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Justin crossed his arms over his chest as he stared at his long-time friend. The confusion he felt was written all over his face, he was certain.
     “Let me see if I have this right. You want me to protect a pop princess?” he asked, his words dripped with sarcasm. 
      Talbot raised his hand and held up a finger. “Now wait, Jian,” Talbert said as he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his desk. “Think of it as a much-needed break while you help out a very scared young woman.”
     Justin shook his head in disbelief. “Why not offer this ‘job’ to Ferdinand. He owes you and he likes this kind of work.”
     Sighing, Talbot stood. “Ferdinand would embarrass me. You won’t,” he said as he walked around his desk. “Just meet with them. That’s all I’m asking.”
     Talbot, once special forces, was now a businessman. Everything was a deal to him and Justin knew this situation was no different. His friend must have some kind of deal with this woman to try and pimp him out. What kind of deal and Why.
     Justin looked at his watch. He had a few minutes to spare for a friend but Talbot was wasting his time. There was no way he was taking on any babysitting job.
     Talbot opened his office door and called out a man’s name. Justin heard the name Malcolm and he filed it away, just in case. A few seconds later, a man walked through the open door and greeted Talbot. He was dressed well, held his head high, and looked Justin straight in the eyes as he approached.
     “Mr. Jian,” the man held out his hand, “I’m Malcolm St. James.”
     Justin shook Mr. St. James’ hand. He felt callouses but glancing at the man’s hand he saw that his nails were well cared for.
    “I understand you are a busy man so I don’t want to waste your time. My daughter needs a competent, experienced, disciplined person to protect her. Money is no object.”
     Justin liked that the man got straight to it but…
     “Nice to meet you, Mr. St. James. I understand how important your daughter’s safety is to you and I thank you for your consideration, but I was explaining to Talbot that I have a prior engagement.” Justin felt the pressure of Mt. St. James’ grip tighten before the man released his hold. Justin watched as Mr. St. James looked at Talbot with an O shaped mouth. “I am sorry that I can’t help you.”
      Not interested in hearing the two men hash out details for an alternative bodyguard, Justin excused himself with a slight bow to both men then he exited the office, closing the door behind him.  
     “Mr. Jian,” the receptionist said, “should I have your vehicle brought around.”
     “Thank you, Mrs. Billows.”
       Justin didn’t break his stride as he exited the reception area and stepped into the hallway. He was halfway down the length of the hall, heading toward the elevators when he dodged out of the way or be run into by a woman who was exiting the restroom.
     Justin reached out to steady her. What took him by surprise is the fear he saw burning in her glossy eyes as she stared up at him. He felt the shudder that ran through her slight frame so he immediately let his hands fall away from her.
    “I’m sorry,” she sniffed as she lowered her head and rushed toward Talbot’s office.
     Justin stood there, following the young woman with his eyes. He was still standing there long after the door to Talbot’s reception area closed.