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Standard Disclaimers - I don't need any for this story. All the characters are mine. (laugh) I should probably disclaimer my use of my own company, but I won't, unless temptation gets too great, and I name the big boss "Les." Whoops.. I did that, but any resemblance to anyone real is coincidental. (the real one is one of the nicest people I've ever met, honestly)
What this is: This is an Uber story. (Oooo... that Uber stuff!) You get a general physical description likeness of the two gals in the story that will remind you of two old friends we all know well, but that's about it. The time period of this Uber is right now, and the place is Miami, Florida.
Why Miami? Well, I live here. Not only do I live here, but I've lived here for thirty years. That means I know all the stupid little quirks of the area, and since I'm going to give this Uber a stab, I might as well not overstress myself with doing research on an area I don't know. (Right? Right.)
The world my Uber darlings inhabit is my personal world - not that I'm a dungeon master or anything silly like that, but I do work for a company called EDS, and we do Information Technologies - we outsource IS to other companies, and absorb their own IS facilities and staff. In other words, we are the EDS Borg - you will be assimilated - Resistance is Futile. (I'm not making this up) The two characters will work and play in an area that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole however - so they're not autobiographical. I do technical and network support - I stay away from the business end of EDS, because that's the end you get stuck with, and not in a friendly place, if you know what I mean.
This isn't specifically EDS, but I've tried to maintain the flavor of our hierarchy though...and the goofiness that sometimes goes on behind the running of a megalithic corporation. The descriptions of our mainframes, however, are fictitious, along with any names of persons involved, and the various office locations with the exception of Plano. EDS does have its corporate hq there.
Fisher Island, the place where Dar Roberts lives, is a real place. I used to work there. The descriptions of it are circa 1990 though - it's been built up a lot since then with more condos and stuff. All the places, and restaurants, and streets, and causeways are real. I didn't see any need to make them up, when Miami is a colorful enough place in real life without me doing that. It's kind of a tribute to my hometown - because I happen to really like it here.
Dar and Kerry are not super spies, or undercover agents, or renegades of any kind. They're not running from the law, or taking over third world countries (EDS runs a few, though) or anything like that. You might find their lives boring... I can't help that.. there's not going to be a lot of car chases, or gun battles, though this is Miami, and we're a pretty tough city, so anything can happen.
It's just a story about two people, who meet under very usual circumstances, and happen to change each other's lives.
Tropical Storm - Part 7
By Melissa Good
"I'm surprised a meeting like this doesn't specify armor as a requirement." Kerry mentioned, as she fiddled with her cuff. "The way you made it sound... "
Dar was still in her pajamas, her head propped up on one hand, studying her laptop screen. "Okay.. I think I've got enough dirt... " She scanned the items into her memory, and nodded, then pushed away from the table and stood up, lifting her arms over head and cracking her back audibly.
"Ow." Kerry winced.
The executive chuckled wryly. "That's what I get from years over a keyboard." She went to the valet bag and removed her suit, tossing it on the bed gently and glancing at her watch. "At least we had time for a decent breakfast...that French toast is pretty good, eh?"
"Pretty good?" Kerry laughed "I could eat that every morning."
"Ah hah.. and you tease me about Frosted Flakes." Dar shook a shoe at her, and grinned.
Kerry grinned back, then shook her head as she ducked back inside her room to finish dressing. She looked at herself in the mirror as she slipped her jacket on, and adjusted the collar, smoothing down the maroon fabric with faintly nervous fingers. It matched the slim, knee length skirt she wore, and the comfortable shoes and contrasted with the pale gray shirt.
She dusted on a little makeup, not too much, as she took her cue from Dar's usual appearance. Just a touch of lip gloss, a little color on her cheeks, and a tiny bit of eyeshadow. "All right." She told the reflection, who was looking expectantly back at her. "Are we ready for war?"
She poked her lower lip out, and had to restrain a giggle. "You know.. I'm just not the warrior type, I think." She turned her head at a slight cough and saw Dar in the doorway, dressed in a gunmetal gray blazer and skirt, with her black Mickey shirt underneath. Her boss looked sleek, and, well, dangerous in her monochrome, especially since it matched her dark hair. Only the pale, incredibly blue eyes added even a touch of color to her. "Oh.. hi... you look.. nice."
"No I donít'." Dar replied cheerfully. "I look like a corporate shark. Which is what I am. Shall we?"
It was a short drive to the admin offices, though they had to wait five minutes for the guard to clear them inside. They parked, and got out, both of them shouldering their briefcases. "Ok..this could get tough." Dar said, before the walked into the building. "Stay cool, and when in doubt, if someone asks you something you think is dangerous, or antagonistic, just tell them. "I'm sorry - I don't understand the question - could you explain what you're asking?"
Kerry thought about that, as she followed her boss inside. "Thatís' pretty smart.. you make them lay it out."
Dar winked at her. "I knew I picked a sharp one." She nodded to a short, stocky man near the elevator and took a deep breath. "Okay, here we go... Morning, John."
He held out a hand. "Hello, Dar... good to see you." A brief introduction to the rest of his team followed. They all looked at Dar with a cross between fear and fascination, and Kerry almost had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
It was a short trip up the elevator, until it opened on a floor that seemed mostly made of windows. The walls were all glass, allowing you to see into all the offices, and there were spears of light coming in everywhere.
Kerry found it distracting, but she put that aside as they turned a corner and entered a large, glass enclosed room with a huge conference table. Seated there were several people, most of them men, and two of whom were staring at Dar as though she were the manifestation of Satan here on earth.
At the head of the table, a short, slim woman sat, with fiery red hair cut into a short, almost severe cut, dressed in an expensive looking beige suit and emerald color shirt. Her eyes flicked everywhere, watching with intense interest, then fell on Dar.
Kerry, not involved in the initial greetings, got to see the reaction as, for a split second the woman looked her boss up and down, then allowed a fleeting, very satisfied smile to cross her face. Then it was gone.
"Hello, Jerry.. long time no see." Dar purred, as she put her briefcase down and pulled a chair out, but didn't sit. Her smile oozed charm, though. "Care to introduce your friends?"
The man she spoke to looked like he was going to burst a blood vessel, Kerry decided. His neck was red as a turkey's, and she could see the veins stark and blue under his skin. But somehow, he kept his cool, and introduced his colleagues, who started at Dar uncertainly. Dar reciprocated, then turned, and looked the lady at the end of the table right in the eye. "And you must be Ms. Graver... glad to be finally meeting you."
It was impossible not to react to Dar. She crackled with energy and confidence, and Kerry noticed that the woman, though very self confident herself, didn't miss that.
"You can't be anyone other than Dar Roberts, then." Michelle Graver stood, and held out a hand. "It is a pleasure.. I had no idea you were joining the bid team on this account."
Dar gripped it, returning the powerful squeeze with one of her own, then she smiled and put her fingertips on her briefcase. "All right.. shall we get rolling? It's a beautiful day out.. pity we're all stuck in here."
Kerry was in turns amazed, and impressed. Dar had simply walked in, and just taken over, allowing her personality full rein. She passed the bid John had given them over to the taller woman, and watched her drop it casually in front of Michelle, who was still standing.
Dar sat down, giving the Disney executive the advantage. "You had some concerns about performance?" Her eyes flicked to her rival's and a faint grin touched her lips. "I think I can address those."
Graver flipped through the document, then down at her. "I imagine you probably can." She walked back over to her place and put the bid down, then picked up a sheet of paper, and slid it across the table top. "Here."
Dar took the paper, and glanced at it, then let out a little chuckle. "You want me to start at the top, or the bottom.. and Jesus, Jerry.. is this all you could come up with after ten thousand negotiated contracts?" She scanned the list, ignoring the glaring looks she was getting from across the table. "Oh.. I remember this one.. " A fond look. "Non performance with Aamco...I was the one who told their CEO we'd pay off the entire contract just so I wouldn't have to hear his voice on my phone ever again."
"Really?" Michelle Graver leaned back and twirled her pencil. "Why?"
Dar exhaled. "They contracted for a manufacturing overhaul, including a new IS system that would link all their shops with computerized inventory.. halfway through, they hired a new OPS VP who was convinced if he could just recycle the 1982 Unix systems with dumb terminals they were using, and hire someone to write a custom database in CPM, they'd be fine."
"And you told them.. " Michelle asked.
"Bite me." Dar replied, frankly. "I'm not in the business of putting together fourth rate technology with Band-Aids." She glanced across the table. "I hear you bid on that one, Jerry... they ended up with OS/2 and Mod 30's they had to scrap after Microchannel bit the dust, didn't they?"
The man's nostrils flared. "They had some choice things to say about you, that's for sure." He replied. "Like the lawsuit said."
Dar chuckled. "Jerry, everyone has choice things to say about me... and we won the lawsuit." She went on down the list. "Oh.. now that, that was a true disaster. Heads rolled for that one." She shook her head. "Government accounting office... the implementation of automatic deposit for social security checks... that was just totally mishandled."
"So you admit that, huh?" Jerry leaned back with a nasty smile.
"Oh sure." Dar blinked at him. "I fired the entire account team personally, in fact." She smiled back. "Day before Christmas, if I recall."
Kerry darted a look at her, seeing the relaxed grin, and the slight, almost seductive narrowing of her eyes. Would she do that? She saw the wondering echoed on faces all across the table from them.
"Lord yes.. I remember that. " John sighed, shaking his head. "Poor Mariana... she was at her twentieth high school reunion and they paged her to come in and cut the paperwork." He glanced over at the faintly shocked looking Michelle. "Mariana's our VP of Personnel... we were in the same class.. I was standing talking to her when her pager went off." He looked to one side. "You were not her favorite person that night, my friend."
Dar lifted both hands and let them fall. "Someone screws with our reputation that badly, they can expect that from me." Then she went back to her list.
"I think that's enough." Michelle forestalled her. "Jerry, do you have something for me?"
Reluctantly , he handed over a sheaf of papers. The Disney exec picked them up, then stood. "Excuse me.. I'll be back in a few moments. I need to review these." She caught Dar's eye, and favored her with a tiny smile before she left, trailing two aides behind her like a brace of sight hounds.
They were left facing each other, in a glass walled room. People walking by glanced in curiously at the silent group, but went on their way.
