~ Turning Tides ~
by A. K. Naten

Rated: R with smatterings of NC-17 here and there
Keywords: ANGST; UST; sex; more angst
Summary: Love is rarely perfect... sometimes it seems impossible. A young woman leaves her troubled past, determined to start a new life in a new city. When she becomes hopelessly entangled with a domineering, emotionally embattled individual, she doesn't know if it's a dream come true, or her worst nightmare.

Warnings and Disclaimers: This is a F/F SLASH PIECE that depicts sexual relationship(s) between consenting adult women. If depictions of this nature disturb you, stop reading and bail now. If you're under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you reside, get lost, dude. This story is character-driven. There is no in-depth plot. There is no action or adventure. However, many aspects and situations are based on real-life occurrences. The story and its characters are original and are copyrighted by me. Please don't steal this; if you wish to post this to your own site, or whatever, be courteous and ask my permission first. Any similarities to persons/characters living, dead, or imagined is purely coincidental and not intended. All included song lyrics are probably copyrighted by their respective authors/bands and are borrowed without permission. Just ignore that part... I've tried to give proper credit.

Additional warnings: Sex, Violence & Rock 'n Roll: Yes; Yes, but nothing major; Yes, but just song lyrics. Angst and UST: Yes, there's LOTS of that. If you know my work, then you know my angst. Swearing/Cursing: Yes. If that bothers you, fuck off. Final Warnings: If UST annoys you, bail out now; if severe angst annoys you, BAIL; if you prefer a warm-fuzzy kind of story, BAIL. Please don't diss' me and send me whiney emails telling me that it was 'too angst-y' - You've been warned.

Additional author notes (aka, 'you can skip this part if you want'): Using song lyrics has sort-of become a 'trademark' for me. I've used them here again because, #1) I like the songs; #2) they felt pertinent; #3) I really dig it, man. Although this story may fall under the 'Xena Uber Alt. Fic.' category, I must confess to knowing very little about the show and its characters. I did my 'research' mostly by way of pictures and photos. I'm a visual person, and pictures, to me, tell so much more than words can; I like to look at a picture and just run with the feelings I get from it. So, why write a 'Xena Uber Alt. Fic.' if I know so little about the show, you ask? ...Good question. Someone clued me in to the Xena sub-culture awhile ago, and although I knew next to nothing about the show, I was intrigued by the pictures/video clips, and thought the two leads made an intriguing 'couple'. Or, maybe I just have a 'thing' for tall chicks and short chicks? Or maybe I was finally becoming bored with Scully & Reyes? ...Who knows.

I must give a huge *thank you* to my always-inspiring, ever-supportive beta reader and editor, Mahrta Conchita Consuelos. You have helped me SO much, and in SO many ways, my luf. Your thoughts, critiques and input are oh so valuable, despite all the times I've argued with you and answered your meticulous commentaries with a resounding 'fuck off!' Apologetic, appreciative kissies for you, dah-ling (with tongue).

Begun in earnest October, 2002; completed December, 2003.

"People have funny things
Swimming inside,
They swing like pendulums
They turn like the tides;
Darling, I don't need money
I could be happy with someone to love
Someone to trust... someone to love." - Garbage


Allison sighed with relief as she finally steered her blue VW beetle onto the 200 block of West Market Street. After making three wrong turns and getting lost in the huge, bustling City of Jacksonville, the little blonde was ready to scream. The early July morning was already frightfully hot, and she feared she was sweating profusely beneath the brand-new designer suit that she'd paid way too much for.

Thankfully she had given herself an extra half-hour; she ended up needing it, and being late for her first day of work would make for a horrific first impression. Turning at the traffic light, the blonde easily spotted the humongous building that was to be her new home.

Fourteen stories of blue-tinted, glass-encased concrete and steel isn't too difficult to spot. She thought with a satisfied grin.

She was already beyond nervous due to her recent move to the city, but now that her 'first day' of the new job had finally arrived, she was actually feeling queasy. She thought back to last night's pep-talk phone call from her sister: "You'll do just fine, Alli, you always do." Kaitlyn always had a way of easing her mind and bolstering her confidence. She smiled, remembering her older sister's calming voice, and she was pretty sure that she felt better already.

Jacksonville was known as the 'First Coast', and although it was already one of the largest cities in the U.S., geographically, it was still undergoing growth spurts. New businesses and industries were constantly springing up all over, and established corporate giants were eager to get into the booming area that seemed to hold good promise of becoming a southern metropolitan powerhouse. The City was a good mixture of old and new; the downtown center was picturesquely bisected by the St. Johns River, with the eastern edge being situated along the warm, salty shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The downtown riverfront was dotted with tons of shops, stores, restaurants, cafes, and other cultural delights, while the beach was a casual scene that came to life at night when it beat with the pulse of a hundred different nightclubs, bars, and assorted eateries.

Even though she grew up only hours away, just outside Savannah, Georgia, Allison was sure that Jacksonville would be so different. It was a teeming melting pot with a myriad of people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It was a 'promised land' of sorts, and the young woman hoped that it held great potential for her as well.

She had been considering getting away and striking out on her own for a long time; she needed a change, preferably for the better. Over the past few years, she had begun to feel that her life was becoming filled with nothing but failures and disappointments. All the hopes and dreams and aspirations she'd always had for herself seemed to slip further and further out of her grasp. She constantly felt like she was wasting her time and her life; there were still so many things that she wanted to do, and see, and experience. So when she heard about the opportunities that awaited young, professional people in the rapidly-expanding business sectors of Jacksonville, Allison decided to take a chance at changing her destiny.

Now that she was here, standing on the precipice of opportunity and possibility, she could barely contain her mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation.


She reached the parking garage of the building and showed the guard her brand-spanking-new security/i.d. card. With a polite, "Good morning and welcome, Ms. Phillips," she was ushered through the gate and into her new career.

The elevator reached the 13th floor and Allison exited hesitantly, her eyes darting around to read the directional signs. It looked different from when she had been here several weeks ago to interview again, and ultimately accept the job offer, and she idly wondered if the place had been remodeled or something. She finally found the receptionist's desk and approached a severe-looking, middle-aged woman.

"May I help you?" The woman asked, looking up at the petite, young blonde before her.

Allison put on her most professional voice, "Yes, I'm Allison Phillips, I have a 9:00 meeting with John Stevenson-"

"Oh yes, Ms. Phillips," the woman interrupted, "I'll let Mr. Stevenson know that you've arrived. Welcome to Whitton Incorporated," she said with some pride in her tone.

Allison thanked her and sat down in the waiting room, feeling a little anxious. Snagging a job as the Assistant Human Resources Director with one of the biggest construction/real estate/property investment companies in the area was a huge step up for her. Whitton, Inc. was widely known as a large, successful, family-owned and operated company that had its fingers in a little bit of everything, and it continued to grow in leaps and bounds. It was supposed to have an excellent work environment and had a high employee-retention rate. The pay was outstanding, and the benefits were top-shelf. More importantly, employees were supposedly rewarded for work well done, and there was a lot of room for career advancement. Alli had done her research before even applying for the job; she knew this was a good place to be.

"Allison!" A tall, middle-aged man called out, startling Alli from her thoughts. John Stevenson was the Director of Human Resources and was a reasonably good-looking guy in his early 50's, with thinning, sandy-blonde hair and hazel eyes. He was outgoing, friendly, and somewhat fatherly, and Allison felt positive they would have a good working relationship.

The two chatted politely for a moment while John steered them down several hallways until they ended up in the large area that was the Human Resources division. It reminded Alli of a doctor's office, but the area was spacious and the colors and atmosphere were light and airy. They walked over to a large, open office that was obviously unoccupied. Alli smiled as she took in the tasteful, spacious desk area, the large window, the perfectly ergonomic, high-back leather chair, the brand-new computer with a huge, flat-screen monitor, the ample file cabinets and drawers, and, to top it off, an enormous flower arrangement on the desk with a card that read 'Welcome to Whitton, Inc.'. Obviously, this place treated their employees very well indeed.

"This is yours," John smiled, waving her inside.

"Wow," was the only thing that Alli could get out of her mouth.

Stevenson grinned at her, "Yeah, it seems like a lot, but trust me - these young Whittons know what they're doing." Alli regarded John with questioning eyes for a moment, genuinely not knowing what he was referring to.

"Oh, it's just that old-man Whitton wasn't as 'up' on technology and aesthetics and ergonomics as the kids are, if you know what I mean?" He explained with a grin.

"Ahh, okay," Alli smiled. So the 'kids' are in charge now, or what?

"This place has undergone some serious transformation in the past few months and weeks, and it's all due to the new bosses," Stevenson added, plunging her mind into further question.

Alli just nodded like she understood, even though she really didn't remember much of the 'general' information John had given her in the earlier interviews. She thought that Mark Whitton was the patriarch, and that he ran the show by himself. She recalled John saying that some of the children worked here also, but she didn't remember what they did, specifically, and she hadn't met any of them at that time. John had said that there was some 'restructuring' going on, but from the way he worded his comments now, she wondered if something had changed significantly since she was here for her last interview.

No matter, really, Alli thought to herself, I'm just here to do my job - I'm not interested in the family politics.


After Stevenson had shown her around the building, introduced her to tons of people, and brought her up to speed on what her duties would be exactly, he offered to treat her to lunch at the company's in-house cafeteria.

