The day, a very busy one, was drawing to a close, and Stephanie was just as happy about it. It was to be a 'big' evening, at least it was that for Stephanie and Libby, her daughter. Libby was in a play at her elementary school and Stephanie was looking forward to it with great anticipation. It was a mother and daughter kind of thing for them, a really positive thing.
They had certainly bonded, the two of them, since the disappearance and eventual death of the no account that had wooed Stephanie, when she was still young and certainly without very much experience. They seemed to be as much girlfriends these days as a Mom and daughter combination.
She sometimes looked back on those days and the way that she was at 17 and shook her head in dismay. That kind of perspective was also enhanced by the fact that Libby, now 11 years old, was only about 6 years from that age herself. It certainly gave Stephanie cause to pause and think.
She'd made arrangements for Libby to get a ride to the school in plenty of time for her preparations for the evening's big shindig, promising that no business would keep her from getting there in plenty of time and being part of Libby's 'claque' in the audience.
Stephanie knew that she could get away on time. Things were certainly humming with the business these days. She smiled with herself and let out a sigh. It was such a heady thing for her, whenever she allowed herself to think about it, to be the CEO here, one of the few, she knew, afro-american women in this industry in such a position. She also knew that she had Mr. K, the big boss of all of the K Industry holdings for that opportunity. She even sometimes wondered if there might be some way that she'd be able, at some time, to say a proper 'thank you' to him for this opportunity.
Her reverie was broken by the intercom and Wendy, her secretary/assistant's voice:
"Boss, it's Mr K! He's here and he's coming to see you."
"Oh dear!" Stephanie said, and all her thoughts of what she needed to do for Libby's big night went out the window.
There was a knock on the door then and, when Stephanie said 'come in', Mr K himself opened the door smiling.
"Your spy warned you," he said with a wide grinning smile.
"She did!" Stephane said, rising from her desk and extending a hand, as she went across the office. "It's what she gets the big bucks for!"
They both laughed at that, and, as they were laughing, heard a snort from the doorway, where Wendy was standing, hands on her hips and pretending to glare at them.
There was a great contrast, yet symmetrical similarity between these two, Stephanie Hill and Mr. K, her ultimate boss, the owner of the conglomerate.
He was tall and, though only in his mid 50s, already white haired, which he had a tendency to wear a bit long on his collar, and sported a white, neatly trimmed beard and a white mustache. Stephanie was a lithe and athletic looking afro-american woman in her late 20s. She was as tall as Mr K was and wore her hair close cropped to her skull, in its normal small curls.
Both were in very good shape, Stephanie was a work out junkie and Mr K, already the victim of a heart attack at an early age, and determined to not have another one, also was fairly regimented about his work outs.
In addition to her athletic type figure, Stephanie also was physically very pleasing, with 38c breasts and a lovely rounded butt.
"Much good it ever did me!" she would say to herself or periodically to Wendy, when they talked about Stephanie's lack of a romantic life, and her past bad decisions.
"Your turn is coming!" Wendy was fond of asserting during these kinds of discussions.
"Well, it had better hurry up!" Stephanie answered, "Before I'm too old and frail to take advantage of it!"
They invariably ended giggling about the situation, although Wendy did worry and Stephanie tried not to think about it.
Her normal rejoined was: "And besides, I have the company!"
A SPECIAL EVENING
And here it was Friday and Stephanie had plans and the owner, the big, big boss was here in her office and she knew that she was simply caught.
"Stephanie," he said, smiling, "It's so nice to see you. Do you have a few minutes. I'm in town and was hoping to be able to just have you review the situation here for me. I apologize for the abruptness of this."
"Of course, Mr K!" she said, smiling and inviting him to a chair in her sitting alcove, thinking, while he took a seat that the apology certainly sounded genuine.
"Please," he said, "It's Brad, and I know this is horrible of me!"
"Brad!" she repeated after him.They sat and began the review that he wanted. Stephanie was a really well organized person and the review that she began to give to him was in great detail, giving him a ten carat smile.
During the course of what they were discussing and the material that they were reviewing, the time simply flew. Wendy had already left quietly, knowing that the two of them, in Stephanie's office, would be at it for quite a while.
