"A Ting for the lovely lady over there, please?" the man paused, considering. "And one for me as well," he continued. "Thank you."
The waiter glanced in the direction of Jackson's gaze, hesitated slightly, but then walked away politely to comply with his guest's wishes.
Jackson Headman leaned back in his chair and watched the woman to whom he was referring seated demurely at one end of the long bar. She had distracted him from his own dark musings about the shabby state of his marriage back home and he wanted to reward her for that. She had nursed her second drink carefully and seemed to be more lost in thought than she was ignoring her companions. She had smiled warmly and greeted several patrons as she had glided into the crowded establishment half an hour earlier, catching many eyes; but then she had not said a word to anyone except the bartender or to the occasional man brave enough to approach her. To them she was gracious, but in the end, dismissive. She did not seem to be the aloof type; she had been friendly enough; it was just that she hadn't initiated any of the brief conversations in which she had been involved and she seemed very skilled at getting the other patrons to speak to each other rather than to her. Jackson continued to be curious about her, since she was as attractive as anyone whom he had met in life.
His eyes raked the generous curves of her body under the festive floral wrap-around skirt and fitted halter-top blouse. Jackson was impressed because it meant that her massive breasts were still quite perky since she couldn't have been wearing a bra. The slight twitching of her body that accompanied the beat of the music drew his eyes to her shapely, sandal-covered legs that tapped out the rhythm of the pulsating reggae music that floated away on the soft Caribbean breezes.
He wanted to meet her; he wanted to know why she wasn't wearing a wedding band – yes, he'd checked – he wanted to know if she had just followed the way of many of the people on the island, not to get married, but to have steady, stable, not-available-to-you-thank-you-Mr. Headman relationships nonetheless. He'd noticed the respectfully friendly way in which the barman and some of the other patrons treated her, she was obviously a regular, yet she hadn't had an alcoholic beverage that Jackson could notice.
The waiter called out Jackson's order to the barman, they both grinned briefly at each other and then the barman poured the Ting and slid it neatly along the sleek, black, granite counter top right in front of Jackson's intended conquest.
She looked startled when Jackson's gift appeared, but turned at the waiter's discreet nod to see who had bought her drink. Her smile faded slightly when she saw Jackson, but then she seemed to relent a little and raised her glass in salute. To Jackson's surprise, after a moment she spun around lazily on the stool and walked over to him. Jackson's eyes watched the hypnotic, sensual sway of her wide hips and he found himself salivating. She would have been an eyeful even if she weren't so exotic. Her chocolate-coloured skin, high cheekbones, slanting eyes and long dreadlocks spoke of the ambiguous ethnicity of most Jamaicans today, while her shapely rounded limbs, big breasts and narrow waist that flared out into wide child-bearing hips spoke of the allure and strength of the women of the island for centuries past.
"Thank you for the drink, Mr. Headman," the woman said in a sultry Jamaican accent. She had a very slight trace of amusement in her voice which caused Jackson's cock to twitch. "Actually, it is I who should be buying you a drink."
Jackson's eyes widened when she addressed him by name. He couldn't believe that he could have forgotten meeting her before.
She laughed, sexily at his obvious confusion. It was clear that this had happened to her before.
"I saw you when you checked in yesterday. Most people don't notice me, but I make it my business to notice each of my guests."
She extended her hand to shake Jackson's and cocked her eyebrow, asking for permission to sit next to him. Her grip was firm and professional.
"My name is Ayanna Maxwell, and this is my place," she explained simply.
Jackson's eyes opened wide. This was the person who owned the resort in which he and his crew were filming! Unbelievable! Jackson knew that he was being a little sexist and so he was ruthless in squashing the thought that she didn't look like the sort who would be able to run a multi-million dollar enterprise that was beginning to enjoy a global reputation after only ten years. It seemed that the enigmatic phantom behind the Ambrosia brand name was far more of a mystery than anyone had realised. Jackson searched his mind to review what he knew about her and could come up with very little although her brand's name was everywhere. That no one could understand why she hadn't taken her company public, that she was a recluse and that she was divorced were all that he could come up with. Now he speculated idly about how she had managed to thrive in the cut-throat business that was world tourism.