The 'cafeteria' was actually a full-fledged combination deli/grill/salad bar and coffee house, complete with a small ice cream kiosk in one corner.

"This place is amazing - does anyone *ever* leave here? And if so, *WHY*?" Allison joked as she and John sat down to their lunches.

"Yeah, I know, everyone gets treated pretty damn good here. I mean, the Whittons expect a lot from their staff, but they're one of the few employers who seem to understand that if you treat the employees well and give them a nice atmosphere and great amenities, you'll get more out of them."

"Hmm, well, it's a shame that that's such a novel idea." Allison agreed, munching her sandwich.

"Wait till you see the rest of this place... it's huge." John said, gesturing with his hand.

"Does the company occupy all 14 floors?" Allison asked.

"No, they rent out about half the building; the rest is filled by their staff, or is used for stuff like this - cafeteria, conference centers, whatever," John added with another wave of his hand. "Wait 'til you see the in-house gym," he said with a smirk.

"You're kidding?" Allison asked incredulously.

Stevenson shook his head, "Nope - it's totally state-of-the-art. Has an Olympic-size pool too." He said with a grin while Alli just looked at him with wide eyes as she chewed. John felt his propriety falter for a second as the jade-colored eyes looked at him innocently. Allison was undoubtedly a very attractive girl, but he didn't want to think about his new colleague like that. He would make himself behave around her, even if it killed him. "A lot of the...'eligible' people like to hang out at the gym in the hopes of catching the eye of the other 'eligibles'... if you know what I mean?" He said with a small smirk, internally wondering what Alli's 'status' was.

"I guess," Allison answered with a shrug, "but I'm not really interested in that... at least not right now," she added with her own smirk as they laughed together. Besides, I doubt I'd find the type of person I'm 'interested' in at a place like this, the blonde thought privately. Just then, two figures cast their shadows on the table.

"Ms. Whitton, Mr. Calhoun, what a pleasure," Stevenson said as he stood up quickly to greet and shake hands with a dark-haired woman and man who stood at their table.

"Madison Whitton, Raiford Calhoun - meet Allison Phillips; Allison is the newest member of my Human Resources team." Stevenson offered. As soon as she heard 'Whitton', Allison snapped to attention and stood up quickly when introductions were made.

Madison Whitton was a very attractive woman, about 5'8" or 9" tall, with slightly wavy, dark blonde hair that fell just below her shoulders. She had a straight, slim nose that was situated between high cheekbones, and a precise, evenly-shaped mouth that was set in a strong, slightly-pronounced jaw. She was slender and built quite nicely, and her steady, steel-gray eyes regarded Alli somewhat skeptically from behind silver-rimmed glasses as she shook hands and twitched her mouth in a tight, proper smile. She was dressed exquisitely, wearing an obviously expensive, classic business 'power-suit' that included a tailored navy blue jacket and a matching skirt that was short enough to say 'sexy', but long enough to remain professional.

Raiford Calhoun was about 5'10" or 11", but he was obviously muscular and fairly well-built, with medium brown hair, deep brown eyes, and grinning - albeit crooked - white teeth that were highlighted by golden-tan skin. He was young and dressed in business-casual attire that consisted of tan cotton dress slacks with a short-sleeved, golf-type shirt. His aura fairly screamed 'Slick Willie'. Madison was obviously more refined and 'professional' than the Calhoun fellow, and Allison immediately found herself curious about the two.

"Very nice to meet you, Ms. Whitton, Mr. Calhoun," Alli said as professionally as she could. Raiford shook her hand easily, and Madison was polite, but Alli felt like she was totally scrutinizing her somehow. If Madison was now 'the boss', Alli wondered why she hadn't met her during one of her previous interviews.

"You're in good hands with Stevenson; even though I don't have the personal pleasure of interacting too frequently with that area, I hear he's one of the best managers we have." Madison said in a smooth, rich voice while directing a smirk at Stevenson, who blushed slightly.

"Why thank you," John answered rather playfully. "Madison is the Vice President for the Real Estate/Investment Division, so we, unfortunately, don't see too much of her." Stevenson added, smirking back at the dark blonde woman. "And Raiford is the Vice President for the Residential and Commercial Construction Division; we do tend to see a lot of him because it seems we're *always* hiring people for his construction crews," John offered in explanation as Raiford chuckled.

"Oh, I see," Allison murmured as she regarded Raiford but watched the interaction between Stevenson and Madison out of the corner of her eye. Interesting that Stevenson likes to play the flirting game, thought Alli, and with a Vice President and Whitton too... ballsy!

After the brief mutual smirking, Madison excused herself, "Well, it was nice meeting you, Ms. Phillips, and welcome again." She said perfunctorily, and she was on her way.

"I'm sorry we didn't have the opportunity to meet the last time you were here, Ms. Phillips," Raiford said in a voice heavy with a southern drawl as he engaged Alli and looked at her with a cock-sure grin, "John, I trust you'll allow me to meet with her sometime? Perhaps we can discuss possible ways of streamlining the hiring procedure for my construction crews? ...You know that's a pet peeve of mine." Raiford said somewhat condescendingly, not bothering to look up at Stevenson.

Alli smiled back at him, but something about the look on his face sent a shiver through her. It's not totally unpleasant, just a little... predatory. Raiford's persona was arrogant and pompous, and he made sure to keep direct eye-contact with the attractive little blonde in front of him.

"Yeah, actually that would probably be a good project for her; have Debbie call her next week to set up a time," Stevenson said with a nod and smile. Alli pushed away the small stab of anger that shot through her when the two men spoke as though she weren't even present. She supposed that, as hip and modern as the company seemed to be, there would still be times when 'old-school' mores and politics would be in effect.

God I hope this doesn't turn out to be a 'good-ole-boys' club or the kind of place where you have to sleep your way to the top, she thought dejectedly for a second, I'll never get anywhere. Despite her thoughts, she nodded her agreement to the two men. Yeah, as if I could say 'no, I'd rather not, you give me the creeps' to the Vice President.

"Great, I'll look forward to it. Allison, it certainly was a pleasure meeting you, and I'll be seeing you again soon," Raiford said as he shook Alli's hand a little too long, giving her a roguish smile.

As he walked away, Alli had about a hundred questions that she wanted to ask John, but something told her to just sit back and take it all in before she started with the inquiries. She was, by nature, an inquisitive person, and she was fascinated by people, but besides not knowing her new boss well enough to ask things that could be interpreted as 'nosey', she believed that it was sometimes best to just sit back and take it all in first. And she planned on doing just that.


The afternoon brought Alli to the company's Finance, Payroll & Budget Office to complete her tax forms and other new-hire paperwork, as well as meet the people she'd be working closely with.

As she entered the Finance area, she could hear loud voices through the closed door of one of the corner offices. It sounded like a pretty good argument was in full swing, and the receptionist and other people in the office displayed body language that said something about it was making everyone uneasy. Nevertheless, the receptionist greeted Alli and asked her to sit in the waiting area until the Director could see her.

After about 15 minutes, Alli began to fidget; the argument was still going on and she had the distinct feeling that the Director was the one inside that office. Whether she was on the receiving or the giving end of the argument, she didn't know. Just then a small, stocky woman with short brown hair came out of one of the other offices and approached her with a smile.

"Hi, I'm Carole Burnes - I'm the Administrative Assistant. Why don't I get you started on your paperwork and you can meet with the Director when she's... through." Carol said, tossing a wary glance toward the closed door.

"That'd be great," Alli said, glad to be doing something rather than sitting and fidgeting. As she rose and began to follow Carole past the Director's office, the door suddenly opened and a tall woman burst through the doorway in a flurry of gray, running smack into Allison, causing her to drop all her papers.

"Shit!" The woman exclaimed as she caught Alli and held onto her arms. She looked apologetically at the small blonde in front of her. The girl looked young, like a college intern or something, and she was embarrassed for hitting her.

I probably hurt the poor thing... idiot
. "I'm sorry; are you alright?" The woman asked as Allison finally looked up at her.

Alli was struck speechless by what she saw. The woman was tall - very tall ...had to be close to 6 feet - and she was, in a word, stunning. She had dark brown hair that was pulled back behind her head, and brilliant, pale blue eyes that seemed to pierce right through Alli. The woman faltered for a moment and quickly knelt down to pick up the papers that she'd knocked from the blonde's hands.

Alli could only stand there slack-jawed as she observed her, noting absently that she wore a pair of beautiful charcoal-gray slacks with a matching, tailored suit jacket and blue blouse underneath, and her hair was neatly twisted up and pinned into a bun at the back of her head. When she stood up to face her again, Allison couldn't help but marvel at the flawless skin, the angular, sculpted face, slender dark brows, and perfect, light-mauve lips. She was mesmerizing... an amazingly elegant creature; beautiful, but not overly-feminine - handsome, but not in a masculine way. Alli never believed in love at first sight before, but...

"Are you alright?" The brunette asked again, snapping Allison out of her stupor and pinning her with a penetrating light blue stare.

"Uhh, I'm - I'm fine," Alli finally managed to say. The woman quirked a small smile at her and not-so-subtly looked Alli up and down, immediately causing the hair on the back of her neck to bristle.

"Guess I should watch where the hell I'm going, huh?" The tall woman said in a smooth contralto voice as she handed the papers back to a still-stunned Allison. She then turned abruptly to look back at the Department Director, who was now standing in her doorway looking on. "I want you to call me with that answer before you leave today, Liz," she quipped sternly to the Director, pointing a finger at her. Then she turned back to Alli briefly, "I'm sorry again, miss," she said as she spun and briskly exited the office, leaving everyone staring mutely in her wake.