It was only later that Stephanie's phone rang. She apologized and answered it, it was Wendy with a reminder, and, almost as soon as she did, let out a loud screech, and yelled 'thank you', into the phone.
"What?" Brad asked, concern in his voice.
"I forgot," Stephanie wailed, "In the middle of our discussion about the business, the company and goals and all, my daughter Libby has a show at her school tonight, that she's in and I must, must be there."
"And I've kept you away from it!" he said in a guilty voice.
"Ohhhh," Stephanie wailed, "I'm not going to make it with traffic and all."
"Where is it?" he asked, and she told him.
He got his own iPhone out then and made a quick call:
"Stan," he said. "Yes, We need the helicopter right away, and a place to set it down near Stephenson Elementary. You can? Yes? Good! Yes, we'll be up in a few minutes."
"Oh," Stephanie said, "I didn't mean..."
"No, please," he said, "I made you late and I insist on correcting that. This will be my apology. We need to go to the roof heliport now."
"Oh, yes," she said, "Thank you so much, Mr ... Brad!"
Without another word, they went to the roof, where Stan, the chauffeur had everything ready for them. They were at the Elementary School site, where Stan had already gotten permission to set down in a near by athletic field, in no time at all.
When they stopped, he was still looking concerned and she said to him:
"Thank you so much; this means a great deal to Libby!"
"Well, then I'm happy to do it!" was his reply.
Stephanie hurried into the building, while he gave Stan some instructions, and then he, himself followed her into the building. He found her quickly, seated among the throng of families, mothers and fathers. He also happily discovered that she had a seat next to her.
He touched her on the shoulder and she looked and got a grin on her face.
"Is this seat taken?" he asked.
She smiled and said: "Reserved for you!"
"Well how nice!" was his reply. "You don't mind if I see your Libby's debut?"
"What a treat!" she assured him and he settled down with her to enjoy the show.
When it was finished, they were standing and waiting for Libby and talking.
"I didn't want to strand you here after I'd almost messed up your evening and then had you flown out here. If you don't mind, I'll have Stan run us back to the heliport and you can get your car to get home."
"What a treat that'll be for Libby!" she said.
It was just then that they heard a loud "Momma!" and her little girl, all pig tails and broad white toothed smiles, came bounding out of the hallway and into her arms.
"Libby, honey, you were wonderful! Just wonderful!" Stephanie said, once the hug was enjoyed, "This is Brad, Brad Kenniston!"
Libby, without a hesitation said: "Mr K? You mean the Mr K?"
"Libby!" Stephanie said in a soft voice trying to make sure that Libby didn't just go on about it!
"How cool is that!" Libby said, grinning broadly at both of them, and sticking her hand out to shake Brad's, "You're dating the big boss!"
"Libby!" Stephanie said but Brad was already laughing, as was Libby.
Brad finally came to Stephanie's rescue: "No, Libby, as nice an idea as that might be, I'm afraid that I almost made your Momma miss tonight's sterling performance by sitting with her and talking business."
Libby gave Stephanie a hard look and Stephanie put up her hands and said: "But we made it!" She hardly hesitated and went on: "Thanks to Brad."
"Thanks how?" Libby asked.
"Well," he said, taking up the narrative at that point, "We'll leave that a secret for right now. I think we need to go this way."
He led them out to the edge of the athletic field, where the helicopter had already warmed up and Stan was waiting for them.
Libby shrieked! "Noooooooooooooo!" she yelled, dancing in place now. "You didn't?"
Stephanie laughed and Brad smiled and said: "But we did! Care for a ride?"
"Can we, can we? Oh, Momma! I'll clean up my room and all!"
Stephanie laughed and Brad jumped in with: "Oh, maybe you don't need to get so radical about it!"
They laughed all thee of them, as Libby walked between them, the very picture of contentment, holding Brad's hand on the one side and her Momma's hand on the other, as they went to the helicopter and Stan got them aboard.
"This is so cool!" Libby said, wide eyed, as she looked around. "I want to learn how to fly it!" she said decisively.
"Well, you have to make friends with Stan then," Brad said.
"Stan, Stan!" Libby almost shouted.
"When we get a chance, if Mr K and your Momma say 'okay', I'll take you up, just the two of us!"