Kerry studied the other team. They were dressed alike, in dark suits and white shirts, and the were all in their mid thirties to mid forties, with short haircuts. Their own team was a little different - besides herself and Dar, John was dressed in a conventional business suit, but his tie sported Loony Tunes characters. Small, discrete ones, to be sure, but from where she was sitting, Kerry recognized Wile E Coyote poking his head out from between two buttons. The three other men with John were of varying ages, one was an older man, foxy looking with a beard and mustache, and clever hazel eyes. Seated next to him was a very tall man, with oversized ears, and the general look of an engineer about him - his pad was covered with doodles Kerry swore were circuits.
The fourth team member was a young, crew cutted man with blue eyes and a friendly smile, which he turned on her when he caught her looking.
"Well, we must have scared you shitless for them to send your ass in here, Roberts." Jerry finally spat.
Dar folded her hands on the table, and shrugged. "Not at all, Jerry.. I just wanted the chance to see you again." A smile totally devoid of humor flashed across the table at him. "I had such a good time the last bidding round we did together."
He leaned forward. "You don't have a chance here...this is out of your league, and they know it." He glanced to the right. "Oh.. unless you're going to offer your little friend there up to her to sweeten the deal.. that might win you a few points." He looked right at a stunned Kerry. "Is that what you're here for sweetie? Does Daddy know that?"
Green eyes looked into his with disarming friendliness. "Daddy is Senator Stuart of Michigan, and he'd probably find it very odd for you to say that. I'll make sure I mention it the next time we speak, thanks." She added a charming smile to the end of that, and almost jumped when a hand squeezed her knee in appreciation. Dar's expression hadn't changed, but a tiny sparkle of glee was in her eyes as she glanced towards the blond woman.
Even Jerry's colleagues winced. "I meant no disrespect." He forced out, with a sour grimace.
"Better keep your mouth shut, Jerry... " Dar chuckled. "The room's full of static electricity.. you keep chewing on your shoes like that, you're gonna zap your fillings and give yourself a perm."
Kerry muffled a laugh, and there rest of their team didn't bother.
He just gave them a disgusted look, and pointedly stared at John. "How does it feel to have to hide behind a skirt?"
The short account rep folded his hands over his stomach and smiled. "From where I'm sitting right now? Pretty damn good. Thanks for asking."
The door opened, and Michelle came back in, trailing her hounds. She sat down and placed the two bids on the table, and cleared her throat. "Both of these bids are very competitive." She toyed with one of them. "But what's on paper, is not really the important issue for us. Service is the issue... so what I'm going to ask is this - I'm going to hand over a task to each of you, so we can evaluate your response."
Dar was encouraged. That meant the bid was still alive, and they had a chance. She'd undone some of the damage from the previous days, and now it remained to see what this sharp, intense woman was going to come up with.
"Then I'd like to schedule another meeting tomorrow here, to go over that, and we'll try to announce our decision at that time." She stood and handed an envelope to each team lead, then nodded. "That's all for now." She watched them all stand, then she turned to Dar. "Ms. Roberts, a word with you, please?"
Ah. Dar's instincts prickled. She excused herself from her little group and stepped around the table, until she was next to the other woman, putting one hand on a chair back and leaning against it to keep from intentionally towering over her. "What can I do for you, Ms. Graver?"
"Call me Michelle, please for starters." The woman stated, with a smile.
"Only if you call me Dar." The dark haired woman replied instantly, with a return smile.
"Nice shirt." Was that a twinkle in Michelle's dark gray eyes?
Dar chuckled. "It went with the suit, and there's nothing I like better than carrying Mickey around on my chest." She was aware the other woman was sniffing interestedly at her and decided a little reciprocation wouldn't hurt. "I got to indulge in some rampant tourism last night, since our plane got in early."
"Mm.. I wish I'd known you were coming in .. I would have arranged for one of our VIP tours...all the behind the scenes stuff us geeks love." She licked a lower lip and let her eyes wander a trifle. "I hear results oriented doesn't begin to describe you.. is that true?"
Definitely flirting. Dar was a little surprised at the aggressiveness, but not that Michelle had taken a moment to request a dossier on her during the break. "It's true." She replied quietly. "I make things happen."
The smaller woman quirked a grin. "I'd like to hear more about that... since you're stuck here another night, I'd like you to be my guest for dinner.. we can discuss your bid." A hound tapped her shoulder, and she ducked away for a moment. "Excuse me.. I'll be right back." She moved a pace away, and dropped her voice to a whisper with the hound.
Gotcha. Dar could feel the conquest on her fingertips. Michelle was interested, intrigued, and willing to indulge in a personal interaction that would, in all probability, bias the vote in her favor. She was aggressive, and not unattractive, and god only knew, it wouldn't be the first time Dar had used her personal magnetism to seal a contract.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Kerry's interested expression, as the young woman watched the buzzing groups, and occasionally flicked her gaze to Dar. Their looks met, and Dar felt a smile touch her lips, which was mirrored from across the room.
What would Kerry think of this? Dar could read the proud look in the kid's face as she regarded her. No, Kerry was intelligent. She would understand, that this is business, and sometimes you had to do things to get what you wanted. It was all in the results, like she'd told Michelle. She made things happen.
She could make this happen, she could feel it. Michelle the thrill seeker, who actively courted danger, and who sensed in Dar danger of the most exciting.. most seductive kind. Oh yes, she could make this happen. Kerry would surely understand.. this was a very important deal, and it would be worth... god.. Les would have an orgasm on the spot if she made it go through.
It was worth it. It would be so easy, she could taste it happening.
Michelle turned around, and stepped back, then gazed up at her in question. "I believe we were discussing dinner?"
For a moment, all Dar could hear was her heartbeat. Then she released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "Michelle, I'm am so very sorry.. " Her eyes conveyed true regret, but not for what the woman would have assumed. "I have an engagement tonight I can't get out of... but I very much appreciate... " She paused meaningfully. "The offer."
How in the world something so stupid could feel so good, she had no clue. She read surprise, and disappointment on the other woman's face, but not anger. "That's too bad, Dar." Michelle pursed her lips and sighed. "I was looking forward to talking to you.. maybe if you get stuck another night?"
A smile from her. "Absolutely."
A brisk nod, and then Michelle signaled her dogs, and left the room. Dar took a breath, then turned and headed back towards her group, who were waiting by the door. The rival team had already left, after exchanging a few short words with John.
"Everything all right?" The account lead inquired, glancing after the departing exec.
Dar straightened her shoulders and nodded. "I think so... what do they want us to do?"
John handed her the packet, and she scanned it idly. "Oh.. this is the information kiosks they have around the parks... touch screen, maps, that kind of thing." She read on. "They want us to design a proposal to take over the data transmission, improve the speed, deliver the information more efficiently, and enable online reservations?"
Dar sat down at the conference table, and took out her pen, writing on the cover sheet for ten minutes straight, then rereading what she'd written. "All right... " She pulled out her laptop, and booted it, then scanned in the document using the slimline scan attachment that slipped onto the back buss. Then she pulled out her cell phone, and inserted the phone plug from her modem into the data jack. A click, and they all heard the dialing beeps, and the soft hiss of a connection.
Dar watched the status, then nodded as it completed, and disconnected. "Okay.. here you go.. hang onto this, and don't let anyone see it, all right, John?"
The account lead read the document, with the other team members looking over his shoulder. "Dar, this is technogibberish." He glanced at her. "But I guess you know what it says, and whoever you sent it to does also.. who DID you send it to, by the way?"
"Mark Polenti." Dar replied, closing up her laptop case. "Well guys.. I gotta go.. I've got a theme park to explore... see you tomorrow morning."
"But... " John lifted the paper at her questioningly.
"Relax." Dar chuckled. "You'll have your written proposal tomorrow, and if I play my cards right, maybe something more." She picked up her case, and joined Kerry in the doorway, giving them all a smile before she urged her companion out the door.
It was a quiet walk to the elevator, and they were alone in it as they rode down.
"Wow. That was certainly something." Kerry remarked, watching he floors go by. "What di.." She stopped, when a pair of fingers covered her lips, and looked at Dar in startled question.
Dar removed her fingers, then lifted one to her own lips in a shushing motion. "I'm glad you had such an educational experience during the meeting, Kerry." She stated. "It's good to understand that not everything you see and hear necessarily is what's going on under the surface."
Kerry got the message. "That's true. Your methods are very interesting."
Dar grinned, then shook her head in silence as the doors opened and they walked out. Once out in the parking lot she leaned closer. "We know they bug the place like crazy."
"What?" Kerry looked shocked. "Why?"
They got in the car and left the parking lot before Dar answered. "To find out things.. they don't take anyone at face value."
"Hmm." Kerry leaned back and crossed her arms. "You think that conference room was bugged?"
"Without question. " The taller woman stated.
Kerry whistled. "She got an earful, then."
A soft chuckle greeted that. "Oh yeah.. nice comeback, by the way." She gave her companion an approving look. "John's got a nice team there, but he's too nice and ethical for a dog fight like that."
"Yeah.. they were nice." The blond woman mused. "Larry asked me out tonight."
Dar blinked, and swallowed down a completely innapropriate surge of... "That was nice of him." She got out. "Where are you going?"
"Oh.. I'm not.. I mean.. " Kerry blushed a little. "I told him thanks, but I had a prior offer."
Blue eyes regarded her quietly. "Funny.. I told Michelle Graver the same thing."
Kerry's eyes widened. "Good god, Dar... you should have said yes... I'm sure you two would have gotten along great.. and talked about the bid."
Dar had stopped at a light, and now she turned and looked at her assistant. "She wasn't asking me to talk about the bid." She told the blond woman bluntly.
Sea green eyes studied her face for a long time in silence, before Kerry sat back. "Oh." She murmured.
Dar continued the drive, feeling a quiet depression settle on her. That was obviously an alien concept to the kid. Maybe she should have taken Michelle up after all. Kerry wouldn't have even realized.. she'd risked the account for nothing. God in heaven, Dar... get your head on straight. What in the hell do you think you're doing? She toyed with the idea of changing her mind, and giving Michelle a call.
