Monday, September 7, 2015

Chapter 8, Surprises

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

I was dreading lunch with Terrrill. He seemed nice enough but then, so had Simon. I didn't want to get into the same trap I'd gotten into with Simon. Right now, my life was very full with raising Nathaniel and getting my new company accustomed to my ownership. I had a campaign and advertising strategy to map out for the launch of our new products, and I certainly didn't have time to be entertaining male company.

Noon was rolling around very quickly. I'd thought of just not showing up and later on just sending him a text saying I'd had an emergency come up at work. Okay, so it was a boldfaced lie and it certainly wasn't the first time I'd lied about something. What changed my mind about not showing was the dawning realization that I'd be taking the coward's way out. After everything I'd been through, I didn't want to start doing the chicken dance now. I'd just have to suck it up and have lunch with the man.

Terrill was waiting for me when I arrived at the bistro. He signaled to me, then got up to pull out my chair for me. It was a beautiful day and he'd gotten us a nice table outside. The fresh air and sunshine was wonderful and I was hungry.

"I'm glad you came, Debbie. A part of me thought maybe you'd stand me up. You didn't seem very enthusiastic about having lunch with me," Terrill said.

His statement sent my conscience into a tailspin and I felt like a complete ass. I looked down at the table and blushed. "I thought about standing you up but in the end, I couldn't do it," I confessed.

"Well, I'm glad you decided to come. I do hate eating alone," Terrill said. The warmth of his smile reached inside me and I felt some of the tension give way.

"Me too," I said, smiling back.

"Something tells me you eat alone a lot," he said.

"At work, yes, but at home, I eat with my son. Being a toddler, however, his table manners are appalling," I laughed.

Terrill laughed too. That deep, rich laugh of his had a quality that would brighten anyone's day. "I don't have any children but I've always wanted them. I was an only child and was lonely for a brother or sister to play with, you know? My wife and I tried for kids but it never happened."

I was taken aback. "You're...married?" Dread surged through me and I had to swallow down the need to flee.

"I was. I'm a widower. Betsy died some years back," he said.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry," I said, sympathy for him replacing the dread.

He sighed. "Yeah, me too. We didn't know she was sick until it was too late. After that, I couldn't bring myself to get involved with anyone until..."

"Until?" I prompted when he trialed off.

Terrill gave me a sheepish look. "I was on a Reality TV dating show once. It's called 'The One.' It was quite a while ago as a contestant."

I blinked, then looked at him more closely. His admission brought on recognition for me and I knew immediately which season he'd been on. I don't watch much reality TV, especially dating shows, but I began watching "The One" when it had been announced that my favorite author in the whole world was going to be the Bachelorette. "Why, you were on Lenora Landgraab's season, weren't you?"

"Yep," he said.

"She's my favorite author ever," I confessed.

"I'm not into romance novels so haven't sampled any of her writing. I do know she's very talented musically. She was always singing to herself when we were on the show," Terrill said.

"Yes, she has a lovely voice. Meeting her one day is on my bucket list," I replied.

Terrill grinned at me. "You have a bucket list?"

"Doesn't everybody?" I asked, chuckling.

"I didn't before but now I do. When Betsy died, it made me realize how fragile life is. After I got over the worst of the grief, I decided to try to fulfill everything I could that's on my list. I do the best I can, but I have a long way to go," he said.

He seemed to have a great outlook on things, but I could see the sadness that appeared in his eyes from time to time. Like me, he was a lonely soul trying to get on with life as best he could. "You'll accomplish it, I'm sure," I said.

We continued to eat but in silence for a while. We resumed talking over coffee and dessert and I was surprised at how relaxed I felt. "So, what do you like to do in your spare time?" I asked.

"Well, I work out a lot and am a closet guitar player," he said.

I raised a brow. "Why a closet player?"

"Because I'm not good enough to play around anybody," he said. "I just do it for fun and relaxation. I sing a little but I'm pretty mediocre."

"Oh, I'm sure you're better than you give yourself credit for," I said. "What kind of music do you like?"

"I like most types but I play around with some of the classic rock stuff. You know, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones," he said.

"No kidding!" I said, leaning forward in excitement. "My favorite song is 'As Tears Go By' and that seems to be the one I play around with a lot."

"You play guitar?" he asked.

I laughed. "Only a little. I'm more of a strummer than anything. My singing is even worse."

"I'm sure not," he said.

I snorted. "Ever hear a bullfrog with laryngitis?"

He shook his head and roared with laughter.

