Excerpt from: Kate's Happily Ever After

 
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Resplendence Publishing

Kate Allen tried to focus on what he was saying; she really did! A normally well-functioning woman shouldn’t have such trouble processing the English language, but the tiny flash of metal she kept catching sight of when he formed a word just so was beyond mesmerizing. It wasn’t as if it was a new addition or anything. He’d had it for years. Kate had known him for years. Nothing had changed. Nothing except, last night, that particular piercing had played a prominent role in their marathon session of lovemaking. Too bad it had only been in her dreams.

“Katie, you need to be careful when you look at a guy that way. He might get ideas, you know?” Bryan Phillips adjusted his denim-clad legs that were propped comfortably across his desk and laughed. Kate felt the blush run right up her neck.

“Sorry, Bryan, I was thinking about something. What were you saying?”

“I was attempting to talk about the seminar, but I’d rather know about the ‘something’ on your mind.”

In a vain attempt to stall for time, Kate ran her hands down her thighs and acted as if her skirt needed fixing. At forty-seven years old, her days of butterflies in the stomach and jittery sexual energy should be long gone. At least, that’s what she’d been telling herself. But as her heart rate continued to increase and her palms became damp, she had to admit all control was lost when it came to her wayward thoughts concerning this friend and coworker, who also happened to be almost twelve years her junior.

“Get your mind out of the gutter,” she chuckled. “I was riveted by whatever you were saying.”

In reality, she hadn’t heard much of anything past the “I’m looking forward to a few days away, aren’t you” part. Ever since she found out they were going up north together for a seminar that required a two night stay, she’d been daydreaming like a schoolgirl. Getting down and dirty with him in the privacy of her mind was invigorating, but the reality of traveling with him when her libido was in overdrive was just plain nerve-racking.

“Well, the drive up should be beautiful,” she commented as naturally as she could muster. “Even with living in Michigan my whole life, I still love looking at the fall colors. I remember going to our family cottage when most of the trip was two-lane roads and there was no civilization for as far as the eye could see.”

Oh that was marvelous, Kate inwardly moaned. Maybe, I should chat about 8-track tapes and drive-in theaters, too.

“Why a company is putting on software demos at a sportsman’s resort in the Upper Peninsula in October is beyond me.” Bryan folded his arms behind his head, quite effectively pulling the fabric of his dress shirt tightly across his muscular chest.

“Maybe, it was organized by computer-loving hunters?” Kate offered with a grin. “‘Tis the season, you know.”

“All I know is the company is paying our way, and there are only two training sessions that have anything to do with our clients’ needs. We’ll have plenty of time to commune with nature.” His lazy smile warmed Kate to the soles of her feet.

“That’s just it, Bryan. I can’t figure out why we’re going in the first place. Seems like a bit of a waste of time and more than a bit of a waste of money.”

“Beth made all of the arrangements. You two must have discussed the details and reasons for going?”

“The exact opposite,” Kate said with a slight roll of her eyes. “Beth was running late for a meeting. There were a few minutes of conversation followed by her dropping the materials on my desk and rushing out of the office.” She had no intention of relating how truly weird their interaction had been.

“Well, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Bryan announced as he bounded out from behind his desk. In a hot second, he stood next to her. Kate couldn’t help but notice that, with Bryan at a bit over six feet and the height of her chair, she was at a perfect level to…

Oh good Lord! She rolled back quickly and stood up.

“See you bright and early then.” Kate tried not to run from his office. She wasn’t sure she succeeded.

“You can count on it,” Bryan drawled as she scurried out the door.

Her pulse was still racing when she sat behind her desk and started her Friday afternoon paper organizing. The weekly task was far more difficult than usual due to her wandering thoughts. When had she started thinking about Bryan differently? Being honest with herself, she admitted it hadn’t started just last night, but boy, had her subconscious been super naughty! The change in the dynamic between them had been building slowly over the last several months. They’d taken lunch together more often and joined co-workers on bar nights more than usual, but Bryan had always acted the perfect gentleman.

Kate let out a loud sigh. His friendship was extremely important to her, and she’d be damned if she’d ruin it because, apparently, she was sex starved.

She stopped the futile attempt to finish her work and allowed herself to rehash the strange conversation she and Beth had recently shared. Beth had strolled into Kate’s office and dropped herself casually into a chair. They were best friends first; business partners second. Beth had slid some papers across the desk, without saying a word. Kate had done a quick scan through the documents.

“And I care about this seminar why?” she’d asked.

“Because you’re going.”

“What would ever give you that idea?”

“The fact that, thanks to me, you’re a fully registered participant,” Beth responded with a broad smile.

Kate took a closer look at the information. Granted, the subject matter seemed partially relevant to a few of their clients but Beth knew Kate didn’t like to travel for business. It was one of the numerous reasons why, after her divorce three years ago, she’d sold her part of the company back to Beth. She didn’t want to be in the professional fast lane anymore. Now, she worked as a consultant only. Kate picked her own clients and definitely was in charge of her own schedule. Curiosity, however, made her read on.

“The Upper Peninsula? You’ve got to be kidding, right? I’m absolutely not making that long-ass drive to attend a one-day seminar! I’d have to go a day early, spend the night, go to the stupid thing, spend the night again then drive all those hours back home. Are you crazy?” Kate shook her head in utter disbelief.

“Oh, did I forget to mention that you aren’t attending alone?” Beth paused dramatically before continuing. “Want to know who’s going with you?”

“Were you drinking at lunch today?” Kate asked as she picked up her coffee cup. She finished the last of the now tepid liquid.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I only do that with you.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. Who’s going to this event without me?”

“Bryan Phillips.” Beth stared at her with an intensely serious expression, but Kate didn’t miss the slight upward twitch at the corners of her lips.

The cup slipped from Kate’s fingers to clatter loudly on the wooden desktop. With shaking hands, she set it upright as quickly as possible. Absolutely not, no way, no how, her brain screamed frantically. Hours and hours in a car, a hotel stay, meals, and nights, and…

Oh God she felt dizzy.

“Bryan will pick you up Monday morning at six a.m. You kids have fun.” Beth stood up.

“Don’t you dare walk out of here, Beth,” Kate practically shrieked. “You do realize you can’t force me to go.”

“My name has the CEO after it, so let’s see… Yes, I think I can.” And with that, she’d left Kate’s office.

“I’ll look like an idiot if I try to back out,” Kate mumbled while turning off her computer and forcing her thoughts back to the present. She knew that somehow, over the next two days, she’d better get her mind off Bryan’s overall yumminess and securely onto all things computer or there could be real trouble on the way.