~ Business Trip ~
by Lady J

Disclaimer: Nothing much to say on this note. No violence or sex, yet anyway. Copyright 2004.

You can feed the bard at kaysladyj@hotmail.com

Part 2

So it began.

Those first few weeks were a blur of activity. I had a miracle to perform and it had been years since I had walked on water. In other words I was out of practice.

I was capable. I was focused. I was driven. I was in so far over my head that I needed a periscope just to see the pavement.

Patty was pushing me to this meeting and pulling me to that meeting so much so that I had to unscrew myself out of my pantyhose every night when I got home. I attended meetings upon meetings upon meetings to the point I didn't know if I was coming or going.

There were meetings to address procurement issues. Other meetings were held to deal with design and R&D impossibilities. I swear there was a meeting to discuss the difference between Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, but I can't be sure of that one.

Then there was Russ and the Dragon Lady to contend with.

Much to my chagrin Russell Davis was present at each and every meeting that was held. I had prayed that he would just let me be, but that was not likely to happen. He had a score to settle and I knew it. Besides, I had never been that lucky.

He was waiting. He was waiting with his dark shifty eyes alert for any signs of weakness. He was a hungry lion who waited in the shadows for the right time to pounce on his prey. Unfortunately that prey was me. I felt like a sickly antelope standing alone in the middle of the Kalahari with a big sign hanging around my neck saying 'Eat Me'.

His prowling attitude- not to mention his snaky demeanor- was the one thing that cemented my resolve. I would make this work. The Jamestown Project was going to be a huge success if it killed me in the process.

And this may just kill me, I thought to myself on more than one occasion.

Now the other side of the coin was Jacqueline Drakkon. But instead of being the fire breathing dragon that would leave me an ash of my former self, she became my knight in shining armor-my brave Saint George. Of course instead of riding to my rescue on a spirited white charger, she drove up in a sleek shiny black limo, but for me the effect was not diminished in the least. Maybe that is why I eventually became infatuated with her, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Actually, now that I look back on it, everything about Ms. Jacqueline Drakkon was completely unexpected.

You see in my experience the higher up you are on the food chain the less the chance you have of knowing how to tie your own shoes much less anything else. And what I had heard about Ms Drakkon had not changed that perception one bit. Yet the vision of Lady Drakkula sucking the life from me was totally dispelled when she rolled up her sleeves and actually pitched in.

Ms. Drakkon was a help rather then a hindrance and this completely shocked me. Finally, after working with her for some weeks, I had to admit to myself that I had judged her without a shred of proof that she would be the rule rather than the exception. With her help the Jamestown project was moving much more smoothly than I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.

I found that she and Jason shared the same philosophy of corporate management. They both figured if you were hired to do a job, obviously you were capable of doing it with a minimal amount of interference.

We worked together long distance and for this I was genuinely thankful. The miles between Ms. Drakkon and myself comforted me-at first anyway. Make no mistake, I found our exchanges not only to be very professional but actually quite pleasant. But it still took me a long time to shake the fear that I would be the prime candidate for the next weenie roast. I mean she could as easily fire me over the phone as she could in person, right?

Yet for all my fretting and worrying there was never any bloodletting or barbequing. Not even a hint of brimstone. After awhile the fact that I wasn't going to be fired finally sunk into my thick skull.

On a personal level I found Ms. Drakkon to be a very pleasant, charismatic woman who to my surprise had a quick wit and many times a mischievous sense of humor.

I found both of these things out during our very first phone conversation.

"Kara, you do good work and I have no doubt you will be able to handle Jamestown," came the disembodied voice through the earpiece of the phone.

"Th-TH-THHank you," I stammered. I couldn't help it. It was the first time that I had ever spoken to the VP of Operations.

I could hear a small snicker from the other end of the receiver before Ms. Drakkon continued, "Kara, I know my reputation, but don't believe everything you hear. I mean breathing fire and toasting that poor intern was purely a mistake I assure you."

I couldn't hold back my laughter. With those few words I felt all my fears and insecurities begin to slip away.

"Now see, that's much better. Kara, this is your baby. I'm merely here to support you and your team."

My smile was wide as I commented, "Thank you, Ms. Drakkon. I would appreciate all the help I can get for this one." No stuttering this time.

"No problem. So where do we start?"


So that was the beginning of our professional relationship. The more I talked to her the more I liked her and soon a personal relationship began to blossom. Maybe more than just a friendship was developing, though at the time I was far too busy or to dense to see it.

