Seth had me on his arm as we walked into the midst of the party but he had a distant and anxious look on his face and I had to wonder if he even remembered that I was here.
“Hey, there he is.” An older man with a smart-looking platinum haired woman at his elbow spoke to Seth as we passed by. Seth was suddenly focused and I marveled at the quick transformation.
“Howard! Louise! It’s great to see you both. Louise,” he said, turning towards the older woman and taking her hand. He brought it to his lips without taking his eyes from hers as he said, “You get younger every time I see you. What is your secret?”
Howard laughed a deep, hearty laugh. His wife gave him a dirty look and then with a brilliant smile in Seth’s direction she said, “Well, it’s certainly not the company I keep. How are you dear?”
“I get better every day,” he told her with a wink. “Let me introduce this lovely young lady to you. Howard and Louise Barker this is Erin Summers.”
It was Howard’s turn to flirt. He took my hand and made a grand play of kissing it the way Seth had done with his wife’s. Then he said, “I’m so delighted to meet you.”
“I’m pleased to meet you both,” I told them.
“Howard is one of our shareholders,” Seth told me. “Howard, Erin is our CBDO. She’s been with us a few months now and I have to say we’re lucky we found her.”
“And where did you find her?” That voice came from behind us. I was still holding onto Seth’s arm and I felt his muscles tighten as he turned us around slowly to face James Hunter. My stomach drew up into instant knots.
“Good evening, Father.”
“Seth.” James Hunter was looking at me. His blue eyes were the same shade as his son’s, but they were as cold as ice as they held my gaze. “And you are?”
I held out my hand, praying that my palm wasn’t sweaty and said, “Erin Summers.”
James took my hand, very briefly and then said, “Summers… do you have family in the business?”
“Hmm,” he said. “Well, it looks like you got the job and the CEO. I don’t know if your work is any good, but it’s fast, I’ll give you that.”
I was in shock. Did he really just say that to me? In front of people, no less. I had to remind myself to shut my mouth when I realized it was agape. I waited a few beats, just knowing that Seth would say something. When he didn’t I finally said, “If you come by my office sometime sir, I’d be happy to show you how good my work is. I’m well qualified for the position.”
James smiled, but it wasn’t a pleasant or happy expression as he said, “I’m sure you’re qualified for many positions, wouldn’t you agree, son?”
I could feel my face turning bright red and it was burning up. I was furious and only got more so as Seth continued to do nothing. I glanced at him and he wouldn’t even meet my gaze. Howard and Louise were standing behind him and they both looked as embarrassed as I felt. I finally realized that Seth had lost his spine when his father walked in the room.
“Maybe I’m misreading you sir but your implications are offensive to me. I’d appreciate it if…”
He didn’t let me finish. He gave a glance around the ridiculously large room we were standing in and said, “This is my place and I won’t be told by anyone what I can and cannot do in it.”
“Father, please…” Seth’s voice was a whisper, and instead of an outraged tone, it was more of a whiney plea.
“Please what?” James said. When Seth didn’t answer he turned back on me and said, “I do believe you two deserve one another.” Then he walked away as quickly as he appeared.
When he was out of range Seth looked down at me and said, “Erin, I’m…”
“Don’t bother,” I told him, wrenching my arm free. I heard him say my name again as I stormed off, but I wasn’t about to stop. How dare he stand there and let anyone talk to me in that fashion. I was appalled. I found one of the circulating waiters and grabbed a glass of champagne off his tray. After downing that I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down enough to think. I could let my anger get the best of me, or I could take this opportunity to further my own agenda. Looking back across the room I saw Seth was conversing with another one of his executives, no doubt once again acting like he was on top of his game. I saw my chance and turned towards a hallway that was as wide as a city street and made my way down it. On one side of me was a wall decorated with expensive artwork and the other side was made of floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the bay. It was gorgeous and it made me hate James Hunter that much more.