I saw her. How could I not? She stood almost a head taller than every other woman in the large meeting room at the Salt Lake City Hyatt Regency, and inches taller than most of the men.
I also couldn’t miss the looks that she kept trying to surreptitiously shoot at me during the breaks in her conversation with one of the other attendees. I sensed that she was waiting for an opportunity to speak with me, but so were dozens of other attendees who had sat through my presentation.
I was currently sandwiched between the mayor of Bountiful and the mayor of Orem as each tried to outdo the other with their descriptions of the tax incentives available within their respective cities to encourage development.
My morning presentation focused on the pitfalls associated with cities and counties imposing exorbitant impact fees on developers and how statistics showed these fees could be detrimental to an area’s growth. These two mayors were trying to explain how the tax incentives their cities could offer a developer would outweigh any impact fees imposed by the counties they were in.
Handing each of the mayors one of my company cards, I said, “Excuse me gentlemen, but the break is about to end and I need to use the restroom before it does. Feel free to e-mail me your proposals. I’ll discuss them with my partners and we’ll get back to you.”
I quickly walked away from the two mayors and left the meeting room in search of the restrooms. One of the challenges with being a presenter at these continuing education seminars for realtors is that so many of the attendees want to bend your ear, so finding peace while taking a bio break wasn’t assured. Fortunately, this time I was able to take care of my company and escape the restroom without being accosted.
Technically, since my presentation was complete, there was no reason that I had to return to the meeting room where the seminar would be continuing for several more hours. While most of the remaining presentations held no interest for me, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to network with people familiar with the real estate market in the Salt Lake City area and the surrounding mountain resorts.
My business’s plans for the development of a high-end all-year resort along the eastern slopes of Mt. Timpanogos, between Wildwood and Sundance hadn’t been announced yet, but that project was the reason that I had made myself available to speak at this seminar. I served as the project manager for all of our developments while my partners back in Los Angeles focused on finding investors to keep the necessary funding streams flowing.
When I reentered the meeting room, I headed for the refreshment table to grab a bottle of water. I saw several people watching me, which wasn’t surprising. While it isn’t as obvious in the larger cities in Utah or in tourist locations such as Park City, it was still common for a person to be judged by whether or not they followed the “Word of Wisdom” as it related to their diet, which included what they chose to drink. If I selected coffee, that would have indicated to everyone watching that I was not Mormon.
Not being a member of the LDS church wouldn’t necessarily preclude any development plans we might have, but it could influence the attitudes of some of the more devout Mormons and limit their cooperation when I might need it. With over seventy percent of Utah’s population being Mormon, it was better to keep them guessing.
I took a seat near the back of the room and had just started checking e-mails on my phone when the next presenter stepped to the podium. It was the tall blonde beauty that had been watching me earlier. There was something familiar about her, and while she introduced herself and began her presentation, I tried to recall where I might have seen her before. I didn’t recognize her name, Addison Lopez, but I was certain that I had seen her somewhere else recently.
She stated to the audience that she was a realtor with one of the local Century 21 brokers and had achieved several accolades for her residential and commercial real estate success. She attributed her success to the websites that she would build to showcase the properties. Her presentation would distribute some of her tips on what constituted a well-designed web page for properties of all types.
The people sitting in front of me obstructed my view of her below the waist, but what I could see of her top half convinced me that she was a stunning woman. Silky blonde hair down to the middle of her back, lively brown eyes, a perfectly proportioned straight nose, and a mouth that held a perpetual smile. She had a flawless complexion and the poise of a dancer.
It was the blush of her cheeks that allowed my memory to click on where I had seen her before. Her makeup hid it well, but there remained the faintest line of slightly sunburned cheeks under where her ski goggles would have been. The same ski goggles that had been perched on her forehead last Saturday when I had seen her at the Brighton Resort.
She had been chaperoning a small group of teenagers on a snowshoe hike and was trying to corral them in front of the lodge for the trip back into town. She was having no trouble with any of the boys, who admired her with doe eyes, but the girls in the group kept running into the gift shop to buy souvenirs. I sat at a window seat in the pub across the street trying not to laugh at her obvious frustration.