An easy banter between us was set right from the start. She had me so comfortable so quickly that I would just forget that she was the Vice President of Operations and treated her like anyone else. That frightened me when I had the chance to think about it. Was I being too friendly? Was I not giving her the respect that she was due?

I didn't know the answers to these questions, but what I did know was that the sound of her laughter from the other end of the phone sent a warmth through me that I had never encountered before. To be perfectly honest if I hadn't heard from her in a few hours I would look for some reason-any reason-to call her. Pathetic I know, but the sound of that smooth voice would energize me-comfort me. Granted this confused me all the more, but like I said, I was just too busy at the time to analyze my feelings for the powerful woman.

"So do you think the loose ends will be tied up in time for the video conference on Thursday?" she asked.

Readjusting my reading glasses so I could read the reports I had scattered in front of me, I answered cautiously, "Yeah, I think so."

"You don't sound too confident," she said, but I could hear the smile on her face.

"I'm not, but it's as good as it gets."

"You'll do just fine. By the way, can you just call me Jac? Ms. Drakkon sounds so formal not to mention stuffy."

I snickered slightly while removing my reading glasses. "I have trouble enough calling Mr. Kimbrough Jason. Now you want me to call you Jac? Not sure I can do that."

"Oh, I'm sure you can. It's easy. J- A- C… Jac."

Sigh. "Jac."

"I think she's got it," she said in a mock Henry Wiggins accent. We both chuckled into the phone before returning to the job at hand.

Not long after this exchange I found that our correspondence was subtly changing. Changing how you might ask? Well, as I said before I felt comfortable enough to begin an easy banter with her, but somewhere along the line that banter turned flirtatious.

I know what you're thinking, so just STOP. I was not lining myself up for another promotion, I already told you I don't work that way. Besides it wasn't just me doing it. So HA! HA! HA!

Now where was I? Oh yeah. I felt a different sort of connection beginning to develop. A strange new set of emotions were stirring in my heart. I was fantasizing about the woman. What was even more shocking was I was fantasizing about a woman I had never even met face to face. I was falling in love with a voice on the other end of the line. Now how pathetic was that? Then again I always did tend toward being pathetic.

But let's face it, after years of doing without she was touching something deep within me I thought long dead. But it wasn't just my lack of sexual contact that fed these feelings, though I tried to convince myself that was all it was. There was a fire building down below and for all my efforts to douse the flames it refused to die.

Now this flame burst into an inferno the first time I set eyes on Jac. You may wonder how I handled what would be one of the most private and potentially devastating emotional cascades of my life. Why, in public of course! Yes, I got the chance to share all these wonderfully terrifying feels with not just one, but two conference rooms full of people. And in case you were wondering… I thoroughly embarrassed myself. Well, isn't that my SOP (standard operating procedure for those of you who are wondering) after all?

In my mind's eye, of course, I had an idea of what Ms. Drakkon could look like- ok, what I wanted her to look like- but I was not prepared for the reality of her true physical form. She was not merely nice looking, she was absolutely STUNNING. Her dark hair, blue eyes, chiseled features literally threw me completely off balance.

That fateful day I had just entered the conference room and was setting up my presentation relieved that the camera for our conference room was out of order. I know I would have been really self conscious if Jac could see me, but I got a reprieve and was looking on the broken camera as a good omen.

I felt confident, I knew the material and the job was well ahead of schedule so this should have been an "Atta Girl" meeting. NOT!! Fate, being the twisted bitch she is, had something else in store for me.

Tranquilly I gave one more quick look at my laptop connections when the large TV at the head of the conference table came to life. I looked up to see a number of men in dark suits getting settled into their places at the conference table in the remote location. After giving my cordless mouse one more tweak I looked up again to see the most beautiful, elegant woman I had ever seen in my life saunter into the other conference room and gracefully take her place.

Once she had greeted the dark clad man to her right and then the man to her left she looked directly into the camera. My heart literally skipped a beat. My chest hurt as all the air escaped my lungs. I was sure I had breathed my last as those amazing blue eyes bore a hole directly through my soul. I could feel my face pale, my skin became clammy. I was absolutely mesmerized by her. Maybe captivated would be a more exact term, either way I felt my heart stop as my world and head spun out of control.

