Chapter 1

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Oral Sex, Anal Sex, Masturbation, Sex Toys, .

Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - John was working long hours for a company he had joined out of college. Coming out of a relationship, he thinks back to his first true love. <br>This is a story about love lost, love found again, and a decision to be made when two lovers live so far apart.<br>This story is quite different from my earlier works, but I hope you enjoy it just the same.

"Love", John Marshall muttered to himself bitterly, as he tried to clear his head, as he flew on his business trip. John was sitting in the window seat of a 757 headed to San Francisco, where he once lived, and where his parents still lived. He had gotten a job in Phoenix two years before, right out of college, installing software for a large corporation. It sent him everywhere in the country, sometimes for weeks at a time. Eighty plus hour work weeks were the norm, but he felt the experience he was gaining was worth it. It wasn't the formula for love or a lasting relationship, as his last breakup so clearly demonstrated, but he also knew that if he did this work for a couple of years, he could basically write his own ticket, maybe even settle down. Settle down. He thought about that bitterly. He had someone at one point to do that with, but he foolishly threw that away, and he was coming to realize that he wouldn't feel the same way about anyone else. Now he was just running, working, towards some obscure goal out there somewhere. He felt lost.

John was 24, two years out of college. He was 6'2" with dark hair and hazel eyes. He was clean shaven, and had traces of an athletic physique, which he once was. He had played baseball in High School and even his first two years of college, until his left shoulder blew out. While surgery fixed the damage, it effectively ended his baseball pursuits, leaving him to concentrate on his major in Computer Science. He had worked his way through school, doing some programming and internships, and was working for the company, Dyson Software, where he had interned his last two years of college.

John had no lack of female companionship if he wanted it. He never went about relationships casually, however, which sometimes had confused his teammates when he had played baseball. Some women would throw themselves at an athlete, especially on the road, but it wasn't something John ever pursued. That's not to say he lived like a monk. He dated girls in college, and even had one very serious one in High School. His last girlfriend, Julia, was quite a stunner. She was 5'8" and had blonde hair. They had started dating his junior year at Arizona State, and they had a lot in common, at least outwardly. They both majored in Computer Science, were both introspective, but open and funny around close friends, and the sex they enjoyed was hot, almost frantic at times. Their similarities also created problems. They were both very driven, and it affected the time they spent together. While it looked like a good match to their friends, they found over time that, while they enjoyed each others company, and professed their love to each other, John had that feeling, deep down, that Julia wasn't "The One", but attributed that feeling to their lack of time together.

Still, when Julia dropped the bomb on him that she breaking up to concentrate on her career, it left him devastated. His buddies, Joe and Don, took him out and got him plastered, while he cried on their shoulders. He went on a week long bender, in fact, until one morning he woke up and felt... Nothing. He didn't hate Julia, he didn't love Julia, he just felt nothing.

As the days passed, and turned to weeks, then four months, where he found himself this day, that nothingness turned to emptiness in his heart. He felt like something was missing in his life. Sure he was as driven as ever, but he started wondering what for. Surely, there had to be a goal in this drive? He thought about it on his flight, finding himself going over in his mind just what was his goal. He didn't have the "I wanna be the next Bill Gates rich" kind of drive. His drive, he was discovering, was one where he wanted to be the best at what he did, to be comfortable, and, he found himself coming back to over and over, someone to share it with. His thoughts then turned back to the serious relationship he had in high school. It was, he reflected, the last time where everything was clear. He thought of Amanda.


He met Amanda Wilcox in his sophomore year in High School. She was 5'5" with auburn hair and deep brown eyes that allowed you to see into her soul if she wanted you to. Unlike John, Amanda was outgoing and gregarious. John was smitten with her, as she was with him, and they started to date. They were the veritable odd couple on the outside: Bubbly Amanda and Thoughtful John their friends liked to joke.

Those opposite qualities, however, drove them together. Amanda had an uncanny ability to get John to loosen up and be more outward towards folks, while John could get Amanda to open up to him and talk about her dreams, as well as being a calming influence for her. They found, together, that they could sit and talk for hours, read books, and listen to music. Despite their differences, they found that their musical and literary tastes were identical. Yes, they could sit and talk, but Amanda could also drag John to parties, and get him to open up to others. He found, once at ease, he had a rapid fire sense of humor, which left everyone on the ground in laughter. He also found at times, however, that his insecurities would pounce on him, and he would sometimes go off on long walks, then long drives, once he got his license, to think, to wonder where things were going.

