Disclaimer: All the characters of in this story are of my own creation. Any
physical resemblance the people in this story may have to real people is
coincidental and no infringement on anyone’s rights is intended.
Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to physical relationships between consenting adults, who may happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.
Paradise Series #2.
Storyline: Hustle, bustle and headaches abound on a fictional Caribbean island as a recently, nearly completed resort is brought to life and we follow the lives of the people who are trying to make it happen. In the middle of it all is a closer look at two strangers, two women, who are thrown together by outside forces and struggle to contend with the problems they will have to share if the Paradise Beachside Resort is to open on time, and their own emotions as strange happenings make them question themselves, and each other.
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Enjoy, I hope.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Written by FlyBigD
The deal struck, Holly bent forward to untie her shoes as she watched Teddy
carry her things to the house. Loaded down with everything she had brought with
her, Holly marveled at the ease with which Teddy seemed to bear the burden up
the steep looking staircase. A stray thought passing through her mind about the
sunrise, she pulled off her shoes as she gave the house at the top of the stairs
a closer inspection with an architect’s eye.
Certainly not much to look at from the outside, it was a painted a dark green that matched the surrounding foliage, which explained why Holly had never seen it the many times she had surveyed the mountian from a distance. A fairly typical design found in the islands, the house seemed sturdy enough for where it was located. Sitting on top of the garage, that appeared to be cut out of the mountain, the foundation for the sides of the house extending beyond the lower structure was solid rock instead of stilts. The front of the house set back from the front of the garage by the width of a deck that looked like it went all the way around. The stairs led up to the left side of the house and through the wooden railing, she could see that the front door was in the center, but other than the green colored tin roof, there wasn’t much else she could see from that vantage point.
Curious for more and barefoot, Holly tucked her shoes under her arm and opened the door of the truck. A wet muddy greeting for her toes, she winced at the feeling, then pulled her briefcase from behind the seat. Holding the case up in the air, she high stepped her way to the stairs where she found a chuckling Teddy.
“A sidewalk was next on my list.” Teddy made her apologies. “Here,” holding out her hand, “gimme your briefcase. You might need two hands for the first step.”
Holly looked down at the first step, which was about knee high and handed over her briefcase without any questions, then she took hold of the railing with both hands as she forcibly removed her right foot from the mud with a loud slurping noise. Her muddy foot going on the first step, she glanced up at Teddy. “Have you ever heard of anti-skid?” She asked, feeling the slipperiness of the wooden step.
Teddy gave her a raspberry and bent down to take her left hand. “Come on. I’m getting soaked.” Hands locked, she pulled back as Holly pushed off and together they successfully got Holly up onto the step. “Want me to walk behind you in case you slip?” She asked sarcastically as she let go of the blonde’s hand.
Holly’s reaction was to take back her briefcase with a snatch, then proceed her squishing, splatting, splashing way up the staircase unaided.
Her eyes following Holly’s progress, Teddy shook her head as started upward. “I guess that’s a no.” She surmized.
Dryer than Teddy, but not by much, Holly walked under the overhang toward the front door without being invited then stopped when she saw the home owner’s muddy boots sitting beside the mat. “Do you have someplace for me to clean my feet off?” Asking hopefully, she tried to wiggle some of the mud from between her toes.
“Just a second.” Opening the front door, Teddy reached inside for a beach chair. Bringing it out, she set it up under the overhang next to Holly. “Sit here and hold your feet out. The runoff from the roof should have them clean in a minute.”
The rain coming down in measured streams along the roof line, Holly moved the chair to line up with one before she sat down. A look of concentration on her face, she stretched her legs out and began shifting her feet back and forth in the falling water.
Teddy smiled in satisfaction. “I’ll get you a towel.” She said as she wiped her feet on the mat before going inside.
Alone on the deck, Holly swung her feet until they were clean. Lowering her legs, she kept them clear of the big muddy puddle she’d made. Waiting on the towel, her eyes came up to look out over the railing and the panoramic picturesque view nearly knocked her out of the chair. Though it was almost dark and the sky was filled with gray clouds, and her view was partially obscured by the rain, it was still something to behold. Situated just above the tops of the trees in front of her, the island spread out like a green carpet for as far as the eye could see with the Caribbean continuing on to the dusky horizon. Awestruck and speechless, her head turned slowly from side to the other, taking in the full expanse of the incredible view. And there, way off in the distance, she saw the lights of the Paradise above the layer of canopy. Though not nearly as beautiful as it was in Teddy’s description, the sight still brought a smile to her lips as she stared at her dream come true.
The towel in her hand, Teddy watched Holly from the front door with a smile of her own. “Yep. I had a really great view, till somebody came along and put a resort in the way.” Sighing dramatically, she shook her head. “Just sucks now.”
Suddenly crestfallen, Holly looked at the resort, thinking Teddy was serious and turned around to make some kind of apology when she saw a smirk on the woman’s lips. “That wasn’t nice.” She informed her in a none to happy tone at getting hooked.
“Yea, well neither am I.” She sneered and handed the blonde the towel. Ducking back inside before Holly had time to say something, she began moving around the living room removing the large sheets covering the furniture.
Holly dried her feet off, then stood up, putting them in the muddy puddle. Realizing what she’d done, she rolled her eyes, picked up her briefcase and walked to the door to dry them off again. One hand leaning on the door jamb, she got her first glimpse of the inside of Teddy’s house. Much better to look at than the outside, her expression changed to one of intense curiosity when she saw the aquarium. Huge compared to anything she had seen outside a real ‘buy a ticket and watch the sharks swim overhead’ kind of aquarium, at her first expert guess, she estimated it had to be at least twelve feet long. Short of the floor and ceiling by only a foot, which with another expert guess put it at ten feet tall because the ceiling had to be twelve, there were walkways on either side leading to another room and as her curiosity led her closer, she frowned at the paper cut out fish hanging from strings inside the empty tank. No water. No real fish. No multi-colored fluorescent rocks at the bottom. Just the glass walls and paper fish. Tapping the glass, she turned as she spoke. “Teddy, is this supposed to be an aquarium or some kind of pop art?”
Arms full of bundled up dusty sheets, Teddy walked out of the dining room with one trailing behind her. “What?” Spying Holly, she smiled. “Oh, that’s an aquarium.” She answered. “I just haven’t gotten any fish yet. I only come home a couple of times a year and fish are kind of picky when it comes to their feeding habits.” Rolling up the sheet she was dragging, she walked over to the aquarium. “I’ll get it filled now that I’m going to be home all the time.”
The explanation made perfect sense. Holly backed up to get a visual comparison of where the tank was with respect to the rest of the house. “It’s not over the garage.” She said mainly to herself. “That’s why you had to build on the rock. No conventional support would keep this from going through the floor when it’s full.” Nodding, she turned to look at Teddy. “How many gallons is it?”
“Twelve hundred.” Replying calmly, Teddy pointed to one of the walkways leading around the tank. “You can see what it’s sitting on from the other side. I haven’t quite got the base boards finished in the bedroom.”
Off before she thought about where she was going, Holly stared at the base as she went through the make shift hallway that was four feet long. Making her way around, her view was blocked by a set of mini blinds hanging down the other side of the tank. Glancing up to find the string pull, she raised the gray slats half way, then squatted down to inspect the space left open beneath the aquarium.
