ROMANCE . . . OR SOMETHING LIKE IT

by

Gerri Hill

 

CHAPTER ONE

"I hate these things," Jamie told her best friend.

"What's not to like? Valentine's Day. Dancing and women. You can't beat it," Dana told her.

"I'm pretending to be your date. It's not like I'll be doing a lot of dancing," Jamie complained as they walked along the dark sidewalk to the bar.

"True. But jealously is the best way, we both agreed."

"No. You agreed. I was just too stupid and went along with it."

"Tess is beautiful," Dana sighed."Wait until you see her. And when she sees me with you...tall, dark and beautiful, she'll know that she made a big mistake by saying we should see other people."

"That is so adolescent," Jaime said."You can't make someone like you, Dana."

"What's not to like? I'm such a catch."

"Sure you are. That's why you're still single," Jamie said.

"You're a great catch and you're still single," Dana pointed out.

Jamie shrugged.

"When I meet the right woman, then I'll be caught. Not until. Besides, I've been called difficult."

"Well, there's that," Dana said as they approached the entrance of the bar and gathered with the other women waiting to get inside."You're too choosy. My God, look at you. You could have anyone you wanted, but no one's ever good enough. What are you looking for?"

"I'm looking for love at first sight," Jamie said seriously.

"That doesn't exist. Only in fairy tales. Out here in the real world, you've got to lie and cheat just to find a date."

Jamie laughed."I don't think so. I want to meet someone, look into her eyes, and fall hopelessly in love. And know, right then...right there, that she's the one."

"Oh, please. You're dreaming. And then you get to know her and find you have absolutely nothing in common and you can't find a thing to talk about, especially after the fun in bed disappears. Then what's left?"

"Then we weren't really in love to begin with," Jamie said.

"You're going to be alone for a very long time, Jamie. You've got to start small and then work up. And that's what I'm doing with Tess. We had a great time together. We laughed, we both love music, the movies."

"Then why are you pretending to date me?"

"Because she said she wasn't ready to commit to anything. Hell, I'm not looking to get married. I just want to date for awhile. But, she says we should see others, too. I hate when they say that. And if she sees me with you, well, then she'll know what she's missing out on."

"You have a warped view, Dana. It's lying. Why can't you be honest with her and tell her you really like her and you want to continue seeing her?"

"Like I said, you have to lie and cheat."

They both reached for their money when they reached the door, but Dana put her hand on Jamie's arm.

"My treat, sweetheart," she said.

"Listen, if you try and kiss me, I'll deck you right here," Jamie threatened.

"You're all talk. I know you've had the hots for me for years," Dana teased.

"Right," Jamie murmured. Again, she couldn't believe she'd let Dana talk her into this. She hated Valentine's Day anyway. And pretending to be Dana's date to make someone else jealousÍ Jesus, had she been that drunk when she'd agreed?

"Come on, hurry," Dana said, pulling on Jamie's arm. "We want to get a table close to the dance floor."

"You know, you'll owe me big time for this," Jamie said, not for the first time.

"Yes, I know. I've practically promised you my first born."

"I certainly don't want your children. A couple of hundred dinners cooked for me is payment enough," she said.

"I do that for a living. What's the fun in that?" she asked.

"The fun is you can be a chef at my house and not at the damn restaurant."

"I can't believe you still don't know how to cook. My God, it's not like I haven't shown you every trick in the book."Dana pointed across the dance floor."There's a table. Sprint across the floor and grab it."

"I will not. We can at least be civilized about this."

"Jesus. Do you have to act like an accountant all the time?"

"I am an accountant."

"You don't look like an accountant. Why do you have to be one?"

Jamie rolled her eyes."I've been an accountant all my life. With both parents and a brother, it's not like I had a choice."

"You could have said no. Damn, even a lawyer would have been better than an accountant."

"Why do you dislike my profession so?"

"Because it sounds so boring. No wonder you're single."Then Dana sprinted the last few feet, sliding to a halt at the edge, and grabbing the table before a group of four descended. She smiled sweetly at them then grabbed Jamie's hand."Sit down, sweetheart. I got us a table."

"I could end up hating you after this, you know."

"We've been friends too long. Don't threaten me."

Jamie pulled the chair closer to the table and folded her arms on top of it, tapping her fingers lightly to the music. Country music. Could it get any worse?

"I'll buy the first round. What do you want?" Dana asked.

"You'll buy all the rounds," Jamie said. "And I'll have a...Sidecar, I think."

"Brandy? Couldn't be a cheap date and drink beer, huh?"

"No."

"Okay. Don't go wandering off while I'm gone."

"I'll be right here, sweetheart," Jamie purred.

CHAPTER TWO

"Will you slow down?" Kate gasped as she struggled to keep up with Tess' long strides."It's barely nine."

"It's Valentine's Day. It'll be packed."

"It'll be depressing," Kate said."Single women watching the couples make out, wishing we had someone, too. Then we'll just grab anybody, regardless, just not to be alone on fucking Valentine's Day. It's depressing. They ought to do away with the whole damn day."

"Well, you're in a fine mood," Tess said.

"I hate this day. Everyone at the office getting flowers, oohing and ahhing over them like it's some big deal."

Tess stopped suddenly and Kate nearly ran into her.

"No wonder you're single, if you have this attitude."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Romance. It's all about romance."

"Bullshit. People send flowers because it's expected. And why only on Valentine's Day? So that others will know that somebody loves somebody else? You shouldn't have to have an occasion. If you love somebody, you shouldn't need a day to prove it."

"You are so cynical. I don't know why I asked you to come along."

"I don't know why you insisted I come along," Kate said."I was perfectly happy staying home. I had plenty of work to do."

"You always stay home. Ever since you broke things off with Rachel, you've been staying home. You've got to get a life sometimes."

"Don't bring her up," Kat said."Not tonight."

"My God, it's been two years. Surely you're over that by now."

"Of course I'm over it," Kate stated."I kicked her out, remember?"

"Uh huh," Tess said.

"I did. I distinctly remember packing her things after I hadn't seen her in two weeks. That's kicking her out."

"Yes, of course. The fact that she sent her brothers to pick up her stuff and move it to her other girlfriend's apartment means nothing."

"I hate you. Can't you forget that minor detail?"

Tess laughed and playfully punched Kate's arm.

"I'm sorry. She was just such a bitch. I can't believe you lasted as long as you did."

"I don't want to talk about her," Kate said. "And you're paying, right? I mean, this was totally your idea."

"Yes, I'm paying," Tess said as they moved to the end of the line, waiting to get inside the bar."I'm a lowly secretary and you're a goddamn attorney, but I'm paying."

"Thank you," Kate said sweetly."I refuse to contribute to this holiday."

CHAPTER THREE

"What makes you think she'll even be here?" Jamie asked as she sipped from her drink.

"Because this is where we met," Dana said."And because I know she comes here often. Who in their right mind wouldn't come on Valentine's Day?"

"Well, I could think of a few," Jamie said dryly. "Do I need to tell you now that I hate country music?"

Dana stared at her."You can dance, right?"

"I can tango."

"Tango? No, two-step," Dana said.

"Two-step? How about Jitterbug?"

"Jesus Christ!Who can't two-step?"

"I hate country music," Jamie said again.

"A fine date you turned out to be. Well, you'll have to try. We have to be seen dancing together. And close."

"Don't push it, Dana. You're lucky I'm even here."

"I'm sure they'll play some fast stuff. Can you do that?"

"No. I have no rhythm. I'm an accountant, remember?"

"You look like a fucking model. How can you not have rhythm?"

"I can tango," Jamie said again.

"Why didn't you tell me this before you agreed to be my date?" Dana demanded.

"Agreed? I think you got me drunk on one of your wine sauces. I don't remember actually agreeing to dancing," Jamie said.

"Never mind. We can fake it. Slow songs. No one will know. We'll hang all over each other."

"If you kiss me, I'll never forgive you," Jamie said."You're like my sister. I think I would get sick."

"Thanks a lot."

***************

"I told you we got here too late. There are no tables left," Tess said as they moved through the crowd.

"You get more dances if you're standing," Kate said."They think you're available."

"We are available."

"And why is that?" Kate asked."I mean, we're cute enough. Why is that?"

"Because we're too picky, that's why. And we're not getting any younger."

"We're barely thirty," Kate said."We have good jobs. We're damn good catches. Why are we single?"

"Why are we having this conversation?"

"Because we're pathetic," Kate said."We're out at a bar on Valentine's Day, for God's sake."

"We're looking for a date, that's what we're doing here."

"I'm not looking for a date. I refuse to date someone I met at a bar."

"Where else are you going to meet someone?"

"At work. Through mutual friends. The usual places," she said.

"And it's worked so well in the past," Tess said dryly.

"What about that woman you were seeing? Donna?"

"Dana. And I met her here."

"Well, there you go. It didn't last."

"It didn't last because...well, because she was getting too serious," Tess said."And nobody gets serious with me."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I got scared," Tess admitted.

"Scared?"

"I'm not ready to settle down. Hell, I'm thirty-one. Once you get a steady girlfriend, that's it. You're off the market. Then the next thing you know, you're forty."

"And? What if she was the one?"

"What if she wasn't?"

"Tess, you usually know right off if they're not the one or not. For me, it's the first date. I guess that's why I seldom have a second."

****************

"When are you going to ask me to dance?"

"I'm not."

"We could at least practice," Dana said.

Jamie stood up with a sigh.

"Fine. Let's practice. Don't yell if I step on your toes."

"You have to lead," Dana said.

"Lead?"

"You're taller."

"So?"

"It looks funny if the shorter one leads."

"I can't dance," Jamie said."Do you want to totally embarrass us?"

"Okay. I'll lead, but pretend you're doing it."They walked out to the dance floor."And pretend that you like me."

"I do like you."

"You know what I mean."

"I refuse to kiss you."

"You're being difficult."

"I may not speak to you after this is all over with."

"She's not even here yet. You don't have to kiss me."

"Like I would."