Jackson had heard that A.J. Maxwell's reclusive persona was carefully cultivated, and now he could guess why. It was more than a marketing strategy. The balls-of-steel CEO of Ambrosia looked like one of the exotic dancers whom she hired to do the nightly cabaret shows. It would have been difficult to take her considerable business acumen seriously, or even imagine that she had any at all, if he had seen her before he knew of her growing reputation. Her looks were very likely her best asset in the boardroom, not because she would sleep her way to the top, though she probably could, but because, on the contrary, they probably distracted her competition long enough for her to sign the many advantageous deals that she must have made for her fast-growing company.
Suddenly, the relatively easy receipt of the permission to film at the resort, the fact that she had come over to thank him personally for the drink, and even more so that she had told him who she was, all seemed more sinister than they had moments before. Jackson made a mental note to call his accountant in New York and ask her to look further into the vague rumours that he had heard about the planned expansion of the Maxwell Empire.
He had been cautioned that A.J. Maxwell wanted to go into movie-making when he had first announced that he wanted to film on location in Jamaica. He had been told that his was the kind of sole proprietor operation that the company went for and that they weren't kind to those whom they had decimated. He had laughed at the suggestion that a small island company could make a move on 15 years of his hard work. Wasn't the Jamaican dollar weak? Who was she trying to be, Disney? Yet somehow, having met her, his instinct told him that it was true, she had decided to make a move to acquire his company.
It was in her eyes; they didn't smile at him as brightly as her mouth did. It was always a give-away. Jackson decided to play along. Never let your adversary know that you had joined the game. It was how he had succeeded in life himself. Ayanna Maxwell excited him terribly already. He almost laughed aloud.
"Ambrosia is beautiful, Ms. Maxwell," he began graciously, leaning in to be heard over the din of the I-Threes' stage show. "Your staff has been excellent! I am very happy that we chose to come here! Filming went very well today and the set up for tomorrow is already done. That's why the team and I have come to enjoy the ambiance of the rest of the place tonight."
Regardless of who she was, and what she likely had in mind for his company, Jackson knew already that he wanted to sample her delights. Somehow he knew that the way to this woman's bed would be through her head. Her ultimate strength would be her Achilles heel he knew. Ayanna Maxwell would pride herself on the excellence of her company and so flattery of that, rather than of her, would have a better chance of achieving the desired effect. He spoke the truth though. The dense tropical jungle with roaming, wild animals and carefully non-Western theme of the place was just what he needed during the day; but the blend of that with exotic, scantily-clad women, world music: reggae, afrobeat, samba, high-life, flamenco, son and merengue during the night took him far beyond his fantasy into other places that he did not dare dream of when with his wife and friends.
"I should like to thank you for the warm welcome that we received yesterday. It was far beyond anything that we could have anticipated. So, would you allow me to take you to dinner?"
The woman said nothing, but seemed to consider her words carefully. Her features hadn't changed very much, but Jackson knew that she was annoyed.
Jackson continued, forestalling her refusal. He knew that she would want to be firm but kind with him. He stifled a smile ruthlessly when the image of himself as a naughty schoolboy awaiting an over the knee spanking from a scantily-clad and bespectacled Ayanna-Maxwell-look-alike teacher, popped into his head.
"It wouldn't be a date," he said quickly, just so he would not break into a smug grin at his private thought. "It would just be the meeting for dinner of two CEOs doing business together."
Her eyebrows lifted a little at that; and even Jackson cringed at how that must sound to someone like her who was probably hyper-sensitive about her sexuality. He could guess that she was itching to ask if he would have invited her to dinner if she were a man – he wouldn't have – but that would have sounded petulant and defensive and so she had to bite her tongue and take another route to extricating herself. The die was cast however, his invitation on the table, so he had to wait. Would she back off from the impending take over? Would she withdraw her attentions from him? Would she punish him for daring to notice that she was pretty? Jackson loved playing chess and these live matches were his favourite.