"Well *hell*, I think that's the first time I've ever heard *her* apologize for *ANYthing*!" the Director quipped sarcastically, breaking up the tense atmosphere and making everyone chuckle softly.

Allison smiled as well as she turned to acknowledge the Director. She too was fairly tall, with a smooth olive complexion, full, perfect lips, eyes that were a warm sienna color, and soft, light brown hair that fell in a gentle curl over her shoulders.

Is it a prerequisite that you be gorgeous and young to be a Manager or Director at this company? Alli quickly thought to herself. So far, everyone she'd met in these types of positions was extremely attractive.

"You must be Allison Phillips - I'm Elizabeth Jacobs - please come in." Elizabeth closed the door and motioned for Alli to sit as she took her own seat behind her large desk. "I'm sorry for that calamity, and I apologize if you heard any of the... 'discussion' that was taking place in here," Elizabeth said with a sigh as she ran a hand through her hair and scuffled with several papers that were strewn about her desk. She looked exasperated, and Alli felt for her.

"Not a problem. Who was that woman, if I may ask?" Alli couldn't help her curiosity.

"*That*, Ms. Phillips, was *God*... aka, M.J. Whitton," Elizabeth said with a trace of sarcasm.

Alli was confused, "That was M.J. Whitton?" Alli nearly squeaked in amazement. Her mind did a quick rewind of the tall woman's beautiful face, with the addition of Madison Whitton's visage as well. Hmm... maybe the Whitton women are direct descendents of Greek goddesses, Alli thought. Well, they may look similar, however, she was still confused.

"I don't think I understand - I thought 'M.J.' Whitton was Mark J. Whitton, the founder and head of the company?" Allison asked, looking at Elizabeth's questioning face.

"Not anymore. I mean, yes, Mark Whitton founded this company, but he no longer heads it nor runs it - his daughters do."

"Ah, and that would be Madison and the rather... *forceful* M.J.?" Alli asked with a touch of humor.

Elizabeth let out a laugh, "That's right, although to simply call M.J. 'rather forceful' is a little too reserved." She gave Alli a knowing look, and Alli frowned in confusion. "Let's just say that M.J. Whitton is veryyyy... *aggressive*," the Finance Director said, obviously trying to measure her words carefully. "She's very intelligent and driven... a force to be reckoned with, if you will, and she *always* gets what she wants."

Allison could only look at Elizabeth with furrowed brows, trying to decipher the implied meanings to the Director's words.

"...I mean all that in the most *positive* way, of course," Elizabeth quickly added with a smirk, to which Alli smiled. "Don't get me wrong - M.J. is a genius, and she's done wonders for this company, but she's, uhm... well, she's *interesting* to work with, let's just put it that way." Elizabeth added somewhat ruefully.

Alli looked at her with confusion and surprise etched into her fair features, and the Director gave a sheepish smile. "Well... I guess you must think me very unprofessional with that little outburst; it's been a rough day, Ms. Phillips, and-- "

"Please, call me Alli," Allison interrupted.

"Okay - and you call me Liz," the kindly woman said with a smile. "Anyway... I apologize for such a pathetic introduction. It's just that most 'meetings' with M.J. usually wind up with me being a little confused, and a lot frustrated." She forced a little laugh and pushed a pile of papers aside.

Alli smiled at her, but she still had a lot of questions. "Uhm, actually, if it isn't too... inappropriate, may I ask why Mark Whitton is no longer running the company?"

"He was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. M.J. and Madison had been heading up their own divisions for some time, but when Mark became really sick a few months ago, he stepped down and M.J. took over," the Director offered.

"Why M.J.? I mean, why don't the two sisters run the company jointly?" Alli queried and the Director laughed, making Alli think that she probably sounded either nave or nosey.

"That *is* a good question, actually. I've always supposed that M.J. just assumed primary control because she's the eldest, and because Madison wouldn't dare challenge her... but no one really knows. It could be that Mark just wanted her to do it... although that doesn't seem very likely either... he and M.J. butted heads at every intersection. If you think the outburst in here was bad, you should have witnessed a clash of those two titans - colossal!" Liz said, motioning with her hands and looking skyward.

"Sounds like they're very similar," Alli observed aloud.

"Yes, I think they are, although M.J. is more aggressive than her father, as well as...," the Director paused, obviously wanting to weigh her words carefully again, "uhm, let's just say that she's not quite as easy to approach as her father was." Liz said with a raised brow. "But I'm making her sound like some sort of monster - she really isn't that bad, once you get to know her and earn her trust," Liz said apologetically. "But that's, unfortunately, rather... difficult," she added, almost under her breath, making it obvious to Alli that she was speaking from experience.

"Well now, enough of that. Let's talk about you." Liz said with a smile, abruptly switching gears and sounding more upbeat.

The conversation about M.J. Whitton ended, but Alli was left with more questions than ever. She was surprised that Liz had spilled so much to her, especially since they didn't know each other from Adam. Obviously, M.J. Whitton had quite an effect on people. Alli definitely had the sense that M.J. was a fascinating woman with a complex story behind her. She wasn't sure if she should hope to meet her again and possibly get to know her, or if she should pray that their paths never crossed.



"Save me the label
Of the perfume on that table,
So I can remember
What made a wreck of me;
...All women are bad." - The Cramps


"Just sign that one and I think that should do it," the plump, 40-something attorney said to the attractive brunette seated at the large conference table. The woman nodded her understanding as she read over the papers quickly, a pen spinning impatiently in the long fingers of her right hand.

Charles Barninger licked his lips as he watched her. She was such an incredibly beautiful vision, he seriously had trouble controlling his libidinous thoughts whenever she showed up at his law office. Today seemed to be worse than ever, which surprised him, considering that he had some pretty decent sex with his new, young wife last night. But then again, Amber was nothing compared to this goddess... this heavenly body could spank his overweight ass all night long, and he'd still beg for more, more, more.

The attorney wiped a hand over his mouth casually, hoping to quell the nasty grin that threatened to spring upon his lips. He watched raptly as an elegant hand quickly scribbled another signature on the paper. Electric blue eyes looked up at him and a small sigh emanated from dark crimson lips.

"Okay... thanks Chuck," the woman said simply as she rose and shook the man's now-clammy hand.

"Uhm, it's only 12:30... can I interest you in grabbing a bite to eat?" ...or maybe grabbing a quick blowjob? The attorney clumsily asked and internally fantasized.

"Thank you, but I have to get back to the office. Maybe some other time?" Maybe in your dreams, fat boy, the brunette thought as she gave a prim, forced smile then turned and headed out the door, glad to be getting away from the offensive, corpulent man.

She strode down the hallway and turned a corner, spotting the door that represented her blessed escape to the outside world. Just as she began to pick up speed, a slender arm darted out and snagged her, pulling her into a side hallway.

"Well, well... fancy meeting you here," the small red-headed attorney said with a touch of sarcasm. The brunette forcibly withheld a painful grimace; not only had her perfect escape been foiled, but now she was face-to-face with the one person she really didn't want to see today.

"Hello Kate," the brunette said through tightly pursed lips.

"Hmm, so curt. I guess this means you're still upset with me?" The redhead said, tilting her head to the side and regarding the taller woman through suspicious eyes.

The brunette sighed and looked around to make sure no one was close enough to hear them, "I'm not upset, I'm just in a hurry, okay?"

"In a hurry, in a hurry... you're always in a hurry," the redhead said accusingly. The brunette refused to answer and instead looked away, rolling her blue eyes and releasing an impatient sigh.

"You left without saying goodbye the other night." The redhead continued quietly, reaching out to caress the taller woman's arm discreetly, but the brunette casually moved so that the contact couldn't be made.

"Yeah... so?" The taller woman sounded sarcastic, and it was intentional.

"So...? We had quite an evening... and you just left without waking me or anything? Then you don't call me...?" The redhead sounded hurt, but the brunette only sighed impatiently again. "So... what's the problem, M.J.?" The redhead was beginning to get angry.

"No problem, Kate. I didn't know I had to *check-in* with you at all times... do I?" M.J. felt her own anger rising.

It was Kate's turn to sigh, "What are you pissed about now, huh?" M.J. didn't answer; she didn't want to get into this right now. "Alright then, let me guess," the redhead persisted, "I'd say you're pissed-off because I said we should 'cool it' a little bit. ...Right?"

Still no reply from the taller woman.

"Come onnn, M.J... don't be shitty... talk to me." Kate pleaded with a sigh.

"There's nothing to talk about, Kate. You said 'cool it', so we 'cooled it'," M.J. snapped, her icy blue eyes blazing.

"Yeah, 'cool it' meaning no more going down on each other in the goddamned office parking garage, not completely *ignoring* me! Jesus Christ, M.J.!" Kate said angrily.

"Lower your voice!" M.J. growled through gritted teeth as she flipped her eyes around warily. Kate's face was flushed and both women locked angry gazes for a moment. The redhead was clearly frustrated, which somehow gave the brunette a demented sense of satisfaction.

"You're so... abrupt... so damned *insensitive*!" Kate added, still glaring at the taller woman.

"Whatever. Look, I have to go." M.J. sniffed as she began to turn her body away from the redhead.

