The room in the hotel's conference center was large enough to hold the 200 plus attendees. That being said, the meeting itself had not been very interesting so far. Brad Williams was anticipating listening to the next speaker as he had seen her on television a number of times and he knew she could handle herself. He wondered if her two month tenure as the new General Counsel of this large insurance company was long enough for her to get comfortable in her new position. There was quite a bit of litigation pending and some other legal matters that she had needed to become familiar with in a short time.
This Florida business meeting was a reward to the twenty Regional Managers and their staffs for what had been a very successful year for this insurance company. Record profits had been realized and the company was showing its gratitude to those that were responsible for the results. Brad thought that the absence of major hurricanes, a reduction in the number of tornados and no large fires in California were the main reasons for the large profits. If the company wanted to treat the Regional Staffs to a three day holiday in Orlando, Florida, that was fine with Brad because it did help with employee morale. Brad thought that it was ironic that State Regulators gave serious scrutiny when insurance companies requested rate increases but didn't bother to check if the insurance rates are too high when the insurance companies reported record profits.
As a Regional Manager, Brad was very familiar with the subject matter that the speakers had been presenting. If he was an effective communicator as he hoped he was, his staff should have also been familiar with most of this material as well. The presentation that was currently being done was something they hadn't seen before. They had been watching the new commercials that would air on television this coming year. These new commercials emphasized automobile and life insurance product lines and were introduced by Bud Hogan, the Vice President of Sales.
Brad had been promoted from a Regional Manager in a small region to replace Bud in what was one of the Company's premier Regional Offices. Both of these men respected each other and considered the other to be a friend and not just a business associate. Brad had been Bud's Regional Sales Manager and knew that it was on Bud's recommendation that Brad was promoted to the position of Regional Manager. He also suspected that Bud had recommended Brad to succeed him when Bud was promoted to VP of Sales in Home Office.
The presentations of the new commercials were completed and received a round of applause. The Vice President of Human Resources who was acting as the MC stepped up to the podium to introduce the Company's relatively new General Counsel, Debra Sterling. The introduction he gave her was a reading of her biography; undergrad degree from Pepperdine, a graduate of UCLA law school, Assistant District Attorney, Dean of a Catholic University Law School and for the past three years Assistant Attorney General.
What wasn't said in this introduction is what Brad had learned from googling her name on the internet. Debra Sterling had been the runner-up in her State's contest for who would be their representative in the Miss America Contest. Her hobbies were horseback ridding and swimming. She had enhanced her reputation as an attorney by successfully prosecuting some high profile cases. Socially she had dated some celebrities and politicians but was still single. Debra did some fashion modeling while in college which paid her school expenses. She was a very attractive lady who had become quite successful.
The change in administration because of the federal election results had her out of a job and there were some talk that she would return as a law school dean. It surprised a number of people when she became the Company's General Counsel. It didn't surprise Brad that much as he knew her salary was at least double of what she would get as a law school dean and with benefits, bonus and stock options it didn't seem to be that hard of a choice.
Debra walked up to the podium to a large round of applause. Brad noticed that she wasn't carrying any material with her to refer to in doing her presentation. There was no teleprompter for her to use. She was wearing a light grey tailored suit that was knee high with a slight slit on the side. Her legs were encased in nylons and were very nice showing some slim tapered calves emphasized by what appear to be three inch high heels. The color of the suit was in contrast to her short dark red hair. Facially she was very attractive and looked younger than what Brad was guessing her age to be which was close to his. He could see in her walk and mannerisms that there was a natural confidence that not many women possessed.
Debra's presentation went well. She discussed in general the status of two class action suits by agents against the company that were pending, the settlement of a discrimination suit concerning the difference in starting salaries between men and women as well as some important regulatory issues that were pending in various States. She opened the floor to questions and handled the ones that were asked effortlessly.
Brad had seen her on television when she testified before various Congressional Committees and noted that she never had any problems in answering their questions. While what she said to Congress was important, the committee members seemed mesmerized by her wit and appearance. Brad could understand that after seeing her in person.
This business meeting had lasted four hours. The length of the meeting was required to be four hours to justify the expenses as being business related for tax purposes. The activity options that were offered to the attendees this afternoon were a visit to the various theme parks at Disney World or Universal Studios. The evening activities were cocktails and dinner at Sea World, which was located across the street from the hotel they were staying at. After dinner there was to be a private aquatic show featuring the killer whale 'Shamu' followed by a fireworks display.
