Steele Wellington was the man everyone loved to hate. A tycoon who picked at the bones of undercapitalized entrepreneurs, Wellington carried himself with arrogance. He moved like a cat, strong and sinuous. And, like a cat, his loyalties were always in question.
In spite of these qualities (perhaps because of them?) Chianti Mendici couldn't get him out of her mind.
Chianti was far from her tiny Sicilian town, yet her small-town roots were betraying her now as she fell into a near swoon at Wellington's every approach.
Chianti knew it wasn't her shorthand or typing skills that had landed her the job as Wellington's assistant. She'd heard enough from other women here to know it was only a matter of time before her boss decided to call on some of her other attributes.
She felt a flutter of annoyance at Wellington's vision of her as some sort of toy. Yet, beneath the frustration, was a thrill at the prospect of being the subject of his amorous attentions.
Wellington sighed as he caught the new assistant watching him out of the corner of her eye. "Another bimbo," he thought. "Is the world devoid of women of character?"
Wellington had seen a spark in Chianti when he interviewed her -- just a hint of backbone, maybe something more. Now he wondered if he had been wrong.
Enough, he thought. Plenty of work to do -- especially now.
Wellington Enterprises was undergoing some transformations these days -- though not quite so great as those shaking its founder and CEO. Carefully, Wellington was using his business transactions to build the Kingdom of God.
A mining conglomerate went belly up in Ecuador. Wellington's minions descended, reaped the profits, laundered the money and out came an orphanage in Brazil. A faltering fast-food chain in Los Angeles was liquidated and the assets miraculously poured into Christian missions in China.
Wall Street analysts noticed nothing. Even Wellington was amazed to see that his year-old commitment to Jesus wasn't cutting into profits.
If only he had someone to share his new-found passion with.
Chianti left work at 5 and headed for the Bowery, where her church as feeding the homeless tonight. She wondered how Wellington would react if he knew she was a Christian, then stopped the thought in mid-stream, reminding herself she had no business thinking about him at all.
Still, Chianti found herself building an impossible fantasy of Steele standing by her side, praying with the poor, the orphans, the outcasts she had such a heart for.
Wellington watched Chianti picking up her purse and heading out the door, thinking, must have a hot date.
That thought sent another pang of loneliness through him. The entertainment rags still had him on their front covers with every woman he got near, sneeringly suggesting the worst. But the truth was he hadn't so much as looked at a woman since committing himself to Christ.
"Please God," Chianti prayed on the subway. "If these thoughts of Steele do not honor You, take them away. I can't be involved with someone who doesn't know You."
Nothing. Just silence. Had God heard her?
Wellington got into his limo with just enough time to see the dedication of the new Christian chapel in the Bowery. Nothing would be tied to Wellington Enterprises.
With a chuckle, he thought of today's devotional on Matthew 6:3-5 -- "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
He wondered briefly what reward the Father might have in store.
Wellington rolled down the limousine window just enough to see the ribbon-cutting.
Chianti was a little irked at the long limo parked ominously near the new chapel. But she was reassured when someone from church said, "Don't worry. That's the guy who paid for the chapel. Nobody knows who he is, but that limo shows up in some of the oddest places!"
Chianti peered at the car as the back window rolled down a bit just enough to see Steele Wellington's face. His attention was focused on the chapel. His warm smile and kindly eyes were nothing like the iron mask he wore at work.
As the window rolled up and the limo rolled away, Chianti gave silent thanks to God, who had answered her prayer -- and Steele Wellington's as well.
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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