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 or at ladyjsalsbury@aol.com . You are also welcome to find me in my natural habitat at: TheRisingPhoenix-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

~ Business Trip ~
by Lady J

Part 3


Quietly I sat watching the children explore the inside of the luxurious limo. I smiled as Mark flipped different switches on and off to see what they would do. It didn't take him long to find the mini fridge. Opening it he gasped at the plethora of beverages stocked within the tiny space. With an excited look in his eyes he asked, "Mom can I have something to drink?"

"No. You had a soda at home. You know that's the limit till tomorrow," I answered my eager son.

"How about an orange juice then?" he asked. I knew all he wanted was to just get something out of the little mini fridge because it was something new. I almost acquiesced when I looked more closely at the little can he was holding up. "Son, that is not orange juice, so no."

"It is so orange juice," he countered by pointing at the orange on the label. What he didn't understand was that the screw driven through said orange indicated it was not just orange juice.

"Honey, its liquor with orange juice in it. So no you can't have it."

After I said it was booze he put it back in the fridge so fast you would have thought the boy had been scalded. "UCK! Why would anyone do that to orange juice?" he groused.

I simply shrugged happy that he had left the fridge and was on to find more new and wonderful gadgets to play with.

Ashley found the huge vehicle intimidating and climbed into my lap the moment I sat down. Jarrod was sprawled on the seat opposite us a scowl affixed to his features. He really had no desire to be here, his body language shouting this fact to me.

Apparently he was angry about coming to the airport with me instead of playing basketball with his friends. Jarrod played just about every evening and he was good at it. Well at least that was my opinion. I guess that wouldn't carry much weight with the NBA since I knew little or nothing about basketball and that I could be so easily impressed by anyone who had the ability to get that ball through the hoop while other big guys hopped around them like Mexican jumping beans on a hot plate.

But there was something special about tonight that of course I, as merely his mother, could not understand. I hated when he was disappointed, but being merely my son he could not understand just how I needed to have my family around me right now, so I figured that made us even.

I closed my eyes for a moment thinking that he could never understand the incredible amount of pressure I was under. The group of technicians and engineers I had sent to the site reported to me just about every hour. It was to the point now that my heart would skip a beat every time my cell phone chimed. Every single time I answered the call I expected to be told that something had blown up, caught fire, or was DOA. But, to my surprise and relief that call never came. We had two minor failures, but the rest of the ejectors had been installed and functioning properly. Seventy-three out of seventy-five was a testament to the excellence and dedication of my team and myself. I was proud of myself. I was proud of my team. The only shadow on my contentment was Russ.

Yes, my friends, the eminent and always repugnant Russ was still lurking looking for any chance to piss in my Cheerios. To be honest, most of the time I was way too busy to even think about him. I was so busy with the business at hand I would be lulled into a false sense of security, but then he would take a place at the table in a meeting and I would get that queasy uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know that feeling don't you? It's a grave feeling of impending doom. You can never really put your finger on why you shudder, but you just know that something is happening somewhere behind the scenes that could destroy you or at the very least totally humiliate you. That's the feeling I got every time I saw him.

Lately this feeling was exacerbated by his insidious smile. For some reason, unknown to anyone in my little circle, he was unusually happy. I hadn't seen that infuriating self satisfied smirk since we had that pesky software glitch when we first tested the ejectors. That greasy smug look had me so bunged up that I wanted to either crawl into a hole so I could disappear forever or go up to him and just slap his teeth right out of his mouth. I did neither deciding that honor was the better part of valor. I suffered in silence praying this feeling would just go away. Unfortunately, for me, it never did.

I know. I know I am just being paranoid. Well I am paranoid and more than that I am a big enough person to admit that, but that is only because everyone is out to get me. Well, no not really, but I knew that Russ was waiting for me to blow it. I had run a good race, now that the end was finally in sight I was waiting for him to stick out a foot to trip me before I crossed the finish line. The bottom line was that Russ was happy and this did not bode well for me.

Ashley, having quickly become bored with me, climbed onto her older bother's lap. Jarrod sat up straight, lifted little Ashley onto his lap, and then shifted her so that she could see better out the window.

