See Part 1 for Disclaimers

Opening Doors  
By J.S. Connolly
Copyright January 2004

"Stop before you start.
Be still my beating heart."

Part 2

On the whole ride home Meg could feel Ben's gaze shifting in her direction again and again only to be redirected at his shoes or out the window when she glanced at him. She wondered what was going through his young mind and decided that as soon as they arrived home she was going to find out. She had an idea but that that fact didn't make her any less nervous about it. They'd always been able to talk about everything and she wasn't going to let a case of nerves change that, but there were certain things they didn't discuss due to Ben's age and, she was unsure of how he felt about certain aspects of her life. Her love life or lack thereof to be specific. It wasn't a subject one discussed with their eight year old son. Not that she'd ever hidden her preferences from him, but it had been a very long time since she'd been involved with anyone, and even that didn't last long since she was unconsciously comparing the woman to Tanner. She thought back to the grin she was given in the elevator car and instantly had a goofy smile on her face, which was quickly replaced with a blush when she heard a giggle come from her right. She hesitantly turned her eyes in his direction to find him attempting to hide a smirk. Her blush deepened and was joined by a small guilty smile as she silently wished that her son wasn't quite so observant. She blew out a breath as she drove onto their street and pulled into the driveway of their small colonial home.

After closing the door behind them and setting her briefcase down she turned and gave him a questioning look. "You want to tell me what's going on?" Ben knew what his mother was referring to but being a bit embarrassed to ask his mother what he wanted to he decided to try to avoid the question if he could, "I don't know what you're talking about mom. Nothing is going on," he said and gulped as he saw the all to familiar determined gleam in her eyes. "Nothing is going on' she started a look of disbelief on her face 'then why were you giving me looks the whole way home, hmm?" He tried to look away but couldn't, "Umm, it's just, he said as he felt his face flush 'It's just that well I saw they way you were looking at her." Meg's face turned red as she tried to steel herself to ask the obvious question this raised, but before she could ask the phone rang. Ben breathed a mental sigh of relief while Meg was torn with half of her cursing the intrusion while the other like her son was relieved at the diversion. She turned to go but as she did she gave him a look that said the conversation wasn't finished. He nodded and as his mother left to get the phone Ben made a quick retreat toward his room.

Meanwhile, Tanner having regained a bit of her control tore her eyes from the now empty spot where her assistant's car had been. She shook her head and sighed feeling a strange yet not unfamiliar ache inside which had warning bells going off in her head. She swallowed hard and closing her eyes tried to shake off the lingering feelings, but warm green eyes she could easily drowned in appeared before her just the same. I can't do this again she thought as a solitary tear slid down her tanned cheek, "No matter how much part of me wants it. I just can't." Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone and she let out a breath thankful for the distraction. She flipped the phone open as she attempted to clear her throat, "Hello"

"Tanner good I caught you. You remember about this evening right," her Aunt Anne's voice asked over the phone. She groaned internally and failed in trying not to roll her eyes. She was hoping her Aunt would forget about asking her to come to the party she'd planned, but apparently she wasn't that lucky. "Yes, yes I remember I'll be there."

"Good, it's been so long since we've seen you I don't understand why you don't come by more often we are family after all." Tanner covered the phone to muffle her groan. Just great her comes the guilt trip. I really don't need this right now she thought. She loved her Uncle John and Aunt Anne, but they were in serious denial about her lifestyle choice and this made things uncomfortable when they would get together. They'd go on and on about this man or that man and how each would be perfect for her and she'd have to hold back the urge to make a sarcastic remark. She couldn't understand how they did it when before Kate had passed away her aunt had one time caught them kissing in the kitchen. Apparently it was bad for the family image as they were quite well off so they chose to ignore it and a few other occurrences and believed what was comfortable for them and the family. The only reason she'd agreed to go to the party was she felt bad about having avoided them so much lately. they were after all the closest thing she had to parents since hers had disowned her when they realized her preference for women this was also something her Aunt and Uncle chose to ignore and made for some painful discussions when they'd ask about them. She listened as her Aunt went on and on about how she needed to learn to appreciate family and spend more time with them, and smirked as a thought came to mind of a sure fire way to end the conversation. It had always worked before and she was certain it would now. She waited for her Aunt to pause and suppressing a chuckle said, "So Aunt are you going to have any scantily clad women serving the dessert you know how I love it when you do."

She had to choke back a laugh when she heard her Aunt gasp, "Why Tanner Shay McKenzie sometimes I wonder what goes through that mind of yours scantily clad women! I mean really what on earth would make you say such a ludicrous thing. you know I'd never allow such a thing at one of my parties. Just be there at 8 PM sharp is that too much to ask?"

