The Alhambra

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You have just made us millionaires and you deserved a little indulgence.

“Okay Michael, you’re all set,” Cindy said as I stepped from the men’s room still drying my hands on a paper towel. “Your laptop is fully charged, and the charger is in your briefcase. The full proposal is saved to the desktop as is your Power Point presentation. You have a complete hard copy of both in your briefcase as well as a thumb drive in the outside pocket with a complete backup of everything.”

“Thank you,” I replied as I tossed the spent paper towel in the trash can next to her desk.

“Here are your boarding passes, you change planes in Chicago. Here is your hotel confirmation, you’re staying at the Four Seasons, and you won’t need a car as NOVIC is sending a limo to meet you.”

“Okay,” I said as I tried to make sure I understood her salvo of instructions. “How will I recognize the limo driver?” I knew the answer, I was just trying to ask something intelligent, but as the words left my mouth, I realized I’d blown it.

“The driver will meet you in luggage pick-up and will be holding a sign with your name on it,” Cindy responded, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice and a big grin on her face.

“Got it,” I said as I slung the briefcase over my shoulder and returned her grin with a reciprocal grin of sincere appreciation. I had worked non-stop for the last four months on this proposal and Cindy, as well as every member of our small team, had given it their all — late nights, early mornings, weekends, 110% for months. I could not have possibly asked for a better, or a more dedicated, group of people.

We are a small start-up in a very competitive field of data miners. However, we feel our approach is innovative, unique and to be honest, in our opinion, revolutionary. The problem is we are a young company with a short track record and only a handful of recognized successes. But despite the negatives, we made the final cut in a competition that could be worth over $10 million to us the first year alone and possibly $100 million or more during the life of the contract. This is a deal that could make every member of our little company millionaires and the final presentation was tomorrow in New York.

“Now go home and get some sleep,” Cindy admonished. “We have the best product, the best team and the best proposal. Now go get some rest — and then tomorrow bring home the bacon.”

‘Bring home the bacon’ was one of my expressions, but the point was well made. Relax — focus and the rest will fall into place.

I was already half awake when the alarm went-off at 4:30. I quickly showered, shaved and then dressed in a business suit. The business suit was the odd part, because I so seldom wear one, weddings, funerals, but rarely for business. It felt weird, but this was the biggest day of my business life, so it probably was appropriate.

My flight arrived at the Big Apple right on time and as I headed for baggage claim, I was trying to remember all of Cindy’s instructions. I hadn’t actually checked my luggage, since I was only staying one night, but I understand that is where limo drivers normally meet their patrons.

As I came down the escalator, I scanned the dozen or so drivers all dressed in black and all holding hand lettered signs with someone’s name on them. As my eyes scanned left to right, I couldn’t help but notice that only one of the drivers was female and even more surprising, she was holding a neatly printed sign with my name on it.

As I stepped off the escalator, she was already making eye contact with me. And as our eyes locked on each other she wiggled the sign slightly, like a puppy greeting her master at the front door. A welcoming smile spread warmly across her face as I acknowledged her with a smile of my own.

“Mr. Whelan,” she said as I approached her. “I’m Gina and I’ll be your driver today. Did you check any luggage?”

“No, this is it,” I responded as I glanced down at my roller board.

I would not normally ask anyone, much less a woman, to carry my luggage for me. But before I could say anything else, she slipped it out of my hand, smartly turned toward the parking garage and said, “Please follow me, the car is just outside.”

As I hurried to keep up with her, I couldn’t help but notice her figure. She was probably a few years older than me, but still had a very shapely and pleasant body. Her dark brown hair swung easily across her tailored driver’s jacket as she walked. And her tight black skirt was long enough to cover what had to be covered, but certainly short enough to spark any male’s interest.

As we approached the black Lincoln Town Car, the lights flashed as she pushed the remote and the trunk lid swung open. She placed my bag in the trunk, quickly slammed the lid closed, and immediately moved to open the back door on the passenger side of the car. I’m rather unfamiliar with riding in a limo, but at this point I was just along for the ride and Gina was certainly making it as easy as possible.