I sensed Patty next me. I could feel her body heat before I saw her with my peripheral vision as she leaned over to whisper something to me, but I could not hear her. I could not break the spell cast upon me by those azure orbs.

When she spoke with her smooth alto tones warmth caressed my spirit. I was slain, shattered, changed forever. I could feel the warmth of a traitorous blush reach my cheeks. Somewhere in this haze I felt angered that my face was revealing my inner turmoil for anyone to read. I felt like I was trying to claw my way out of a black pit, struggling to bring myself back to consciousness. Actually I was surprised I was still holding my water.

What were only fractions of seconds felt like centuries in the nebula that I was currently swimming through. Finally I felt a sharp pain to my side. The pain was Darren poking me trying not so subtly to wake me from my suspended animation. Before I was even quite sure of what Ms. Drakkon had asked my lips stuttered out an answer to her query. Silently I prayed that what I had said would answer the question that I never really heard in the first place. With the exception of a slight knitting of dark brows she nodded and then continued on with the subject at hand.

By the end of the meeting that slight blush on my cheeks had turned to a bright crimson being fueled by the humiliation I felt at my bungling of a perfectly simple conference. Like a first grader who had just finished her second lesson in 'Hooked on Phonics' I stammered and stuttered through all my reports. I never looked at Russ, but I could feel his cold beady eyes on me the whole time. I imagined that self satisfied smirk on his face as he watched me crash and burn.

When the meeting was over I gathered all my folders and papers and left the room before anyone else had the chance to stand. I felt unshed tears begin to sting my eyes as I dashed for the sanctuary of my office, but before I could hide I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Out of reflex more than thought I put the earpiece in my ear and answered.

I felt my knees get weak when I heard the concerned alto voice coming from the phone. "Kara, are you alright?"

I whisked past Patty's empty desk and slammed my door. Throwing the contents of my arms half on the desk while the other half fluttered to the floor, I unceremoniously flopped into my chair before answering her.

"Yes….uhhhh no… well depends on how you look at it. If you're talking about my performance as court jester in that meeting then I guess I was fine." Much to my chagrin a tear got through the barrier of my lashes and slid down my face.

Jac was quiet for a moment. "What happened in there? I know you could've done that meeting in your sleep. You know how to do a presentation. You've done it before. Honey, tell me what's wrong?"

What's wrong? Now that was the question for the hour. What was wrong? What was I going to say?

All coherent thoughts had fled my mind at the sight of this striking woman. It felt like I had been hit by lightning and all my circuits had been fried. I could smell the smoke as my being continued to smolder. I was burning but not by a fire breathed upon me by the Drakkon Lady, no, I was being incinerated by such intense flames of passion that I was certain I would not survive.

What was I going to say? That I think I have fallen totally in love with you? That I want to know you in the biblical sense?

Did she just call me honey?

With great effort I pulled my self together- well at least parts of me seemed to be falling back into place. The woman was waiting for an answer. I closed my eyes again and allowed that soft voice to envelope me like a warm embrace. This silent act of submission strengthened me. "Sorry, Jac, I guess I was nervous and blew it. I'm sorry."

"No harm, no foul," soft tones enunciated, "but you've done conference calls ad nauseam and never had a problem. Come on, babe, tell me what is going on."

I closed my eyes even harder trying to stop the tears that were now running down my face. I had so many conflicting feelings that I couldn't begin to sort them out. What was I supposed to say?

Jac, you are so hot and I want you? Yeah, that would end my career in a hurry. Did she just call me babe?

I shook my head trying vainly to shake the cobwebs from my mind. "Really, Jac, I guess it was just seeing everyone stare at me. I don't know. I just freaked I guess." Actually that was the closest thing to the truth I had said so far. "It was a severe case of stage fright." I shrugged even though I knew she couldn't see me.

"I can understand that, but you had nothing to be nervous about."

"Do I have anything to be nervous about now?"

"No," Jac replied emphatically.

"Thanks, Jac."

"No problem. Why don't you head home and get some rest? You've been under a lot stress for the last month. You need to decompress before you get the bends."

"Thanks, Jac, I think I'll do that. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Would you mind…" she hesitated for a moment, "if I gave you a call later tonight? Uh… just to see how you're doing?"

My mouth was reciting my home phone number before my brain even had a chance to process the question. I was on autopilot and for right now that worked for me.


Later that evening the phone rang. I felt a rush of giddiness mixed with apprehension flow through me.