Amanda found this last habit to be a little irritating sometimes, but also knew he'd come back. Her love for him hit her like a freight train, and knew that he loved her, but was a little frightened by the intensity of it.

Amanda had transferred to Woodside High School her sophomore year from Oregon, when her family moved over the summer. She was always outgoing, to the point of severely irritating her older sister, Rachel. Rachel took to calling Amanda 'Katie Couric', making fake puking sounds whenever Amanda really got in one of her perky moods, which was quite often.

When John and Amanda started going out, she really liked the calming influence John had on her. It made her look inwards at times, and she knew from those introspective times that John was the one for her. She found it funny that John could be such a jock and a nerd at the same time, and knew he needed to be brought out of his shell. So, she dragged him to parties, especially with his teammates, and he seemed to open up. When they would dance together, she could sometimes feel his bulge against her stomach and giggle inside. She knew he wanted more, as did she, but she knew he would take things slowly. They were young, still a little unsure, and if things were meant to be, it would happen in its own time.

They went everywhere together, and spent the school year happily entranced with one another. When they kissed for the first time, during Christmas vacation, they literally felt electricity running between them. As John thought back on that first kiss, he remembered the intensity, the weak feeling in his legs, but most of all the look in her eyes when they parted lips and looked at one another. Even after six years, he still remembers seeing her soul. The fire, the shiny light, the pure heat in them. He felt complete.

He remembered a year later, when they made love for the first time. Amanda's parents were gone for the weekend and John was over at her house. They made out very passionately, their kisses of molten steel, and their hands roaming over each other, the feeling of heat as their bodies felt hot hands touching them. He remembered her taking off her shirt, seeing her beautiful perfect breasts, milky white and so soft.

He remembered her moans as he lowered his mouth to her nipples, the feeling that his cock would rip his jeans to shreds, especially when she put her hand on it, feeling him through the material. He would never forget the first time he unbuttoned her pants, and placed his hand under her panties for the first time. The softness of her skin, the coarseness of her pubic hair, the wetness of her pussy. She had reached for him as well, and he remembered trying as hard as he could not to shoot off when she put her warm small hand on his cock.

Their petting, which they had done some of before, but never to this degree, made them both dreamy eyed, which Amanda momentarily broke by taking his hand and leading him into the bedroom. Once inside, they had undressed each other, slowly, revealing one to the other fully for the first time. John could not get over the softness of her skin, seeing her chest flush with arousal, seeing her matching auburn pubic hair in the light, the puffiness of her pussy lips with the moisture dripping from the edges.

Amanda could not get over seeing John's lanky but muscular build, the hairs on his chest which she found she loved to rub her face against, and his cock... Oh my! It was larger than she figured, although, in fact it was average. She noticed that it bobbed up and down seemingly with his heart beat. She laid down and motioned him to her.

He got onto the bed, bringing a condom with him. She watched in fascination, as he opened the package and rolled the condom onto his cock. She told him she was ready, and he got in between her legs. She positioned him and he started inside her, feeling, even through the condom, the tightness encircling his entire being. Even though they were inexperienced, and didn't know a lot about sex at all, he pushed slowly, knowing the first time might be uncomfortable. He encountered her barrier and looked down at her.

Those eyes. Her eyes were like they were when they kissed the first time, but now had a deeper love than ever, but a little pain. She told him to go ahead, and he pushed through her maidenhead, coming to a dead stop when she yelped in pain, a tear forming in her eyes. She told him to continue, and he continued small in and out motions, going a little deeper each time, until he was buried fully inside her. He would have liked to remember that this was a fireworks setting lovemaking session, but in reality, she felt like it was pinching a little, and he went off like a rocket after a couple of minutes. They had laid beside each other afterwards, and giggled, but both of them knew it would get better with time. It did.

