India Slone whisked through the double doors that led from the VIP terminal to a circular driveway at the rear of the airport where the private jets were housed. She stood for a moment to allow her eyesight to adjust to the sunlight as she fished out a pair of Chanel sunglasses from her purse.
“Good morning, Ms. India,” Davis, her long-time driver, called as he stood holding open the door of the shiny black Mercedes limousine.
“Good morning, Davis,” India replied. She reached out and gave her long-time friend and employee a quick hug.
“How was your trip?” he asked, taking her bags.
“Do you own a TV station now?”
“Everything went fine. And it’s a small radio station,” she clarified, handing him her overnight bag while holding onto her briefcase. “And yes, I now own it.”
“That’s our girl.” He gave her a wide smile. “Ms. Rochelle put your clothes in the backseat, and I’ve already raised the privacy partition.”
“Thanks, Davis. How much time do I have?”
“There’s no Saturday traffic, so I’ll have you there in fifteen minutes,” he assured.
In the back of the limo, India quickly exchanged her business suit for a pair of form-fitting jeans and an event t-shirt with her company’s logo stamped prominently on the back. She took out a wipe and removed her makeup. After trading five-inch heels for a pair of wedge heel tennis shoes made especially for the event, she looked down at her feet and frowned. “Rochelle, I’m going to kill you.” The shoes reminded her of something a teenager would wear.
India hated dressing down in public; it only made things worse. Her flawless skin, small frame and petite stature often caused people to believe she was her early twenties. Most women would have found that flattering, but India did not. She’d worked too hard to make her company a success. Being taken for a young, inexperienced girl instead of an extremely capable executive was difficult for her to accept. She had particular problems with men who hadn’t achieved even a semblance of the success that she had. They certainly learned the hard way that she would leave them eating her dust if they couldn’t respect her intellect, accomplishments, or ambition.
She had just pulled her long, black hair into a high ponytail and dusted her face with powder when the car came to a halt at the side of the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion, a sprawling multi-purpose arena located in the city’s Third Ward.
India hit the button so the privacy partition descended. “We’re here, and Ms. Rochelle is waiting for you,” Davis said before leaving the driver’s seat.
She turned to see her very efficient assistant heading for the car, wearing the same company outfit, minus the shoes.
Within seconds, the limo door opened.
“Thanks, Davis. I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” India instructed.
He smiled down at her and said, “You really do look adorable.”
“Don’t,” she shot back at him through narrowed eyes but with a curve of her lips that signaled she wasn’t too upset.
“Right on time,” Rochelle Lewis—a tall, ivory, blue-eyed beauty—called out to her. Rochelle offered a bright smile as she handed over a stack of messages. Her blond ponytail bounced with each step. “And by the looks of this turn out, you won’t have any trouble getting the funds or the support you need for the center. They’ll be making the introductions shortly.”
India walked alongside her assistant, reviewing the messages—most of which were from the same person—and into the arena where the first of many events scheduled to occur over the weekend was about to begin.
“Who’s Mia Green, anyway?” Rochelle asked, looking down at the messages India held. “She keeps calling, and she’s rude.”
India smirked. “She works for the school.”
“She sure wants to talk to you,” Rochelle huffed. “When I tried to ask what it was about, she got all uppity and just said that you’d know.”
“It’s just some old personal business I need to deal with. Nothing for you to worry about.”
India scanned the huge space, focusing on the large stage that had been raised in the middle of the court and the draped area at its side. As she began to take in the near-endless sea of people, her eyes met a set of dark orbs that seemed to brighten the moment their gazes locked.
Those eyes were on the face of the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. He was leaning against the wall, his hands firmly tucked into the pockets of a pair of blue slacks, his feet crossed at the ankles. His olive skin was the perfect complement to a fine beard and a mass of curly dark hair. Broad shoulders, muscular arms, and flat stomach had his event shirt screaming for relief. He had to be over six feet tall, close to a foot over her five-foot-three frame. Her whole body came to life in a way it never had before.
The beautiful stranger gifted her with a sexy smile that knocked the wind out of her, causing her to miss a step and stumble. “Damn.”
Rochelle caught India’s arm, preventing a fall and complete humiliation. “You all right?” she asked, trying unsuccessfully to hide a grin when she followed.
India righted herself and smiled. “Yes, thanks.” She turned back to where the man had been standing, only to find that he’d moved on.
Nice going, India.
At least she’d saved herself from another gorgeous disappointment. She followed Rochelle to an empty space along the side of the stage to wait.
“Girl, there are some fine men here,” Rochelle declared. “If you play your cards right, even you can get hooked up.”
“Even me?” India ventured.
Rochelle stiffened for a hot second, then gave a nonchalant wave. “You know what I mean.”
“No … I don’t,” she said, patting her shoes on the carpet.
“Don’t get your panties all in a bunch,” Rochelle said, tapping the screen of her iPad. “On the other hand, maybe you should.”
Rochelle held the iPad to her side. “Look, when was the last time you let yourself go and had a really good time with a sexy man?” She held up her hand. “Don’t answer that. I already know. You’re one of the coolest women I’ve ever met. You’re beautiful and rich as hell, but when you do take some time out of your busy schedule to go on a date, they’re with some dull ass men.”
India parted her lips to protest, but Rochelle silenced her with the waggle of her index finger. “I know you have to be careful of gold diggers, but come on. Even that man you were seeing a few months ago was a snooze fest.”
India grimaced, picturing Alfred Jefferies, a handsome stockbroker who was moderately successful. But like many before him, he couldn’t handle the power and fortune she’d amassed. She remembered his “we need to talk” request, along with the conclusion.
“He wasn’t that bad.”
Rochelle stared at her, letting silence carry the moment.
“All right, maybe he was a little dull,” India conceded, knowing that was one of the reasons she had secretly been relieved when it ended.
“Exactly!” Rochelle’s smile was victorious as people ambled near the staging area. “My bladder needs my attention a lot more than you do at the moment.”
“I’ll be back before you need to go on stage,” she said to India. “I can’t miss seeing all those sexy looking men being auctioned off at tonight’s gala. I just might find my first ex-husband today.” Rochelle adjusted her shirt, making sure her perky breasts were on display.
India shook her head and laughed.
“I’m willing to put money on it that you’ll land one of those gorgeous firemen or at least a retired basketball player.”
India gave Rochelle a warning look.
Rochelle chuckled and made it a few feet away before India said, “Wait, you can leave your iPad with me.”
She handed it over and hurried away. India took a moment to check emails, trying to keep herself distracted so she wouldn’t go searching for that fierce-looking mystery man. India had plenty of important things on her plate at the moment. Landing a man wasn’t one of them.