Authors: Carol May
Life’s Second Chances Series
Copyright © May 2015 by Carol May
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Cover Design by Taylor Odle
This book is dedicated to my Mother, Sue Maynard, who has always supported me in all my crazy endeavors. Thank you for giving me the love of reading and a passion for books at an early age. You have shown me how to be a strong, caring, confident, intelligent woman with dignity. Because of this and all the other strengths you nurtured in me over the years, I found the courage for Charli Jensen to be born.
This is the day that I have spent the last ten years dreaming about. The feeling I have right now is what kept me going, when I really just wanted to just give up and throw in the towel. I’ve thought more than once about sending an email to all those people that said I would never succeed. The church version would simply say- in your face. I did it! However, I would never get past my mid-west upbringing, as Mama used to say, and actually click send. Writing it would be no problem. Maybe just a picture on social media of me in front of the Miami Beach City Limits sign giving them the big middle finger hello might do the trick. Nope, can’t do that either. That girl isn’t me. Hey, maybe a picture of our business. No not that either. Who would have thought all those late night drink induced plans Lana and I made are actually taking life. Like most college girls, we dreamed of visiting far-away lands and maybe finding an exotic man or two along the way. Those conversations and sheer will power kept me going!
Speaking of going, I must get going to the office. Just as I step out of the elevator into the lobby, I realize I left my coffee. Shoot! I had it poured and in the mug. With a shrug of my shoulders I remember, I don’t have to worry about being five minutes late. I am not going to be reprimanded by some clock watching boss. I’m just going to stop and get an extra-large cup at that cute little coffee shop just around the corner from the office. Especially, if I walk the 5 blocks. Shaking my head at myself, who am I joking, medium size cup and a taxi. Yep, that sounds better. My feet like the idea also since these shoes are not made for walking one block much less five. As I close the taxi door, I feel my phone vibrating. By the time I find it in my bag and drag it out, of course it’s stopped but I see it is my business partner and faithful friend, Lana Lewis. I read the message and think, God this girl knows me so well. I quickly text back answers to her questions.
No, I didn’t oversleep.
Yes, I am on my way.
Yes, I have the proposal that I polished up last night.
Left my cup of coffee so am stopping at The Java House. Want anything?
Before I can lay my phone down it vibrates again
Sure, x-large cup of Terrance!
Smiling, I shake my head at her, just like she could see it. He is the long, tall drink of water that Lana has been drooling over for at least seven months.
Don’t know why u don’t just break down and ask him out. U know he is interested.
I may have to if he doesn’t get the hint soon
I just shake my head.
At, JH be there soon.
The sweet aroma of coffee takes over my senses
as I open the door.
Great! Just like the rest of my morning has been, a line. If I get Rose’s attention maybe she can go ahead and make my cup. It’s not like I ever change orders. No such luck, she’ll never see me with these tall people ahead of me. Even with these four inch heels, I feel like the newest dwarf, Shorty. What is it open try outs for the “Heat?” The line moves forward; I step up. What I notice is the person in front of me. Nice! If the rest of this tree standing in front of me looks anything like the back, then yum.
I love living here.
Closing my eyes, I visualize him walking out into the Atlantic. The ripple of muscle moving across those broad shoulders. His wet swim trunks clinging to his perfectly shaped backside. Oh, my! Bringing myself out of my morning daydream, my conscience wakes up. What in the world am I thinking?
Tree? Did I actually describe this gloriously tall man as a tree? Shaking my head, I think to myself. Just goes to show you, you can take the girl out of the sport but not the sport out of the girl. Tree! I sound like I’m back at Mom and Dad’s watching a basketball game. Squeezing my eyes even tighter shut, brothers! Crap! I do sound like my brothers way back when all they talked about was a woman’s looks. I hated that ranking their dates based on looks and backsides. It didn’t matter if the girls had a brain or not. What mattered was that scale business. Scores from one to ten. Of course, those Walker boys never had anything under an eight even on a bad day, to hear them tell it. Thank goodness they can’t hear me or I would catch all amounts of…
“Damn! Excuse me.”