Brad had opted to go to Epcot with two of his staff for the afternoon's activity. It had been a number of years since Brad had visited Epcot which had him wondered if there were many changes. It was his observation at Epcot that there weren't that many changes with the exception of the availability of beer and wine which Brad didn't remember as being available in the past. The crowds were large and it was enjoyable to visit some of the country pavilions
After a shower, shave, and change of clothes, Brad was ready for an adult beverage and dinner. Wearing a button down black linen shirt and tan linen slacks, Bard exited the elevator on the first floor of the hotel and saw Bud Hogan who was exiting another elevator. Exiting the elevator with Bud was Debra Sterling.
Bud noticed Brad, extended his hand to shake and said, "Let me introduce you to Debra Sterling. I don't think you two have met."
"No we haven't. It's a pleasure to meet you Ms Sterling and a belated welcome to the Company."
She extended her hand and said, "Please call me Deb. It's also a pleasure to meet you. Bud has been telling me about you and I feel I know you already. There are some blank spots in what Bud has been telling me and maybe you can fill me on our walk over to Sea World."
"Fair's fair, I will answer your questions but in return I will expect you to answer mine and not talk around them as I saw you so expertly do when you testified in front of those Congressional Committees."
"So you noticed that."
"Yes I did. I will say you were good at it."
"Thanks, I will need to watch what I say to you."
On the walk over to Sea World, besides answering some of Deb's questions, Brad had the opportunity to closely observe her. What he saw he liked. She was wearing crème colored slacks which while not overly tight were made of a material that clung to her hips and showed her to have a very nice bottom. The dark green silk blouse she was wearing emphasized a pair of breasts that were in proportion to her slim figure. Eliminating the three inch heels she was wearing, he gauged her height to be about five foot five inches. He thought her red hair added to her attractiveness. dded to her attractiveness.
"So where did you go to school?"
"The University of Illinois at Champaign for undergrad and then I received my MBA from Northwestern through their executive MBA program while I was an agent.
"Why did you hire in with this company?"
"Well to give you an honest answer, I thought I could do better in salary compensation if I had a career where my salary was based on commission. That way it would make me a master of my own destiny so to speak. The agent position offered me that opportunity."
"Were you successful as an agent?"
Bud jumped into the conversation and said, "Let me answer that one. Brad was ahead of his time. On his own he hired housewives who wanted or needed some extra money but because of their young children were stay-at-home moms. He paid their phone bills and had them working as telemarketers for him soliciting new business. They were paid on a commission basis for those potential customers who wanted quotes and more for those who purchased a policy. Brad's business model is what the company has since adopted and is strongly encouraging all of the sales agents to implement."
By now they arrived at the entrance to Sea World. They followed the signs to the location where the cocktail hour was being held. Brad let the two of them walk in front of him. His further observation of Deb's backside met with his continued approval. It was slim, had a nice curve to it and a definite jiggle to it when she walked. He didn't notice a panty line but thought he could see what could be a thong.
Brad solicited their drink orders and he went to one of the stations set up for beverages. Upon his return he handed Bud his drink who was now talking with some other Regional Managers. He couldn't believe Deb was standing by herself, all alone as he walked up to her and he handed her the drink she had requested.
"Thanks, I don't know that many people yet so it's a little uncomfortable standing here all alone."
"Well maybe the talk today and your comments about the pending law suits on sexual harassment had something to do with that. Believe me, I am just kidding with that remark. Being as high up on the pecking order as you are can scare some of the people here. In time they will get to know you and you will have more than enough people to talk to. After all, it isn't every day they can talk to a runner-up Miss California."
That remark set her back a little and caused her to pause in her conversation and give Brad a serious look.
"Now I know I am really going to need to watch myself with you. That tidbit wasn't publicized on my company resume. How did you find out? You don't seem to be scared of me, how come?"
Brad took a sip of his drink and said, "To answer your first question the internet and Google are wonderful things. You know with Google images there are some interesting photos of people in swim suits you can peruse. I will say that you presented a pretty picture in that white swim suit. As to your second question I look at it this way, you are just like us as you put your pants on like we do, one pretty leg at a time."
Deb giggled, smiled, put her hand on Brad's arm and said, "With that line you had to have a sales background."
"Enough about me, why did you to take the position here? Scuttlebutt is that there were some law schools that wanted you as their Dean."