"Well, that's what I sound like. Believe me, I'm no Barbara Streisand."

"Who is?" he said. Then, both of us were doubled over in helpless laughter.

The remainder of my workday passed in a blur and I was actually whistling as I walked through my door upon arriving home. I didn't know if I was feeling giddy from the glass of wine I'd had with lunch or because I got to spend time with someone who actually didn't want something from me.

I changed into comfortable clothes, scooped up my son, danced with him around the room, and gave him a big tickle that sent him into gales of glee. "Your Mommy's life is looking up, Nathaniel, my love. I think we're gonna make it."

I didn't have to work the next day, so I took some time, something I normally don't get, to read the paper. It seemed that the only news reported nowadays was always bad. I remembered the day when I got the shock of my life when Shane's name was splashed all over the front page. He'd been arrested for his part in the kidnapping and attempted murder of Lenora Landgraab. Thinking myself to be hallucinating, I closed my eyes for a moment, then opened them to look again. Sure enough, Shane's name was right there in black and white.

When I'd married Shane, I never dreamed that he was the way he was. At first, he was very loving and wonderful, but when our lives got busy and I refused to have kids, he changed. He became a different person but I didn't realize just how different he was. Maybe this was how he'd been all along and the way he'd been at the start of our marriage had been the facade. I believed that now. Gone was that sweet, adoring person that probably, in reality, never was. I encountered the person he truly was firsthand when he broke into my house and raped me.

Now, as I sat reading, another piece of news caught my attention. Ericka Adamsson had filed for divorce against her husband, Simon Adamsson on the grounds of mental cruelty and adultery. I forced out a breath and put down the paper. I knew for certain that this could get ugly since Ericka was the town mayor and Simon was a high profile businessman. The case would probably go to court and there was a good chance I'd be dragged into it. Oh man! I'd made such a mess of things and I was paying a high price. I deserved whatever came to me, but my son was an innocent person. Protecting him from being hurt was my top priority and I had to find a way to see that it got done.

Later that day, another bombshell was dropped on me. The results of the paternity test were in, and it showed that Simon clearly was Nathaniel's father. Shane had been in jail when the test was done, and since I had kept the rape quiet, nobody except Simon knew that there was another possibility for Nathaniel's paternity. Because of it, Shane hadn't been ordered to submit to the test, and there wasn't the need for it now since the results were so clear. At least I had something to be thankful for. The monster I was married to hadn't fathered my son, so there was no way he could legally touch him. He was also in prison for a very long time, which made me sleep better at night.

Things like this always happen in threes as they say; my life was no exception. I was about to sit down to dinner when my doorbell rang. I felt all the color drain from my face when I saw who was on the other side. "I'm Erica Adamsson. We need to talk."

Bonus Pic

She's just so adorable holding her cute little boy. :)

Author's Note: I'd like to thank Jazen for use of Terrill Maldonado for this chapter and for giving him to me for my story. She has some awesome stories that I'd highly recommend taking a look at. You can find them by clicking the links below.

"As Life Goes"
"Kiss of a Vampire"
Just Simming Along

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chapter 7, Changes

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

I couldn't believe how quickly time passed. Before I knew it, I needed to return to work. I was both dreading and looking forward to it. I loved my job and was itching to start working on the new campaign I had in mind for the cosmetics company I would soon own. However, I couldn't leave Nathaniel in the care of just anyone. Having no family and not knowing many people in town left me at a real disadvantage. I needed to know that my baby would be in good hands before I could, in good conscience, return to work.

Once I had taken care of that, I checked in with my attorney. Everything was in order and I was now the proud owner of my own company, which I renamed Countess Deborah Cosmetics. With the new name would come a new campaign to launch a new product line. I was going to be swamped with work at the office, especially in the beginning, but I looked forward to doing more of the work at home once things were put into place.

The first day back was very productive but exhausting. By the time I staggered out of the office and locked up, I wanted nothing more than to go home, spend some time with my baby, have a light meal, and go to bed. What I didn't expect was to bump into some man in the parking lot.

"Pardon me," I said, stepping back.

The man shrugged. "No worries. You look like I feel, so you're allowed a free bump."

I smiled a little. "I definitely don't wear the zombie look well, but if it gets me off the hook, I'll wear it cheerfully."

He laughed a deep, rich laugh and flashed a brilliant smile at me. "So, you're the new boss lady of that makeup company, right?"

"That would be me," I said.

He smiled and nodded. "Your office is across from where i work. The name's Maldonado. Terrill Maldonado." He offered me his hand.

