It was just another day at Johnston Brown. Emily was busy as usual trying to fulfill her position to the best of her abilities. Work was her life more than ever those days. Finishing a report for Chuck Johnston, she printed it off and headed out of her office to his assistant's. The blonde preferred email, but Chuck was old-fashioned. He favored paper for everything, so she obliged him when she could. Dropping the report on his assistant's desk for him, she headed for their mail room to check her box. Her own assistant was on vacation, so she was fending for herself. She still found it a little strange to have an assistant. Sometimes he seemed a little too eager to please, something she passed off as crush he would get over, but he was good at his work, and she had come to depend on him more and more during the year he had been there.
Digging her mail out of her box, she scanned through it, sorting it in the order of importance. Junk mail was immediately discarded in the trash. More important mail was arranged carefully and the opened piece by piece. The blonde usually had her assistant look at all the mail, and most of it never actually made it to her desk. Having him away gave her a better sense of the inconsequential nonsense he took off her hands for her. Sorting it a second time, she made two piles, one for him on his return and then her own. She was just about to leave the mail room when she heard a deep rich laugh coming from the direction of the lobby. It couldn't be. I know that laugh. She heard it again. That's Erin Mahoney.
Curious to know if she was right, Emily made her away around the corner and into the reception area where she was greeted with a surprise. It was not Erin. "Seamus?" she questioned in confusion at his presence. He was standing there talking to Chuck.
His smile brightened the moment he saw her. "Emily Parker? Is that really you?" he questioned as they closed their distance. They hugged. "It's been forever since I've seen you! You look great!"
"You too, Seamus. It's so good to see you. What are you doing in New York?"
"I was just here on some business. Erin and I were having lunch with Chuck."
Erin's here? "Oh, I see. I didn't think you were a New York type."
Just then Chuck broke into the conversation. Sticking out his hand to Seamus, he said, "I'll let you catch up with Emily. It was good to see you again. I look forward to working with you in the future."
"Likewise, Chuck. Thanks." Once they were alone, he smiled down at her again. "I can't believe it. Here you are after all this time. How long has it been? Erin's parents' anniversary party?"
The blonde nodded. "Almost three years. You look terrific. Still have the best eye make-up of anyone I know."
The man laughed. Sticking his sunglasses up into his neatly quaffed highlighted hair, he stared deeply into her eyes. "You've improved your technique. Love what you're doing with the eye shadow. It's a good color on you."
"Thanks." Just then Emily felt a presence slowly come up behind her. By the way Seamus looked over her shoulder, she knew who it was without even turning. It's her.
Erin Mahoney stepped toward her cousin as she looked at the blonde. "Emily, hi," she greeted as neutrally as she could.
"Hi, Erin. How are you?"
"I'm good. How are you?"
"Fine. I was surprised to see Seamus here. I was just catching up with him. What are you two doing in New York?"
"I sold part of Venus to Seamus. It was getting to be too much for me, and since he's moving here, he agreed to go in with me," the Texan answered.
"You're moving here? That's great. Why are you leaving California?"
"Because he thought it was a good idea to run off and fall in love with a Yankee. She's from New York and wants them to live here after they get married," Erin joked.
"You're getting married? That's wonderful. Congratulations," the attorney said, moving to hug him again.
He grinned. "I couldn't wait for you forever," he flirted.
She laughed. "It's all right. I understand."
To make polite conversation, Erin asked, "How's married life treating you, Emily?"
"I wouldn't know. I'm not married."
"What do you mean? You and Gillian aren't married?"
Inquisitively Erin asked, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"It just is. Seamus, tell me all about your special lady. What's her name?"
"Her name is Natalie Stevens, and she's thirty. She's a native New Yorker, grew up on the Upper West Side. She's in the fashion industry, teaches at Parsons School of Design. She's an absolute angel," he said with a dreamy smile.
"Sounds like a perfect match for you."
"Yes, he is," Erin agreed. "She's fantastic. The family just loves her, even if she is a Yankee."
Seamus looked at his watch. "Emily, we have to get going. We promised Natalie we'd stop by. I'm only in town until tomorrow, but I would love to catch up with you more. Are you by any chance free for dinner tonight? I would love to introduce you to Natalie."
"That would be great. I'd love that."
"Wonderful. Here. Let me write down her address. How's seven for you?" he asked, looking around for a piece of paper.
Emily gestured to the receptionist for some paper for him. "Sounds good."
"Great. I know the two of you will just hit it off."
"Should I bring anything?"
"No, come as you are. Oh, I'm so happy I ran into you. We'll see you tonight."
"All right." The two hugged again. She turned to Erin. "Bye, Erin."
"Bye," she answered with a smile.
The two Mahoney cousins went to the elevators. Seamus looked at her with a grin. "Well, Emily certainly looks good."
"Yeah, she does."
"I still don't know why you let that one go, Erin. She was a keeper."
"Yes, she was," the woman conceded.
Back in the office, Emily walked back to her desk as she looked at the directions. She was familiar with the location, so it wasn't going to be difficult to find. They both looked good. Suits definitely serve them both well. Seamus looked so happy. I'm so glad he found the right woman. Erin looked content, too. I wonder if there is someone special behind that. Sahar perhaps? I wonder if they're still together after all this time. She seemed to be the only one that could tame Erin. None of my friends talk about her anymore. She and Sahar must have settled down. If she hadn't, word would have gotten back to me through my single friends that she was still prowling. Knowing answers wouldn't come just then, Emily went back to work.
That evening the blonde pulled up to the address right at seven. She had come straight from work that evening, so she didn't have time to change out of her black pants suit and heels, but she did remove her jacket on the way into the building in hopes of achieving a more casual look. Riding the elevator, she checked herself out in the mirrored wall, fluffing her hair and straightening her signature scarf. She was so glad to have run into Seamus that day. He was one of her favorite Mahoneys, and she was thrilled that he seemed to have found his perfect match.
