He was being watched, he could feel it. The crowded room was a
boisterous caldron of Kressigg employees; swirling, churning,
intermingling, a thousand unfinished sentences reaching his ears. But he
was being watched, he could feel it. He turned about searching a sea of
disinterested people engaged in their own communications. The feeling
was like a fleeting shadow, disappearing from his curious scrutiny,
silently slipping back to its hiding place.
He was on the 32nd floor of the Frederick Luis Belvedier Hotel in an
elaborate ballroom. The mandatory Christmas party was under way. People
who had a life and wanted to get on with it were required to spend a
minimum of an hour there; people who had no place to go could play
corporate Christmas party until they were forced to go home.
He had arrived late and had made a quick trip through the lavish hotel
lobby with more important things on his mind than corporate Christmas
parties. He could actually feel his mind buzzing like an angry hornet's
nest. It was an unnecessary interruption, but his absence would be
noticed. His recent promotion to team leader of the Excelsior Project
had put him into a brighter spotlight than he preferred. Peter Gavin,
project manager, would be looking for him; Ernest Nellaway, the inventor
that his project revolved around would be seeking him as well.
Marty made a list of five men of whom he would have to shake hands with,
then he could slip out. In this crowd how would anyone know for sure he
didn't fulfill his required hour? He scoffed at the bulletin that had
come out announcing a minimum one hour attendance. Section chiefs were
to ensure their people took advantage of Kressigg's generosity and
partook of the holiday fair. At the ballroom door he was greeted by a
neatly dressed attendant.
"May I take your coat sir?"
Marty surrendered his coat and was promptly given a ticket by the
"Do not lose your ticket; no ticket, no coat, sir"
Marty pocketed the ticket, losing patience with the whole thing already.
The ballroom was adorned with a vast array of Victorian Christmas
decorations, no expense spared. It was a place of light and laughter;
beverage waiters circulated with silver trays laden with wine and other
fancy liqueurs. Those that wanted soft drinks would have to seek them
out on their own at a table set in the corner. Several tables were
lavishly set with endless varieties of finger food. It was not a place
where an unconverted Scrooge would be comfortable. Merriment and loud
communion hung in the air making the soft instrumental music almost
Marty felt someone standing right behind him with an impatient stare,
but when he turned around there was only a conglomeration of people
absorbed only in discussing their own topics with one another. No one
waiting impatiently for his attention. Marty frowns and thinks of
Scrooges' ghost of Christmas past. What trickery is at work tonight?
Now he was shaking hands, constructing answers for friendly inquisitors,
providing compliments for those who fished for them. Once again he felt
the invisible hand of someone's eye upon him, but he could not look
about; he was forced to make eye contact with storytellers. Now he was
dismissing the feeling of being watched as a late night imagination.
Marty knew himself; he had a very strong imagination. The benefit of it
was his ability to visualize solutions and to assist in the inventing
process, thus his quick promotion.
Brian Mingle emerges from the wall of people and launches into his
account of his rejected proposal for the Excelsior project. There is no
"Hi, how you doing?" No merry Christmas, no congratulations. He just
plunges into what seems to be chapter two of his account of his
excellence once again overlooked. Maybe somebody else not ten feet away
was the unlucky recipient of chapter one, and now Brian had decided
chapter two was Marty's to digest.
He is listening; nodding in pretend agreement, hoping his expression is
not giving away his disinterest; then he feels it again, the distinct
feeling of being observed, being studied.
The feeling is coming from the diagonal right, he turns and looks: the
snapshot of the crowd is suddenly obliterated by a blonde woman in a red
dress cutting into his field of view from the right, being jostled by
the press of the crowd, almost colliding with him.
She is a laughing, oblivious soul armed with a glass of red wine and in
danger of sharing it with those around her if only by spoiling a good
shirt with its contents. She makes a sincere sounding apology and is
giving him a second look, when she is suddenly called away. He breathes
a sigh of relief and resumes giving Brian the appearance of his
"So look, if you want me to be on your team, and I know you do, just let
Gavin know, he probably will agree, right?"
Brian finishes his conclusion and downs his drink in a quick flick of
the wrist. His eyes intense, like a wolverine; small, dark, and
glittery, watching for the slightest sign of hesitation.
"Right, I give that some thought."