Jarrod doted on his baby sister. I shuddered to think of what he would do when this pretty little girl started to date, especially remembering my own experiences with the always precocious and ever intimidating Jarrod Marlow.

I smirked as visions of big brother wearing grimy overalls would answer the door ladened with chainsaw in one hand and a machete in the other crossed my mind. I imagined friendly little talks between Jarrod and the boys that would come to court his little sister. I was sure they would start with something cordial like, 'Touch her and die.' then maybe escalate to something a little more hands on, like pinning the unsuspecting youth to the wall by his collar to punctuate the dialog while Mark stood nearby pealing a grape and telling the young man, 'You better listen to him, he's crazy.' I felt the smirk on my face broaden into a smile as I stared out at the flora and fauna that flew past the window as I continued to run these fantasies through my mind.

Suddenly a thought struck me. He's just like Patty.

Patty gotta love the woman. While I was busy working the project and wondering what Russ had up his sleeve, she was on a mission to find out everything she could about the mysterious Ms. Drakkon. The young blonde was in full James Bond mode. Bridgett was her beautiful double agent.

My reflections took me back to a time after the picture incident. I suppose that's when Patty decided that if I was going this gaga over someone I hadn't even met yet that she better have a closer look at this woman.

The lush limo interior faded slowly away as I was spirited back to my office. Patty strolled in just as I was shoving a piece of pizza into my mouth. We were working late that night to avoid having to come in over the weekend.

"Woo wan sompf?" I asked with my mouth full. Real attractive I know, but remember, I was raised by wolves.

Patty nodded and headed to the pizza box that was on the credenza behind my desk.

"Thanks, I was wondering if you were gonna share," the blonde teased as she placed a piece of pizza on a napkin, and then sat in one of the plush chairs in front of my desk.

"Da woo receif Jaa's ntineree?" I mumbled around the pizza in my mouth.

"Ummm. You wana say that again? I couldn't quite see the pepperoni at the back of your mouth," Patty said exasperation coloring her tone. No wonder, I had a piece of pizza in one hand as I searched for certain numbers hidden within the reports that were on top of my desk. Then I would gracefully transfer these figures onto my spreadsheet with one finger. I must have been quite the sight. "Kara, just put it all down. It'll wait the five minutes for you to eat, trust me."

She was right. I had to stop even if for just five minutes. But of course I couldn't let her know that she was right. I looked up plastering a wide eyed clueless look on my face before opening my mouth wide giving the unsuspecting blonde a good look at what was left in my mouth.

"Ugh!!" Patty cried as she turned her face from me. "You are such a pig!"

"And proud of it." I beamed.

"As for the itinerary, if that is what you were asking, then yes, I have it," Patty returned putting the pizza to her mouth.

"Okay," I said waiting.

Patty just sat contentedly chewing her pizza.

Finally realizing she was not going to get the itinerary I asked, "Can I see it?"

"See what?" she asked as she rounded my desk to grab another piece of pizza.

"The ITINERARY," I said stressing the 'I' word.

"You know this is really good. Where did you get it?" she asked as she returned to the seat she had just vacated.

"Pizza Hut?" I returned not understanding what was going on. "Patty?" I strung out her name making hand gestures to her desk.

Patty looked at me wide eyed like I was speaking to her in Latin and had grown another head.

I could feel my eyes narrowing, "You're stalling. Why?"

She shook her head now her mouth full of pizza so she could not verbally respond to me. I looked at her intently--actually I was looking at her eyes. To be honest, I was staring at her right eye. Patty was an artful dodger if you didn't know what do look for.

I waited and was rewarded for my patience. At the very edge of her right eye her pale lashes twitched.

"AH HA!" I exclaimed. "Spill, girlfriend, right now. What is going on? Why won't you bring me the itinerary?"

The jig was up and Patty knew it. She raised one slim finger, her mouth still being full of pizza, and went into the anti room. Once at her desk I watched her move three folders and grasp a piece of paper with her free hand.

Why the hell is she hiding it?

The blonde woman handed it to me like it was a felony conviction, then reclaimed her seat.

