Chapter One - He
He sat at the bar nursing the first drink of the day. The ice made a sound as it melted and slightly compacted in the glass. The bartender had given him a coaster but he often set his glass down on the bar, next to the coaster, his mind on other things.
It had not been planned at all. They had worked together at the other company and they were both pleasantly surprised the morning he walked in to start his new job. It was refreshing to have a familiar face and a friendly voice the first moment of a new job. She took him under her wing, as she was an old hand in this new office. She had been working here for five weeks now.
He was happy that she was to be his assistant. It was tough walking into a management position of a new company and not have a friendly spirit that you could confide in, rely on to nullify the office politics and make you more comfortable in the new and imposing surroundings. He relied on her to help her win over those who resented the fact that he was hired from the outside. There were some that desired his failure and, while not actually sabotaging his efforts, did not assist him as much as they could have. He had seen the whispered conversations and the jealous glances in his direction. She had convinced many that he was a capable manager and that he was loyal to his co-workers. Most of the team resolved to work with him and give him a chance, and it was because of her confidence in him.
They had first started working together about eight years ago. He had just finished his work on his MBA. She had hired on at the company after getting her degree. They had discussed the reasons why she refused to pursue her MBA, but all he received were half-mumbled excuses and sometimes an embarrassed silence. He had finally learned that the money was tight since her marriage and that, although she wanted to move up in her career, the motivation was just not there to pursue her MBA
They had been put together from the first, at their old company. He was the confident, good-looking young man with the fire in his belly and she was the pretty young woman that worked well with him and seemed to be able to sense his wishes. She reveled in his successes and he shared his promotions with her and took her with him when the promotions to new departments or divisions came. He made sure that her efforts were rewarded financially as well, the salary increases and bonuses came to her regularly.
Their first project had been a resounding success and had changed the direction of the company. He was put in charge of the new product line and she became his marketing director. As the product line took off, they began to travel to customers and suppliers. Many times their travels took them to distant cities. They always conducted themselves as business professionals and there was never a hint that there was anything even remotely sexual in their dealings with each other. Other than the occasional hug between two good friends, no one had cause to suspect them.
On the fourth business trip that they took together, they both had one more drink than they should have. They had celebrated the huge sale to a new customer by having an elaborate and somewhat expensive dinner. They talked about the impact that this would have on their careers and the new possibilities that this sale had opened for them. He was ecstatic and she was happy that she had been able to help bring him to this point in his career. They talked for a long time after dinner like the good friends that they were.
After the dinner they moved to the bar to talk some more. They were both too keyed up to end the evening and neither of them wanted the exuberance to end. They talked about their future with the company and the directions that they should try to take the product line. He bounced a few ideas for a new product off of her and asked for her input. She was pleased that he had the confidence in her to share his dreams. The talk about their careers slowly became a bit boring and the conversation drifted to more personal things.
He found out that her marriage was not as good as she had led everyone to believe. There were no real problems with the marriage, only dreams that were never fulfilled, wishes that were ignored, chances for closeness that slipped away and a lack of the blending of two souls that made the desire for a child a driving force in their marriage. He found out that she and her husband had slowly grown apart until they had become like two roommates instead of partners in life. She confided that her husband seemed to resent her successes and would withdraw from her a little more with each new accomplishment.
When the tears came to her eyes, he waited until she volunteered to speak. He put his hand over hers and said the right words to her. She smiled and told him that since she had opened up to him, that it was his turn.
He told her about his marriage to his college sweetheart. She had worked to allow him to pursue his MBA. Her career was successful, but not as successful as his. She had devoted as much time to her career as he had to his and the hours apart had begun to take their toll on the marriage. She became obsessed with her career and was determined to break the glass ceiling that so many career women found in the corporate environment. He attended many of the obligatory business functions that she felt were required to advance her career. He always felt like an outsider at those functions, as she moved about the room making contact with the persons that demanded her time. He told her that his marriage was much like hers, two people living together hoping that someday a lightning bolt would hit them and make them a happy couple.
After they left the bar and went to their rooms, they stood outside to talk some more. They had reached a new plateau in their relationship, but they were afraid to pursue it. They both knew that if they had, there would be no turning back. She reached up to him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. He grabbed her and pulled him to her and held her close to him. After several minutes they knew that they either had to separate or see if the new feelings that they were having were real. In the end, she moved away from him, not sure of what she was experiencing inside of her heart, and she went to her room alone.
The next day they talked as if the night before had never happened. Their conversation was just slightly more animated and he often took the chance to touch her hand or place his hand on her back as they left the room and any number of ways that a man has to show his feelings for a woman, while trying not to show the world that he cares for her. There was never another occasion where they gave into their feelings for each other, not until a year later.
They went to a trade show that was to last five days, to show off the latest offerings of the company. The new products were state-of-the-art and they both had played a major part in the development of the products. He was now the vice-president of product development and she held his old position as division manager. Their product line was well received and, at the end of the first day, they had many new leads to be followed up. The show closed for the day and he suggested that they celebrate their latest success by going to the best restaurant in town for dinner. They left to go to their respective rooms and clean up and dress for dinner.
He was waiting in the hotel lobby when she got out of the elevator. His heart jumped when he saw her. She had on a form-fitting black dress that came to a point about two inches above her knees. The pearls around her neck accented the dress perfectly. Every one of the men in the hotel lobby turned to watch as she walked up to him and took his arm. They walked out of the lobby and to the rented car.
The dinner was all that they had hoped it would be. They talked incessantly and laughed often. He admitted that he knew little about wine and let her pick the wine that best went with their meal. He thanked her for her contributions to the new products and she told him that she was only able to be of help because he was so good at motivating her. They talked about their goals. The wine mellowed them and they began to talk about how each of them enjoyed working with the other.
They moved to the bar after the dinner and he ordered a drink for each of them. They continued to talk and the conversation was different from the conversation at dinner. They talked about life, their thoughts on politics, their plans for the future and anything else that would keep them at the bar talking. Neither of them wanted to go to the loneliness of their room.
The ice in their drinks melted and the drinks started to warm. The customers at the bar had thinned out and there were only two other couples in the bar. He put his hand over hers and she looked into his eyes. Neither of them spoke but their unspoken words were heard. He took her hand and they left the bar and headed toward the elevators. He put his arm around her waist and held her to him. Her eyes looked deeply into his and she saw the depth of his feelings for her. They both knew where this was heading and they walked toward the inevitable willingly.
.... There is more of this story ...