tagRomanceOverlooked Bride Ch. 05

Overlooked Bride Ch. 05

byEgmont Grigor©

SO FAR: Jilted days away from the altar, Bianca White returns to her homeland to become a business problems consultant in Auckland. Business is beginning to take off but her first client Marty Young has become her romantic quarry and at last his interest in her appears about to erupt.

Bianca White regarded as encouraging the response of her client Marty Young that he thought she could be so funny. As well as plying her with Harvey Wallbangers he was inviting her out to the ranch or whatever he called it for Sunday lunch.

"What time Sunday?" She didn't really expect him to drawl "Why not come for all day and stay the night." This wasn't a book or a film. She wasn't disappointed when he said, "Ten-thirty onwards will be fine. I'll give you directions during dinner tonight."

'Over dinner' proved to be fascinating: Marty talked expansively about his educational college, indicating without saying to Bianca he fancied he was contributing usefully to the assimilation of foreigners into their new homeland.

She'd been to this restaurant before – a typical home-style low-budget Italian family eatery where sloppily rendered walls with pictures torn from magazines and framed were offset by jovial hosts, saucy waitresses and surly young sons pathetically posing as real wine waiters plus there was the honest to goodness food. It was exactly the right setting – noisy and friendly with aroams that tempted the nostrils to distraction.

Looking at her client Bianca thought to hear a young man talk passionately about his vocation – well, he was young, a mere four years older than she was - and who doesn't like men being passionate about something?

The conversation was one-sided then why interrupt? Most of her girlfriends perennially complained their lovers – including husband – didn't talk enough.

Bianca decided she was determined to take advantage of this opportunity. Why let him drift away just because he was uncommitted to marriage? Someone had to arrest his elusiveness and it seemed appropriate that she did just that even if it meant grooming him for some other woman. Eligible men at thirty should not be left corral-shy.

"Tomorrow for lunch as well?" she heard herself saying. Two lunches within two days of tonight's dinner; this was adding up to a dating frenzy. Keep your mouth shut – he'll elaborate.

"Yes, I'd like to introduce you to my partner and our management team tomorrow and to take you through our establishment. I'm thinking of engaging you permanently as a consultant, making your our second outside director. Our legal adviser is currently the only outside director on our board of six."

"Your college is large enough to justify a board of six?"

"Oh yes."

Well, how big was big? He'd probably been telling her while she was figuring out how to nail him. You are over-complicating your relationship with this man by having runaway thoughts, my girl. Stop it.

"Okay, I'll readjust my schedule to ensure I can make lunch."

"Go on, you have virtually no appointments tomorrow."

Clearly it was meant as a joke; she knew that and she knew she had only two appointments tomorrow – one early, the other in the evening. Even so, she blushed.

Oh God, he'd taken her hand and was apologizing earnestly, saying what a callous thing to say to a lovely lady struggling to build up a new business in a competitive environment. She thought that strategically she should milk sympathy and possible hugs by softly weepng but she was um too honest for that. That, of course, but the word she was seeking was staunch. This wasn't a public relations project; this was an attempt to create and capture romance to really find out if Marty would reveal himself as Mr Right.

Capturing romance? She wasn't sure she'd heard that expression before but it fitted her situation like a glove.

"No, don't apologize – I love it when you make your little quips and spontaneous comments. It's part of what makes you so interesting."

"Interesting, you find me interesting?" he asked, quite agog.

Jumping jellyfish – he had no idea how hard she was working this evening to attract him to her. Time for the gamble – it could attract or repel.

"Oh yes, you are a great client but in the social moments we've had together I find myself becoming attracted to you."

"To me?"

She half expected him to look around to see who she was addressing.

Tactics again: She didn't reply – she just held out her glass to be topped up and stared at him, riveting a strong look into his jade green eyes. He overfilled her glass and wine trickled over her slightly shaking fingers, He broke their locked gaze to say a naughty four-letter word and began dabbing her fingers with his paper serviette, in his haste spilling more wine from her glass.

"Allow me sir," said their waitress, arriving with a thick hand-towel.

"I'm sorry..." Marty began.