Teddy followed her, inspired by the show of curiosity and turned on the lights when Holly asked where the switch was. Squatting down beside her, she pointed to the large concrete slab supporting the tank. “It goes a foot into the rock and there are bolts holding the tank to the slab.” She said without being asked.
“So the slab wouldn’t slip off the foundation and the tank won’t slike off the slab.” Nodding in design appreciation, she went down on all fours to crawl to one end. “What about filtration and circulation?”
The bundle of sheets being dropped on the hardwood floor so Teddy could crawl after her, she came up behind Holly and pointed to the space she’d left at one end. “There is an electrical outlet for the pump. It’s still in the box in the garage.” Pointing around Holly to two holes in the bottom of the tank, she laid down on her side. “Now see here. That’s where the hose goes in for the pump and that one is for the drain plug. It’s got an extension that will attach to this pipe.” Tapping a copper pipe sticking out of the floor. “That runs under the floor to the outside of the house.”
Another couple of smiling nods and Holly sat up as a thought came to her. Twisting her torso, she looked down at Teddy. “Which came first? The aquarium or the house?”
Teddy laughed. “The aquarium.” She admitted. “I had to build the house around it because I couldn’t figure out a way to get it through the front door.”
Holly chuckled and looked up at the tank. “I don’t think you could get this through the front door of the Paradise.” Shaking her head in wonder, she glanced back at Teddy. “So where did you get this thing and how did you get it up here?”
Rolling onto her back, Teddy put her hands behind her head. “What’s the information worth to ya and how good are you at making ravioli from a can?” She asked with a flick of her eyebrows.
This time it was Holly’s turn to laugh. “A lot and does the can come with instructions?”
“Ha! There’s one born every minute.” Legs going in the air, she rolled up to a sitting position. “Do you want to shower and change first? I’ve still got some straightening to do.”
The question raised several problems. First of all, Holly didn’t have anything to change into and secondly, that meant she would have to put on the same clothes if she took a shower. “Um.” Was her response as she looked down at her damp clothes.
“Don’t worry about those.” Teddy told her. “I’ll put them in the laundry so they’ll be ready in the morning.”
“And in the mean time?” She asked, raising her eyes to look somewhat cautiously at her hostess.
Teddy didn’t get the problem for a second, then it hit her. “Oh, uh, you can wear something of mine, as long as you don’t mind wrinkled and big. All my clothes are in the bags.”
Holly thought about it, then nodded. “I think I’d like a shower. I’ve still got mud between my toes.” She noted with an indication to the dirty digits.
“Alrighty, then.” Hopping onto her feet, she stood up. “One nickel tour and then it’s the shower for you and some quick cleaning for me.” Reaching her hand down, she gave Holly some help getting up.
Another deal sealed and Holly was on her feet for the tour. “Please hold all questions until the end of the tour.” She said in a faux tour guide voice and swept her hand out to the side. “Lead on.”
Teddy straightened her dirty wet shirt, then made the same sweeping motion with her arm. “Bedroom.”
Realization coming a little late, Holly turned around to see a large bedroom with a large bed in it a short distance away and for some reason she couldn’t explain, the thought of being in Teddy’s bedroom made her overly warm. Losing some of her composure, she snatched it back to give the room the same kind of attention she had given the aquarium. A strictly professional, unemotional inspection. “This is nice. Next.”
And so the tour began, with Teddy taking the long strides necessary to get to the middle of the bedroom where the opening to the bathroom was. “Bathroom.” She said and stepped aside for Holly to give it a look.
Ready to be anywhere other than the bedroom, Holly stuck her head in the door for a quick glance, then got sucked in by her curiosity. The outside walls were made out of those glass masonry blocks from waist height on up. She walked into the room with a smile. “Oh, now I like this.” She said quietly. “This is nice.” Running her hand along the dark blue marble counter top, she watched the glass wall’s reflection in the long mirror as she walked the length. Spying the standard amenities, the shower caught her attention quickly. Merely a shoulder height wall at the far end of the room made out of the same blocks, that and the outside wall were the only thing there were to it. Open on either end with the same dark blue tiling on the rest of the floor running through it, the plumbing was mounted on the inside of the outer wall. A muted vision of the outside greenery to look at as you showered, she fingered the stainless steel soap dish attached to the wall below the shower head thinking she could spend hours in here. Then she realized someone on the outside could do the same of her as she showered.
As if reading Holly’s mind, Teddy spoke up. “Don’t worry. Way up here, the only thing that will be looking at you from the other side is the mosquitoes.”
Standing inside the shower, Holly turned around to look over the wall at Teddy, who was still by the doorway. “Is everything in your house this exposed?”
Teddy smiled and shrugged. “Sort of. It’s one of the advantages of not having any neighbors. You don’t have to lock your door, or even have doors, if you don’t want to. And besides, I live alone. Whose going to see me?” She asked with another shrug.
Holly rested her arms on top of the wall. “What about when you gave guests, like me?”
“Guests?” She asked with a somewhat surprised expression, then she shook her head and chuckled. “I’m sorry to laugh, but I picked this spot to avoid having to put up with other people, Holly and to be honest, I didn’t take anyone else into consideration when I drew up the plans.” Holding up one finger, she twitched it back and forth. “However, the few people I have had up here didn’t seem to mind the design. But, then again, Rolando and his wife never stayed long enough to take a shower, sooooo, I guess you could say you’re my guinea pig.” Opening her eyes wide, she put on a Cheshire cat grin.
The grin was too much and Holly shut her eyes to avoid having to look at it. “I don’t know if I should feel privileged or make a run for it.” She said in a tone so dry the Sahara would have been envious. No response forthcoming, she opened her eyes to see Teddy do a dance with her eyebrows. Sighing, she walked around the wall. “Can I at least get the rest of the tour before you strap on the electrodes?”
“You’re safe in here.” Teddy assured her. “I put them in the couch cushions.”
“What have I gotten myself into.” Holly asked herself as she put on her dismal, resolved to her fate, slumped shouldered routine to shuffle past Teddy.
“Come. Let me show you the rest of my laboratory.”
Holly tried to maintain her down trodden demeanor, but her curiosity was too strong and there were too many questions to ask about Teddy’s choices in design, and decor. A truly open air feel to the house, there were no doors to be found and no dead ends with every room having two open doorways, though no doors. Not even the kitchen cabinets or the pantry had doors and as Teddy explained, she liked it that way because she always knew what was in them, but she did make two exceptions. The first was the laundry room, because the washing machine was too noisy for Teddy to take a nap when it was running and the refrigerator, for obvious reasons.
Gaining more insight into the woman she didn’t know why she wondered about, Holly thought she had a few things sorted until she was led onto the deck behind the house for the final leg of the tour. Out there, her ideas were washed away by a cultured beauty rivaling the natural one she’d seen from the front of the house. An arbor running the length of the back edge of the deck, was covered in roses of every color and night blooming jasmine vines. The heady fragrances blending with tropical aromas, she was taken aback at how hard it was to tell where one began and the other ended. So natural together and so alluring, she stepped out from under the overhang without thinking about the falling rain and she walked over to a wooden Adirondack patio chair set under the arbor to sit down. In aural bliss, she closed her eyes and just breathed.
