Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Change of Pace by Michelle Houston

Nicole leaned back in her chair, debating whether she should knock off for the night or get a head start on next week's work. Looking out of the glass enclosure surrounding her office, at the already empty cubicles and the cleaning crew that was just arriving, she decided to call it a night. As if her body added its agreement she yawned, automatically covering her mouth with her hand.

Giving a mirthless laugh, she stood and packed up her things. Setting her computer to secure mode, she placed her keyboard in her desk drawer and locked it. Pulling her purse from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, she headed out of her office. There was no point in locking it—the cleaning crew had to get in to do their job.

As she walked down the lonely path to the elevator, she couldn't help sighing at what awaited her at home. A few plants that needed watering, a pile of laundry she needed to drop off at the cleaners, and a stack of bills to be paid. The weekend loomed ahead, empty.

Running a hand through her graying hair, she wondered for the thousandth time if this was the life she wanted. Ten years ago, fresh from college and idealistic as hell, she thought she could make a difference. She would start dating and maybe settle down in a year or so, when her career was steady, and hopefully a year or two later have her one and only child.

Now, here it was, ten years later, and she didn't even have a pet. Long hours at the office would leave it cooped up and alone inside her home. She didn't believe in doing that to a living creature. She had tried a fish, and ended up killing it when she kept forgetting to feed it. Even buying a supply of the vacation feeding pellets hadn't worked on the replacement fish. It had lasted only a month longer.

As she reached the elevator, she pushed the down button and waited. And waited. And waited.

"Elevator's out!" a helpful voice called out behind her. Groaning at the six-flight hike in high heels that awaited, she moved to the stairs and opened the door. Stepping into the stairwell, she was immediately enclosed in near darkness. Slipping off her shoes, she held them in one hand and gripped the rail in the other. Starting out slowly, she headed downstairs, grumbling with each step as the cold slowly seeped into her skin.

Rather than the prosecutor's office she had planned on joining out of college, student loans had forced her to accept an offer from an estate firm that had recruited her right out of law school. She had planned to stay just long enough to pay off her debt but had wound up buying a house, and now she found herself alone, thirty-five years old, with a mortgage that would take at least another twenty years to clear. In the darkness of the stairwell, she admitted to herself she hated her job. Writing wills and dealing with probates wasn't what she had planned on doing, or even imagined, when she graduated. But it was too late to start over.

Feet aching, she finally reached the ground floor and, before stepping out, she put her shoes back on, then moved out of the darkness. Waving to the security guard, she was buzzed out.

The muggy night air had her feeling sweaty and more irritated before she made it halfway to her car. Fed up with it all, she decided she wasn't ready to head home to the silence that would surround her, slowly suffocating her until she gave up and called it a night.

As she climbed into her car, she decided to head to a nearby bar and grill that some of her co-workers had been raving about. A few of them had tried to get her to go with them but, conscious of the strong chance she had of making junior partner within a few years, she had chosen instead to put that time to use at work.

Switching on the stereo as she pulled out of the parking lot, she wanted to try something besides her normal soft jazz. Switching the stations until she found one playing a familiar tune, she felt her mood lightening as the 80's music washed over her. She used to love Genesis, but somewhere along the way, she had forgotten that.

Invigorated for the first time in a while, she was tapping her fingers against the steering wheel when red lights started flashing in her rearview mirror. Glancing down at her speedometer, she cursed as she saw that she was going fifteen miles over the speed limit. She pulled over to the side of the road, cut the engine, and waited for the cop to stroll up to her window.

"License and registration, please."

At the deep voice, Nicole felt an unexpected shiver. Her nerve endings stood up and took notice. There was something achingly familiar about that voice. Something sexy that awakened her slumbering libido.

Looking up as she handed over the documents, she tried to see the man's features, but with the darkness of night and the wide brim on his hat, all she got was a glimpse of a strong jaw and the briefest dusting of stubble.

"Ms. Johannsen, are you aware you were doing forty-five in a thirty mile an hour zone, ma'am?"

Not bothering to lie her way out of it, she responded simply, "Yes, sir." Her mind raced, trying to figure out what was so familiar about the cop. When he turned and walked back to his cruiser, she caught a glimpse of his butt in her side mirror. Her pulse fluttered in response. He had the type of ass a woman, especially a sex starved one, could drool over. Tight and slightly rounded, he had enough cushion for a handful, but not enough to be flabby.

When he climbed into his car, she tried to see his features. Although there was enough light, the distance prevented her from seeing more than a hint of his cheekbone.

The view as he walked back towards her was even better. Watching until the last possible second, she licked her lips at his deliberate and powerful movements. He was leashed animal magnetism coupled with a uniform, and a deep, husky voice—the perfect combination.

It was beginning to drive her nuts, the sensation that she knew him from somewhere.

As he started writing on his pad, she glanced at his hand and didn't see a wedding ring, but that wasn't anything to judge by. Plenty of men she knew didn't wear a ring. So, he could still be a co-worker's husband.

Ripping the paper off, he crouched down beside her car and Nicole got her first good look at him. At first it didn't register, until he started talking again. "Seeing as how you helped me through all those torts, and you have a mostly clean record, I've decided to let you off with a warning."

"You're getting me off with a warning?" Horrified as soon as the words were said, Nicole slapped her hand over her mouth, only increasing her embarrassment. If she had played it cool, he might have thought he heard her wrong. But, flustered by her realization that the sexy cop was a former classmate, and secret object of more than one lust-filled night of self-pleasure, she overreacted.

Alan's chuckle sounded warm and incredibly relaxed as he handed a piece of paper through the window.

"No, Nicole, I'm letting you off with a warning. Now if you want, I can do the other after dinner some night." Instinctively grabbing the paper, she curled her fingers around it and sat in silence as he walked away. Through her open window, she could hear him whistling.

He pulled out from behind her, and with a wave took off into the night. After he had become nothing more than taillights winking in the night, she smoothed out the paper and found a note instead of the expected warning ticket.

My place. Tomorrow. 8PM.

1012 Elm Drive. And wear those reading glasses of yours.

Tossing the paper onto the passenger seat, she pulled back out onto the road and, rather than heading for the bar, decided to call it a night and headed for home. She pulled into her driveway several minutes later and sat there, mentally debating if she should take him up on the offer. If she did, what would they talk about? What if he wanted to do more than talk? What if all he wanted was a quick booty call?

It had been years since they had seen each other last, and obviously he hadn't followed through with law school if he was a cop. She found herself nonetheless intrigued. She had always wondered what kind of a lover Alan Vivanio would have made. But, she also wasn't looking for a quick orgasm or one night stand.

The fact that he had a dominant enough personality to go into law enforcement only added to his appeal. Tall, darkly good looking with a hot Italian temper, he was the perfect foil to her blonde Scandinavian looks and frosty temperament. Where she had always hesitated, he often spoke up, many times offering and defending her point on something in class.

Smiling, she reached over and picked up the paper, then climbed out of the car, heading into her lonely house. She would sleep on it and, in the morning when she was clear-headed, then she would decide if she wanted to explore what could be there, or if she wanted to stay with her status quo.