"Yippee!" Libby cried out and then went silent, as the big machine started into motion and lumbered up off of the ground. She struggled to remain quiet all the way to the heliport at the building but looked around with increasing wide eyed joy. Every now and then she threw her Momma and Brad a huge, wide smile.
The ride to the heliport was a huge success with Libby, and she was polite and profuse in her thanks both to Mr K and to Stan, the pilot.
When they were back at the building then, Mr K said: "Look, I've knocked your evening off kilter so much, and this is a celebration of a broadway triumph, can I treat you out at least for ice cream?"
Libby gave her mother an almost beseeching look and Stephanie agreed:
"You're spoiling us!" Stephanie said.
"What a nice idea that is!" was Brad's reply.
They were met by Stan in front of the building. It was Brad's normal car for business occasions, a black Mercedes limo. Once again Libby was the very essence of bouncing enthusiasm.
"This is so cool!" she declared to all three adults. "People will wonder what rock star is cruising by in this baby!"
"Well," Brad said, "Your performance tonight certainly deserves the compliment of a limo!"
Libby grinned at Stephanie and gave Brad a hug, clinging to him for a moment.
"Oh, I like you!" the little girl said with her characteristic enthusiasm.
"What a nice compliment," Brad said, hugging her back.
They went to a Culver's for ice cream, while both Brad and Stephanie had a salad, since it was dinner for both of them.
"This is such poor fare," he said to Stephanie at one point, "I promise to make it up to you with a special dinner as soon as you'll allow me."
"I think you're treating us quite well!" Stephanie answered.
"Momma," Libby broke in, "He's asking you for a date! Let him!"
Brad laughed, and Stephanie giggled.
"Maybe you should listen to your social manager!" he said, and the three of the laughed.
"Oh, I'd like that!" Stephanie said.
He got a more serious look on his face then and went on:
"Stephanie, I have to be in Vienna on Monday, I apologize but I can't avoid it. Could we, uh, tomorrow morning?"
She broke in at that point: "Yes, we can; you've been so nice about tonight. We'll get our work done tomorrow morning."
"Can I come along too?" Libby asked.
He laughed and said: "Of course, then I'll take all three of us out to a proper lunch! How's that?"
"Super!" Libby said, grinning at him and at her Momma, and it was all settled.
"But then," he went on, "You must let me treat the two of you next weekend to make up for it! Will you? I'll make it a pleasant surprise!"
Stephanie turned to Libby immediately and said: "Libby, I will answer his request; you will not!"
"Yes, Momma," she said but still grinned at Brad.
Then Stephanie turned to Brad and said: "We'd love that; just let us know if there are any preparations that we need to make."
"Will do!" he said.
Their evening was a huge success. He made sure that he went back to the parking garage with them, walking them to their car, before he and Stan left.
As they got to the car, Libby said casually: "Shall I go on ahead so that you two can snog?"
"Snog?" Stephanie said. "Where did you learn that term, young lady?"
"British murder mysteries!" Libby said with obvious pride.
"We are not going to, as you put it, 'snog', thank you!" Stephanie said with Libby grinning all the while.
In the end Stephanie and Brad did hug, as she was about to get into the car. Libby just gave them smile, after collecting her hug from Brad before her Momma got one.
As they were hugging, Libby was cooing from the car: "Snogging!"
"Libby!" Stephanie said as a warning. Then to Brad: "She's incorrigible!"
"She's wonderful!" he said earnestly.
"I know," Stephanie said, "But don't let her hear you say it! She's bad enough."
"Got you!" he said, "Until tomorrow!"
"Yes," she replied, "Until tomorrow."
When Stephanie and Libby were alone together, Libby chimed in with:
"Oh, I like him, Momma!"
"Yes," Stephanie agreed, "He is nice but I've always liked him in my dealings with him up to now."
"Should have asked him to stay with us!" Libby went on.
"Libby!" her Momma said, surprised but Libby was just grinning at her.
"You're so bad!" Stephanie said and Libby grinned at her.
Stephane grinned back and said: "Maybe next time!"
They both laughed then and gave each other 'high fives'. It was jus that Stephanie wasn't sure that they were kidding. She filed the thought away for the moment and drove them home.