As aile içi seks hikayeleri we pulled away from the airport and entered traffic, I notice she kept glancing back at me in the rear-view mirror. And with every glance the smile on her face seemed to get bigger and bigger. After several blocks she asked, “Is this your first trip to New York, Mr. Whelan?”

“Oh, please don’t call me Mr. Whelan,” I said. “My name is Michael. Okay?”

“Michael, is this your first trip to New York?” she repeated and now with a slight flirtatious tone to her voice.

“Oh no,” I responded. “I’ve been here several times — but I have to admit, it’s still the big city to me.”

“Well welcome back Michael, I hope this trip will be as enjoyable as it is successful,”

“Why thank you Gina — right?” I said with a slight un-sureness in my voice.

“Yes, it’s Gina,” she promptly responded with a big smile reflected in the rear-view mirror. “Well actually it’s Regina, but I have gone by Gina ever since moving to America.”

“Oh, so you’re not American?” I asked. I know it was a rhetorical question, but she opened the door. And I was actually glad she did, as I enjoyed talking to her. It was helping me to relax, which I desperately needed to do.

“I was born in Italy, but my family moved here when I was five. So, all of my schooling was here, and I consider myself American,” she said. “And I was naturalized over twenty years ago, so I really am an American.”

Now the conversation was starting to flow, so I asked, “You don’t seem to have any accent, so do you consider English your first language?”

“Oh yes, I guess so. But I still speak Italian and it comes in handy at times. Besides, when I go back to see my Grandparents, the old language just seems to come back naturally,” she said with the first hint of an Italian accent.

“So, where do your Grandparents live?” I asked.

“Palagiano,” she said holding her thumb and two fingers together in the air and drawing out the pronunciation. “It’s a small town in Southern Italy. Do you know where Italy makes a boot?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, it’s sort of at the top of the heel of the boot, if that makes any sense.”

“Yes, perfectly,” I said and then followed with, “Do your Grandparents call you Gina?”

“Oh no, to them I’m still their little Regina — their little queen.”

“Oh, so you weren’t named for the Capital of Saskatchewan?” I asked with a smile on my face.

“No,” she laughed. And after a short pause added, “You know that’s not how they pronounce it?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. There was silence from the front seat and when I looked for her reflection in the mirror, I saw a licentious grin spreading across her face. It took several seconds, as my brain raced through my second-grade phonics, before it finally hit me. “No — no,” I stammered. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

As I watched in the mirror, her grin broke into a flirtatious smile, “Yeap, that’s how they pronounce it.”

I immediately started to blush, which she could see and that only amused her more. To break eye contact with her, I reached for my cell phone and quickly Googled “Regina Canada,” as I didn’t think I could spell Saskatchewan, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask her. “Oh my God, you’re right,” I said. Now I was starting to laugh too. “So, does that mean they would call you ‘Jai-nuh’ in Canada?”

“I don’t know,” She laughed.

Now I was flirting and blushed again like a schoolboy, which continued to amuse her and embarrass me. I’ve never flirted with a limo driver before, and besides considering the importance of today’s meeting it was distracting me from the real business at hand. Luckily our destination was quickly approaching, and the mood was instantly broken as Gina announced, “Mr. Whelan, NOVIC is here on our right.”

The Town Car pulled to the curb and stopped. Gina jumped out of the driver’s door and before I could gather my phone and briefcase, she was opening the backdoor for me. As I emerged from the back seat she switched back to her professional voice and started explaining the next phase of my journey, “The elevators are at the far end of the lobby. Use the elevators on the left; they are labeled floors 45 through 59. Take the elevator to the 53rd floor. Monica will meet you and escort you to the conference room.”

“Thank you,” I said struggling to get my briefcase to stay on my shoulder while trying to make sure I hadn’t left anything in the car.

“I will take your luggage to the Four Season’s and get you checked in. Your luggage will be taken to your room for you and the desk clerk will have your key this evening when you get in,” she continued.

“Thank you, Gina,” I said, “and it’s Michael.”

“Michael,” she repeated with a big smile. “It’s been a pleasure driving you this morning, and good luck with your meeting.”