"You mean.. she found you attractive, and she was hitting on you?" Kerry's voice startled her out of her morose thoughts, and she glanced to her right in surprise.
"Um.. I would imagine.. I guess, yeah." Dar was rattled, not expecting that calm, interested evaluation.
Kerry crossed her arms over her chest and cocked her head intropectively. "Well... at least she has good taste." She commented simply.
Dar almost went through a stop sign. "Sorry about that." She muttered as she brought the car to a quick halt, and turned her head to give Kerry a startled look. "She does, huh?"
Kerry gazed at her as though she were nuts. "Well.. yeah... " She let out a little laugh. "C'mon, Dar... " She turned the rearview mirror to face her boss. "I mean, hello?" Oh.. I actually got her to blush. Now for the acid test. "Why.. did that bother you?"
A clue flew in the window and hit Dar on the head. "Um. No." She rubbed her temple, then stifled a relieved laugh. "No no.. I've been through that before.. I guess I just wasn't in the mood to play the game tonight."
Kerry nodded a little. "Well, I'll try to make it up to you."
Dar felt her throat go dry. Cut that out.. she didn't mean it that way, you goofball. "Yeah.. I'm sure we'll have fun." She replied easily. "After all, I promised Mongolia, right?"
It had definitely been a interesting drive, Kerry decided, and an even more interesting morning. She took her time changing, stripping out of the wool suit with a feeling of utter relief. She sorted through her clothing, then decided on wearing her bathing suit under a T-shirt and shorts. That way if it got too hot over in the park, she could take her shirt off.
She briefly considered suggesting the same thing to Dar, then sighed, and shook her head. God, Kerry.. why not get more cliched than that, huh? Getting a crush on your boss.. for the love of heaven, talk about the stupidest thing on earth.. that must be it.
At least she had the sense to stop denying it to herself, and just accept the fact that she thought Dar was one hot lady.
It helped that the idea wasn't likely to freak the older woman out.. not after that crack about Michelle. Kerry slipped into her bathing suit and adjusted the straps, checking her reflection out of the corner of her eye and giving herself a nod of grudging approval. Besides, she knew the company rules.. it was a harmless fantasy, and she suspected Dar enjoyed the flirting banter when she'd tried a line or two of it. Just a little fun, no one got hurt by it, and it had even made Dar relax a little, which was always a good thing.
It certainly explained the little roller coaster ride last night though. The blond woman giggled a little, remembering how really nice that had felt, and how she'd been halfway hoping Dar would suggest another go around. Ah well.. she'd had her chance, and now that they sort of understood each other, tonight should even be more fun. God.. she thought I wanted to out with supergeek Larry? Dar.. what's up with that?.
She could have gone out with Michelle. Kerry slipped her shorts on, and leaned on the back of the chair. But she decided to keep to our plans, instead. That was really nice of her...she didn't have to do that...I could have found something to do by myself.
Hm. Maybe she just wasn't in the mood for something serious... I think Michelle would be the kind of person who wanted.. action. With me, she knows she's safe.
That's cool. I know I'm safe with her too.. we can just go out, and have fun.
"Hey.. you daydreaming?" The low voice startled her, and she turned to see Dar leaning in her doorway, in shorts and a tied off sleeveless shirt over a bathing suit. "I called in.. Maria is saving the metric ton of crap we'll have to catch up on next week, nothing catastrophic is happening other than a tornado watch around the office, and our mail server crashed, so you're probably going to have to redownload tonight. "
"Okay." Kerry agreed. "I checked it this morning.. three of the contracts I was working on have finalized, but nothing else is really critical.." She paused, remembering that this was, in fact, a business trip. "Would it be better if we hung out here and got some work done?"
Dar glanced down, then pursed her lips in a smile. "No." Her eyes twinkled. "With any luck, I can get this to count as my vacation, and everyone will leave me alone."
"Ah.. an ulterior motive." Kerry chuckled. "Okay. I'm ready.. let's go." She followed Dar out the door, and out to the elevator.
"God, it's hot out." Kerry leaned against the concierge's counter as Dar made arrangements to keep their rooms another night. "You want to stop for a swim first?"
Dar finished the arrangements, and turned, adjusting the small pack she was wearing around her waist to carry her cell phone and pager, along with her wallet. "I"ve got a better idea." She handed Kerry a small square of laminated plastic. "Here.. it's your passport." She rolled her eyes. "How about this instead of the pool?" She handed Kerry a colorful pamphlet she'd picked up at the desk.
"Blizzard Beach?" The younger woman examined it. "Oh.. wow.. this looks awesome... " It was a water park complete with a huge, 140 foot tall water slide. "You're on."
"Yaaaaa!!! " Kerry howled, as she sped groundward, slipping and sliding across the slick, watery surface before dropping into thin air just prior to hitting the water. Moments later, Dar splashed down next to her, surfacing and shaking her head to clear her wet, dark hair out of her eyes.
"Whew." The older woman pulled away from the chutes with powerful, sure strokes. "That's some drop." She ducked her head back into the water then stood up as they neared the concrete shore and let the liquid run off her body.
"Oh yeah.. " Kerry agreed, a little out of breath. "But I won, again."
"Yeah, yeah.. " Dar splashed her. "You're smaller than I am, so there."
"No way. .it's my technique.... I know how to catch the curves just right." Kerry moved her hand in a squiggling motion.
"Listen to you.. " Dar snorted. "I bet if we did it again, I'd beat you."
"Oh yeah?" Kerry splashed out of the pool, and ran fingers through her wet hair. "How much?" They'd been at the water fun for several hours, and the sun was starting to set, but Kerry wasn't about to let this opporunity pass. Dar had slowly relaxed and opened up a little, becoming almost playful as they tried all the slips, and slides, and pools.
"I don't know.. what's it worth to ya?" The dark haired woman paced alongside her, steering her back towards the entrance of the slides. "Let's see... " She tugged Kerry to a halt next to a smiling snowman. "Okay.. you're more than 48 inches... just wanted to make sure."
"Tch... " Kerry gave her a mock glare. "I hate short jokes." She warned. "Just for that, if I win, you have to sit through the Happy Vegetable exhibit in the Land tonight."
"OH..I'm definitely winning.. I'm not getting subjected to dancing broccoli..." Dar shook her head. "All those hydroponics carrots waving their roots in the air.. no thanks."
"We'll see." Kerry smirked, as they entered the line, now much shortened as people headed out home, or for dinner.
Minutes later, she was cannonballing out of the chute, reaching for the water, then pushing up through the surface, and whipping her head around, looking for Dar. "Hah!!!!" She chortled, hopping away from the chute entrance, and glancing up at the other one.
Seconds passed, and all was quiet. Kerry pushed her wet hair out of her eyes and waited.
More seconds. Now she edged over, and peered upward in puzzlement. "C'mon Dar... did you stop t make a cell phone call?" She moved closer, almost at the edge of the chute now, and put her hand on the slick surface.
A surge of water washed agaisnt her, and her legs got taken out from under her, ducking her head under the water as she squawked in shock and indignation. Moments later she was dragged to the surface dripping and outraged to face a smug, smirking Dar. "How did you... wh... "
The executive chuckled, releasing her and swimming away. "I'll do anything to avoid singing broccoli, remember that, my friend."
"Hey!" Kerry lunged after her, grabbing an ankle. "Hold on there..." She gave a tug, and found herself being pulled through the water. "Oh... crudpuppies." She muttered, kicking a stroke and getting a better hold. "I said.. hold on there!"
Dar grinned, and kept swimming. She felt Kerry's hand slip, then reach up, and get a good grip on her suit, her fingers sliding over the older woman's skin leaving a gentle tingle behind them. She stopped, then whirled in place, grabbing the startled blond and pulling her up next to her. For a moment they just looked at each other, and Dar enjoyed the intense energy she could feel between them, then she smiled, and dunked her companion, with a triumphant chortle.
Kerry got her feet under her, and broke the surface, then stood, with her hands on her slim hips, dripping chlorinated water everywhere. "I'll get you for that." She vowed, but grinned easily.
"Promise?" Dar answered, startling herself a little, then shrugging and returning the grin.
They splashed out and got their towels, drying off and walking back to the locker area where they'd stowed their clothing. "This was a great idea, Dar... except I think I got sunburned." Kerry winced, as she touched the back of her neck. "That's going to be a little hard to explain at a business meeting."
Dar put a hand on her shoulder and peered at her skin, reaching out to lift the damp hair up and touching the sensitive skin with a fingertip. She felt Kerry suck in a breath at the touch, and bit off a smile. "Tender, huh?"
"Uh... yes." Kerry was startled at how her body had reacted to the simple touch. "Sunburned, right?"
"A little." Dar observed, tracing a second line across the back of her neck. "Have to get you some cold cream." She handed Kerry her towel , rented from the facility then slipped her shorts and shirt on over her suit. "Good thing about this stuff.. it dries fast."
Kerry swallowed. "Yeah.. I noticed that." She cleared her throat. "Might get a little chilly with this sunburn tonight... " She crossed her arms over her chest. "Maybe I can pick up a sweatshirt."
"Good idea...not like they don't have seven thousand varieties." Dar answered, innocently, as she handed her companion her T-shirt. "C'mon.. after all that, I'm starving."
Kerry heard a tell tale rumble, and put a hand over her stomach after she slipped her shirt on.. "Me too."
Dar leaned back in her bus seat, propping a knee up against the seat in front of her, and leaning her head against the cool glass of the window. She watched the green grass and thick foliage go by, as the vehicle traveled through the property back roads heading from the water park to the more centrally located Epcot Center.
She stifled a yawn, and tried to think about all the work waiting for her when she got back. High as that pile would be, though, it couldn't make a dent in her lazy good mood, and she realized this was more fun than she'd had in many years.
Just like some damn kid, Dar... but maybe this is just what you needed. It certainly seemed to be helping.. she felt relaxed, and was looking forward the evening, and her gentle teasing with Kerry had steadied at a pleasant, mild stimulation. She felt very comfortable with the younger woman, who was seated next to her, one warm shoulder pressing up against Dar's, and she was really glad she'd chosen to take Kerry with her. It was an opportunity too good to pass up, both to get to know her new assistant, and to sneak in a little R and R at the same time. Dar was cautiously pleased with how it was turning out.. and if Michelle Graver didnít take too much offense to her turning down their dinner date, they had a chance at the bid, too. That reminded her of something, though, and she took out her cell phone, and dialed a number. "Mark?"