I started to look over the paper that Patty had just handed me when I noticed her fidgeting.

"Pat, why are you fidgeting?" I asked making sure my voice was soft.

She just shrugged and pointed at the paper in front of me.

I looked down first reading the flight information. That all seemed to be in order. Then I saw it. I grabbed my reading glasses to be sure what I was looking at. I looked back at the flight info, that all seemed to be in order. The hotel accommodations, on the other hand, were not for the Hilton Grand View but for the Grand Floridian at Disney. On top of that they were not for one suite but two.

I looked up at my assistant in full carp mode before re-reading the documents that were in my hands. Yes, there was no mistake. There it was in black and white, but I didn't understand what the heck was going on.

"Pat, why is she staying at the Grand Floridian instead of the Grand View and in not one but two suites? Does she have that much luggage?"

Patty sat still, quietly tugging on her blonde hair. There was something going on and the longer Patty stayed quiet the more uneasy I became.

"What is going on? Who is coming with Jac?"

"Her daughter and her grandson."

I could feel my eyes open wide with surprise. I guess this gave Patty leave to continue with her explanation.

"According to Bridgett they haven't been on a family vacation for years." Patty took another bite of pizza.

I waited with silent irritation. "Okay, Paul Harvey, so what is the rest of the story?"

She swallowed before continuing. "I think Bri put a bug in her ear that this would be the perfect time and place to do it, with Disney here and all. Ya know, kinda mixing business and pleasure. She's a workaholic like you, and after all this, we thought it would be a good idea for the both of you to take some time off."

"We? Who exactly are we?"

Patty paled slightly. "We as in me and Bridgett."

"Oh, really."

"Yeah." Patty was unconsciously letting her guard down. I could tell because her body language began to relax. She was expecting me to blow and when I didn't I knew she would start to just babble. It was a very carefully laid plan and it was working.

"I know how you feel about her." She shrugged. "I figured you have a family, she has a family, this would be a perfect time for everyone to meet. Especially considering all the crap she went through with her ex andů" she stopped suddenly placing her hand over her mouth.

I could feel my dark eyes narrowing before I asked, "What do you know?"

"I told you what I know," Patty answered. "They're coming here to see Disney."

I let my gaze press the blonde. I watched her try to blend into the upholstery of the large chair and I knew something was up.

"Spill," I ordered trying to be as menacing as possible.

Patty sighed as the color rushed to her cheeks. "Ok. OK. Just don't be mad."

"No promises," I growled.

She came around the desk and pushed me back into my chair, "Look you can bag that look, ok? You are about as intimidating as a Chihuahua with a head cold." She paused. She looked down at the carpeting before re-engaging my eyes. "Kara, I didn't do anything to embarrass you. Ms. Drakkon doesn't have any idea about how you feel about her. OK?"

"Ok."

"Look I care about you, you big goof. I just wanted to see who this woman is is all," she said. Patty had a heart as big as all outdoors, I knew she would never do anything to hurt me. I relaxed back into my chair to listen to what my friend had to say.

Patty sat on the edge of the desk and started her narrative. "Well, it seems that Ms. Drakkon has not always been the Dragon Lady we know today. Apparently she was married to a real loser."

"Yeah, she mentioned him once or twice," I replied.

"But did you know that he was abusive?"

"What?" I replied shocked by what I was hearing.

"Yes, it seems that they met at work and married shortly after. He was some high mucky muck with the company and she had just started some entry-level job when they got together. They worked in the same division as Bri and she saw it all. Apparently this guy was a real scumbag always tearing her down, humiliating her in front of everyone at work. Not to mention sleeping with every woman in the office, especially women she worked with. That's when Bridgett befriended her. I guess she was the only one that refused to sleep with him, which ended her up on his shit list also." She paused to take a breath. "Because he was pretty highly placed, both Bri and Ms Drakkon stayed grunts even though they both were educated and had the smarts to move up. Finally he really screwed up and got some popsy pregnant. The powers that be were so scared that she would sue for sexual harassment that they moved him to another division and eventually fired him. I guess that's when he left her."