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Maldonado, Terrill Maldonado," I said, taking his offered hand and feeling mine dwarfed in his strong, sure one. His handshake was firm but not overbearing, which I liked. "I'm Debbie Evans. Pleased to meet you."

"The pleasure's mine, Ma'am," he said, then let go of my hand almost as quickly as he'd taken it.

I looked down at my shoes, not knowing what else to say. "I guess I should be going. It's getting late and I need to get home to my son."

I saw him glance at my left hand, but he didn't ask me anything about a husband I didn't have. "How old is your son?" he asked.

I smiled proudly; I never tired of doting on my little boy. "He's six months."

"They're cute at that age," he said.

I nodded, then turned toward my car.

"It was nice talking to you, Debbie," Terrill said.

I turned and waved at him over my shoulder.

"Maybe we can do it again sometime," he called to me as I put more distance between us.

I shrugged noncommittally,  then quickened my pace until I reached my car. I pictured his smile as I slid into the driver's seat, then shook my head to clear away the image. He seemed like a nice enough man, but I wasn't interested in starting up a friendship or anything with him. My life was complicated enough without adding further elements to it.

 Weeks turned into months. Each day when I went into work, Terrill would see me and wave. I'd wave and smile back, but it never went any farther. The same thing happened if we saw each other at the end of our day. His smile was free and easy, but there were times I swore I detected a look of deep sadness in his eyes.

Nathaniel's first birthday arrived, and I gave him a little party even though it was just the two of us. He was too young to really understand it, but he cooed excitedly at the balloons I hung up.

My baby was growing up before my eyes and it made me rather sad. I wanted to make his first birthday a happy one, but I couldn't help stealing a moment to have a little cry.

I bought a birthday cake and blew out the candles for him. "You're too young to make a wish, sweetheart, but Mommy wishes you could stay little a while longer," I whispered, holding him close.

Nathaniel loved the peg box and xylophone I bought him. I suppose I'm a bit biassed being his mother and all, but my son is quite gifted for his age.

Potty training is a dirty job, but someone had to do it, and that someone was Mom. Luckily, he learned fairy quickly.

Learning to walk and talk also came quickly. I almost cried when the first word he said was "Mama."

I was dreading the day I had to take Nathaniel in to get his blood drawn for the paternity test. I'd decided to seek legal advice because I didn't know how to proceed where Shane was concerned. If he'd sired Nathaniel, I wouldn't have put it past him to try to sue me for custody. He'd raped me and Nathaniel could easily have been the result of that rape, but because I hadn't come forward, it would look as though I'd consented to intercourse with him. It made me ill to think about, but the possible reality of it stared me right in the face.

I decided to make the appointment for the test on a Wednesday since that was our slowest day at work. I took the morning off that day and headed for the clinic. By the time I arrived, my stomach was doing flips and I felt a migraine coming on. Simon arrived a few minutes behind us, and when he waved at me, I didn't smile or return the gesture. "Let's just please get this over with. I want this to be as trauma free for my son as possible," I told the clinician.

Much to my relief, it was over quickly. I didn't spare Simon even a glance as I carried my son to my car, got him situated in his car seat, and pulled out of the parking lot. I hurried to work once I'd gotten Nathaniel to his sitter. I was jogging to my office when I heard Terrill calling my name. "Hey Debbie! Where's the fire?"

"I'm late," I said simply.

"Everything okay?"

"Fine," I said a little brusquely.

"I'm glad. Hey listen. It's almost noon and I was wondering if you'd have lunch with me today." Well, where had that come from? The surprise must have shown on my face because he elaborated. "I'd been wanting to ask you for a while now but could never get up the nerve until now." He blushed and smiled sheepishly.

Oh God, I didn't want to be rude, but I had no desire to get involved with anyone again. I didn't even want friendship. I knew form personal experience how much that could hurt. "Terrill...Mr. Maldonado...I don't think that's a good idea."

He heaved a sigh. "It's just lunch, Debbie. I'm not asking you for your firstborn or--"

"Well that's good because my son isn't up for grabs," I said, turning to leave.

"Uh...sorry. Bad choice of words. What I mean is, it's just lunch. No strings, just two working stiffs having lunch. What's the harm in that...unless you have a husband or...?" His words trailed off as he studied the floor.

I hesitated but felt my resolve slipping a little. When I turned back to look into his face, I couldn't take the pleading look in his eyes. "I have no husband or any significant other. I...okay. I'll have lunch with you, but no strings."