I open my eyes, only to realize, Sexy Butt turned around with his coffee. .Looking up into blue eyes that rival the waters of the Caribbean all I can mutter is, “Is that my fault?” as I grimace and point to his chest.
Rather hatefully I heard him say, “No sweetheart, I always make it a habit of spilling freshly made coffee down my shirt front! Whose fault do you think it is?”
I look around frantically for something to hand him. I mutter out some stupid statement about napkins usually being here.
He continued on in his rumbling voice right over my words, “Thank God it was iced to help with this early heat or I would be burned.” All of a sudden, napkins appear from nowhere. He jerks them and begins wiping down his front. I must admit, I did just sort of stand there and watch. It really wasn’t as bad as he claimed.
“I am so, so sorry. I must have been focusing on something else.”
He grunts and storms off muttering something about changing.
“Hey Rose, I’ll take my usual along with a side of what just walked out of here but with a better personality.” I know she can see the lust in my eyes. I bet she can even read the imaginary neon sign abort my head that is flashing, needs sex, and needs sex soon.
“I hear ya girl. I’d take some of that anytime just as long as he kept his mouth shut.”
Using the old one finger pat on my chin and pretending to be in deep thought, “I wonder if I should have offered to lick off any that might have soaked through onto that broad chest?”
“Girl, you are too much. You want the usual?” Rose turned and walked away not waiting for my answer. “Will I see you and Lana at Billy’s tonight?”
Shaking my head, “Not sure yet, sorta depends on my day. I think Lana has a date tonight,” I say loud enough that anyone standing close might hear as I glance over at Terrance. I can’t wait to tell her about the look he gave me when I made the date comment. She is going to be so happy. I sound like I am back in junior high, what in the world.
Walking down the steps, I find Nash in my kitchen with a mug of coffee to his lips. “Damn man, don’t you have coffee at your place?”
Raising his mug up to me, “Not the good stuff,” as he continued to drink my specially imported blend. Glancing over at one of my most trusted confidants, I half smile at him. “If that is all I need to do to keep you satisfied, I’ll contact the building staff that I so generously pay to ensure you have a bag of Blue Island coffee placed in your kitchen.
“Parton me asking but why would I want a bag? Our place doesn’t have a service that comes in every morning to ensure things are ready for me to eat” (as he picks up a fresh blueberry muffin) “or drink” (holding his mug up).
“Maybe you don’t have that here but back in NYC, I know Cynthia does all that for you.”
“Heck of it is Houston, I’m not in NYC, now am I?”
“Don’t blame me, if the head of my security team chooses to come with me and leave that hot, sexy woman of his (lifting his eyebrows). I don’t twist your arm Nash old buddy.”
Turning to fill two travel mugs of coffee, his answer drifts over his shoulder,
“Do you have any idea how much shit I keep you out of on a daily no hourly basis? I can only imagine the firestorms you would bring back to me if I remained in the Big Apple.”
Processing what Nash said, I flashed back to college and the first problem Nash solved for me. One woman in my dorm room, another one knocking on my door. Laughing at the memory, I couldn’t agree more with him.
Looking at my watch, “Let’s get going to this meeting.” I have put the Miami office off for as long as I can. More than likely by the end of the day, the storms will have increased ten times after the ass chewing they are going to get.
“It’s about time you got here. Where have you been?”
I really should expect questioning. I know how Lana is. I’m running a few minutes behind but goodness it isn’t the end of the world that I am not here when the door is unlocked.
“Lana, what is up with you? I told you in my text that I was stopping for some much needed caffeine?”
“If you had read my other text you would know that the meeting with the Blaine Company has been rescheduled. The “top dog” (I hate it when she uses air quotes) Mr. Blaine himself and by the way, “Who names their company after themselves using their first name?”