I nodded. Patty continued. "So with him gone they both finally got the 'outstanding' reviews they both deserved instead of the 'needs improvement'. That's when she finally was able to move up and get the recognition she deserved."

"Is that when she became the Dragon Lady?"

"Yeah, at least that's what Bridgett said. She did what she had to in order to get ahead. She spent a lot of years being shit on by this company because of that asshole but I gotta hand it to her, she overcame and now is at the top of the heap. She got her Masters, raised her kid, and became a VP by shear force of will."

"Wow." I knew she was a tough cookie, but I had no idea what she went through. If I loved her before it was only a shadow of what I felt for her now. I admired her.

"Wow is right," Patty agreed. "She's quite a woman."

"Yes she is," I answered absently.

After a few minutes of mutual silence Patty finally asked, "What are you thinking?"

"That she's an amazing woman," I said not voicing the insecurities that I was feeling.

"Kara, don't go there," Patty said firmly.

I looked up to meet her eyes. I couldn't keep the smile from spreading across my face when I met her stern gaze. She knew me too well. She knew that in a moment of time I was second guessing everything I had thought about Jac; that I doubted myself with concern to her. Patty knew I was thinking that there was no way that she would be attracted to me. She knew I was backpedaling and she wasn't going to let me go there.

"Ok, I won't go there."

"Good." She smiled. "'Cause I'll tell you something, you are an amazing woman yourself and she would be damn lucky to have you."

I laughed. "Right," I dragged out the word, "anything you say."

I felt the smile leave my face as I channeled a shy high school girl.

"What?" Patty asked a confused look on her face.

"Did Bridgette ask anything about me?"

"No, not really. Bri and I have been friends for years so she knew a lot about you already."

"Do you know if Jac asked her anything? Ya know if she said anything about me?" I felt a blush warm my cheeks.

Patty gave me a compassionate look before leaning over to hug me. "Stop worrying, she's gonna love you."




Slowly I returned to the land of the living. I looked at my children letting a warm feeling of relief wash over me. Having them with me somehow grounded me and helped to keep my anxiety at a minimum.

When the control towers of the airport came into view, excitement mixed with fear assaulted my nervous system. My stomach was doing somersaults like Nadia Comaneche going for the gold.

All too quickly the limo slowed to a stop in front of a set of sliding glass doors leading to the vast airport concourse. I gathered the children and headed for the walkway where Jac and her family should appear within minutes.

"Mom, who are we waiting for?" Mark asked as we filed in behind some other friends and or family waiting for other passengers to disembark.

"We're waiting for my boss and her family to arrive."

"Is that why we rode in the limo?" Mark inquired.

"Yes."

"Why all the fuss for the old bag?" Jarrod groused as he lifted little Ashley up so she could ride on his back.

My head snapped up to look at my eldest. My hackles rose instantly, but I paused before snapping off his head and spitting down his neck. I had hoped by this time he would be over it, but obviously I was mistaken.

Now don't jump to conclusions. Jarrod is a good kid-scratch that-he is a great kid, but at sixteen, well I think you understand. He was not really a boy anymore, I realized that, but he was not quite a man yet either. Even though for well over five years he had been the man of the house. It had to be confusing for him and I was at a loss as to how to help him.

"Hey!" I said as I good-naturedly pushed him hoping to break the spell of mope that hung over him like a cloud. "I'll have you know she's my age."

"That old? Dang," he teased. I was glad to see a smile finally replace the frown on his face.

"Watch it, kid." I paused. "Look she's not just my boss, she's a Vice President for the company, so please no 'old bag' comments, ok?" I pleaded.

"What's in it for me?" He smirked.

"You little mercenary," I said trying to act indignant but failing miserably.

"Right." He chuckled.

Just at that moment a crowd of people got off the shuttle and entered the walkway that led directly to the place where we were standing. We all craned our necks out of reflex.

It didn't take long before I spotted her flowing down the terminal with her entourage in tow. Though she looked tired, she was even more attractive in person than I could have ever imagined. Next to her was another beautiful woman, who carried a sleepy dark haired boy. I assumed this was her daughter and grandson.

WOW, isn't it illegal for one family to be that attractive, I thought as I watched her walk towards us.