They moved together, first Dana taking Jamie's right hand, them dropping it and taking her left, then dropping it again and picking up her right hand. They both stifled laughs as they attempted to move in unison.

"We look like idiots," Dana whispered.

"We are idiots," Jamie said as she stepped on Dana's foot.

"My God, can't you move?"

"I am moving."

"Follow me," Dana said.

"How can I follow you when you're pushing me?"

"You're supposed to be leading. Now, spin me around," Dana said.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"How hard can it be?" she asked, then attempted a spin. They very nearly ended up on the floor and they both started giggling.

"This is not working," Jamie said as another couple bumped into them.

"No shit!You have two left feet."

"I can tango," Jamie offered.

Dana started laughing and Jamie joined in.

"Okay. Let's wait for a really slow song. That way, we can just stand together and move and no one will know that you don't know how to dance," Dana said.

"This is ridiculous. You know that, don't you?"

"Sit down and shut up. I'm going for more drinks."

Jamie sat as she was told, resting her elbows on the table again. She scanned the crowd, wondering what this Tess person looked like. She better be a knock-out, for all the trouble Dana was putting her through. She watched the women milling about, jostling for standing positions in the crowded bar. Her eyes stopped moving when they landed on a gorgeous blonde standing next to a tall redhead. Her short hair was tasseled, looking like it hadn't seen a brush all day. Then the blonde raked her fingers through it. Jamie nodded. No brush. Fingers. She was dressed conservatively. Slacks and sweater. She looked out of place, especially next to the redhead, who was wearing jeans and boots. Jamie watched as the blonde lightly touched the redhead's arm and moved closer to speak to her. No, no, Jamie thought. The redhead was all wrong for this woman. They didn't go together at all.

Then the blonde turned towards her, as if sensing her watching. Across the room, their eyes met. Jamie felt her heart catch and she swallowed. A slight smile touched the blonde's lips before she looked away.

"Oh my God," Jamie whispered. It's her.

"Here you go, sweetheart," Dana said as she set two drinks on the table.

"Thanks," Jamie murmured but her eyes never left the blonde.

"It's crowded as hell in here tonight," Dana said. "Lots of people...looking for love," she sang.

"In all the wrong places," Jamie supplied, then laughed. The song was a standing joke between them.

"Come on. This song is slow enough. I want to check out the other side. Maybe she's over there."

Jamie hesitated. She would look like an ass out there, but at least she could get a better look at the blonde.

"Okay. But no spinning," Jamie said.

They shuffled along with the other dancers, getting bumped from behind often. Jamie didn't care. Her eyes were searching, trying to find her again.

There, still standing next to the redhead. As they passed by them, she saw that the woman's eyes were blue. They were locked on her own. She stumbled. Dana stepped on her foot and she nearly fell. When she looked back at the blonde, she was covering the smile on her face with one hand and Jamie felt a blush creep up her face. Then blue eyes locked on hers again and she found she couldn't breathe.

"What is wrong with you?" Dana demanded.

"It's her," Jamie whispered.

"Her, who? You don't even know what she looks like."

"No. Her," Jamie said again."The one. Love at first sight," Jamie whispered.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"There," Jamie said, turning Dana slightly.

"Oh my God," Dana hissed."No!" she said.

"Yes! She's the one. Our eyes met. I nearly collapsed."

"You can't have her," Dana said.

"I can try. Oh, sure, she's with someone, but big deal."

"How could you do this to me?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"The woman. She's mine."

"Who?"

"Tess."

"Tess? That's Tess?"

"Yes. Isn't she beautiful?"

Jamie's heart sunk. Yes, the woman was beautiful. But she didn't look at all like Dana's type. And she certainly didn't look like a Tess. No, that couldn't be Tess. Damn, how unfair was that? One look and Cupid's arrow went straight to her heart. Apparently, it had misfired.

Jamie turned her back to the blonde, away from temptation, watching Dana's face as she still stared. No, it certainly wasn't fair.

"So that's Tess?" she asked quietly.

"Yes. And who in the world is she with? They don't go together at all," she said.

"Yes, I know. They are all wrong for each other."And you're wrong for her, too, Jamie thought.

They stumbled through the rest of the dance, finally ending up back at their table. Jamie reached for her drink and swallowed it down in one gulp. Tess. The name wasn't right, either. Nothing was right. She closed her eyes, still seeing the blue ones locked onto her own.

"Wonder who she's with?" Dana said."But Tess is beautiful, right? I told you so."

"Certainly."

"I'm sorry. But you can't have her," Dana said again.

"Yes, I know. She's yours."

*************

Kate watched as the woman turned away from her, wondering at the pained look in her eyes. Maybe her foot hurt where her partner had stepped on it. Kate continued watching as they moved farther away from her. Tall, dark and handsome. God, did that description ever fit this woman. Her dark hair reached past her shoulders, with bangs trying to cover her expressive eyes. Her black jeans were snug enough to show off a firm backside and long legs. Kate continued to stare as they danced away from her.

"Who are you staring at?" Tess asked.

"Hmm?"

Tess punched her arm. Kate jumped.

"What?" Kate asked.

"Who are you staring at?"

"A woman," Kate murmured.

"It's a lesbian bar. I could have guessed that. Who?"

"The tall brunette, on the end there," she pointed. "She's dancing with a short blonde. They can't dance worth a damn. You can't miss them," she said.

"Oh my God!That's Dana," Tess hissed.

"Dana?"

"Yes. I can't believe it! So it took her a whole week to find someone else. See, I told you. It wasn't meant to be."

"That's Dana?"Kate's heart sank. For a second, she had felt a connection, a spark. And apparently it was with Tess' Dana.

"Yes, that's Dana. She's cute, isn't she?"

"Very."

"And you're right. They can't dance. But it's not Dana's fault. She was very good. Must be the brunette's fault."

Kate's head snapped around.

"The brunette? That's not Dana?"

"Dana? No, no. She's the blonde."

"Oh, thank God," Kate murmured as she grabbed Tess' arm.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I thought you meant the brunette was Dana. I was looking at the brunette."

"No. She's not at all my type."

"I know. She's ...too tall for you."

"So you were looking at the brunette? Dana's date?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. I didn't know it was your Dana," Kate said.

"She's not my Dana. And I can't believe she's already with someone else."

"Well, as far as Dana knows, you're with someone else," Kate stated."And I thought you were the one that broke it off?"

"I was. And now I see that it was for good reason. She obviously wasn't sincere when she said that she wanted to be with me. God, you can't trust women."

"What do you expect?" Kate demanded."You told her to get lost. She did. Can you blame her? And my God, did you look at the woman's she with?"

"She wasn't that cute," Tess said.

"Cute? She's gorgeous!" Kate said.

"She is not. She looks...I don't know. Like a lawyer or something," Tess said.

Kate put her hands on hips and faced Tess.

"What exactly are you saying?"

"I'm saying she's dressed like you. She doesn't fit in. She's not at all Dana's type."

Kate glanced across the dance floor at the two women sitting at a table alone. She felt drawn to the woman, but it hardly mattered. She had rules. Never date someone you meet at a bar. And certainly never date someone who was dating someone else.

"Maybe you should ask her to dance," Tess said.

"Dana?"

"No! The other one."

"I will not. They are obviously here as a couple."

"They can't be that much of a couple. I was with Dana last weekend."

"Maybe she had this woman on the side."

"As if."

No. Kate had to agree. No woman would have this beautiful creature on the side. She would be out front for all to see.

**************

Jamie continued to stare across the floor at Tess and the redhead, looking away whenever Tess glanced their way. Apparently Dana's plan was working. Tess was keeping an eye on her. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe she had felt the connection, too, when their eyes had met that first time. Jamie shook her head. It was just her luck. The one. Love at first sight. And she was here as Dana's date. And they both wanted the same woman.

"Hold my hand," Dana said."She's looking."

Jamie took her hand, then glanced up. But it was the redhead who was looking, not Tess.

"No she's not."

"Yes, she is. God, she's staring right at us."

Jamie peeked again. No, just the redhead was looking. Tess wasn't even standing there anymore.

"Dana, she's not even there anymore. Just the redhead," Jamie said.

"Just the redhead?" Dana hissed."That's Tess!"

"The redhead is Tess?"

"Yes. Who did you think? Surely not that blonde?"

Jamie closed her eyes and laughed.

"Let me get this straight. The redhead is Tess? Not the cute blonde?"

"Of course."

"Oh, thank you. Thank you." She met Dana's eyes."The blonde. She's the one I was staring at. She's the one," she said.

"The blonde?"

"Yes. I'm going to talk to her, ask her to dance or something."

"Absolutely not!"

"Why the hell not?"

"For one thing, you can't dance. For another, you're here as my date! And apparently that's Tess' date."

"No. Our eyes met. There was something there," Jamie said.

"You and your love at first sight. Jamie, it doesn't exist. Give it up. So your eyes met? Look around the room. You'll meet lots of eyes," Dana said.

Jamie looked over again and the blonde had returned. She watched as the blonde lifted her head, moving her eyes slowly across the room until they landed on Jamie. Again, their stare was intense. Jamie felt as if this woman were looking into her soul. Then the woman's eyes dropped and Jamie followed them...right to her hand still clasped with Dana's. Damn! She pulled it away quickly, but the woman had turned away.

"Shit," Jamie muttered.

"What?"

"This is ridiculous!I'm playing your date to make some other woman jealous and now the blonde thinks we're seeing each other."

"As far as she knows, we are."

"Dana, I can't go through with this. I have to meet her," Jamie insisted.

"Jamie, please. I'll look like a total fool if Tess finds out. And if you hit on her friend, she'll find out."

"Jesus, Dana. You can't expect me to just sit here and let her walk away. It's not like I meet someone everyday that...makes my heart stop." Jamie watched them, then her eyes widened."I'm going. Tess just walked away."

"Jamie, please?"

"I'll tell her I'm cheating on you or something. I have to meet her, Dana."

Before Dana could stop her, Jamie got up and walked across the room, striding purposefully towards the blonde.

