Early Monday, the streets were jammed. Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. I glanced at my watch for the umpteenth time. A rush of adrenalin coursed through my veins when I realized I had only fifteen minutes left before my appointment with Oscar Goldman. I cussed myself for not setting up the alarm an hour earlier. I couldn’t afford to be late on my first meeting with my new boss.
I had never met Oscar before today, but was told that he’d made frequent visits to the Quantico FBI Academy where I was training to observe me in the field. He was most impressed with my sharp-shooting skills and unerring photographic memory. The O.S.I. had been seeking new recruits among the top graduates and was picked to join the ranks.
The cars slowly began to trickle to the left and right like the parting of the red sea, clearing the way for me to open throttle towards to the Pentagon.
It was five minutes to ten when I dashed into the elevator. As I neared Oscar’s office, I slowed my brisk pace and took a cleansing breath to recover my poise before I entered the O.S.I. reception area.
The secretary ushered me into the office to find Oscar shouting orders over the phone. I was forewarned that the man was a strict authoritarian with his agents, though was told by reliable sources that he often cut them some slack whenever the need called for it. He even had a great sense of humor.
He began briefing me on the security measures implemented at the O.S.I., then went on to expound on the work involved, what it entailed and most importantly, what was expected of all conscripted agents assigned to their intelligence service.
Once the meeting adjourned for the morning, I ambled out of the office with a sense of confidence that I was to thrive in my new position. Little did I know that destiny was to place in my path a man who would change my life forever.
I exited the building and walked to the parking lot. As I neared my car, my jaw dropped and my shoulders slumped at the two flat tires.
“Oh, Jesus Christ!” I cursed aloud, angrily flinging my arms in the air.
“Something wrong?” this handsome stranger asked as he was walking by.
“Yes! Look at this! Not one but two flats. My day started out so well, I knew it was too good to be true.”
The man chuckled at my predicament.
“Don’t laugh! It’s not funny.” I lashed out with indignation.
“I know. I’m sorry,” he apologized, trying to stifle his laughter.
I frowned and cocked my head at the familiar face. “I know you.”
“I’m Steve Austin.” He extended his arm to shake my hand.
“The famous astronaut?” I gushed before giving him a hearty handclasp. “I’m Cassie Miller.”
“Cassandra Miller? The new O.S.I recruit?”
“Well, welcome to the circle, partner.”
“Yes. Have you met the boss yet?”
“Oscar Goldman? Yes, I just came from his office.”
“What did you think of him?”
“He seems all right in my book. But I’ve learned never to trust first impression. They can often be deceiving.”
Steve flashed a mischievous grin. “You are one smart woman. I know you’ll do fine in our organization. Say, can I offer you a ride somewhere?”
“I was on my way home for lunch. It’s about seven miles down south.”
“That’s where I’m headed. I’ll drop you off at your house then comeback afterwards to help you fix the tires.”
“You’re too kind, sir.”
“Call me Steve.”
“Okay…Steve,” he teased
“You’re a funny one, aren’t you? I see I’m going to have to be careful around you.”
On the drive to my house, we shared a few laughs at Oscar’s expense as Steve gradually introduced me to the world of spying, Goldman style. When we arrived, he parked his car alongside the curb and gave me one of the brightest smiles that warmed the cockles of my heart and prompted me to offer him to have lunch with me.
“Thanks for the offer, but I wouldn’t want to put you out.”
I could see beyond the politeness that he was yearning to accept but like all handsome reserved men, he required a bit more cajoling.
“No trouble. Besides that’ll give us a chance to get better acquainted. Plus which, you could tell me more zany stories about Oscar.”
“Since you put it that way.”
We both stepped out of the car and he walked me over to the front door with a hand in the small of my back. Just by looking at him I could tell that the age of chivalry was not dead.
I opened the door and tossed my keys on the table. “Make yourself comfortable. Do you want something to drink before dinner?” I asked as I casually removed the hairgrip to let my long windblown curls down.
“No, thank you. Say I like your hair that way. It’s very pretty.”
“Thanks, but it’s not very convenient on the job, though. How much time do you have for lunch?”
“I don’t have to be back at the office before two.”
“Neither do I. That means I have time to fix us something special. Do you like lasagna?”
A self-explanatory devilish grin crossed his face. “You’re a woman after my own heart.”
“I never met a man yet who didn’t like pasta.” I reciprocated with a similar grin before walking to the open kitchen.
“Your husband included?”
I wagged a finger at him. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, you!” I scolded good-naturedly. “You can’t fool me with that old line. A very subtle way to ask if I’m married.”
“No. And you?”
“Married to your work?”
“It’s frightening how you already know me so well.”
I smiled wickedly at him. “I’ll just put the lasagna in the oven and be right with you.”