Going to Natalie's apartment, she knocked and excitedly awaited the woman who had won her friend's heart. However, it was not the woman she expected that answered the door. "Erin, hi," she greeted, trying not to act surprised.
"Hey. Come on in. We're just finishing dinner. Could I take your briefcase and coat?"
"Thanks," she said, handing over the items. She watched Erin place the briefcase at the base of the coat rack and then hang her suit jacket.
"This way." The attorney followed Erin through the living room to an open dining room and kitchen where she saw Seamus sweetly kissing a petite brunette. Emily couldn't help but smile at how happy he looked. "Either get a room or stop sucking face. Our company is here," Erin joked.
Seamus grinned as he turned to Emily. He took his fiancée by the hand. "Thanks for coming, Emily. I'd like you to meet Natalie Stevens. Honey, this is Emily Parker. She's an old friend of Erin's and mine."
"It's so nice to meet you, Emily. Seamus just thinks the world of you," the brunette said, extending her hand.
Emily shook it. "I feel the same for him, and I was so thrilled to know he found a special woman. He's one of the most wonderful men I've ever known."
"I am that," he teased, earning him a slap in the stomach from his fiancée.
"Would you like a drink? Some wine or something? Dinner's not quite ready," Natalie stated. "I knew it was a mistake to allow Erin and Seamus to cook."
Both Mahoneys pretended to look offended, making the two women laugh. "Wine would be great. Thanks." The four chatted amiably through their meal as Emily and Natalie got to know one another better. As Seamus had predicted, the two women hit it off instantly. Finally though as their meal came to a close, the talk shifted to the wedding. "What does your dress look like?" Emily questioned innocently.
"She won't tell me," Seamus playfully grumbled.
"No, I won't, but I'll show you if you'd like to see it, Emily."
"I'd love to."
"Okay. It's in the bedroom." The two women left the cousins in the dining area and headed back to the spare bedroom. Natalie pulled a dress from the closet. "This is actually one of the bridesmaid's dresses."
"It's beautiful. Who designed it?"
"I did. I designed and made it myself."
"Wow. You're really talented."
"Thanks. I love designing clothes."
"Seamus said you worked at Parsons. Must be the perfect job for you then."
She nodded. "I wouldn't want to do anything else. Here's part of my gown. It's not complete yet, but I can show you some sketches of it," she mentioned, pulling some papers down off the shelf in the closet.
Emily took a seat on the bed and looked at them. "If I ever get married I'd love to have you design my dress. You're amazing."
"Erin said you were engaged. You must be planning a wedding."
"Actually, I was engaged, but I'm not anymore."
"May I ask what happened?"
Emily shrugged. "That's a story for another time. Let's talk about something happier like your wedding."
"Oh, it's still in the planning stages. We're getting married in six months, so there's time. The one thing we have agreed on is that it's going to be an Irish wedding. Seamus and all the groomsmen are going to wear kilts. Even Erin has agreed to wear one. She's agreed to be his best man or woman in this case."
"Erin in a skirt. That would be a sight to see."
"She's say it's not a skirt. It's a kilt. They're completely different," Natalie said with a laugh as she too sat on the bed.
The blonde laughed also. "That sounds like her."
"She's being a good sport about it. She adores Seamus and will do whatever he asks. They care about each a lot."
"I know. Tell me how you and Seamus met. That must be an interesting story."
"I was out in California visiting a friend about two years ago. We went to this party at the beach, a friend of my friend's place. I was standing by the bar on the back porch talking to some girls when I saw this man at the balcony. He was talking to another guy. I remember thinking to myself what a hot ass he had," she said with a chuckle.
"The hot Mahoney ass. They all have it."
"So I've noticed. Anyway, I was intrigued and bewildered, because he's muscular but at the same time was wearing what were obviously women's clothes. He had on this pink cotton blouse and a pair of capris with flip flops. Then he turned around and smiled at me. I wanted to faint. I didn't even notice he had on makeup at first because of that smile. He had the shirt completely unbuttoned, and he has quite the body. I thought he was the sexiest man I had ever seen, but he was off limits, because he was so obviously gay. I mean the man had a manicure and pedicure. Well, he came over and started talking to me, but I didn't know what to make of him. He was so cute and flirty. We just chatted for awhile, and then he invited me to go for a walk on the beach. Still confused but definitely curious, I went with him. We were just walking and talking, and the next thing I know I felt his hand reaching for mine. Of course being under the impression that he wasn't straight, I questioned what he was doing. I asked him directly if he was gay, but he said he wasn't. Then he said he liked me and leaned down to give me a little kiss on the cheek. I still didn't know what to make of him, but his lips felt so sweet on my face. I decided to hell with it. We were both a little drunk after all. Even if he was gay, he was turning me on, and he said he was available. We kept walking, holding hands for a little longer, before we found a quiet spot to sit and talk more, and the next thing I know, we're making out. Come to find out, the man really wasn't gay, which was a relief. Although it posed another problem."
Natalie blushed. "He'd kill me if I told you."
"Come on. I won't say anything."
The brunette nodded. Breaking their gaze she giggled, "He has the biggest... thing I'd ever seen. I thought to myself that I didn't want to sleep with something that could kill me."
Both women laughed. Letting her new friend off the hook, she asked, "So that's how you met. I assume you started dating after that. How did you know he was the one?"