I felt a smile form on my lips, but not just any smile, it was a goofy grin. I knew I probably looked like a geek, but as hard as I tried I couldn't get that stupid look off my face. When she spotted me her face was immediately lit by the most beautiful smile. She waved her hand to be sure I would see her. I nodded and waved back.

"Who's that?" Jarrod asked. I noticed the look on his face as he watched the two attractive women heading our way.

My grin turned to a smirk, diverting my eyes to him for a moment I replied, "That's the 'old bag'."

"DAYUM." He was mesmerized by the tall, striking women and I silently congratulated myself on raising a boy who had such good taste in women. I watched with amusement as he tried to smooth down his hair while juggling his baby sister, who was still clinging to his back.

I turned once more to watch the progress of Jac and family down the walkway. Suddenly our eyes locked. I was riveted where I stood. All the air was sucked from my lungs. My heart was beating wildly. I desperately wanted to avert my eyes from her but I couldn't. I was so afraid that if she looked too closely into my eyes that she could see the fires of passion that burned within me.

Com'n just get ahold of yourself, I thought. For heaven's sake, she's a grandmother.

Hell, she ain't your grandma. Your grandma didn't look this hot in her 20's, another internal voice chimed in. I think it was my out of control libido.

But the point is she is a grandmother no matter how hot she is, my logic returned.

What?? You don't think that granny was getting some on the side?

That is just sick,
I continued to quarrel with myself.

Mentally I bitch slapped myself. I had to. I know me; if I hadn't done it I would've never gotten my attention. Whoa, way 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' moment. Scary huh? And people I am still on the loose. Even scarier?

Now where was I? Oh yeah, slapping myself. Well suddenly I found myself unglued from the spot where I had been standing. Amazing what a good smack will do for you. I was finally able to walk towards Jac and greet her properly.

Come on, you can do it. You can do it. My internal battle continued to rage without my libido kibitzing this time. Just keep your feelings TO YOURSELF! She's a good friend-DO NOT BLOW THIS. Where the hell is my baseball mitt when I need it?

A glassy eyed Jarrod followed me to the end of the walkway followed by Mark who brought up the rear.

"It's great to finally see you in the flesh," she said as she flung her arms around my neck. "You're even prettier in person," she whispered into my ear.

Feeling her hot breath on my neck as well as hearing those words sent my heart racing. My entire body came alive. My nipples hardened. My eyes dilated. My groin joined in by shouting, "TOUCH ME!"

Putting my bodily desires to the side, which wasn't an easy task I'll have you know, there was one thing I did notice during our first hug. My mind was, at least for a split second clear enough to know that we-us together-felt right. I felt like a drowning person getting their first revitalizing breath of air. I was resurrected. The dust of death fell off of me with the ease of raindrops sliding off a plastic poncho.

Suddenly the realization that she could feel my rapid heartbeat woke me from my musings. I became self-conscious and uncomfortable with the embrace. As much as I hated to, I clumsily broke the hug on the pretense of introducing my children.

When I pulled away I noticed her eyebrows knitted for a moment, and then her face slid back into its relaxed smile.

Ashley was fidgeting on Jarrod's back anxious to be put down so she could meet the newcomers. Jarrod crouched down and let the little girl slide off. She immediately walked over to Jac and offered her hand in greeting while eyeing the dark-headed little boy, who was still comfortably nestled in his mother's arms.

"My name's Ashley." She offered her hand while looking Jac directly in the eye. "These are my brothers." She pointed to her siblings, who were standing slack jawed at their sister's bravado. "That's Mark and that's Jarrod." Both boys nodded to acknowledge their introduction. Looking up at the mysterious little boy who still rested on his mom's shoulder she added, "What's his name?"

Jac had knelt down when Ashley first approached and firmly shook the offered hand. Jac glanced up at me, her bright smile never fading. "Precocious was putting it mildly wasn't it?" Mutely I shook my head. I was just as shocked as the boys by Ashley's overt behavior.

Jac looked back at Ashley. "His name is Joshua. That's his mom, Sherri, and I'm Jac."

"Jack's a boy's name." she crinkled her nose to punctuate her displeasure at the beautiful woman's choice of nicknames.