She was at the office early the next morning, and he arrived precisely on time. He had with him a sack of goodies from McDonalds.
"Oh what a treat!" she said, "Something I seldom do."
"Well," he explained, "My instinct was to take you to the Weston Towers for a proper breakfast but I'm stealing your time as it is.
"Enough for three?" she asked softly.
"You don't think that I'd risk my reputation by not bringing enough for little Miss Hurricane, do you?" he asked, breaking into a laugh at the end.
"McDonalds?" came a kind of breathlessly young voice from the doorway.
"Yes," he said, "Plenty for all of us!"
"Momma," she said taking her breakfast to her own place to leave them space to work, "See, I told you!"
Stephanie knew that she was referring to the possibility of an invitation for him to stay with them.
"Miss!" Stephanie said, "You just take yourself right out of here!"
"Yes, Momma," Libby said, blowing her Mother a kiss.
Brad just looked at Stephanie with his eyebrows raised.
She got a chagrined look on her face, and said: "I'll ground her for the rest of her life!"
He laughed, and said: "You might as well tell me; she will."
"Oh, I know!" Stephanie said. Then she gulped and said: "She suggested, last night, after you left us, that next time we invite you to stay with us!"
"Ohhhhhhh!" he said, reddening himself now, "What a nice suggestion but maybe we'll put that one on the back burner and think about it."
"Thank you!" she replied. "It's exhausting for me to try to keep up with one, let alone two!"
He grinned at her and got a reply from her: "And she doesn't need a high powered ally either!"
He held up his hands in a mock defensive attitude and said: "Okay, you've got me surrounded!"
She laughed and he broke in with: "Shall we get to business!"
"Yes," she replied, "Before Miss Hurricane has us off and married!"
He hooted at that but she was chagrined from even having said it. He saw that she was embarrassed and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, saying: "Hold that thought!"
They did their business then. In the end they were both pleased, since it went very well. He was certainly pleased with the way that she was managing the affairs of this part of the company.
"Well," he said, at the finish, "I am impressed with the shape of things and the growth of the bottom line. That is really something!"
She smiled and thanked him.
He thought for a moment and said: "I really believe that maybe you should take a hefty percentage of that newly realized profit as a bonus for the way that you're running things here."
She gave an involuntary squeal and quickly covered her mouth.
Libby was in the doorway immediately: "Momma?" she said with some concern in her voice.
Brad smiled and said: "I just offered your Momma a bonus for running things so well!"
"Goodie!" Libby said, dancing in place. "Then I get the new computer that I want."
Stephanie laughed and held out her arms, as Libby flew across the room to her. Then she went to Brad to hug him.
"I think," he said, "That if your Momma doesn't mind, we'll go for that new computer for you, as soon as we have some lunch. It'll be on me as a thank you for sharing your Momma with me this Saturday morning."
"Yippee!" she yelled and looked at her Momma who just was smiling and shook her head 'yes'.
"You're really spoiling us now!" Stephanie said, putting her hand over his.
"My one intention!" he replied, "And only the beginning."
"Goodie!" Libby yelled again.
"Libby!" Stephanie said softly.
"Yes, Momma," the little girl replied, still grinning at them.
"Lunch?" he asked.
"Lunch," Stephanie replied.
They went shopping that afternoon. Libby opted for a Apple MacBook pro and was tickled green with it. She said 'thank you' probably fifty times, before they got her home so that she could set it up and get it all tested.
Stephanie and Brad were watching Libby working at the new computer in her room. They stood in the doorway and Brad finally said:
"Not too much porn!"
Libby looked at him and giggled. With a pixieish look on her face, she said:
"I will if I want!" She grinned at him all out then.
But Stephanie said: "Libby Anne!"
"Yes, Momma," said the contrite little girl. Then she said: "Sorry, Brad!"
He just winked at her and got a grin in return.
"You're both hopeless!" Stephanie said.
At that point Libby left her chair and ran across the room with her palm in the air. Brad gave her a 'high five' and they hugged.
"Surrounded!" Stephanie said, walking away, "Now I'm surrounded!"
"Got her!" Brad said in a soft voice
"Good for us!" Libby countered, "And thank you so much, for this and for being nice to my Momma."