"No strings," he said, nodding. "How about the bistro at noon sharp?"

"Okay. Why not?" I said.

I chided myself the whole time as I made my way to my office. Why in hell had I agreed to this? This could only mean trouble, and more trouble was the last thing I needed in my life right now.

Author's Note: I'd like to thank Jazen for use of Terrill Maldonado for this chapter. She has some awesome stories that I'd highly recommend taking a look at. You can find them by clicking the links below.

"As Life Goes"
"Kiss of a Vampire"
Just Simming Along

Bonus Shots

Nathaniel as a toddler

Nathaniel asleep in his swing.

 I thought this one turned out nice where Debbie is just holding him. :)

 You gotta love it when some poor Sim buys it out of the blue. I was staging the first meeting scene between Debbie and Terrill when poor Lief Helgerson's number came up.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Chapter 6, Bringing Up Baby

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

Never in my wildest imaginings did I ever picture myself as the mother type. It's funny how life can turn on its head. I mean, I'd gone from high-powered businesswoman to divorcee to victim to single mother in less than eighteen months. I'd so wanted this new beginning to be done right, but it seemed I'd made a mess of things once again. But then, I chided myself for that kind of thinking every time I picked up my little son. He  hadn't been planned and raising a child as a single mother wasn't my ideal situation, but I could never call him a mistake. Now that I had him, I realized I couldn't live without him. I loved him so very fiercely and he was all mine.

All those mom things that had sounded so awful before were now a part of my life. Sure, doing all of this alone was hard but how could I have ever thought it so terrible?

Nathaniel was a good-natured baby. He usually settled when I picked him up, and my heart squeezed with love every time he cooed or smiled at me. He looked at the world with such intelligent eyes. Nathaniel was my pride and joy, and I loved taking care of him.

I was still on maternity leave when Simon called me. Ever since that confrontation in his office, I'd done everything I could to avoid him. I only spoke to him when I absolutely needed to. Otherwise, I'd kept to myself.

"Hello, Simon," I said expressionlessly.

"Hi, Debbie," he said hesitantly. " are you?"

"Fine," I said.

"Good, good.'s the baby?" he asked.

"Fine," I said.

"Are you going to keep answering me with one word replies?" he asked.

"Yep," I said.

"Come on, Debbie. Cut me a little slack, huh?"

I blew out a frustrated breath. "Why should I, Simon? I have nothing more to say to you. You made yourself very clear when you ordered me back into work while I was knocked up."

"Debbie, I didn't know. Then, when you told me about...everything, I just...."

"You just acted like a first class bastard," I shot back.

"I did. I admit it and I'm sorry," he said.

"I'm sorry isn't enough anymore. I have my son to think about now, and it's not healthy for my well-being to allow you to keep me on some insane roller coaster ride," I said. "You have your own family to take care of, so it's best you leave me alone so I can take care of mine."

He cleared his throat. "This is why I'm calling, Debbie. If there is a chance that the kid is my son--"

"The kid's name is Nathaniel, Simon," I snapped.

"Right. If there is a chance that Nathaniel is my son, we need to talk about that. I do have rights as a father, after all," Simon said.

This brought me up short. This was true, but this was also the first sign of interest he'd shown. "What do you want from me, Simon?"

"Could...could I come over?"

"That's not a good idea," I replied.

"I just want to talk, Debbie. Nothing more except maybe to see Nathaniel," he pleaded.

I hesitated, then huffed out a long sigh. "All right. Be here in fifteen minutes."

When he arrived, I could see that he was soaked through. It had been a gully-washer of a day and he'd gotten caught in the middle of it. I greeted him stiffly and invited him in. "I have some old things of Shane's you can borrow. You can wear that while I dry your things," I told him.

He nodded and took the flannels I'd offered him. When he was changed, he looked toward the nursery. "May I?"

I nodded and followed him into Nathaniel's nursery.

Simon picked Nathaniel up and smiled at him, making my heart tremble. As pissed as I was at him, I was still a little in love with him. Had circumstances been different, I would be Simon's wife and we'd be a loving family. But then, something tugged at the back of my mind. He hadn't been faithful to Ericka, so maybe I'd be the one cheated on if we were married. Still, seeing him holding Nathaniel made me want more for my son. He deserved both a loving mother and father, not just a bumbling mother who worked herself to the bone to make ends meet.

"He's a beautiful boy," Simon said, bringing me out of my reverie.

"That he is," I said, my voice filled with pride. "You wanted to talk, so we should get to it."