"Not thought, Marty. Action, action is what is needed here. One does not
become a leader by thinking, but by acting and acting quickly and
The small wolverine eyes glitter, unblinking as they attempt to bore a
hole through Marty's eye sockets. He realizes Brian is right, he must
"I am going to ask him now!" Marty declares, darting past Brian.
“I am going to ask him where he buys those colorful ties he is always
wearing," Marty whispers as he forges through the crowd like an Alaskan
ice breaker trying to make it to the Arctic Circle. He hates to lie and
so he has developed the trick of completing the second half of his
sentence very quietly.
"Atta boy Marty, now you’re talking!" Brian calls out before he is
swallowed by the human wake left behind by Marty.
He moves in the general direction that he sensed his invisible observer,
weaving past small clusters of people. He comes to a halt realizing he
is chasing imaginary phantoms.
He stops to analyze his overactive imagination, but he reminds himself
of his uncanny hunches that have proven to be true more often than not.
So this time he just may be wrong.
On cue to his inner thoughts, the crowd parts like a curtain and he
finds himself watching a beautiful black woman in a dark blue velvet
dress scanning the crowd. She is standing against the wall, sometimes on
tiptoe, moving back and forth, craning her neck, and searching. Until
she sees him. Her gaze is direct and seems to be for him and only him.
He knows she is the watcher in the crowd. Those eyes would put anyone on
a vibe. His thinking suspends while he takes in her beauty. The shape of
her face is a graceful elongated oval framed by a mane of dark and
tightly curled hair. The contours of her cheeks are slightly pronounced
and their angle pulls his eye to her full lips. Slender eye brows are
suspended over dark almond shaped eyes in an alluring angled curve. And
it's her eyes that hold his attention for an additional moment. The
almond shaped eyes are almost oriental; darker than dark yet mirrors of
all the available light surrounding her.
He wakes from his reverie with a start, and wonders with small alarm
that he is checking out a black woman. This is not business as usual for
him. But her gaze is not repelling, so he finds himself drifting closer.
He halts again, streams of people threading between them.
What is he doing? What is he going to say? Hi, my name is Marty. Are you
looking at me? And what if she has a boyfriend, like a six foot
Shaquille O’Neal sort of fellow? But here he is, just shuffling over
to who knows what kind of trouble. But wasn't she looking for him? What
was it that made him search so hard for the watcher in the first place?
He knew he enjoyed looking at beautiful women as much as the next man;
and looking was about as far as he got with beautiful women, he was
awkward; but he had never given black women much consideration. Tonight
he was chasing phantom impressions in a crowded room and enthralled with
a woman of a different race; both activities not his usual behaviors.
She must have been using some kind of Jedi mind trick on him. While he
attempts to decide what to do next, the last of the human train passes
by and she is in view once again, nearer. Beautiful. And inpatient; she
grabs his wrist and pulls him out of the way of the next oncoming train
of partiers, and leads him to her place along the wall.
She faces him, her eyes serious, her brows knit with concern.
“You have enemies. You understand of course, they are going to kill
I look around immediately, and only observe the pack of self-absorbed
holiday crowd behind us, emitting a continuous drone of chatter.
"Don't be so obvious," her reprimand brisk and inpatient. She wraps her
arm around mine and proceeds to lead me along the length of the wall.
"We need to talk," she states, moving purposely through the crowd. The
crowd thickens and we have to go single file. She tows me along like a
disobedient school boy being taken to the principal's office. I have no
option but to follow, which is not a totally unpleasant experience. The
sweeping motion of the long blue gown fail to conceal the strong
feminine figure at work underneath, as she guides me through the crowd
with a strong sense of purpose and urgency.
We come to the end of the length of wall and make our way past the drink
table set up in the corner. There are large French doors to the left and
she pulls me to them. She gives me a quick conspirator’s look and then
opens them and we step out onto the balcony on the 32nd floor of the
Luis Belvedier Hotel.
"Yikes, it's cold out here!" I proclaim, and then immediately wish I
hadn't, Blue Velvet girl is marching straight to the railing and seems
impervious to the cold. All business, this one.
We pass small clusters of people, most of them grouped around the
solitary fire pit. A few make their way to the railing for a quick peek
down to the street below, but none stay but for a minute. The Chicago
wind is filled with ice and the breath of snow. She turns and surveys
the brightly lit wall of windows behind us.