"She worth it and you are too!" was his answer, and at that point he got a hug from both of them.
"Good for me with all these beauties!" he said, kissing Libby on the head and Stephanie on the cheek.
During that kiss, in the middle of the hug, Stephanie slid her face around and took his lips with hers. The kiss was brief but it was warm and had a message that both of them understood.
A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
The promised surprise trip for the following Saturday had to be postponed. It was during that week that Stephanie's Momma died. She'd been in a nursing home in Mississippi for a while and the alzheimer's had robbed her of any semblance of recognition for Stephanie or any other member of the family. Brad was in Vienna at the time that it happened.
It was Wendy that called Brad to let him know about Stephanie's Mom.
"Is she there?" Brad asked.
"Yes, Mr. K," Wendy said.
"Let me talk to her please," he said.
She came on the phone and was obviously sobbing.
"Stephanie," he said,"I'm so sorry."
Giving in to her emotions, she simply said what was on her mind at the moment:
"Brad, I'm so sorry that you're not here."
"So am I!" he said.
"I have to take some time," she went on, "Go down there and get the arrangements made and all."
"I will contact Stan," he said, "He'll fly you and Libby down; meanwhile, I'll come back there myself and will look over the office until you get all your affairs there settled."
"Oh, thank you!" she said and cried harder. "She had alzheimer's and has been really gone for such a long while but I miss her every day and now..."
She broke off at that point and said: "Thank you so much for making arrangements for us; it's such a nice thing for you to do!"
"It's because I care," he said simply.
"I know that," she answered, "And it means a great deal to me! Please understand that."
He made a call to Stan then and Stan promised to make all the arrangements that were necessary to get Stephanie and Libby to Mississippi and around once they were there. They opted for a rental car for her, once they'd landed at the local airport and Stan agreed to be available for anything that she needed.
The funeral was scheduled for two days later. It was at the Methodist church that Stephanie's Mom had always attended. That morning the church was pretty full, and the funeral was scheduled to start in fifteen minutes. In the front pew Stephanie and Libby were seated, right behind them were Stephanie's Aunt Emiline and her family. Libby had been looking around and watching the crowd. Stephanie didn't say anything, as long as Libby was quiet.
Suddenly Libby got up and Stephanie was alarmed and looked around to see what her daughter was up to, only to see Libby coming down the aisle holding Brad by the hand and leading him to where her Momma was sitting.
Stephanie stood up and, giving in to her emotions here also, simply put her arms around him and cried. He opened his arms and included Libby in the hug and the consolation.
"I'm so sorry!" he said.
Stephanie simply shook her head and Libby still clung to Brad.
They sat later in that day, and talked.
"I appreciate all that you've done for me!" she said. Then she shifted gears and said:
"Any items from the office?"
"Well," he said, "There is this, and I apologize in advance if my timing is poor here but it's the only thing that needs to be mentioned right now about the business."
He gave her an envelope. She opened it and put her hand in front of her mouth.
"Momma, what is it?" Libby asked.
Stephanie passed it to her and Libby squealed. It was a bonus check for $200,000.
Stephanie had tears in her eyes, and went to him to hug him.
"Well deserved!" he said.
She kissed his cheek and said: "Thank you, Mr K!"
"Momma," Libby said, "That's Brad."
"No, honey," Stephanie said, "Right now he's Mr K, the boss!"
"I also took part of that huge profit and told Wendy to prepare bonuses for everyone at the business. They need to get a reward, when we succeed this way."
"Wonderful!" she said.
"And by the way Wendy is a one woman gang! Really on the ball and knows what's happening and needs to happen there. I'm hardly needed."
"She is that," Stephanie said.
"I will go back today, I think," He said. "You need time here and I'll keep an eye on things."
"Thank you so much," she said, "For everything."
"I'll send Stan back down for you to bring you back, when you need to," he concluded.
"A few days!" she said, "And it'll be wrapped up. My aunt is going to take care of this place."
They were talking at the house following the funeral. Stephanie took Brad by the arm and said to him, in a soft voice:
"Watch out for my Aunt Emiline; if she corners you, she is really outspoken."
She had no sooner said this than she continued: "Oh dear, here she comes."
"Aunt Emiline," she said pleasantly.