"Well it's short for Jacqueline," Jac explained.

"But you'll call her Ms. Drakkon, got it?" I chimed in.

In acknowledgement, Ashley looked up at me and nodded her agreement. "Yes, Mama."

Looking back into Jac's azure eyes she said, "Nice to meet you, Ms. Drakkon." She released the older woman's hand and walked over to where Sherri stood. Looking up into the timid hazel eyes of the little boy that was looking down at her she asked, "We came in a really, really big car. Got a TV and everything in it. Ya wanna see?"

Little Josh nodded mutely. Taking the hand that Ashley offered, he shimmied out of his mom's arms and walked off with Ashley hand in hand. Everyone was dumbstruck.

As if someone had flipped a switch, the din was silenced long enough for us to hear, "Is it your car?" "Naaaa, it's a rental."

For a few moments we looked blankly at each other stunned by the little tableau that had just played out in front of us. As if on queue the noise around us began to crescendo along with the volume of our laughter. We followed in the children's wake. Obviously Ashley had everything well in hand.

As we walked I felt warm fingers enclose my bicep. Instinctively I turned as Jac leaned in and whispered into my ear, "Wow. Maybe you should've had Ashley do that video conference for you."

I laughed putting my arm around Jac's waist as we continued to follow the children. Holding this woman against me felt so good that I didn't even think to be nervous. She didn't pull away which I counted as a bonus. We remained half in each other's arms trying to steer around the throngs of people as we walked.

While we walked behind him through the airport concourse I watched him flirt with Sherri. Sherri listened intently to everything the young man said and smiled an engaging smile at him whenever he said something witty. Sherri was obviously aware of the young man's ardor and indulged his crush with kindness and gentility. This kind demeanor would soon be put to the test.

The sliding glass doors whooshed open where the limo was waiting, the driver met Sherri and the two boys ready to relieve them of the large rolling bags that Sherri and company had wheeled outside. My eldest son, who was busily trying to impress Sherri-the older woman-with his brawn, foiled the driver in his efforts.

Jac and I walked through the sliding glass doors just in time for the first act of "101 ways to humiliate your older brother." I stopped and crossed my arms. The boys were standing only a few feet in front of me with Sherri to one side and a befuddled driver to the other.

You know, I have always loved being seated front row center for dramas. This way you didn't miss anything. From my peripheral vision I saw Jac stop, look at me, and then look at the group congregated around the trunk of the car. The light of realization hit her and she took her place next to me waiting for the curtain to go up.

Mark looked at his older brother confused. "What ya doin'?"

"Gonna stow their gear," he said adding a nautical flavor to his comment.

"Isn't that his job?" Mark pointed at the driver that hovered next to the open trunk of the limo.

"I got it." He groaned as he lifted the first bag and half placed it half dropped it into the trunk.

"Yeah. Sure you do, if you don't get a hernia before you finish," Mark added smugly as his red-faced brother was lifting the second bag.

The driver looked away obviously trying to suppress his laughter. Sherri placed her hand over her mouth to hide her smile, but had the good grace to compose her face before Jarrod could see her. Jac turned her back to the burgeoning Hercules unable to hide her mirth. I just pressed my lips together hard praying that I would not explode and humiliate my boy.

Jarrod glared at his brother as he rearranged the suitcases in the trunk before he lifted the last one into place. Mark simply shrugged and entered the limo.

Jarrod called to Sheri as he lifted the last bag into place, "Go ahead and get in, I'll be right there."

"Ok," Sheri said and waved to the exhausted Jarrod, then turned toward the limo door. Before entering she looked at us her eyes twinkling with fun. She mouthed, 'Little man.' I smiled broadly and nodded in agreement.

The driver, who had watched this drama unfold with the rest of us, tried to move in front of the young man to secure the trunk, but once again was foiled in his efforts.

"It's ok, I got it," Jarrod said a little breathlessly.

The driver looked at me for clarification. I nodded slightly, to which the driver simply shrugged leaving the trunk area and headed for the open passenger door of the sleek black limo. There he waited, standing at attention with a smirk playing around his lips.