"That's sort of sweet actually. We had been doing the long distance thing for about six months. We talked on the phone and emailed all the time, and he would come to New York once a month to see me but always stayed at the hotel just a few blocks from here. That time though I invited him to stay with me instead of the hotel. We hadn't had sex or anything, just made out, and I wasn't even sure we were going to then, but I was tired of him leaving every night when he was here. I wanted to spend more time with him. That first night he was here I was lying in bed waiting for him to come out of the bathroom, and I started to panic. I had sort of gotten passed the women's clothes and the makeup, but I had never seen him in pajamas before. I started to worry that he might come to bed in women's lingerie or something, and I wasn't sure how I was going to respond to that. I guess I wasn't as ready as I thought. When he came out of the bathroom, he was out of his makeup and wearing a pair of men's pajama pants. He looked so uncomfortable and nervous. He clearly wasn't himself, so I invited him to get in bed with me. We cuddled for a bit, but I could tell he was scared. Thinking that it might have been the fact he was out of makeup and wearing men's clothes, I asked him if that's what he usually wore to bed. He said no. Of course I had to know what he did wear, if it was women's pajamas, and he said no, that he usually didn't wear anything to bed. He had borrowed those pajamas from his brother. I was a bit relieved by that statement, because I didn't know what I was going to do if it had been a different answer just then. Trying to make him comfortable I told him he could sleep naked if he wanted. Off those pajamas came as fast as he could get them. It was kind of funny actually. We started to cuddle again, but the innocent curiosity was getting to me. We had never had a serious conversation about him being a transvestite, and I wanted to know about it. I had already fallen for the guy, but I still wasn't sure about all that. We talked about it openly. He said he likes wearing makeup and women's casual wear, but he doesn't like dresses, skirts, or lingerie. Women's stuff was more fashionable to him, and he felt comfortable in it. I figured I could live with that. I leaned up to kiss him and told him I loved him no matter what as long as it made him happy. You should have seen the look in his eyes. It was like he had waited his whole life to hear someone say that. We started kissing, and you know, one thing led to another. Then the moment came. He did the sweetest thing. As I said, he's a big man, and it was as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be at first. He just let me set the pace, though. He just held me in his arms and stared intently into my eyes, and then he said the words that made me know he was the one. He told me he loved me and that he would be there to hold me and protect me for as long as I wanted him around. I knew right then I wanted that to be forever. He was the man I wanted for my husband. He was the one I wanted as the father of my children. No one has ever made me feel so loved, so cared for, so safe in my entire life. I honestly don't care about anything else but that." She sighed with contentment. Turning to Emily again, she smiled. "Seamus was right about you. You are easy to talk to. Here, we hardly even know each other, and I've told you about my sex life," she teased.
Emily smiled and gave her friend a squeeze. "I'm honored you both think of me that way. If I wasn't a lesbian, I would have fought you for him. He's the best guy in the world."
"He said that you and Erin...that you two had a history," hesitantly she stated.
The blonde nodded. Feeling as if she should disclose something in light of what she had been told, she gave an honest reply. "Yes, we do. We sort of had a relationship but then met other people. We still loved each other while we were with those other people, but it just wasn't meant to be. It was never the right time, and by the time it was, the feelings were no longer there."
"That's too bad. She's a sweetheart of a woman. She's as kind as Seamus is. I wish I could see her settled and happy like Seamus and I are. Both of us hope for that."
Emily nodded her head absently. Turning the subject off her again, she asked, "What does your family think of Seamus?"
The brunette's eyes dimmed as she shook her head. "They don't like what they don't understand. They don't understand the makeup and women's clothes. They think he's gay like the rest of the world. Although, it's nice not to have any competition from other girls, because they think he's gay," she joked. The blonde chuckled. "Seriously though, they don't understand that he is straight and that he loves me. He's a typical man in a lot of ways. You know, he likes to watch sports on the weekends and sit around drinking beer with his buddies. He could live on junk food. He sometimes forgets to put the seat down in the bathroom when he's finished going. He leaves his clothes on the floor in a crumpled pile. His gym bag smells like something died in it. He can get aroused by a strong gust of wind, and at the end of the day, he has the ordinary six o'clock shadow that feels like sandpaper when you kiss him. He is different, because he's a transvestite, and I know that, but that doesn't mean he isn't perfect, too. I hope they come to realize that he's so much more than what is on the outside."
The two women hugged. "I'm sure in time they'll see how happy you are, and if nothing else, maybe they can accept him as the one who makes you so happy. He'll win them over in time. No one can resist the Mahoney charm. You'll see."
Back in the dining room the Mahoney cousins were just sitting around the table drinking wine. Seamus looked over at Erin. "Wonder what their doing right now."
"Talking about girl stuff I bet, wedding and all that."
"You think they're on the bed?" he speculated.
Erin shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. Why?"
He grinned. "You think their touching?"
"Seamus, get your mind out of the gutter! She's your fiancée."
"So? Come on. It would be hot, right? Emily and Natalie together. I could just picture it." So could Erin but she wasn't going to say that. "I bet you $100 they're in there touching somehow," he challenged, pushing the issue.
Erin grinned as the image persisted in her head as well. "Deal," she answered. Neither moved for a moment. "So, which of us is going to go look?" she asked. Neither answered but then simultaneously jumped up from their chairs and dashed down the hall, laughing and pushing each other along the way to be the first one to reach the women. They both broke the threshold at the same time.
Emily and Natalie both looked startled as they jumped to conceal the secret wedding gown sketches. "What are you, boys, doing?" Natalie chastised playfully.
Seamus didn't answer her. Instead he turned to his cousin and demanded, "Fork it over. One hundred big ones." Erin rolled her eyes but pulled out her wallet and handed him a hundred dollar bill.
"What's this about?" Natalie questioned.
Erin laughed. "Yeah, Seamus, why don't you tell her?" He said nothing.
"Why don't you tell me, Erin?"
"Your fiancé was just having a lesbian fantasy in his head about the two of you," she teased. Seamus blushed, and Emily and Natalie chuckled.
"Of course he was." Natalie smiled at her lover. "You know, honey, as much as I like Emily, she isn't my type. If I were going to go lesbian on you, it would be with your sexy cousin."
"Ew," he grumbled, looking at Erin as if she had just contracted the plague.