Emiline was Stephanie's Momma's younger sister, and now the matriarch of the family. She was short and heavy set and a very determined woman.
"Just want to meet your young man," Emiline said.
"Uh, Aunt Emiline, this is Mr Kenniston," Stephanie said.
"Hmm, Kenniston," Emiline said, musing to herself.
"Well you must work with our Stephanie at that place," Emiline said.
"Yes, I do," Brad said, smiling at the older woman.
Stephanie was looking for a place to jump into the conversation but Emiline soldiered on:
"Suckin' up to the boss are we?" She fixed Brad with a kind of glare at that point.
"Aunt Emiline," Stephanie said, almost desperately, "Mr Kenniston owns Kenniston Industries!"
Emiline looked at Brad again but he jumped in at that point.
"The truth is, Aunt Emiline," he said with a twinkle in his eye, "I am her toy boy!"
Emiline hooted and Stephanie covered her eyes with her hands.
"You too old!" Emiline said, after hooting at what he said.
"My, my," Brad went on, "Emiline you are certainly a gorgeous lady but you are destroying all my illusions."
Emiline hooted again at that point, and said: "Well, you treat her right or she'll fire you and you'll have to deal with me also."
"Aunt Emiline," Stephanie said, with utter desperation at that point, "He's the big boss!"
"Well then," Emiline went on, not missing a beat, "If he's the big boss, then he can give my Willie a job."
"Willie?" Brad asked.
"Yes," Emiline said, "Grandson; college graduate and having a hard time finding a job."
"Send him to talk to me," Brad said, "I'll see what I can do."
"I like you!" Emiline said then and she gathered him into a massive hug.
Brad hugged her back and before she went away, she said: "Well, you just treat my Stephanie right or you answer to me!"
"Yes, Ma'am," he said, flustering Aunt Emiline then by giving her a kiss on the cheek.
Emiline went away grinning at then both.
"Well," Stephanie said, "I've never seen Emiline meet her match before!"
"Wonderful family," Brad said.
"Thank you," Stephanie said. "And don't worry about Willie."
"No, I meant that," Brad said, "Send him to talk to me."
She put her hand on his arm then and said: "You are so nice!"
He smiled at her: "You're worth being nice to!"
Just then they were interrupted by a young voice, and there was Libby standing there:
"You two smooching in the corner? Snogging?"
"Libby Anne!" Stephanie croaked.
But Brad said, grinning at them both: "Not yet but soon, I think!"
"You two," Stephanie said in mock disgust, "What am I going to do with you?"
"Got her surrounded again, Brad!" Libby said.
"Looks that way!" he answered and winked at Libby who wandered away smiling.
She walked him out later to where Stan was waiting for him.
"I apologize," he said to Stephanie, "But there are things that I have to do. Please forgive me for running off like this.
"I know that," she said, hugging him, "It was such a treat to have you here; I appreciate that more than I can say."
Immediately after saying that, she got on her tip toes and kissed him. It was quick but it was, as it lasted, passionate. It was soft lips, a bit opened on purpose for him to get her message.
"Oh, yes," he said, after the kiss.
"Some other time!" she said softly.
"Yes," he agreed, "Some other time. But they're watching!" he went on, "And we're here smooching! Snogging!"
"Let them watch!" Stephanie said, kissing him again, before he left with Stan.
When she stepped back from him, Libby was at her side immediately. He turned, as he was about to get into the car and, seeing Libby, held out his arms. She streamed in his direction and launched herself into his arms.
"Thank you for coming; I knew you would!" Libby said.
"Take good care of your Momma!" he said, giving the little girl a kiss.
"I promise!" Libby said.
As she stood watching Stan take Brad away, she was joined by her Momma. The two of them stood for a few minutes.
"I love him!" Libby said decisively.
"He's so nice!" Stephanie said.
Then they walked back into the house.
THE SURPRISE WEEKEND
A number of things intervened to put off the 'surprise day' but finally Wendy told Stephanie via the intercom that Mr K was on the phone.
"Brad," she said with obvious pleasure.
"Finally have next weekend in my sights for the surprise weekend," he said, "And I apologize for it being put off like this. I promise you, when we do that you'll have my undivided attention."