As time went on they explored each other fully in their now deeper relationship. They discovered the joys of oral pleasure (John's friend Eric told him with a laugh that they did everything backwards; they were supposed to enjoy oral sex, then intercourse), and a closeness John hadn't truly shared since he knew as he reflected on it.

He remembered with a frown how it had ended. It was after graduation and John was headed off to college. He got in to Arizona State on a full academic scholarship, with the promise of being able to pitch on the team. It was a combination he could not pass up. Amanda ended up getting in to San Jose State. They told each other, they tried to keep things going while they both went to school. The letters and phone calls were like clockwork for a while, but by the end of their freshman year, when John stayed in Phoenix to take an internship for the summer, things came to a halt. They didn't want the other to be tied up and tempted to be unfaithful when they were still in a relationship, as both put a high premium on monogamy, but knew it might be unfair to the other when they were going to schools so far apart. They both cried, and were devastated by it, but they felt it would not be fair to the other to continue if they could not be together. They both decided it would be best if they opened themselves up to see other people, and to enjoy college life. Looking back on it, John felt it wasn't the best in the long run, after all.


John came out of his daydream as the voice over the intercom indicated that they were descending into San Francisco. He gathered his thoughts and he turned his thoughts towards the purpose of the trip. He was to go to Santa Rosa to install sales and marketing software for a winery there, Kyle Johnson Winery. While it wasn't overly close to where he had lived before, and where his parents still lived, (Santa Rosa was 50 miles north of San Francisco and his folks lived 25 miles south of San Francisco in Redwood City), he flew in on a Saturday to spend a day or so with them.

He grabbed his suitcases, and together with his laptop, he went towards the curb, for the shuttle buses to take him to his rental car. He had told his parents, Jim and Barbara, that he would meet them at their home. He called them when he arrived to let them know he'd be there in about an hour, traffic permitting. Traffic was always a dicey thing in the Bay Area, and dicey it indeed was. It took him over an hour to get the 20 miles from the airport to the exit on the freeway that would take him to his parent's house.

He pulled into the driveway, and his mother came out to greet him. She had a big smile and tears in her eyes.

"Oh John, it's so great to see you", Barbara gushed.

"Aww mom, it's great to see you too", John replied.

"Come in, come in. Dad is still at work, but he should be home soon. There was a problem at the plant, so he had to go in today."

"Great! It's been a while since I've been home."

"I know", Barbara replied with a pout. She was an expert at guilt, and John knew it.

"I'm sorry, but I really have to do this for a while, so I can put myself in a position where I can live where I want and do the work I really love", John replied. That work was systems design, helping companies figure out what software and hardware they needed. He knew most of it already, but knew he needed to move up the totem pole to be credible, especially on his own.

"I know, and I understand", his mother replied. "Still, it wouldn't kill you to take some vacation time and come home a little more often."

'Man, she's good', John thought with a chuckle to himself. He tried to keep in touch once a week, but sometimes his travels made it difficult. He loved his folks, but was glad for the freedom.

"Oh, Eric called. He said you had told him you were coming to town."

"Yes, I did", John replied. "I might spend a couple of hours with him, but I came down here first to see you and Dad."

Barbara smiled, "I know that John, but it's alright if you spend a little time with Eric. I know you haven't seen each other in a while."

They chatted for a while and caught up on things until Jim came home. When his father came in they hugged and Jim joined in the chatting.

Barbara got up and went to the kitchen to start dinner. John and Jim followed. Jim went to the wine cabinet and took out a bottle of white wine. He opened it and took out two glasses. He then looked over at John and blushed a little as he took a third glass out.

"Sorry about that John. Even though you're 24, it's weird sometimes to offer a drink to your son."

"That's alright, Dad", John replied with a chuckle.


A couple of hours later, John was headed over to Eric's house. John's stomach was comfortably full from his mother's knockout Sweet and Sour Pork, which she knew John loved. John drove up to Eric's apartment and knocked on the door. Eric swung the door open.

"Einstein!", Eric exclaimed.

"Motor Head!", John replied, as they embraced in a bear hug.

"Damn, it's great to see you, John."

"Same here, man."

"Hey, so how have things been", Eric asked.