*************

Oh my God. She's coming over here. Kate looked up and locked eyes on the tall woman as she approached. She felt her heart flutter in her chest as those dark eyes bored into hers. She nervously stuck her hands in her pockets but couldn't look away.

The woman stopped in front of her, so close, Kate could smell her fragrance, could see the laugh lines around her eyes, could see the pulse that throbbed in her neck.

"I would ask you to dance, but...I've been told I have two left feet," Jamie finally said when she found her voice. The woman's eyes were bluer than she imagined and she still stared into them. Actually, she wanted to drown there.

Kate finally found her voice, too.

"Wouldn't your girlfriend mind?"

"I don't have a girlfriend."At the blonde's raised eyebrows, Jamie remembered her date."Oh, you mean Dana. Well, I can explain about that."Then she looked around for Tess."Would your girlfriend mind?"

"Who?" Kate asked with a frown.

"The redhead."

Kate smiled and shook her head."We're just friends."

Jamie smiled with relief.

"Good." Then, without thinking, she took the blonde's hand and led her out to the dance floor.

"I thought you couldn't dance."

"I can't," Jamie said. But she pulled the woman into her arms, her eyes closing as the blonde moved close to her.

Kate couldn't imagine how she ended up on the dance floor, in this woman's arms, in a matter of seconds. But she hardly cared. Her body had a mind of its own as it practically molded itself to the other woman. She had a hard time catching her breath as the woman's arms circled her waist and she let her own slide up around strong shoulders.

"Please tell me your name," Jamie whispered.

Kate closed her eyes as she felt the woman's breath tickle her ear.

"Kate," she murmured. She felt the woman nod.

"That's lovely. I'm Jamie," she said.

Jamie. Yes, it fit her, Kate thought.

They moved together slowly on the floor, ignoring the other couples as they passed by them. Jamie's hands tightened at her waist and Kate moved closer, gasping at the intimate contact. Never in her life had she reacted to a stranger this way. But her body felt as if it belonged right here, next to this woman. There was no rhythm, no rhyme or reason to their movements. Just two women, two bodies sliding together to the beat of the music. But when their breasts pressed together, Kate moaned, burying her face against Jamie's neck. She couldn't fathom the instant desire she felt for this stranger. A desire that burned slowly down her body, causing her to press even closer to the woman.

Jamie heard the soft moan and her breath caught. She closed her eyes as her lips moved softly, slowly across the woman's hair, her cheek. Then Kate lifted her head and their eyes met. They were both breathing hard and Jamie felt Kate's arms tighten, felt her pull Jamie closer. She was lost. Her hungry mouth closed the distance, meeting Kate's lips with her own.

Kate didn't think as her mouth opened. Her tongue dueled with Jamie's and she nearly collapsed right there in her arms. She groaned as Jamie pulled her closer, molding their hips together. She pressed against her hard, letting go of her inhabitions. Their kisses were hot, wet . . . hungry. Kate's hands moved into Jamie's hair, holding her close. Then suddenly they were bumped from behind and they pulled apart, both their breath coming in ragged gasps.

Their eyes met again, both questioning. They had stopped dancing. They simply stood and stared.

Oh my God!You were making out with a total stranger on the dance floor. Have you lost your mind? Kate stepped away from Jamie, thankful that the song had ended.

"I can't believe you did that," Kate hissed.

"Did what?"

"Kissed me. I don't even know you."

"You kissed me, too," Jamie stated, still breathless.

"I most certainly did not. I don't do that. And your girlfriend...your date is right there," she said, motioning with her head towards Dana.

"I can explain. Please. Let me explain," Jamie begged.

Kate shoved both hands through her hair. She had been making out with a stranger on the dance floor. Thank God no one knew her here. No one except Tess, who was now standing beside them.

"Kate? What's going on?" Tess asked as she looked Jamie over head to toe.

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"I . . . ."But Jamie closed her mouth. She looked from Kate's angry eyes to Tess' angry eyes and she wanted to crawl in a hole. Then she looked back to Kate, staring into the blue eyes that caused her heart to skip.

"Come on," Tess said."I brought you another drink."

"Okay. Thanks," Kate said. She turned to follow Tess, then stopped and looked back at Jamie, who still stood there. "Go back to your date," she said quietly.

"Please, I've got to see you again."

"No. I'm not really interested. You're seeing someone."

"I'm . . . ."Shit! Dana would kill her."I can explain," she said weakly. "Please," she whispered.

Something about the way she nearly begged caused Kate's heart to catch. She stared at the woman who had been kissing her so thoroughly only moments before. Damn, but she was attractive. And her eyes...so dark, so intense. They held her captive. Oh, hell.

"The woman you're with...Tess used to date her," Kate said."In fact, up until last weekend."

"I know. And it's not what you think," Jamie said."Please, give me a chance to explain."

"Why?"

"Because . . . because of what just happened out there," Jamie whispered.

But Kate shook her head."I have rules. Never date someone you meet at a bar. Never date someone who's seeing someone else."

"Okay. I'll give you the first one. But the second, I can explain," Jamie said again.

"Then that still leaves the first," Kate said.

"Then let's meet somewhere else. Breakfast. Nine o'clock. Downtown. Saturday morning. How about Clare's?"

"Why in the world would I agree to that?"

"Because you kissed me. And because you want to do it again," Jamie whispered.

Christ! It was true.

"I don't do this," Kate whispered.

"Do it for me," Jamie said."Please?"

"Shit," Kate whispered. She was torn. Torn between her rules and this beautiful woman who had nearly kissed her senseless minutes ago."Okay. Nine."She turned away before she could change her mind.

Jamie walked quickly back to their table, meeting the very angry eyes of Dana. She smiled weakly. Dana didn't return it.

"She thinks I'm cheating on you," Jamie said. "I'm sure Tess will be sympathetic about it."

"I can't believe you just did that!"

"If you had any sense at all, you'd just go over there and ask Tess to dance. Then we could end this stupid charade."

"Can't you control your hormones for one night? My God!You were practically making out with the woman right there!"

Jamie smiled. She couldn't believe it, no. But, yes, they had been.

"Dana, she's . . . ."

"The one. I know. God, I can't believe you're actually serious when you say that."Dana leaned closer."She's a stranger. A woman you met at a bar. You don't even know her."

"But I want to know her," Jamie said.

*******************

"I can't believe you danced with her," Tess said.

Danced? They weren't really dancing, Kate knew. They had been making out. She closed her eyes. With a stranger, for God's sake!

"She asked me," Kate said.

"You could have declined."

"She didn't give me a chance."

"She's here with Dana."

"I know. And what about that? It must not be serious. Why don't you just go over and ask Dana to dance?"

"I will not."

"You're being ridiculous," Kate said. She wanted Tess to go over. She wanted her to dance with Dana. She wanted them to date. She wanted...Jamie. She nearly groaned at her admission. God, the woman is sleeping with Tess' ex. Could it get any more complicated?

CHAPTER FOUR

The workweek dragged by. Jamie couldn't focus. Files were opened on her desk but her eyes only scanned them. All she could think about was the dance she'd shared with Kate...and the kiss. Kisses, she clarified. And then it was over. She'd looked up and Kate and Tess were gone. And Dana wasn't speaking to her.

She spun her chair around and stared out the window. Downtown

sprawled out around her. She looked out at the familiar high-rises, her thoughts still stuck on the blonde with blue eyes. Saturday was still two days away but she had little hope that Kate would actually keep their date. She would probably never see the woman again.

Actually, she still had a hard time believing she'd asked the woman to dance, much less kissed her. But she simply couldn't resist. Kate had melted into her arms, had moved against her as if they'd done it thousands of times before. It was crazy, yes, but still, Jamie felt it in her heart. Love at first sight.

She turned her chair back to her desk and picked up her mechanical pencil, tapping it lightly on the papers in front of her. She really didn't know what she would do if Kate didn't show for breakfast. She could contact her through Tess, providing Dana would give her Tess' phone number. And providing Tess would give her Kate's number. It was a long shot, considering Dana wasn't speaking to her.

She picked up her phone and punched out Dana's work number. She would try again.

"I'm sorry. Dana's not available," the woman told her.

"It's Jamie. Ask her to call me, please."

"Of course. I'll leave her another message."

Jamie sighed. The fourth one in two days. Well, Dana would get over it . . . eventually.

*************

Kate sat with her back to her desk, looking out the window of her 12th floor office, watching the window washers in the building across from her. As she'd been doing for the last half-hour. It wasn't like she didn't have work to do. Her desk was littered with case files. She just couldn't concentrate on them. The dark-haired beauty kept flashing through her mind. Oh, God. And the kiss. Just the thought of that made her stomach flip over and she crossed her arms, wishing she would stop thinking about it.

But she couldn't. She had met a woman at a bar, had said barely three sentences to her before ending up in her arms. Before kissing her. Yes, Kate admitted. She had kissed Jamie, too. She wanted to blame the other woman, but the only blame was that Jamie had asked her to dance. The kiss, well, it was definitely mutual.

And on Saturday, she was supposed to meet her for breakfast. She closed her eyes. Would she go? If she had any sense, she would stay far, far away from Jamie. She was a stranger. She knew absolutely nothing about the woman. Well, other than the fact that she fit perfectly in her arms and the woman could kiss her senseless. That much was obvious. And then there was the small matter of Jamie dating her best friend's ex. It was much too complicated. No, she wouldn't go. She would be breaking both of her rules with one shot if she went.

At the light tap on her door, she spun back around to her desk and quickly picked up a file.

"Come in."

Tess stuck her head in, carrying an armload of files.

"Mr. Bryant asked me to give these to you. The Hoffman divorce."

Kate looked at her crowded desk.

"Find a corner," she said. Then she leaned back. Tess had been avoiding her for the last two days."What's going on? You've hardly spoken to me."

Tess looked as if she might just leave without answering, but she walked back over and sat in one of Kate's guest chairs.

"Are you going to meet her?" she asked.