"Well," Stephanie answered, "It's not me that you have to worry about!"
"Hmm, 4'6", pig tails, big white smile, half the brass in the world?" he asked.
"Exactly!" she said laughing. "And is in love with you!"
"Good for me," he said, "Especially since it's mutual. I promise to make it enough fun that I'll make up for it. Tell me, can you clear from Thursday evening to Monday? We'll go on our adventure on Thursday evening and return on Monday. Would that work?"
"Oh, wonderful!" she said. "What will we need?"
"Well, bathing suits, tropical stuff but we can shop for all of that once we've arrived!" he explained.
"Making it sound downright exotic!" she said to him.
"Hope so," he responded, "I'm in enough trouble with Libby as it is!"
They both laughed.
"Thank you again for the bonus!" she said.
"Well earned!" was his reply.
"Just so you know, I took most of it and put it in a trust for Libby's education," she said softly.
"Great idea," he said, "We can talk about that a bit later?"
"Yes, of course," she said.
"I'll be back in town soon," he said, and then: "Stephanie, I miss you! I miss everything about you!"
"Oh, I like that," she replied, "Like hearing it, and I want to talk about that; I want to hear from you all the things about me that you miss, in detail!"
"I can do that!" he said softly.
"And I intend to show you some things that maybe you'll miss just as much!" she went on in a sly voice.
"Don't you dare try to rile up the boss," he said with mock severity, "I'll tell Libby!"
She hooted and said pleasantly: "Just telephone snogging!"
He laughed then and said: "Stephanie you're worth your weight in gold!"
"Well thank you, Brad," she said, "Maybe I'll just eat more ice cream, put on more weight!"
They laughed as he signed off.
Libby was in a positive state from the moment when her Momma told her that the following weekend would be the surprise weekend. She began to pack and repack; she did that for two whole days, until finally Thursday came and her Momma helped her with the final packing.
He showed up with Stan and the Mercedes on Thursday to pick them up.
She was at the door to greet him but Libby went bounding out of the house for a hug for Brad and then one for Stan, who received her with a grin.
Brad went up the walk holding Libby's hand. As they were walking up the walk, Libby spoke to him softly:
"You kiss my Momma now! She likes you."
"Thanks for the information and the suggestion; never would have thought of it myself," he said with a grin, which was returned by Libby.
When he got to Stephanie, she went to him and he did indeed kiss her. It was a long kiss, a soft one with her lips yielding and open within a few seconds.
Stephanie sighed, when the kiss ended and Brad opened his arms and brought Libby into the hug.
"How's my gang?" he asked.
"Family!" Libby said, "We're your family!"
"Libby!" Stephanie said,
"Well, Momma it's true!" Libby countered.
"She's right Stephanie," Brad said, "My family."
"Where are we going?" Libby wanted to know.
"Reveal the surprise?" he asked.
"Yes," Libby said and Stephanie grinned.
"Florida," he said, "There's a beach house on a Florida key that's waiting for us."
"We have a beach house?" Libby squealed.
Then she grinned at her Momma and said: "I know 'Libby'!"
They laughed all three of them and Brad went on:
"Yes, we have a beach house!"
"Bathing suits are old!" Stephanie said.
"We can shop first thing and get the two of you outfitted," he went on.
"Goodie!" Libby said, taking both of their hands and walking them to the car.
"Can I ride up with Stan?" Libby asked.
"Yes," Brad said, "If he doesn't mind; he's in charge."
"Love it!" Stan said, opening the door for Stephanie and Brad and then for Libby in the front.
FLORIDA: THE BEACH HOUSE
The closer that they got to the beach house, the more excited Libby became, barely able to contain herself but trying for some restraint.
"Soon?" she asked Stan.
"Soon," he said.
They'd flown into Sarasota Bradenton and picked up a car there to drive down the coast. It would take them about another hour from there to reach their destination.
By the time they turned from the main road that they were following to go out and drive down the road on the key, Libby was almost atomic.
"Momma!" she almost shouted, "Look!"
She was pointing to the Gulf of Mexico that could still be seen in the dusk right in front of them.
Stephanie squeezed Brad's hand and said: "This is so nice!'
"This is something that I want to share with you, with the two of you!"