"Oh...my god.. it's the disappearing wonder Veep who vanishes into thin air, then faxes me murky and clandestine instructions... " The MIS Chief's voice chortled. "Is it true you slugged Minnie Mouse?"
"I haven't slugged anyone." Dar paused deliberately. "Yet."
"Uh oh... I sense a tongue lashing... " Mark chuckled. "That was a toughie, Dar... two of those boxes have pretty high security on them."
"It's in progress." Mark deliberately didn't go into specifics, due to the ease of interception of cellular calls. "You've got provisioning up in freaking arms, Dar... Eldon snapped one of those mechanical freaking pencils he's got millions of in half when I called him.. I heard the sound."
"But he's moving on the project?" Dar persisted, watching the trees go by.
"He had to rob two circuits from FPL... you'll have some fence mending to do up there, but yeah.. he's moving on it.. he's not happy."
"Ask him if a formal commendation in his personnel file would make him happier." Dar commented. "And tell him not to be so god damned anal... this is important."
"I know that.. he knows that.. Jesus, Dar.. every freaking body in hq knows that, including the cleaning staff." The MIS chief advised her. "John called in... there are stories of you blowing off the IBM team already circulating."
"Great... all right, Mark... I'll leave my cell on, as usual.. give me a call when you get things finalized. Is Robert Maccen publishing the response document?"
"Yep.. he sure is.. say, where are you, anyhow?" The man asked curiously. "Sounds quiet."
Dar hesitated, tempering her good spirits with natural caution. "Casing the place, actually.. " She stated. "Evaluating the infrastructure. " She ignored Kerry's amused look.
Mark clucked his tongue. "Dar, you're the only goddamn person I know who would go to freaking Disney World and end up tracing cables... take a damn break, willya? At least go see the fireworks."
Dar surveyed her disheveled, and slightly sunburned body, slumped easily against both the seat and her companion, and bit off a wry smile. I am taking a break, Mark... more than you know. Maybe more than I even realize. "If I have a couple of minutes, sure."
"Dar, don't make me think of you walking around up in Orlando in one of those wool suits.. sweating in the control room is a bad thing, okay?"
"I'm...um.. not wearing a wool suit, Mark, if it makes you feel any better." Dar laid a hand on her bare knee, tracing a tiny scar just above the kneecap. "And I'll try to catch a firework or two, if you'll guarantee me that plan will be complete by ten am tomorrow."
"Dar... " Mark sighed. "Oh well.. I didn't need any sleep... all right, I promise..but you gotta bring me back a souvenir." He paused. "Tell you what.. to make it fair, you bring me a back a picture of you actually taking it easy for five minutes. Is that too much to ask?"
"Oh.. so if I take my shoes off, and kick a stuffed Goofy around in the grass, that counts, right?" The executive drawled.
"Okay.. you're on, Mark.. you come through, you get your picture, I promise." Dar chuckled. "Tell you what... you get it done on time, and I'll make it a bathing suit picture."
Dead, absolute, not even breathing silence. Dar glanced at the phone, then at her companion, who had a hand firmly clamped over her mouth and was turning pink from the effort not to laugh.
"Mark?" Silence, then a rustle of sound and another voice picked up .
"Hey.. who is this?"
"Jeffrey.. it's Dar Roberts."
"OH..oh.. sorry ma'am.. um... did you do something to Mark? He's sitting here with this weird, weird look on his face. "
Dar sighed. "Just tell him I said I'd talk to him later. " She hung up the line, and glanced at Kerry, who was chewing on her knuckle and giggling softly. "You think that's funny, huh?" She reached over and tickled Kerry's ribs, and grinned as the smaller woman jerked and squealed. "Oh... I can see there's something your profile didn't mention, Ms. Stuart... " She tickled her again, and watched Kerry squirmed away from her.
"Gaaa... stop that." Kerry grabbed her hand and held on. "Poor Mark!... And are you going to tell me what the plan is, or do I have to guess too?" She cautiously released her tormentors fingers, and was relieved when the attack wasn't repeated.
Dar sat back, and wrapped her hands around one knee. "Well, I have two people working on writing up a proposal that answers their request, with specific resources, that kind of thing. Usually I'd do it myself, but.. " She shrugged. "It's not that complicated.. anyway, they'll prep the document for us since they have access to all the information, and send it over before the meeting."
Kerry absorbed this. "And?"
Slowly, pale blue eyes looked over at her. "What do you mean, and?"
A shrewd glance studied her. "That's what the other guys will be doing, too... if I read you right, you go over and above.. so what's the rest of the plan?"
Dar smiled, an open, genuine smile. "You're right.. but I don't want to jinx it Let me wait for Mark's call tonight, then I'll tell you all about it."
The blond woman chuckled in triumph, as the bus pulled up in front of the park, and she stood up, waiting for Dar to join her. "I don't think they have Mongolian here, though... how about Italian?"
Dar stretched, feeling a little tightness in her shoulders from all the swimming. "How about Japanese?"
"Mm." Kerry's brow contracted "Hard choice."
They exited the bus, and headed for the entrance.
They ended up in England. Mostly because Kerry really wanted to see the fireworks, and Dar knew a little secret. So they were comfortably settled in an outside table at the English Pub right up against the lake as the crowds started to gather to watch the show.
There was a nice, cool night breeze blowing off the water, and Kerry was glad she'd opted for a sweatshirt, choosing a forest green one with a happy looking Winnie the Pooh dancing over her left breast. She sipped her pint of ale gingerly, as she watched Dar do the same, and glanced at the menu. 'It's all pretty safe, right?"
Dar chuckled. "Well, there are a lot of interesting influences in English cooking.. especially from India, and the other former colonies, but in this menu... yeah. Everything's safe." She glanced around, then settled the gray, beautifully woven sweater she'd purchased in a shop nearby over her shoulders. "Nice."
Kerry reached over and fingered the soft as butter fabric. "That feels so wonderful." She admired it. "And I have to stop in that tea shop again... I need to get some of those flavors and bring them back to the office. I'm kinda tired of orange cinnamon and regular."
"Hmm... that's right.. you do like tea, don't you?" Dar commented, settling back in her chair and putting her feet up on the one opposite her. They placed their order with the perky waitress, and Dar nodded yes to refills of their drinks. The ale had tasted good after their full day of activity and she was in the mood to relax just a little tonight. They had done the whole circle of the countries, and she'd indulged herself in a few minor purchases, somehow managing not to actually buy the whole sheepskin over in Canada, but having fun in the pastry shop in France. The cool breeze pushed the hair off her forehead, and she let her head lean back and her eyes close.
Dar certainly was a different person out of the office, Kerry decided, eyeing her surreptitiously. She had this...diabolical, mean, evil, nasty mischevious streak that the blond woman had found out about the hard way. Like when Dar kept her distracted while a large, bubble headed green something or other snuck up behind her and scared the crap out of her. Or being lead into the Moroccan leather place where apparently curing hides wasn't an accquired skill. Ugh. Or being given a small tumbler of something sweet and blue to drink, and not realizing until after she'd swallowed it that it was 200 proof.
To be fair, Dar had gotten taken in by the blue stuff too, which she admitted after getting Kerry some water to wash it down with. And she had given her the little wax figurine the craftsman had made for her in front of the Chinese pavilion.. out of wax and sticks, he twirled and shaped the piece until it was a fanciful dragon shape with swirled wings. "Here." Dar had shrugged as she handed it over. "I don't collect stuff like this."
No, Kerry thought, as she studied the angular profile. Nothing personal, right? Nothing you could get emotionally attached to.. I think I see that with you, Dar. She leaned back, feeling a pleasant buzz from the ale, and glad they'd managed to munch their way around the world at various snack stands before she'd started drinking. The Mexican stop was good.. she could still taste the spices on her tongue a little from the tiny tacos, and she'd enjoyed the tidbits of bratwurst and smoked cheeses in Germany along with the tiny glass of sweet white wine. "Just our luck to visit during the International Food and Wine expo, huh?"
"Mm." Dar smiled, and opened an eye lazily. "That's a nice idea.. have all the different countries put out samples of their kinds of food and drink... different. I liked it." She took a sip of her fresh glass of ale. "Small enough portions so you can try a lot of them, and it's a good chance for the different cultures to show off." She took another sip. "Something like the festivals we have down in Miami... the Art festival, and the heritage festivals.. when you can have a ton of the different nationalities down there put up stalls and have different stuff...though we tend to be Caribbean and Hispanic heavy. This is nice, because you get all the continental countries represented too."
Kerry's blond brow edged up. Drinking makes her more talkative. Write that down in the PDA, Ker...it could be useful sometime. "I haven't gotten a chance to go to one of those.. they dragged me to the Scottish festival last year, but I almost got hit in the head with one of those logs and someone tried to get me to eat haggis."
Dar laughed. "Nah.. try the Cajun thing.. it's more fun, and you get to scarf down lots of spicy mud bugs." She glanced up as the waitress brought their food, and smiled, putting her glass down and picking up her silverware.
Kerry thanked the woman, and nodded when she looked questioningly at their glasses. One more couldn't hurt, and besides, she was succeeding in her quest to get her boss to relax. Maria would be proud of her.
"I think I'm a little drunk." Dar admitted, as they strolled towards the exit, passing the lit fountains whose water danced to the background music.
"Not that anyone could tell." Kerry assured her, observing the taller woman intently. "You walk straight, you donít' slur your words, and you haven't kissed any of the wandering characters."
Dar considered this. "That's true." She jumped a little when her cell phone rang, then let out a short laugh, and reached for it. "Yes?"
"You owe me a picture, Big D." Mark's voice sounded very, very satisfied. "Did you get to see a firework or two?"
Dar turned around and walked backwards, watching the lasers bounce off the huge geosphere. "Yeah.. I got to see one or two.." She straightened back up. "Good work... can you set up the link for tomorrow morning.. I'll need to dial in via the cell."
"Already done. Where's my picture??" Mark nudged her. "You don't know what an inspiration that was.. I did things tonight the likes of which Babbage never imagined."