Kate sighed. She wished she'd never told Tess that Jamie had invited her to breakfast. Thank goodness Tess had not witnessed the kiss out on the dance floor.

"I haven't decided. Probably not. No, I don't think so," she said."I mean, she's a stranger."

"I think you should go," Tess said.

"Why?"

"Well, maybe you could find out some information about Dana. See how serious they are, how long they've been dating," Tess said.

"Serious? How serious can it be if she's invited me to breakfast?"

"It's just breakfast. It's not like it's a dinner date."

Kate stared at Tess. Oh, it was a date, all right. The look in Jamie's eyes told her it was a date. Well, that and the kiss told her it was a date.

"Why do you want information on Dana? I thought you didn't like her that much," Kate said.

"I like her. I mean, it's not like I've got women lining up, you know."

"Then why did you break things off?"

"I told you, she was starting to get serious. It scared me."

Kate leaned forward and lowered her voice.

"You never told me. Did you sleep together?"

Tess blushed.

"I see," Kate murmured."And what's wrong with that?"

"Oh God, Kate. I liked her. That's what's wrong with that. I could have fallen in love with her."

"And what is wrong with that? Isn't that what we're all hoping to do?"

"It's your damn rules!You've brainwashed me!I met her in a bar! How far could it go? So I fall in love with her? Then what? She gets tired of it and moves on. Like she'd done with this woman you're going out with."

"She moved on because you told her to move on," Kate reminded her.

"It was easier than having her tell me to move on," Tess said quietly.

"That's just crazy. That's like giving up, Tess. You like the woman. She obviously liked you. Why don't you give it a try?" Kate suggested.

"Well, there's the little problem of the new woman she's dating."

"Yeah, well, there's that."

Tess' eyes widened and she leaned forward.

"You could pretend you really like her. You could ask her out. You could take her away from Dana," she said in a rush.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"You don't have to really date her. It's not like you have to sleep with her or anything. Just make her think that you like her. Get her to stop seeing Dana," Tess said.

"I will not."

"I thought we were friends. Why won't you do this for me?"

Oh, shit.

"Okay. I'll meet her for breakfast. Beyond that, I'm not promising anything," Kate said.

"Deal."

CHAPTER FIVE

Jamie still stood in her jogging shorts and bra, looking silently at her closet. Her cat sat importantly next to her, staring inside as she was. Jeans? No, too casual. Slacks and button down? She cocked her head to the side, then shook her head. No, not right for breakfast. Jeans and sweater? No, all her sweaters were too dressy. Slacks and sweater? No, still not breakfast.

"Okay. Jeans and something," she murmured."That'll work, right?"

Sweatshirt? No, way too casual. Shit. She probably wouldn't even show. What's the big deal? Sweatshirt it is.

"Okay. Move. You're not going in there," she said, moving the cat away with her foot.

She hurried through her shower, not wanting to be late. She was nervous as hell, but she still doubted Kate would show up. She was still drying her hair at eight-thirty. She quickly pulled on jeans and sneakers, then stood naked from the waist up as she sorted through her sweatshirts. Athletic ones? No. She tossed them aside, finding her collection of wildlife sweatshirts. She scratched her temple as she debated over the wolf and the eagle.

"Shit. Just pick one."

She turned to Garfield and held them up.

"Which one?"

He yawned.

"You're a big help."

She settled on the wolf, slipping it over her naked body in one motion. She flipped her hair back and took one last look in the mirror. Her eyes were wild. Yes, the wolf was a good choice.

***************

Kate parked two blocks away. She was ten minutes early. She took a deep breath, then glanced at herself in the mirror. Her hair was as unruly as ever and she brushed at it with her fingers. She should have worn more makeup. Her face looked flushed. Then she remembered Jamie's face, not noticing any makeup. Maybe Jamie liked women natural, without makeup.

"Oh, God! Like it matters," she murmured.

Then she glanced at her jeans, thinking she probably should have worn slacks. She looked too casual. But that was what she intended. She didn't want Jamie to think she was dressing up for her.

"This is crazy," she whispered, looking once more in the mirror. She couldn't believe how nervous she was. It was only breakfast, she told herself. Then she remembered her promise to Tess. Pretend to like her? Pretend to date her? She had been insane to agree to this. She suspected Jamie was not one to play with. It could be very dangerous. She had lost complete control in seconds, had ended up kissing her on the dance floor. She couldn't do it. She would end up...in bed with her.

"No. Absolutely not."

Finally, the minutes ticked away and she made herself move. She never once considered Jamie might not show up.

She walked slowly down the sidewalk. It was warm for February, sunny and bright, hinting at Spring. A beautiful morning, really. But it was with a nervous hand that she pulled open the door. And there Jamie was, standing just inside, dressed as casually as she was. She watched as Jamie turned, as if sensing her presence. Their eyes met and a soft smile appeared on Jamie's face. Kate matched it.

"You came," Jamie said quietly.

Kate shrugged.

Jamie walked closer, her eyes never leaving Kate's. She looked even more beautiful than she remembered.

"It's warm out. Would you rather sit on the patio or inside?" Jamie asked.

"Outside, I think," Kate said.

"Good. Come on."

Kate felt Jamie's light touch on her back as she led her through the doors to the patio. They picked a table in the sun and sat across from each other. Kate folded her hands in her lap and Jamie leaned her elbows on the table. Their eyes locked again.

"I was afraid you wouldn't come," Jamie said.

"Actually, I didn't think I would come, either," Kate admitted."I don't normally do this. I don't even know you."

"Jamie Myers. I'm a CPA with Myers and Myers. Family thing," she said when Kate raised her eyebrows."I'm thirty-three. I live alone with a fat cat named Garfield."Again a raised eyebrow."I know. But trust me...he's Garfield. I don't cook, but I know a lot of great restaurants. I jog. I'm not...a stalker or anything. I'm not...strange. I'm . . . ."

"Enough. Tell me about Dana," Kate said.

"Dana? You want to talk about Dana?"

"Yes. You're dating her, right? Does she know you're here with me?"

Jamie sighed. No, Dana didn't know. She would if she'd taken any of Jamie's calls, but no.

"No, she doesn't know. But that hardly matters."

"It matters. Look, Jamie, I have rules."

"Yes, I know. You don't date anyone you met at a bar and . . . ."

"Why did you ask me here?" Kate interrupted.

"You know why," Jamie said quietly.

"You're dating someone."

Jamie looked away. Jesus, Dana would kill her if she told Kate the truth and it got back to Tess.

"It's not . . . serious," she said weakly.

"If it's not serious, why didn't you tell her you'd made plans with me?"

"She's not taking my calls," Jamie said truthfully.

"Why? Did she see us dancing?"

"Yes."

Kate nodded.

"Look, Dana and I . . . that was our first date," she said.

"It doesn't matter. This is just breakfast, right?"

"No."

"Yes. Just breakfast."

"No. I want to see you. I want to . . ."

"No," Kate said."I have rules."

"I'm not seeing Dana," Jamie insisted.

"You're dating."

"No."

"No?"

Jamie reached across the table and captured Kate's hand.

"Please. I can explain," Jamie said.

"So explain."

"I can't."

"You just said you could."

"I'm extremely attracted to you," Jamie said.

Kate sighed. She glanced at their clasped hands, thinking she should pull hers away. She didn't. Damn! She looked up and met Jamie's dark eyes. They pulled her in. She dropped her eyes to Jamie's lips. It was a mistake. They were back on the dance floor...locked together, tongues dueling, mouths mating. She remembered how she'd felt as she pressed close to Jamie's body, how their breasts had been touching as they danced. Oh, Jesus.

"You feel it to," Jamie whispered.

Kate met her eyes again. Yes, she felt it, too. But, damn, she had rules. Then she remembered her promise to Tess. Could she go through with this? Could she lure Jamie away from Dana? Maybe, but at what price?

"Yes," she finally said.

Jamie's eyes softened. Yes, but at what price, Kate thought again.

"Please tell me about yourself," Jamie urged.

Kate tilted her head, then slowly withdrew her hand from Jamie's. She folded them again in her lap.

"Kate McGuire. Attorney. Smith and Calhoun. I'm thirty-two. I live alone. I don't have a cat. I can cook," she said with a smile."No jogging."

Jamie laughed.

"We sound like personal ads," she said.

"Yes, we do."

Jamie nodded."So attorney? Like a defense lawyer?"

"Nothing that exciting. We are a small firm. Mostly civil cases."

Jamie nodded again."You don't look like an attorney," Jamie said. Kate looked very comfortable in her jeans. Although she could easily picture her in a business suit. She would be beautiful.

"And you don't exactly look like an accountant," Kate murmured. Jeans and sweatshirt. And God, her face was flawless. Beautiful.

"Good morning, ladies," their waiter greeted them. "Coffee?"

They both nodded. They were silent as coffee was served, both quietly watching the other.

"Have you decided?" he asked.

Jamie continued to stare at Kate and Kate couldn't seem to pull her eyes away.

"Omelet," she said without thinking.

"Okay. What kind? We've got . . . ."

"Just . . . vegetables and cheese," she said.

Jamie nodded."That sounds fine. I'll have the same."

"Two omelets, coming right up."

He disappeared and still their stare could not be broken. Kate felt her breathing increase, felt her heart as it pounded against her chest. God, those eyes. They were dangerous.

Jamie leaned forward, arms folded across the table.

"The next time we kiss, I really hope we are totally alone," she whispered.

Kate's breath caught.

"What makes you think there will be a next time?" she asked quietly.

"Do you doubt there will be?"

"No," Kate whispered. In fact, it took all of her willpower not to move across the table and kiss Jamie right here, right now.

"You have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," Jamie said softly."They've been haunting my dreams."

Kate nodded. Yes, she knew all about dreams. These dark, intense eyes had been haunting hers, as well.

"I don't even know you," Kate whispered."How can you do this to me?"

"Do what?"

"Make me crazy like this."She finally pulled her eyes away."What happened the other night . . . I just don't do that," she admitted.