Simon put the baby in his swing and turned it on low. I led him to the living room where I beckoned him to sit. When he did, he looked at me for a long, silent moment, then cleared his throat awkwardly. "You're...unsure of who his father is." It was a statement, not a question.

I nodded. "It could be either you or Shane. With the timing, it could go either way."

Simon got up and would have folded me into his arms had I not stopped him. "Simon, don't. Just...don't touch me."

"I should have been more caring at the office. Debbie, I just didn't know what to say. You hit me with it out of the blue...that he attacked you. Then, seeing you pregnant...well, I was an ass." He dropped his arms and sat back down.

"Yes, you were, but there's no changing what happened. What's done is done. It's the present and future that I need to be concerned about now," I said.

"I' to know one way or the other," Simon said.

"Are you saying you want a paternity test? Wouldn't that put a kink in your already tarnished life?" I asked bitterly.

Simon looked down at his lap, then looked at me with abject weariness in his expression. "Ericka knows. I told her. that we'd have to go to marriage counseling or she'd divorce me and take me to the cleaners. She demanded that I find out if the mine and then we'd go from there depending on the results."

I narrowed my eyes at Simon. "Sorry to be such a thorn in your side." Damn! There was that bitchy, sarcastic tone again. I hated myself for it, but at the same time, it was a small victory for me to see him squirm.

"Yeah...well, it takes two to tango," he said awkwardly.

"All right, Simon. All right. We'll do the paternity test and see what happens. We'll talk further once we know for sure." I stood up to retrieve Simon's clothes. "You'd better change and go," I said, handing him his things.

"Will I see you at work next week?" he asked.

I nodded. "We need to do something about that situation too, Simon. There's been talk...about us, you know. These things never stay quiet as I told you before."

"Yeah, I know. Look, if it makes things easier for you, I'll sign the cosmetics company over to you. This way, you'll be your own boss and won't have to report to me. You'll get your own office and be the one the employees for this company work for and report to. As you know, it's become quite successful, thanks to you. It'll mean more work for you, but you'll be able to do much of it at home."

"I can't afford to buy it, Simon. You know that," I said.

"You won't have to. I'm signing it over to you. Trust me, it won't break my bank to do it, and it'll be the boost you'll need. It's your baby anyway. It'll be the best for all of us," Simon said.

Well, how could I argue with that? I had been the one to push forth the company from the ground up. It had been my dream one day to buy it from Simon and take it over anyway. If Simon wanted to rid himself of the company to get rid of me as well, who was I to argue? At least it would solve the awkwardness of our having to work together.

"Okay, Simon, on one condition. The contracts are to be looked over by my attorney so there's no way for you to reneg on it and put me in a bad situation," I said. I didn't fully trust him, so I had to protect my own interests.

"Of course," Simon said.

Nathaniel got a little fussy a half hour after Simon left. I sat with him in the rocker, my head swimming from everything Simon and I had talked about. I'd know for certain soon if he was Nathaniel's father, which would put my uncertainly to rest. I was afraid to know, but I knew I needed to for both Nathaniel's and my safety. Also, Simon was signing over what I'd come to think of as my company over to me. I wasn't going to count my ducks until they quacked, as I knew anything could go wrong. If it did go through and if Simon didn't have a change of heart, it would mean much more financial security for Nathaniel and me. I had a feeling it would be a double-edged sword. He'd be getting me out of his hair at the same time he'd be letting the company go, which probably would mean that this would be his way of "doing right by the kid." I'd be a fool if I expected Simon to be a hands-on dad. At least with the company in my pocket, it was his way of doing for Nathaniel without getting his hands dirty, so to speak.

I wasn't one of those moms who sang hoaky little lullabies to her kid. Instead, I went back to my favorite song and sang it to my little son while the rocker glided over the floor.

"It is the evening of the day.
I sit and watch the children play.
Smiling faces I can see,
But not for me.
I sit and watch as tears go by..."

It was a sad song, one filled with regret at how things in life pass us by. The song had always made my heart bleed. As much as I wanted to shield Nathaniel from the hardships of life, I knew it was an impossible undertaking. Life was painful sometimes and I knew I'd have to be the one to warn him of that when he was older.

My little baby fell asleep in my arms, and I sat for a long time just holding him close. If only I could keep him little forever. "Mama loves you, kiddo. No matter what happens, I want you to always remember that," I whispered into his little ear.