"Think nothing of it, sir. My family loves it when our customers become passionate. I'll fetch a finger bowl for you ma'am."

"Passionate – me passionate?" he said as the waitress sped away.

"The emotion is there; it just needs to be triggered," Bianca said casually, looking at one of the awful wall pictures.

The fleet-footed waitress was back and dipping Bianca's hand into the water. "You must enjoy these beautiful long fingers exploring your body, sir."

Bianca and Marty sat like two stunned mackerel.

"Long fingers and the quality of epicure are part of a women's defining assets," Marty croaked.

The waitress and Bianca looked at Marty with interest. He turned away embarrassed. The table had a waterproof centre cover so the waitress wiped that clean and said, "We are sorry our wine caused an accident. My father says the liquers and coffee will be served without change."

"Apart from the pictures, I love coming to this restaurant," Bianca said.

"It's fast becoming one of my favorites," Marty beamed. "I must tip that waitress well. She has a lovely face but pity about the hips."

"Give her a break, Marty. She's Italian, though doubtless Kiwi-born and she works in food and her mother probably forbids her to diet. But never fear – she'll make it on sheer personality and probably can cook like an angel."

Marty nodded. "Well said, Bianca. I must say you're never boring – you sound almost ruthless at times and yet have to ability to soar and say such a lovely thing as you've just said about that girl. I suppose if we knock around a bit like this I'll find out more about you."

"I suppose so."

Outside the restaurant Bianca ended their awkwardness at farewell time forever. She reached up and kissed him on the lips. "Thank you – lovely evening. Lovely kiss. I'm only ten minutes walk from home in well-lit streets and it's not quite 9:00. So off you go to collect your vehicle and drive safely."

"I cannot allow..."

"This is not negotiable, Marty. Believe me. Now kiss me again and I'll be off. When unaccompanied I always try to be off the streets by 9:00 at nights to preserve my impeccable reputation."

They kissed unhurriedly.

"Marvellous lips, marvelous fingers. What else do you have in that category?"

Bianca giggled and said it was for him to find out, so he'd better stick around.

Marty handed Bianca a slip of paper and waved goodbye, calling, "You've only seen and public pages of our website. That's the password to allow you to go deeper."

Bianca blew him a kiss and walked off, wondering if he was standing to look at her hips. She fell into a bit of a nautical roll but didn't look back.

Bianca opened the website of the New Arrival's Induction College, Basil Kennard and Marty Young, joint principals, established 1985. She'd forgotten to ask Marty who Basil Kennard was – presumably the founder as in the staff photograph he looked in his late sixties. She counted the staff – 43. This was no fly-by-night outfit.

The college ran morning, afternoon and evening courses – the maximum number of students per class was fifteen and the claim was 'Low student-tutor ratios to facilitate rapid student immersion'.

The fees raised her eyebrows – it wasn't cheap education, but the shortest class was the initial introductory intensive 5-day course. After that students elected what classes they wished to attend; the minimum number required for a 5-day class to run was eight students.

The password was one Marty was unlikely to forget: the name of his horse and its age – Beckett11. She read the company's strategic plan and business plan, code of ethics and operations report. Then for the next few hours Bianca worked on a draft marketing report, finishing just before 4:00 which mean by skipping gym she could snatch three and a half hours' sleep and still open the office on time. Although tired, she was very pleased with her work and thrilled that she had a boyfriend again.

* * *

Driving home after dinner, Marty turned the radio up loud and let his thoughts soar. The most amazing thing had happened – the beautiful Bianca White had taken to him. He shook his head, unable to believe it; a woman like that could virtually align with anyone but she'd chosen him.

Marty tried to think of what had attracted her; it couldn't be the sex because they hadn't been any. His mind went on an erotic detour thinking about having sex with that gorgeous woman. Perhaps she wasn't so gorgeous and that's why no-one else wanted her? Nah, that was ridiculous.

A grinding mind came up with a few likely things:

-he was her first client. -she felt sorry for what Gloria had done to him. -they interacted well. -they appeared to be compatible. -his farmlet,'Young Meadows', had horses she could ride. -new Arrivals Induction College would be a big account for her. -she was looking for a good guy; he was a great guy. -Bianca thought sex would be great with him. -She assumed he wanted those long fingers exploring his body. Oh yeah; to be truthful he's looked at that body of hers in a calculating way a couple of times.