Eric and John had been friends since they were 10. They knew each other extremely well, their ups and downs, their dreams, and their outlook on life. Eric was into cars in high school, although he had since gone into Finance, and was working his way up the ladder at a large company in San Francisco.

"Oh, it's been going alright, I guess", John replied.

"Uh, huh, right! You still broken up over Julia?"

"Actually that's what's funny. I mean, yeah, I was for a while, you know that, but now I just feel, I don't know, empty."

"Empty? In what way? Empty without Julia?"

"No, not that. You know, even though her and I had dated for quite a while, and we seemed to have everything in common, there was something that didn't feel, complete, I guess the word would be."

"You know, John, that really doesn't surprise me", Eric said softly.

"It doesn't?", John exclaimed.

"Not at all. I didn't want to tell you this, my friend, while you were going with Julia, or any of the others for that matter, but sometimes your phone calls, and when you were together seemed, I don't know, forced. Maybe that's not the right word, but I didn't see that connection. I mean sure, you were both in the same field, but I could tell that Julia was all career. As for you, while you're still the brainiac I've always known, you just haven't seemed quite the same, quite as happy since, well, you know who."

John knew and it showed in his face and eyes. Eric saw this and inwardly winced. He didn't want to see his friend feel that hurt, that pain again.

John cleared his throat audibly, "Well, uh, how are things going with you?"

"They're going well", Eric replied, "I mean I'm pretty much over Sue, and I'm back in the saddle again." He said this last part in his best Gene Autry, which made them both laugh.

"Yeah, I know what you mean", John replied. "How's your folks and your work?"

"Both are great! My folks are, you're not going to believe this, getting a motor home. Dad's taking early retirement, and they're going to see the country. My job is doing well, and I may have a prospect with a pretty young thing in Accounts Payable by the name of Becky."

"That's great news, Eric! I think it's funny though about your parents getting a motor home. I thought you were the motor head. Now the motor head's parents have a Motor Home!" They both laughed.

"Speaking of which, do you still do that old drive off in your car thing?"

"Nah, not so much anymore", John replied, "besides I'm usually so damn busy I don't have time to think, and when I'm home in Phoenix, it's usually hang out with Joe and Don time or just sleep. Since I live alone, I have more time alone than I know what to do with. I found over the years that driving off isn't what it's cracked up to be."

"Yeah, that's good. Your friends down there are great, by the way. I had a blast at Spring Training last year down there with you guys", Eric replied.

"Yeah, I'm surprised you made it to the plane getting back", John laughed.

"Yeah, I know. It took me three days to recover from my 'vacation'", Eric said with a chuckle.

"Hey, I practically needed a week to get over hosting your vacation!" They both started laughing uncontrollably.

"Well, maybe I can return the favor. Are you up for going out for a bit?", Eric asked.

"By all means, but I have to drive to Santa Rosa in the afternoon tomorrow, so we can't overdo it. Besides, we're getting old, so we can't party like we used to."

"Speak for yourself, geezer", Eric replied with a laugh.


They went to Foster City, where there was a great Sports Bar. They hung out and talked, catching up as friends do. They both watched the baseball game, and it happened to be the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.

"So, are you an Arizona fan now?", Eric asked, teasing John.

"Hell no", John replied, "besides which who would ever follow that abomination they call a football team there in the fall!"

"Ahh yes, it's like the old days with the Giants. 'Empty Seat Night', where thousands of fans dress up as empty seats."

John laughed, "Or how about Personal Concessions Night, when there were more folks hawking Beer and Hot Dogs then there were actual paying customers!"

They both laughed and went on like this for a while. After a little while, they were both watching the game in silence, both nursing a beer. Eric looked over at John and, while John was his usual joking self, Eric noticed something, that same thing in his eyes. That sadness.

John, on his part, had been thinking about his life, and about Amanda again. He wasn't sure if Eric knew what had happened to her; her parents had moved shortly after high school, and wasn't sure if he wanted to open that wound again. The more he thought about it, however, the more he knew it couldn't hurt to ask. If she was gone, she was gone, and he could move on with his life. But if there was a chance...

"Uh, Eric?"

"Yeah, whassup?"

"Do, uh, you, know... Damn, why can't I get it out", John said in frustration.