"Yes there were, but none of them where located where I wanted to live. The compensation package the company offered was a factor but the location was more important. My mother is a widow and lives some thirty miles away from our home office with her sister. It's convenient for me to see her when I want or need to."
"That's a good reason and one I can understand."
The small talk continued. People who knew Brad came up to say hello. He made the effort to introduce them to Debra. She gave them a warm smile and shook their hands. She was a pleasant person to be with and seemed to honestly enjoy meeting new people. The engaging smile she gave these people when introduced to them made them feel comfortable in meeting her. When it was time for dinner, Debra and Bud left Brad as they were expected to sit up at the head table on the dais. Brad sat with some other Regional Managers and attended the water show and fireworks with them.
The meeting the following day wasn't all that interesting because for the most part it consisted of numbers and the many ways they were being used to measure the Region's performance. The meeting was over at twelve. Most of the attendees had signed up for golf which had a shot gun start and a box lunch. It was a scramble format and no individual scoring was done, Brad thought he had hit the ball pretty good and was satisfied with his round of golf. The scheduled evening's activities were cocktails and dinner followed by a casino night. Brad saw Debra who looked good in the skort she was wearing at the golf course but he didn't have the opportunity to engage her in conversation.
After dinner Brad received his casino money and secured a seat at one of the black jack tables. In a very short time all of the seats at the black jack tables were fully occupied. People were standing around waiting for a spot to open up. Brad was doing pretty good and had doubled his casino money. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Deb was standing slightly behind him watching the action at his table.
He turned toward her and said" Why aren't you playing?"
"No room, all the tables are filled to capacity?'
Brad rose from his seat and said to her, "Here, sit here and play."
"What about you?"
"I'll watch you and bet my money with you on your cards."
She took the seat and after watching her play on a few hands there was not a doubt in his mind as to her card playing ability. She was not a novice at this card game. He also enjoyed looking at her posture and the nice curve to her butt as she sat on the seat. Brad's only comment to her was as on the size of her bets.
He bent to where he could whisper into her ear. "This is funny money we have. You can't take it home or cash it in for real money. If we have enough of it we can buy some of the prizes that are at the main table. There is a set of Callaway Golf Clubs that I have my eye on. Bet one half of my money on each hand."
Brad had caught the scent of an interesting perfume she was wearing as he spoke to her.
Deb took his advice and they were winning more than they were losing. They had a substantial amount of the casino money when it was announced that the tables would close in ten minutes.
Brad said to Deb, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. What do you say we give it one last shot? Bet it all."
"Okay" and she put all the money on the next hand.
The two cards dealt to her were a king and a jack. The dealer was showing a five. After going through the players the dealer showed his other card which was another five. His next card was an ace, twenty one. Deb and Brad lost all of their funny money.
"Can I get you one last drink before I call it a night?"
"Yes, that would be nice and would mask the pain of losing all our money."
They went into the small lounge the Company had rented for the evening and sat a small table. Deb said, "One last question, are you single or are you married?"
"Single, actually divorced, met her while getting my MBA. She was majoring in theater. We were married six months later. The marriage lasted two years. My wanting to be successful as an agent and her wanting to be an actress caused problems so we decided it was best to end the marriage. It was an amiable end and with no kids that made it easier. She moved out to Hollywood and became somewhat successful. She has been on a television soap opera for the past eight years. We still are friends, you?"
"No, not married but came close two times. The job and the hours involved weren't conducive to establishing a good married relationship. I have dated and have met many interesting men but I haven't yet found the right one for me. I haven't closed my mind to it but it has to be with the right person. I don't want to be one of the 50% whose marriage ends in divorce... , oops... , sorry."
"That's okay I understand and agree with you. On a different subject, some of the functions I am required to attend would be more enjoyable and I would be much more comfortable in attending these functions if I could have an attractive General Counsel on my arm. Would you mind if I was to ask you to attend these functions with me?"
"Sure and vice versa. It is much more difficult for a single woman to go to these functions than a single man."
They exchanged business cards which had their private phone numbers. These were private phones lines that by-passed their secretaries. They walked to the elevator where they shook hands and said they enjoyed meeting and talking to each other and hoped they would see more of each other in the future. They held the other's hand just a little longer than a normal handshake required.