The woman regarded him suspiciously for a moment, but then seemed to take him at face value. Jackson wasn't sure if he should be annoyed in turn by that. He waited, calmness personified.
"That's very flattering, but I'm sure you realise that I cannot afford to, shall we say, fraternise with my guests, Mr. Headman. That would be bad for business!"
"If I checked out tomorrow morning, would you go out with me tomorrow evening?" Jackson persisted, cheekily. "I would no longer be your guest, and you could call me Jackson then." He hadn't known that he was going to say that.
Ayanna Maxwell laughed heartily before settling into a broad grin at Jackson's audacity. Jackson felt like important when several people turned to look at them curiously after she did this.
"Then I stand corrected. It would be very bad for business. Can you imagine all my guests checking out of my hotel in order to go out with me, Jackson? How would I pay the staff?"
Jackson noticed that she had hesitated before calling his name. The effect that it had was to cause her to caress the word and he found it difficult not to move his hand to adjust himself. He realised quickly that everything would be about strategy with this woman and if he was going to be on her island for two months filming for the latest season of his show, and hopefully, bedding her, he would have to be very strategic in his moves.
She bought the next round of drinks, for Jackson and his entire 20-man crew. She also had drinks delivered to three other tables. Obviously, there were several very important clients present in the house tonight and seeming to fraternize with one guest in particular would not do.
They took to the crowded dance floor after about two hours of discussing the music of the island, the I-Three whom they had just heard, indo-jazz fusion musician Jazzy Heston, whom she claimed as a relative, and mento. They also chatted about the film industry and art in general. They made each other laugh on many occasions and Jackson thought that he really could like Ayanna Maxwell very much if he didn't suspect that she wanted to take his company away.
Jackson's hand caressed the skin of her bare back as he swayed to the sensual music with her. He found his hand running south, involuntarily. The swelling curve of her round bottom excited him, and he pressed her firmly into the hardness of his groin.
He felt her try to pull away slightly without making a scene and this caused his cock to spasm again. He pressed her more firmly to his body, forcing her to feel what she was doing to him. He gazed straight into her eyes, mockingly. She had been teasing and charming him all evening, but now she couldn't handle the consequences of her flirting.
Jackson grinned broadly but relaxed his grip on her body when he saw her blink away the obvious desire that she felt. They both knew that he had won round one; and for now, that was enough.
"I checked out, Ms. Maxwell. Now will you go out with me?" Jackson said accosting Aynna early the next morning. He had spent the night getting off to thoughts of her and wanted to see if she was as enchanting in the cold light of day. She was.
The woman paused, watching Jackson speculatively. She reached for her phone and punched the numbers quickly.
"Marcie, would you check something for me?" she asked. "Did Mr. Headman check out today? He did, with his whole crew? Did they give a reason for that? It would smack of being dissatisfied with being here... I see...Thanks, Marcie. Oh! By the way," she exclaimed just as she was about to hang up. "I have a new client. Those rooms are now fully booked for the next three weeks. Yes, the ones vacated by Mr. Headman' crew. I agree; isn't that something? Serendipitous really! I would have had to say no to them if Mr. Headman' departure hadn't been so convenient."
She replaced the receiver and paused looking at her desk for a moment, considering her next words carefully. Finally she looked at Jackson. Her eyes were cold even though a slight smile played on her lips.
"I'm afraid that I really cannot go out with you, Mr. Headman. I do not date people in order to get or keep their business. Surely you realise that to do that would be suicidal for my reputation."
Jackson sighed. Busted, it would seem! Worse, he seemed to have genuinely offended her though she didn't seem to want him to know that. Never let your adversary know when he has wounded you was another of Jackson's mottoes and apparently one of Ayanna Maxwell's too. Retreat would be his best option in the circumstances to contain the situation.
"I take it that Marcie told you that we didn't really check out and that I asked her to tell you so if you asked?" he said, sheepishly.
He called on his boyish charm to rescue him. It worked with every woman whom he had ever known and Ayanna Maxwell was not exceptional there.