"Are you asking what I think you are?", Eric asked. As he looked at his friend, he indeed knew.

"Yes, I guess so. What happened to Amanda? Do you know?"

"Are you sure you want to hear it?", Eric asked. John had never asked Eric before about Amanda, even though Eric had stayed in the area after John moved to Phoenix. Eric could also tell that it was eating away at his friend, and he wanted to help him.

"Yes, yes I do", John said with determination. "I just need to know what happened so I can go on with my life, let it go finally."

"Alright, but why don't we get ourselves a Brandy and relax, this might take a while", Eric replied.

They ordered a brandy and moved over to one of the table in the back corner, where it wasn't so loud.

"Well, as you know, Amanda and Margie, my ex-girlfriend, were good friends. I think they still stay in touch, although I don't keep in touch with Margie for obvious reasons."

John remembered that Eric and Margie had broken up as Eric was unfaithful to her when they were in college. John knew about this, but kept quiet out of respect to his friend. When Margie found out, it was all over. While John didn't blame Eric (Eric still had a little growing up to do at the time), it led, indirectly, to John and Amanda breaking up. Neither one of them wanted the same pain that being unfaithful brought, and weren't going to be unfaithful to one another as long as they were together, so instead they made a potentially bad situation worse with the pain of a breakup.

"Anyway", Eric continued, "Amanda was crushed by the breakup as I knew you were. She dated a couple of guys, and one looked serious at the time that Margie and I broke up. That was a couple of years ago of course. Still though, Margie told me that Amanda had this look about her, and looking at it now, it's probably the same look you've had since your breakup."

"So you have no idea where she is", John asked. He was crushed anew, as he felt she was gone.

"Well, I know Rachel, her sister, still lives in the area. She manages the big supermarket in Redwood City now", Eric replied. That got John thinking a little.

"I hate to bring this up, Eric, but how do you feel, about Margie I mean. I know you were a little broken up, but you still had wild oats to sow."

"I did, that's for sure. I feel that I screwed that up, literally." Eric smiled sadly as he said it. He continued, "Still, even though I look back on it now and realize I was an idiot, I also know I didn't have even a fraction of what you and Amanda had. Just looking at the both of you, as sickening as it was, said it all." Eric chuckled, as did John, albeit not very enthusiastically.

"Well, I guess it was for the best", John sighed.

"No it wasn't Einstein, and you know it", Eric stated.

They soon left the bar, and headed back to Eric's place. They talked for a little while longer about other things, then John got up to leave.

"Well, it's been great to see you, Eric."

"It's always great to see you. Keep in touch, John."

As John was walking out, Eric said, "You know, it might be an idea to contact Rachel. Who knows?"

"You might be right", John replied as he walked towards his car.


John woke up the next day, in his old room, and looked around. It had been redecorated into a guest room since he moved out, but it still felt a little strange, like he was transported back in time. As he looked, he thought about that long ago time, and about Amanda. As he did so, he got hard, hard as a rock. He found himself stroking himself, almost unconsciously, thinking about Amanda, her face, her gorgeous breasts, her responsiveness when she orgasmed, the smell of her hair, and her eyes. Almost before he realized it, he was at the brink, and exploded into his hand. He came hard, harder than he had in a long time. He took some tissues, cleaned himself off, and went to go shower.

As he sat down to breakfast, he talked to his folks, catching them up on how Eric was doing.

"So, it sounds like he's finally grown up", Barbara said.

"Aww mom, he was never that bad, he just, well, needed to sow some oats."

"Well, I guess you're right", his mom replied.

John suddenly had a thought as he thought about last night.

"Mom, do you shop at that big supermarket?"

"Sometimes, John, although you know I like the local one around the block. Why do you ask?"

"Well, it may be stupid, but do you know that Rachel Wilcox works there?"

"Yes, I sometimes run into her over there..." Barbara caught herself. She looked at her son, and smiled inwardly. 'Maybe this is the time, maybe he's ready', she thought.

She continued, "Although her name is Rachel Miller now. She got married a couple of years ago."

John looked at his mother. He caught a hint of a smile as he asked her, and he wondered what she knew, and what she thought about what they both knew was on his mind.