"All right.. all right.. " Dar laughed helplessly. "I'll have Kerry take one, okay? Tomorrow."
"She there? Put her on." Mark requested. "Hey, Kerry?"
"Right here." The blond woman answered, covering her other ear with one hand.
"Did you actually manage to get her out of the damn hotel for an hour?" The MIS chief whispered.
Kerry glanced over to where Dar had climbed over a railing and was inpecting a bush cut in the shape of Figiment the imaginary dragon. "Oh.. yeah, in fact, I got her to go to one of the parks tonight."
"Good girl!" He praised her. "Damn woman hasn't had a vacation in ten years." He sighed. "You having fun?"
"It's been..." Kerry smiled to herself. "Very educational... I've learned a lot, and I hope things work out for the bid. This is a very interesting account."
"That's not what I asked." Mark objected.
"Yes, I'm having fun." She replied. "Thanks for asking."
She was yawning by the time they got back to the hotel, their monorail depositing them neatly in the lobby. Kerry followed Dar like a puppy to the elevator, resisting the impulse to latch onto the back of her shirt to keep up, and had to take a minute to blink her eyes clear before she could open her room. It was quiet, and mostly dark inside, and she really wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed, dressed as she was, and just conk out.
But no, she changed into her nightshirt, wincing where the pink skin around her bathing suit marks stung, then she turned, and noticed her message light flashing. Perplexed, she lifted the receiver and dialed the front desk, writing down the number and realizing it was Colleen. Urgent.
Oh boy... She dialed her friend's number, and waited until the sleepy voice on the other end answered. "Col?"
"Jesus son of Mary, Kerry...where in the Hell are you??" Colleen woke up instantly. "Your parents are going insane.. they've called her three times.
"Um." Kerry rubbed her head. "I'm in Orlando, as you should know.. what's the big deal?"
Silence. "You haven't heard?"
"Haven't heard what? No.. I've been in meetings all day, and then... what is it?"
"Jesus Christ, Kerry.. the plane you were supposed to be on tonight crashed in the Everglades... everyone on it pretty much died, they think."
Kerry sat down on the bed, her legs unable to hold her up suddenly. "Oh my god." She lifted a shaking hand to her mouth. "I'd better call my parents."
"Call me back... okay?" Colleen said, softly.
"Okay.. I will." Kerry hung up, then rested her hand on the receiver for a long moment before she picked it up again and dialed. "Mom?"
Her mother's voice practically jumped out of the phone at her. "No.. no.. I'm fine.. I'm fine.. I'm still in Orlando. The meeting went on longer than we thought, so we're staying over another night.. no.. no.. not at all.. the office knew I wasn't on the flight." A pause. "You could have called the... hello, Father."
"That's it... no daughter of mine is living down where terrorists can just bomb an airplane... that place has too few Americans in it, god damn it... you're coming home."
"Are you sure it was a terrorist? I didn't hear any details...I don't.. "
"No ifs, ands or buts, Kerrison... that's final. Could you imagine the press if you'd been on that plane? My god!" Her father cut her off. "Make the arrangements."
The line went dead. Kerry slowly put it back down on the cradle and stared at it. "Glad I wasn't on the plane too, thanks for asking." A noise made her look up, to see Dar standing in the adjoining doorway, a quietly grim look on her face. "I guess you heard."
The taller woman nodded, then entered, crossing the room and sitting down next to her on the bed. A remote control was clasped loosely in the executive's hands. "I have the news on in there." A pause. "Are you all right?"
"Oh yeah." Kerry answered, bitterly. "My father was so relieved he wouldn't have to spin doctor my death." She leaned her elbows on her knees , and looked down at the carpet. "They want me to go back there."
Dar hesitated, then awkwardly put and arm around her companion's shoulders. "Because a plane crashed? That makes no sense, Kerry."
"Because Miami's full of degenerates, perverts, and foreigners who do nothing but plot against the US ." Kerry answered, with a sigh. "Do they know what made the plane go down? He said it was a terrorist.. is that true?"
"Didn't' stick around there long enough to find out.. c'mon, let's go into the other room and watch the news... maybe they'll say."
Kerry looked up, grateful for the warmth of Dar's arm over her. "We would have been on that plane."
"I know." The older woman replied calmly. "But we weren't... c'mon, I ordered up some hot chocolate.. let's go see what happened."
They settled on Dar's bed, and she turned the volume up on the television, which was tuned to CNN. The picture was mostly dark, with flashing blue and red lights everywhere, and the occasional yellow. The reporter had a windbreaker on, and it was obviously raining, and windy where he was. "The FAA as of this moment is not commenting or speculating on what brought this Boeing 727 down, only that the pilot reported problems over West Palm Beach, and decided to swing west, away from populated areas."
"Doesn't sound like a bomb." Dar commented, getting up to answer a light knock on the door. "Nice service. " She opened it, and allowed the room service waiter in with a tray. "Put it over there." The waiter left, and she poured two steaming cupfuls of the chocolate, adding a tiny mini marshmallow to each cup and bringing one over to Kerry. "Here you go.. good for what ails you."
Kerry took a sip, and managed a smile. "Thanks." She turned her attention to the television, where searchlights were showing what looked like hundreds of men in various uniforms up to their thighs in water, moving debris and other things around. "It looks horrible."
"Mm." Dar exhaled, then picked up the phone and dialed a number. "It's Dar." She paused, listening. "What's the story on that plane that went down?" Another pause. "Well, maybe not, but I was supposed to be on it." A sigh. "I don't think so either, but I'd like to be sure.. thanks Gerry." She hung up. "Let's see if we can get some real info."
"Who was that?" Kerry asked, feeling her spirits rebounding a little. "Or is it one of those, if you tell me, you have to kill me kind of things?"
"Friend of mine at the Pentagon." Dar replied. "God.. look at that.. "
The overhead helicopter shot showed a chaotic mess of fires, lights, and movement on the screen, then suddenly, people started yelling and raising their hands up. The reporter paused and listened to his earpiece, then smiled at the camera. "I've just been told they've started to find some survivors... it appears the plane broke up upon landing in the Everglades, and some people, I repeat, some people have survived."
"Wasn't a bomb, then." Dar commented. "That disintegrates in the air, and doesn't leave much in the way of live humans." She leaned back against the headboard, and stretched her legs out, crossing them at the ankles. Kerry was sitting cross legged on the other side of the bed, cupping her chocolate in both hands.
They watched as first a few, then more injured people were brought out, and helicopters started landing, ready to transport the victims. Kerry finally slid back until she was leaning against the backboard too, wincing as she rubbed her neck, stiff from sitting hunched over so long.
Dar had turned the lights out, except for the TV, and the blond woman realized she was struggling to keep her eyes open. She prodded herself reluctantly to get up and go into her own room, but the thought of being in there alone kept her right where she was, despite her best intentions. Well, maybe a few more minutes.. then she'd get up.
She felt the cup get taken out of her hands, and she blinked, as Dar settled a layer of the blankets over her. "No.. I'll... "
"Shh... stay put. This bed's big enough to hold the entire board of directors... get some sleep." Dar reassured her, giving her a friendly scratch on the back of the neck. "Whoops.. sorry.. forgot about your sunburn."
What sunburn? Kerry asked, as her eyes slid shut, and she enjoyed the little tingles going up and down her spine. Oh. That sunburn. Right. "No problem." She mumbled sleepily. "I'm not going back there."
Dar regarded her companion, who was curled onto her side, her breathing already evening out into sleep. "No... I don't think you are, my friend." She let her arm rest on the bed near the blond woman, and after a few minutes, glanced up at a touch.
Fingers were curled around her forearm. Dar looked at her companion closely, and saw the steady, even breathing, and realized she was deeply asleep. An unconscious motion, then, Kerry reaching out to her instinctively, desiring the comfort of a touch she'd never assume while awake.
Poor kid... Dar thought about Kerry's parents and felt a deep anger stir. How could they treat someone like her like that? She chewed her lip for a moment, then lifted her laptop carefully up one handed, and checked her download of mail, which had completed. She noted that the finished proposal was there, then accessed the main database.
A bot was readied, and sent on it's way, after she cleared it with not one, but two levels of security passwords given the information it was after. The laptop screen reflected pale on her face, as she also readied an email, reading it several times before she clicked send. Her eyes drifted to the blond woman, lying so trustingly next to her. Don't worry, Kerry... She told her silently. I'll take care of you, my friend.
A query came back, from the security proxy. She typed in the override, and put in her personal password. It continued on it's way.
She clicked through her mail as she waited, bypassing the usual barrage of general notices. Clean the refrigerator...donít' use the regular elevators to carry rolling pc carts... Global Volunteer Day... Dar remembered she had to attend that, and made a note in her reminder file. She continued to surf. Remember to recycle.. gotcha.. Benefits enrollment period ends November 15th.. whoops.. Dar clicked to a different mainframe session and logged into the CAS database, reviewing her health, dental and life insurance options. She upped the dental to high, since she'd spent more than she wanted to on a chipped tooth last year, and increased her life insurance a little, then submitted the request.
Then she backed out and checked her worklist, finding the things, whatever they were, she'd promised Uthai the other day. She reviewed them, and groaned. Oh crap.. that damn internet access...I really should listen to him before I agree to this stuff... She drummed the fingers of her free hand on the keypad and then just lifted her hand and let it drop. What the hell... A click, and the request was granted, but then she switched to mail, and sent Uthai a note telling him he was personally .. personally.. responsible if corporate security got compromised because of his people.
That oughta do it.. he won't give it to them if he thinks he's going to get his ass nailed. Dar chuckled to herself. She finished off the worklist, then went back to her mail, reaching over and taking a sip of her hot chocolate. She knew she should be exhausted, but the sudden shock of the plane crash had started adrenaline running in her, and she had to let it run it's course.
A soft rustle attracted her attention and she turned her head as Kerry stirred, shifting a little closer, and moving her grip, her fingers slipping along Dar's skin in a wonderfully warm sensation. It felt really nice. Kerry was smiling, just a little, in her sleep and Dar smiled back, gazing at the smaller woman with quiet affection. Then a yawn caught her, and she put her laptop down on the carpet, and turned off the television, leaving the room in a darkness broken only by the gentle stream of soft light filtering thorugh the curtains. Dar tugged the covers up, and relaxed, aware of the body heat she was suddenly sharing under the blankets.
