Chapter 18

Nikita opened the door to her office and smiled broadly as she extended her hand in welcome. "Michael, how wonderful to see you!" she said, as she ushered him into her office. She caught sight of Gail grinning at her and making a fanning motion with her hand, indicating how "hot" she thought Mr. Samuelle was. Nikita cocked an amused brow at her before closing the door to her office and turned to find Michael standing a few feet away waiting for her.

"Please have a seat," she invited, pointing to a comfortable settee. She had arranged the layout for the gallery on the coffee table in front of it. "Can I get you something to drink?" she offered, and Michael declined.

"Thank you for making time to see me," he said. He knew she must have had a hundred other things to do in preparation for the upcoming long weekend.

"Don't mention it," Nikita replied. "I'm really glad you called, even more so that you're actually here. It sounds like you've been doing a lot of traveling lately."

They talked a few minutes about his travels. Michael had just signed on a new artist in Venice, which was the reason he had traveled there the past week. The artist was one that Michael wanted to feature at the New York gallery opening.

As he spoke Nikita found herself again mesmerized by his voice and charm. He had beautiful eyes. God if he would only consent to be part of the magazine spread she knew for certain that the gallery opening would be a huge success!

Michael sat at the edge of the settee, his body turned toward Nikita as they talked. He recalled briefly their first meeting and smiled inwardly at how badly he had misjudged her. He was glad that they had had a chance to start over again. He enjoyed working with Nikita Wolfe. She was beautiful, intelligent, she had a good eye for detail, and it was obvious she loved her work. It was an added bonus that she also knew how to make her customers feel at ease.

The night at her parents home had given him a further glimpse to the fun caring personality Nikita possessed but he didn't fail noticing too that Nikita was very careful not to cross any lines of inappropriateness. He liked that. Sometimes in his line of work he came across patrons –many of them married- who had no qualms about letting him know that they found him desirable and wanted him in their bed. To deal with the unwelcome advances he developed a gift at being aloof which he used as a shield. He imagined Nikita must have come across the same situation in her line of work and was thus very careful with how she presented herself to customers.

Nikita turned Michael's attention to the layouts that had been prepared for his gallery opening. They would be used for two magazine spreads that would be featuring a story on the gallery. There were also proofs of what would be used in several ads that would be run in other publications. Nikita went over each layout and proof and sought his input and approval.

There was a knock on the door and a tall man with a shaved head walked into the room. He was dressed in a black turtleneck and slacks and carried a portfolio in his hands. "I've asked Chirs Davenport, our art director, to be here," Nikita explained, and she introduced the two men. "He's got some great ideas too that I would like him to share with you."

Nearly an hour later they began to wrap things up. Michael was pleased with the layouts and the plans that Chris had presented. Nikita's team had done an excellent job in designing the gallery's ad campaign. As they walked to the door talk turned to Michael's plan for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"I have a flight out on Friday," Michael explained. "My nephew's birthday is this Sunday and I have to be home for that. Tonight and tomorrow I plan to catch up on a lot of email and other work that's piled up over the past week."

Chris shook his head. "I don't envy you being away from home during the holidays. Especially Thanksgiving. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in France," he asked.

"We have a similar holiday but it is held in October," Michael explained. "That was one of the reasons I was glad Nikita was able to see me today. I forgot about your holiday and that most places here will be closed. I have to wait until Friday morning to be able and meet with the contractors working on the gallery. Then that evening I will fly out."

"Why don't I take you out to dinner tonight?" Nikita offered. She felt sorry that he would be stuck in a hotel room all of tonight and tomorrow with no family around.

"Thank you, but I'll be fine," Michael answered. He didn't want to intrude anymore on her holiday time.

"No really," Nikita offered, smiling at him. "I owe you a dinner and this will also give me a chance to show you why I love this city so much."

"Are you thinking of Walter's?" Chris asked, and Nikita grinned.

"Walter's got great food and you'll love him," Nikita explained to Michael. "I can give you the address and we can meet there about 8 p.m.? If Chris wasn't leaving this evening I'd ask him to join us too."

Chris nodded his agreement. "I love Walter's. And they do have a great variety of food. You'll enjoy it."

Michael decided to accept Nikita's invitation to dinner. "Alright," he agreed. "But only if you let me pay since you treated me to dinner the last time and your parents were so kind as to invite me to their home."

Nikita thought a moment, recalling where she had taken him the last time. "Wasn't it the cafeteria I took you to?"

"Yes," Michael deadpanned. "I believe you called it the star treatment." Both Chris and Nikita laughed.

"You really do owe him dinner," Chris teased.

Nikita jotted down the address to Walter's and gave it to Michael. "Dress casual," she told him. "And bring a warm coat for afterward."

"What's afterward?" Michael inquired, but Nikita only smiled as she walked him and Chris toward the outer exit of her office. "You'll see," she said cryptically. "I'm sure you'll enjoy it."