Jac and I had become close friends. There was a strong connection binding us that seemed to become stronger as time wore on. We laughed, joked, even flirted on more than one occasion. We had even shared some personal info now and again, but because of Big Brother we hadn't really been able to go into the truly intimate details of our lives.

That was about to change.

We talked and talked that night like we had known each other for years instead of just weeks. We talked about everything and I was surprised at her candor. Hell, I was surprised by my own openness. Being a very private person it was against my nature to just spill my guts to just anyone. But maybe she wasn't just anyone.

As I said before I had been on my own for over five years. I had dated now and again, but nothing ever came of it. She was divorced with an adult daughter and a grandson living in her home. I had two sons and a daughter much younger than hers so I was surprised to find that we were the same age. I began kidding her about being a child bride.

I finally asked how long she had been single.

"20 years," was the quiet answer.

"Twenty years!! Why??" I was stunned. This woman was gorgeous. How could she still be up for grabs?

"Well the first four years were up again down again. My ex would come into my life, stir things up and then 'poof' be gone again. Actually I can't put all the blame on him, I left the door open and he walked in and out as he pleased."

I was stunned by this confession. "Why would you let that happen?"

"I don't know. I was a lot more idealistic then. I was in denial, hoping that this would have the fairy tale ending. Well it did- a Grimm fairy tale ending." She chuckled bitterly. "So many promises were made and even more broken. I finally couldn't take it anymore. I told him to get out of our lives. When it finally got through his thick skull that I was not going to take him back anymore he was gone." Another cold chuckle came through the phone. "Guess he finally found someone else."

I hesitated unsure if I should ask any more questions, but before my mind could catch up with my lips I uttered, "I just can't believe that you haven't had another relationship in almost 20 years? You're so attractive…" I let my words trail off not wanting to get myself in any deeper and realizing I may have exposed a lot more than I had intended. Open mouth insert foot-to the hip.

"Why thank you," she purred into the phone.

OUCH. That voice was my undoing again and again. With each and every syllable that dropped from her sensual lips my entire body would go on point. A sheer bolt of sexual arousal shot down my spine, through my limbs, finally hitting my groin with a bolt of need and desire that was immeasurable. I was relieved when she continued the conversation since my lips, not to mention my mind, were not in working order.

"Make no mistake," she continued, "I did date, but I had my little girl and a career to think about. After Duane I just couldn't see myself being that vulnerable with anyone ever again. So, when I felt the relationships were getting too serious I would back away. I would just back away. I suppose relationships scare me."

For a change I didn't let my lips do the 'talking'. I considered what she had to say before I replied. A rare occurrence I know.

"I know what you mean," I began being sure to tread softly. "I felt the same way after Tim's death. I guess to some extent I still do."


"How did he die?" Jackie's soft dulcet tones soothed the dull ache in my heart.

"Car accident. Drunk driver hit him head on."

"Was the other driver prosecuted?"

I realized that Jac was being very careful not to let her outrage color the soft tones of her voice.

"No. For a change the drunk driver didn't just walk away. Not this time."


"I'm sorry."

"It's ok. I've learned to live with it."

"So what about you?" Jac began obviously trying to change subject.

"What about me?" I asked derailed by the sudden topic change.

She chuckled. "Yes. You. Why are you still single?"

"OH." I chuckled. "Well, having three children deters a lot of would be suitors, I guess. When I would have a date pick me up at the house my boys would go into "Spanish Inquisition" mode. You should've seen them, they acted more like my big brothers than my sons."

I then began to regale her with the antics of my boys and how they proceeded to run off every guy that came within fifty feet of me. I was in the middle of the story of the time Jarred had instructed little Ashley to pluck the toupee off Roger's, my latest suitor's head, when a laughing voice stopped me.

"Stop," Jac pleaded. More laughter. "You need to stop before I pee my pants."

Remembering the incident as well as hearing the peels of laughter coming from the other end of the phone sent me into hysterics as well. It took some minutes before our laughter had subsided enough for us to breathe again.

"Oh come on," she said, "Precocious children can't be the only reason that you're still single. So spill."

"Well, not being attractive may have something to do with it?" I quipped.

"Right." Came the skeptical answer.

"No really. I have never been very attractive."

"I guess I am going to have to judge that for myself," she said with a touch of flirtation coloring her tone.

"And how do you intend to do that?" I chided.

"You are going to send me a picture of yourself," she informed me matter of factly.