"Anyway", John said, "Do you ever talk to her?"

With his thoughts and turmoil of the last few days, hell, the last few years, he was on the verge of tears, and Barbara saw it immediately. She grabbed his hand, and took him into the den.

"Now, is there something you want to tell me? To ask me? Do you want to know about Amanda, Honey?", Barbara asked.

John broke down sobbing. "Oh mom, I really screwed that up, didn't I? I believe I've thought of her ever since we broke up. I know it may not have seemed like it, even to me, when I was dating other women, but nothing has felt like it did with Amanda, nothing!"

"It's alright, John", his mother replied, handing him a tissue, "You did it to each other. You were so worried about hurting each other that you hurt each other worse in the long run."

John looked up from his hands as his mother said this. "What do you mean each other? What do you know? What has Rachel told you?"

"You did it to each other", Barbara replied. "You both, from seeing you and from what Rachel has told me, haven't truly been the same since the breakup. Sure, you've been joking, and happy, but you haven't been truly happy since you split up, even after all this time. From what I hear from Rachel, Amanda sounds like she's the same way."

"Oh, mom, what can I do? Where is she? I want to go see her!"

"Well, from what I know, she lives up north now, near where you are going, in fact. She's working in Marketing, but I'm not sure where." Barbara lied. She didn't like to do that, but wanted her son to make the discovery.

"Well, I'll look for her this week, while I'm up in Santa Rosa. She may hate me, she may slap my face, but I just have to know if she feels any of this, I just have to", John wailed.

John calmed down, and they talked for a little while, a bit about Amanda, and a bit about where John was going in Santa Rosa. John realized that his mother seemed to have a lot of affection for Amanda, affection he had never seen before, or maybe just didn't realize in his teenage years.

At one point Barbara admonished John, saying, "Son, you're getting old before your time. You're driving yourself too hard. You need to slow down."

"I wish I could, mom, but what else is there for me? I hope I find her, and maybe that will change things, if she'll even talk to me."

As John left, and bid goodbye to his parents, he got in the car, and started driving to Santa Rosa.

After he left, Jim said, "Honey, I hope he'll be alright. He seemed to be pretty broken up about something."

"I think for the first time in a long time he will be just fine", Barbara replied to her husband. "I just hope Rachel's evaluation of Amanda is accurate."

Barbara left about 1/2 hour later to head down to the big Supermarket where Rachel worked. She knew that Rachel worked on Sundays; at least she seemed to be there when Barbara went to that store on Sunday.


She walked into the store, and asked if Rachel was in. A couple of minutes later, Rachel came out of the office, and looked at Barbara. While Barbara's smile seemed to say everything, Rachel couldn't be sure until they had a talk.

"Hi, Rachel", Barbara said.

"Hi. Come with me", Rachel replied, taking Barbara by the hand back to her office.

"John's in town, as I told you last time", Barbara started off.

"Yes, how is he doing?", Rachel asked.

"Fine, just fine, but he's had a revelation it seems", Barbara said with a smile.

"Do you mean..."

"That he asked about Amanda, that he cried on my shoulder about how much he screwed up, and how he feels that so much has been wasted, yes."

"Oh God, I hope Amanda sees this, that they both see it. I don't want my sister to go through the rest of her life not knowing if it could have worked."

"How bad is it, Rachel", Barbara asked worriedly.

"Well, it sounds like she is the same way that John is, but in some ways, worse. She has lost that bubbly spirit she had, Barbara. She just is, if you know what I mean. It was so stupid of both of them to break up over something that may happen but deep down they both had to know never would have happened."

"You mean being unfaithful", Barbara added.

"Exactly! They were so caught up in trying not to destroy each other over some phantom never-will-happen indiscretion that they ended up destroying each other anyway."

"Sometimes I regret John has such strong moral feelings, in that regard. He has always felt that if you're with someone, you're with them period."

"Amanda was always that way, too. I think if they didn't feel so much the same and so strongly, they never would have fallen in love as hard as they did", Rachel replied.

"Well, if your information is correct, and mine is, we will find out soon enough. Are you going to tell her?", Barbara sighed.

"No. I don't know how she'll react. She's been so different the last few years. That's something they both have to find out together, when they finally see each other. I hope they see it, both of them!"

