Yet he couldn’t drag his gaze away from Elise Jameson’s picture. The almost absurd notion that if he stared for long enough the image would come to life gripped him. His gaze dropped past her jaw and neck and he experienced the tiniest stab of regret that there wasn’t more to see.
Gritting his teeth, he perused her academic accomplishments, which were impressive enough to compel him to read on. The discovery that Jameson PR was a family company brought a twisted smile, but Alejandro suppressed the useless threat of emotion. Not every family was as dysfunctional as the one he’d left behind.
He needed his head screwed on straight to see this merger through, not spend time dwelling on the past. He moved on to the other two files. Within minutes he’d dismissed the other candidates.
When he found himself staring at the headshot again, he reached for the phone.
‘Margo, set up an interview with the Jameson PR people for this afternoon, would you?’
‘Umm, one of their executives is already here. Shall I send her in? Your diary is free since you’ve cleared most of your appointments already.’
He frowned. ‘They came here on the off chance I’d want to see them?’ Alejandro wasn’t sure whether to applaud them for their brazenness or condemn them for wasting valuable man hours on the likelihood of being hired by SNV.
‘Wendell thought it might be prudent in case you wanted to move quickly on the PR front.’
Alejandro made a mental note to increase his team leader’s bonus. His gaze dropped to the headshot. ‘Which representative from Jameson is here?’
‘It’s a junior executive—Elise Jameson. I can arrange for a senior member to come in if you pref—’
‘No, it’s fine. Send her in.’ He would glean as much from the younger Jameson as he would from her parents. Besides, he didn’t have time to waste. ‘I’d like some fresh coffee, too. Gracias.’
A brisk knock on the door a few minutes later brought his head up.
Margo entered first, wheeling in a tray of coffee. Alejandro’s gaze swung past her, his attention almost compelled to focus on the dark-haired woman who followed. A part of him disliked the fizz of compulsion almost as much as it anticipated his first glimpse of her.
True, his wholehear
ted immersion in this potential merger had left little time for physical dalliances for the better part of a year now. The occasions when he’d been tempted to indulge in carnal pleasures, the chase had surprisingly grown boring. Enough to abandon his date at the after-dinner-coffee stage on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, he was a red-blooded male, as the momentary tightening in his groin informed him now when Elise Jameson stepped into the office.
The early morning sun struck her face as she paused on the threshold, bringing every feature in her photo to vivid life. Her face was impeccably made-up, just like in her headshot, but where he’d been healthily captivated before by the glossy two-dimensional version, he was paralysingly riveted by the flesh and blood reality.
She advanced farther into the room. Her stride was confident but minimised by the navy pencil skirt whose matching jacket was secured by a single button beneath a full chest. The cut of her clothes immediately drew Alejandro’s gaze to her Venus-like body and shapely legs. Attractive. Alluring. But nothing extraordinary.
And then she smiled at a departing Margo, and realisation struck.
Elise bore an unsettling resemblance to a painting he’d once seen hanging in his father’s study when he was fourteen years old. The woman had been standing before a window with the sun shining on her arresting features. Her dark hair had been caught at the back of her head, her eyes shut and her face lifted in sun worship. The artist had captured her image from the point of view of a lover staring down at his paramour.
Their differences in height once Elise Jameson reached his desk were strikingly similar.
Except that woman had been nude.
And that painting had also caused prolonged rows between his mother and father, with one vowing to burn the painting and the other mocking the jealous fit. The painting had lasted six days before it’d disappeared. And even though he’d snuck into his father’s study to stare at it, Alejandro had been glad once it was gone.
All he’d cared about was that the rowing had ceased. Albeit, inevitably, temporarily.
He blinked the memory away, irritated with his ongoing traipse down memory lane, to find a manicured hand proffered.
‘Thank you for seeing me, Mr Aguilar. I’m Elise Jameson.’
He took her hand, noted the soft but firm grip, the smoothness of her skin, the spark that travelled along his palm, and released her.
‘I’m aware one of my employees suggested we may be interested in your services, but don’t you think it was a touch foolish to just present yourself here? You could’ve wasted the entire day,’ he stated in a voice he knew was clipped.
Her eyes, which were more tilted and vivid in real life, widened a touch, before she blinked back her composure. ‘You say foolish, I say impeccably timed,’ she replied coolly.
He lifted a brow. ‘Are we to disagree so soon? You think that bodes well for our potential working relationship?’