The preceeding happened before Teddy had a chance to say anything about the garden she’d created and it took her slightly off guard as she watched Holly walk out to the chair and sat down and she stared at her for a minute in bewilderment. Then she stared a minute more, expecting Holly to get up any second and come in out of the rain, but she didn’t. She just sat there getting wetter than she already was. Raising one hand and a finger, she opened her mouth to remind the woman that there was plenty of water on the inside of the house, but she let her arm drift slowly downward, and her mouth close as the peaceful expression on Holly’s face reminded her that unspoiled beauty should be left unspoiled. A heavy sigh being lost amid the sound of the rain, she stood there in silence, then a smile crept up as she thought of Rolando and the question he’d asked her about helping Holly to relax. What can I say? She thought the question. When I’m good. I’m good. Her shoulders shaking with muffled laughter, Teddy shook her head too and turned away to leave Holly to her unusual relaxation for awhile.
The thought of Rolando sparked another one and Teddy went inside to hunt down her cell phone. Rummaging through her briefcase first, then her backpack, she found the phone inside the leather container and dialed her friend’s number as she walked back to the back to peer through the window at Holly. “Hey, Rolando. It’s Teddy.”
“Ahh, yes. I’ve been expecting your call.” Sitting at the dinner table, Rolando excused himself with a wave to his wife, Maria. Walking into another room, he closed the door behind him. “And how did your second discussion with Ms. Curtis go?”
“I haven’t had it yet.” Rolling her eyes, Teddy left the window to pace around the living room with her thumbnail between her teeth. “She’s still here.”
“Theodora, the sun has set. What is Holly still doing at your house?” Sounding rather fatherly.
“Ya, see, that’s the thing, Rolando.” Back to the window for a peek, she sighed. “She’s still here because she’s going to spend the night.” There was a long pause coming from the other end of the line and Teddy began pacing as she started to explain. “It was mostly her idea and it was raining, and we hadn’t had our discussion yet, so I kind of offered to let her stay on the couch tonight, so she wouldn’t have to drive down the mountain in the mud.”
“Hmmmmm. There is something you’re not telling me.” Doing some pacing of his own, he had one hand on his hip. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Skipping over the part about her promising Holly a beautiful sunrise, she hedged her answer with a question. “Um, that’s the other thing. Ya, see, I’m getting these weird vibes and I was wondering if you . . . uh . . . know if uh . . . you know . . . um . . . is Holly gay? “ Dancing around the word, she said it as a whisper.
“Gay? Why do you want to know if Holly is gay, Theodora and what do you mean by weird vibes? What is going on up there?” Halting his pacing, Rolando sat down to receive the answers.
Teddy check out the window again and shook her head. “Nothing, really. I brought her in, gave her a quick tour and she’s sitting out on the deck under the arbor.”
“So what are these weird vibes you spoke of and what do they have to do with Holly being gay or not?” He asked again.
“Well. . . um . . .” Teddy mumbled past her thumbnail. “I not sure how to explain it, but I’m getting some mixed signals here and I don’t know if she’s just being friendly or if she’s hitting on me.”
Laying his head back, Rolando frowned at the ceiling. “How so.”
Teddy sighed heavily before she went on. Trying to collect her thoughts for a coherant explaination for him, she also tried to understand what had happened between them for herself. “I don’t know, Rolando.” She said quietly. “I’m not sure I understand it myself, but it’s like . . . when she looks at me . . . sometimes . . . it’s like she’s not looking at me, but in me.” Shaking her head with dissatisfaction at the answer, she sighed again. “It’s like I can feel her inside me when she looks at me and . . . it’s so weird, but I’d swear I can feel her feeling the same thing.”
Rolando didn’t like the explaination very much, but not for it’s oddity or vaugeness. “Theodora, you don’t know this woman. You just met her today, yes?”
“Yea, yea.” She nodded. “I never met her before I got off the plane.”
“And already you have brought her to your home.” He continued, lifting his head.
“Yea, yea, I know.” Teddy realized where he was going. “and I may be jumping to conclusions, but . . .”
“Are you sure you are not asking if Holly is gay because . . . “
“No, no, no, no.” She interrupted with a quick firmness. “Look, I told you I learned my lesson, okay. You don’t need to go there and this isn’t the same thing. This is different.” Her voice softening again, Teddy looked out the window at Holly. “I don’t know what to make of her. I don’t know what she’s after.”
“You mean you . . .” Rolando started.
“Rolando.” Teddy interrupted again as her head fell into her hand. “Is she gay or not? That’s all I want to know, here. I don’t need the third degree.”
“If you want this information, why don’t you ask your sources youself?” He came back with an attitude.
“Oh, and that would look great, too, now wouldn’t it.” Getting fired up again, she dropped her hand to glare at her reflection in the window. “I can’t those kinds of questions.”
“And how do you think it will look for a very happily married man with five children to ask those kinds of questions?” Still with the attitude, he sat forward on the seat.
“A lot safer than it would be for me to ask.” Teddy ground her teeth with frustration. “Look, I’m not asking you to go into 007 mode, okay? Just tell me what you know and I’ll take it from there.”
His dark blue eyes disappearing from view, Rolando sighed as he went against his considerable better judgement. “Alright.” He sighed. “Not that I have made any specific inquiries into the subject, but to my knowledge, Holly is not gay. The only persons I know of her having relationships were all men. However, from what I understand, they were never very serious and once she became more involved with her work, she stopped dating entirely. I assume she became too engrossed in her work to allocate the sufficent time for such endeavors.”
Didn’t ask my ass. You sure as hell didn’t get all that from her personnel folder, you old snoop. She thought as her poor thumbnail got a good gnawing over the information.
Hearing nothing from the other end, he listened harder and detected a series of sighs. “Teddy?”
“I heard ya.” Teddy said quietly. “So what do you think I should do?”
At last. He thought and thought about it. Taking into consideration all factors, including his friend, Rolando put on his Bond thinking cap and scratched his cheek. “You have already invited her to stay as your guest, so treat her accordingly, however, I would keep it as professional as possible. As you said, you only met Holly today and though I have found no information to insinuate any alterior motives, it is best to treat her as you do everyone else. You can be her friend, her advisor, but anything extra attention is asking for trouble if others were given the oportunity to make assumptions from unusual behavior on your part. Whether she is or not gay does not change the fact that she is your boss, Teddy. ” Shaking his head, he rubbed his forehead. “And for goodness sake, don’t bring her back to your home. You have put your professional life at risk with your private life before and that out come is still in question.”
“I know, Rolando. You’re right.” Rolling her eyes at the truth in his words and the mistakes she’d made, Teddy took a deep breath to puff out her cheeks with its release. “Alright. I’ll keep it friendly and no more slumber parties with people I barely know.”
“Good.” Rolando smiled as he relaxed. Standing, he moved to the door, placing his had on the knob. “Holly can benefit from your knowledge, Teddy, but it must be preceived that she is seeking you out for it and keep in mind that she may not be the only one vying for your time. My Maria was very displeased that you are not at our table this evening.”
Teddy chuckled. “She got a hold of your rear end for not inviting me tonight, didn’t she?”
“Don’t concern yourself with my body parts, Theodora.” He said in his fatherly tone again. “I am informing my wife that you will be here tomorrow and I will not be responsible for her actions if you disappoint her.”
