Claire Atwater let out a soft sigh of relief as the long meeting finally ended. Finally, her firm was about to hit the big time, the acquisition of the much coveted Saint-Abbott account was a symbol of success. It was a goal she had devoted all her energies to over the last few months, forsaking even the semblance of a personal life.
At forty-six, Claire was still a strikingly good-looking woman. Standing five eight and just a little over a hundred and thirty pounds, she wore her thick blonde hair cut just above the nape of her neck. Her small rounded breasts still drew attention, even when she was wearing one of the business jackets and skirts that she normally wore to the office.
Many a colleague had asked her out over the years, only to be gently rebuffed. Since the night she had first gone to bed with another girl when she was sixteen, the businesswoman had never pictured herself as being with anyone other than another woman.
It was hard for Claire to keep from breaking out into relief-filled laughter as a few of the other negotiators came up to congratulate her on the deal. Finally, one by one they left the conference room, until only she was left. Or so she thought.
Looking out the window down onto René-Lévesque Street, and then the city of Montreal spread out beyond, Claire finally let herself relax. It had been a long hard climb, but in the end was worth it. All of her dreams were about to come true, well her professional ones at least.
"I don't mean to intrude," a quiet yet powerful voice from behind startled the blond haired woman, causing her to jump just a barely perceptible distance.
She turned around to face the speaker, greatly surprised at whom it turned out to be.
"I'm sorry if I startled you," Vivian Saint-Abbott said with a warm smile. "I just wanted to add my congratulations to the others. Aside from the fact that I was impressed myself by the presentation, I'm always pleased when a woman achieves success, especially in a field too often dominated by men with inferior talents."
"Thank you," Claire replied, wondering if there was something more in Vivian's choice of words. "I'm sure we'll do a job that'll justify your decision in picking us."
"Oh, I really don't take part in the decision making process, at least as far as the business is concerned," Vivian said as she looked beyond Claire to the long row of framed photographs on the conference room walls. "I'm much too easily swayed by a pretty face to make an impartial decision. That's what I have a staff for, to keep it all on a professional level."
The salt-and-pepper-haired fifty-two-year-old's choice of words seemed to be carefully selected and contain twin meanings. Watching her examine the photographs, Claire couldn't help but wonder if she was trying to send her a message.
Throughout the long weeks of discussions, Vivian Saint-Abbott had been noticeably absent from the meetings. It was only at the final conference that she made an appearance, and even then she had remained unusually silent through the proceedings.
Despite her silence, it wasn't as if Claire hadn't paid a great deal of attention to the older woman. Slightly taller, wearing the latest designer fashions, Vivian Saint-Abbott was perhaps the most attractive woman she had seen in quite a long time. It would've been an outright lie to say that, despite the importance of the subject matter being discussed, Claire hadn't allowed her mind to wander for a brief moment to consider Vivian as a woman.
More than once, Claire's eyes had found themselves drawn to the swell of Vivian's larger mounds, as well as the smoothness of her long legs. It didn't help Claire's concentration to recall that it had been over six months since she'd last been with a woman.
A hundred and eighty nights since she had felt the body of another woman against her own, and that had been only a brief single encounter with a woman she met at a business conference in Toronto. Still, the memory of Rhonda's flesh against her own, and the softness of her lips were still fresh in her memory. Fresh because it was all she had to warm her on those coldest of nights.
"These are beautiful animals," Vivian said as she reached the end of the row. "Do you ride?"
Claire moved over to Vivian's side and looked at the photograph she was looking at. It was an image of the horses at the riding stable she liked to frequent.
"It's one of my passions," Claire replied, "but I never seem to be able to find the time anymore. The price of success I guess."
"Oh you must find the time," Vivian said. "What good is success if you don't take the time to enjoy life as well."
"I guess you're right," Claire said, not wanting to disagree with her newest client.
"I love to ride as well," Vivian continued. "We have a small stable out at our country house at Lake Saint-François on the Chemin de l'Anse, but it's so hard to find good riding partners."
"I imagine so," Claire replied.
"You know, I just had the most wonderful idea," Vivian said as she turned to face Claire. "The weather is supposed to be quite lovely this weekend. Why don't you come out to Hudson and ride with me. In fact, why not spend the weekend. I can't think of a better way to begin our new relationship."
Claire was greatly surprised by the offer. She looked deep into Vivian's eyes and saw a spark that she found strangely familiar. A look she had seen in her own mirror many times.
"I'd love to," Claire answered, still lost in the depths of her eyes.
"Excellent," Vivian smiled, turning on her feet and snapping up her bag off the conference table. "I'll send a car by to pick you up in the morning."
With that she was gone.
Claire now stood alone in the empty conference room. Just before she had left, the blond had seen something else in the older woman's eyes. Something both enticing and forbidden.
Claire awoke with anticipation the next working, quickly tossing off the covers of her bed and heading into the shower. The hot running water felt wonderful against her skin as she ran soapy hands across her body. As she began to run her hands, now filled with shampoo through her hair, she let her mind wander.
Laying awake last night, she had considered the idea that perhaps she was making too much of what she perceived as Vivian's interest in her. After all, there was no reason for her to assume that Vivian even knew that she was a lesbian, much less that she might be one as well.
It wasn't like the forty-six year old made any effort to conceal it, having come out soon after college. Yet at the same time she didn't exactly wear a nametag that said it either. Vivian might actually be interested in no more than a riding companion. Either way, she promised herself that she would take advantage of the day, whatever did or didn't develop, and enjoy herself.
Dressing took a short time as she'd laid out her clothes and riding gear the night before. When the car Vivian had promised showed up a short time later, Claire was ready to go.
When she first arrived at the country house, Claire had been met by a quite beautiful young twenty-year old platinum blond named Stéphanie. The French-speaking girl was quite well endowed, something that was hard to miss in the rather provocative maid's outfit that she wore. It wasn't anything that the girl actually did or said, but Claire got the distinct impression that she resented her being there.
Vivian appeared a few minutes later, wearing what Claire knew to be a quite expensive riding outfit. Just the tall leather boots cost more then most working women made in a week. She instructed Stéphanie to show Claire where she could change, then said she'd meet her guest out by the stables around the back of the house.
Vivian had been right about more than a few things. The weather was indeed lovely, at least for most of the morning, and it had been much too long since Claire took time off to enjoy herself. The horse she been lent was a fine animal and a pleasure to ride. And the trails around the Saint-Abbott estate were incredible as well. Just the sort of place that Claire pictured herself having when she dreamed of unlimited success.
They had been riding for well over an hour, alternating between slow walks and racing bursts across the countryside. The two women were having so much fun that it was almost too late that they noticed the darkening clouds quickly moving in from the East.
"Oh damn," Vivian said in futile protest when she saw the clouds, "I was so hoping that they were wrong when they changed the weather forecast early this morning."
As they made their way back to the house, it became obvious that the now dark gray clouds would overtake them before they got there. The sky echoed with a resounding thunderclap, sending a torrential downpour onto them as they were still an eighth of a mile from their goal. The intensity of the shower was such that even in that short distance, they were soaked to the skin.
Two of the stable hands ran out to meet them, taking care of the animals as they led them back to their quarters. As they stepped into the rear door of the kitchen, Stéphanie was waiting for them with twin crystal balloons of warm brandy.
"Oh that feels good," Claire said as the warmth of the liquid spread across her cold and wet body.
As she finished her own drink, Vivian instructed the maid to take Claire to the guest bedroom down the hall from her own. She would be able to shower there and get out of those wet things. When they reached the top of the stairs, her hostess excused herself and headed for her own bathroom.
.... There is more of this story ...