With care, Anthony Paul Seville prepared for the evening ahead. Impeccably groomed, his Oscar de la Renta suit was the height of fashion—dark gray with lighter pinstripes that he’d been told brought to life the silver in his hair and the glint in his eyes.
As a lawyer and professor, he found the upcoming event to be confining. Still, he'd promised. It was the first, and only, time he'd ever agreed to host a lecture on the finer points of the law—and on a Friday no less.
With a weary sigh, he walked out of his Penthouse apartment in Jackson Square and made his way to the parking garage that housed his BMW convertible. Within moments he arrived at the New Orleans Hilton and entered the conference room where he would host the small, informal, lecture.
Early as planned, he walked around and familiarized himself with the seating arrangements. The reserved cards, which bore the names of people who would attend, were filed in his memory as quickly and effectively as though they were facts surrounding an important case. He sensed more than heard a movement at the door, and turned to greet Mr. Philip Monroe, Dean of Loyola University.
"Hi Phil," Paul stretched out a hand and let a huge grin split his face. He felt the older man wince and loosened his grip, knowing that arthritis had reduced Phil’s handshake to a mere version of his earlier days. However both his smile and the light in his eyes reflected admiration and gratitude that he would give up his Friday night to do this favor for a friend.
"Any set plans for the lecture this evening?"
Paul shrugged. "Not really. I've racked my brain all afternoon but I'm not sure exactly what these people want to know. There were no preliminary questionnaires or anything to give me a clue. Thought I'd just leave the floor open for discussion and answer the questions that come up. What do you think?"
"Sounds like a plan to me. And, Paul, I appreciate this. I really do. It’s great publicity for the profession. Not to mention the university."
Paul tossed away the gratitude with a shrug. "No problem Phil, none at all."
They turned in unison as a young woman stumbled into the room. Her eyes widened as the heel of her shoe caught in her dress, and ripped the hem. Paul lifted an amused brow at the muttered curse that slipped through the beautifully painted lips and the look of mortification that quickly followed.
"May we help you?" he drawled.
Jessica’s head jerked up in surprise at the sound of his voice. She stood mesmerized, staring at the man she'd sought to meet for so long. Of their own accord her eyes closed; embarrassment washed over her in angry waves, and left her cheeks stinging in its wake.
"Umm." She cleared her throat. "I'm here for the lecture." She hoped her voice sounded stronger than she felt.
With a lazy gesture, he glanced at his watch then back at her. "A mite early, aren't you?" he queried. Another rush of heat burned her cheeks.
She lifted her chin in defiance but refrained from comment. Mr. Anthony Paul Seville might be one of the best, most-sought-after lawyers in New Orleans, or Louisiana for that matter, but he wasn't going to make her feel like a fool. She managed that quite nicely all by herself, thank you very much.
His stride possessed an elegant, lazy grace when he walked toward her.
"May I escort you to your seat Miss.…?" His brow lifted in question.
"Aucoin. Jessica Aucoin. And, no, thank you. I believe I can find it myself." Amusement lit his midnight gaze when he glanced down at the torn hem of her dress and then back at her face. It set her teeth on edge.
"Well, Miss Aucoin. It's the desk in front, last row I believe," he remarked, and bent to pick up the book satchel she'd dropped while she’d clung precariously to the doorframe.
She clenched one fist into the folds of her dress, the other around the handle of the satchel, breathed her thanks, and made her way cautiously to the other side of the room. She found her place and sat as gracefully as possible on legs that wobbled. Paul Seville's reputed looks and manner were not unknown to her, but nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared her for the real thing.
An excited buzz began to fill the room as people arrived and took their seats. Then after a brief introduction from Mr. Monroe, the lecture began.
Spellbound, Jessica watched while the man handled even the densest of questions with absolute solemnity. As a writer of romantic suspense and mysteries, she'd followed his career for years and fashioned some of her best stories after his most bizarre cases. While she watched, the idea for her latest creation came to life, and she determined he would make a perfect hero.
He wasn’t a large man, five-nine or ten and slight of form, but unbearably handsome. Splashes of silver streaked his hair, belied his age, enhanced the aura of professionalism and authority he exuded, and came across as purely sensual. Passion and intelligence glowed in the midnight eyes. Yes, she decided mentally, Paul Seville would definitely make the perfect hero, as well as the perfect lawyer to handle the legal battle in which she was about to engage.