Copyright © 2002 by MelVee
Disclaimers in Part 1
Sunday found Sloane working in her office. Which wasn't unusual per se. The editor often spent her weekends catching up on emails and administrative stuff that got delayed during the week over the more pressing business of dealing with annoying authors, butt-headed executives and staff requests. What was unusual though was that this time it had already been way past eleven when Sloane had opened the doors to the deserted work space. By this time she should have already waded through numerous emails, filed her weekly report and updated the project files. Sleeping in does not become me. She frowned, staring at her reflection on the blank screen while the system booted. As if missing out on my beauty sleep does. Still, the evening had been worth it. Gracie had been a pleasant diversion. Inquisitive, but knowing when to back off, funny, a good listener and – most importantly – she had not been intimidated by Sloane's more offhanded remarks. The editor smiled, thinking back on the hours spent in the young woman‘s company. I would even watch the sequel with her. She mused, double clicking on the mail icon. 64 new mails? Well not today, I won't. Taking a deep breath Sloane opened the first one and concentrated on her work.
Two weeks went by just as any other had in the past few months. Filled with unproductive meetings, memos that took longer to write than to walk to the next office and discuss things in person, the endless ringing of the telephone and the constant mindless chatter of her employees. Sloane started to almost miss Keagan. That woman had spunk at least. Rogue FBI agent, my ass. Taking the luxury of actually thinking about Gracie, Sloane realized that it had been days since she had spoken to the young law student. They had talked briefly last Sunday, when Sloane's work schedule made it impossible to meet during the week. Lunch would have been nice, but between Keagan's absence, the daily work load and Gracie's studies, they had only managed two quick encounters. The evenings were out as well, seeing as the young woman worked at a bar and Sloane was often too tired after work to do more than go home, have a nice long bath and maybe phone a friend or two. My social life sucks - she mused as yet another email announced its presence. This one caught her eye though. It simply said "Plans for the weekend? – I need a dork!" Smiling Sloane picked up the phone. Great minds...
"Okay, tell me again why I'm here?"
Gracie grinned, shouldering her backpack as she got out of the car. "Because of my youthful charm and irresistible wit?"
Sloane made sure that Gracie had gotten out alright before she pushed the button to lock the doors. "No, that's why I agreed to meet with you in the first place. What I want to know is... why am I here." The older woman pointed towards the mall they were about to enter.
"I told you I needed a dork. My computer broke down this week and if there is one thing I know nothing about it's computers."
"And what makes you think I do?"
"Duh." Gracie gave Sloane a look. "Even if you didn't, which you don't, it always comes in handy to have Big Bad Mama tag along when dealing with soulless sales persons."
"I knew you only wanted me for my bad girl image," Sloane grumbled. She loved being teased. Not that she'd ever admit that, mind you.
"Who said I wanted you at all?" Gracie marched off, not waiting for a response. "Now get your ass in gear and let's go shopping!"
The afternoon went by quickly, with the two women having a lot of fun. Sloane loved shopping. Especially now that she had the money to actually buy stuff that was unnecessary and just for fun. She remembered being Gracie's age, having to turn every dime around twice before spending money on records or – mind you – a video tape. Now a vast collection of CDs and DVDs filled her shelves at home, most of them having been ordered via Amazon. Going out, actually browsing book stores, music shops and the occasional retail was something she didn't seem to have the time for anymore. Sloane only now realized how much she had missed that. She smiled at her exuberant companion's back as Gracie, yet again, found another computer store she wanted to enter. As if sensing her thoughts, the blonde chose that exact moment to turn around.
"Why are you smiling?" she asked, smiling back.
Sloane smirked. "I'm having fun."
"And that surprises you?" Gracie's eyes twinkled, filled with laughter. "I'll have you know that I'm officially the best shopping buddy any one woman could have. Books, music, clothes, underwear. You name it."
"And what about men?"
"Men?" Gracie feigned confusion. "Oh, those. Yeah, I tried those. But don't you agree, they look silly in silk bras and black lace?"