"We are being watched," she says looking beyond me.
Maybe we are, but I am not feeling it. I am the guy who felt her eyes on
me from across the crowded room. I give a minute for my super sense to
kit in, but it is drawing a big blank. Maybe Blue Velvet is creating
interference, standing against the railing before a backdrop of a
million city lights, looking past me, looking like a dream. I start to
turn to look at the bank of windows behind me.
"Don't; you're so obvious," she quips turning me back to face her.
"Put your arms around me," she says next, looking intently over my left
"Uh, hmm, are you sure...?"
Her eyes move from looking over my left shoulder to meeting my gaze. Her
eyebrows pinching slightly together in consternation.
"Put your arms around my waist, now. Like lovers do."
Firm and direct with a dab of impatience thrown in for added effect.
I look at her waist and do a quick gulp; she is not a twiggy, never
would make it as a 1920's Art Deco girl, or a ballerina or gymnast or an
ice skater; way to much geometry going on, all of it very womanly and
"Anytime, Marty," she drones in a note lower than her normal speaking
"I don't want to appear like we are having a serious conversation," she
explains with a softer note.
"Okay, okay, I was just..." I encircle her waist and leave the part
about "sizing things up" unspoken.
“You know my name. What's yours?" I say trying to stay halfway
intelligent. She feels so good I could hold her forever, I want to pull
her closer, but I can't even imagine that. If I was the tin man I would
be blowing some vital circuitry needed to stay functioning.
"Yakiesha; now listen we don't have a lot of time, you are the new team
leader for the Excelsior research project and there are somethings you
need to, kiss me."
"Kiss me." She is looking over my left shoulder again, then at me, then
over the left shoulder once more, then at me with the eyebrows knit
together in that look of stern consternation she gets when things aren't
getting done in a timely manner.
"Kiss me." The serious business voice.
I am not good at spontaneous acting or sudden requests. I am about to do
it like a mechanical man. But then everything snaps into focus in a
I don't know what is going on, strange events for sure, but I am never
going to have a woman this beautiful ever again. I am not winning any
popularity contests, no handsome guy contests, never be on any most
wanted bachelor list. I will probably end up with Carol from accounting,
after dodging her for as long as I can.
This woman is so far out of my league that I have more chance of
starting an all-night deli on the moon. I don't consider that she is
black woman and I am a white man; she is an elegant princess, and I am
not even a frog: the frog turned into a prince; I will always be an
electrical engineer, computer nerd, inventor dweeb.
So when I kiss her I better savor the moment, write it down in my
forever memories, etch it deep in my brain, and know that this is my one
time with such a beautiful creature. All of this snaps into razor
sharpness in an eye blink. So I lean over and I kiss her.
I have an imagination, that's how I invent things, by imagination and
visualization; creating pictures in my head. That's how I remember the
most important things; things never to be forgotten, things accompanied
by pictures engraved in my brain.
The seven second kiss; my eyes are closed: I am kissing her on the bow
of an eighteenth century schooner with the salt water wind whipping our
clothes, pirate and pirate princess. Sea foam leaps up from the bow of
our vessel and drenches our eighteenth century costumes, we hold the
kiss. I am kissing her on a high Switzerland bluff overlooking green
sloping fields populated by white grazing sheep. The wind encircles the
Alps above us and spirals down around us; unfurling her long dress like
a flag; it encircles me; we hold the kiss. I am kissing her on an Irish
stone bridge with a white tumbling river kicking up ice cold spray. The
ocean lies in view, a shimmering blue and green tapestry that extends to
eternity. We hold the kiss.
I open my eyes and look upon her gentle upturned face, the dark eyes
shielded by soft brown eyelids hemmed with long black curved lashes,
resting on the crown of her cheek.
"How was that?" I ask after a breath or two.
"Not that good. Do you know the coffee shop two blocks down from 32nd
street and Hover?"
My eyes are wide and incredulous, I can feel the expression on my face.
"What do you mean, ‘Not that good?”
"It's called Java You; I will meet you there in thirty minutes."
"Like was it too wet or mushy?"
"Leave the party now, meet me there, and for heaven's sake be aware if
you are being followed."