"Fine. Go. I guess I'll see you the next time you *need* something from me?" Kate said sarcastically.

M.J. turned to look back at the small woman, a wicked sneer curling her lips and an elegant eyebrow arching high, "Don't flatter yourself, counselor." She said lowly, then turned on her heel, leaving the redhead leaning against the wall feeling plenty exasperated.



"The world is a vampire, sent to drain
Secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames And what do I get for my pain? ...Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game; Even though I know, I suppose I'll show All my cool and cold, like I'm told; Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage." - Smashing Pumpkins


"They're waiting for you, Ms. Whitton." The new, young assistant said, nervously poking her head inside her boss's office door.

"Let them wait... I'll be there in a minute," M.J. called back tersely as she gathered her papers together. There was a lot to cover at this month's Director's meeting, and she chastised herself for not being totally prepared. One of her V.P.'s was preparing to go on a long vacation, and that meant that a lot of his responsibilities would fall on her shoulders, as usual. She really wasn't up to the task right now; there were too many other things going on and she wasn't sure she'd be able to keep a proper handle on everything. Nevertheless, she would attend the meeting and put on her brave face, as she always did.

She stuffed the papers into her organizer and rushed out of her office toward the 14th floor conference room. As she entered, the muttering ceased and all eyes turned toward her. She wasn't in the mood for dallying today, and she hoped she wouldn't have any unforeseen surprises dropped on her.

"Ladies, Gentlemen... let's get started," M.J. said as she sat down at the head of the huge table. All the divisional Directors were there, as well as the two Vice Presidents, all with papers and pens in hand. Everyone knew that meetings with the President and two VP's were usually chocked-full of deadlines, assignments - and sometimes, fireworks - so everyone was always on the edge of their seats.

The meeting progressed rather smoothly with each Director giving a status report of his/her current projects and workloads. Madison read off the current investment and financial outlook reports and gave her updates.

After she finished, M.J. took charge again, "That leaves us with the last agenda item - Ray's upcoming vacation. Ray, give us the current status of all construction projects and tell us who's taking care of what while you're gone," M.J. said in her usual commanding, no-nonsense tone.

"The usual people will be taking care of the usual things," Ray said, somewhat sarcastically to his step-sister as he leaned back in his chair.

Raiford Calhoun's mother had married Mark Whitton a few years ago, and as a favor to his new wife, Mark had given the young man a job at Whitton, Inc. Ray worked with dedication for many years, and although he wasn't overly bright, he somehow managed to earn Mark's trust and was loyal to his step-father. The elder Whitton took a shine to the eager young man and mentored him, promoting him quickly up through the ranks - much to the chagrin of his two older daughters. When he became ill and changes were made, Mark insisted that Ray be entrusted with a Vice Presidency.

None of this ever sat well with M.J. or Madison, and there was always a definite tension among the three siblings. The girls never liked nor trusted Ray the way their father did, and they saw a much different side to their slippery, fast-talking step-brother. He was too young, too dense, and too inexperienced to take his new position seriously, and, more importantly, he was a total snake-in-the-grass prick. It had taken the young man the full five years since he came to Whitton, Inc., to 'learn the ropes', and unlike Mark, M.J. and Madison knew that he would never fully gain the knowledge and know-how that it took to be a truly effective leader. Raiford was arrogant and brash enough before, but with his promotion to a vice presidency position, his head swelled to gargantuan proportions. He often threw Mark's favor of him in the girls' faces, just to agitate them - especially M.J. One time, he even had the gonads to say that Mark thought of him as the son he never had. That absolutely infuriated the girls, and M.J., especially, never forgot it. Maybe Ray *thought* he could step in and be Mark's pseudo-son, but M.J. would never, *ever* allow it.

Mark Whitton had a son once upon a time, and no one would *ever* replace him.

M.J. glanced up at the younger man and glared, "Could you give us some *details*, please, Raiford," she quipped back sharply.

Ray rolled his eyes, "It's no different than the last time I was gone, M.J. - Jimmy's got all the design stuff, Harper has engineering, Watkins has the vendors, --"

"I *know* all that," M.J. interrupted impatiently, "But who are *they* reporting to?" She queried, looking pointedly to Ray.

"They'll report to *you*, just like they *always* do, M.J.," he said snidely.

Madison rolled her eyes and M.J. shot Ray an angry look. "They can't all report to me again. If you're going to be gone for four weeks, I can't take all of it... I don't have the time." M.J. snapped as everyone in the room shifted in their seats uncomfortably, sensing imminent danger.

"Actually... I'm gonna be gone a bit longer than that," Ray said, plunging the entire room into absolute stillness.

M.J.'s brows rose high on her forehead as she regarded him incredulously. This was so typical of Ray to use his position and try to pull some sort of idiotic trick on her.

"Oh really?" she said in a low voice, pinning him with a narrowed, icy blue stare that dropped the room's temperature by 10 degrees. Madison breathed an exasperated sigh and rubbed her temple as she sensed the battle that was about to erupt.

"Yeah, uhm... I wanted to talk to you about it," Ray said as he darted his eyes around the table. M.J. could feel her body temperature rising and her ears tingled with the building fury. Ray always staged this kind of stunt in front of everyone because he knew she wouldn't blow her stack in the presence of the Directors and Managers.

M.J. tapped her fingers on the table while shooting poison-filled daggers at Ray, barely containing her desire to reach across the table and strangle him.

"This meeting is adjourned. Mr. Calhoun, Ms. Whitton - in my office, *now*." M.J. said in a low, clipped tone as she rose abruptly and stormed out of the conference room. The Directors and Managers quickly scurried away, relieved to have escaped with their lives.

"I told you," Madison said to Ray as they rose from the table, "you should have asked her earlier. She's going to flip her lid now," she added, giving the younger man a scolding look.

"Yeah, so the *Scorpion's* tail is gonna zap me good... what the fuck is new?" Ray replied sardonically, invoking the President's hated nickname.

You're such an asshole, Madison thought as she rolled her slate eyes in disgust. Unlike her sister, Madison tried to make amends and not hold grudges against people. She often tried to bury the hatchet with Ray, but he tended to dig it right back up again.

As soon as Ray and Madison entered M.J.'s office and closed the door, she pounced on him, "What the hell is this about, Ray?"

"I'm taking more than four weeks," he said matter-of-factly.

"*How* much more? And why?!" M.J. spat.

"Not that it's any of your *business*, and not that you would *care*, but I'm going to spend some time with Mark, and then I'm taking my trip oversees with Stacey." He explained as he flopped down in one of the leather chairs. The fact that he was going to see Mark Whitton wasn't that much of a shock - although he was a jerk, he was genuinely fond of the older man and felt closer to him than his real father.

"How *much* time, Ray?" M.J. demanded, refusing to be taken aback by Ray's revelation.

He paused, shooting a glance to Madison, "A week or two with Mark, then a month or two overseas - maybe more, if I feel like it," he said, lifting his chin with a challenging tone.

"WHAT?! You've gotta be fucking kidding! You *cannot* be gone for TWO MONTHS, Ray! You CANNOT!" M.J. shouted, motioning with her hands as she stood behind her desk.

"Why not!? There's nothing major going on right now, and I *want* to go see Mark! Not that YOU would understand that," he said snidely.

"This has nothing to do with *MY* father, and you know it," M.J. snapped back, emphasizing the point of Mark's flesh and blood. "You CAN'T disappear for two months and dump all your *shit* in my lap. You're a goddamn Vice President, Ray! It's time you start *acting* like one!" M.J. shouted.

Ray glared at M.J. across her desk for a moment before Madison spoke up, "Morgan, it really shouldn't be that big a problem," she offered calmly, wanting to smooth things over.

"Oh really? I suppose you knew about this already?" M.J. said accusingly.

"I *told* him to tell you about it weeks ago, and, as usual, he ignored me," Madison said, casting a disapproving glance at the younger man.

"Well, it doesn't matter. You can't be gone that long, period. You can have six weeks - that's it." M.J. said, glaring back at Ray as she sat back down at her desk.

"No way, M.J.!! I already bought tickets and the itineraries are planned! I can't change it now! I *WON'T*!" Ray yelled back.

"Tough *SHIT*, Ray! We have a business to run here, and that requires commitment, from all *three* of us! You can't just take off to go traipsing all over Europe with your little tramp-of-the-week girlfriend whenever you feel like it!" M.J. shouted.

"You fucking prima-donna *bitch*!" Ray snarled, gripping the arms of his chair fiercely and leaning forward.

"Yeah, that's right - I'm a bitch, but I'm also the *BOSS*!" M.J. growled back through gritted teeth.

With that, Ray shot out of his seat and lurched toward the taller woman's desk. M.J. quickly stood up, her chair clattering backwards as she squared her hips and gripped her hands into fists, fully prepared and daring her step-brother to take a swipe at her.

Coming close to blows was nothing new for the two hot-headed step-siblings. Mark Whitton's acceptance of Ray into the family circle so long ago had forced their working together closely, but they had never liked each other. They only tolerated each other; they were rivals who only barely managed to get along to please their parents and save face for the company's sake. The two stared at each other ferociously for a moment before Madison stood up to interrupt.

"Oh for *chrissake* you two! Stop it! If anyone knew that you behaved this way, it'd disgrace us all!" She scolded, giving Ray a slight shove back toward his chair. "Morgan, look... why don't you have some of his people report to me - that way you won't be saddled with all of it?" Madison offered, trying to settle things down, as she always did.