I tucked Nathaniel into his crib and sat down to read the newest Lenora Landgraab romance novel. It was nice to lose myself in a world of beautiful, passionate characters. I always think that Lenora's books couldn't get any better, but as each new one was released, I was certainly glad to be wrong. When I opened one of Lenora's books, I was swept away in that world, so much so that I could see it vividly playing out in front of me. If there was one thing that was on my bucket list, it was to meet Lenora Landgraab for myself and get her autograph.

Before I knew it, it was time for Nathaniel's feeding. His hungry cries always came right on cue, for I did my best to keep him on a pretty good schedule.

I got myself into my nightie and went in to play with Nathaniel before his bath time. It always made me smile to hear his giggles when I made silly faces or blew raspberries at him or on his little belly. Oh, I hoped he'd never lose that beautiful laugh of his.

He giggled and splashed in the bathwater, making me laugh some more. I'd found a little rubber ducky, and Nathaniel loved it when I squeezed it. Every time I bathed him, I squeezed the little toy to make it squeak and sang "Rubber Ducky" to him.

I loved Nathaniel's little baby smell just after he'd had his bath. I held him close to me for a while before popping him into his crib and heading for bed myself. Tomorrow was another day, and I knew I'd have a lot to tend to over the next little while. I'd have to go back to work next week, arrange for a paternity test, and prepare to take official control of the cosmetics company I'd nurtured along. Things were starting to look up. At least, I sincerely hoped so.
Debbie is at level 5 of the Business Career Track, which means she is a Department Head.

Chapter 2, An Evening With the Boss

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

I settled into a nice but boring routine. I went to work, stayed late sometimes, went home, grabbed a little dinner, and worked at home until I was tired enough to fall into bed, finding immediate sleep. Then, I'd do it all over again the next day. I didn't socialize with anyone except for my coworkers. Even then, I kept that to a minimum so I could focus my attention on succeeding at work as quickly as I could. I was determined to get out of this dinky place as soon as possible.

One thing I missed was the array of restaurants that had always been at my disposal before. Aurora Skies was a smaller town with not as many establishments. Besides that, I couldn't afford to eat out every night. Learning to cook wasn't at the top of my priority list, but thankfully, I had the basics down. I'd have to get used to cooking at home.

A couple weeks later, Simon called me as I was uploading a file for work. "Hey kid! You've been working too hard."

"I don't mind. In fact, that's the way I like it," I said.

"Well, I'm not going to have you burning out on my watch. How about I come over and take a look at that repair job you did."

"Repair? Oh, right! The sink. It's doing fine. No other problems," I said.

"How about I take a look anyway," Simon said.

"It's not necessary," I said.

"I'll be the judge of that. I'll be over in ten minutes," he said.

"You don't take no for an answer, do you?" I said, smiling in spite of myself.

"Nope. Boss's perrogative," he said, a grin in his voice.

"Okay, okay. I was about to make some dinner. I'm not much of a cook but I have plenty. It's just tuna casserole, if you're interested," I said.

"I'd love it. See you in ten."

Just as he'd promised, Simon arrived ten minutes later with a bottle of wine in hand. "You cooked so I brought the wine, kid," he said. "I remember you told me you liked Chardonnay."

"I do, but you didn't have to do that," I said.

"I surely did and it was no problem, believe me," he replied.

I smiled and put the wine on ice. As I checked on my casserole, I briefly thought of what Simon's wife might think if she knew he was here. I knew he was married, but I put it out of my mind. I figured he would be upfront with her, and besides, it was none of my business. I could be friends with Simon outside work, right? It didn't have to go any further. I wouldn't allow it.

We ate and chatted, and I found myself confiding in Simon about my rough divorce. "So you see, I guess I wasn't what Shane wanted, but I never thought he'd be as ruthless as he was. We were in love once, and the world was our oyster."

"People fall out of love all the time, Debbie," Simon said. "It happens. People's priorities change. Hell, people change, and the relationship doesn't survive."

I poised my fork in the air thoughtfully. "Sounds like you're speaking from experience."

"Maybe I am. I don't know." Simon took a healthy sip of wine and sighed. "Ericka and I...well, I love her but I don't know that I'm in love with her anymore. She's pregnant with our first child, but sometimes I wonder if we've made a mistake."

Whoa! I was no expert in relationships. Mine had been a train wreck, after all. I was the last one to offer advice in that area. "I'm sorry," I said simply.

Simon just shrugged and arranged his face in a smile. "It'll work out. I didn't come here to burden you with my insecurities. This is a great dinner, kid."