Sex, just sex, or do I want more than that; even more than a complete and intimate friendship? Marty looked into the darkness ahead, split by an illuminated pale gold channel created by the headlights of his vehicle as he waited for tumbling thoughts to settle into some sort of pattern. The wait was a little frustrating because considering that poser had produced more questions: Was marriage even a faint thought in her mind; was she the right woman for him to court; what hope had he of taking her as a bride? This irritated him; why was he bothering with these uncertainties, taking his mind away from the exciting central consideration: she might be interesting in having sex with him?

Question: how do I find out? You make the right moves, dumb cluck.

He turned into his driveway and wound the driver's window down to hear the welcome of three hungry dogs. He always enjoyed being welcomed home as that made him feel he was not alone.

In bed Marty thought of Bianca and that last kiss they had on the sidewalk; that was a memorable kiss, like he was remembering it now. Bianca had probably gone into the website as soon as she arrived home. He hoped so as it would give her a better 'feel' for the college in case she was thrown curly questions. There was a mood of unrest among staff as they knew Basil intended resigning as soon as Marty found a replacement business partner. So far the search had been unsuccessful and by now Bianca may have read his memo to staff about that.

At noon Marty saw Bianca drive up and rushed out to welcome her. As she opened the car door she warned, "Don't kiss me other than on the cheek, Marty. With your difficulty finding a replacement for Mr Kennard it is likely staff will be rather nervous; they won't want to see you bringing in a consultant with whom you are acting as if you are having an affair."

"Oh I wish," he grinned. "But sharp comment; I had a similar thought last night when thinking of you."

"You think of me when I'm not with you?"

"Your unseemly behavior with me last evening, Miss White, has triggered an affair of the mind."

"That's cute comment, Marty. Now give me a sweet kiss on the cheek and don't grope."

"Grope? I wouldn't dare, but please allow me to carry your carton – what's in this?"

"A draft marketing proposal for your college including a section devoted to restructuring."

"What? When did you do this?"

"When you were in your bed having fanciful thoughts about me. What you have there are nine copies – you said I'd meet eight new faces at the meeting so the extra one is for you. There is an executive summary so there's no need at this preliminary stage to read the whole report to get the gist. I wrote it last night, finishing at 4:00 this morning."

"Good God."

"No, Good Bianca."

Marty introduced Bianca to Basil Kennard, an affable man who looked strained, ready for retirement. The partners took Bianca on a quick tour and then into the boardroom to meet other members of senior management.

The college occupies the former head office and production plant of a long gone food processing company in premises that had been substantially upgraded by the previous owners – a national accounting firm now housed in one of the city's tallest office towers. The frontage looked impressive, being finished in glazed dark brown brick. There was plenty of parking for students and the air-conditioned classrooms were well lit with modern furniture – altogether a modern teaching facility helping to justify the high fees.

Because New Zealand only has just over 4 million people, it's immigration figures are small – averaging annually around 80,000 permanent/long stay people of whom around 25,000 are returning New Zealanders, giving the college a net inflow of immigrants of around 55,000 to target for enrolments. But it also attracts students from the tens of thousands other people arriving including long-stay tourists, international students and people on short term work permits. The college and several like-minded institutions compete within these inflows for students.

Explaining this to Bianca during the inspection tour, Basil said the college had a through-up of more that 500 students a week with some of those being students taking more than just the one class a day.

"Our goal is to accelerate newcomers to assimilate into New Zealand culture to the depth they desire," Basil said.

"Yes, I note that's the board's Mission Statement," Bianca said. Basil raised an approving eyebrow.

After the luncheon Marty spoke about his reasons for engaging Bianca as a consultant, with emphasis on marketing. "We have thirty percent of our premises not being used so we need to assess whether we should expand and into what direction. I propose setting up a five-person working party comprising myself and Bianca. I'd like you people to nominate the other three persons at our next meeting."