Clapping my hands, “Lana, focus! What about Mr. Carlton?” I ask her in my I’m getting annoyed tone.
Shaking her head, just like the old days, to refocus. “Oh, yeah, anyway he arrived in town unexpectedly and has summonsed local office heads to an impromptu meeting on his yacht.”
Rolling her eyes, “with instructions to reschedule all meetings till next week. Can you believe that?”
“I know, pretty selfish,” I agree. How dare he have a meeting on his yacht? I nod my head in agreement “but we both know if you’re one of the wealthiest men in the world you can do that. Snap your fingers and people juggle their lives to meet your needs.”
“You know you’re right, Charli. Ok, let’s view this as a sign. Our presentation/plan must need a little more work. Thanks for bringing me back to reality.”
Smiling at my best friend, Lana, “hey girl, that’s what we do for each other. That’s what true friends are for, balancing out each other’s crazy.”
“Yep, we do but Lord help the world if our crazy happens at the same time.” We slowly turn our heads and look at Joan. Then back at each other. “Joan, the duty will fall to you to bring us back to Earth if that should ever happen.” Smiling, Lana continued, “If that should ever happen we may have to find a way to give her a substantial raise.”
“Let’s focus on the positive side. What I can’t believe is we are getting a chance to pitch for the Miami office’s business. From what I read in my research, that is one of the things The Blaine Company is known for, supporting local, small start-up businesses.”
“Just because we have the opportunity to present our idea for a company retreat doesn’t mean we have the job.”
“I know but we have to be positive. Positive Lana, positive.” I leave Lana talking to our first employee, Joan. Heading to my closet sized office, I think about how Joan was really a true find when we began the interview process. It was almost as if, she was sent to us by a divine power. She really has balanced us out.
Since the meeting for this morning is rescheduled to next Tuesday, I can get ahead on other proposals I’ve put off along with tweaking some projects we have already secured. Who would have known that daydreaming about those tropical islands all those years ago would have led to a career for me
I can’t decide how our proposal was received. I know we were up against some other companies that can offer more but we can offer fantastic service with great detail to client needs. Our company is young but I really hoped to receive an acceptance today of our “upscale leisure travel” package. I can’t wait to get out of this building and talk to Lana. It’s killing me to find out how she feels about our meeting. I know her heart is racing as fast as mine. If I was five again, I would be jumping up and down with excitement. “Will this elevator never get here?” I push the button for the third time.
Saying in the calmest voice I have ever heard come from her mouth, “Go ahead and do that again. We all know that will help it arrive faster.
“I sure hope you can read my mind right now, Lana.” Elbowing her, “Just in case you can’t look deeply into my eyes and read between the lines.” Finally, the ding! Stepping on, we join the elevator zombies. Eyes focused on the panel as the numbers decrease.
As we move, I hear a man in the back, “I’m sorry sir, had I known this elevator would have been so full, we could have taken the private one.”
Did I really just hear that man apologize to someone about this elevator being so crowed? In the words of my British ancestors, “How boorish?” If they have a private elevator, why not use it? Why fraternize with the peons? Really! That just hits me the wrong way. I feel Lana’s hand slowly slide onto my wrist and squeeze. It’s as if she knows just how that rude comment is pushing me close to the edge. How does she always know? I understand this is her saying breathe, let it go. Glancing over she just winks. She is right, I do need to let it go but how dare he say that out loud? He may have said what everyone was thinking but really that is just plain, old bad-manners. He is lucky because a few years ago, I would have responded with some very un-lady like comments.
Our ride down from the eighteenth floor was quick and lucky for the jerk in the back, no more stops. Leading the zombie pack, we exit. I walk to the side of the lobby trying to avoid the departing stampede. As I survey those exiting with us, I point out three men to Lana.
“See those men walking out the door?”
Lana turns and watches the group. “Yeah, I like the way they look walking away except for that short one. He walks like he has something stuck up his butt.”