"Hey. I don't say that about you," Erin stated, pretending to be offending. Turning to Natalie she grinned. "Really?" Natalie just gave a wiggle of her brows, earning more laughs. "Come on, ladies. Come back out here and entertain us before you put Seamus on erotic lesbian fantasy overload."
Both women nodded. "We'll be right out." When they were alone again, Natalie smiled at Emily. "You know, Emily, Seamus told me that you were Erin's first love. He thinks the two of you could be great together again. I could see why he thinks that. Do you think there's a chance the two of you could work it out?"
"I don't know about that. It's been a long time."
"Maybe you could think about it?"
"Maybe," the blonde conceded. "Come on. We should get back out there before they find more trouble."
The foursome talked late into the night before Emily decided she needed to get home. She thanked Natalie and Seamus for dinner before Erin offered to walk her out. The two women rode the elevator in silence before going out to the street. As Erin tried to hail a cab for the blonde, Emily said, "It was good to see you, Erin."
"You too, Em. It's been a long time."
"When are you going back to Texas?"
"Do you have any plans for lunch? Perhaps we could get together if you're free," she proposed.
Looking down at the blonde's face, Erin contemplated the offer for a moment. A cab pulled to the curb. "Sure. That would be nice," she answered, opening the door for Emily.
"Great. You want to meet at my place at noon?"
"That would be fine."
"You still remember how to get there?"
"Of course. I'll see you at noon," she said. Emily took a seat in the cab. "Have a good rest of the night."
Erin stood at the curb watching as the cab pulled out into traffic. She didn't know why she had just agreed to lunch with the attorney. She thought she was over her, but looking in those blue eyes just then, she wondered if she truly had moved beyond her in the passed three years. Heading back upstairs she was greeted by two sly smiles. She knew what they were thinking. "Don't even start," she warned.
"She's such a doll, Erin," Natalie said. "Seamus is right. Emily's perfect for you."
She shook her head. "She's with somebody."
"No, she's not," Seamus said.
"Yes, she is. She's with Gillian White."
Natalie shook her head. "She said she wasn't engaged anymore. You don't break off an engagement and stay with that person. She wasn't wearing a ring either. I think it's safe to say Emily Parker is still on the market."
"Yeah, I agree. You screwed this up once already, Erin. Don't do it a second time," Seamus advised.
Brushing them off, she said, "I'm going to bed. You two keep the noise down tonight when you have sex. Last night you kept me awake," she joked, earning two blushes from her cousin and his fiancée. "Good night."
"Good night, Erin," they said in unison.
Going to the guestroom, Erin changed clothes and settled into bed. She stared up at the ceiling in the dark as she thought about the night. She had noticed Emily wasn't wearing her engagement ring but had felt it insensitive to ask about it. However, Natalie had saved her the trouble. The Texan wondered if it was true, if Emily and Gillian were in fact no longer together. Her thoughts drifted to the last time she had seen the blonde until they ran into her that day. It was the day Gillian had made her proposal. It had hurt so much to watch the woman she loved accepting the proposal of another. When Erin had left that day, she wasn't sure if she would ever get over that sense of loss she felt walking away from Emily Parker that last time. She was sure she would never see her again. However, there she was suddenly back in her life unexpectedly. The time apart had changed her only slightly, but the years had been kind. She was still beautiful but seemed older. It was almost as if the wildness that once lay just beneath the surface of the attorney's presence was gone.
Erin understood that, having become more subdued in the three years since their last meeting. When she had walked out of Emily's life, she allowed her unruly behavior to culminate that very night by having a threesome with two teenage girls in an effort to negate her pain. She still remembered waking up the next day a shattered woman. The infamous rowdy Texan had finally been broken, sundered by the agony of losing Emily Parker forever, and she hadn't been sure she would ever be whole again.
Erin sighed. She wondered if she was going to be able to make it through their lunch the next day. She had felt a little something toward the blonde as she sat across the table from her that evening, which surprised her, because she thought as if she had finally reached her closure after all that time apart. However, it was obvious her heart might not have given up on the idea, especially with the knowledge that she was once again available.
Noon the following day arrived with some nervousness on Emily's part. The previous day had been unexpected. She was thrilled that Seamus seemed so happy. Natalie seemed a wonderful woman who loved her friend, and she was glad he had found her. Erin looked good, too. With all of Natalie's talk, I wonder if Erin is still single. It seems impossible, but she spoke about it as if it was true. Hearing the knock on her apartment door, she went to answer it. She smiled at the sight of Erin. The years hadn't changed her friend's style much. She was in her Levi's and boots with a blue shirt. "Hey."
"Hey. Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah. Have any idea what you want to eat?" she asked as they headed toward the elevator.
"I'm easy. Whatever you want." They rode the elevator quietly.
Emily wondered what the brunette might have been thinking just then. Four years ago they had practically had sex in the same elevator. Now each woman was lost in their own thoughts. The attorney had never imagined they would be the places they were in life. Once outside she suggested, "There's a French restaurant not too far from here that I've never tried. How about that?"
"Sure. That sounds good. Lead the way."
Their walk was quiet as they dodged the busy foot traffic for a few blocks until they were at the restaurant Emily had chosen. Once they were seated and had ordered, they looked at each other contemplatively. "So, how's Texas?"
Erin shrugged. "Fine. Hot. I'm doing some remodeling around the ranch, adding a playroom."
"A playroom? You mean a game room for adults?"
"No. For kids, actually. Jared and his fiancée had a little girl about two years ago. She's just the cutest thing."
"Jared has a kid?" she asked in surprise. "What's her name?"
"Erin Blaine Weiss Mahoney. She goes by Blaine."
"That's so cute. Does she look like Jared?"
"Almost exactly. We have strong genes as you could have guessed. She has her mother's sweet personality, though, thank goodness."
"Someone actually hooked Jared, huh?"
"Yup. She's quite a woman. Her name is Margaret Weiss. She's the Dean of Students at SMU, has her PhD in history. I love her. She doesn't put up with any of Jared's bullshit. She's got him so whipped. It's funny."