"No Aunt. Don't worry I'll be there, goodbye"

"Well allright then, goodbye Tanner, my word." Tanner ended the call and doubled over laughing, "Oh I love doing that I know I shouldn't but it's just too much fun and she really was asking for it." Regaining some of her composure she glanced at her watch and realized she had less than two hours to get ready and head over to her aunt and Uncles' and she still had to feed and take Riley out for a walk "Shit!" she said as she rubbed her temples and bent down to pick up her case. Her long legs carried her toward her red Sebring and jumping in quickly she threw her briefcase in the passenger seat and pulling out of her spot headed home.

After hanging up from talking with Shelly Meg thought back to her conversation with Anne Chandler recalling how she'd mentioned that a handsome, up and coming doctor would be there. She went on to say she believed he'd be a great catch for her and that when she saw his 5foot 9-inch frame, light brown hair and deep brown eyes she'd be a goner. Meg had just shaken her head and rolled her eyes as she couldn't believe what she was hearing. She'd told John and Anne long ago that she had no interest in men in a romantic sense, which is why she'd chosen insemination when she'd decided that she wanted a baby. Therefore, she couldn't understand why they were bothering and wished they'd get a clue and leave it and her alone. The man could be 6 feet tall with dark hair and the most amazing blue eyes and it still wouldn't matter. Now make them a woman and Whoa Mama she thought as images of her tormented yet devastatingly gorgeous boss came to mind causing her to sigh dreamily.

After a few minutes she reluctantly pulled herself away from thoughts of Tanner and looked at her watch. Noticing that she had less than 2 hours to get herself together she made herself a quick bite to eat and headed for the bedroom. On her way she stopped to knock on Ben's door. "Ben, you in there I need to talk to you for a minute." The pause in his response reminded her of their earlier conversation which would have to wait again. Letting out a frustrated sigh she looked up as the door opened. Nervously, he raised green eyes to meet his mothers' own. "Hey mom what's up?" he said with a shaky smile. "Hey relax I'm not her to continue our discussion but we really do need to talk,' she said hoping to put him at ease 'I just wanted to let you know that I need to go out tonight to the Chandlers' so Shelley is going to be coming over soon."

"Aww! mom do I have to have a babysitter."

"Honey, I know you're very responsible for your age, but it will make me feel better so yes." He let out a sigh "Oh alright if it makes you feel better I guess I can deal with it" he said. "Thanks Ben it does. I appreciate you humoring me," she said and ruffled his short brown hair affectionately. "I should be back around 11 if not earlier. Shelley will make you some dinner, okay?"

"Okay mom have fun." Meg giggled "A night at the Chandlers' is hardly what I'd call fun, but if I don't go I'll never hear the end of it from Anne. Believe me I'd much rather spend the evening here with you, but when you grow up you'll find out you sometimes have to do things whether you'd like to or not."

"Ewww! Then I'm never growing up," he said with a shudder. Meg just laughed harder thinking that was one smart kid she had as she made her way to the bedroom. After showering, dressing and letting Shelley in she kissed Ben goodnight and with a mental groan stepped out into the night wishing she too could be a kid again.

Tanner took the steps up to her condo two at a time cursing the whole way that of all the nights for the elevator to not be working this would be the one. She continued her blue streak with each floor she went up. What on earth possessed me to get a place on the tenth floor anyway she thought."Oh yeah the view that's it," she snorted though it really was a beautiful view looking out onto the East River and part of the Jersey shore. Still on nights like this she wondered if it was worth it. "All I know is right now I don't give a good goddamn about the blasted view," she growled.

Finally, she made it to her apartment and opening the door found herself on her back covered by 15 lbs. of a very happy husky who covered her face with his own brand of doggie kisses. For the first time all day a real smile adorned her face as she hugged her beloved friend and sighed, "Thanks buddy I needed that. What a shity day I've had you've no idea," she said as she sat up and pushed the door closed. She groaned when she thought of having to go up and down the stairs again for Rileys' walk. "How about I get us both something to eat so I can catch my breath then I'll take you out, but it's got to be a short one tonight my friend as I have to go to Auntie's," she said rolling her eyes as she got up to make herself dinner and put out his food. Her thoughts drifted for a moment to Megs' smile and she sighed causing Riley to give her a curious look. "Oh Ri if only things were different,' she whispered in frustration 'she's so warm, and gentle not to mention completely adorable but I can't go through that hurt again not after Kate and Sean. She even has a son who has his moms' beautiful eyes. He seems like a great kid, but I just can't it hurt too much and I won't let myself give into this no matter how much I'd like to take her in my arms and kiss those sweet pink lips," she finished as she licked her own. "NO, NO,NO! I can't go there and I won't" she said shaking herself from the vision of that beautiful face. She sank heavily into a chair and put her face in her hands.

Riley whimpered sensing his friends' pain and moving toward her licked her hand. Tanner raised her head and blew out a breath, "It's okay Ri I'll be alright. thank you though my friend," she said softly placing a kiss on his head as she rose to get his leash. Well at least I won't have to worry about seeing her till Monday she thought with relief as she pushed down the part of her that was disappointed "Come on buddy let's go for a walk," she said as she walked to the door and closed it behind them.

To be continued

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