Back at work the following week, Brad thought things at work were going good in his Region. Sales and renewal of policies were over plan. Claim frequency and the average claim payment were below prior year results. The employee and claim satisfaction surveys were all at record highs. With things going so good it just gave Brad more time to think and he found himself thinking more and more about Debra. He had enjoyed the little time he had spent with her. Brad thought he could just call her and ask her out but maybe he could get her to call him to get the ball rolling.
He picked up his phone and called a florist that he has used in the past and asked that one dozen red and one dozen white roses be delivered to Debra at her office exactly at ten the following morning. He wanted to make sure he was out of his staff meeting and at his desk if Deb should call. He asked that a card be enclosed that said, 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
The following day at 10:15 am his private phone rang. When he picked up the receiver he heard, "They are beautiful!"
"Who is this? Trish ... Carly ... Jennifer ... Pamela? Keep talking the voice is familiar."
There was a little prosecutorial fire in her voice when she responded," You had better be pulling my chain! This is Debra Sterling!"
"No, I am just pulling your beautiful legs that you put in your pants one leg at a time"
He heard her giggling and then she said, "You got me. I give up, but the flowers are beautiful. Some of my staff attorneys and my secretary have been pestering me about who sent the flowers and what happened down in Florida. They don't believe me when I say nothing happened."
"Something did happen, I met you. If you remember we talked about helping each other out if we had functions to attend. I don't have a function to attend but I was wondering if you would like to go out to dinner with me."
"Sure, I am a little embarrassed when I walk into a restaurant and request a table for one. When do you want to go?"
"Is tonight good for you?"
"Yes it is as I have no commitments this evening. Where do you want to go? Maybe it's best if I meet you there."
"There is a steak house called Angelo's over by the river in Stanton. I think it's far enough away so no one from work should be there to see us and start the office rumor mill. How about seven?
She said she would meet him there.
Dinner was good. Deb surprised him by ordering a filet. Most women he knew would order fish or chicken. She also surprised him by the dress she was wearing. The dress had a neckline that showed she was nicely endowed with some intriguing breasts. She must have gone home to change because if she wore that dress to work Human Resources would be tempted to call her in for some counseling if they dared. Brad told her that and at the same time told her she looked very good in that dress.
Deb giggled and said," Sometimes I like to feel like a woman and not some corporate business person. Dressing up like this affords me that opportunity."
The rest of the evening just flew by with good conversation and each of them getting to know the other better. When they walked out to their automobiles in the parking lot Brad told her that he had a very enjoyable time and asked if they could do this again.
She seconded his opinion on the evening and said, "Yes, I would but only if you promise not to send me flowers anymore. They were nice and I am appreciative of you for sending them, but they have attracted the attention of my co-workers and that is something I would just as soon avoid. The flowers are nice but it puts me at a disadvantage as I didn't know how to respond to their inquiries of who sent them. It's rare that I am at a loss for words and I don't handle that well. Again thanks for the thought but going to dinner with you is better than getting flowers."
Deb gave him a kiss on his cheek and said, "Call me."
Brad did call her and he called her the following week. They went out to dinner and then to a play. He thought that she was an interesting person to go out with. He did send her more flowers which earned him some additional counseling from her but he could see she was only half serious about not receiving flowers anymore. This way of teasing her and her complaints about receiving the flowers was worth the cost of the flowers. She told him her co-workers were trying to find out who was the mysterious sender of the flowers.
The physical part of their relationship was limited to a kiss on the cheek when he took her back to her townhome in a gated community. Brad did date another female acquaintance so a lack of sex with Deb didn't frustrate him but to be honest he did spend some time thinking about it.
On a Wednesday afternoon his phone rang and he saw it was a call on the private line. When he answered the phone he recognized Deb's voice immediately.
"So young lady what did I do to merit this call. I did not send you any flowers, so that can't be the reason. If someone else sent you flowers, he is a dead man."
"No, no, no... , that's not the reason I called but there is something I want to discuss with you and that is the upcoming Chairman's Award Banquet. It's no secret that you are receiving an award as the number one Regional Manager based on last years results. I am required to attend and therefore I need an escort. Bud suggested I give you a call since we don't have a significant other or am I assuming too much?"
"Well... , now that you mention it about a significant other, I don't know how she is going to take not going to this banquet. She was really looking forward to it... , I... , I am just kidding you Deb and there is no significant other. I was thinking of calling you myself and suggesting the same thing. So Bud is playing matchmaker, that is interesting. He has always wanted what was best for me and has treated me like his son. Looks like I will need to take my tuxedo out of mothballs."