"That's hard to imagine. She older or younger than him?"
"She's forty-two. He's thirty-nine. It was bound to happen sometime. No one can go on that way forever. It gets tiring."
"Are you saying you're tired of it?"
Erin nodded. "Super Dyke hung up her cape a long time ago. I've put myself out to pasture before someone did it for me. Dating is like bull riding. It gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. It's an incredible ride until you get thrown off. I was thrown off one too many times, and it hurt too much. I'm too old for that these days. I need to take Margaret's advice. I should find a nice girl and just tie the knot. The thing is all the best girls have already been taken. There's not much out there now that I'm 35. I wasn't into good girls when I was younger. I have no idea how to even find one, much less how to court her. The only life I've ever known is with the fast crowd, and they weren't the marrying kind. I think my last chance walked out the door when Sahar and I went out separate ways."
"You broke up with Sahar?"
"A long time ago, three years or so. We were still bed buddies, but then she moved to Paris to be closer to her sister Mercedes."
The blonde nodded. Three years ago? How is that possible? You would have to have been broken up since around the time of my engagement party. You certainly still looked like a couple then. "I remember she had told her family about her. Her father disowned her?"
"Yeah. No one in her family speaks to her but Mercedes. That's tough, but she made that sacrifice for the life she wanted to live. She's still happier, and she loves being in Paris. It was the right move for her, but she was kind of the last reason for me to be in New York. After she left it just became a chore to come here. Venus is a great club, but I wasn't into it. Thankfully Seamus was interested in taking majority ownership of it, so I can focus on the important things at home."
"And what might that be?"
"Spending time with Blaine."
"I sold my business to my family's company last year. The Mahoneys are taking more interest in natural gas these days, so my former employees are solely working in that division with my former vice-president heading up the business line. They still work out of our office, and no one lost their job, so I was happy for that. All in all it was a good move for everyone. These days Daddy's retired, so Jared's heading up the family firm, and I'm on the Board of Directors, making his life hell when I can," she joked.
"So, are you really working then?"
"No. I still have my office at headquarters, but I never go there. For all purposes, I'm retired. I attend board meetings via teleconference most of the time. They put up with me, because I know more than Jared, and they need me, but I just don't have the drive I used to. The only business ventures left that I own are Venus and Texas Tornado. I spend some of time tending bar at Texas Tornado, and I've started breeding thoroughbreds at the ranch to help keep me occupied. Enough about me, though. Let's talk about you. How's work going for you? You're still at Johnston Brown after all this time."
"Yes. They made me Senior Vice-President as well as Associate General Counsel. Most of the legal staff reports up through me these days."
"Congratulations. You're big time now."
She nodded. "Well, I've gotten about as far as I'm going to with them unless Chuck decides to retire. I get offers all the time from other law firms, but I've decided I really want to stay. They pay me more than enough, and I enjoy it immensely."
"Do you think Chuck is ever going to retire?"
"Chuck, Peter, and I have talked about it. He's ready to vacate his position as General Counsel. He will remain CEO of Johnston Brown Accounting and Executive Vice-President of Johnston Brown Investments, at least for awhile longer. However, he's told me he's tired of being General Counsel. He's in his early eighties. It's too much for him these days."
"Do you think they have their eyes on you?"
Emily nodded. "They told me they did. I fully expect to be made Executive Vice-President and General Counsel of both firms by the end of this year. The transition is already underway."
"What about any further succession plans? Both Chuck and Peter are getting up there in age. Chuck's in his eighties. Peter's probably in his seventies, right?"
"Late sixties actually."
"All right. Surely they are thinking ahead. It's a family business after all. Do they have children to come take over for them?"
"Chuck has one daughter who is busy being a woman of leisure. He has three granddaughters about my age. They have no interest in the company."
"What about Peter's family?"
"His sons are heavily involved on the investment side, as you are probably aware, but they don't know anything about tax law."
"Sounds like you hold all the cards. Do they see it that way?" The attorney nodded. "So, what's their plan?"
Emily looked at Erin seriously. "I really shouldn't be discussing it with you since you are a client of the firm."
"I've already asked Chuck about this. He's already told me that he wants you to run the accounting firm. Is he going to sell out to you? Is Peter going to buy him out? My money's not going anywhere. I just want to know if they are doing right by you."
The blonde paused for another moment. "All right. I happen to know he's already spoken to your father about this, so I guess I can tell you. Chuck is looking for a buyer for his portion of the partnership in the firm. He's asked me if I was interested."
"Wow, that's incredible. They want to make you a partner?"
She nodded. "The problem is that I can't afford the price at the moment. We've decided to do a phased buy-out over the course of the next five years. When I become EVP and General Counsel at the end of the year for both firms, I will be buying twenty percent of Chuck's ownership in the two firms. The plan, when it is all said and done, is to own 75% of the accounting firm and 25% of the investment firm just as Chuck does now, and then he's out completely. When the time comes Peter's two sons will inherit Peter's 75% ownership of the investment firm and 25% of the accounting firm. The three of us will carry on Johnston Brown."
"So, let me see if I have this right. By the time you're 38, you're going to be CEO of Johnston Brown Accounting and Executive Vice-President of Johnston Brown Investments. Is that correct?"
"Yes," she answered nonchalantly.
"Damn, Emily. I'm amazed. I always knew you were the best. You couldn't have asked for something better than this. I'm so happy for you. You deserve this. You've worked incredibly hard for it."
"Thanks. I'm excited about it."
"You should be."
"There is only one thing I miss, though. I miss working on accounts sometimes. Yours were always especially challenging and gratifying."
"Well, they wouldn't be these days. Venus is going into Seamus's accounts. All I have now officially on the books are Texas Tornado and personal accounts."
"I could do that with my eyes closed," the blonde joked.
Erin laughed. "I'm sure you could, and you'd probably still do it better than anyone else."
