The Gift by Rob Graham
Charlene Raleigh knows where she is going in life. She knows she won't get there without jettisoning a lot of useless baggage. Things like pleasure, joy and sex are things she's leaving out of her life until she succeeds in reaching her goal.
Then she meets Tom Jackson. Although Charlene tries very hard to deny it, her emotions flare when he's around. For once, she has no control. And to her surprise, she enjoys this very much.
Step by step, Tom leads her, guides her, draws out of her all the feelings and drives Charlene thought were of no use to her.
When Charlene is ready, Tom gives her a gift. The gift of herself.
Going behind her desk, Charlene sat down. "So, what can I do for you today, Mr. Jackson?" A touch of frost rimed the edges of her words.
"I need you to set up a trust fund for me," was his reply.
Inwardly Charlene rolled her eyes. This man couldn't possibly have much money for such a thing, and a small trust was almost as much trouble to set up as a large one. "And how much money is available for the fund?" She dreaded the answer.
"Twenty-five million dollars."
The amount completely derailed Charlene's train of thought. Not possible flashed inside her. She stared at Mr. Jackson for several long seconds.
"And where will the funds for this be drawn from?" Charlene finally managed to ask. I'm going to have to see the color of your money, sir, echoed through her mind, with a touch of sarcasm on the 'sir'.
Mr. Jackson pulled a wallet from his jeans, reached into it, and took out a folded sheet of paper.
He handed it to Charlene. It was a bank statement showing that this particular account did indeed contain twenty-five million dollars.
She blinked at it. What was happening was too strange. The paper in her hands and the man behind it couldn't mesh in her mind.
After another pause she managed to ask, "And the purpose of this trust?" Charlene's words were no longer frosty. Instead, they were a little unsure.
"I want to set up scholarships for inner city kids, the type who normally wouldn't get to go to a good university."
"But Mr. Jackson! Surely there other strategies you could use the trust for. The tax avoidance alone is…"
"Ms. Raleigh." His voice wasn't raised but it stopped her dead. She looked at him and quailed inside. That force that had affected her earlier was back. Without any physical change save a narrowing of the eyes, power filled him.
This was not a man she should question. "Are you going to do what I ask?" Mr. Jackson went on.
Without thinking Charlene answered, "Yes, sir," and lowered her eyes.
Thus she didn't see his expression change. The strength there became curiosity. After a moment it transformed again and he smiled, a smile of anticipation. It faded just before she raised her eyes again.
"All right then, let's get to work," he told her.
Over the next hour Charlene outlined what she wanted to do. Mr. Jackson approved her ideas for the most part. His only quibble was to add extra security in the form of an independent auditor, plus more for investigation. She thought that a bit much, but he was the boss.
Soon they had the basics decided on and Mr. Jackson rose to leave. Charlene also came to her feet. "Thank you, Ms. Raleigh," he said, "you can be quite competent when you're not trying too hard to be strong."
Charlene blushed for a second, happy with the praise. Then she puzzled. Was that praise?
"How soon can we start the scholarships?" he asked, keeping her from pondering further.
"It won't take long. In about two months, I'm sure."
"Good. I don't want any kids lost if I can help it." His voice betrayed his concern.
Again, Charlene was confused. All the wealthy men she had met before had been strong, as Mr.
Jackson was. Few had really cared about anything but themselves. Mr. Jackson was actually worried that a child might get left behind. She stared at him in wonder.
He extended his hand to her and Charlene took it without thinking. A shock ran through her at his touch. Her stomach grew hollow, her head ballooned and she felt her heart flutter.
Mr. Jackson let go of her. Charlene stood there for a second, blinking, hand hanging in the air.
"Ms. Raleigh?" His words bought her back to reality. "Show me out, please."
Charlene was moving before he said the 'please'. She escorted him to the reception area.
Mr. Jackson handed her a card then. "Be at this address at one PM on Saturday, buzz the number listed." His face showed no anxiety, no doubt, as was so often the case when men asked her out. He was confident she would assent.
Charlene's eyes went wide with shock. She opened her mouth to refuse.
Mr. Jackson's face took on its power. You're not denying me, his expression exclaimed.
She bowed her head before him and agreed. Again she was awash in that strange feeling.
Familiarity was not decreasing the effect, just the opposite. "What should I wear?" she asked.
"Something practical, we're going to be outdoors most of the day."
Mr. Jackson took her hand in farewell. Once more, it jolted her, set her to trembling. "This Saturday," he repeated.
He released her hand, swiveled, and strode out the door.
Charlene watched until he disappeared. Turning, she returned to her office and sat down.
What have I got myself into? Was the only rational thought in her mind.
She was quite distracted the rest of the day.