Aware of Kerry's warm scent which imprinted itself into her senses as a compound of clean cotton, sun tan oil and a hint of apricot .
She decided she liked it.
Kerry became fuzzily aware of pale sunlight, warm against her closed eyelids, and a sense of quiet peace that radiated mostly from the shoulder she was snuggled against. She took in a breath and recognized the scent of the wool blanket, and a pleasant, spicy smell her brain amiably indentified for her as Dar Robert's perfume.
Her body was relaxed, and one arm was wrapped around a gently moving surface that was warm and soft, and she was aware of a feeling of contentedness that eased through her as she nestled a little closer, soaking in the wonderful sensation.
Another breath. Then her sleepy mind put together Dar, and scent, and the shoulder she was cuddling, and almost spit her heart out of her ears in her haste to get blood to her brain. Oh goddamnitalltohellIcan'tbelieveIdid... She held her breath, and cracked an eyelid open, seeing smooth, tanned skin at very close range. Oh.. my god.
It was very quiet in the room, and she very carefully rotated her eyeball up, and peeked at Dar's face.
Phew. Kerry cautiously unwound herself from her unexpected embrace, and eased away, feeling a vague but definite sense of regret as she did so. She lifted her head a little to check the clock, relieved that it was only 7:30. She curled an arm around her pillow, and now, safely on her side of the bed, she took the opportunity to study her sleeping boss. Damn, I got lucky.. what if she'd woken up? Jesus, Kerry.... Remember you work for her, okay? This is supposed to be business.
But her body ached to go back to her snuggling, craving Dar's touch with an intensity that made it hard to breathe. It had felt so good... She sighed, and rolled over. C'mon, get moving... go do something productive like get breakfast ordered, and check the mail. Stupid crush.
She got up, and trudged out of the room, going to the phone in her own room and calling room service. Then she remembered she was supposed to call Colleen back, and checked her watch. I should catch her.. She dialed the phone, and waited. "Col?"
"Ker? Oh.. damn, I fell asleep last night again.. did you call?"
"It was too late.. I had a bad time with the folks, and then we watched the news... and I fell asleep too." Kerry told her. "But some of those people lived... I saw that."
"About fifty percent of them.. yeah.. " Colleen yawned. "You coming home today?"
"I think so.. yes... we have a meeting at 10, and they said they would announce who won the bid.. there's no reason for us to hang around her after that."
"How is it? Boring?" The redhead asked.
Kerry indulged in a sweet memory of waking, then sighed. "No.. it's not boring.. we had these meetings, and a sort of fight between our account team and the IBM account team.. that was kind of wild... then we had to um... evaluate some stuff last night, so.."
"Honey, that sounds boring as my Aunt Mary's penances...did you even get to pick up that Pluto thing you wanted."
Kerry smiled wryly. "Well, to be totally honest with you.. yes... because I spent most of the day in Epcot yesterday."
Dead silence. "Ooo... you little stinker..all business meetings, huh?" Colleen laughed. "You snuck away.. or did the dragon lady not need you?"
"Um.. no.. she was there too." Kerry told her. "The meetings let out early yesterday, and weren't going to start up again until today, so.. there wasn't much we could do but a little sightseeing."
"Eww... you got stuck walking around Epcot Center with the robot woman from hell?" Colleen made a sympathetic noise. "You poor thing."
"I survived." Kerry debated whether or not to protest her characterization of Dar, then figured she had plenty of time to do that when she got home. "Anyway.. everything's okay, I got my Pluto, and we'll be back tonight."
"Your folks really bad?" Colleen asked, knowing her.
Kerry was quiet for a moment, then she exhaled. "Yeah."
"Sweet Jesus.. Ker...sorry you had to be there all by yourself.. I was thinking of you."
"It was all right... Dar kind of figured out what was going on, and patted me on the head, and all that." Kerry assured her. "Listen.. I gotta go and get ready for this meeting.. talk to you tonight?"
"Right...see you then, girlie." Colleen hung up, and Kerry did likewise, but she sat there for a long moment on her unused bed, deep in thought.
It was that stupid dream again. Dar shook herself out of it, waking to find the sun streaming into the room, and herself alone in the bed. The feeling of loss, and disappointment was almost palpable, though, and she rolled over, curling up and hugging her pillow to her until she got a handle on it, and the feeling faded back.
It had been so damn real this time...some little cabin somewhere, must have been up north, because a cool breeze was coming in, and she had been just curled up in the early dawn, her arms wrapped around another sleeping form. She remembered a feeling of lazy happiness and a faint tingle of expectation, as though she'd been waiting for the day to begin for some reason.
She closed her eyes, and let herself feel the ache for a moment, which ended when a soft, concerned voice stirred the silence.
"Dar?" The carpet muffled Kerry's bare footsteps as she came over, and perched on the edge of the bed, putting a hand on the older woman's shoulder. "Are you okay?"
The ache eased, and Dar nodded, opening her eyes and giving the blond woman a wry grin. "A little too much to drink last night."
"Ahh.." Kerry smiled back, and waggled her other hand. "I have a bit of a headache myself... I figured some breakfast would help. I ordered it up... and I'm downloading stuff. "
"Good." Dar rubbed her face with one hand, and yawned. "What time is... ah... okay...we've got a little while...I need to take a nice long shower, in that case." She rolled over onto her back, and stretched, arching her back to work a kink out. "I'm not used to these damn mattresses.. " She gave Kerry a wry look. "I miss my waterbed."
Kerry's fingers itched to set to work on those muscles, dimly visible thorugh the cotton of Dar's t-shirt, but she counted to ten, and controlled herself. "Are those really comfortable?" She stood up, moving away from her bosses warm body and walking over to stand near the window, gazing out.
"Oh yeah." Dar assured her, sitting up and starting to get out of bed. She glanced at her shirt, then stopped in mid motion, and sat back down, staring at her own shoulder in puzzlement.
Reaching up with a curious hand, and removing several golden strands caught in the fabric's nap. She stared at them, rolling the soft hair in her fingertips, then glancing over at Kerry, who was still peering out the window with great interest. "You sleep okay?" She asked curiously.
"Yeah... yeah, I did... um... I haven't been up that long, just a few minutes, really... I slept just fine... um... how about you?" Kerry found the small boats zipping around the lake facinating,
"Like a baby." The dark haired woman felt a smile edging her lips. "You... um... you always snuggle up like that at night?" She cast her dice on a gamble, and held her breath, waiting for Kerry's answer. The sudden tightening of the blond woman's jaw, and the stiffening of her back was it's own answer. Dar swore she could see the 'oh shit' form on Kerry's lips, before the younger woman spoke.
"Sorry about that..it's a stupid habit.. I've got this big panda thing, and I um.. " Kerry felt herself babbling, and she could feel herself blushing badly.
"Hey." Dar broke in on the stumbling words. "Relax... didn't bother me a bit." She chuckled, brushing it off to ease Kerry's obvious embarassment. "I do it myself.. I've got two big pillows at home... I'm always wrapping myself around them.. it's a natural thing."
Kerry didn't answer for a minute. Then she took in a breath, seen as a shifting of her shoulders, and released it before she turned around. "Well...I'm glad you understand... um... so you were going to fill me in on this plan of yours? I mean.. if Mark came through... which I guess he did, because he called, and.. "
"Kerry." Dar's voice stopped her nervous speech. "C'mere." She waited until the smaller woman hesitantly approached, and patted the bed's surface. "Sit down."
"Um... " Kerry settled uneasily on the edge of the mattress, and fastened her gaze on her knees, horribly embarassed.
"Listen to me, okay? We're friends, right?" Dar asked gently.
Shy green eyes lifted to hers. "You're my boss." Kerry replied softly, as though that explained everything.
"Just forget about that for a minute." Dar's brows contracted. "I haven't known you that long, and you haven't known me for that long.. but I think it's fair to say we get along pretty well, right?"
Kerry nodded. "Yes."
"Okay.. well, that's good... " Dar fished for words. "Because I really appreciate having someone around I can think of as a friend, and I'm glad we had a chance to get to know each other."
The blond woman relaxed a little. "Me too."
Dar considered her next statement, knowing she was coming close to crossing a line. "I don't want you to feel..um.. awkward... about the fact that we're friends, and that you... I mean, that we like each other." She stared hard at the carpet, then looked back up at Kerry. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Kerry considered it. "Yeah." She finally exhaled. "I do..it's just strange."
"Because we work together?" Dar hazarded a guess.
"Because I work for you." Kerry corrected, gently. "I don't... it just feels very weird."
"Mm." Dar mused. "Does it bother you?" She queried hesitantly. "I.. I mean.. " She lifted a hand and dropped it. "That we've gotten so friendly this fast?"
"No." That finally got a tiny, relieved smile from the younger woman. "I just didn't want you to think I was trying to... get something from you or... I.. "
"Sucking up to the boss?" Dar inquired lightly. "I never considered it for a moment.. you're not the type.. and believe me, I should know."
A hesitant smile. "Your opinion matters to me...I appreciate you saying that."
Dar's lips curved. "So you can relax... all right?" She patted the blond woman on the knee. "Besides, you give great hugs..I donít want to miss out on one just because you're worried about what I think of you."
Kerry breathed a huge sigh of relief. "Wow..that's good to hear... because I have this habit of touching people I like without thinking... I didn't know if that was bothering you.. I didn't even realize I was doing it until last night."
Ah... clearing the air. "Well.. " Dar scratched her jaw. "Funny thing about that... I absolutely positively hate people touching me." She paused. "As a rule... and people coming into my personal space gets me livid. " Another pause. "As a rule."
"Uh." Kerry bit her lip.
Dar shrugged. "Every rule has an exception, they tell me, and I guess you're it... no, it doesn't bother me at all for some reason." She gave the younger woman a wry look. "That was kind of a surprise."
"Oh." The blond brows knit. "Good surprise, or bad surprise?" Kerry felt her composure returning, and she realized things were actually going pretty well here. Dar wasn't upset about.. things... at all.