She looked exhausted by the time the van which was their ride finally arrived. As she ushered the last wayward girl into the van, she looked directly at me sitting behind the window across the street, and smiled, almost as if in recognition.
With the riddle of where I had previously seen her solved, I returned to checking e-mails and paid little attention to her presentation. I didn’t realize that she had finished until people started shuffling out of their seats for the lunch break. I slid my phone into my pocket and picked up my computer bag in preparation to leave.
I glanced up at the sound of my name and recognized Addison Lopez standing in the aisle beside my seat. Meeting her eyes for the first time, I felt only what I could describe as “inspired”. Her eyes held a myriad of signals within their sparkling brown depth. Curiosity, fear, and excitement were on the surface, but determination, strength, and confidence lingered there as well.
I wasn’t surprised by her knowing my name since I had introduced myself to all the attendees at the start of my presentation. I extended my hand and said, “Yes, and you are Addison Lopez if I’m not mistaken.”
Nodding her head, she asked, “Excuse me, but would you mind retrieving my computer bag from underneath the seat next to yours? I left it there during my presentation.”
“Here you go,” I said to her after retrieving the bag. “Is there anything else you need?”
She gave me a playful smile and said, “Maybe you can confirm the rumor that Pierce County, Washington is named after you in recognition of all the accolades and awards bestowed upon you before you left for college. Three-year all-state in football, basketball, and baseball; leading the Glacier Grizzlies to the state football championship in your junior and senior years…”
“I seem to be at a disadvantage, Ms. Lopez…”
Again, she hit me with a smile that outshined all others I had ever seen, “Oh, Mr. Pierce, I seriously doubt that you are ever in a disadvantageous position. Would you like to have lunch with me so I can explain my knowledge of your heroics in high school and your meteoric success in every endeavor since then?”
I was fascinated by her quiet manner, soft speech, and the contradiction represented by the “fire” I saw in her eyes. I laughed and said, “I am feeling extremely disadvantaged by that charm of yours.”
She laughed in return and said, “Any such advantage would be short-lived. My ‘charm’ is pretty limited.”
“Beautiful, charming, and self-effacing,” I said as I stood and shouldered my computer bag. “Please call me Morgan. Where would you recommend for lunch?”
Now that I was standing, I saw that my six-foot-one-inch height brought me almost eye-to-eye with her. I glanced down and saw that she had three-inch heels on her feet. I calculated that she was probably five-foot-eight or maybe a little taller in her bare feet. I didn’t want to embarrass her, or myself, so I let my observation slide.
Addison smiled at me and said, “And you, please call me Addie. Most of the participants in this seminar will be heading to the restaurant off the lobby for lunch. There’s a great Mexican place called ‘Chili Tepin’ a few blocks from here that will be far less crowded. How does that sound?”
“Hey, I’m a SoCal guy,” I chuckled. “We eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lead the way.”
During our lunch, I made no attempt to pick her up or hit on her. In fact, she was the one who kept the conversation going by explaining how she was as familiar with me as she claimed. I learned that she had been a freshman at Glacier High College during my senior year there. We didn’t have any classes together, and Allie insisted that we had never met at college or anywhere else until today.
She explained, “Oh, I definitely had a crush on you, just like every other girl at the school. You have no idea how many hearts you broke when you decided to accept the scholarship to play football for UCLA instead of U-Dub.”
“I wanted to experience sunshine for once in my life,” I admitted with a smile. “I noticed that you eventually decided to bail on the weather there too.”
“True,” she said, “I chose Brigham Young University, but it wasn’t due to a desire to get away from the rainy weather at home. I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ when I was seventeen, so BYU best fit my lifestyle and educational objectives at that time. I remained here in Salt Lake City to fulfill my missionary term and I have just never felt compelled to leave.”
I nodded, “I understand that if you are a Mormon, the Salt Lake City area can be a very supportive place to live.”