"What the hell are *you* going to do with construction, Maddy?" M.J. snapped. Madison knew nothing about construction, and all of them knew it - she was the numbers person and the legal whiz; M.J. was the one who had headed the construction division before Ray officially took over that VP role when she moved up to President.

"Give me the vendors and certifications, and... I dunno... closings, or something. You can take the rest." Madison offered, looking somewhat pleadingly at M.J. She was used to playing peace-maker between her older sister and her younger step-brother. It was a role that was quite necessary, lest the two of them rip each other's lungs out. She was tired of it; she'd been doing it for five years now.

M.J. pulled her chair back and plopped into it, releasing an exasperated sigh and looking at her desk silently for a moment. "Why are you going to spend so much time with Mark? What's going on?" She asked more calmly as she looked pointedly at Ray, who was now sitting back in his chair, sulking.

"*Nothing* is 'going on'. In case you've forgotten, he's dying," Ray said cynically, earning him immediate, harsh glares from both women.

"Don't you *dare* sit there and try to preach to me about *MY* father, you sorry son-of-a-bitch!" M.J. growled in a low, warning tone.

"Hey, maybe I just want to spend some time with him, okay? I know it doesn't matter to you two, but it matters to me!" he shot back quickly.

"Oh go wank yourself, Ray! You know damn well that I've gone to see him, and Maddy's gone to see him too, so don't even try to lay a guilt trip on us - it won't work!" M.J. retaliated furiously.

"Oh yeah, you two visited for his birthday, for a whole weekend - *wow*!" The angry young man chided. He knew he was pushing his luck, but he liked antagonizing the girls, and he always took every opportunity that presented itself.

"Oh shut UP Ray! Christ!" Madison finally spouted, smoothing a hand over her hair as she stood up, clearly irritated. "Look, I have to go. Are we finished here?" She was at the end of her patience.

"Yes, we're finished. Maddy, you and I can meet later to discuss the delegation of all this *shit*; Ray - goodbye, and good *riddance*!" M.J. said with much sarcasm as she dismissed the two.

"I'm not leaving *yet*!" He snapped as he rose to leave.

"Well why wait?!" M.J. called after him as he left the office, ignoring her and slamming the door with a bang.

Fury burned deep in M.J.'s chest and she finally lashed-out, sending a pile of papers scattering off the side of her desk with a swat of her hand and a frustrated growl. The sheets splattered on the floor and she immediately brought her hands up to her head, squeezing the temples, desperately fighting to bring her rage under control.

Fucking Ray, she thought to herself, one of these days, I'm not going to hold back, she thought darkly. She turned and moved to the window to watch the sun as it hung, burning low and orange in the sky above the St. Johns River. She wasn't really angry with Ray for wanting to go spend time with her dying father. Even though he was a complete asshole, she was pretty sure that he had genuine feelings for the old man. But still... his being so presumptuous about taking time off was too much, and the way he went about it was deceitful and unacceptable. He was such a conniving sack of shit sometimes; he infuriated M.J., and he damn well knew it. It was a repetitious conflict, always.

M.J. refused to let guilt about her own infrequent trips to see her father seep into her mind. Surely he understood that she couldn't take off much time - she was the President of the company - he had put her in the position himself. As much as she would love to escape to Pennsylvania and spend endless weeks lounging at the huge farm that had been her grandparent's home and her childhood playground, she just couldn't afford it. Besides that, spending any amount of time with her father was always difficult and stressful. His being sick and her muddled feelings about that would only complicate things further. It wasn't that she couldn't accept that he was dying - she did - she just didn't want to be around him because she didn't know what to say to him. And he never knew what to say to her either - it was the same old, same old. They hadn't been able to relate to each other for many, many years.

Their estrangement had been a long one. At one time, M.J. thought that perhaps her father's illness would somehow bring them closer together, or possibly heal old wounds. But as time elapsed, she realized that would not happen. Apparently the chasm between them would always remain as wide as it was right now. She supposed she should feel guilty about that, but she honestly didn't. In her mind, she wasn't the one who created the rift - he was; so she refused to feel guilty for not going and spending time with him right now. She would continue to squeeze in a long-weekend wherever possible, but other than that, she would not play the grieving-daughter-begging-for-forgiveness-and-absolution role that everyone expected her to play. Maybe it was harsh and cold-hearted for her to think that way, but she didn't care. No one else, save Madison, knew her family history. No one else knew how much of an effort it was for her to be here, doing what she was doing, at all. She owed no one an explanation; they could all go to hell, as far as she was concerned.

M.J. was frustrated, in so many ways; today's little ambush and blow-up with Raiford only served to deteriorate her mood further. She could feel the anger residing within her, as it had been for days. This afternoon's explosion just made the feelings swell dangerously larger. She needed to get out... get away from it all. She found her mind turning to thoughts of the usual way in which she quelled her anger. It wasn't something she was proud of... in fact, she felt it was more like a dirty little secret... but a necessary one, for her.

She turned and checked the clock, deciding to finish up a few things and then head home for the evening. Perhaps, she thought as she returned to her chair, she should work-off a little steam first before heading out for a 'fix'. After all, she wouldn't want to frighten anyone with a superfluous amount of 'energy'.


"Novocaine for the soul,
You better give me somethin'
To fill the hole,
Before I sputter out." - Eels


The tall brunette stood in her bathroom, deliberately styling her long, dark tresses so that they looked messy and wild. When she went out on nights like this, she didn't want to look anything like her stiff, daytime business persona. Even though she had put herself through a vigorous one-hour workout with her punching bag at home, she still felt like there was an 'edge' to her anger and frustration, and it burned deep inside her. She hated feeling like this... desolate and totally keyed-up, ready to burst at the seams. She had tried almost every form of 'exercise' and 'work-out' that she could think of over the past few years to help her diffuse the bomb that seemed to constantly tick inside her body and soul. Unfortunately, she had found that the best way for her to extinguish the fire was to dominate and conquer another human being.

She couldn't explain the psychology behind it, and she really didn't want to know anyway. She only knew that sexual release always worked best for her, the more dominating and powerful, the better. The problem was that, even after a successful 'conquest' and 'purging', it was only a matter of days before the vicious cycle would start all over again. It was a double-edged sword - wanting to be alone, but needing occasional human contact in order to 'relieve' herself. She honestly didn't like treating people like throwaways, but it was absolutely necessary for her; she was only interested in her release, and nothing more. Sometimes her anger spilled over into the sex, and then that was a problem. But the good thing was that she was always able to pick up a nameless, faceless someone on whom she could take-out her pent-up frustrations. It was always fairly quick and painless, and then she was back in the safety of her own home again. It was a ridiculous existence, she knew, but she felt as though she had dug herself into an inescapable hole - a very deep one - and she didn't quite know how to climb back out.

Well maybe some day Princess Charming will come along and rescue me like a damsel in distress, she thought to herself with a sarcastic smile as she flipped the light off in the her bathroom and headed out at last.


M.J. snuck down the alley in her old Jeep, being careful to park it at a discreet distance, yet in a safe place. For nights like this, she always used this car because she didn't drive it that often, therefore no one would recognize it. The heels of her boots clicked loudly on the concrete sidewalk as she made her way to the club that served as her secret haven... her hideaway... her escape. She raked her fingers through her hair and adjusted the fit of her pants, secure in the fact that she looked different enough not to be readily recognized by anyone.

Not that I really give much of a shit if anyone sees, she thought to herself.

The truth was, she didn't care if anyone knew about her 'preferences' - she had never made it a secret - but she didn't talk about it openly either. Being the head of a major company forced her to have some modicum of restraint when it came to her public behavior, and she knew it was best if her business colleagues and associates knew nothing of her private life or her 'extra-curricular activities'. However... that didn't stop her from going out and doing what she wanted to do. She just had to be a little more discreet, and exercise a little more self-control. Becoming someone different helped too; on nights like this, she not only liked to look different, she liked to *feel* different too.

I doubt anyone from work would think that I'd be caught dead looking like this in torn jeans and a leather jacket, she mused, satisfied with her incognito feel.

As she neared the club entrance, she could hear the loud thumping of the music. A feral grin spread across her lips as she began to relax and slip into predatory mode. These places were her hunting grounds... this was where she came to stalk prey and satisfy the urges that sometimes overwhelmed her. It was a dirty little game to her, but one that she needed to play, and *needed* to win. She knew she should feel some shame about what she was doing, but she didn't; at least not right now. That would come later, and she'd deal with it then.

She entered the club, getting a drink from the bar and discreetly making her way to a small corner table where she could silently survey and single-out prospective victims. She smirked inwardly at the thought. She sometimes felt like a vampire, out on the town looking for a kill to help stave off her hunger. In a way, that was exactly what she was doing. She was only interested in satisfying herself for a few hours. Just play a few mind-games, lead them on a little, then a quick fuck that left them begging for more, and she'd be on her merry way. It was cold and impersonal, and that's exactly the way she wanted it.

It didn't take long until a few brave women began approaching the dark, forbidding-looking beauty. M.J. was selective, however; she was looking for a particular type tonight. She finally found it in a small, but nicely-built platinum blonde with amber eyes and a charming smile. They chatted politely for a few moments, exchanging witty quips and sexual innuendos. It was long enough for M.J. to deem that this woman was smart enough to understand what was going on, and was therefore worthy of her time and energy. M.J. finally rose from the table and moved to stand behind the woman, pressing her intention intimately against the small body, and whispering into her ear that she wished to leave. The woman agreed to join her in a hurry.

