“What I want to let everyone know is that I’ve decided to step down from my position as director of the Titan Project Development office here in Bucharest and I’d like to introduce to you the new director . . . Anastassia Cosma, or as many of you know her, Tessa Cosma.”
The room exploded in applause and cheers. Victor let the cheering go for a couple more minutes then made a sign and soon the room fell quiet again.
“Nine months from now I’ll send you all greeting cards from the French Riviera, a cigar in one hand and a brandy in the other, but most important I will not think of any business, any contract, or even of you.”
Laughter from around the room interrupted his speech, but he again demanded attention and continued, “And you know why? It’s because I know that the company will be in the best hands I could possibly trust, in the right place and with the right commander. For those of you who know Tessa, you know that she’s a beautiful woman, with a brilliant mind and big heart, but a tigress when it comes to business. She’d show her claws in a split second. Fear her and don’t try playing games; her sweet smile is just a mask. Now that I said what I had to say, please join me in congratulating the new director of our company!”
Victor put the microphone down and reached to help Tessa stand. He shook her hand, then hugged her for a few seconds and stepped aside, for others to come around and congratulate her.
Tessa felt like a truck had hit her. She had no idea Victor wanted to retire so soon, nor that she’d replace him. Her mind swirled and struggled to respond to all the questions people asked her, shake their hands and accept their congratulations.
“What an incredible surprise, dear,” Daniel said when he finally caught her in his arms. He took her hand and walked to the dance floor and moved with her in the slow rhythm of the music.
“I feel like I’m dreaming and soon I’ll wake up. I mean, I had no idea he wanted me to replace him . . . can you imagine?” Tessa leaned against Daniel’s strong body—she still shook from the big news Victor just shared minutes ago.
“I’m so proud of you,” Daniel whispered in her ear. “You’re incredible and you deserve it.”
She looked into his green eyes trying to read his mind. He looked good dressed in his black tuxedo, white shirt and black bowtie. There were many nights they argued about her extended work hours and constant traveling. He’d complained about it so many times; hard to believe that after all these years and so many arguments, Daniel finally accepted and agreed to share her with her work.
“You know this means I’ll be away from home even more, longer trips, longer work hours . . . can we survive this change?”
He twirled her twice releasing her from his arms, then brought her back and said, “Nice presents would help me forget about my lonely nights.” He winked at her and smiled while the band switched to an up-tempo rhythm and more couples joined them on the dance floor.
“You know, I feel I’m in the best place of my life, ever. I have you, an amazing job, I have friends and family that love me and I love them back. This incredible feeling of ha—”
“Tessa, here you are! Come, we must hurry!” Eva grabbed her arm while Daniel held onto her other arm.
“Hey, I’m dancing, can you just wait until the dance is over?”
Tessa tried to free her wrist, but Eva had a strong grip on it and didn’t let go. She looked over her shoulder at Daniel, who let go and backed off. She had no choice but follow Eva out of the room.
“Jesus Christ, are you crazy? Can you just stop and tell me what’s the matter?”
But Eva didn’t reply right away, still holding Tessa’s wrist, walking faster and faster. “We must go. Now. It’s urgent.” Eva hurried outside the hotel. A cab waited for them and she opened the door, dragging Tessa inside.
“Emergency Room, Floreasca Hospital, please.”
Tessa froze hearing the address. A knot formed in her stomach and her throat, and when she spoke, she didn’t recognize her own voice.
“Is it my mama?”
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