"Marcie is a good girl. She told me about it as soon as you left her office. She thinks that it's romantic the lengths to which you would go in order to take me out. Now I have to fight off both you and her. Thanks a lot Jackson," Anna deadpanned. "You shouldn't have. I'm almost tempted to go out with you to put an end to this nonsense, but then you'd think I was easy!"
Her eyes twinkled slightly as she said this, and her smile brightened and seemed almost genuine, but Jackson had received the message in stereo. This woman was a much better actress than he had first suspected. Her coolness with him just now was no act; it was rather a demonstration of her ascetic self-control and her seriousness about her image. There was much more to Ayanna Maxwell than met the eye. She wasn't going to be an easy conquest by any stretch of the imagination.
"No! Never! You? Easy? Not at all! I'd dare anyone to prove me wrong about that!" he rejoined with aplomb, deliberately ignoring the mask that had just slipped. Humour had worked with her before. It had failed this time because he had joked about something that she held dear. He wouldn't make that mistake again. "I'd tell them that if Jackie Headman has struck out how could you have succeeded? Be gone! Don't you dare besmirch the name of my fair maiden!"
Jackson found himself bowed low over her hand. He had just kissed it!
They both broke down giggling at the same time, unable to continue the charade. Obviously they could add having playful spirits and understanding the value of humour in the workplace, to the growing list of things that they had in common besides mutual sexual attraction; and Jackson wouldn't forget to add the extra fact that she was probably a sneaky, little bitch. He was going to love dragging this complex little minx down a peg or two.
Despite his plans, it took Jackson another two weeks to see Ayanna Maxwell again, and when he did it was at the staff-guest beach-football tournament. To Jackson's trained sporting eye, it was clear that the resort's team members were allowing the guests to win each of the matches, but they were subtle and humorous about what they were doing, so everyone was having a good time. It surprised Jackson how much he really wanted the staff team to win even though he knew that the result would have been a foregone conclusion: keep the guests delighted.
Like everyone else, he couldn't stop laughing when the third match involved a mixed team of staff and guests where the male team had to walk while the females were allowed to run for the football. Jackson was invited to be one of the referees and even though they didn't need it, he helped the ladies cheat their way to victory. Ayanna and Marcie gave him genuine, friendly grins and Ayanna bought him a drink that night, suggesting that even if she couldn't see him, she was, as she had claimed on their first evening together, aware of where her guests were. This realisation lifted his spirits for the rest of the week and made him resolve to try to like her as a person.
"Tell me what you like, Jack," Anna asked as they strolled toward the main entrance of the hotel together after the match.
"I love romantic dinners, and dancing barefoot under the stars, and running in the rain with my lady, and kissing, and chatting with intelligent people. My life is always so deadline driven and it's so crazy right now that I need some fun and no worries," he said absent-mindedly.
Jackson had walked on a few paces before he realised that Ayanna Maxwell had stopped dead in her tracks and was looking at him strangely. He turned around to return her stare.
"I was thinking along the lines of the food that you like; you've been inviting me to dinner since the day I met you, but we've never spoken about what you like. I guess that it's interesting to know that you like kissing intelligent women as well," Anna chuckled gently after a moment. "And it's 'no problem'. 'No worries' is Australian."
"Touche," he said, kissing her hand again as they parted company at the elevator. He whistled all the way to his suite. She had been thinking about him and their date!
Jackson didn't actually speak with Ayanna for the next three weeks. He had been too busy. He had e-mailed her a couple times to tell her that filming was going well and to make fresh demands of her staff. He had thought of her often, and including her in the e-mails to her employees was just a way to keep in touch with her. He had got off thinking about her on several occasions while in bed at night. They still hadn't had that date, but somehow Jackson knew that that was alright. He was sure that she was busy too and not fraternising with the guests beyond the demands of her job. In his heart they were together, although obviously still working at being comfortable with that fact. He hoped that someday soon she would feel the same way about him.
"Good evening, Mr. Headman," she said approaching him in one of the resort's restaurants one afternoon during his sixth week on the island. He only had two more weeks to go before he had to say goodbye. There were seven restaurants on the property in all and Jackson had already sampled five. He thought it ironic since their last conversation had been about food.