They began walking down the sidewalk, away from the club, when M.J. suddenly decided that she didn't want to go anywhere with this stranger. She was here for one reason and one reason only - why waste her time driving to some cheap hotel or stinking up the backseat of her car? The tall brunette grabbed the platinum blonde by the arm fiercely and pulled her into a dark alley, backing her up against a brick wall. The blonde could only gasp breathlessly as the dark woman gave her a menacing look and yanked her jacket apart, leaning in to begin feasting on her slender neck while pressing her hips against her. Small hands grasped at broad shoulders as the tall stranger pulled the smaller woman's leather skirt up and grasped her buttocks firmly.

"Wait! W-What are you doing?" the blonde said breathlessly.

"What does it *look* like I'm doing?" M.J. snarled back, continuing to assault the woman's throat and clavicles.

"But-But... not here! Not like this! I wanna go to your place," the blonde said, somewhat confused by the already intimidating woman's sudden aggressiveness. M.J. stopped her ministrations and brought herself to stand at full-height in front of the blonde.

"Let's get one thing straight, honey - I'm only interested in doing what *I* want, not what *you* want. You got that?" She growled in a low, threatening voice as she grasped the woman by her shirt front. The blonde could only look up and stare, wide-eyed... she suddenly began to regret ever looking at this woman. Even though she was accustomed to this type of encounter, the cold, icy orbs that stared emotionlessly back at her gave her chills, and she feared that perhaps her choice this time was a bad one.

M.J. glared at her for a moment, then abruptly spun her around, pushing her face-first against the brick wall. She held one of the blonde's wrists tightly with a hand while she let her other hand slide up the smaller woman's chest, caressing her breasts along the way. The blonde could only rasp heavily against the cold, rough wall. She was taken off-guard, but the feeling of being dominated by this dark beauty was beginning to turn her on immensely.

M.J. let her hand slide up further until she was gripping the woman's slender neck, and she leaned down to whisper menacingly into her ear, "Now you're going to do exactly what I tell you, right?" M.J. said lowly, loving the fact that she was so easily in complete control of the little woman.

"B-But--," the blonde said in a breathless whisper, her fear and desire commingling.

"Shhhh... I won't hurt you," M.J. growled, her voice alternating between seductive and demanding. The blonde wanted to relax, but she was still uncertain. "I want you to be very *quiet*... can you do that?" M.J. whispered against a trembling temple while squeezing the hand that was around the blonde's neck tighter. The small woman could only nod mutely - she wasn't about to defy the strong hand that suddenly had such a tenacious hold on her only source of oxygen. "...Good girl," M.J. teased as she licked the rim of the woman's ear while she quickly released her wrist and dropped both hands down to strip the blonde's panties down off her hips.

As soon as the panties disappeared, M.J. unbuttoned her jeans, withdrawing the strap-on phallus she had concealed within. Steadying herself, she grasped the smaller woman's hip with one hand and guided the shaft in-between quivering thighs, plunging it quickly into the awaiting tightness.

The small woman let out a loud gasp, and M.J. brought a hand up to again grip the blonde's softly-muscled throat, "Shhh!," She commanded as she held both of them still. "Tell me that you want this," she growled lowly into the small woman's ear.

"Yes! ...God, yesss!" The woman whimpered as she squirmed and pushed back against M.J.'s hips, desperate for movement.

"Tell me what you want me to do," M.J. insisted, holding the blonde's hips firmly so she couldn't move.

"Fuck me... Goddd! Fuck me!" The blonde groaned in a breathless whisper.

M.J. smiled at the woman's pleading, "Shhh! I want to *feel* you come, I don't want to hear you," M.J. demanded as she slowly began to move her hips. The blonde, who was now painfully aroused, writhed wildly beneath the larger body as she clung to the brick wall for dear life. M.J. held the woman tighter by pressing her body against her as she proceeded to unleash her own need.

The blonde gritted her teeth and tried valiantly to keep quiet, but the feel of the tall woman plundering her was quickly pushing her close to the edge, and she wasn't sure she could obey the brunette's commands. Her mind toggled between the fear of what might happen if she shouted out, and the pleasure that the dark stranger was inflicting upon her. The side of her face pressed harder against the cold brick wall as the tall body thrust against her backside repeatedly, and she pushed herself outward, craving deeper contact.

M.J. could feel the small body beginning to tremble beneath her, and she knew both their climaxes were imminent. She removed her hand from the woman's hip and slid her fingers down to tease the blonde's swollen button, causing her to emit a strangled gasp. M.J. squeezed the soft throat tighter as her fingers swirled and pressed harder until at last the blonde burst apart with a moan and a quiver that wracked her whole body. Her mind wavering on the brink of consciousness, the smaller woman smiled as she felt the brunette's body shudder slightly against her, a breathless gasp being the only audible evidence that some sort of relief was achieved.

M.J. relinquished her grip from the woman's throat and leaned against the brick wall, her arms resting on either side of the blonde's head, effectively boxing her in. As she struggled to regain her composure, the blonde quickly twisted around so that she faced the taller woman at last. This certainly wasn't the oddest situation she ever found herself in, but the blonde couldn't help but wonder why such a beautiful woman would find it necessary to pick up a stranger at a club and fuck them so anonymously.

Probably some kind of head case, she figured. Wanting to taste the luscious mouth that taunted her so effectively, she reached out and brought her arms up to encircle the brunette's neck. But, as she reached up to kiss those tantalizing lips, the tall woman jerked, pulling away quickly and strenuously, disentangling herself from the smaller woman with a firm shove.

"What?!" The blonde asked in confusion.

The brunette glared at her with cold, heartless eyes and took a step back, adjusting herself and re-buttoning her jeans.

"Thanks." She said simply, then turned abruptly on her heel and began walking down the street, leaving a very puzzled blonde in her wake.


"Why don't I just give up, and do myself a favor?
My life is slowly turning gray, and losing all its flavor;
Everything's the same, again and again and again." - Soft Cell


The shrill ringing of a phone pulled M.J. out of her sleepy stupor, interrupting her usual dream of a faceless woman making wild, passionate love to her. She decided, as usual, to ignore the phone and let the machine pick it up; however, when the machine went off, the caller hung up.

Fucking telemarketers, the brunette grumbled inwardly as she curled up and covered her head with a pillow, wanting to go back to sleep and to her dream. But alas, it was not meant to be... the phone rang again.

Rolling over toward the night-table, M.J. grabbed the phone, "What?!" She spat out in a raspy, sleep-deprived voice.

"Morgan!? Where the hell have you *been*?!" Madison squawked into the earpiece, causing M.J. to visibly cringe.

"What are you talking about? I've been here, at home!" M.J. growled back.

"No you weren't! I tried to call you all night, there and at your office - where the hell *were* you?! ...Or do I not want to know?" The younger woman said accusingly.

"Maddy... what the hell do you want at-" she paused, checking the clock, "eight-o-fucking-clock on a Saturday morning?!" M.J. snapped impatiently.

"Daddy's in the hospital." Madison said seriously.

"What?" M.J. asked, sitting up to attention. "What happened?"

"Well, Virginia rang me - believe it or not - and said that he had been complaining of stomach pain and feeling nauseous, so she called the doctor and they admitted him. Turns out that he has some kind of bowel obstruction, so they're going to try putting a stent in tomorrow and- "

"A what?" M.J. asked, cutting her sister off.

"A *stent* - it's like a little metal tube-thing they implant in there to open the blockage - anyway, they're hoping that it'll work." Madison finished.

"And if it doesn't?"

"I don't know... how the hell would I know?!" Madison snapped in irritation. M.J. sighed long and loud into the phone as she reclined back on her bed and thought for a moment.

"So Miss Virginia rings you up, huh?" M.J. said with feigned indignance.

Virginia Calhoun had married Mark Whitton 6 years ago, much to the dismay and disappointment of his two daughters. They could barely tolerate the woman and saw her as nothing more than a gold-digging, southern-belle wanna-be. But Mark seemed to adore her, so they put up with the shrew for his sake. Now, however, with him being ill, she was even harder to stomach. More importantly, the two girls feared what might happen when Mark died - Virginia and her son could make a play for control of Whitton, Inc. If that happened, a battle of epic proportions would erupt and consume all of them.

"She *never* rings me, Morgan. I swear I almost fell off my chair when I realized who it was," Madison said.

"Yeah well, it's good she *did* - she wouldn't fucking ring me if her own life depended on it." M.J. said sarcastically. It was no secret that M.J. loathed Virginia - she had made that quite clear before the woman even married her father. Madison was civil to her, but M.J. absolutely refused.

"I didn't even recognize her voice - when it finally dawned on me, I thought... well... you know." Madison said quietly, and M.J. knew exactly what she meant. Having to hear from that woman that their father passed away was something both girls dreaded.

"Well, is she going to let you know how it goes, or what?" M.J. asked, interrupting both their thoughts.

"Yah, I asked her to let me know; if she doesn't - which wouldn't surprise me - I'll ring her tomorrow evening, I guess... unless *you'd* like the honor." Madison said, teasing her sister.

"Hah," M.J. snorted, "I'd fly up there to see for myself before I'd call that witch and ask her for a damn thing," she sniped.