Emily looked at her friend across the table. "You know, if you really feel that way, maybe I could take them over for you again. As you said, there's not much to them. I've had them for years, so I know them inside and out. It could be fun for both of us to work together again."
"Oh, I don't know. You sound awfully busy these days. I wouldn't want to get in the way."
"You wouldn't. If I thought I couldn't give you the best service, I would reassign them. If Chuck could do it, I can do it."
"I'll think about it. How's that for an answer?"
There was a pause in conversation. Even though Erin really didn't want to bring up Gillian, she noticed Emily wasn't wearing her engagement ring. She was curious about what happened to that relationship, so she gently asked, "Could I ask you something?"
"Of course. What?"
"Yesterday you said you weren't married, and then last night Natalie told me that you said you weren't engaged anymore. Did you and Gillian break up?"
Emily nodded slowly. "Yeah, we did, about two years ago."
"What happened? You seemed so happy," she admitted.
You happened, Erin. "It just wasn't meant to be. We had issues we just couldn't overcome."
"Could I ask what?"
You. I never stopped loving you, and she knew it. She never trusted me again completely after that trip to Texas. She said she had forgiven me, but she really hadn't. It was always an issue between us, whether or not I could be faithful, after that. I still loved you, and it infuriated her to no end. "Our families. Her family didn't really care for me, I guess, because I was so much younger than the rest of them. We didn't really have that much in common. She was the youngest of her family. She had siblings in their 50s when we met, and some of her nieces and nephews were close to me in age. I just felt like they treated me like a kid. Then my fathers, for whatever reason, didn't care for her much. They never said that, but I could tell. To this day, I still don't know what they saw in her that they didn't like."
"But if you loved each, couldn't you have overcome that?"
"Well, there were other things, too." Like the night I called your name out in bed instead of hers. I knew that was the end. The look on her face when I did that said it all. I had destroyed her. We fought so bitterly, and it all came out, the distrust she had for me, the animosity she held for you. She asked me if I was still in love with you, and I was tired of living the lie. I said yes. "You know, I did love her, but I think I was settling. She was great, had so many wonderful qualities about her, but when I accepted her proposal, I hadn't really thought about what it meant. She was asking me to be with her for the rest of my life. I couldn't see that happening. I couldn't see her as the last woman I was ever going to be with for as long as I lived." I had wanted that to be you.
"Well, I suppose it was for the best then. You deserve everything you want, Emily. You shouldn't have to settle for anyone or anything."
"I know that now."
"So, are you seeing anyone then?"
"No. Work has become my life. I guess I'm in the same boat as you. It would be nice to find someone to be with, but all the marrying kind of women are already taken. They have wives and families. Sometimes I think I've missed my chance."
"You're only 33. You have lots of time."
"One would think, but my life is only going to get busier. When I become a partner at Johnston Brown, I'm not going to have time for a social life. What woman is going to want to be with me? The types of women who I've always been attracted to are the ones who want to take care of me. I need a woman who is going to understand that I am my job right now, but most of them have egos that won't allow me to be more successful than they are. It began to eat at Gillian, even though she never said it. I could tell it bothered her that I made a considerable amount more money than she did. The women I'm attracted to are successful in their own right, and they just don't like it that I am, too."
Erin nodded her head. She knew the kind of woman about which Emily was speaking. At one time, she wondered if that was a path she was traveling. It had appeared that way, but it had all changed once she had sold her business. She was surprised how much she enjoyed filling her time those days with what she would have once considered inconsequential obligations, but her perspective had completely changed. "I guess I can understand where you're coming from. I've always liked the idea of taking care of a woman, so she didn't have to work. I wanted to give her the best, because I loved her. But I've come to realize, taking care of a woman has nothing to do with money. Sahar taught me that. She had more than enough to buy herself whatever she wanted, so buying her things didn't hold the same meaning. I had to come up with other ways to show her how I was feeling. It was hard, but I learned a great deal about what women really want out of life. It isn't necessarily money. It's security, emotional security. They want to know they're loved, respected, and beautiful."
"I would say that was true. That's all I really want."
"Well, then I would say you still want to be taken care of in a way, just not the way most people think of it."
"I know that your career is time-consuming, but I think love is worth any time you can give it. I would hate to see you just give up. I'm trying not to. I still try to believe there's someone out there, even if it is difficult at times. Now that I've sold my business and am spending life at a slower pace, I've realized how much I really do want to have that relationship with someone. I see Seamus and Natalie and Jared and Margaret, and they're happy in a way that I have never been. They have love and soon marriages, and Jared even has a child. I've come to realize I want that. I want to be married. I want to have kids. Blaine brings me such joy, and I'm only her aunt. I can't even imagine how wonderful it would be to have a baby with a woman that I truly loved. It would be amazing."
"Yeah, it would. Even if I haven't found the right woman, I know I would still love to have kids. I just don't know how to do it all. It would be nearly impossible to be single and have kids with my job, but if I haven't found her in the next few years, I think I might just go that route. We'll see." The rest of the lunch passed with light conversation between them. They parted ways on the street with a promise from Erin to consider Emily's proposal of taking over her accounts once again before she hailed a cab to take her back to Natalie's to gather her belongings. The next day Emily was at work early when she received a call from Erin. The Texan wanted to discuss the proposition further, so the blonde offered to fly to Texas to review the accounts before they would make a final decision, to which Erin agreed.
A week later the attorney landed at DFW airport for her business trip down to Texas. She went to the baggage claim to gather her belongings and meet Erin. When she came to the carousel, the tall brunette was already there, standing in patient wait. They greeted each other warmly, exchanging a hug, their first hug in the years they had been apart.
"Thanks for coming down, Emily. I hope I didn't cut into your busy schedule too much."
"Not at all. I haven't been on a trip in quite a while, so this is nice to be out of the office. It's nice to have a little time away, even if it is work-related still."