Suddenly serious pale blue eyes captured hers. "A very good surprise, Kerry... it's been a very long time since I"ve felt so comfortable with someone...I don't... make friends easily."
Kerry felt herself drowning in that intense regard, and she reached out in pure reflex, curling her fingers around Dar's as though it were the most natural thing in the world. "I'm glad." She replied simply, giving the hand a squeeze. They gazed into each other's eyes, and the blond woman felt her heart start to pound a little faster.
A knock on the door broke the tableau, and Dar dropped her eyes, a tiny smile playing around her lips. Okay... let's get the day started.. we've got plenty of time to discuss this later. "That'd be breakfast, I guess."
"Yep." Kerry released her hand, and stood, running her fingers through her hair as she padded to the door and peeked through the eyehole. "I hope you're hungry... I think I overordered."
White teeth flashed in a grin. "Starving." She got up and checked the time. 8:30. "Let's eat, then get moving.. I'll fill you in on the plan while we eat."
The glass walled conference room seemed warmer to Kerry, as she entered behind Dar's tall form and closed the door after her. A large LCD presentation screen had been added to the far wall, and the IBM team looked, if nothing else, smug. She put her laptop and a folder down next to John, then seated herself, giving him a reassuring smile. "Hello."
"Hi." He leaned closer. "Did you get the proposal?"
She nodded and tapped her folder, watching Dar saunter to the first seat nearest the front of the room and sit down.
"They were working all night.. they've got this whole whiz bang presentation to do... I'm a little concerned." The account team leader whispered. "What do we have, other than the paper?"
"Shh." Kerry nodded to the far door, where Michelle and her retinue were entering. "Dar has something planned." She eyed the Disney executive, surprised when the woman scanned the room, and let her gaze rest on Kerry's face for a long moment before drifting off. I must be sunburned, she realized ruefully. Oh well.. She took a quick look at Dar's face, realizing the darker skinned woman didn't show the pink that she did.
"Well." Michele put a leather covered folder down and drummed her immaculately painted nails on it. "Thank you all for being prompt. " She looked first at Jerry, then at Dar, who had slipped her jacket off, and was seated casually, her weight resting on her elbows. She had chosen to wear a sleeveless, low necked white cotton shirt, and she looked cool and comfortable, in direct contrast to the men, with their tight ties, and buttoned collars.
"It's a pity you were... tied up.. last night, Dar... Jerry and I had some wonderful conversation." Michelle's eyes were sharp, and she let a brief, thin smile edge her lips.
Dar didn't even twitch. She just returned the smile with a lazy one of her own. "Hope you had as good a time as I did, then.. sorry I missed it." Suddenly, she was glad she'd turned the smaller woman down... it was obvious she was enjoying the liberal fawning of the bidding process, and Dar felt a quiet satisfaction that she hadn't stooped to that. Of course, it also might mean she dropped the ball, and lost the account.
She hated losing. It didn't happen often, and if she lost this one, knowing she could have sewn it up was going to hurt, in more ways than one.
"Well... let's get started." Michelle had obviously decided she wasn't going to get a rise out of Dar, so she sat down. "I believe we have presentations from both teams?"
Jerry leaned back and laced his fingers over his stomach. "Ladies first." He smiled sweetly at Dar.
She shrugged, and gave him an amused look. "Okay.. if you insist.. you go right ahead."
Against her will, Michelle bit the inside of her lip, and looked down, then cleared her throat. "Jerry, go on so we won't be here all day."
His face reddened, but he complied, laying out his materials and launching into his presentation, using the display screen to illustrate how they would realign networks, and put in place servers. It was interesting, and Dar reflected that he really did know what he was doing. It took forty five minutes, though, and she caught Michelle peeking at her watch before he finished, and she nodded quietly to herself. A good, solid presentation, worthy of the reputation of his company, and probably a very competitive bid. Jerry wanted this.. the publicity alone was worth undercutting the price.
"Well, thank you." Michelle nodded at him as he finished. "That was very comprehensive." She paused, then turned and looked at Dar, raising a ginger colored eyebrow in question.
Dar remained seated, and leaned back, resting her weight on the chair arms. "Kerry?" She motioned the younger woman forward with a jerk of her head. That was a surprise... even her own people expected her to do the presentation...certainly Michele had.
Kerry took a breath, then stood, and picked up her laptop, tucking it under her arm and walking to the front of the room. She efficiently disconnected the display screen and plugged into her external video port, then booted the laptop up, and requested a cellular connection to their network. She glanced up as it was connecting. "This was an interesting scenario to develop a solution for." She commented. "Because in order for an interactive system to work, you have to make it easy to use, and complex in it's design all at once. "
She brought up a network diagram, setting counters and narrowing the focus. "This is your current data communications network." She started the monitors running "You can see, your current utilization runs into bottlenecks here, and here... mostly because of the bandwidth requirements, especially in the video link."
Dar watched Michele's face, as the smaller woman leaned forward, peering at the live data with interest.
"So.. to open the pipeline, we'd bring in trunk circuits here, and here.. " Kerry had another screen open, and she typed several rapid-fire commands in, which suddenly made the monitors jump and flutter. "Like that."
Michele's brows creased. "Did you just... do it?"
"Mmhm." Kerry acknowledged, with a gentle smile. "See how that smoothes the bottlenecks? You get better throughput." She brought up another screen, this one an actual link into their reservations system. "We analyzed the application you were running as well.... It provides a lot of information, but it's slow, and it's very layered, making people go through an intensive drill down before they get where they want to go." She clicked again. "Our web design division suggests this as a replacment... you can see it's a three dimensional representation of one of your parks, and to get where you want to go, the touch screen technology is used, like this... " She tapped with her mouse key, and the scene shifted, then shifted again to display the castle in the Magic Kingdom. "
"Nice." Michele murmured.
"Um.. no.. " Kerry tapped again, at the graphically drawn doors. "This is nice." The doors opened, and she was given a menu of options. "To see the menus.. you go here." She showed it. "Then if you want to make a reservation, you go here."
The screen was replaced with an overhead shot of the restaurant, complete with tables. "You can pick your time.. and it will show what tables are available..." She clicked, and a small screen popped up. "You type your name in, and there you are." The table was now labeled Mickey Mouse."
The entire room was focused on Kerry now, and she glanced past them, to a pair of warm, sparkling blue eyes, one of which winked at her. "But this is a nice addition.. " She went on, accepting the reservation. "It gives you the option to leave a pager number, here.. so you can be reminded of your reservation, and so the restaurant staff can get ahold of you if there's a change." She typed in a number, and clicked okay, then paused , expectantly.
Seconds later, a soft beeping sounded from across the room, and Dar held up her pager, then reset it.
"That's... incredible." Michelle sat back. "But what kind of bandwidth problems are we talking about? That program must be huge."
Kerry met her gaze, and smiled a little. "Want to find out?" She inquired. "We threw this on two of our Alpha servers, and wrote a little stress testing program... " She clicked, displaying a network analyzer in one corner, then started the program with a different session. "See? It's not that big, really.. since we cache the screens like the seat maps locally.. and we cut way down on the video traffic.You only need to talk to a reservationist if you can't figure something out, or you want to make special arrangements. There's parameters you can specify, like a cutoff on party size.. so someone won't put in for a party of thirty, or something."
She stopped talking, and gazed out at them. "Any questions?" Kerry glanced around the room, then let her eyes settle on Michele. "We downloaded the PDF maps from your website, and cross referenced it to the location database that's up there to, then ran it all through a three D modeler attached to a back end datafile that stores all the information. " She paused. "Beyond that, it was mostly customizing it to your business style, which Dar and I had an opportunity to evaluate the past two days"
Dar's brow lifted a little unobtrusively. That... was impressive, and unprompted... Kerry had somehow clued into the fact that Michele was miffed that she'd spent the night wandering the park instead of at dinner with her, and had turned a purely personal motive into a compelling business one. Nice. Very nice. She caught the younger woman's eyes and smiled appreciatively, noting the faint blush that colored Kerry's cheeks as she did so.
"No... I... " Michele turned to Dar, with a little incredulous shake of her head. "Can I speak to you in private for a moment?"
Gotcha. "Sure." Dar replied amiably, as she stood up, and motioned for the smaller woman to precede her. They slipped the door in the rear, into a small antechamber with soft ferns and a smoked glass skylight.
The redhead turned to face her. "I didn't expect that."
Dar smiled. "I told you I make things happen... diagrams and grids are fine, but I thought you wanted to see an end result, not promises."
A slow nod. "So.. did you have fun last night?" The woman's eyes lazily caressed her.
"More than you did, I bet." Dar chuckled. "I've had dinner with Jerry."
Michele tried to wipe a smile off her face without much success. "He doesn't have much good to say about you, I'll tell you that." She gazed up at the taller woman. "I spent most of the night hearing about how you'd screw me over."
Dar just smiled. "Not my style." She disagreed. "We screw up sometimes, just like everyone else does, but we don't go out looking for victims." Now she let her own eyes wander, letting a little of her admittedly seductive side surface. "But I don't think you're the victim type anyway."
Michele blinked, then she stepped back a little, and folded her arms. "I'll take that as a compliment... that was a nice presentation... your little protégé knows her stuff." A cynical look entered her eyes. "Here I thought she was just a bit of fluff you brought with you."
"Kerry's not a bit of anything." Dar replied, more sharply than she'd intended.
The smaller woman's lips tensed, then she chuckled softly. "Ah.. so you do have the rare soft spot... well, no offense meant, Dar...I like the fact that you stand up for your people." She sighed. "That's so rare at our level...I've seen more times when a subordinate is mostly for putting blame on... but I don't think you're that type."
"No." Dar replied, honestly.
"And I don't think you're the kind of person who lies for no reason.. so.. were you really casing the joint last night?" Michele gazed at her, a half smile on her face.
"I was keeping a promise." Dar answered quietly.
The shorter woman leaned back against a sideboard and crossed her arms. "Interesting.. and that was more important to you than locking up this bid?"
Dar stepped forward, straightening to her full height and pinning Michele with pale blue eyes. "If that's how you base your business decisions.. then I won't regret losing it." She said softly. "Are we done?"
Without a word, Michele gestured back towards the door, and they reentered the meeting room, where Kerry had disconnected her laptop, and resumed her seat next to John.
