Chapter 18 - Like a Bad Penny

The man tapped well-manicured fingers on the arm of the leather chair.  His eyes slid to the chrono on the wall.  Forty-five minutes.  Had this been his office and had he been kept waiting those long, the tardy individual would never be late again.  He stood, re-pacing the room as he examined the decor as he’d done twenty minutes prior.  Patience was not among his virtues, even if he had no others.  Finally he sat back down with a low silent exhale.


The door flew open and a flustered Millie stepped through the door. “I’m so sorry for my delay, my daughter–” She stopped in the open doorway, pushing a wisp of hair out of her face, her messy bun threatening to topple from her head. “James?” Her brow furrowed, and she looked back over her shoulder. “Why are you here?”


James Nadall stood.  “I’m your 1:00…..1:45 appointment.  And what’s this about a daughter?”  His eyes looked her over, more slowly in some areas.  “You don’t look like you’ve had any children.”


Millie silently cursed herself for letting that kind of personal information slip in the presence of James, but didn’t let the smile on her face waiver. “Adopted. Her mother passed unexpectedly and we were unable to locate any other family members.” She gave one last glance over her shoulder, grateful the secretary had stepped away for lunch at his usual time, and let the door close. “There was an incident that required a wardrobe change for both of us. I–apologize for my delay.”

She crossed to her desk, but didn’t sit. “Why are you in my office, James?”


“Nearly every economic system in this quadrant is in a downturn.  My business is no exception.  People aren’t fighting as many wars these days, it’s a cyclical flow and may pick up in a few decades.  So I need to diversify and when I thought of a source for that sort of thing, well, I thought of you and your business.  Not packing them in like they used to, are we?  Though I have to say the performance was good and your dress was amazing.”


A hint of a smirk played at the corner of her lips. Of course, he’d managed to slip into a performance unnoticed. And everyone in attendance would have seen her and her dress, as she’d given the announcements for the opening night performance. She’d made arrangements to holo-record the speech to be played for the duration of the production run, as she would return before the final performances, but she’d be present for a large portion of them while they were on Earth.

“The arts are not intended to be a profitable endeavor, Mister Nadall. The Bolshoi is a cultural and educational institution, and we’ve focused much of our financial efforts into scholarship programs for dance training and cultural outreach opportunities, such as this production.” Mille leaned her hips back on her desk. “However, if you’d like to open a scholarship endowment, we usually have a waiting list for our scholarship program–” She folded her hands in her lap. “Unless you’re here to enroll one of your own family members in the ballet school?”


“Unfortunately my sister doesn’t have the patience or the footwork for ballet.  But you mention training and scholarships.”  He leaned forward.  “How does a new training center, state of the art, sound?  In exchange, I’d like a personal box reserved for all performances.  Never know when I may need to take an associate to such an event to close a deal.”


A sister. Well, that was the first he’d ever offered up that piece of information. “Right now, we’re focusing our efforts on the restoration and continued use of the historic space, and the beautification of the historical district in this area. But, if you’d like to contribute to our building fund, I can certainly go over the details with Marcy.” Millie glanced briefly at the closed door behind him, now realizing that she hadn’t noted the presence of his assistant when she’d entered the building. “Did she also enjoy the performance?”


He stood, approaching her.  “I’d love to discuss such an investment in renovations.  The place has seen better days.  I think those are the same seats from twenty years ago.  How about over dinner?  I’ll have Marcy make reservations.  She still hasn’t finished cataloging some finer points of her work, so she was unable to attend.”


Millie gave her biggest diplomatic smile. “Nonsense. There’s no reason for you to have to spend your time going over the minutiae of this investment. I’d be happy to give Marcy a tour and to have her work out the details with our endowment team. She can be my guest in my box for this Thursday’s performance.” She let her hands rest on the desk behind her. “She should wear that dress–or I’d be happy to set up an appointment for her to meet with my stylist.” Millie raised a brow. “Unless–?”


“She’s unavailable.”  He gave a grin.  “Did you change your hair style since I last saw you?”


“She’s part of the bargain,” Millie insisted. She hated negotiating about Marcy without the woman here. “You give your assistant Thursday off, or the balcony box is off the table.” She folded her arms for emphasis.


He obviously didn’t like it.  “Fine, but I will join you both for lunch.” 


Millie gave a nod. “Now that things are agreed upon, why are you really here?”


“Maybe I missed my friend?”  He put his hand on hers very lightly. “You know deep down that we have some kind of connection.”


“We have a professional contractual agreement, James.” Millie raised her eyebrow, finding herself leaning further against the desk.


He grinned as he watched her involuntary response.  “I have a lot of agreements with a lot of people but none of them have prettier eyes.”


“You’re not my type.”


“I don’t have to be, but we can discuss this later.” He patted her hand, before standing tall.  “I will arrange what you asked for on Thursday.”


Millie let out the breath she’d been holding, perhaps a little more loudly than she’d anticipated. “I look forward to seeing Marcy again.”


As if on cue, there was a quiet knock at the door, and it opened to reveal a young man holding a brown box and a PADD. “Miss Stepanova, sorry to interrupt.” He paused at the door, not wanting to intrude. “Your lunch arrived, and the architects sent this over for your approval.”


Grateful for the interruption, Millie crossed to take the proffered items. “Thank you, Ivan. Would you be so kind as to escort our guest back out to the lobby?” She turned back to James, inclining her head to one side.


“No need, I know the way.”  He gave her a smile.  “Until Thursday.”  He walked to the door, passing the assistant without a glance.