"Well, I promise not to do too much work with you here. If you want we can talk business over dinner and then have the whole day tomorrow just to hang around."
"We'll see. The flight down here always takes a lot out of me. I'm kind of tired."
"Then let me get you back to the ranch, and you can take a nap. I can't have you tired now. I wouldn't be a very good hostess."
"Oh, I'm used to being exhausted all the time. It goes with the territory of work."
"Well, that's not the way it is here. You are going to relax if it kills you," Erin said. Collecting her friend's bags, she led the way outside to her truck. She opened the door for the blonde politely, and then she stowed the luggage in the back of the cab.
"Man, it's hot. Why am I always surprised by the summer heat here?"
"You're just not used to it."
The ride down to the ranch was quiet as Emily looked at the passing scenery and fought to stay awake. She was tired, more so than usual, and was looking forward to a little rest once they reached their destination. Upon arrival Erin took the bags and showed her guest into the house.
"Here you are. Your usual room," she said, opening the door and placing the bags on the bed. She turned to the attorney and frowned. "You don't look so good, Em. Your face is flushed," she mentioned, instinctively reaching for her cheek. "Feels like you have a fever."
Emily's hand covered the one against her face. Sometimes you can have the softest touch, Erin. "I'm sure it's just the heat. I'll feel better after a nap."
"All right. Well, make yourself at home. I want you to relax. Take a nap, swim, whatever you want. I'm going to be downstairs in my office if you need me."
"Okay. Thanks." With that Emily was left alone. She looked around the room she had stayed in previously. On the nightstand she was surprised but secretly pleased to see a dozen pink roses in a glass vase by her bedside. You still remember. Slowly she pulled off her clothes and put on just a long t-shirt and then climbed into the bed. It felt good to be resting. Her blue eyes studied the flowers just a few feet from her on the table. She smiled to herself. After all this time I still wonder what might have happened if things had been different between us. We had so much potential, but I suppose it was for the best. You weren't ready, and neither was I. Now though you seem so different, so mature, but I wonder how much you have really changed. Are you more open than you used to be? You said you learned a great deal about your feelings with Sahar. Was that one of them?
Erin stayed away from Emily's room the rest of the afternoon. She figured her friend was sick and probably needed the sleep she wouldn't afford herself if she was at home, and she wanted her to get her rest. Around dinner time though, when Emily had not reappeared, Erin decided to go in search of her. Knocking quietly on the bedroom door, she waited for an answer. It took several knocks before a disoriented call from the other side beckoned her into the room. Opening the door, she walked into the waning light of the room to find the attorney sitting up in bed, obviously trying to shake herself from sleep. Her blonde hair was in slight disarray as she rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands.
Erin took a seat on the edge of the bed and just watched her for a moment, taking in the adorable childlike behavior. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," she mumbled.
Erin raised her hand to the blonde's face and felt her forehead with the back of her hand. "You still feel feverish. I better get you the thermometer."
"No, don't worry about it. I'm fine really."
The Texan shook her head. "Do you feel like eating at all?"
"I'm not really hungry but thanks anyway."
"You need to try to eat something. I'll tell you what. I'll make you some soup. I'll be back in a little bit. You stay put."
"It's not really necessary, Erin. I'm fine."
"I mean it. Just stay in bed and rest. I'll be right back."
With a nod Emily conceded defeat. She watched as her hostess left the room. She did feel terrible. In fact, she hadn't felt that bad in some time, but she didn't want to impose on Erin. Secretly grateful for the small reprieve, she snuggled back down into the bedding and closed her eyes once again.
As promised Erin returned shortly with a tray in tow. Placing it down on the bed, she picked up the thermometer and held it out to her friend, but Emily declined it. "You're going to take this and put it in your mouth or else I'm going to flip you over and do it for you the way we have to do Blaine. You don't want that now, do you?" she jokingly threatened. Shaking her head Emily took it and placed it in her mouth. "Good. I'm glad you see it my way," Erin mentioned. When it beeped, the brunette took it out of Emily's mouth and read aloud, "You have a 100.2°. That's not good, Em. Here. Try to eat something and take some ibuprofen."
Emily nodded her head before picking up her spoon. They didn't speak as Erin watched her patient eat a little soup and a few crackers. Then she dutifully took her medication with the ginger ale she had been provided. "Thank you," she quietly said.
"You're welcome. You just rest now." Standing to pick up the tray, she smiled down at the attorney.
"You're not leaving, are you?"
"Yeah. You need to sleep."
"No. I just had a nap. Stay here and keep me company."
"Let me just take this to the kitchen first, and then I'll come back."
Emily nodded in agreement. Once Erin was gone, she slid from the bed and went over to her bags. She dug out her toiletries and headed to her bathroom. She removed her contacts and then washed her face and brushed her teeth before heading back to the bedroom. Grabbing her glasses, she put them on and pulled out a book she had been reading on the plane before heading back to the bed.
When Erin returned from the kitchen she was surprised to find her guest sitting on top of the bed. Emily's bare legs were on display under her long shirt. The Texan could feel her libido respond in a way it hadn't in a long time at the sight of those pale trim legs, but she forced the prurient feelings away. Instead she gave a small smile as she took a seat on the bed. "I didn't know you wore glasses," she mentioned.
Emily nodded. "Contacts really but they were starting to bother me. That's what happens when you start to get old," she joked.
"I know the feeling. I had to get a pair of glasses myself recently. I'm still not used to them." Her eyes moved to those legs again. She saw them rub against each other for a moment before looking into her friend's face. Blue eyes were focused on her, and she knew she had been caught. Nevertheless, she said, "You should be under the covers."
Emily grinned. Interesting. You were looking at my legs in a more than friendly way. Looking at Erin's jean-clad legs, she said, "And you shouldn't be wearing jeans to bed. Take them off. Make yourself comfortable."
The Texan gave a lopsided grin in return. "I'll go change."