"You know, Morgan, that actually isn't a bad idea." Madison said seriously.

"What? Me flying up there? Now? ...Forget it." M.J. retorted.

"Well, maybe not right now, but... sometime soon? Maybe we both could go?" The younger woman asked hopefully.

M.J. sighed again, "I can't go now, not with Ray getting ready to leave; besides, I wouldn't want to be there while *he's* visiting anyway. Speaking of Ray, does he know about this?"

"I don't know, but I'm quite sure Ginny told him before she told us." Madison said.

The phone was silent for a moment until M.J. spoke, "You know, Maddy, if you really want to go see him, you can; I can handle things for a little while by myself."

Madison sighed, "No, no... that's okay; I wouldn't do that to you while Ray is gone," she said, then hesitated for a moment, "Morgan?"


"Why are you so good to me and so awful to Ray and everyone else?" She was kidding, but she still wanted to see what her older sister would say.

M.J. sighed heavily and closed her eyes as she considered her answer for just a moment. "Because... they're all assholes, and I don't trust Ray for shit... I only trust you."

The blunt honesty of her older sister's answer shocked Madison, and she found herself momentarily speechless. M.J. rarely granted such moments of frankness about her feelings, even to her.

"Oh Morgan, I think you're just becoming an 'ole softie!" Madison teased, recovering quickly.

"Shut up, Maddy. Look, I gotta go... since I'm now *awake*, I might as well get my shower and get some work done." M.J. said with feigned irritation.

"Morgan J., Morgan J. ...don't you ever take a weekend OFF?" Madison chided.

"No, not really," the older woman sighed loudly.

"Christ, girl... you need to get a real life."

"Tell me something I *don't* know, little sister." M.J. retorted, clapping a hand over her eyes and sighing loudly again.

"Okay, I'll let you go. Oh, Morgan? One last thing?"


"...Where *were* you last night, really?" Madison teased.

"Good-BYE Maddy!" M.J. hung up the phone and flopped back down on the bed. She loved her sister dearly, but sometimes she was much too nosey for her own good.

She stared up at the white ceiling, suddenly feeling very miserable, very alone, and finally - ashamed.

Ahh yes, there it is... the 'morning-after' shame, M.J. thought sarcastically to herself. If her little sister only knew what she did last night... if she knew what a tragic, pathetic joke her life had become... if she knew that she only 'existed', rather than 'lived'... Madison would be horrified. Some days, M.J. was horrified of it herself.

She lay there on her bed, listening to nothing, save the soft whir of the ceiling fan as its blades lazily rotated around, stirring a slight breeze in the emptiness of the room.

Empty... that's how I feel, she thought to herself, ...that's always how I feel. M.J. wasn't the kind of person who wasted her time wishing upon impossible dreams. When she did wish, however, it was always for the same thing: that her life was indeed much different.


"You turn my head when you turn around, You turn the whole world upside down; I'm smitten, I'm bitten,
I'm hooked, I'm cooked, I'm stuck like glue; You make me, make me, make me, Make me hungry for you." - The Cure


M.J. walked briskly from the 13th floor elevator to John Stevenson's area. Even though he probably already knew, she wanted to make sure that he understood that all his hiring and firing would need to come through her while Ray was gone. Ray's construction crews tended to have a lot of turn-over, and he normally dealt directly with John on all matters, intentionally excluding M.J., even though she oversaw the Human Resources department and liked to be kept in-the-loop about everything. Personnel and labor issues were something that she especially liked to keep a handle on, since problems, when they did crop up, tended to hit the flashpoint rather easily. She entered the HR area without looking at any of the employees and headed directly for John's office.

Allison both saw and felt the foreboding presence through her open office door as soon as it entered the room.

"Oooo... stop the presses... here comes the big bad boss-lady," she murmured quietly to herself. She remembered Liz's words about how aggressive and driven M.J. was.

Hmmm... she could 'drive' me anytime, Alli joked to herself with a lustful little smirk as she watched surreptitiously. The towering woman wore a serious expression on her strong-jawed face, complimented by a striking, pin-striped navy blue suit. Her appearance was simple, yet elegant, and her hair was again pinned tightly behind her head. She exuded confidence and determination. As Alli watched her disappear from her sight, she tried to recall what the tall brunette looked like close-up. She hadn't had the pleasure - or punishment - of having much interaction with the regal President of the company, and she'd only really gotten close to her that first day, when they ran into each other, quite literally. Alli remembered thinking that she had never seen a more beautiful, strong, handsome face before.

Handsome and beautiful... an interesting combination... so far, it seems to be very accurate, she thought.

Alli found herself idly wondering what the brunette looked like and acted like when she wasn't at work. So often coworkers and bosses are nothing like you'd imagine them to be when they're away from the office, and she wondered what M.J. Whitton looked like when she let her hair down, literally.

She's probably the kind of person who always looks the same, because she never takes a break from her work... one of those 'I *am* the job' types of people, Alli thought, returning her attention to her work.

M.J. strode purposely past everyone toward the Director's office. John had been talking to one of the secretaries when the tall figure darkened his doorway.

"M.J., what a pleasant surprise," he said with just a hint of sarcasm.

Alli had discovered that it was a well-known fact that John and M.J. clashed on numerous issues, and it was also well-known that John and Ray Calhoun were friends outside the office. John supposed he had a slight issue with a *woman* being his boss, but he forced himself to ignore it, especially in light of the fact that *two* women, who were also siblings, now essentially ran the entire company. He outwardly told everyone that it wasn't the fact that M.J. was a woman, it was her superior attitude and demanding ways.

"Just wanted to remind you that all of Ray's construction crew recruiting is going to have to come through me while he's gone," M.J. quipped, refusing to be baited by John's tone.

"Yes, of course, M.J., but there isn't anything going on right now, so don't worry - we won't be bothering you." he added, reclining back in his chair.

"Well, since Ray is going to be gone for almost *two* months, I'm sure *something* will arise. When it does, be certain that all the paperwork comes across my desk. Got it?" M.J. said in a low, commanding tone. John's attitude pissed her off, but she knew that being condescending to him was the best way to get under his skin and keep him in line.

"Yes Ma'am," John said succinctly, daring to almost glare at her. M.J. gave him a stern look and turned to leave. As she turned, she looked in to the office that was directly across from John's. A young woman was sitting at the desk and looked up at her tentatively. She had short hair that was a light-blonde color with smatterings of strawberry-gold reflected in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the office. Bright eyes of an indeterminate shade locked fully onto M.J. for a moment, then the blonde smiled politely and turned back to her computer screen. M.J. thought she looked familiar, but she couldn't remember where she'd seen her.

Wonder if that's John's new Assistant? She looks awfully young... cute too... so typical of John to hire some pretty young thing... he's such a dirty old man, M.J. thought as she exited the HR area.

Jesus, she has *presence*, Alli thought to herself as she blew out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. Being a 'people-person' and naturally perceptive when it came to reading and analyzing personalities, Alli found herself highly intrigued by the commanding, enigmatic woman. She had met and conversed at length with almost all of the company's top Directors and Managers, as well as the two Vice Presidents, but somehow the mysterious President remained elusive. She'd been relegated to catching only fleeting glimpses of the statuesque brunette here and there - in the company cafe, in a hallway, going hurriedly in or out of someone's office - and she found herself wishing that she had the opportunity to speak with her or deal with her for whatever reason. According to what everyone had told her - in both subtle and very unsubtle ways - she should never *ever* wish for such a thing.

M.J. Whitton may be a savvy leader and astute business-woman, but Alli was discovering that she had very few allies in her own company. For some reason, this bothered the blonde. She couldn't imagine what the woman had done - or hadn't done, for that matter - to garner such criticism. Yes, she seemed abrupt and demanding, but a good business-leader normally isn't in the business of making friends. The most effective leaders are often callous and detached - it's often a necessity, and a casualty, of being in command. But M.J. Whitton was young - too young to be the harsh, experienced, world-weary veteran that her father supposedly had been; too young to have so many enemies; and too attractive to not have any admirers. Alli supposed that what bothered her the most was that the adjective most often used to describe M.J. was 'bitch'. She couldn't help but wonder, if M.J. were a man, would people still feel the same way?

Well, it doesn't matter anyway... it's not like we're even on the same working-plane, Alli thought to herself as she tried to re-focus on her work.


Alli had decided to catch a late lunch one day and wandered down to the cafe to find something to silence her complaining stomach. As she stood at the deli ordering a sandwich, her eyes took notice to the solitary, dark figure of M.J. Whitton sitting in a corner booth at the far end of the cafe, a small plate of food and a cup on the table in front of her, her eyes focused on a document she held in her hand.

Alli found herself nearly unable to take her gaze from the lone figure as she paid for her lunch and sat down at a table by herself. People came in and out of the cafe, some walking right past the President, but none of them spoke to her nor acknowledged her in any way. Did they not realize who it was? Or did they not care? Alli found it all very unusual; that the President of the company would be sitting alone in such a nondescript, public place in the middle of the workday, and that no one stopped to say one word to her. Alli studied the woman carefully; she wore a dark green suit today, with what appeared to be perfectly matched shoes, and she had a pair of glasses on. Her hair was again pulled back behind her head, and Alli wondered if that was the only way she knew how to wear it. She placidly took bites of her food and sipped her drink as she calmly read through the papers she held in one hand. Alli couldn't help but wonder what was behind the rigid facade of the tall woman; what other personality was lying in wait beneath the abrupt, commanding demeanor; what thoughts lurked behind that cool, unwavering gaze.

