Thanking her, I walk over to the bank of elevators past the two security men who are both far more smartly dressed than I am in their well-cut black suits. The elevator whisks me with terminal velocity to the twentieth floor. The doors slide open, and I'm in another large lobby - again all glass, steel, and white sandstone. I'm confronted by another desk of sandstone and another young blonde woman dressed impeccably in black and white who rises to greet me. Behind the leather chairs is a spacious glass-walled meeting room with an equally spacious dark wood table and at least twenty matching chairs around it.
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Beyond that, there is a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the Seattle skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It's a stunning vista, and I'm momentarily paralyzed by the view. I sit down, fish the questions from my satchel, and go through them, inwardly curs-ing Kate for not providing me with a brief biography. I know nothing about this man I'm about to interview. He could be ninety or he could be thirty. The uncertainty is galling, and my nerves resurface, making me fidget.
I've never been comfortable with one-on-one interviews, preferring the anonymity of a group discussion where I can sit inconspicuously at the back of the room. To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library.
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Not sitting twitching nervously in a colos-sal glass and stone edifice. I roll my eyes at myself. Get a grip, Steele. Judging from the building, which is too clinical and modern, I guess Grey is in his forties: fit, tanned, and fair-haired to match the rest of the personnel. Another elegant, flawlessly dressed blonde comes out of a large door to the right. What is it with all the immaculate blondesIt's like Stepford here.
Taking a deep breath, I stand up. Olivia scoots up immediately and scurries to a door on the other side of the foyer. Please be seated. Grey will be another five minutes. Blonde Number Two marches over to the large desk, her heels clicking and echoing on the sandstone floor. She sits down, and they both continue their work.
Perhaps Mr. Grey insists on all his employees being blonde. I'm wondering idly if that's legal, when the office door opens and a tall, elegantly dressed, attractive African-American man with short dreads exits. I have definitely worn the wrong clothes. I don't hear the reply. He turns, sees me, and smiles, his dark eyes crinkling at the corners. Olivia has jumped up and called the elevator. She seems to excel at jumping from her seat. She's more nervous than me! I stand rather shakily trying to suppress my nerves.
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Gathering up my satchel, I abandon my glass of water and make my way to the partially open door. I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first into the office. Double crap - me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr. Grey's office, and gentle hands are around me helping me to stand. I am so embarrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up.
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Holy cow - he's so young. Are you all rightWould you like to sit? So young - and attractive, very attractive. He's tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice. Actually - " I mutter. If this guy is over thirty then I'm a monkey's uncle.
In a daze, I place my hand in his and we shake. As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me.
I withdraw my hand hastily, embarrassed. Must be static.
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I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate. He looks mildly interested, but above all, polite. I'm studying English Literature with Kate, um Miss Kavanagh at Washington State. I think I see the ghost of a smile in his expression, but I'm not sure. His office is way too big for just one man. In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, there's a huge modern dark-wood desk that six people could comfortably eat around.
It matches the coffee table by the couch. Everything else is white - ceiling, floors, and walls except, on the wall by the door, where a mosaic of small paintings hang, thirty-six of them arranged in a square. They are exquisite - a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs.
Displayed together, they are breathtaking. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary," I murmur, distracted both by him and the paintings. He cocks his head to one side and regards me intently.