Cringing visibly, she shook it off with a laugh. “Okay. I’ll be there.” She said confidently, then added something to get her friend riled. “Can I bring a date?”
“NO you most certainly cannot! Theodora, I . . . Theodora? Theodora?” Sighing, he realized he’d been disconnected. “What will I do with that girl?”
Teddy shut off her phone, placing it on the bar she had been using as cover to stare at Holly with. In better spirits than she had been before calling Rolando, she whistled her way to the back door, where she stood for a minute looking at Holly and wondering what was going through her mind. The same placid expression giving no evidence to anything other than complete peace, she was still tentative about putting an end to it, but she had to do something. She couldn’t leave Holly out in the rain all night and she wanted to get on with getting settled in. So, walking quietly, she went out onto the deck, to where Holly was and stared at her before speaking. A strange sense of contentment seeming to rub off on her, she squatted down beside the chair to run one finger lightly across the back of Holly’s hand as her eyes stayed on the essence of tranquility. “Holly.”
As if waking from a pleasant dream, Holly opened her eyes slowly and turned her head to look down at her hand. Lingering there a moment to enjoy the warm feel against her skin, she looked up to see a warm smiling face beside her with it’s sea of sparkling blue. “Hi.”
The smile she didn’t know she had broadened at the sound. “Hey.” She said quietly. “Are you ready to come in now?”
Immediately saddened, she sighed. “Do I have to? It’s so perfect here.”
“I know.” Teddy nodded and broke their gaze to look at what she had created surrounding them. “I love it out here too, but,” lowering her eyes, she shook her head, “you can’t sleep in the rain. I tried it once. The mattress gets all soggy.”
“Well, when you put it that way.” Holly laughed softly. Leaning forward in the chair, she stretched her arms over her head, arching her back.
Two full round breasts, barely veiled beneath wet white cotton, pressing invitingly against their confines sent Teddy into a short regressive state of panic. Diverting her eyes before she could get caught staring, she raised them above the neckline, back to Holly’s eyes as years of verbally side-stepping less than innocent offers with smooth sincerity aided her in bringing her voice down to its normal register. “Come on.” She said with a smile and stood. “A nice hot shower will help get those kinks out. Then it’s down to business.”
Unaware that she had played the temptress, Holly rolled her head back to accuse Teddy of lacking in the same field. “Please.” She replied drolly. “My heart can’t stand the anticipation.” Dropping her arms, she held out one hand to be helped up.
Teddy didn’t hesitate in taking Holly’s hand in her own for another tantalizing brush with soft warm skin because she had every intention of making it her last. “Up ya go.”
Then it happened again, as Holly stood. There eyes, locked together, got closer together and she saw something. A spark. A flicker. A flinty edge. Something. Something in Teddy’s eyes made her aware of how hard her heart was beating and how hard it suddenly became to breathe. And then it was gone. Like a shooting star in the desert sky, it passed without a sound and then they were back to where they had never left.
And so, the door closed on the something behind blue eyes, and in the time that followed, Teddy found conventional ways to busy herself away from the bedroom area while Holly took her shower. One of her bags of clothing dumped unceremoniously onto the bedroom floor for Holly to pick something to wear for the night, she took the other one, full of dirty clothes, into the laundry room, along with the clothes Holly had doffed from the safety of the bathroom, to be washed once they had both taken their showers. All the while her body was going through the motions of menial activity, her mind was engaged in a tug of war. Separating light colored garments from dark ones, Teddy sorted her reasoning. Conflicting lines of thought dancing around conflicting emotions to an unsatisfactory end, but no evident closure, except the two piles of clothes she’d created and the knowledge that nothing else would be allowed to form.
Washed, refreshed, relaxed, toweled off and sporting an ill-fitting, wrinkled t-shirt and matching shorts with a pull-tie waist band, Holly made the tag with Teddy, for the other woman to take shower. Business on the agenda, she opened her briefcase on the kitchen counter to read some documents while she stirred the contents of a simmering pot of canned ravioli in comfortable absorption.
To the contrary, Teddy stood naked, shoulders flexed, hands pressed onto warm glass as cold water poured over her low hung head and down her body. The frigid temperature used as a last, shocking measure to clear her head of fleeting glances and tingling touches, it took ten minutes of the tactic to do the job. Resolved to no more close encounters of the unexplainable kind and hopefully, whatever was behind them would go away if it wasn’t encouraged. Business experience, friendship and maybe some jokes thrown in on the side was all she was going to offer her boss from now on. There would be no more letting sad expressions obscure her judgment and she would get a grip on her reflexes, and stop responding to mysterious, unsettling sensations brought on by soul searching stares.
Dressed in the same type of clothing as Holly, but with a much better fit, Teddy put her plan into action. Keeping a slightly distant, but friendly air about herself, she shared the no star meal with her boss on the living room couch as they went over the numbers for her departmental supply orders. Then, moving to the floor when she broke out her laptop, they sat side by side with the computer sandwiched in between two open briefcases on the coffee table and she showed Holly some loose ends she’d discovered in the system before she had officially arrived.
Therein finding a snooping slip, Holly pounced on it and proceeded to ask Teddy a probing question as to how she had avoided being seen on her previous visits to the resort and how it came to be that the polished mahogany counter on the bar, residing back by the windows Teddy had so graciously opened, so resembled the one the bar manager would be working behind at the resort, since Holly had hand picked the perfect pieces of richly colored wood, and therefore found it hard to believe that Teddy could have gotten a match to them from any other source, besides misappropriation of corporate property.
“Um.” Was Teddy’s initial reaction. Then she tugged on her earlobe for awhile and found a host of very interesting things to look at besides her accuser. “I have connections.” She said at last, with a sly glance in Holly’s direction.
“You’ve got sticky fingers.” Holly corrected, though not too harshly and she folded her arms across her chest for another question. “Is there anything else that walked off the site to find its little lost way, way up here?”
Breaking into a smile, Teddy stopped tugging on her ear to scratch the back of her head. “Just some scrap I rescued from the dumpsters.” Sounding more like a question itself, she added a full set of pearly white to her innocent act. “I recycled it.” She said with more conviction, though not much more.
She considered Teddy’s animated expression through thinly slitted eyelids. “Hmmmmmmm.”
Teddy held the pose until Holly caved in with a sigh. “Nice choice in mahogany, by the way.” She said as her smile softened into a playful grin.
“Don’t push it.” Holly warned as a grudging smirk, then she pointed at the laptop. “Okay, what else have you got in there for me?”
Seamlessly detouring back into business mode, Teddy walked Holly through minute details the resort manager had overlooked through inexperience. Minor points and few, but ones capable of creating major headaches if they remained unaddressed, she used a casual, non-condescending tone for the tutorial. Fielding consequent intelligent questions and offering advice for possible solutions, she was mildly surprised at how extensive Holly’s hunger for knowledge could be once she shed her desire for complete control.