"Excuse me for a moment." Michele picked up both proposals and left the room. This time the hounds stayed behind, glancing at everyone with suspicious eyes.
Dar sat down next to Kerry, putting her elbows on the arms of her chair, and steepling her fingers before her face. She could feel the eyes of the entire room on her, and it was a struggle to keep her face calm, and relaxed.
I think I blew this one. She admitted quietly to herself. If I was going to play her game, I should have played it all the way, not backed off. Damn.. I think I need more than a stupid vacation.. I need to get my head back on straight and remember what the hell my job is.
A certain grimness settled over her. Not spend time running around a stupid park, playing games.
The door opened again, and Michele came back in, a thoughtful look on her face. She looked at the two proposals still grasped in her hand for a moment, then inhaled, and tossed on at Jerry. "Thanks for your time." She tossed the other at Dar. "I'll be in touch."
Then she simply left, taking her hounds with her.
Mickey Mouse smiled at them from the clock on the wall, his fingers pointing out the time, the solid ticking echoing in the shocked stillness of the room for a what seemed like an endless instant. Then Dar collected herself, and stood up, picking up the contract and handing it to John. "Here you go." She let her hand fall on Kerry's shoulder. "C'mon.. we've got a plane to catch."
Kerry got up and followed her quickly out of the room, across the hallway, and into the waiting elevator, which slid closed behind them, blocking the view of the glassed in conference room.
Dar leaned back against the wall, and crossed her arms, giving Kerry a cheerfully triumphant grin. In silence, the blond woman pumped her fist down and mouthed. "Yes!" Dar poked the tip of her tongue out in response, then wiped her face of it's glee as the doors opened to let them out on the ground floor.
They didn't relax until they were in the rental car, pulling out of the lot and heading towards the airport. "That... was amazing." Kerry gushed. "Dar, I thought for sure after those nasty comments... I never thought she'd pick us."
The executive slowly shook her head. "Me either, to be honest... I thought I really blew this one." She pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number from memory. "Beatrice? He in?"
"You did?" Kerry looked confused. "Wow.. I thought you handled it great...." She objected. "You were by far the coolest, and most prepared person in there.. you didn't even react when she tossed that packet at you.. it's like you expected it all along."
"Hah.." Dar snorted, putting her fingers over the microphone on the cell. "Good acting job." She grinned in almost giddy relief, then took a breath. "Les?" A pause. "Done deal."
She held the phone away from her ear as various whooping and squawking noises issued from it, chuckling as she waited for the racket to die down. "Yeah... about fifteen minutes ago...no, I'm on my way to the airport.. John has the details."
"Dar, you are a goddess." Les' voice crackled through the connection. "Iím sending you something for this, and you better the hell not turn it down, or Iím coming down there personally and making sure you don't, got me?"
"Wasn't just me, Les.. " Dar objected. "The website team, Mark, the docs people.. and especially my assistant Kerry who gave the proposal had a big part in it." She caught a blush out of the corner of her eye, and gave the blond woman a playful tug on the ear.
"You can take care of them.. I'm going to take care of you." The cheerful voice replied. "Let me go.. that's John on the other line, probably needing his pants dry cleaned. Bye Dar.. god bless you."
The dark haired woman folded the phone and tucked it into it's belt holder, then exhaled. She'd gotten lucky, all right. Big time... Michele had made her decision based on business reasons, though Dar suspected it had been a close thing. She also suspected she hadn't heard the last from Ms. Graver. But for right now, it was done, and she was headed home. "Hope he doesn't send me caviar again." She joked wryly.
"That was nice of you to say everyone else was involved." Kerry commented, with a smile. "Iím glad it all worked out."
Dar grinned. "Me too." She confided, as she drove past an elaborate water tower. "There's MGM..."
"Ooo.. ." Kerry peeked at it. "Next time.. I wanted to do the Tower of Terror."
The dark haired woman checked her watch, then glanced at the park, then glanced at Kerry's nose pressed against the glass posture, and considered. "Well... " She turned into the left lane, then waited for traffic to slow. "There's later flights."
Kerry glanced over her shoulder, startled. "Dar...you don't...." She saw the sparkle in those blue eyes and stopped. "Promise me something?"
Dar blinked, as she completed her turn into the parking area. "Um... okay, sure."
"Promise you'll come back here, when we've got more time?" Kerry coaxed.
A pause. "All right." Blue eyes met hers. "I promise.. now, c'mon.. grab your shorts.. let's change and have a little fun."
It was dark, the lights of the airfield being the only illumination as they finally took off on the short trip back to Miami. Kerry snuggled down into her leather seat, stifling a yawn as she gingerly eased her shirt away from the back of her neck. "Jesus.. even with the sunblock, I still got burned." The blond woman stretched her body out, then relaxed. "Ugh."
"Aww." Dar had leaned back, folding her hands over her stomach. "Did I tired you out?" Blue eyes sparkled mischeviously. "Maybe you shouldn't push yourself so hard."
Kerry looked at her. "Iím being tweaked, aren't I?" She asked, biting off a grin. "Yes, you did, as a matter of fact... Iím exhausted, and I just remembered I have to go do that global volunteer thing tomorrow."
Dar closed her eyes. "I'll bring you some carrot juice."
A little silence. Kerry peered at her. "Are you going to be there?" She asked, curiously. "I didn't know... "
The taller woman shrugged nonchalantly. "It rotates... one of the senior execs have to do it every year.. just so happened this was my year." A blue eye appeared. "Is that okay?"
"Well.. yeah.. of course... " Kerry stammered. "In fact.. that's great... a bunch of the Associated people are going to be there... I'd.." She paused, awkwardly.
"Like them to see Iím not as bad as they think?" Dar inquired, with a wry grin.
The blond woman blushed a little, and ducked her head. "Something like that, yes."
"Ah.. Kerry.. it's too late for my reputation to be salvaged, I'm afraid... " Dar crossed her arms over her chest. "But I appreciate the thought."
"Anytime." Kerry murmured, struck suddenly by how much she liked the sound of her own name on Dar's lips. The older woman put a gentle, almost imperceptible roll on the r's that reminded her of a kitten's purr, and she found herself wanting to hear it more.
She found herself liking the idea of Dar being at the event tomorrow too. Despite her words, she was looking forward to proving to her ex co workers that the person they referred to as El Chupacabra wasn't nearly as horrible as they thought she was. Susan , her old lead programmer especially, since she'd taken the time to call Kerry on more than one occasion, to make sure she was 'still alive' and pass on rumors she'd heard about her new boss.
"You be careful, Ker.. " Susan had warned. "I heard she fired someone just because she didn't like what they were wearing one day."
Hmm. "Hey Dar?"
"Huh?" The dark haired woman glanced over, sipping at a glass of chocolate milk she'd wangled out of the stewardess.
"Did you ever fire someone because you didn't like what they were wearing?" Kerry inquired, curiously.
Dar considered the question. "Once, yes." She admitted, watching Kerry's eyes widen. "A man named Lawrence Matthews... he was an account rep at Florida Power and Light."
"W... what was he wearing that was so awful?" The blond woman spluttered. "Dar, I can't believe you'd do that!"
The blue eyes flinched almost imperceptibly. "He wasn't wearing anything, Kerry... he got angry, and stripped naked at a customer site, and went into the presidents office offering her his private parts."
Kerry's jaw dropped. "Oh.. well, Jesus, Dar.. that doesn't count.. of course you fired him!" She snorted. "I would have too!"
Dar nodded quietly. "All right... well, to get them out of the way, no, I've never slept with Les, I've never fired anyone for not brushing their teeth, I don't ask my secretary to solicit escort services for me, and I don't get drunk every night."
Blond brows knit. "I knew all that." Kerry stated.
"Yeah.. but I have punched a corporate VP, I have dissolved entire companies to make the numbers, and I have slept with people to win a bid." Dar's voice was quiet and even. Time to knock some of the gloss of that image you have of me, kiddo. "I'm a bastard, and I know it, Kerry."
Sea green eyes studied her face for a long time, as the drone of the engines blocked out the noise around them. "Iím sorry.. I know you've done nasty things . and I know what I thought of you when I first met you.. but I can't look at you now, and think of you like that."
Dar exhaled quietly. "That could be dangerous for you, my friend."
Kerry smiled suddenly, her eyes glinting with competitive fire. "It could be dangerous for you, too." She warned, lifting her chin. "Hanging around with me could be deadly to your reputation, you know." She leaned against the arm between their seats and raised her eyebrows in challenge.
Dar leaned on her side of the arm, until their noses were inches apart. Green eyes and blue gazed into each other, so close that Kerry could feel Dar's breathing stir the hair on the side of her face, and see the tiny muscles on the side of her face twitch as she held back a smile. "Is that so?" The dark haired woman drawled softly.
"Oh yeah." Kerry replied, reveling in the strength of what she could feel between them. "I'm going to make you.. nice." She growled, squinting her eyes menacingly.
The grin fought it's way to the surface, and Dar laughed, shaking her head from side to side gently. Then she leaned a little further forward, and touched her forehead to Kerry's, so that the smaller woman almost had to cross her eyes to keep her in focus. "Unrealistic expectations, Kerry."
It was sooo hard not to just....oh Jesus, Kerry finally dropped her gaze and pulled back, before she could embarrass herself. She was blushing, and she knew it. She took a moment to compose herself, then glanced back at the quiet, waiting Dar. "Not to my eyes." Her voice was serious.
Now Dar's gaze dropped, and lock of the dark hair fell as she looked down, obscuring her face. Kerry had to catch herself before she pushed it back, wanting to feel the soft texture against her skin.
A slow exhaled. "Well." Dar lifted her head and gave the blond woman a rakish, playful grin. "I guess we'll have to see if you can deliver on that." She winked, then relaxed back in her chair, and gazed out of the window, watching the dark land go by underneath the plane's wings.
Oh god.. I'm in trouble. Kerry felt her body trying to deal with the avalanche of emotions running through her. All right, calm down... take a deep breath, Kerry... she's your boss, and she's just playing with you, okay? She doesn't mean any of this.. it's just a little bit of fun for her.. she likes flirting, that's all there is to it.
Continued in Part 8