"I'm sorry. But it's not like I make of habit of it myself," Jamie said.

"That's just it. How do I know you don't?"

Jamie shrugged."I don't go to bars."

"I don't either."

"Then isn't it strange we met there?"

Kate tried to remember why she had her rules. There must have been a reason, but she couldn't think of one now. This woman, this beautiful woman that she'd met at a bar, was making it very hard for her to stick by her rules. And God, she didn't want to play with her, to take Tess' advice and pretend to date her. And then there was Dana. What was Dana to this woman? Just a first date that Jamie had ditched so that she could have breakfast with her?

None of that really mattered when she looked into Jamie's eyes. She cursed the thoughts running rampant through her mind. She could see them together, kissing . . . as they had been that night on the dance floor. She could see them kissing...and making love. She groaned silently. Yes, she could see them making love.

"Tell me what you're thinking," Jamie whispered.

"No."

Jamie reached across the table and captured her hand again. Kate's fingers entwined with hers immediately.

"You know you can't fight this," Jamie stated.

"I know," Kate admitted. And she couldn't. Damn her rules! What she was thinking was totally insane. But she voiced her thoughts anyway."I'd really like to meet...Garfield," she whispered.

Jamie nearly dropped her coffee cup.

"Now?"

"Now," Kate whispered.

Neither noticed the waiter as he approached with their breakfast.

"Here we go, ladies. Anything else? More coffee?"

"The check," Jamie murmured. She slowly pulled her eyes away from Kate's and looked at the waiter. "Now."

"Of course. Is there something not to your liking?" he asked.

"Kind of in a hurry," Jamie said.

"Of course. Would you like me to box these to go then?"

"No!" they said in unison. Kate blushed as the waiter looked from one to the other.

"I see. Of course."

Jamie's hand trembled as she pulled money from her pocket and laid it on the table. Her heart was pounding and she tried to catch her breath.

Kate couldn't believe what she was about to do. She pushed her thoughts away. If she thought about it, she would run. And she definitely didn't want to run. Not now. Not when Jamie's eyes promised so much.

"I live only five minutes from here. Follow me?" Jamie asked.

Kate nodded. She was afraid to speak. They stood and she followed Jamie out to the sidewalk.

"There," Jamie pointed."The black car."

Kate nodded again. She walked to her own car and dropped her keys before she could disengage the alarm. She picked them up nervously, her hands trembling as she opened the door.

"Don't think about it," she whispered."Don't think about it."

She pulled away, following closely behind Jamie. Actually, she didn't have time to think. Before she knew it, they were parking again. She took a deep breath, then got out, walking silently beside Jamie, through the courtyard and past the pool, to her apartment.

Jamie closed the door behind them and they faced each other. Kate saw Jamie's chest heave, her breathing as ragged as her own. She didn't look around the apartment, her eyes were only on Jamie.

The tiny part of sanity that Jamie clung to told her they were rushing things but those blue eyes pulled her. She walked closer, her hand finally coming out to brush at the hair around Kate's face, something she had wanted to do since she had first glimpsed her across the dance floor. Kate's eyes closed slowly and Jamie dropped her own gaze to the lips that had been tormenting her dreams for the last few nights. She finally closed the distance, lightly touching Kate's lips with her own.

Kate moaned at the soft touch, then opened her lips slightly, kissing Jamie back. Then there was nothing else; no questions, no thoughts, no words. Just the wild hunger that claimed them both. Kate's arms went around Jamie the same instant that Jamie pulled her close, fitting her body with her own. Kate's hands moved into the silky tresses and she groaned as Jamie's tongue slipped past her lips.

Jamie pulled away, then found the throbbing pulse in Kate's neck. Her teeth nipped gently at her throat, sucking lightly against her pulse.

Kate bent her head back, offering herself to Jamie. Her eyes remained closed and she moaned again as Jamie's mouth moved against her. Then gentle, timid hands moved up, lightly caressing her breasts and Kate gasped when Jamie's fingers found her nipples, gently squeezing them.

She clung to Jamie, her legs refusing to support her a second longer. Then a hard thigh moved between her legs, pressing intimately against her. Kate's hips bucked when Jamie made contact with her hot center. Never in her life had she wanted someone's touch as she now wanted, needed Jamie's.

She whimpered when Jamie pulled away and her eyes opened, finding Jamie's dark ones still so close to her own. Then Jamie took her hand and Kate followed, her legs nearly giving out when they reached the bedroom. She stood by silently as Jamie pulled the covers back. The Jamie came back to her, her hands moving to Kate's waist, moving easily under her sweatshirt, touching warm flesh. Kate's muscles contracted as those hands moved higher and she locked her gaze with Jamie's. She trembled when Jamie touched her breasts, light fingers moving across her lacy bra.

Then Jamie pulled her hands away, lifting her own shirt over her head and pulling it off. Kate's breath caught. Jamie wore no bra. Without thinking, her hands went to her, cupping Jamie's bare breasts with warm hands. She moaned as Jamie's nipples hardened. She bent down, taking one with her mouth.

"Yes," Jamie whispered.

Kate pulled back, barely able to breathe. She was on fire for this woman, this stranger. It didn't matter. She quickly pulled her own shirt off, then Jamie's hands were there, peeling her bra away. She saw as Jamie held her breath, her eyes raising from her breasts to lock on her blue eyes. Kate felt nearly burned by the hungry desire she saw there.

Jamie was certain she'd never seen a more beautiful sight. She was almost afraid to touch her. But Kate took her hands and pulled them to her breasts. Jamie trembled as she cupped them, watching in fascination as the nipples hardened. Then Kate's hands moved to her jeans, unbuttoning them and pushing them slowly down Jamie's hips.

Jamie could stand it no longer. She stepped out of them quickly, her own hands in a rush as they fumbled with Kate's button. Kate helped her, pushing them down, standing now as naked as Jamie was.

Jamie pulled her to the bed, covering her, easing her weight on top of Kate. Kate's legs opened, her hips moving instinctively to meet Jamie. She felt her own wetness coat her thighs and her hands guided Jamie's mouth to her lips. Her mouth opened, taking Jamie's tongue inside and she sucked it hard into her mouth. She heard Jamie groan, meeting each thrust of Jamie's hips as they strained to touch. Then Jamie's hot mouth found her breast and it was Kate's turn to groan. Her hands held Jamie to her as Jamie's tongue swirled around her nipple before sucking it inside her mouth. Kate trembled, so afraid she would have an orgasm right then.

"Touch me," she whispered."Go inside me," she begged.

Jamie's hand moved between them, sliding across Kate's thigh then up, finding the wet silk that greeted her fingers. She pulled her mouth away, watching Kate's face as her fingers slid through her wetness and entered her.

Kate's eyes closed as she felt Jamie go inside her. Her hips rose up to meet her then she pulled Jamie back to her breast. As Jamie's mouth suckled her, Kate's hips rolled, meeting each thrust of Jamie's fingers as she moved in and out of her wetness. Her entire body trembled as she felt her orgasm build, threatening to explode with each thrust of Jamie's hand.

Jamie felt the trembling, felt the muscles tighten around her fingers. With her hips, she pushed her own hand harder against Kate, rocking into her until Kate screamed out. She finally slowed, leaving her fingers inside the warm wetness as Kate clutched her to her.

"Oh Jamie," Kate whispered. She lay back, spent, her eyes still closed. She finally relaxed, opening her thighs enough so that Jamie's fingers slipped away from her. She felt light kisses move over her breasts to her neck, finally to her lips.

CHAPTER SIX

Kate woke to a heavy weight against her stomach. She glanced down and met the huge, green eyes of a cat. A purring cat. A large, orange purring cat.

"You must be Garfield," she whispered.

She turned her head, finding Jamie asleep next to her, her face resting against Kate's shoulder. She closed her eyes for a second, then opened them again. Jamie was absolutely beautiful. She looked so peaceful, so...sated. Kate smiled. She should be. They had made love for hours. Kate closed her eyes again. Hours. She had just spent hours in a stranger's arms...making love. And it was the most wonderful thing she had ever experienced. But now what?

She panicked. She had to leave. She had to get out before Jamie woke up. She would want to talk and Kate absolutely did not want to talk about it. She had spent hours making love to a woman she'd met in a bar. A woman who was seeing someone else.

Have you lost your mind? Oh, now is a fine time to come to your senses!

She quietly moved away from Jamie. That was the easy part. The fat cat refused to budge.

"Get off," she hissed. The cat only stared at her.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Jamie rolled over, clutching the pillow to her body. Then she opened her eyes, finding the bed empty. Well, there was Garfield. He was staring at her.

"Where'd she go?"

Jamie glanced at the clock. It was after five.

"Jesus!"

She jumped out of bed and walked into the living room, then the kitchen.

"No note, Garfield. Imagine that," she murmured.

No, she knew Kate wouldn't leave a note. What would she say? Thanks for a good time? Jamie shook her head. It was too fast. She knew that this morning when she'd brought Kate to her apartment. She never intended to end up in bed today. She just wanted breakfast and conversation. A chance to get to know her better. But, God, those eyes. Jamie just couldn't resist those eyes.

And what they had just shared, it was more than Jamie ever dreamed she was capable of. Kate's mouth and hands drove her over the edge again and again. And Jamie knew one day would never be enough.

**************

Kate drove aimlessly through the city. She couldn't seem to focus. She wasn't even sure where she was. One thing she was sure of. She was starving. She pulled into a fast food place and ordered a cheeseburger. As she sat there waiting, she stared at her hands. Then, without thinking, she brought them to her face, inhaling the scent of Jamie that still clung to them.

"Oh God," she moaned. She shoved them quickly between her legs. It was a mistake. She clamped her thighs tightly around them, her body again remembering the way Jamie had taken her, the feel of her mouth as it moved down her body, her tongue sliding through her wetness, bringing her to yet another orgasm.