Responsive, open and ready to learn what she didn’t know she didn’t know, Holly had been hard under the learning curve from the beginning of the project to its completion, with the pressure mounting to see her dream through to a working fruition. Supposedly the price to pay for bringing the resort to life, the stress she had been under was partially of her own creation for having been so possessive with the decision making process, but as avenues of relief were pointed out, she could feel the burden lighten. The leaning process an enjoyable one, the information flowing from Teddy’s brain was a professional montage riddled with the witticisms Holly found less and less annoying as more of the woman’s personality was revealed and Teddy’s wasn’t the only one she was learning about. The avenues or persons she would be delegating responsibility to were described in candid appraisals when their department was covered in the conversation. Personal likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, quirks and flaws brought her staff into the three dimensional and fell into three major categories, from Teddy’s perspective. One - People who were reliable and responsible that you could leave on their own to do their job. Two - People who were reliable and responsible, but needed a little supervisory nudging every once in awhile to do their job. Three - People who could work miracles after you zapped them in the ass with a cattle prod. The last category being populated by only a few, Holly was thankful for that fact and for the insight, though she was tempted to ask Teddy which category she fell into, but biting the hand that was feeding you a wealth of knowledge wasn’t a good idea when you were wearing the woman’s clothes, and yours weren’t out of the dryer yet. So, with no other recourse than to keep the question unspoken, she continued to play the dutiful inquisitive student to Teddy’s professorship and as the hours wore on, she continued to get more than she had bargained for. A personality balancing act yet to come, the insight kept coming as well, once they had gone through every department. Then Teddy wasn’t so professional with her appraisals. Going into more background detail, Holly learned what wasn’t in the personnel files and how her cream of the crop staff had risen to the top. Though most had gotten there the same way she had, through hard work, that wasn’t the case with everyone. A sparse handful had used methods that relied on other people’s failure to boost them higher with the means not always justifying the end result, just speeding it along.
The underbelly of personalities being exposed with a serious expression to give levity to words of warning, Teddy added the reality check that some still considered themselves on the rise, which put Holly directly in their sights. “Don’t get me wrong.” She said as a beginning to the end. “I’m not trying to give you the wrong impression about them. They do know how to do their jobs and they are good at what they do, and they do want the resort to be a success because it will make them look good. But, if they can look better by making you look bad, they’ll do it.”
Holly took the words to heart and closed her eyes. “God, they must have been in heaven watching me run around for the last couple of months.”
“Most likely.” Teddy admitted as she placed her hand on Holly’s shoulder to give it a gentle shake. “But there ain’t no fat lady singing on the beach, yet.” Smiling when Holly opened her eyes, she winked. “You didn’t get forewarning, but you know now.”
“And now?” She asked with a sarcastic edge and laid her head back on the couch to stare at the ceiling.
“And now you show them whose boss.” Tapping the shoulder her hand was on, she turned sideways to face Holly. “Look, Holly. You didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday and they know that. They know your rep and they’ll test ya for awhile, to find out what you’re really made out of, but don’t let it get to you. You’ve got what it takes to make it, you just have to stay one step ahead of them, so they can’t cut you off at the knees.”
Rolling her head to the side, Holly gave Teddy a tired look. “That’s easy for you to say. You’re the one with the mile of legs.”
Teddy glanced down at Holly’s legs with a chuckle. “Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t under estimate that set of U.S. Grade A pistons you’ve got, if I were you. They look like they could do some serious damage.” Poking a firm thigh with one finger, she shook her head. “Nope, you won’t find me looking for a kick in the ass from them anytime soon.”
“Alright. Alright.” Chuckling against her will, Holly lifted her head off the cushion. “So, tell me, swamy. How do you propose I use my pistons, as you call them, to stay ahead of the game?”
“Just keep your eyes open for what I showed you.” Teddy said and moved her gaze back to the laptop. “They’ll let loose ends like that dangle to see if you’ll catch them and if you don’t, they’ll tie them up at the last minute, and make sure everybody knows you missed it.” Turning back to Holly, she shrugged. “You catch it before it becomes a problem and hold them accountable for it dangling in the first place and they’ll back off once they see it’s gonna be their asses on the line.”
“Play the heavy, huh?” She asked not liking the proposition very much.
“Not really.” Taking her hand off Holly’s shoulder, Teddy balled it into a fist to rest her temple on. “These aren’t bad people, Holly. They aren’t evil. They’re just people who don’t believe in themselves enough to stand up without standing on somebody else. It’s not the best of traits, but it isn’t incurable.” Softening her tone, she smiled. “It’s been my experience that if you let someone know what they’re worth by themselves, they’ll usually stop trying to get noticed by pushing everybody else down.”
Holly returned the smile. “And what’s your experience with people who hoard all the toys, instead of pushing people down?”
Teddy’s reply to Holly’s not so obscure reference to herself was made in an easy, practical tone. “Them you snatch up by the hair of the head and drag ‘em out behind the wood shed, and beat their little asses like a red-headed step child till they get in a sharing mood.”
Her eyes got a little round with frankness of the answer. “The Paradise doesn’t have a wood shed.” She noted.
“The dumpsters are full of scrap wood.” Was spoken with a confident smile. “I’ll build one.”
“I was afraid of that.”
Thus the evening ended late and was filled with things to give Holly food for serious thought as she lay on her side staring at the empty aquarium. A borrowed pillow under her head, a clean sheet over her body and a plastic egg turner for protection against mosquitoes, she wondered about the woman the items belonged to, and how Teddy could have made such a change in her, in such a short period of time.
Antsy to meet Teddy at first and mildly perturbed to have her presence essentially forced on her, Holly was now having a hard time imagining herself without the tall brunette sleeping on the other side of closed gray mini-blinds. Such was the impact Teddy had made, though Holly was only starting to realize the full extent of it, now that she didn’t have those blue eyes to distract her. They had made an impact too, but she wasn’t quite ready to analyze the feelings she got when she looked into them. It was better, safer, to leave that alone till a time when they weren’t so close at hand and she could do some rational thinking, rather than just falling into them everytime they turned her way. No, she would stick to the business side of their relationship for now and think about how she was going to apply the information she’d learned. So she did. Holly thought about what she had learned with the aroma of jasmine in bloom, the jungle and the sound of gently falling rain on both to ease her toward slumber, with the egg turner clutched in her hand, held close to her heart.
Teddy wasn’t sleeping either, to begin with. She lay in bed awake, on her back, hands behind her head, staring at the blades of the ceiling fan going slowly around as her mind replayed the day. The events clear, not all were completely understood and as she tried to make sense of those, her thoughts kept coming back to their source. The blonde sleeping on her couch. The woman who she knew was trouble waiting to happen. The person she was going to be working for and the owner of a pair of green eyes that sent a tremor down her spine everytime they looked at her.
She had walked into what she thought was a known situation, albeit against her will and was now stuck with an unknown factor. Holly. A factor that was going to have to be handled carefully if she was going to retain a professional balance to their relationship because to do otherwise was too dangerous. It was better to just forget about the tingling sensations and the whole weirdness of the day, and get on with the business of being a bar manager. And who was to say the heart murmurs would last? Maybe, come morning, the new would be worn off and there wouldn’t be any more close encounters of the Holly kind. They would go their separate ways and nothing would ever come of the soul searching stares that had made her forget to breathe. Keep it friendly. Keep it professional. Keep it safe and keep Holly away from the house.