"Oh I am am I?" I flirted.

"Yes you are. Consider it an order."

"No fair pulling rank."

"Rank does have its privileges."

"You are kidding me right?" I asked as the realization of what she had just said bounced into my carelessly held mitt.

"Nope." Came the single syllable answer.

"I don't have a picture of myself." It was a feeble attempt to get out of this.

"Everyone has a picture of themselves somewhere."

"Ok, if I did have one I wouldn't know how to get it to you other than snail mail. By that time you would be here anyway for the kick off. You can see me then."

Ten days… That would be enough time to get a full make over and maybe even some plastic surgery.

"Have Patty do it for you."

Drats, foiled again.

"I don't appear on film," I quipped trying to kid my way out of this situation.

"Uh huh." The next voice I heard was not the voice of my friend but that of Ms. Jacqueline Drakkon VP. "This is a direct order, I expect that picture of you emailed to me by C-O-B tomorrow."

"Yes, Ma'am," I answered. I knew when I was beat.

"Oh, don't sound like this is a death sentence." She chuckled. "I promise this won't be all that painful."

"That's what you think," I grumbled under my breath.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Oh nothing," I answered.

"Damn, will you look at the time? I better let you get some sleep."

I looked at the clock and was surprised to see it was already one ten AM. "Wow, it is late. I've been having so much fun that I had no idea we have been talking this long."

"Me either. Do you feel better now?"

"Yeah muchly. So I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Yes you certainly will. And don't forget the picture."

"I won't," I grumbled.

She chuckled, I assumed at my growling. "Ok, so till tomorrow."

"Yep. Good night."

"Good night."


"She wants you to do what?" Patty asked.

I sighed. "She wants me to send her my picture."

"Why?" Patty replied her light eyebrows knitting in confusion.

"Pat, just show me how to do it, ok?" I whined not wanting to answer that question.

Actually I didn't want to send the picture at all, but what choice did I have? On top of that I'm a techno peasant who had to rely on the kindess of strangers to help me when it came to stuff like scanning and attachments for emails. To be honest if it hadn't been for Patty I wouldn't even know how to work the speaker phone in my office.

I straightened from the crouched position I was in next to her desk and pouted.

Patty rolled her eyes. "Oh for heavens sake, why don't you give me the picture I'll send it for you? You are sooooo helpless," Patty said in an exasperated tone. "Ok," she said extending her hand to me, "where's the picture?"

I felt a slight flush reach my cheeks. You see I am always the one behind the camera. I know I'm not very photogenic so it was very rare when I was caught on film, kinda like big foot. After I got off the phone with Jac I searched my home from top to bottom for hours until I finally came up with what I thought was an ok picture of myself.

Patty took the picture from my hand. She looked at the picture for a long time. Then she looked at me. Looked at the picture again and then at me again.

Slowly she started to snicker. The snicker built into a laugh, and from a laugh it skidded into a guffaw.

"What??" I said in an exasperated tone while affixing my clenched fists to my hips. "It's not that bad."

Choking back her laughter she said, "Oh yes, it is."

"NO, it's not," I whined feeling the blush on my cheeks deepen.

"Kara, for Christ's sake, why don't you just send her your driver's license picture?"

I stood there blushing and pouting unable to come up with any kind of retort. The only thing left to do was exit stage left.

"Hey, come on." She grabbed my arm to stall my retreat. Composing herself she finally said, "I'm sorry, Kara, wait… I think I have a solution."

"My driver's license is in my office you want me to get it?" I replied snidely.

"Nope." She got up and went to the book case to the right of her desk. There she sorted through several small leather bound volumes. Finding the book she was looking for, she began flipping through the pages until she reached the page she had been searching for.

She turned to me showing me the picture. "This is the one I'm sending her."

I looked mutely at the picture. I had forgotten all about it.

'Pretty' was never a word I had ever really associated with myself, but that night it was exactly how I felt. I had felt pretty, and here before my eyes was the proof that I was right.

Slowly I ran my finger down the side of the glossy page. It was a good picture I had to admit. I looked hot in that backless black sheath. The gown was slit up the side from floor to upper thigh.

"Damn, I didn't know I was showing that much leg," I remarked.

"I didn't hear anyone complain. You looked great that night."

"So, this is the one you're sending?"

"Yep," she said obviously proud of her find.