Sloane chuckled. "I wouldn't know. I've been a straight girl all my life. Always shopping in the women's department."
"Did you now? And how much did you buy?"
Sloane could have been mistaken, but she sensed a serious undertone in the light banter. "Not much really. Nothing ever seemed to fit. But I tried on a lot."
"Is that a problem?" Sloane still wasn't sure where this conversation was leading.
"No." Thankfully the grin was back on Gracie's face. "With your rack, that's to be expected. Which reminds me, you promised me ice cream if I could keep up with you."
"Rack?!" Now Sloane was laughing loud. "I have a rack now?"
"Yup." Gracie winked. "And a fine one at that. Which I'm sure to peruse some other time... after we've bought my new computer."
Surprisingly Sloane was too stunned to come back with an answer. And I thought I was straightforward. She was just about to follow Gracie into the store when...
"My, my, if it isn't the infamous Sloane Denton."
The voice was eerily familiar. Sloane tensed as she turned around. The afternoon had gone so well. "Liz Halling. I'm surprised they left you out of your cage."
"You know me, Sloane," the woman in question answered. "Nobody can keep me. Always the social butterfly, flitting from flower to flower."
Looking just as wilted. Though the editor had to admit that the other woman looked very attractive. Tall, slim, long blonde hair, with classic features and stylish glasses that gave her a certain bohemian flair. "One of these days you're going to burn your wings."
"Nah, not me. I'm fireproof." Liz smirked seductively. "I should know. I survived you."
"I've cooled down." Sloane wasn't sure why she felt the need to defend herself. Maybe it had to do with the younger blonde, settling at her side just now, probably trying to figure out what her shopping buddy was up to.
"Burnt out is more likely, I guess." The smirk turned into a sneer, as Liz watched Gracie approach. "I see you're with child now..."
"Not quite," Sloane answered smoothly, possessively running a hand over Gracie's back, hugging her closely. "But we're working on it."
"Huh. Even you are not that good."
"Yes, she is," Gracie piped in happily, catching Sloane's wandering hand and bestowing it with a quick kiss.
Liz just blinked at the gesture in disgust. "Whatever."
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Liz. Let's not do this again anytime soon." The editor smiled, almost... graciously.
The tall blonde answered with a thin smile of her own and turned away. Seeing the other woman leave, Sloane sighed deeply, but still visibly tense.
"I'm sorry." She finally said, dropping the hand Gracie was still holding. "I shouldn't have dragged you into this."
"Did you sleep with her?"
The older woman glared at the younger one in shock. "No! I'd never stoop that low."
"Then what are you sorry for?" Gracie gave Sloane an impish wink.
"For using you to provoke her, for..." The editor closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head. "You actually enjoy this, don't you?"
"Yes." There was a broad smile as Gracie held out a hand. "Now can we have the ice cream you've promised? Dealing with bitches always makes me hungry."
Without realizing it, Sloane took the offered appendage. They started walking down the mall again, the computer store forgotten for the moment. "So that's why we always meet for lunch dates. And I thought it was our conflicting schedules."
"Nope, that was just a ruse." Gracie said, lightly entangling her fingers with Sloane's. "That... and I love watching you eat. You're so picky."
The editor stopped abruptly, hurling the young student close to her in the process. "What? I'm not picky. You haven't seen me and ice cream yet. Or me and anything sweet."
Gracie leaned closer into the older woman, lowering her voice. "I can't wait. Maybe I can learn a thing or two."
"I doubt that." Sloane backed up a little, being all too aware where this kind of talk could lead to. "You've given me quite a run for my money this afternoon."
"Is that a good thing?" Gracie asked as they continued their stroll along the mall.
Yes, it is. Sloane just smiled. Yes, it is.