The dawn came without a glorious entrance. To be more precise, it barely came at all. Hidden from view behind a dismal layer of gray clouds still drizzling rain, the sun breached the horizon with a disappointed sigh, rather than a sizzle. Standing alone on the front deck of the house, Teddy watched nothing happen for fifteen minutes. Hoping for the glorious sunrise she had promised and was ready to deliver the moment the clouds broke, she finally went inside when it became obvious she was not going to be able to give Holly a spectacular wake up call. Already dressed for work in a pair of baggy shorts and another wrinkled t-shirt, she trudged through the living room to the kitchen where a steaming pot of coffee was waiting to be guzzled by a woman who had spent most of the night tossing and turning from visions of pure trouble. The trouble still asleep on the couch, Teddy gave Holly a glance on her way into the bedroom with her cup of liquid stimuli and couldn’t stop herself from smiling. The egg turner still in Holly’s hand, the utensil didn’t detract from a sight worth getting up early to see. Blonde hair tousled from sleep, it partially covered Holly’s face that looked as peaceful as it had when she had been out in the garden the night before and to Teddy, seemed almost angelic.
Move along. Move along. Nothing for you here. Teddy told herself when she discovered herself going down a street she wasn’t supposed to be on. Finishing the trek to the bedroom, the coffee got a couple of sips before the cup went on the dresser and Teddy went to work folding her clean, wrinkled clothes, and putting them away. Another exercise in keeping busy, thoughts of Holly still wandered into her mind as she considered how long she should let her guest sleep. An early riser herself, she didn’t know Holly’s morning habits, though she suspected that as driven as she was about the resort, she was probably up before now and on her way. “Hmmm.” Sidling up to one side of the tank, Teddy peeked around it at the sleeping figure. So peaceful. So sweet. So how do I wake her up without scaring the shit out of her? The lights are already on, so that’s out. I’ve walked through there five times and she never moved. I could throw something at her. “Hmmmm?” Looking down at the folded shirt she had in her hands, she thought about it, then looked at Holly again. No. She’d probably try to beat it to death with the egg turner. Might get some of the wrinkles out though. Oh, stop it. Think, Teddy. What gets you up in the morning. Ahhhhhhhh. Turning her head, she smiled at her steaming cup of coffee. Maybe a couple whiffs of go-go juice will do the trick?
Placing the shirt on the dresser, Teddy stole through the living room one more time to pour another cup of coffee from the pot. The bait in one hand, she waved the other over the cup to spread fragrant fumes around the room before she set the cup on the table in front of Holly. A couple more passes of her hand for the direct approach and she left the bait to see if it got any attention from the safety of the bedroom. Opening the mini-blinds a little bit, she sipped her coffee as she watched Holly through the cardboard fish hanging in the aquarium.
It took a minute for the smell of coffee to override the fading scent of jasmine, but eventually the aroma broke through Holly’s unconsciousness. Opening one eye, then the other, she stared at the cup for another minute as her mind tried to sort out what it was, why it was there and why she had an egg turner in her hand. The latter the answer to the former, she sat up slowly and put the utensil down to do a paltry combing job on her hair as she scratched her head with both hands. A big sigh, some small smacking noises and her hands came down to wrap themselves around the cup. As the smell filled her lungs the closer the cup came to her lips, she closed her eyes for the first taste of caffinated elixir.
Hook, line and sinker. Teddy thought with a satisfied smile. Cup in hand, she walked around the tank. “Morning.”
Jet black and scalding her tongue, the first sip was swallowed and followed by another before Holly lowered the cup. “Morning.” She said with a gruff morning voice, then cleared her throat to give it another try as she opened her eyes. “Morning.”
“Sleep good?” The hostess inquired, though she didn’t get any closer to her guest than the other side of the coffee table.
Holly nodded and sat back, holding her coffee close to her chin. “I always sleep good when it’s raining.”
I used to. “Want some breakfast?”
Her eyes bloodshot from sleep, Holly gave Teddy an intrigued look. “Have you gone grocery shopping since I fell asleep?” She asked over the cup as she took another sip.
Teddy’s eyes shifted from one side to the other, then back to Holly. Hmmmm. Biting sarcasm for breakfast. This could only mean one thing. “You’re not a morning person, are you?”
“Do I look like a morning person to you?” Holly asked blandly, sure that she did not look like something she was not.
“Will you fire me if I answer that honestly?” She asked with a smile.
Hugging the cup to her, Holly growled.
“Just checking.” Shrugging she turned around to go back into the bedroom. “Note to self. Never talk to Holly before she’s finished her first cup of coffee.”
Unamused, but on her way to being fully awake, the guest sat quietly sipping her morning brew until the cup was empty. At that time, her hostess miraculously reappeared.
“Want some breakfast?” Teddy asked, holding back a chuckle.
Holly smiled. “How about another cup of coffee instead?”
“I can do that.” She nodded and came forward to take the cup from Holly. “You want this one black too?”
Happily caffienated, she nodded as she handed over her prized possession to be refilled. “Yes, please.”
“Oooo and manners to boot.” Putting on an impressed expression, Teddy made her way around the table and couch staring down into the empty cup. “I wonder why it never works like that for me?”
“Would you kick me out in my pajamas if I answered that honestly?” Chuckling as her head rotated around to follow Teddy’s progress.
Teddy stopped dead in her tracks to give the blonde a glare. “Your clothes are on the counter in the bathroom next to a travel toothbrush I used to clean gum off my shoes.” She said, then stuck out her tongue and continued on her way.
Holly brightened, then winced, then laughed. “Enough with the visuals. I get the hint. I’m going.” Moaning as she pried herself off the couch, she rubbed her eyes, one by one, on her way into the bathroom where she found her clothes and a toothbrush in an unopened box. Taking the box in her hand, she shook it next to her ear, then checked it carefully for tampering. No sign of regluing to be seen, it went back on the counter to be used once she had answered the call of Mother Nature.
The cup refilled and back on the coffee table, Teddy folded the sheet while she was there, placing the frumpled square on top of her pillow with a pat. Then she made a round trip with the egg turner, dropping it in the sink as she passed by on the way to the laundry room to do the clothes switch between washer and dryer. Starting another load in the wash, she picked up the ones she had pulled out of he dryer in large bundle, filling her arms. “I’m coming into the bedroom!” She shouted as she shifted the clothes to block her view of the bathroom before she ever got through the living room.
Holly was fully dressed in her own clothes by this time and came to the entrance to the bedroom with the tooth brush sticking out of her mouth, to watch Teddy as she came in. “Are those transfer requests ready for me to sign?” She asked, though not quite that clearly, through a mouthful of foaming toothpaste.
Her reflexes nearly getting the best of her, Teddy started to turn her head, then stopped herself. “Yea, they’re in my briefcase.” She said, her back turned to Holly as she dropped the load onto the pile already established on the floor. “Do you want to sign them now?” Asking on her way out through the other opening.
Her subject gone in a flash, Holly came out of the bathroom to give her answer from the opening Teddy had entered through. Pulling the toothbrush out of her mouth, she pointed it at Teddy and tilted her head back to keep from spitting white foam all over the floor. “No, but I’d like to know who I’m hiring first, if that’s okay?”
This time Teddy couldn’t keep herself from looking and what met her eyes when she turned around wasn’t arousing, it was humorous, and maybe a little scary. “Sure. We can go over them.” She chuckled. “Now get back in the bathroom before I call the rabies control unit.”
Unable to do much else as retaliation, in went the toothbrush and back went Holly to the bathroom with a quick turn of her head.