CHAPTER EIGHT

For the first time in years, Kate arrived early at the office. She had spent a restless Sunday, avoiding calls from Tess, avoiding her thoughts as they kept fumbling through her mind. She had been exhausted Saturday night. She had fallen into bed early, her body still sated. Her dreams were full of Jamie but at least she slept. And Sunday morning, her body protested as she stood. Her muscles were sore, her body ached. And why not? It wasn't like she was used to making love for half a day.

"No, no, no," she whispered. She didn't want to think about it. So she'd met a stranger and slept with her? It wasn't like she was the first one to ever do that. It was just so totally out of character for her. And today she would have to face Tess and her questions. Well, one thing was for certain. She would never tell Tess what had happened. Breakfast, a little talking, that was all Tess needed to know.

But it was barely nine when her secretary, Jean, stuck her head in the door.

"Something came for you," she said with a huge smile.

Kate looked up and frowned.

"What?"

The door opened wide and Jean walked in carrying a huge vase of long-stemmed roses. Kate dropped her file on the floor and stared. Oh my God. I'll kill her.

"Actually, there's another one," Jean said. She came back with an identical vase as the first, setting both on top of Kate's cluttered desk.

Kate moved her eyes from the beautiful roses back to her secretary, who stood expectantly, waiting for an explanation. Kate had never received flowers before.

"There was no card," Jean said."But, I assume you know who they're from," she teased.

Before Kate could speak, her office starting filling. Five women stood around, oohing and ahhing over the flowers. Yes, she would definitely kill her.

"Oh my God!"

Kate closed her eyes. Tess.

"Kate? Who are they from?" she asked as she bent to sniff one of the flowers."They're fabulous."

Kate searched her muddled brain, trying to find the name of a client she could toss out, something to appease the other women, but none would come.

"You must have had a nice weekend," one of the other attorneys said with a wink.

"I'll say. Two dozen? My, my."

"And long-stemmed. They're gorgeous."

"Who the hell are they from?" Tess asked.

"Ah, there was no card," Kate said weakly.

"And you have no idea?"

Kate stared."Well, I may have an idea," she admitted. Her eyes went back to the flowers. She wanted to be angry with Jamie, but God, they were beautiful. She let a small smile escape as she looked from one vase to the other. Two dozen? What had the woman been thinking?

The other women finally left, leaving only Tess standing with her hands on her hips. Kate looked up and met her eyes, failing to stop the blush that crept up her face.

"Oh my God," Tess whispered."You slept with her?"

Kate took a deep breath, then turned to stare out the window.

"Yes, I slept with her," she murmured."I know. I'm absolutely insane."

"You didn't have to go that far," Tess said."I just wanted you to pretend to like her. To go out to dinner or something, anything to get her away from Dana. I didn't mean for you to actually have sex with her."

Kate turned around and faced Tess. She couldn't believe that Tess thought she'd slept with Jamie simply as a game, a ploy to deflect her interest away from Dana. It wasn't like she could control it. Her body had simply taken over her mind. She had offered no resistance. It was at that very moment that Kate realized that she had not spent half a day having sex with a stranger. She and Jamie had made love. Their touches, their kisses were gentle, loving. Their whispered words were all about pleasure, emotional as well as physical. Not just sex.

Oh, dear God. You have lost your mind.

"Are you not going to tell me what happened?"

Kate shrugged. What was to tell? They hadn't even made it through breakfast.

"It just happened," she said weakly.

"And what about Dana?"

"What about her? We didn't actually talk about her," Kate admitted."Although she indicated that it wasn't serious."

"Well I guess not. Not if she takes you to bed at the drop of a hat."

Kate wanted to say it wasn't like that. But it was. They hadn't been at the table a half-hour before they had sped to Jamie's apartment. She wanted to blame Jamie but it was her suggestion, she knew. She was the one who couldn't control herself. She was the one who thought she would die right there at the table if she didn't get her hands on Jamie.

A knock on the door saved Kate from answering.

"Tess, Mr. Calhoun needs you," Jean said."And Kate, call on line two. Ms. Myers."

Kate's heart fluttered at the mention of Jamie's name. Thank goodness Tess didn't know her last name.

"We'll talk later," Tess said as she left.

Kate closed the door behind her, then moved slowly to her desk, her eyes watching the flashing light. She noticed her hand trembled as she reached for the phone.

"Kate McGuire," she answered in her most professional voice.

"I don't suppose you're wondering who they're from," Jamie said.

"No, I had a pretty good idea," she said."Two, Jamie?"

"They have absolutely nothing to do with Saturday," she said.

"Really?"

"Yes. They're because of Sunday."

"Sunday?"

"Yes. They're to let you know how much I missed you on Sunday. And how often I thought of you," she said quietly.

Damn...what could she say to that?

"Please say you're not angry," Jamie coaxed.

"They're beautiful. How could I possibly be angry?"

There was a pause, then Kate heard Jamie sigh.

"Why did you leave?"

Yes, why Kate? Tell her you panicked.

"I was . . . embarrassed," she admitted.

"Why?"

"You know very well why. I hardly know you. In fact, I don't know you at all. And we spent the entire day in bed," she whispered.

"Then get to know me. Kate, I didn't mean for that to happen. Honestly, I just wanted to have breakfast and visit. And maybe make plans for dinner or something. I never imagined it would turn out like it did. But, I couldn't...resist."

"It was my fault," Kate said."I'm the one . . . ."

"No. I could have said no. But, Kate, I feel something for you. When I look into your eyes, I'm just lost," Jamie admitted.

"No. We can't do this. We met in a bar, for God's sake!"

"And?"

"And...I have rules," she said weakly.

"Pretend we met at breakfast."

"Well that's just great. Thirty minutes later, we're in bed."

"Yes. What does that say?"

"It says I'm insane," Kate said."I can't do this, Jamie."

"But you did. And you enjoyed it as much as I did," Jamie insisted.

"Yes, I can't deny that. But it was a one-time thing."

"I'm sorry, but I don't do one-time things."

"Jamie, please, let's just let this go. Please?"

"Why? What are you afraid of?"

Kate closed her eyes. She was afraid she would fall in love with her, that's what she was afraid of. And then what? She would be like Tess. Always afraid Jamie would go to the bar and find someone else and repeat this silly game of seduction. She groaned. God, she was pathetic.

So, she tried the reasonable approach.

"Jamie, you're seeing someone else. I'm not in the habit of dating women who are dating others. I'm certainly not in the habit of sleeping with women who are sleeping with others."

There was silence. She heard Jamie sigh again.

"I can explain about Dana. I just can't right now. But you've got to believe me when I say we are not sleeping together."

Kate closed her eyes again. She wanted to believe Jamie, she really did. But would it make a difference? They were still dating. Still going out. Who's to say Jamie and Dana won't end up in bed together?

"I'm sorry," she said.

"Kate, please, let's get dinner this week. We can talk and maybe by then I'll be able to explain. Please?"

God, Kate so wanted to accept. A nice quiet dinner. A time to get to know each other better. But then, she knew, if they were alone, if she looked into Jamie's eyes, she would be lost all over again. And she knew she could not resist her. Her body would take over and they would repeat Saturday and they would be right back where they are now.

"I can't," she said. It was the right decision, she knew. But it was so hard to make.

There was a pause.

"Okay. I understand. Perhaps later, when I can completely explain . . . ."

"Jamie . . . ."

"What if I promise you'll laugh about it?"

"I doubt I'll laugh," she said.

"Trust me. You'll laugh."

****************

Jamie stared at the phone for the longest time. She wanted to be angry with Dana but it was her decision not to tell Kate the truth. She just couldn't take a chance on Kate telling Tess. She knew Dana would never forgive her and Dana was her closest friend. No, she would talk to Dana. Surely, Dana would understand.

"I'm not really speaking to you," Dana said later when Jamie finally got through to her.

"I don't know why. I've played along with your charade," she said.

"Played along? You asked Tess' date to dance. You kissed her. Or have you forgotten?"

Jamie grinned. No, certainly, she'd not forgotten. She was only thankful Dana knew nothing of their breakfast date.

"Look, if Kate told Tess anything, it's that I'm a bum and cheating on you."

"Yes. And how does that look? She thinks I'm seeing a jerk! What does that say about my taste in women?"

"Jesus! This is crazy! So I'm not to have a life because you're too afraid to tell Tess the truth?"

"Don't start with me. I'll hang up," Dana threatened.

"Don't hang up," Jamie said quickly."Look, let's get dinner. How about Wednesday? You're still off on Wednesdays, right? We can go to Jorge's over on Fifth. Sit on the patio and have a margarita and talk."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"Because you haven't spoken to me since Valentine's Day. I miss you," Jamie said.

"Don't try to sweet-talk me," Dana said."Okay. But you're paying."

"Great. Yes, I'll pay," she promised. She would be paying for more than dinner, she knew, after she told Dana that she was going to tell Kate the truth. Dana would be angry, but she couldn't let Kate slip away. Not now. Not after Saturday when Kate had made love to her like no else before. Not when she was falling in love with the woman.

CHAPTER NINE

"Come on. It'll give us a chance to talk," Tess pleaded.

Kate didn't want to talk. She had been avoiding Tess since Monday. She had managed to get the two vases of long-stemmed roses to her car and to her apartment without tipping them over. She didn't want them at her office where she would be forced to look at them all day. And where others would be able to comment. It was almost as if Tess had forgotten about them. But she hadn't, Kate knew. Each time she'd entered Kate's office, her eyes went to where the vases were not.

"Okay. Dinner. Fine," Kate finally agreed. It wasn't like she had anything else to do. And, truthfully, she would be thankful to escape her apartment, where the two dozen roses haunted her every move.

"I'm thinking Mexican," Tess said.

"Whatever."

"Don't sound so enthused," Tess said.

"I'm sorry. I would love to have dinner with you," Kate said slowly."And Mexican sounds wonderful."

"Great. It's warm out. Let's go to Jorge's and fight for the patio. They have the best margaritas in town."

"Fine," Kate agreed.

"We'll talk," Tess said again.

"Great."