“I just bet one of those men was the ass kisser that made that ignorant comment. Who in the world ever heard of apologizing for too many people being on an elevator. What do you think Lana? Just look at the way the shorter one is walking. I bet he kisses up as much as possible.”
Holding her hand up to stop my ranting, Lana finally spoke. “Good gracious, Charli! Do what that kid’s song my niece sings so much says, let it go. Let’s get out of here. You want to grab some lunch? I am starving.”
I know what she is doing, handling me. She always knows just what to say. Lana keeps me and my mouth under control. Back in college, everyone knew who kept me from jumping off the tight rope I was walking. Juggling so many things.“ Good idea, let’s find something to eat around here. Now that you mention it, I am a little hungry.” Setting off to find a place to eat nearby, I pause to watch a tinted window navy Mercedes pull away. “That is a gorgeous car,” I mumble to myself. Lana is two or three steps ahead when she stops, turns around and waits for me.“Charli, are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Why?”
“You stopped. When I turned around you were mumbling something to yourself.”
“Lana don’t tell me you didn’t notice that fabulous car pulling away?”
She gives me her nose scrunch which translates into no, I did not. “Charli, you are the only woman I know that stops and admires cars like most women gaze at designer shoes.”
“Brothers, Lana, brothers. Blame them. I learned to appreciate a great car way before I did a great pair of pumps. Which, I have you know, I stop and admire those too.” I say as I stick the tip of my tongue out at her.
Shaking her head and walking on, “I am sooo glad, I only have a sister.”
My head is actually beginning to hurt, stress induced more than likely. I know what is coming. With this type of pain, I need to get both food/meds into my body. Come to think of it, I really haven’t had anything to eat substantially since brunch yesterday. Ok, so if I tell her, I’ll get the lecture.
Charli, you know you can’t treat your body that way. You of all people should understand that a good healthy diet is what keeps us all going
“So, let’s go to this charming little bistro I saw earlier a couple of blocks down.”
“Sounds good to me Lana.”
“I bet whoever was in that car you were drooling over is off to a meeting about their next big deal. Probably, buying up the world, one small company at a time. So, let’s envision our future and discuss how you think our presentation was received over lunch.”
I no more than get an agreement out when, Lana hails a taxi. “You amaze me, getting a taxi so easily. You’d make any New Yorker proud.”
Smiling that big full mouth smile, “Thanks, I had a lot of practice the year I interned at Gloss, Haney and Maine in the Big Apple.” With the happy face transforming into a very serious one, “You know Charli, if we don’t get The BC account we’ll be fine.”
“I know, Lana but think how much better off we would be if we get it. It is the biggest project we’ve bid for since opening Supreme Corporate Travel.” Deep down, we both know that having The Blaine Company as a client could make or break Supreme Corporate Travel. With so much of the competition, utilizing technology and the internet, we’ve put the spin on us, as having the intimate, personal touch.
This morning meeting at my Miami branch is dragging. Lifting a brow as Johnson, the southern Florida manager, is droning on about statistics I can quote in my sleep, I look to the end of the table studying the assembled group. Most seem as board as I am. Underlining the note for Nash to compile background information on the key personnel within this office, I am seriously considering major changes after sitting through four hours of this. The reports being presented for review are lack luster, definitely not the quality of work I expect from my leaders. Frowning as I evaluate the entire morning, unfortunately it as not surpassed my low expectations. A one word summary for this morning, tedious. Generally, my philosophy is if my people have taken time away from another projects to put a presentation together for me, I will sit through it. At this moment, I have had enough. Pushing back from the conference table, I glance at my DeVille watch, doing something very uncharacteristic for me, interrupting the presentation. I stand causing everyone in the room to look toward me.
“Johnson, I believe this is an excellent place to break for lunch.” Looking around the table, “We will pick up at this point in two hours.”