Jac entered the limo and I was about to follow when I looked for Jarrod. He had closed the trunk, but was still at the rear of the car. He was leaning way over his hands firmly attached to his knees.

"You ok, son?" I asked. He nodded holding up one finger to indicate he would be right with us. I entered the limo and slid next to Jac.

Jac leaned over. "Is he ok?"

"Yeah, he'll be fine. Love hurts sometimes." I smiled.

Finally we were off. Mark and Ashley were getting better acquainted with Joshua while Jarrod spent his time making moony faces at Sherri. Unfortunately, like his mother, he really didn't have the ability to be suave or sophisticated, but Sherri let the young man ramble. She fawned or laughed at all the right places. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, if that's true, and Sherri was any indication of how kind and caring Jac was, I felt my love well placed.

Jac and I were talking as we always had, touching once or twice on business and what the next few days would hold. I was nervous about meeting all these corporate execs not to mention the client, Jamestown Robotics, but with Jac there I felt more at ease about the days to come. This had been a very long row to hoe and I was glad it was almost over.

As I settled into the soft leather seats of the limo I was glad the butterflies flapping around in my stomach had finally flown the coop. I relaxed and was able to fully enjoy being in this beautiful woman's company.

"Where do we want to go for dinner?" I asked the group.

"McDonalds," they all chorused at deafening decibels.

I rolled my eyes. Jac and Sherri chuckled. "You expected a different answer?" Jac asked.

"Hope springs eternal." I shrugged.

A limo in the Micky D's drive thru is an adventure. The driver ordered all the meals and made sure the food in each bag was correct before handing it back to Sherri, who was designated meal dealer.

I owe this guy a really, really big tip, I thought.

The children all sat on the floor to eat and compare Happy Meal toys. The adults, who only consisted of Jac and I at this point, sat quietly eating our burgers and drinking our shakes. It wouldn't be long before we got to the hotel, but I felt confident we would all be finished by the time we got through the traffic.

As the last wrapper was thrown into the designated garbage bag we pulled up in front of the resort where they would be staying for the next week. We all disembarked and headed for the trunk. I closed my eyes and prayed that Jarrod had learned his lesson and would let the driver remove the bags.

The driver placed the keys in the locking mechanism and with a muted thud the trunk popped open. Surreptitiously he looked over at Jarrod, but seeing the young man standing rooted in his place the driver easily removed the bags and put them up on the curb next to the car. Within moments a bellman was loading the three heavy cases onto a trolley and wheeling them into the lobby.

"Ok, you're all set," I said.

"Yeah, I know the drill," she commented back, "but the limo is a new wrinkle."

"Nothing but the best for you, Jac." I didn't want to say goodbye, but I also didn't want to deal with an awkward silence so I rushed on. "Guess I'll see you in the morning then."

"Yes, first thing." She smiled. She reached for me and once again wrapped me in a tight embrace. "You have a great family," she said still tangling me in her limbs.

"So do you." I spoke into her hair.

We broke our embrace, this time there was nothing clumsy about it. I almost kissed her goodbye, but stopped myself-thank god. I waved to Sherri and Joshua. "Have a good night, guys."

"You too." Sherri waved back.

Jac walked over to where Ashley was standing next to Jarrod. She knelt down and whispered something in the little girl's ear. Ashley's dark eyes twinkled as she nodded in agreement. Then to my surprise the child cupped her chubby hands and whispered something into Jac's ear. Jac roared with laughter. Before straightening back up she kissed Ashley's cheek, which sent the little girl into fits of giggles before she hid her face in her big brother's jeans.

I narrowed my eyes. "What was that all about?"

"Oh nothing." Jac smirked while her blue eyes twinkled.

"OOOOKKKK," I replied. "Later then."

"Later."

We entered the limo and took our places. I suppressed the urge to say, 'Home, James' but right now that was all I wanted. I wanted to go home. It had been a long day and I was drained. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and let Jac caress me in my dreams.

Remembering the interlude between Ashley and Jac I looked over to ask my youngest what they had been talking about, but she was already asleep in her brother's arms. I would just have to remember to ask her in the morning.

Continued in part 4

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