She leaned over and kissed his cheek; he smiled but then she put her hand on the side of his other cheek and turned his face toward her. This time she kissed him properly.
"Snogging!" Libby sang out in a sing-song voice.
"Watch the Gulf of Mexico, young lady!" Stephanie said.
"Yes, Momma!" Libby answered. "I won't bother your privacy!"
"Better not!" Stephanie warned and they laughed.
"Stan how would you like to have a boarder for the weekend? You could take care of..."
"No way!" Libby almost yelled. "I love Stan but you're not foisting me off on him this weekend!"
"Yes, Libby," Brad said to general laughter.
Then they were turning to the right. There was a gate there and a key code panel. Stan put in the code and the gates slid open.
"Exotic!" Stephanie said, and Libby just wiggled and made happy sounds.
"Be warned," Brad said, "There are two places; the first is Stan's. And, let me say that he prefers it this way; he's not banished from the big house! It gives him privacy too."
They drove into the deep vegetation and first spied a Florida cottage. It was nice sized and sat off of the gravel and dirt road that they were traveling.
"Casa Stan!" Brad said but he was drown out by an almost atomic squeal from Libby, as they went around the final corner and saw the sprawling, white beach house!"
"Oh my!" Stephanie said, "This looks wonderful!"
Libby was still squealing and Brad just smiled at the two of them.
"Help?" Stan asked.
"You know, Stan," Brad said, "The bags are small; we'll take them in. We'll need the car tomorrow for some shopping. If it looks like a problem for you, we can go into town and rent another, and thanks."
Stan smiled and then got a hug and kiss from Libby. He took the car and parked it by the Florida cottage.
"Shall we?" Brad asked, putting in the key code to let them in.
"Ohhhhhhhhh!" Libby moaned as he put lights on. Stephanie's face was wreathed in smiles.
He led them through the foyer into the large sunken living room that had a glass front with french doors leading out to a big veranda porch type of area for both sunning and sitting.
They stood and looked out at the Gulf of Mexico in the gathering dusk. Stephanie put her arms around Brad's waist, as they stood there and Libby did the same.
"It's so nice of you to share this with us!" Stephanie said.
Brad's answer was to drop Libby's hand, who just stared at the two adults and smiled, as Brad drew Stephanie in for a kiss.
"Out there!" Libby said. "Take her out on the deck and kiss her out there!"
Stephanie grinned: "He doesn't need stage directions, madam!"
"Sorry, Momma!" Libby said chastened, but Stephanie hugged her and was drawn by the hand by Brad out into the fragrant air of the Gulf night for a kiss on the veranda/deck.
"Welcome to our Florida house!" Brad said quietly after the soft, luscious kiss was finished.
"Yes," she said, "it's coming; I can feel it too. 'Our house!'"
"Rest of tour?" Brad asked.
"Yes, now!" Libby said excited.
He took them first to the area that was on the right of the family room, kitchen and dining area, all open. There was a wing there with four bedrooms. There were two baths, between the bedrooms.
They went into the first of those rooms and saw that it had also glass doors that led to the wrap around veranda/deck with a gorgeous view of the Gulf.
"I want this one!" Libby said, "May I please?"
Stephanie looked at Brad and he said: "You're the lady of the house, you decide!"
"Yes, of course!" Stephanie said.
"There is a master wing this way!" Brad said, leading them to the area to the right of the family room.
On it's lower level there were three rooms that were offices and general purpose. There was also a pair of stairs leading to the master suite. The hallway to the master suite had a door way that led into the Master and went off to a flight of stairs ahead.
Brad took them to the flight of stairs. It led to an observation deck that was screened in and had sliding glass door panels. It was high enough to be allow people inside to look out over the Gulf.
"This is beautiful!" Stephanie said, hugging Brad and then also Libby.
Libby spoke up next: "Where is your and Momma's room, Brad?"
"Libby Anne!" Stephanie said.
"Sorry, Momma!" Libby said, "You don't think he's going to come to Florida with us and you being so beautiful and him loving you and not keep you with him?"
Stephanie was struck dumb by what Libby said.
Immediately Libby went on: "I'm sorry, Momma, I promise that I'll be good and stop making those kinds of statements."