The smile was so sweet, and her words seemed so genuine I was momentarily dumb struck. Luckily my temporary stupor was broken by her glance toward the building. “Thank you, Gina, and I hope to see you again,” I was able to say as I turned and hurried toward the revolving glass doors.

Within minutes I was being whisked to the 53rd floor. Waiting for the elevator doors to open I know I should have been imagining the future of my business and for that matter the rest of my life. But for some stupid reason, all I could think about was a woman named Monica greeting me with a smile and a famous reputation. Would she be wearing a blue dress, would she already be on her knees — Jeez Michael, get a grip.

As the elevator doors parted I was not disappointed. There she was as promised, yet far superior to the former President’s slut. She stood probably five-ten before the high heels, blond hair strait to her waist, and an hourglass figure to die for. Other than the fact that she was holding a leather portfolio tight against her breast, she looked like she was straight off of a Paris fashion runway.

“Good morning Mr. Whelan,” she said with a pearly white smile. “Mr. Fisk and his team are looking forward to your presentation — if you’ll just follow me, please.”

After that rehearsed greeting, she spun on the balls of her three-inch heels and headed down through a labyrinth of lavish offices. And though I was totally captivated by the swing of her ass and her blond locks dancing back and forth across her back — I was still able to notice that most of the people working here were female. There were of course some men, but none of them appear to particularly be the bosses or supervisors — just co-workers.

Within a few minutes I was standing in a large and very comfortable conference room. One wall was floor to ceiling glass and from the 53rd floor the view of Manhattan looking north was breathtaking. Central Park lay below like a giant green carpet in the midst of a forest of gray towers. Mesmerized by the panorama of a man-made city coexisting with the natural beauty of the park and the Hudson River beyond, I had all but forgotten that Monica was standing behind me, until she broke my near trance with, “Mr. Whelan, you’ll be sitting in the middle of the table, you can plug in your laptop here and it will project on all screens.”

“Huh, thank you Monica” I uttered as I slid my laptop off my shoulder.

“There is bottled water, sodas and coffee here at the bar. May I make you a latte or an expresso?” she continued.

“Oh, no thank you Monica,” I said more clearly this time and followed with a nervous smile. “I think I’m fine.”

“Michael,” a male voice boomed from over my shoulder.

Spinning around I realized it was Julian Fisk. Julian was my point of contact at NOVIC and the only representative of the company I’d actually ever met. I’d spoken to numerous people in their IT department over the past four months, but Julian as Director of Technology, was the only one to make the trip out to meet me and my team in person.

“Oh, hi Julian,” I responded extending my hand to shake his.

“We are very excited to see your presentation,” he said giving my hand a firm and friendly shake. “There will be sixteen of us altogether — how long do you think your presentation might take?”

“Oh, I think we can probably cover the whole thing in about ninety minutes.”

“Great,” he said. “That should work out perfectly, as we’ve got lunch plans for you as soon as we’re through here.”

As I plugged in my laptop and tested the power point presentation, the conference room started filling with executives, director, and managers from probably every section of the company. And much to my surprise the majority of them were women, and attractive women at that. There were the Directors of Product Development, Customer Service and Human Resources, Vice Presidents of North American Operations, European Operations and Financial Services, the Controller, three Project Managers and the Corporate Counsel.

Then just as the digital clock on the wall turned 10:30, a side door to the conference room opened and in stepped a rather short but stocky man with flushed complexion and what probably used to be red hair, cut into a flat top, waxed and standing straight up. He was wearing a perfectly tailored Italian suit with shoes to match that probably cost more than I pay Cindy per month. He was accompanied by two extremely good-looking young ladies, both carrying leather portfolios clutched tightly against their chests.

Everyone in the room instantly jumped to their feet and almost in unison they all said, “Good morning Mr. Gould.” Luckily, I was already standing, as I was both startled and amazed by the apparent protocol and the near military precision with which it was delivered.