"Ok," I replied before going back to my office.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, guess we'll see how many words Jac could come up with once she saw my picture.

Well the first word was beautiful. I couldn't believe my ears when she said I was beautiful. Surely she had the wrong person.

"Backless black gown slit all the way up showing off your great legs."

Great legs, did she just say I had great legs? She thinks I'm beautiful- how cool is that?

From that point more and more phone conversations began with 'Beautiful', 'Darling' or 'Love'. We had definitely gone to the next level. Or had we?

On one hand I thought Jac felt the same way about me as I did about her. Every time my mind would even touch on that thought my heart would leap with happiness.

But then my more logical, practical side would take over and would put a new spin on all the events wrapped neatly in the panoramic colors of my insecurities and shortcomings. With my thought process changing I would think stuff like everything she did was just good-natured fun. I mean many women are very affectionate and vivacious with their own sex right? And Jac was that type of warm fun-loving woman. Ok, warm fun-loving Dragon Lady might be a contradictions in terms, but she was all those things and more.

Ok, I know some of you are ready to just shout, "How stupid can you be? Do you need a baseball bat to hit you?" Well you will be glad to know a baseball bat does eventually hit me, but that is later in the story.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, the battle of the wills and for me it was a battle. My insides were in turmoil.

She was on my mind all the time. The more I saw myself making excuses to call her, the more I fantasized, the more concerned I became about what I was doing. She was a 'suit'. What ego trip was I on to think that a thought of me would cross her mind once this project was completed? I would give my head a shake and promise myself to curtail the phone calls from work and home.

But that resolve would never last long. No matter how hard I would try to shake these dangerous notions from my head, the phone would ring again and the siren's call would put me under its spell, and the ship of my life would crash against the rocks again. She would leave me breathless, powerless with any simple endearment. She had infected my soul. I was fevered, delirious, and hopelessly in love. Hopeless being the operative word.

Another word to describe me at this time was distracted.

Patty noticed the change in me almost immediately. On more than one occasion she asked me what was wrong. Of course I would put her off with some lame excuse like I was tired or that I was just busy. I suppose I knew in the back of my mind that Patty wouldn't be put off forever. She was way too smart for that, but I really didn't want to discuss what I was feeling with anyone- not even my close friends. But her talking to me was inevitable. It was not a matter of if, just when, and I hoped that I would have some answers for her when the time came.


One day Patty walked into the office and closed the door behind her. I glanced at my assistant from over the top of my reading glasses with a questioning look on my face. The attractive blonde took a seat in one of the large wing backed chairs that were positioned in front of my large oak desk.

"Kar, are you ok?"

Puzzled I answered, "Yeah. Why??" I purposefully dragged out the enunciation of why.

"You just seem so distracted lately."

I can't have this conversation now. Things are chaotic and we only have four days left before the kick off meeting, I thought. "Well, it may have something to do with this project and that we only have a four days to complete it," I commented going back to reading the report I was looking at before she came in the door.

Patty's gaze pinned me, I could feel it. I knew she was not going to let this go. "Nope. That's not it or that you are tired or that the engineers blew up that test station in the lab the other day. So spill. I've known you too long to believe any of the guff you have been trying to hand me."

I looked up and had opened my mouth to try some witty repartee to derail my pitbull of an assistant when the phone rang. I hit the speaker phone button. I felt an unbidden smile spread across my face at the sound of Jac's voice. We talked for just a couple a moments about schedules, and the minor explosion in the tech lab. Finally she asked for some figures that I should have had emailed to her hours ago.

I put the speaker phone on hold and began rummaging on my desk for those elusive figures. Forgetting that Patty was in the room, I allowed that goofy smile to remain on my face.

I looked over at Patty who had the most obnoxious Cheshire cat grin on her face. The smile that lit my face disappeared immediately.

Trying to get some composure back, I asked, "Whaaa?"

"That's Ms. Drakkon isn't it?" That infuriating smirk still lighting her pale features.

"Yes." Again I drew out the single syllable word without looking up. I was afraid that Patty would be able to read my eyes.

"So that's what has you so distracted," Patty said smugly.

I was busily searching for the elusive paper while trying to make Patty disappear with every fiber of my being.

"Why would you say that?" I finally acknowledged her question still not looking up from my desk.

"You like her." She sing songed the words at me while wiggling her pale eyebrows up and down.

I looked up, my dark eyes narrowing.