I blushed and looked down at my plate, grinning sheepishly. "It's nothing. Like I said, I'm not much of a cook, but this does the trick. It was great to have the company, Simon."

"I had a great time," he said. He looked as though he were having an inner debate. "Listen, kid, I got something to ask you. There's something I want to do for Ericka and me, something that I hope will help us get that spark back. I want to learn to slow dance but don't know where to start. Being the mayor, Ericka would find out through the gossip that goes around this town that I'm taking dance lessons if I signed up for them at the studio."

"Oh, well, I can help you out with that," I said, laughing a little. "I'm a pretty good dancer, so I'll give you lessons, free of charge, of course. Call it the friendship special."

"You'd do that?" Simon asked.

"It's the least I can do after you've been so nice to me. It's not many bosses who'd take the time out to help me get settled in and show concern for an employee outside of work," I said. "C'mon. It'll be fun."

And so, I gave Simon his first dance lesson. He was clumsy and unsure at first, but he eventually relaxed and moved more fluidly in time with the music. It felt nice being in his arms, even if it was just for a dance lesson. I was so lonely and it felt so nice to be held. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help entertaining some lustful thoughts. After all, they were just thoughts and no actions would come of it. Thoughts never hurt anybody, so I was doing nothing wrong.

"But you want that action," came the voice of my conscience. "You know you want it. Don't deny it because it's true."

Chapter 1, A Watery Beginning

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

As much as I hated my new situation, I knew it could be much worse. I did have a place to live, at least, and a job to go to. I'd started out at the bottom and worked my way up before, so I could do it again. Nothing was going to keep me down for long.

It didn't take too long to get everything unpacked and put away. My place was very tiny and I hadn't brought much. What took the longest was my computer setup. I didn't have the luxury of a home office anymore, so the living room, such as it was, was going to have to suffice.

I'd been given some things to do before I was to report to work on Monday morning. Simon Adamsson, my new boss, wanted to get an idea of how I'd done things before. Sure, I was taking a pay cut and starting out on the bottom rung, but as it turned out, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Along with some of his other businesses, Simon was starting a new cosmetics company that he wanted me to head up and promote. "I'd be a fool not to put your talents to better use. Still, this is a new venture and I can't pay you the salary you've made before," he'd explained to me when we'd talked about my duties.

Having something to do got my mind off my sorry situation. I put all my concentration into getting done what I needed to do, which made me feel more alive than I had in a long time. I was doing something productive, and that felt pretty damned good.

I heaved a tired but happy sigh as I turned off my computer. It was time to fix a drink, but first, I'd need to do a little cleaning. The kitchen counters were old and dirtied easily, so that had to be taken care of before I prepared anything on them. As I ran water into the sink for washing up, the unthinkable happened. The faucet went berserk and I ended up with my second bath of the day. Well, hell! The drink was going to have to wait. Now, I had a plumbing problem on my hands.

I've always been a resourceful woman, and now, I was going to have to call upon those resources. With my meager savings, I couldn't really afford a plumber. I loved to read anything I could get my hands on, so I marched down to the bookstore and found a manual on home repairs. I studied the chapter and diagrams on fixing sinks intently, called upon my courage, and decided I'd better get to work.

Ms. Goodwrench I am not, but I managed to do at least a half-assed job nonetheless. Things just needed a bit of tightening and a washer replaced, so I guess I got lucky. Even so, I had a hell of a mess to clean up.

I was mopping up my indoor river when my cell phone rang. Blowing out a frustrated breath, I snatched it up. "Evens!" I barked into it.

"Sounds like you've had a hell of a day, Debbie," a male voice said in my ear.

"I have. Who is calling?" I asked.

"It's Simon Adamsson, kid. I make it a a habit to check in on my team, especially the new ones, to see how they're doing once in a while. I think I already know the answer though. Is everything all right?" Simon's deep voice was full of concern.

My muscles relaxed. "Sorry if I sounded rude, Mr. Adamsson. I--"

"Outside the office, it's Simon," he said.

I smiled at that. He sounded so friendly and easy to talk to. "Sorry if I was rude, Simon. I just had a bit of an explosion over here. This place is nothing to write home about, and the wiring and plumbing are downright archaic." I told him about the sink as I finished mopping up.

"Want me to send someone over to have a look?" he asked.

"No, thanks. I think I got it, at least for now anyway. I can't afford to pay much," I admitted.

"Well, let me know if you change your mind," Simon said.

"I will. Thanks so much for calling. It means a lot," I replied.