CHAPTER TEN

Jamie had just shoved a tortilla chip into her mouth when she saw Kate and Tess walk up. She nearly choked. She watched as they went inside, praying that they wouldn't choose the patio. But of course, they did.

"Are you going to see her again?" Dana asked

Jamie stared at Dana. Oh yeah, she was about to see her in a second or two.

"We haven't made plans," she said truthfully.

"Look, I know you think you feel something for her. Your warped view of love at first sight and all, which doesn't exist, by the way. But if you do see her again, I would appreciate it if you never told her about our little charade," Dana said."If it ever got back to Tess, I would never forgive you."

"Yes, I know. And speaking of that, why again are we doing this?" Jamie asked. She pulled her eyes away when she saw the patio door open and watched as Kate and Tess walked in. They were seated only four tables away. The only saving grace was that Tess' back was to them. Kate, however, locked gazes with her. She met the blue eyes without flinching.

"Because if Tess found out, she would think I was a complete idiot," Dana said.

"You are a complete idiot," Jamie said, finally pulling her eyes from Kate. God, could this night get any worse?"And I'm going along with this. What does that say about me?"

"It says you're my friend," Dana said.

"Right now, that means so much to mean," Jamie murmured as she shoved another chip into her mouth.

*****************

Kate sat down, elbows on the table and buried her head in her hands.

"Oh dear God," she murmured.

"What?"

Kate looked up and met Tess' questioning eyes.

"Nothing," she said. She lifted her head and forced a smile to her face."But a margarita sounds wonderful. Doesn't it? Make mine a double."

A waiter materialized and Tess ordered one for each of them. Kate flicked her gaze past Tess, landing on the beautiful face of Jamie Myers as she spoke with Dana. Her date. Her girlfriend, probably. Kate groaned inwardly. God, she couldn't stand to see them together. It was nearly ripping her heart out. And what if Tess saw them? God, there would be a scene. She lowered her eyes, playing with her napkin nervously.

"What is wrong with you?" Tess asked.

"Nothing. I'm fine," she said.

"You're nervous as hell," Tess said."Look, I didn't invite you to dinner to get all the sordid details of your...affair with that woman. I know that's what you think. So you slept with her? Big deal. I'm glad you had a. . . quickie," she said.

"Quickie?"

"Well, I mean, you met her at a bar. You know, your rules."

"I'm well aware of my rules," Kate said dryly.

"But, at least you got flowers out of the deal."

Kate stared at Tess. Said that way, it sounded so cheap, so. . . cheap. Yes, she got flowers. Was it a thank you for services rendered? Or was it like Jamie had said? She missed her and she'd thought about her? She glanced over at Jamie, who sat talking quietly with Dana. It was for services rendered. God, and it was so very cheap.

**************

Jamie tried to focus on what Dana was saying, but her eyes kept glancing to Kate. She and Tess sat quietly, barely talking. Had Tess seen them? Had Kate told her that she and Dana were there? It was all so complicated. All she wanted to do was go to Kate and tell her the truth. She must be thinking that she was here on a date with Dana. What else could she think?

"So, are you going to see her again?" Dana asked again.

Jamie met her eyes. She answered truthfully.

"Yes. I would like to. I really like her, Dana."

"I believe you. I think you're crazy, but I believe you."

"She doesn't have to tell Tess," Jamie said."You and Tess could work it out on your own."

"She doesn't want me," Dana said.

"If you think she doesn't want you, then why are you so concerned if she knows about me?"

"I don't want to be made to look the fool."

"This was your idea," Jamie reminded her as she looked once again across the room.

"Who do you keep looking at?"

"Nobody. Nothing." Kate had gotten up. She was walking away. Jamie looked back at Dana."Listen, I'm going...to the little girls room," she said, rising.

"Fine. I'm going to order us another."

"Yes. Fine. Whatever," Jamie murmured as she hurried away.

*************

Kate stood at the sink, staring into the mirror. She hated the way she was feeling. She hated that her heart ached. So Jamie was here with Dana? It shouldn't matter. It wasn't like she had any claims on the woman. So they slept together? A day of fun, and it was over. She met her eyes again in the mirror. She didn't want it to be over. One day was not nearly enough. But it was over. Jamie was seeing someone. But, Jesus, in a city this size, you'd think they could go to dinner without running into each other.

She turned quickly when the door opened, her eyes colliding with Jamie's. Dark, intense eyes stared into her own. Kate swallowed, unable to pull her gaze away.

Jamie walked slowly to her, only stopping when they were but a breath away. Kate noticed the pulse that throbbed in Jamie's neck and she remembered putting her lips there. Her heart pounded in her chest and she knew her body remembered it, too.

"I know what you're thinking," Jamie said.

"I doubt it."

Jamie took her hand and pulled her into the handicapped stall, closing the door behind them.

"What are you doing?" Kate asked.

"I want to kiss you. And I didn't think you'd want me to do it out there," Jamie said quietly.

Kate shook her head, no, but she made no attempt to leave. "Please don't," she whispered. "I can't, Jamie. I can't do this."

Jamie ignored her protest, instead reaching for her and pulling her closer. Kate offered no resistance as her arms slid up Jamie's shoulders and around her neck. Nothing mattered. Not Dana. Not Tess. Not even the fact that they were in a bathroom stall. Their mouths met, a wild hunger that controlled them both. Kate's tongue found its way inside Jamie's mouth and her hands held Jamie tightly to her.

She gasped when Jamie cupped her breasts and she pressed closer, molding herself to the other woman. Memories flooded her mind, thoughts of Jamie's mouth on her, hands spreading her thighs apart, fingers entering her, bringing her to orgasm. Her hips bucked hard against Jamie. She had lost control. If Jamie wanted to make love to her right here, right now, she could offer no resistance.

They were both breathing hard when Jamie finally pulled away. Their eyes met, then Jamie lowered her head, kissing Kate lightly, softly on the lips. Kate moaned. Jamie leaned her forehead against Kate's and sighed.

"How can you do this to me? You make me crazy," Kate murmured.

Jamie took Kate's hand and pressed her palm against Jamie's chest.

"And you make me crazy," she whispered.

Kate felt the thundering heartbeat under her palm and her eyes slid shut. She moved her hand the few inches necessary to touch Jamie's breast. She groaned. Did the woman ever wear a bra? She cupped her breast, her fingers moving lightly across it. Then she pulled away before she totally embarrassed herself. She was seconds away from lifting Jamie's shirt and putting her mouth on her.

"I can't take this anymore, Kate. We've got to talk."

Kate raised confused eyes to Jamie.

"What do you mean?"

"Please. Go out with me. Let's have dinner or something."

"No. You can't make a date with me when your other date is right out there."Kate stepped away from Jamie, running her fingers through her hair. She cursed her body for being so weak. It was like she was under some kind of spell. She seemed to lose complete control whenever she was within ten feet of this woman.

"She's not my date. Why won't you believe me?"

"Then explain what she is to you."

Jamie hesitated."You and Tess, you're good friends, right?"

"Yes."

"And you tell her practically everything?"

"Pretty much."

Jamie nodded. Dana would kill her."That's why I can't tell you."

"What are you talking about?"

Jamie gripped Kate's arms."Kate, please trust me. Give me a little time to straighten this out."

"You mean, you want to get rid of her first? Then it's safe to be seen with me?"

"No. That's not what I mean." Jamie stepped back, frustration getting the best of her."This is so fucking crazy," she muttered.

"Why won't you tell me what is going on?"

"Because she'll kill me. Come on, we better get back. They'll wonder where we are."

Kate nodded. No doubt Tess had seen Jamie pass by their table. She would know. She would be furious.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Jamie walked out first. She couldn't help but glance at Tess as she passed by her table. Angry eyes met her own. She walked quickly to her own table. Dana was tapping her fingers impatiently.

"Took you long enough," she said.

"Crowded."

***************

"Did you see her?" Tess hissed as Kate returned to their table.

"Who?"

"Jamie! And Dana is sitting right there," she whispered, motioning with her head behind them.

Kate glanced over Tess' shoulder, watching as Jamie and Dana talked.

"Yes, I saw her."

"And?"

"And what?"

"What did she say? Why are they here?"

"Dinner?"

"You know what I mean? Jesus, I can't believe she slept with you and she's out again with Dana. Has she no shame?"

Kate closed her eyes. Shame? She was just kissing the woman minutes ago. Kissing Jamie in a bathroom stall. When her date was right here! Shame? She was the one who had no shame.

CHAPTER TWELVE

"Kate? Delivery," Jean said.

Kate looked up from her desk, her mouth dropping open. Flowers. Lots of flowers. Spring flowers this time.

"On your desk again?" Jean asked, setting the large vase on a corner.

"Thanks," she murmured. It only took a second for her office to fill again with women.

"Damn, Kate. You must be good," one teased.

"Are they from the same person?"

"What's the occasion?"

"They're for sex, silly."

Kate stood and pointed at her door."Out! Get out."

They all left in a cloud of laughter and Kate sunk back into her chair. Damn the woman. If Kate could get her hands on her, she'd...what? Throttle her, she insisted. No, kiss her, most likely.

But they were beautiful. She reached out and touched a petal, conscious of the smile that crept onto her face.

Her intercom buzzed.

"Line three. She wouldn't give a name," Jean told her.

"That's because she didn't think I'd take her call," Kate murmured. Then she pushed line three. "Kate McGuire."

"There's this woman that has this friend. A best friend. A little crazy, but still, a friend. And this woman is single. Very single. So the friend talks her into going to a bar on Valentine's Day. See, this friend likes this other woman. Likes her a lot, in fact. But this other woman, she told her they needed to date other women and not get serious. So, see, the best friend didn't know what to do. So, she thought, I'll make the other woman jealous and have her think that I'm dating this woman, the friend."

Kate leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling, trying desperately to follow Jamie's ramblings.

