Copyright © 2002 by MelVee

Disclaimers in Part 1

Companion Peace



Part 3

"Miss Denton?  You can get dressed now."

Finally.  The yearly checkup wouldn't be as annoying if one could stay dressed for the whole procedure.  The fourty-something editor went behind the screen.  "So?" she called out while putting her clothes back on.  "What's the verdict, doc?  How much longer do I have?"

She heard rustling sounds and as she came out from behind the screen, still closing the last buttons of her blouse, the doctor was just about to scribble down some notes.  "Take a seat."  He nodded.  "I'm almost finished."

Sloane sat down, letting her thoughts wander off to her next appointment for the day.  Going to the hairdressers.  Something that was only slightly less annoying than seeing her gynaecologist.  How come one almost never finds a good doctor or a good hairdresser?  Moving to a different state should be illegal.  It had never been the same after her last hairdresser got married and moved to California.

"Okay, Miss Denton.  Let's have a look."

You already had a look.  Get on with it.  "Let me guess, my blood pressure's too low, I don't exercise enough, and apart from that I'm as healthy as a 20-year-old."

The man gave her a stern look.  "You don't exercise at all, Miss Denton.  Lifting coffee mugs is not an exercise.  Even if it gets your blood pressure up."

"But I'm healthy?"

"As much as it pains me to say, considering your lifestyle and age, you're as fit as a fiddle."

"Fine.  See you next year then."  Sloane got out of the chair and opened the door.

"Miss Denton!"

"Yeah."  She turned around.  Why did they always have to lecture her?

"Try at least to work less and go easy on the coffee?"

"I'll think about it."  She could make out a disgruntled snort as she was closing the door from the outside.


"Then you bit his head off?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Marc.  I did no such thing."  Sloane smirked, taking another sip of her cappuccino.  The third one this evening.  She and her best friend had been sitting in the little bistro for two hours.

"The way he keeps bossing you around..."  Her friend shook his head, lighting another cigarette.  "I'm surprised the good doctor is still alive."

"That's since he isn't bossing me around.  I'm simply exaggerating to make ranting more fun."

"You?  Exaggerate?  Never."  He grinned.  "So, exercise, huh?"


"And when doest thou plan this holy endeavor?"

Sloane snorted disgustedly.  "If I had my way, next time to never, which in my case means probably next Wednesday."

"Hey, that's cool.  You could join me at my club."

"No, thank you.  I'd rather go somewhere more... professional."  She gave her friend the once over.  "Yours can't be any good.  Your belly is showing again."

The man stretched and sucked in his stomach.  "I'll have you know that my ladies like me just the way I am."

"You're divorced, Marc.  You don't have any ladies."

"Ouch.  Grumpy much, eh?"

"Sorry.  It's just one of these days.  Work has been a pain lately."

"I thought things were looking up, now that you got rid of that asshole Neal."

Sloane sighed.  "That's what I thought too, but his stepfather is giving me a hard time about it.  Not that he can actually do anything, but he's trying to boycott a promotion I planned, just to spite me."

Marc looked surprised.  "Not Spitfire Rudy?  You've been trying to put her up for promotion for ages now."

"I know.  And she deserves it too.  She's one of the best editors I ever had.  Did you know her first book just made the list?"

"So you keep telling me."  Marc smiled teasingly.  "But if she's that good what's got old Barr's knickers in a twist then?"

"Rudy's the one Neal had been harassing."

"Ah.  I see."  He grimaced.  "Well, if it's any consolation to you, I believe if anyone can get him to see reason, it's you."  He smiled reassuringly.  "You're a tigress when it comes to your staff."

"Thanks.  I needed that."  Sloane grinned.  "Have I ever told you, you're good for my ego?"

"Once or twice maybe."  He winked.  "Speaking of ego... what else is new?"

"Nothing much really.  I thought about dying my hair.  What do you think?"

Marc watched the woman closely, frowning.  "I don't know.  You always liked your grey streaks."