Teddy was more amused at the display of attitude and laughed as she began to move around the living room, collecting what she would be taking to work. The briefcase closest to her, she put it by the front door, then had to hurry to find her backpack when she heard the phone start ringing from inside it. Having put the phone in there while she was waiting for Holly to wake up, she followed the sound to the leather bag’s location. Flipping open the flap to dig through some personal belongings before the little black phone appeared in her hand. “Hello.” She said without thinking who would be calling her that early in the morning.
“Lord have mercy, youngin. Why didn’t you call me to let me know you got yourself there in one piece? Minnie has been having fits worrying about you.” Maxwell Joseph Patterson IV bellowed in his deep, deep baritone voice with its southern drawl. “I had to call the resort to keep her from calling out the Coast Guard.”
“Hello, Max.” A playful smile on her lips, Teddy picked up the back pack as she spoke and carried it to the front door. “I made it and I’m sorry for worrying Minnie. Holly caught me coming off the plane and put me to work. I haven’t even finished unpacking yet.”
“Well, well, well, well, now that makes two of ya.” He said and dropped the volume a notch. “I’ve been trying to reach her since this morning to find out what happened to you. Where has that little lady gotten off to? If she’s sleeping in that office again . . . I’ve told her about that.”
“Max, calm down.” Shaking her head, Teddy plopped down on the couch and put her feet up. “Holly is fine. She’s here with me. She gave me a ride home yesterday and stayed so we could get some more work done.” A patronizing tone in her voice, she rolled her eyes when he snorted. “I thought you liked dedication?”
“Dedication can be damned when it comes to not knowing if y’all are dead along the roadside somewhere.” Gruff, yet caring, Max let out a sigh. “I’m too old to have to run you young things down, Teddy.”
“I know, Max.” She said guiltily. “I’m sorry. I should have called and you’re not that old.”
“I’m seventy-eight, this May, so don’t you try to tell me who’s old and who ain’t. I’ll be old if it suits me.” Just gruff this time.
“And only when it suits you.” Teddy added with a chuckle. “Funny how your age never comes up when you’re out there island hopping.”
“Shoosh, you.” Max scolded his younger cousin. “You mind your manners and be mindful of your elders.”
Teddy broke out into a belly shaking laugh. “What are you going to do, Max? Tell my Mama on me?”
“You just keep on with that smart mouth, Theodora Adele Cooper.” He warned her. “And I’ll put your Mama on a plane right now, so you can tell her face to face why you don’t think she’s important enough to give your number to.”
Suddenly the laughter stopped and Teddy’s eyes got big around. “Oops. I’ve been meaning to do that.”
“Uh huh. That’s what I thought.” Gloating, Max waggled a finger at the receiver. “You better get off this phone and get on to her. She’s called Minnie twice this morning, wonder where her child was and you know how she is when she gets stirred up.”
Teddy knew all to well and grimaced at the idea of having to call her mother. “Yea, I know. I’ll call her, Max.”
“You better and you better give her your number because I’m gonna call ten minutes from now and if her number ain’t busy or if she don’t tell me she’s talked to you, I’m putting her on the first bird headed south.” Back to bellowing, he nodded once for effect. “And your Daddy, too.”
“Alright! Alright! I’m calling. I’m calling.” She said as multiple groans. “Bye, Max.”
“You take care, Teddy and I’ll call you in a couple of days to see how things are working out.”
“Okay, fine, bye.” Pushing the off button before he could get his salutations in, Teddy dialed her parent’s number, then closed her eyes to brace for the worst as she brought the phone to her ear.
Holly came out of the bedroom spit, rinsed, hair in a pony tail and ready for her next cup of coffee. Seeing the filled container on the coffee table, she also noticed Teddy and her expression. “What’s the matter?” She asked as she picked up the cup.
Sitting on pins and needles, Teddy raised her hand to Holly, but didn’t reply other wise. “Hi, Mom. Sorry I didn’t call yesterday.” Bringing her hand down to cover her closed eyes, she held the phone away from her ear as her mother started yelling. “Ow. I said I was sorry.”
Putting two and two together quickly, Holly quickly excused herself into the kitchen where she pretended to be interested in what was in the cabinets. Then she pretended about what was in the refrigerator, then the oven and finally she came back in the living room for her briefcase so, at least she could get some work done. Setting up camp at the dining table, she went over the mental notes she had made last night, turning them into a long hand version for future reference. Deep in thought and fairly oblivious to her surroundings, Holly broke out of it when she was sure she heard a phone ringing somewhere.
“Damn.” Teddy mumbled away from the mouth piece of the cell phone she was still on. “Holly? Can you get that, please?”
“Sure.” Holly replied as she came out of the dining room to stare at her hostess. “Where is it coming from?”
Teddy pointed in rapid repeats at the aquarium in agitation. “Bedroom in the nightstand.”
Bedroom in the night stand. “Okay.” She said aloud with a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ nod, then off she went to find the phone. The path ripe with hazards, like a huge pile of clothes in her way, she stepped over them to go to one of the two nightstands on either side of the bed. Opening the only drawer, there was no phone, so she tried the cabinet underneath and no phone. So, then it was either hop over the pile again or crawl over the bed. Holly opted for the bed and went across on all fours to check the other piece of furniture. Nothing in the top drawer, she finally found the phone in the lower cabinet and flopped down on her stomach to answer it. “Hello, Teddy Cooper’s residence. Holly speaking.”
“Holly?” Rolando asked tentatively, because he knew where the phone she was on was located in the bedroom, next to the bed.
“Yes. Can I help you?” She asked in return, until the voice struck a familiar Latin chord. “Rolando?”
“Yes, yes, it’s me. Um, good morning, Holly. Where is Theodora?” Asking, though he didn’t really want to, Rolando searched his living room for someplace to hide if he got the wrong answer.
“Good morning to you, too.” Propping up on one elbow. “She’s in the living room on her cell phone. Is there something I can help you with, Rolando or would you like to leave a message for Teddy? I think she’s going to be on the phone for awhile.”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary.” He said quickly, with a relieved sigh. “Merely inform her that I called, if you would be so kind . . . and . . . what time can I tell the staff to expect the pleasure of your company this morning?” Using up his morning quota of charm, Rolando wiped the light layer of sweat off his upper lip.
“The staff?” Holly asked herself, more than him. “What are you doing at work already?”
“No, I’m not at work. I’m at home.” He clarified, then cleared his throat. “However, I believe that, perhaps, some of the staff may have already arrived. I was offering to phone in and tell them what time to expect your arrival.”
Holly frowned at the way he was acting. “Rolando, is there something wrong with you?”
“Not to my knowledge, Holly.” Rolando said with certainty. “How are you?”
“Fine.” She said with as much conviction and the frown. “Hang on a second.” Scooting her legs around to a sitting position, she put the phone down on the bed and got up to go into the living room. Seeing Teddy still on the phone, she waved her hand to get noticed.
Teddy noticed her and put her hand over the mouth piece of the phone she was on. “What? Who was on the phone?”
“It’s Rolando.” Holly informed her, with a thumb over the shoulder. “I think you should talk to him. He’s sounding sort of . . . strange.” She said, for lack of a better word.