"No problem. See you at work on Monday."

When Monday morning rolled around, I was chomping at the bit to start my new job. I whistled as I got ready, then headed out the door with a spring in my step. It was a lovely morning, and I felt ready to take on the world. This was the start of a new chapter in my life, and this time, I was going to make it better than ever and do it right.


***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

I was one of "those women" who grabbed at life by the horns and just ran with it. I had it made in the shade; a very lucrative career, prestige, money, and a nice husband to go along with it. I was at the top of my game and knew it. If a lady could swagger, I most certainly did. I enjoyed my cushy lifestyle and had no second thoughts about flaunting it.

The only dark spot in my life was my husband, Shane's, constant nagging at me for a family. I'd promised him that we'd start one once I was at a point in my career where I felt like I was on top. Well, I was at the top but still had no desire to start a family. I liked our life the way it was and I certainly wasn't mother material.

It all came to a head after we'd come home from a dinner party. Both Shane and I'd had a little too much to drink, which didn't help the situation along. "Good night to start the baby making, wouldn't you say, Deb?" he said the minute we got in the door.

"Aww, Shane, not tonight. I'm beat," I said on a yawn.

He narrowed his eyes at me in a classic unhappy Shane Clayton look, but I glared back defiantly. "You're always either too tired or busy working. Honestly, Debbie, why are you constantly reneging on your promises? Your promises aren't meaning much to me anymore."

Something inside me snapped. I was so sick of the constant talk of babies. I knew what having a baby would mean. I'd be the one staying home to change diapers and wash disgusting clothes. I'd be the one up doing 3 AM feedings. I'd be the one rocking a colicky baby to sleep. In my eyes, being a mother wasn't glamorous and I wanted no part of it.

I whirled on Shane and jabbed my finger against his chest. "It's easy for YOU to want a baby, Shane Clayton! You'd get the bragging rights while it would be me who stays home to be Miss Suzy Homemaker. I have a job, Shane, a very important job, and I don't intend to give it up to stay home playing house."

"It would only be for a little while, Deb. You could go back to work after six weeks and--"

"I said no, Shane! Don't you get it? It's always the woman who ends up doing the brunt of the work. If you want this kid so much, why don't YOU get paternity leave and YOU stay home up to your elbows in shitty diapers. I like my life the way it is," I said.

"You're a selfish bitch, Debbie!" Shane yelled.

"Maybe so, but it's better that way than to be a chauvinistic bastard, Shane. I'm not a baby making machine nor some prized sow that you can lead around by the nose and brag to your friends about," I yelled back.

I was on the floor the next instant wit my cheek stinging. Shane had slapped me! He had never slapped me before. My eyes filled and I felt my face swelling. I slowly got to my feet and gingerly put my hand over the injured area. "You hit me! You...hit me," My voice held a quiet, almost awed tone.

"I--I-" Shane stammered. I could tell he was as surprised as I was, but the damage had been done. "Debbie, I'm sorry. I--it'll never happen again. Please...I'm sorry."

I turned on my heel, hand still over my cheek, and slammed the bedroom door behind me. I locked it and cried myself to sleep that night.

The marriage stumbled along for a few more months, but things were never the same after that. One day, I called my attorney and started divorce proceedings. Shane tried to contest the divorce, but that didn't work. Since he couldn't stop it, he made things as difficult as he could possibly make them. Sadly, he took me for just about everything I was worth. I had no choice but to allow our big, beautiful home to be sold. Most of what I got went toward attorney's fees. I even had to part with my beloved sculptor's bench, which, ironically, was harder on me than losing Shane was. In my spare time, which wasn't much, I loved to sculpt. Well, I wouldn't be doing that for a long time. I came away with only my maiden name of Evans and enough money to relocate and buy a small house in Aurora Skies where I'd been transferred to on request. I'd be taking a major pay cut and would have to start from the bottom up.

As I saw in my new dinky house with packing crates lines up against the wall, I sat on a hard, rickety dining room chair with my guitar in my lap. I wasn't much of a singer or guitar player, but I'd taken some lessons as a teenager. I'd picked out the chords to my favorite song, which I'd never forgotten how to play even after a lot of time away from it. I strummed and started to sing softly.

"It is the evening of the day.
I sit and watch the children play.
Smiling faces I can see,
But not for me.
I sit and watch as tears go by..."

There was one very hard lesson I learned throughout all this. Just because a person is on top one day doesn't mean she'll stay on top. My life, as I knew it, was changing and I didn't like it at all.