“That’s true of almost any place in Utah,” Allie confirmed. “And, I suppose that Southern California is more supportive of a young man who wanted to become a world-famous model and television actor while attending college and breaking all sorts of records on the football field.”
I chuckled and said, “Neither the modeling nor the acting careers were planned by me. A few of the guys on the football team were asked to model for some promotional team images. That morphed into the calendar shoot, and that landed me on the radar of some advertising guys who were looking for new faces to represent some of their clients…”
“Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, and virtually every brand of men’s clothing sold on Rodeo Drive,” stated Allie with admiration obvious in her tone. “You were the Christie Brinkley of male models. Your face, and body, were everywhere!”
I shrugged, “It gave me something to do after football season. I turned down a lot of offers from brands that required international travel while classes were in session. Then when I got the role on that soap opera, I gave up modeling all together.”
“I have to tell you, that calendar that you were in was the best birthday present that any sixteen-year-old girl could have ever received. My siblings teased me that you chose to be placed on October’s calendar page because you knew that my birthday is October 1st. If I still had it, I would ask you to autograph it for me.”
I smirked and said, “I would think that the church leadership didn’t condone its young female members of the flock possessing beefcake calendars and especially not ones that were autographed.”
“I wasn’t a member of the flock, as you call it when I had the calendar,” Allie stated. “I didn’t convert until I was seventeen. However, what the church leaders do and do not condone is a matter that I am struggling with still.”
I decided to change the subject, so I asked, “Was the fact that you recognized me why you smiled at me when you were at the Brighton Resort?”
Addie nodded, “I never expected to see you again after your left for college, in person anyway, and now I’ve run into you twice in the same week.”
I checked the time. “Don’t you have to get back for the rest of the seminar? The organizer said that attendance at the entire session was required in order for attendees to receive the CI credit.”
“No, I was just one of the presenters today, so I am free to leave at any time. What about you? Are you going to go back and sit through the rest of the presentations?”
“Don’t tell my partners,” I lowered my voice and said in a conspiratorial tone, “but I was thinking that since it’s Friday, I would cut out early and go see a movie.”
Addie lowered her voice to a near whisper and asked, “What movie were you thinking of seeing?”
I leaned across the table and whispered into her ear, “Either the new James Bond movie or that movie based upon the old television series, ‘Man From UNCLE’.”
When I leaned back and looked at her face, I could see the blush on Addie’s cheeks. I said, “I’m sorry for invading your personal space. I meant no offense.”
Addie blushed even more and dropped her eyes to look at her hands. After a few seconds, she said, “No need to apologize. I’m just not accustomed to having a man whispering in my ear and I was surprised at how it affected me. You did nothing wrong. I liked it.”
I did some quick calculations in my head. If Addie was a freshman during my senior year of high college, that would probably make her three years younger than me, which meant that if her birthday was October 1st as she stated, she was likely 26 years old right now. How does a stunning blonde beauty with a killer body live to be 26 and not have any experience with someone whispering in her ear?
I decided to take a chance, “If your afternoon is now free, would either of the movies I mentioned be of interest to you? If not, I’m sure that we could find something else that we would both enjoy?”
Her smile was disarming when she asked, “Well, Morgan Pierce, are you asking me out on a date?”
I laughed and said, “I wouldn’t typically classify two people playing hooky from work to catch a movie as a date. If you’re in a relationship with someone, they might not appreciate you considering it a date either.”
Holding up her left hand and wiggling her fingers, Addie said, “I’m not in a relationship, and if you don’t mind, it would do my ego good to consider it a date with the famous Morgan Pierce. I would love to see either of the movies you mentioned, but I would want to leave my computer in my car if that’s not too much of a problem.”
“Where are you parked?” I asked.
“I’m in the parking structure for the Salt Palace Convention Center.”
I shook my head and said, “Cars aren’t safe there from what I was told. How about if we detour back through the Hyatt Regency and leave both of our computers in my room there? You can pick it up after the movie and I’ll walk you to your car.”