"Just take them off."
"But I don't have anything on under them," she mentioned. "I would hate to scandalize you. Let me just slip on something more comfortable. I'll be back in a minute." Emily watched Erin get off the bed and cross the room to the door. You still have it, don't you Erin? Even at thirty-five, you still have that hot ass.
By the time the brunette returned to the guest room, she heard Emily in the bathroom getting sick. Rushing to her, she saw the attorney on her knees in front of the commode retching. Erin knelt beside her and gathered the long blonde hair, some of which had gotten in the way and held remnants of her small dinner fare. She held it back with one hand and rubbed Emily's back consoling with the other until the worst was over, and the shorter woman was just kneeling there crying lightly. "Shh. It's all right. You're okay. I'm going to take care of you, Em," Erin whispered lightly, bestowing a gentle kiss to her wet temple. "Come on. Let me help you up." Gripping her by the waist, she helped her to her feet. That's when she noticed Emily had managed to get it on her night shirt and bare legs as well. "You're a mess, beautiful. We need to get this off you," she said, taking the long t-shirt by the hem and raising it over Emily's head before the attorney could even protest. Erin felt her heart jumpstart as a scantily-clad form came into view, but she forced it away. Emily was sick and needed her help. "Did you bring anything else to sleep in?" Emily shook her head pitifully. "All right. You can wear something of mine. Can you stand here by yourself long enough for me to go get it?" She nodded. "All right. Here. Why don't you brush your teeth?" Erin put the toothpaste on the toothbrush and handed it to her. "I'll be right back."
A few minutes later she returned with a t-shirt just as Emily was finished rinsing her mouth. "You have remnants of dinner all over you," Erin said. "Why don't we get you in the shower?" When Emily nodded, Erin edged her toward the shower and helped her out of her undergarments before turning on the water. "Do you need some help?" she asked when she noticed Emily just stood under the spray propped up against the wall doing nothing. The younger woman gave a faint nod. With only a moment's hesitation, Erin slipped out of her own clothes and into the shower with her friend. Instantly Emily leaned into her, holding her by the shoulders as her head propped on Erin's chest. The Texan did her best to force all her sexual thoughts away and focused on washing the attorney clean. Neither spoke during the process as Erin washed and then dried Emily before putting a new t-shirt on her. "Let's get you back in bed now," Erin said, scooping her up in her arms and taking her back to the bedroom to gently place her in bed. Tucking her in, she gave a consoling smile. "You just need to rest now. Don't fight it, Em. Just sleep."
"Don't leave," Emily whispered. "Stay with me, Erin."
"All right. I'll stay here if that's what you want. You just go to sleep."
When Erin was satisfied that Emily was asleep once again, she returned to the bathroom to clean up the mess that had been made. The attorney had managed to make a mess on the floor around the commode and on the rug. Getting onto her knees, the brunette scrubbed the bathroom clean once again and took the rug to the laundry room to wash before returning to Emily's bedside. For the rest of the evening Erin stayed with her friend watching over her as she slept before falling asleep herself late into the night. The following morning when she awoke she noticed the two of them had curled up together sometime during the night, and Emily's head was resting in the crook of her neck. Erin sighed. She had thought of this moment many times but given up on that dream a long time ago. Forcing the thoughts out of her heart once again, she eased from the bed to make her patient breakfast.
The next two days followed in similar fashion with Emily remaining in bed sleeping on and off. The two women just stayed quietly in each other's company, watching movies and reading, when the blonde was awake. Erin made all her meals and made sure she was taking her medication on schedule. Neither spoke of work until three days later.
"I really have to get back to New York," Emily mentioned as she finished off the soup Erin had made for her lunch that day. "Chuck's probably wondering where I went."
"No, he's not. I called him a couple of days ago and told him what happened."
"You called Chuck and told him I was sick?"
"Yeah. He said just to focus on getting better, that you had been working yourself too hard."
"Still, I'm feeling well enough to go home. I don't want to be in your way. You've been great this whole time, but I'm sure I've taken you away from important things."
Erin shook her head. "Not really. It's always a pleasure to have you here, Emily. It's nice having you around again."
The attorney smiled. "I like being here. It's so relaxing."
"Then you should stay until you're completely better."
"I can't. I really have to get back. I'll make arrangements to fly home tomorrow."
"Only if you're sure. You can stay here as long as you would like. My home is your home," Erin said, picking up Emily's tray. A hand on her wrist stopped her as the two women looked at each other for a moment.
I feel like I'm home whenever I'm with you. "Thank you for everything."
The next day Erin took Emily to the airport. After getting the blonde checked in, Erin carried her one carry-on piece toward security. They paused just before Emily went through the check point. The shorter woman embraced Erin in a hug. "Thank you again for all you've done. I'm sorry I was in such bad shape."
Erin smiled gently as she cupped Emily's face in her hand. "That is what family is for, to see you at your worst and still love you anyway. Daddy has always thought of you as a Mahoney, Em, and that is what you will always be to all of us. No matter what happens you have a home in Texas with people who love and care about you. That'll never change."
"Thanks," she whispered, unable to offer any other reply at the brief statement. Damn, I thought this was in the past. And now here you are again right in front of me. "See you in a few months when you come up for the wedding?"
"Yeah. I'm sure you're going to be invited, so I'll see you then."
"Great. Thank again for everything."
"You're welcome. Have a safe flight. I'll talk to you soon."
They hugged one more time before Erin relinquished the bag to Emily. With a friendly wave, the younger woman headed through security to catch her flight. You are so sweet these days, Erin. It's like you are a different person but one I definitely like. It felt so nice when you held me, and you took care of me when I was at my worst. Being around you again is like a dream. Emily looked over her shoulder just before she turned the corner to see if the tall Texan was still there watching her departure. She was. Emily waved once again. A smile played at the corner of her lips as she headed down the terminal. Oh, this could be trouble but in the best possible way.