So, this was Mr. Gould. The famous Eric Gould, the founder and still the Chairman of the Board and CEO of NOVIC. I quickly grabbed one of my business cards off the conference table and raced to greet him. The two young women instinctively advanced to protect him, but he extended his hand to shake mine and they both stopped short of intercepting me. His hand was hot and sweaty, but he had a very firm handshake and before I could say anything, he said, “Nice to meet you Mr. Whelan.”

To which I immediately responded, “Oh call me Michael, please.”

“Nice to meet you Michael,” he said before letting go of my hand. And as I tried to hand him a business card, one of his escorts quickly took it from my hand and placed it in her portfolio without even looking at it.

Mr. Gould took the chair at the end of the table, and everyone returned to their seats. His two escorts stepped backwards and took seats against the wall near the side door they had entered from. Both crossed their legs almost in unison, flipped open their portfolios and took out pens ready to take notes.

As everyone returned to their seats, they open the hard copies of my presentation that I had already placed in front of each chair. I had not placed presentations on the side chairs around the room, and several of the assistants, including one of Mr. Gould’s ‘escorts,’ approached me to get copies.

As I sat to start my presentation, I couldn’t help but notice that with the exception of Eric Gould, Julian, a European VP and two of the Project Managers, everyone else in the room were all women and very attractive women at that. All of them appeared very professional, all impeccably dressed, and all relatively young. As the introductions were made around the table, every member of the NOVIC team welcomed me with a sincere business greeting, and yet a subtly flirtatious smile or glance on each face. The only woman that appeared to be older than me was the Controller, and even she was quite attractive and to be honest, a MILF that I doubt any red-blooded male wouldn’t mind waking up next to if given the chance.

As my presentation unfolded, I was pleasantly surprised by the apparent genuine interest and actual note taking by the committee. And in closing, when I asked if there were any questions, the response wasn’t the usually awkward silence, but genuinely intelligent questions, though I have to admit somewhat softballs.

“Well, that sound’s fine,” Mr. Gould said as soon as there was a lull in the discussion. And with that there was a noticeable relaxation in the room as everyone started to sit back or gather their papers together. This moment of repose was short lived for as soon as Gould pushed his chair back and began to stand — everyone in the room immediately jumped to their feet as if Royalty was about to leave the room.

His two ‘escorts’ instantly jumped to their feet and quickly collected his copy of the presentation, even though I don’t think he made any notes on it. To be honest, I was a little surprised by the regal treatment of the CEO, but apparently, that was company policy, and no one seemed even the least bit put out by it.

As everyone stood, Julian asked, “Mr. Gould, will you be joining us for lunch?”

“Oh no thank you, Julian, I have another engagement,” and with that he turned and headed for the side door with his two shadows close on his heels. The three of them were gone within seconds and the door closed behind them with a vault like clunk.

“Well, that just leaves the ten of us,” Julian says as he slapped his hands together. Counting the assistants that many of the executive seemed to have with them, there were several dozen people in the room, but I guess they somehow knew who was invited to lunch and who wasn’t.

“Michael, we have lunch waiting for us up in the executive dining room, so you can leave all your stuff here and we’ll head for the elevator,” Julian said as everyone started standing and thanking me for the “excellent” presentation.

Within minutes Julian and I, plus the apparent eight invited luncheon guests, were standing in the hallway waiting for the elevator. As the door opened, all ten of us entered and again, I couldn’t help but notice, Julian and I were the only two males. Eight rather attractive females and two dudes, I was starting to notice a trend here. And I began wondering, was this universal across the NOVIC corporate structure, or was it just my imagination?

The elevator doors opened on the 60th floor and we entered what was apparently a private club or a very nice executive dining room. The hostess, female of course, quickly led us to a round table at the corner of the floor. The table was already set for ten, so I guess the invitation to Mr. Gould was just a formality. The dining room had floor to ceiling plate glass windows on two sides and as we were in the corner, the view of Midtown Manhattan and Central Park was spectacular.

The luncheon must have been preordered as no one brought us menus or took our orders. Instead, as soon as we were all seated, an attractive young female server started the wine service. I would not normally drink an alcoholic beverage at lunch, but I was obviously the guest of honor, so it would have been rude to decline. And before she even finished filling each glass, two more servers started bringing the first course.

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