She refused his offer to order a dessert and requested a coffee instead. Her feet wanted to dance outside, take his hand and stroll along the riverside, but she sat demurely, watching him eat a slice of ‘death by chocolate’ and wondered at how attractive his chin looked, his jaw line strong and firm and his neat tucked-flat ears. Her grandfather’s ears were quite large in comparison.
“Matt Saunders. Good to see you in Melbourne.” A man had stopped by their table, arriving from behind her. Dressed in a black dinner jacket and bow-tie, rather portly, he carried an air of authority. She watched as Matt looked up, saw the gentleman, stood and grasped the outstretched hand in greeting.
“Minister, Phillip, what a pleasant surprise.”
“Are you here for the conference on the latest mining developments, Matt?” The man glanced at Stella, “Or purely social engagements?” His eyebrows raised and his smirk inferred more than a dinner date.
“A bit of both, Minister.” Matt turned and gestured to Stella. “This is Stella Corban. Stella, this is Phillip Carruthers, Minister of Defense.”
She thought her heart would stop right then and there. She smiled her brightest, despite the icy ripple that ran down her spine raising the fine hairs on back of her neck. The Minister of Defense! The man who ordered the continued breeding of g-altered babies, his excuse being their talents could defend the country. The man who, with a flick of his fingers, could incarcerate her for life. The one man her family despised with a passion and now she had to shake his hand. To refuse would only draw attention to herself.
“How do you do?” she said, rising slightly from her chair. He held her hand for a moment longer than necessary, appraising her. There was an odour of lecherousness about him and she avoided eye contact, hoping to appear as a mindless companion, mere dressing on a business-man’s arm. She sat, immediately he released her hand. She sipped her coffee and turned from them to look through the nearby windows to the safety of the outside world, desperate to leave yet frozen to the spot with fright. Some murmured comments followed and a few moments later the man moved off.
“Stella, you’re pale, almost white. Is something the matter?” Matt leaned forward and grasped her hand, “And you are trembling.”
The stroke of his fingers, like hot embers running over her hand, didn’t warm her. She had to get her panic under control. “It’s been a long day. I’m a little tired. Perhaps we could take that walk soon.”
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