"There's a couple of problems. The friend, the woman, can't dance. So they look like idiots. And two, the woman, the friend, sees the most beautiful woman ever there at the bar. She's lost from just one look. She tells the friend. But the friend says, no, that's the woman I'm trying to make jealous. So the first woman is crushed, thinking that the beautiful blonde was taken. Then she finds out later that it's not the blonde her friend was trying to make jealous. It was the blonde's friend, a tall redhead."

Kate had to cover her mouth to stifle a laugh.

"But see, the woman couldn't resist the blonde, so she asked her to dance, even though she can't dance. Oh, and my God, the kiss they shared was to die for. But the friend got mad, thinking that the blonde would tell the redhead if she knew that the friend was not really her date. So, the woman couldn't tell the blonde and the blonde thought she was dating the friend. When they weren't. Not ever. Not . . . ."

"Please stop. My brain is going in circles trying to follow this."Kate leaned her elbows on the table, and she smiled. Then she laughed."Okay. In English this time, Jamie. Please?"

"Dana and Tess dated. Dana liked her a lot. In fact, although she's not said this to me, I think she may be in love with Tess. But when Tess told her they were getting too serious, Dana panicked. So, she talked me into going as her date to make Tess jealous. I saw you and...I forgot all about Dana's plans. Even though Tess was your friend, I didn't care. But Dana swore me to secrecy. She was afraid that if you knew the truth, you would tell Tess and Dana would look like an idiot. And don't say it. I know she's an idiot to come up with this plan to begin with."

"When you said you could explain, you were kidding, right?"

"Jamie, please, it's the truth. You've got to believe me."

Kate laughed."Oh, I believe you. No sane person could possibly make up this story."

"So I'm not dating Dana, I've not slept with her. That would just be gross. I'm single. I'm perfectly sane. I know we met at a bar and I know you have rules. But please, Kate, give this a chance. I feel something when I'm with you. I think you feel it, too."

Kate nodded and smiled to her empty office. Yes, she felt it, too.

"Write this down," Kate instructed.

"What?"

"10368 Skyline. Apartment 310. Six o'clock."

"Kate?"

"Don't be late."

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Kate was still smiling and staring at her flowers when Tess knocked on the door and entered.

"I heard you got flowers again," she said."My God, the woman has balls. What is she thinking?"

Kate shrugged.

"Sit down, Tess. Let's talk," she said.

"Talk? You're using that attorney voice. I don't like it when you do that. It scares me."

Kate smiled."I'm sorry. This is a friendly chat. Nothing more."

"Okay. What's up? And why the hell did she send you flowers again? Just because you saw her out with Dana?"

"Do you like Dana?"

"What? Yes, I like her. I told you that. But she's not exactly available."

"What if she was?"

"What do you mean? You're going to pretend to date Jamie? Break Dana's heart? So that she can run back to me? No. My God, she replaced me in a week!"

"You told her to replace you, if you remember," Kate reminded her."But I'm just asking, what if Dana was available. Don't think about Jamie. Just pretend Jamie doesn't exist. If you had to do it over again, would you continue seeing Dana?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"Yes. If I had to do it over again, if I hadn't freaked out, yes, I would continue seeing her again. I liked her," she said quietly.

"Okay. That's all I wanted to know."

"Why? What are you doing?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? You're planning something and I want to know what it is."

"I'm not planning anything, Tess. Now, I have work to do. I'm leaving early today."

"Why are you leaving early? You never leave early."

"I have some . . . errands."

"I don't trust you. You have that look in your eye," Tess said.

"I don't have a look in my eye. We'll talk tomorrow," she said.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Jamie sped through town, trying to find Skyline. Of all days, she had appointments she couldn't get out of. She had left work late. She'd showered and changed, barely stopping long enough to feed Garfield. Now, it was five minutes after six and she was lost. She grabbed her cell phone and punched out Dana's number.

"Get a map," she told her.

"What?"

"A map."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Where is Skyline?"

"What?"

"Skyline! The street. Where is it?"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to find Skyline, what the hell do you think I'm doing?"

"Why?"

"Dana! Please. I've got an appointment. I'm late. Where is it?"

"Okay, okay. It's on the north side. Past the Loop."

"Christ!"

"Where are you?"

"I'm on the damn Loop. MacArthur is coming up."

"You're too far. You need to go back."

"Shit! Fuck!"

"Why did you make an appointment this late? And don't most of your clients come to see you?"

"It's a special client," she said."Hang on." She tossed the phone on the seat as she exited, speeding through the yellow light to cross over the Loop. She picked the phone up again."Okay. Now, how far?"

"You have to go past Franklin. I think it's the Spencer exit," she said.

"You think?"

"Yes. Skyline's off of Spencer."

"Okay. I think I can find it. Thanks." She disconnected before Dana could ask any more questions. It was already six-fifteen. Kate would think she'd stood her up.

************

Kate paced, then looked at the clock. She's not coming, she thought. After all this, she's not going to show.

"Go figure," she murmured.

She walked past the flowers that lined the bar and grabbed the wine bottle. She opened it quickly, hating that she felt disappointed. Maybe Jamie got held up?

"Maybe she changed her mind."

Maybe, now that Kate had agreed to see her, Jamie lost interest. Oh, you're being ridiculous, she thought. It's only 6:20.

**************

Jamie pulled into the first parking spot she found and ran to the building, sliding to a halt in front of the reception desk.

"Elevators?" she gasped.

"Down the hall."

She ran down the hall and pushed the 'up' button six times. She looked up and watched the floors.

"Jesus Christ!"

It was on the 14th and heading up, not down. She turned to the other wall and pushed that button several times. Sixteenth floor? She glanced at her watch. Nearly six thirty.

"Stairs."

She ran quickly to the end of the hall and pushed open the door to the stairs. She took them two at a time, running up the flights without thinking. By the time she burst into the hallway on the third floor, she was winded. The door closest to her was 346.

"Great."

She walked down the hall, then turned the corner. 323. Closer. She ran again. 319. 314. 310.

She stood outside the door and took several deep breaths. Finally, she knocked.

*************

Kate jumped at the sound of the loud knocking. She glanced at her clock, then set her wineglass down. The knock came again.

She opened the door and stood staring at Jamie. She finally raised her eyebrows.

"Got lost," Jamie managed between breaths.

"Why are you out of breath?"

"Stairs."

"We have elevators, you know."

"They were on fourteen and sixteen."

Kate nodded, then smiled, letting Jamie enter.

"You thought I stood you up, didn't you?" Jamie asked.

"The thought crossed my mind," Kate admitted.

"I would never miss an opportunity to see you," Jamie said seriously."Never."

Their eyes locked. Kate's heart pounded, her chest heaving, matching Jamie's, although she couldn't blame running up the stairs for her breathlessness. She walked the short distance to Jamie, resting her hands against Jamie's chest, feeling her heart as it pounded. They should have wine. They should talk.

"Please kiss me," Jamie whispered.

Wine would have to wait. Kate moved into her arms, sliding her hands around Jamie's neck and pulling her closer until their lips met. Slow kisses, soft, gentle. Just lips meeting lips, moving across the others lightly. Jamie slid her arms around Kate's waist, pulling her closer and Kate buried her face at Jamie's neck and they held each other.

Jamie closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of Kate. It was perfect, the way Kate fit in her arms.

Kate finally pulled away, her eyes clouded with desire when she looked at Jamie. She didn't want to have wine and she didn't want to talk.

"I want to make love to you," she whispered. She watched Jamie's eyes turn nearly black. She reached out a hand and touched Jamie's face lightly, moving her fingers across Jamie's lips."Please?"

Jamie pulled her closer, her hands moving under her shirt to touch warm skin. This time, when their lips met, the gentleness was gone, replaced with a hunger neither could control. Tongues dueled and hands reacquainted themselves with each other. Jamie groaned when she found Kate's breasts. There was no bra to stop her.

"We should talk," Jamie murmured as her lips found Kate's again.

"Yes. We should."

"If only you'd worn a bra, maybe," Jamie whispered as her hands massaged Kate's breasts.

Kate bent her head back as Jamie feasted on her neck. No, she didn't want to talk. She only wanted this woman's hands on her.

"Mmm, we'll talk later," Kate moaned as her own hands moved over Jamie's body."Right now, I want my mouth on you."

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Jamie lay propped on her elbow, watching Kate sleep. As she'd been doing for the last half-hour. She should really go. She was going to be hard-pressed to make it to work on time the way it was. But she couldn't make herself leave the warm bed.

Her hand reached out and touched Kate's soft skin, moving in lazy circles just under her breast. She felt the familiar stirrings of desire whenever she touched this woman. She was exhausted, really, but her body still found the energy to respond. They had slept for a few hours here and there, always waking to make love all over again. Even now, as daylight broke over the city, her hand crept higher, molding itself to Kate's breast. Blue eyes opened slowly and found hers.

"Mmm," Kate murmured, turning her head to find Jamie's lips.

Kate's body stretched out, rolling slightly towards Jamie. Her hand moved under the covers, sliding over Jamie's hip before slipping between her legs. She found what she was looking for. Warm wetness enveloped her fingers. Her eyes locked on Jamie's as she found her swollen, ready.

"I say we call in sick today," Kate whispered.

Jamie lay back, pulling Kate on top of her. Their bodies fit together perfectly and Jamie wrapped strong arms around Kate and held her. Then gentle lips found her own, kissing her lightly before Kate buried her head at Jamie's neck.

"I normally hate Valentine's Day," Kate said. Her lips nipped gently at Jamie's neck."I especially hate Valentine's Day at the bar." Then she raised her head to meet Jamie's eyes."I'm thinking it's my new favorite holiday."

"Mmm. Years from now, we'll look back on this and laugh. That is, if Dana and Tess are still speaking to us."

Kate pulled back, staring into Jamie's eyes.

"Years from now?"

Jamie held her stare with gentle eyes.

"Yes. Years from now."

Kate stared at her for the longest moment. Warm brown eyes held hers and they shown with nothing but honesty...and love.

"Do you believe in love at first sight?" Kate whispered.

Jamie smiled and her eyes brightened.

"Absolutely."

THE END

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