As I walk past the new furniture I was surprised to find when I entered the office earlier today, before I head into the washroom, I stop at my desk. Anyone that knows anything about me should be able to read into my expression how displeased I am with the direction of this meeting.
Nash joins me at the elevator where we begin discussing a video conference I have with the Rome office later today. Nodding his head toward my door Nash clears his throat, “Sir, Melinda, has scheduled a lunch meeting with Johnson. Apparently, he would like to pitch a new proposal that he has developed.”
Looking at him, he understands my displeasure at the thought of this. “Alright, this one time I will allow him to present informally. However, I want it made clear that this is the first and last time this will happen.” Raising his hand motioning, Johnson joins us.
“Mr. Donovan, would you prefer to take the private elevator?” Johnson asks as we enter the elevator. “No this is fine.” I step to the back. I actually would prefer it but somehow I get the feeling Johnson will start his pitch the moment we enter and the poor little man has no idea that I more than likely will never hear what he has to say.
This is what I hate about public elevators, stopping on what seems like every floor as we descend from the thirtieth. At what point do people have enough sense to not step on when those already onboard are a tightly packed group? Somewhere around eighteen, the doors open revealing a simply stunning woman. She is speaking to another woman whom I assume is her associate. They step into join us in the crowed car. Every male behind her, appreciates that she joined us, as our eyes devour her ass in that tight skirt. Watching her, I notice how the light causes her shoulder length black hair to appear as if it has a blue cast to it. Damn, I’m getting hard as I adjust myself. It has been a day or two since I sunk myself into some moist heat.
Can’t he shut his mouth? I would have Nash toss Johnson off on the next stop but I prefer to keep my
anonymity. If I’d wanted to take the private elevator doesn’t the fool realize I would have?
These types of misunderstandings, actually more of a lack of understanding me, is what concerns me so about this office. For whatever reason, the overall personality, does not fall into character with my vision for this branch. The more Johnson speaks, the more convinced I become that I may need to look at relocation of several people, him being one. I really need to look at his profitability rates. This morning’s meeting is not something I would list under the eagerness to repeat category. Generally, I look forward to visiting here, well until Johnson replaced Hannah Goldman. I am sorry we lost her. I am happy she found what she was called, ‘true love”. I will miss the skills she brought to my boardroom but especially to my bedroom. I think about the wildcat she was. There were multiple times, the evidence remained on my back for several days.
What in the world was Nash thinking when he approached me about listening to this fool any longer than I must? I have a suspicion that Melinda, my new assistant here in Miami, might have had something to do with it. She has been glancing at Nash quite a bit today. Obviously, she knows nothing about my friend Nash, or she would know it was a foregone conclusion that they will have an experience, I believe that is what he calls his little banging sessions. We exit the elevator, moving across the lobby as quickly as I can, Nash understands my pace. I doubt if Johnson has moved this fast in years. Stepping onto the sidewalk, I see Jeff is leaning against the car waiting.
As he opens the back door, I have no doubt he has picked up on our unspoken code. When I use his full name, as I rarely do, he knows my mood is generally not pleasant. I slide in across the seat allowing a space for Johnson. Sitting in the front with Jeff, Nash remains silent as my navy Mercedes pulls away from the curb. Both of my longtime friends sitting in the front, can interpret my temperament enough to understand I am unhappy at this moment. The fact that this will more than likely be the most excruciating meal I will have to endure during my month here causes me to frown at the thought. Simply hearing his voice makes me want to have Jeff stop the car and toss him out. That is twice I have thought about tossing him out of something. He has no idea how lady luck is on his side at this very moment. I make a mental note to explore how he rose to the position of VP in Charge of the Miami Branch. Looking out the window as we move along at a very slow pace by Miami standards I see a little restaurant up ahead. The quicker we get this started the quicker this will be over. “Jeff, pull over. I want to eat at this little Bistro here on the corner.” Meeting my eyes in the mirror, Jeff knows my moods enough that both he and Nash understand why I’ve just changed my plans.