"I like WHO?" I growled deep in my throat, temporarily abandoning my search by slapping the folders that were in my hands down on the desk.

"Ms. Drakkon. You like her, don't you?"

I so didn't want to have this conversation. Yes, I liked the woman. Yes, I was in love with her, but I had no time for these emotions right now. I had a job to do, and not a lot of time left to accomplish it. My own confusion began to ignite my anger. Patty's smug behavior was fueling that wrath.

I took a deep breath to quell my rising frustration at not only Patty's irritating attitude but my inability to find that stupid paper. I tried to be nonchalant when I finally answered, "Sure. She's ok. She has really been a big help. Also she hasn't canned my ass-I consider that a plus."

The knowing smirk never left Patty's lips. "You don't just like her… you LIKE her."

Snagged. I would have tried to wriggle out of the situation by saying something clever, but I have never been that quick on the uptake. I was sure that in a day or two I could've had the perfect come back, but that wasn't gonna help me right now.

Taking off my reading glasses, I tried to stall for time. I affixed my dark eyes to Patty's pale eyes. "Why would you say it that way?"

"Say what?" Patty asked, feigning innocence.

"Say that I "LIKE" Ms. Drakkon?" I said mimicking the inflection Patty put on the word.

Patty leaned forward, that irritating smile never leaving her lips. "For one thing I have heard you call her Jac or Jackie. I've seen people fired for less. According to Brigitte, nobody, I mean nobody, calls her anything but Ms. Drakkon."

Brigitte, you have a big mouth.

I leaned back in my large leather chair, a nonplussed look plastered on my tan features. "So, I call her Jac. For your information she asked me to call her Jac."

"Oh, I'm sure she did."

I decided to let that comment slip by. "So what other evidence do you have, Sherlock?"

"Well, my dear Watson, whenever I've heard you speak with her your voice changes."

"My voice changes?"


I stared at her waiting for her to continue.

She shrugged. "When you're talking to me, your kids, or the other people we work with there is a…" she took a moment to find the right words I assumed, "certain tonality in your voice. But when you talk to Ms. Drakkon your voice is softer, sensual, and deepens at least an octave."

I sat quietly knowing full well that Patty was right. I did care for Jac. I cared for her much more deeply than I even wanted to admit to myself.

I didn't know what to say to my friend. I couldn't run out of the office, so I did the next best thing. I turned the large chair and stared out the window. I watched the trees gently sway in the afternoon breeze trying to put my fractured thoughts into some kind of order. Sanity would have been nice, but that was too much to hope for at this moment.

I heard the chair Patty was sitting in squeak. She was fidgeting. It was no wonder, the silence that hung between us was deafening.

I'm afraid I startled Patty when I suddenly broke the silence. I heard her squeak as I began to speak without moving either my chair or my eyes from the window. "You're right, Patty. I do like her. Maybe more than just like her. And yes, it has been quite the distraction." Looking over my shoulder at Patty I continued, "Guess it's time for the dream to be over and concentrate on the work at hand. Not like anything would ever come of it anyway." I looked away from my friend and again stared out the window. I just couldn't face her right now. I had just revealed something to Patty that I really hadn't even reconciled in my own mind. Well, I guess it was time to stop floating down the river of denial.

"I didn't know… I mean…" Patty stumbled over her words.

Here it comes, I thought. So turn you chair around and take it like a woman.

I turned my chair and squarely faced my friend. "You didn't know I was gay? Well, I'm not really sure I am. I have always been attracted to women, but never acted on it."

"Do you want to act on it now?" Patty gently asked. "With Jackie?"

I shrugged. "I'm not sure what I want right now, Pat. I just know I'm very confused," I confessed. "It's simply an adolescent crush. I'll live."

At that precise moment a loud sound rang through the quiet office. Patty and I both jumped. I was looking all over to find where that obnoxious sound was coming from. Then to my horror I realized the sound was emanating from the speaker phone that I had inadvertently buried under a pile of folders.

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" I cried as I moved the folders off the conference call speaker to stop the infernal noise. "Damn it, I forgot she was waiting. Damn it! Do you think she heard?" I asked, the panic rising in my voice.

Patty shook her head. "No, usually when the phone is hung up on the other end of the line the speaker phone will do that."

"Really?" I said hoping against hope that she was right.

"Really." She smiled. "Besides, would it be so bad if she had heard?"

"You're kidding, right?" I could feel my face pale at the mere thought.