“If you’re sure that you don’t mind…” Addie said.
A cold front must have moved into the basin while we were inside the restaurant because the temperature outside was at least twenty degrees colder than when we had arrived. Seeing Addie shivering in her light jacket, I pulled my leather jacket off and draped it around her shoulders. I watched her bend her head to smell the collar of the jacket as she accepted the warmth it offered. Light snow was falling before we had walked the short block and a half back to the hotel.
On the elevator, Addie said, “I assume that your car is in the underground garage here, and we could park in the covered lot at the mall where the cineplex is located so we wouldn’t have to be out in the weather, but maybe we should postpone our ‘date’.”
“Don’t give up so quickly,” I said. “Let’s check the forecast when we get to my room and decide then.”
Nodding, Addie spoke to her feet, almost as if talking to herself, “I don’t want this day to end so soon.”
I didn’t respond but considered what meaning might belie her opinion. When the elevator reached the top floor, I lightly squeezed her elbow and escorted her to the door to my suite. I used the keycard to unlock the door and held it for her to enter.
“Oh, wow!” Addie exclaimed the moment her eyes found the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
I had a suite on the northeast corner of the hotel. The view to the east was of the snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Range. In the forefront of the northern view rose the Mormon Temple in Downtown Salt Lake City. Both could still be seen through the snow falling outside.
“The temple or the mountains?” I asked as I removed my coat from her shoulders, followed by the strap of her computer bag.
She turned to me, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “It would probably be considered some sort of violation of the church doctrine not to say the temple, but the view of the mountains is what impressed me the most. Thanks for lending me your jacket. I hope you didn’t get too cold.”
“It was a short walk. I was fine. Have a seat while I try to find a local forecast of the weather on the TV. Would you like something to drink?”
As Addie removed her light jacket and folded it over the back of the couch, she said, “Let’s wait to see what the forecast is. I may need to start heading home if the snow is going to get too bad. May I use your restroom while you check?”
I pointed to the door leading to the bedroom and watched her heading in that direction. As I studied her shapely form walking away from me, I evaluated her words and behavior since she had approached me at the seminar. I sensed that there was a comfort and a certain level of trust within Addie related to her knowing who I am, or at least what she thinks I am based on what she knew about me from high college and beyond.
I also sensed that there was an agenda developing within her, but I hadn’t yet determined where that might lead. With her being in real estate, everything I was sensing could be the innocent networking style of a real estate agent with a developer in hopes of deriving new company opportunities. But she hadn’t mentioned anything company related in our conversations. Yet.
I turned on the TV and searched for a local news channel. Finding one, I took a seat on the couch and waited for a weather report to start. Addie soon returned, but before taking a seat on the couch, she removed her high heels. When she sat, she curled her knees and pulled her feet up beside her.
“Comfy couch,” she observed.
I kept my focus on the television and simply nodded in agreement. Addie turned her head and gazed out at the view once more.
“I hear that on a clear day you can see the snowcapped mountains of Southern California while you’re surfing at the beach. Is that true?’ she asked.
“It is,” I assured her. “There have been days when I would ski Big Bear Mountain in the morning and surf at Huntington Beach in the afternoon. It’s best to attempt things like that during the workweek so that the traffic isn’t too bad in the middle of the day. Otherwise, you would waste the whole day on the freeway and not get to enjoy either activity.”
“There’s the weather,” Addie said, pointing towards the TV.
We watched together in silence as the weather girl described the high-pressure trough that had forced the cold front farther south than expected and caused it to stall over the Great Basin. While not blizzard conditions, six to ten inches of snow was expected to fall over the eastern edge of the basin and western slopes of the Wasatch Range over the next forty-eight hours.
“At least it’s happening over a weekend,” Addie observed. “That will help to keep people off the roads.”
I turned to her and said, “I don’t care about other people. How does it affect you? Do you need to begin heading for home? I don’t even know where you live or how the trip might be after a few inches of accumulation is on the roads.”