Bianca found Marty to be a strong, non-nonsense speaker and everyone seemed intent on listening to him; this indicated good leadership qualities and his people seemed keen to speak with him during the buffet lunch, which was of excellent quality; no wine was served. Bianca fully approved.

Bianca was invited to speak after Marty had delivered a résumé of her CV.

"I have written a discussion document which I emphasize is in draft form; at this stage anything in it is up for debate either today or as we progress with further meetings. I apologize in advance for any errors created through assumptions I have made when I had not even stepped into this college; I worked off the website."

Bianca began distributing the discussion paper asking everyone to take a minute or two and read the executive summary on pages four and five.

"This document is a draft titled 'Image and Positioning'. I have academic knowledge about those two vital topics in marketing and establishment success but you people have the experience at the coalface; we bring knowledge and skills together through positive discussion. I'd ask that you don't seize on some comments as red herrings because at this stage that's what they are – comments through to suggestions for discussion. For example, my suggestion that the college's stated mission be changed to 'Learn the New Zealand Way' and that theme be stated when any document or booklet is updated or any promotional film-strip or advertisement or poster is reviewed."

"I also believe our discussion should look at comprehensive reform, rather than just production of a slicker marketing program. That means a new name for the College – I've suggested the Introducing New Zealand College of Learning. Perhaps you guys can come up with something that hits the bull'seye or we may even have to consult specialists in logos and names. Please read the executive summary; I'll resume in two minutes from now."

The meeting ended thirty minutes later to allow staff to return to duties at the resumption of classes for the afternoon session.

"About all that's happen is you've been introduced to them and you've got us thinking," Basil said.

"Getting people thinking is an achievement in itself," Bianca responded and turning to Marty listened to his comment she knew had to come: "This suggested name change for the college took me by surprise."

"At this stage it's only a suggestion; in my view everything should be up for discussion with Basil as symbolizing the old guard moving out."

"Don't forget Mavis Anchor – she was my first recruit."

"Basil, I gained the impression she would prefer me not being here."

Basil smiled. "Yes, that's to be expected if you know Mavis, but I sensed two or three others were swinging her way."

"Yes, I'd agree with that Basis," Marty said earnestly. "We must ensure at all times we allow any dissenter on any point to speak for a reasonable period. These people are tertiary teachers and administrators who hold dearly to democracy and fair hearings."

"That's fine," Bianca smiled. "We should settle the naming question quickly – whether it's to proceed or not. If a new name is adopted, reregistering with the education authorities and the like will take time."

Accompanying Bianca to her silver Lexus, Marty sensed her disappointment. "The reception was negative but remember you will received some support and from here on your role is principally that of facilitator. I won't kiss you – three of them are at the second floor windows, watching. Not good, I'm afraid."

Where was the support? Bianca sighed as she drove off, giving the reflective Marty a little wave; you and I could lose this one heavily. Clearly the conservatives who reflected Basil held sway. The damn place was more like a learning institution that a creative centre of modern learning. She wondered when any of the curriculum had been reviewed substantially, or even a little.

Gloom hovered over her like a tiny rain cloud. Then she wailed, "Oh God" knowing a similar reception awaited her this evening from the stalwarts of one of Auckland's 'true blue' schools where the underpinning word behind entire institutionalized philosophy was 'tradition'. She banged the steering wheel and a minute later was stopping at a small shopping strip to drown her frustration in a double shot black coffee.

Bianca called her 'temp' who would have been waiting at least 30 minutes for her overdue employer. She had been warned that Bianca may be late so had taken sanctuary in a nearby coffee shop where she said she was attacking 'a sensational cream cake.' Bianca said give her another twenty minutes as she had to reach her apartment to park in the basement and then walk the short distance to the office.

Bianca handed the woman ten dollars to cover afternoon tea. Gwen protested, saying no she couldn't accept the money and then took it before Bianca could react. Typical, Bianca thought grumpily – at least some transactions are efficient because recipients know what's good for them. Not like teachers entrenched in their comfort zones and dealing with adult students walking on to foreign soil who'll be prepared to accept anything thrown at them. This is a lesson, she thought grimly; I must stick with clients who have a degree of sophistication and purpose in life.

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byEgmont Grigor© 1 comments/ 21273 views/ 1 favorites

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