"I do too, Rachel", Barbara said somewhat sadly.


John checked into his hotel and flopped down on his bed. He felt defeated. After the draining talk with his mom, even the long drive didn't fully revive him. He felt vulnerable, his emotions naked, no pride.

He checked the phone book for Amanda Wilcox, and while he didn't see Amanda's name he saw a couple of 'A Wilcox' in the phone book. He picked up the phone five, six times, even started to dial the first one, then hung up the phone. He kept gathering up the courage to call, to make something of the moment, but the moment kept slipping away.

"Well, I'll try tomorrow, after work, and this time you idiot, you will follow through", he yelled at himself in the mirror.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, he didn't feel like eating, but knew he had to, or he would be a mess for the meeting tomorrow. We made his way down to the hotel restaurant and picked at a steak, which he never came close to finishing. He went back up to his room and took a Brandy out of the Mini Bar. He poured it into a water glass and laid on the bed. He thought about the day, and thought about his search the next day. As he tried to put those things out of his mind, he soon fell asleep as exhaustion took over. He never even got undressed.


John walked into the offices of Kyle Johnson Winery dressed in his best suit, his laptop and materials in hand, as he walked up to the receptionist.

"Hi", the receptionist said.

"Hi!", John said, almost in a happy tone. Even though he didn't follow through on the phone call the night before, he thought he was revived, like a journey was about to end. In fact, his defenses were shot and he was running on fumes.

"May I help you?"

"Oh, sorry, ma'am. I'm John Marshall from Dyson Software here to see Lori Phillips."

"Oh, yes, you were expected, Mr. Marshall, please have a seat."

John chuckled a little to himself. Even though he was a businessman, and interacted with other business folks all the time, it still made him chuckle to be called 'Mr. Marshall'. He was only 24, after all.

After a few moments, a woman in her late '40s came out the door and walked over towards John.

"Hello, Mr. Marshall, I'm Lori Phillips." Lori was the VP of Sales and Marketing.

After taking a discrete look at her left hand, which had a wedding ring on it, John replied, "Good morning Mrs. Phillips. Nice to meet you. Please call me John."

"Certainly, John, and it's a pleasure to meet you as well. Please call me Lori and follow me."

John walked with Lori back and through the cubicle farm that is common in corporate America. While it was unusual for a winery to be set up in such a fashion, Kyle Johnson was probably the second largest winery in the US. Lori led John to her office, and asked him to take a seat.

"Do you want something to drink, John?", she asked.

"Yes, coffee, black with one sugar, please, it's a little too early for wine", John said chuckling.

Lori laughed, "I hear that one all the time, but one coffee coming up. I'll be right back."

Once Lori left, John thought, 'What is up with you today?' It was an uneasy feeling. His guard was still completely down, but he felt like he hadn't a care in the world, like he could open up completely, just like he was able to around Amanda way back when. He was an open book, and as such, didn't have his normal cautiousness about him.

Lori came back into the room, and gave John his coffee, which he accepted gratefully. They talked about the software, and what parts and pieces Lori felt they would need for the winery. John added some suggestions of pieces for the integration that might benefit the winery in the long run, many of which weren't explained by the sales force that had come to the winery from Dyson before him, and they had a good, professional rapport.

"Well, you certainly have some great suggestions, John. How long have you been at this? I'm not being critical, in fact, you certainly seem to know your stuff."

"Thank you Lori. I've been at Dyson for a year, but I've been involved with computers since High School, going back, oh eight years or so since I first laid my hands on one. I'm hoping to eventually go into systems design."

"Well you certainly have a knack for it, and you'll probably be doing design soon, if your work meets with your thoughts."

"Thank you, Lori; I hope this doesn't go to my head." 'Geez, John', he thought, 'you're almost flirting with the woman! Reel it back!' Try as he might, though, he just couldn't. He just didn't have the emotions left to steel himself up and shut them down.

"Well, let me introduce you to the team. They are a mix of young bucks, like yourself, as well as folks who have been here for a long time, who have a long term insight into the wine business. Ready to go?"

"Certainly, let's get started", John said, as he walked with Lori towards the conference room.

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