Frank opened the conference room door for her. They were a little early, so he showed her the artwork on the walls.
“There was a fellow named Viktor Schreckengost who lived around here. He was an architect and artist. This is some of his original artwork.”
“This is like the picture in my room.”
“Yes, that’s one of his too. The third floor of building four has even more of his things on permanent display. I’ll show you later, if you like.”
“I would. I like his style.”
The director entered and greeted Marka politely. He was followed by other members of the staff. They took their seats, waiting patiently for the meeting to begin. Frank made sure he was sitting beside Marka, although by the unofficial pecking order, he should have been higher up the table.
Jeff Norton, the director, started the meeting by introducing Marka. Several of the staff had already met her and most of them were familiar with her work. A few had even seen her broadcast. All of them were genuinely pleased to meet her.
Marka gave a short speech, thanking everyone for welcoming her. She gave an extra thank you to Frank for showing her around and the meeting began in earnest.
Frank realized about halfway through the meeting that he shouldn’t have seated himself next to Marka. He could smell her perfume and every time she crossed her legs to the right, her left foot brushed against his leg. By the end of the hour long meeting, he was ready to burst.
“Did you see your office yet?” Mr. Norton asked Marka as the meeting broke up.
“No. I got in late in the afternoon Saturday and went right to the studio for the broadcast. I spent the rest of the weekend getting settled.”
“Frank, you want to show her?”
“Is she in the arctic office?”
Jeff actually smiled, laughing slightly at the joke.
“Unfortunately. Hope you’ve got a parka and mukluks.”
“Frank warned me that it’s cold.”
“I’ll leave you to that, then.” Jeff dismissed them both with a nod and a half smile.
Frank led the way to the end of the hall, pointing to his own office on the way. It was fairly spacious, well lit and neatly organized. A narrow window gave him a view of the fountain in front of the building. He didn’t have much in the way of personal belongings other than a picture of himself with his parents and a photo of a pretty blonde with two children. The older of the two boys looked a lot like Frank. He didn’t miss her lingering look at the photo.
“My younger sister and her boys. That’s Sean and Patrick.” He pointed to the one who looked like him first. “Her husband was with me in Iraq. He didn’t make it back.”
“I’m so sorry.”
He shrugged, sliding around her out the door. “Sometimes good people die.” He rushed to another door, unlocking it.
“This is you.”
The room was at least five degrees colder than his office or the hallway. Marka shivered. Tucking her hands into her armpits, she walked in. The room was almost as big as Frank’s office with a small window overlooking the lawn, currently brown from the cold.
“This is nice,” she said. “Cold, but nice.”
“You can go up and get a jacket,” Frank told her. “Maybe change into slacks.”
“I might just do that. Maybe I’ll order a pair of battery operated socks while I’m at it.”
He laughed, nodding. “Yeah. I used to tease Emily about that. I even bought her a pair, but she never used them.”
“Foolish woman.” She shivered again.
Frank slipped off his jacket and hung it around her shoulders.
“Thanks.” The jacket was warm from his body and smelled like his cologne. It was a nice scent, outdoorsy, fresh and sporty.
“Check your desk. See if there’s anything you need. If you do, call supply and they’ll bring you whatever. If we don’t have it, we can get it fast. There’s an office store in town. They deliver too. The number’s on the sheet on the desk.”
“What sheet on the desk?”
He pulled out a sliding panel. Taped and laminated to the wooden surface was a list of numbers. Some were typed on, others written in a bold, feminine hand.
“Emily was very well organized,” he said quietly.
“What happened to her?”
“Husband got transferred. They moved to Texas.”
“You liked her, didn’t you?” Her tone was teasing, but the remark hit rather too close to home.
“We worked together. She was a nice lady. We got along.” He headed toward the door.
Marka caught his elbow. “Sorry. Not my business. You seem to miss her.”
“I don’t have a lot of friends,” he replied quietly. “Emily was a friend.”
A friend for whom you bought battery operated socks? One whose desk you know as well as your own?
“I’ve got some calls to make. I’ll see you later. Lunch?” Frank made an effort to sound cheerful.
“I’d like that.”
“Okay. Well, if I don’t see you before that, I’ll meet you at noon.”
“Here, or the cafeteria?”
“Here. I thought we’d find something other than cafeteria food for lunch.”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Frank. You’re totally making my first day.”
“Making it what?” He paused, expression questioning. The twinkle in his dark brown eyes told her he was teasing.
He saluted her and left.