Yakiesha steps out from between me and the railing, heading for the
"But what did you mean, not that good?" I ask once more, louder, so my
words will reach across the increasing distance. She does not answer,
passes through the French doors and disappears into the crowd.
When he kissed me I wanted to cry. Do you know how hard it is to push
back the tears when they want to come so suddenly and unexpectedly? I
had to get out of there pronto, so I made arrangements for him to meet
me at Java You. The three block walk time would give me time to get my
head back in the game.
When I closed my eyes as he was getting ready to kiss me I just expected
some nervous casual attempt at it. But with my eyes closed I was back
with Paul, before the corporation stole his soul and turned him into
some kind of zombie, work-a-holic. Back when our love was young and
strong and had some spark and combustion to it - explosive!
And I know it wasn't totally the corporation, he had slowly drifted away
from me. Work had become an invading mistress that stole my special
place next to him. And then of course he was killed; taken from me
forever. No chance to make things right.
But the kiss; with my eyes closed; I was back with him, the way things
used to be, when it was always about us, not about corporate bullshit.
Not about money, or fame, or promotion, or technical discovery and
invention; life was about us and we promised each other not to get
sucked in to Kressigg's whirlwind.
But Paul left me; left me while I was still at arm’s length, day after
day, month after month. Damn him! Now he is gone forever and there is no
hope to make things better between us. So when he was buried, I buried
him a second time, deeper than the ground could hide him away. I threw
him in the abyss of forgetfulness, deep and far away from my heart. I
made myself safe from remembering, safe from reliving the days of our
And then Marty, damn him too! Kissing me like that! Rocking my past like
nobody's business. I know I asked him to do it, but honestly not like
that! Just for appearances, not to stir the sleeping dead. I've kissed
other men since Paul, but with a dead heart. My Short diversions that go
nowhere; like can I really rebuild something that is lost? Ha! Lost is
Then Marty pulls out some magic key and unlocks a shitload of stuff.
Really? I can't even wrap my brain around that. I know what I am able to
do; I can keep my shields up and in place; that is what I do! I bury my
secret pain deep, so deep that nobody gets to touch them. Nobody. Our
affections were just a ruse, not real; a trick to keep away the
slightest suggestion that a serious conversation was going on.
The beverage waiter had been following us around the room with an empty
tray. What, I am not supposed to notice you with your forever, empty
serving tray? No time to fill it up again while trying to follow us
around the room.
I don't know what they know, or how much they know, but there is a good
chance they know I was Paul's girl. So I asked him to put his arms
around me, I asked him to kiss me. See you murdering bastards? We are
lovers, not conspirators. They have yet to taste my revenge, and I am
not going to let them touch Marty either. I had decided to defend Paul's
replacement, so I will keep my promise on that. But Marty, as I watch
over you; do I have to have to watch out for you as well? Hopefully I
can get a better grasp on things before anything happens, because there
still are things that do not add up.
Like Marty for instance; I was looking for him. I was standing on the
complete opposite side of the room, watching him in the crowd, trying to
decide my best approach. I was rehearsing what I might say; it is not
every day that you have to tell someone that they are a target.
It was hard keeping an eye on him with all the people milling about. I
had lost sight of him again, when all of a sudden there he was, just a
few feet away and it seemed he was looking for me! How could that be? We
have never met. I know some people can feel that they are being stared
at, but from across the room?
For a moment indecision froze me and I think it put the skids on him
too, like he was unsure what to do now that he had found me. Then I saw
the look on his face, the one that men get when they are checking out my
stuff. So it was easy to reel him in, and then I just dismissed this
little quirk of him looking for me. There were more important issues at
hand. But now I am thinking on it again; could he be a part of the evil
pack that I am hunting? He definitely will have some questions to answer
when I get down to Java You's.
I retrieve my coat, purse and scarf from the attendant and take the
elevator down to the lobby. I step out into the white world of Chicago;
it is turning out to be the year with least amount of snowfall. But
winter still has draped the city in its white wardrobe and the snow
plows have had an easy time of it so far. In happier times the thought
of a white Christmas would be bringing me joy. I start for the coffee
shop, questions and dilemmas creating my own personal mental snowstorm.
Excerpted from "So Into Her: Book 1 of 3" by D. L. Yoder. Copyright © 2016 by D. L. Yoder. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.