"No. I mean would it really be so bad if she knew how you felt?" Patty replied a sympathetic look on her face.

"Well, if you don't consider losing my career to be a bad thing," I snipped back.

"Isn't that just a little dramatic even for you?"

I growled.

Patty continued, "You wouldn't lose your career."

"Isn't there something you need to do at YOUR desk?" I said through clenched teeth.

"Yes, there is something that needs to get done," she commented before rising from her seat and leaving my office.

I breathed a sigh of relief when she exited. This intense conversation with Patty had absolutely drained me. I was glad she had left me alone to brood in the privacy of my quiet office.

Well nothing lasts forever, including this brief interlude of peace. You see it wasn't long before the tenacious blonde returned purse slung over her shoulder.

I could see the blank look on my own face reflected in her pale eyes.

"OK, all done. I called your sitter to let her know you would be late. They'll order pizza for dinner. I canceled the rest of your meetings and told everyone else you had an emergency to attend to, so let's go," she said matter of factly.

I followed like a lost sheep.

The next thing I knew I was sitting at our favorite bar and grill with a double margarita in front of me. I was spilling my guts to my friend, hoping that she could help me make some sense of it all.

"Pat, she's a woman. Don't I want a husband, some kind and loving man to be a Dad to my children?" I asked, almost pleading with Patty to put me back on the straight and narrow.

Patty sat stirring her Margarita absently before answering. "Not necessarily."

I was shocked with her answer. I'm sure that shock reflected on my face and caused my friend to smirk.

"Look, I believe that love is blind. Now if love IS blind that means it doesn't see race, religion or gender. I don't believe that the"-she made quotation marks in the air with her slender fingers-"'traditional family' is necessarily the best or the only way to have a loving, stable home. Do ya understand what I'm saying?"

I nodded my head still unsure of myself.

Patty placed a gentle hand on mine and looked deeply into my eyes. "Kara, happiness…" She paused. "Love is hard to find. If you close your eyes and your heart to these possibilities it could pass you by." Leaning in and looking at me even more intently she said, "Kara, honey, don't close your eyes."

After that day I vented. I vented a lot. Patty listened. I found the more I talked the more it helped to guide me out of the miasma where I had been lost for so long.

Patty was a good friend through all my ups and downs. I had never trusted anyone with such intimate details of my life, but I felt I could trust Patty. She was the closest thing I ever had to a best friend. Yet being my newly found 'best friend' did not detour her naturally impish nature. In other words, she teased me without mercy only stopping when I turned the particular shade of pink she had been striving for.

There was so much fodder and so little time, but, trust me, Patty made the most of the chances she had in the most ingenious ways. One day I was greeted by a Playboy that rested in the seat of my chair. Another time I turned on the office VCR expecting to examine the workings of the latest ejector, only to find an episode of Xena queued at a particularly subtext filled scene. Then there was the time I turned on my computer and was startled by a picture of Jac appearing on my screen. It remained as wallpaper. That I kept.

Patty was exasperating me with her endless pranks, and though it was extremely humiliating for me at times, it was also a small price to pay for Patty's entertainment.

You see her teasing aided me in my search for myself. Between the teasing and the talking, I was able to finally pull back enough to put my crush into proper perspective. I was able to finally admit to myself that I was in love with Ms. Drakkon and that it was ok.

With that realization I was able to pull reality out of fantasy. Part of this reality was the realization that if Jac didn't share feelings for me it would be fine, and if she did share the same feelings for me that would be even better. Either of these scenarios was of little consequence. What was of consequence was the deep abiding friendship that we had forged. In the long run that's all that really mattered-our friendship.


"So do you have all the flight information?" Patty asked from my door way before leaving for the evening.

I padded all my pockets until I located the slip of paper I had written down all the information concerning Jac's flight. I pulled it out of my pocket and waved it in the air so Patty could see it.

"Good. See you tomorrow then, and good luck tonight."


Yes, that's right boys and girls, Jac would be arriving in just a few hours. Was I nervous about seeing her face to face? ABSOLUTELY. I knew me and the odds were against me meeting this magnificent woman without doing or saying something stupid. So I decided to bring a buffer with me, my kids. Afterall, they were the best part of me and in many ways more adult than I was.

I turned off my computer, checked my pocket again to be sure I hadn't lost that important piece of paper, took a deep breath, and then left the office to go pick up the kids.

Continued in part 3.

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