After half a dozen scoops of Macadamia Nut Brittle, Sloane's ever present cappuccino and a brief discussion on who would pay the bill, which Gracie lost, the two women ended their afternoon buying a laptop. Surely not the latest model but more than sufficient for the young student's purposes and at an affordable price. All the way back to the car, the blonde couldn't keep the silly grin off her face, pointing out the "cool" features, with Sloane knowing exactly how she felt. She could still remember how exited she had been, when she got rid of her desktop computer and enjoyed the freedom of being able to work anywhere she liked. Which in the end had only led to taking even more work home, but that was beside the point. Gracie was happy, and that was all that mattered.
Carefully winding her way through the city traffic, drowning out the excited chatter of the young woman beside her, Sloane contemplated the time spent in the blonde's company. She had had fun. And – more surprisingly – she had not thought about work for a good five hours. Tandem Publishing with its demanding clients and pressing executives had been far away. So far actually, that Sloane only now realized she had left her mobile phone at home. I wonder how many messages there'll be on my mailbox. She chuckled silently.
"That must be a new record."
"Mmmh?" Sloane only now realized that Gracie had stopped her tirade about gigabytes and megabytes and addressed her directly.
"You. Laughing." Gracie smiled. "You must have filled your yearly quota today. What were you thinking about anyway?"
"And that's so funny?"
"No." Sloane shook her head as she pulled the car over onto the street where the young student lived. "We're here – what's funny is that I actually forgot about work this afternoon." She turned towards Gracie as she put the car into park. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." The young woman made no gesture to leave the vehicle. As if waiting for something.
"Aren't you coming up to my apartment with me?" There was an almost pleading look in Gracie's eyes. "I thought we'd celebrate our bargain... I have coffee."
Sloane sighed. "That's very kind of you to offer, but I better head home and get some more work done. Some other time, okay?"
"But it's the weekend." Now the blonde sounded almost whiney. Not good.
"I know. But I've got a presentation to prepare for and a few memos to write concerning a promotion."
"Why do you need to write memos? Can't you just decide on your own? Know who's good and just promote them?" Gracie looked confused. "I thought you were the boss?"
The naiveté of youth. "I am, in certain aspects. But it still isn't that easy." Sloane turned off the engine. This conversation could take longer. "I might be managing director of the editorial division of Tandem Publishing, but I'm not the owner of the company. There's always personnel, the head of executives, the board of directors. With every promotion usually comes a raise, a shift in responsibility. If I make mistakes, it could cost the company a shit load of money, ergo I have to weigh the pros and cons very carefully, base my decisions on facts instead of intuition, because my superiors would want hard facts not gut feelings."
"I never thought about that."
"Trust me, I didn't either. But after having had to face the consequences of one lapse of judgment, I made sure it would never happen again."
"What happened?" Now Gracie was curious.
Sloane just shook her head. "That's not important really. Everyone makes mistakes every now and then. The trick is to learn and be better prepared next time." She smiled. "Speaking of being prepared..."
The young blonde sighed. "I know, I know. You have to get home and write your memos now."
Sloane nodded. "Sorry."
"No, it's alright. I understand." The student grabbed her new toy and reached for the door handle, pouting. "As long as I can still call you if this thing is giving me problems... you're the expert, remember?"
Sloane chuckled. "I still don't know where you got that idea from, but okay, you can call."
"Night and day?" Gracie opened the door and took one last provocative look at her older companion.
"Get out." Sloane grinned, starting the ignition again.
"I mean it." The blonde was almost out of the car, when she turned again, opening her mouth...
The mouth closed and there was an understanding smile. "Bye, Sloane."
This time the student actually did get out and closed the door. The editor was just about to drive off, when there was one last knock on the passenger's window. The brunette pressed the button, lowering the window. "What now?" She wasn't really annoyed, more amused.
Gracie just looked at her for a moment before she said "I had fun today."
The seriousness of the statement was almost shocking. Sloane wasn't sure how to answer. She decided to stick to the truth. "Me too."
"I'll see you again?"
There was no hesitation. "Yes."
Then she drove off.
Continued in Part 3
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