"I still do."  Unconsciously the editor started running nervous fingers through her dark locks.  "I just thought I... could sort of... freshen them up a bit."

"That wouldn't have anything to do with your new girlfriend, would it?"

Girlfriend?  "Girlfriend?  Where'd you get that idea?"  Sloane almost coughed, which had nothing to do with the constant cigarette smoke her companion was emitting.

He grinned.  "I have my sources."

"Let me guess: Appalling Halling strikes again."

"Right on the head."

"What did she say?"  Sloane wasn't annoyed as such that Liz couldn't keep her mouth shut, just that she didn't have time to prepare her friends.

"Nothing much really, only that you must be desperate for a shag if you were shopping in the children's department now."  Marc chuckled.  Seeing his best friend blush was nothing that happened very often.

"What did you say?"

"I said, why settle for an old hag if one can ride in a new foal."

"You didn't?"

"I most certainly did."  Marc leaned back in his chair, an extremely smug look on his face.

"Poor Liz."  Sloane couldn't stop laughing.

"May she rest in pieces."

"You're mean."  The editor chuckled, drying her tears.

"I learned from the best."

"No wonder you can't find a girlfriend."  She grinned.  "You took after the wrong role model."

"If you can snatch up gorgeous teen blondes with those lines," he argued, "I don't see why I can't."

"Because I'm a woman and people'll find me witty and charming, while you'll just be a chauvinistic Cro-Magnon."

"Ouch, back to the hurting."  Marc pouted.  "You'll pay for that."  He gave their waiter a sign and ordered a double mocha latte... her treat.  "So, what is the story behind the teen?"

The older woman sighed.  "She's not a teen and she's most certainly not my girlfriend."

"Then who is she?"

"Gracie is..."  Sloane was deep in thought for a moment.  What to tell?  "She's a law student, in her early twenties, works at a bar in the evenings and she's a very nice young woman."

"Uhuh.  How did you meet?"

"At the office."

"I thought, you were against office af..."

"She's not working for me."  The editor interrupted.  "She's a friend of Keagan's."

"The ex-writer turned editor you were so desperate to hire, Keagan?  Rudy's girlfriend?"

"The one and only.  Except that Rudy would have your head if you called Keagan her girlfriend."  Sloane shook her head.  "I don't know what's with those two, but then I guess it's none of my business really."

"Right.  So, Gracie...?"  Marc was nothing if not persistent.

"She's young, smart, witty, funny..."  Sloane mused.  "Easy to talk to... cute, leaves me alone when I need to be..."

"Sounds like girlfriend material to me."

Sloane looked up.  "Did I mention she was... young?"

"It might have slipped your tongue.  So?"

"So?  She's half my age.  Whatever that may be.  And you know me, I'm not exactly relationship material either.  I'm moody, a workaholic, egotistical, bossy, sarcastic, arrogant..."

"Maybe."  The man laid a comforting hand on Sloane's arm.  "But I also happen to know that you are loyal, honest, caring, passionate and a complete mush ball at heart."

"I'm not a mush ball!"

"Whatever."  He smiled.  "All I'm saying is that I'm sick of seeing you alone.  You're too good to stay all by yourself."

"I'll remind you of that when I start canceling our Friday evenings ‘cause I'm all hot and bothered about the new love in my life."  The editor warned.

"You do that.  And I'm getting to have your hide if you don't show up on Wednesdays at the gym.  1800 hours, sharp.  Doctor's orders."  He winked.

"Yeah, yeah."  Sloane growled.  "Though I won't need the extra exercise if I do pick up a new girlfriend."

Especially if she is that young.


Sloane was sitting in her office waiting for Rudy Whitman.  She had emailed the young editor late last night, as soon as she had gotten the go from personnel for the promotion.  Celebratory donuts were sitting right in front of the visitor's chair.  Everything was perfect if only the woman in question would... ah, here she comes.  "Good morning, Rudy."

