghan randomly thought, then quickly shook herself out of her reverie and attempted to address the striking man in front of her. She tentatively said, “What do you want?”
“You are the person I met at the resort last night, right?” At her small nod, he continued. “I wanted to apologise for scaring you then. If you have some time now, would you like to get some coffee?” Meaghan looked up sharply. Coffee? With this man?
“I’m sorry, but I have to return to work.” Meaghan turned away, only to feel a strong hand grip her wrist securely, but not painfully. She tugged her hand until he released it, and then looked up at him again.
In his left hand was a business card.
“I wanted to introduce myself. I am Rick Ahmad.” He stretched out his hand, the small piece of cardstock held between his thumb and forefinger. There was a small gold band on his thumb, but no other rings. She took the business card and looked at it.
[R. T. Ahmad, Vice-Chairman, Ahmad Holdings and Distribution LLC], the card read, along with an address in the Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone in Kuching. She thought for a moment. No doubt he was one of the elite families with inherited wealth passed down from generation to generation. She wondered what he wanted from her.
“How can I help you?” Her voice sounded defensive even to her own ears.
Rickie was, for the first time in his memory, at a loss for words. He wanted to spend some time with her to figure out this intense attraction, but she clearly didn’t feel anything similar. He decided to try a different track, knowing that it sounded lame but desperate to make a connection with this person.
“Was that your sister playing the seruling last night? She plays it very well, and I’d like to take the both of you out to lunch or dinner, your choice, to thank both of you for relieving my boredom last night, Miss…?” He held his breath, wondering if she would respond.
“Torno. Meaghan Torno. What’s wrong?” She asked, as his face blanched and he took a step back. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Y-yes I’m fine. I just remembered I was on my way to a lunch meeting. Why don’t you call me at the number on my card, and we can meet later on this week?” Without waiting, he turned and strode back to his Rexton RX270, still parked against the bushes that separated the sidewalk from the road. His neck prickled under her stare as he retreated.
Rickie sat at a small restaurant with his father’s assistant JoAnne. It was after lunch, and though the café was slowly emptying, lively conversation still vied with the outside sounds coming through the open door and windows. However, Rickie barely registered the noise as he toyed with his durian cake, deep in thought.
A sudden pain in his temple jolted him out of his contemplations. He looked up to see JoAnne hovering over him, her hand moving to poke him again.
“Hello!? Hello!? Is anyone home?” Her voice was traced with amusement underneath the exasperation. Once she realised she had his attention again, JoAnne sat back down.
“So that was a less than stellar meeting, boss. In fact, you haven’t been right since you came down the stairs this morning. What happened to you last night?” JoAnne peered over her cup as she tasted her expresso and made a face.
“Nothing.” He said, annoyed. JoAnne gave a merry laugh as she added yet another spoon of sugar into her cup, and sipped again. She smiled.
“It couldn’t have been nothing,” she chided. “At breakfast, you said you met someone interesting at the Estoesta party last night, then clammed up and refused to say anything else about her. And you went all blushy!” JoAnne emphasized with a grand hand gesture, causing a passing customer to flinch.
“So what happened? When I called you to remind of the meeting at the waterfront office, you seemed ok, but then you arrived late, which is something you and I both know you hate. And you didn’t pay attention to anything that was said today at the meeting. So it’s not ‘nothing’. Who is she?” JoAnne set her cup on the table with a little thump and stared him down.
Rickie couldn’t tell her the truth. All he wanted to do was find someplace to be alone and review the astonishing news. He took a quick sip of his cappuccino and decided to go on the attack.
“Don’t you need to head back to the house and follow up with my father regarding the meeting? He counts on you to be his eyes and ears while he recuperates.” Rickie was proud that his voice stayed neutral.
“I also have a brain,” JoAnne’s eyes narrowed as she pushed away from the table, “and I also understand Russian, Spanish, and the fact you don’t want me to pry. Ok, I get it, but I do love a good mystery. Tch. I’ll get the minutes transcribed; and copies for you and your father should be ready by the end of today. And, boss,” she again gave him a gimlet stare. “Don’t try and pull the wool over my eyes. It doesn’t work with my daughter, and it won’t work with you.” With that, she walked out. Rickie watched her leave, more of a bossy older sister than an employee, and shook his head.
After paying the tab, he spent some time walking along the water’s edge, his mind going back over his conversation this morning on the sidewalk, circling around and coming back to the same fact.
Meaghan Torno. That slip of a woman was the daughter of his former mentors at BKN.