"See something interesting?"

The statement caught Alli totally off-guard, and she visibly jumped. Liz Jacobs laughed a little at how easily startled the blonde was.

"W-What?" Alli asked.

"See something interesting?" Liz repeated, this time motioning her head toward the lone figure of the company President.

Alli felt a blush overtake her features and she darted her eyes nervously toward M.J. and back again, scowling as she tried to cover her embarrassment.

"No, no, I was just... observing... y'know," she tried to sound as nonchalant as possible.

Liz smiled knowingly at her, her soft brown eyes winking. "Mind if I join you?" The tall, umber-haired woman asked as she sat down, not really giving Alli a chance to respond.

Alli said "Sure" anyway. She was actually getting to know Liz fairly well. The Finance Director had made it a point to befriend the new girl on the block, and Alli was grateful for her effort. Liz was down-to-earth and possessed a wicked sense of humor, which Alli found refreshing and delightful.

"She's a fascinating person, really," Liz said, obviously referring to M.J.

Alli decided to play dumb anyway, "Who?"

"M.J., of course. She's frustrating as all hell, but she's fascinating." Liz stated as she bit into her sandwich.

"You seem to know an awful lot about her," Alli said, propping her elbows on the table and leaning in toward her new friend.

"Well, I guess I know more than others, but unfortunately, it still isn't very much." Liz said cryptically.

"And how is it that you know more than others?" Alli inquired casually, quirking an eyebrow and smirking so that Liz thought she was only idly curious, and nothing more.

"Ahh... now *that* is complicated." Liz said, holding up a finger and smiling. "Remind me to tell you once I get to know you a little better, hmm?" She said coyly, winking as she took another bite of her sandwich.

Damn, Alli thought, not getting anything out of her I guess. She had the feeling that Liz was one of those company people who knew a little bit about everything, and everyone, and Alli was almost always dying to pick her brain to get a feel for things and educate herself. The Finance Director had already introduced Alli to numerous people at the company, and she appreciated the doors that were opened to her and the networking opportunities that were made available.

"So, you coming to the 'Executive Christmas Ball'?" Liz queried.

Alli frowned at her, having no idea what she was talking about, "What 'Executive Christmas Ball'?"

"Didn't you get an invite? All Managers get an invite. The email went out today...?" Liz asked, looking confused.

"I didn't get anything. Guess I'm not invited." Alli said with a grin and a shrug.

"Yes you are. That bimbo Helen probably just forgot to put you on the list for this year. She's a nice woman, but I don't think her elevator goes the whole way to the top floor some days, y'know?" Liz said, making wide eyes and pointing to her head. Alli chuckled at her antics as both women continued to eat their lunches.

"Well what is this 'Ball'? It sounds hopelessly old-fashioned." Alli said in-between bites.

"Oh it is, it *is*," Liz responded with an eye-roll. "It's this big, tacky, lavish party that the Whitton clan holds every year just for the managers and directors of the company. It's a totally gaudy, over-blown display - and waste - of the Whitton's money and social status." She said with slight bitterness. "It's some sort of tradition that was started way-back-when by old man Whitton and his snobby, socialite wife. I thought that the girls would nix it for this year, but I guess the plans had already been made, so..." she let her words trail off as she shrugged and took a sip of her drink. "Wouldn't surprise me if this is the last year for it," she finished.

"Well, what, is it like a formal ball or something?" Alli asked,

"Close; it's just a very formal dinner party at a very swanky country club. They usually have a jazz band and dancing and stuff," Liz shrugged. "Actually someone told me that it used to be just a casual suit-and-tie affair, but when the old man remarried, his new *southern belle* wife took over and made it into the obnoxious money-parade that we have now." Liz said sarcastically, affecting a fake Southern accent for a moment.

"Oh, I didn't know he was remarried," Alli remarked casually, even though the revelation created tons of thoughts and questions in her mind.

"Yeah. He and his first wife divorced awhile ago. I think she lives in Paris, or London, or something. This wife he has now is a real piece of work," Liz said with an eye-roll. "Ray Calhoun is her son, you know," she added. "Very *convenient*, wouldn't you say?" She said with a conspiratorial wink as she sipped her drink.

"Yeah... interesting," Alli answered with a smirk. She could only imagine the familial tensions that must run beneath the outwardly stoic facade of Whitton, Inc. Her mind flashed back to her initial meeting with Madison Whitton and Raiford Calhoun.

I bet there are lots of interesting stories there, her mind mused inwardly. "I'm not really 'into' the swanky-party scene, y'know?" Alli said, wrinkling her nose slightly.

"It's not that bad, really. The whole dinner affair thing is actually sort-of comical... at least to me. Someone always gets totally trashed and makes a scene... I love that part!" Liz said evilly as she laughed, causing Alli to chuckle out loud as well. Alli found herself liking Liz more and more; she was blunt and didn't pull any punches, yet she seemed to be a nice person. Alli considered herself a fairly good judge of character, and she felt good vibes with Liz. Alli hoped they would become good friends. She needed someone to trust.

"Everyone wears fancy cocktail dresses or formal attire, and you're supposed to be *proper* and bring a date, of course, but I never take a date - I always go solo," Liz said with another evil grin. "I'm sure that always pisses old-lady Whitton off, but what the hell do I care? I doubt she'll be there this year anyway," she shrugged, taking a sip from her straw.

"Sounds incredibly stuffy," Alli said, laughing at Liz's frankness.

"Oh it is, it *is*," Liz repeated. "Sometimes some of the fancy-pants investors attend too, and we even have some of Dougie Cohen's big-shot attorney and city official-friends join us too. It's *quite* impressive," Liz said mockingly.

"Who's Dougie Cohen?" Alli asked.

"Oh, that's Madison's hot-shot-attorney husband, Douglas Cohen. You've heard of the big law firm, Cohen, Reed & Barninger?" Alli nodded her head in vague recognition. "That's him." Liz explained.

"Hmm, well, it sounds like the Whittons have all the trappings that wealth and fortune can buy, and it sounds like they enjoy it too." Alli remarked.

"Most of them enjoy it and are happy to flaunt it," Liz said, turning cryptic again, "but not all of them do." Alli looked up at the brunette with questioning eyes. "If you ever have the opportunity - or maybe I should say 'misfortune' - to get to know M.J., Madison, or Ray, even a little bit, you'll see what I mean." She added, not giving away anything.

"I've spoken with Madison and Raiford a few times, but aside from the collision in your office the first day I arrived, I haven't said two words to M.J." Alli said, trying not to sound too obviously disappointed.

Liz made a 'hmph' sound and grinned, "Well, that's not a bad thing, believe me," Liz said. "I'm sure you'll have the *pleasure* of dealing with her soon enough, seeing that she makes it a point to personally oversee your department, as well as mine."

"Yeah, what's the deal with that, anyway? Isn't it unusual to have the President overseeing areas like that?" Alli couldn't help her curiosity.

"I suppose it is, but M.J. does it because she doesn't trust Raiford, and Madison is too busy with her own division. She doesn't trust John, and she most likely doesn't trust *me* either. Basically, she doesn't trust *anyone*." Liz said a little sarcastically.

"Hmm... sounds like she's a micro-manager. Must be so counter-productive for her too... strange," Alli mused.

"Yeah, well, who knows what goes through that woman's head. Listen, just do yourself a favor and keep this in mind," Liz said as Alli regarded her with raised brows. "In M.J.'s mind, there are two ways of doing things: her way, or no way," Liz counted off on her fingers. "She doesn't like to 'discuss' things a whole lot; if she asks you to do something, just *do* it - don't question her, don't argue with her." Liz said, leaning toward Alli and lowering her voice conspiratorially, "She's been nicknamed 'The Scorpion', and there's good reason for it, believe me. She can deliver a deadly sting faster than you can bat an eyelash. I've seen it - hell, I've *lived* it!" Liz said, smiling and making wide eyes. "I guess what I'm saying is, don't be too hard-headed, but don't be completely spineless either - she has no respect for wimps with no backbone," Liz said, wrinkling her nose.

Alli was confused, "I don't really understand; don't be assertive, but don't be a wimp? She sounds impossible, not 'fascinating'." Alli said.

Liz made a face, indicating she understood Alli's confusion, "I know, and she's both, really. It's a fine line you have to walk in order to work with her, but once you get to know her style a little bit, you'll understand what I mean. Just give her the facts, stand behind your work, and back-up your data - I mean *really* back-up your data. There's nothing she hates more than when she asks people questions and wants specifics, and they can't give her answers. She's an *answers* person." Liz concluded, taking a final chomp of her sandwich.

"Hmm... I think I understand what you're saying; thanks for the warning," Alli said with a pensive smile.

"No problem. Well listen, my friend, I gotta go," Liz said as she wiped her mouth and stood. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you soon - hey, let's go out for lunch sometime, huh?"

"Yeah, that'd be great," Alli answered with delight.

"Cool. I'll see ya later," Liz said, pointing and making a gun-clicking action with her hand. She started to walk away but turned back suddenly, "Oh, and if you don't have a date for the Christmas Gala, maybe you and I can go 'solo' together, okay?" She said with a smile and a laugh.

Alli laughed out loud, "Deal!"


Continued in Chapter 7

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