"Hi, Sloane."  The young woman sat down, spying the offered treat suspiciously but nevertheless taking one.  "What can I do for you?" 

The older woman watched Rudy munching nervously on her donut.  She had to suppress a chuckle as she imagined what must be going through Rudy's head.  "I know what you're thinking, Whitman.  The donuts are celebratory, this time." 

She desperately tried to keep a straight face as the young woman stopped eating in mid chew.

"Celebrating what?"  Rudy asked, quickly swallowing the rest of the treat down.

"You're on the list."  Sloane couldn't hold back a smile.

Rudy's eyes widened in astonishment.  "I'm on the list?  I'm on the list?  Not Mistaken Identity."  Mistaken Identity was a book she had edited a year before that had recently been released.

"That's the one, kid.  It debuted at five."

Sloane hadn't been convinced about the book when she first put it under contract, but the young woman opposite her had defended it with passionate determination.  It was somehow fitting that it had made the New York Times bestseller list. 

"Five?"  The blonde editor croaked out.  "Oh my god, that's great.  That's…actually that's unbelievable!" 

Sloane stood up and shook Rudy's hand.  "Congratulations, Whitman.  I think you're probably the youngest editor at Tandem ever to make the list."

Rudy's face finally broke into a broad smile.  "Thanks, Sloane."  But it turned serious within seconds again.  As if wondering whether it was okay to be excited at all.  Why do they always think they aren't allowed to show any emotions around me?  

Sloane tried a different approach.  After all, this was just the beginning of the surprise.  "What I'm really impressed with though, is that you picked out this manuscript and fought for it when the whole senior staff went against you.  You have an instinct for good books."

"Thanks, Sloane."  This seemed to relax the woman at least a little bit.  "Would you believe it if I told you that I actually used to make fun of the New York Times list back when I was in college?  I used to refer to the books on the list as balderdash."

"Balderdash?"  Sloane had to laugh.  "Didn't the use of that word go out of style back in the mid-nineteenth century?"

"I hear it's making a comeback."  Rudy looked as if she was ready to bolt out of the room.

Sloane nodded, still smiling.  "Ah.  I don't want to keep you, but I've got one more little thing to discuss with you."

"Of course.  What is it?"

Still debating with herself whether she should tease the poor woman or come straight out with it, Sloane heard herself saying "I have a problem and thought you could help me out.  My senior editor, Dan Cortez, has decided to take a demotion.  He explained to me that he feels he's at his best when not in a supervisory position and I agree with him.  Unfortunately for me, that means I need to find a new senior editor.  Would you happen to know of anyone here who's up to the job?" 

The question took a moment to settle.  "Are you asking me?"

Her expression alone is worth the teasing.  "Yes, Whitman."  Sloane said solemnly.  "Do you want the job?"

And back to the serious face again.  That woman is unbelievable.  "Thank you, Sloane.  I accept."

This time Sloane couldn't stand it any longer.  "Jesus, god, Rudy!  Aren't you the least bit excited?!"

The startled expression on Rudy's face told her that she was still not convinced that this wasn't just a trick or something.  "No, it's not a test!  Whitman, lighten up!  That's your first order of business as the newest senior editor."  She offered Rudy her hand.  "Congratulations, again."

As Rudy shook Sloane's hand, she gradually broke into a broad smile.  "Okay, I am a little bit excited.  Thanks."

Making use of her bitch image on purpose now, Sloane added in a mock serious tone "And Whitman... be done with work by 5:30 today.  We're all taking you out for a drink."

Rudy looked as if she was trying to come up with any excuse to forego this order.  "That's nice, but I don't think--"

Sloane held up her index finger.  "5:30. Not a minute later."

The newly promoted editor simply nodded as she left the office walking backwards, stumbling a bit as she reached the door.  Sloane simply shook her head.  Now if I only had an idea where to go to tonight.  She smirked, knowing exactly where she wanted to be this evening.

Continued in Part 4

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