Teddy’s chin dropped to her chest with the news. “I don’t need this, this morning.” She moaned. Head rolling from side to side, she sighed several times before she made the monumental effort of getting off the couch. Her parents ranting in one ear, she sulked her way into the bedroom to have Rolando talk into her other ear. Picking up the phone, she sighed her greeting. “Yes, Rolando?”
“Theodora, why have you not left for work yet? It is getting late.” Rolando demanded.
“Because I’m trying to explain to my parents that I haven’t forgotten they exist, that’s why.” She shot back. “I’ll get there when I get there.”
“And what about Holly? She is overdue at this very moment.” He announced. “This will not look good, Theodora and what was she doing in your bedroom? I thought we had agreed to keep her out of your personal areas.”
Too many straws being laid on the camels back, too early in the morning, Teddy growled at Rolando. “I’ll talk to you later.” She said and bent down to hang up on him, then addressed her gene pool. “Hey! Hey! Hello! Yea, thanks. Look, I’ve got to get to work now. I’ll call you tonight, okay? Right. Yessssss. I’ll do that. Bye.” The cell phone got turned off and tossed on the bed right before Teddy fell beside it face first.
Holly squelched the urge to yell ‘timber’ and shook her head instead. “Did I say ‘welcome to paradise’ yet?”
Teddy lolled her head to the side with a scowl to show Holly. “Don’t think that just because you’re my boss, that I won’t kill you. Because I will. This is all your fault.”
“Come again?” Pointing at herself, Holly walked over to the bed and fell backwards to lay beside Teddy. “How is this my fault?” She asked as she rolled onto her side.
Taking up the same position, Teddy pointed an accusing finger at her boss. “If I’d taken a taxi, like I wanted to, instead of you bringing me home, I wouldn’t have forgotten to call Max and my parents. You’re the one who kept me busy working all damned night.”
“Now wait a doggone . . .” She started in defense, then paused to chew on her bottom lip. “. . . okay. I’ll take the blame for keeping you preoccupied, but,” having a sudden burst of inspiration, she shook a finger in Teddy’s face, “you had all afternoon to make those calls before you got here. So there.”
Teddy gave it a second thought and fell on her stomach again. “Damn.” She groaned into the mattress. “I’m doomed.”
“Poor baby.” Holly chuckled and gave Teddy a consolatory pat on the back, that turned into a sympathetic rub, before the woman popped up like a cork out of a champagne bottle. “What?”
Her back still a blaze from where Holly had touched her, Teddy hid her blush behind a sudden dramatic search for something in the safety of the living room. “Shoes. Where are my shoes. We gotta get to work. Lots of things to do.” She blurted out.
Empty handed and confused, Holly sat up, then slid off the bed to follow the woman gone crazed. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing.” She lied and went down on all fours to search under the couch. “I just remembered that we’ve got a lot of work to do today and I thought we should be getting to it. Gotta earn that paycheck, ya know.”
“I know that.” Holly said and put her hands on her hips. “I also know that your shoes are in the bedroom.”
“Oh.” Teddy mumbled as she pulled her arm from beneath the couch. “Good . . . uh . . . thanks. Why don’t you get your stuff together while I go put them on?” She suggested as she stood. Straightening out a few of the many wrinkles in her shirt, she flashed a smile before hot footing it back into the bedroom.
Holly didn’t follow this time. Rather she stood there staring at where Teddy had apparently just jumped off the deep end. “Would somebody like to explain what just happened here?” She asked the air and threw her hands up. “Because either I’m missing something really big, or you’ve got personality problems we need to address.”
“I don’t have any personality problems.” Teddy called out as the first shoe went on. “I’m just in a hurry to get to work.”
“Since when?” Holly asked with an incredulous overtone. “A few minutes ago you were asking me if I wanted breakfast and now you’re kicking me out the door.” Her head cocked to the side, she started around the aquarium.
“I’m not kicking you out.” One shoe tucked under her arm and the other one on, she slid her foot off the bed by the strings and hopped towards the living room.
“Well, what is it then?” Coming through the opening, Holly frowned when she walked into an empty bedroom.
“I’ve got a lot to do.” Teddy said to an empty living room. Her head on a swivel, she turned around to go back into the bedroom when Holly’s voice came from there.
“And you just remember that? Right out of the blue?” Holly went back the way she had come when she heard Teddy’s voice coming from the living room and walked into the space to find no Teddy.
In the bedroom without Holly, Teddy finally let go of her shoe laces. “Things come to me like that sometimes.” She said softly and slowly as her foot was slowly lowered to the floor. “Where’d she go?” Turning around again, she headed for the living room.
“What?” Another u-turn and Holly was on her way back into the bedroom.
“I feel like I’m in a Charlie Chan movie.” She said, then caught sight of her target out of the corner of her eye. Turning her head, she looked through the empty aquarium as Holly walked by it on the opposite end and going in the opposite direction. God, I am in a Charlie Chan movie. She thought and sighed as she stuck her head from behind the tank to stare at Holly when she cleared her end. “You think we can cut the ‘B’ movie stunts long enough for me to get my shoes on?”
Spotting her quarry down the length of the tank, Holly sighed. “Are you going to stay in one place once you get them on?”
“Living room.” Was Teddy’s terse reply.
“Fine.” A not too happy Holly said and made what she hoped would be her last u-turn for the morning.
Using the wall as a brace, Teddy tied her shoe. Sliding the other black leather item over her bare foot, she left the laces untied as she went back into the bedroom to shut off the bathroom light and the lamp on the nightstand, and to pick up her cell phone off the bed. Two streams of light filtering in from either side of the tank, she came out of the darkness and found Holly pacing around the living room. “Now, what was your problem again?” She asked on her way through to the kitchen where she unplugged the coffee maker and shut off the lights.
“My problem?” She asked and spun around in time to see Teddy disappear into the rear hallway. “I’m not the one who has the Sybil complex here.” Raising her voice, she walked over to the opening as the lights went out.
“I don’t have a complex and if your next question is if I’m on some type of medication? The answer is no.” Teddy said calmly as she came out of the darkness once more. Moving past the blonde, she turned the corner towards the dining room.
“Then what is it with you?” Stepping out of the way, she followed Teddy into the dining room.
Ready to turn off those lights as well, Teddy waited when she saw Holly’s briefcase on the table. “You wanna get your stuff so we can get out of here?” She asked, pointing to the case.
Openly gawking, Holly shook her head. “Yes, fine, whatever.” She said in frustrated confusion. “Let me get my things and I’ll get the hell out of your hair.” Picking up the paper she’d been studying, she tossed them in the case, then slammed it closed. Grabbing the handle, she snatched the case off the table and looked up at her icy hostess. “You know . . .” She started angrily, then paused for a moment and eventually sighed. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, you haven’t done anything wrong. I’m just ready to go to work. You wanna join me?” Teddy asked and made a valiant attempt for it to sound insolent so Holly would go back to being mad, but it backfired when Holly’s expression turned sad before she looked away. Oh, don’t do that to me. Don’t look like that. How am I supposed to stick to my plan when you look like that?
Holly was still confused when she moved her gaze back to the brunette. Teddy’s face a blank slate, she couldn’t read anything from it, though she thought there was something else in those blue eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve over stayed my welcome.” She said softly. “I just thought we were getting along. I mean, I know we had some harsh words in the truck, but I thought we had gotten past them. I thought when we . . . last night . . . I guess I read too much into it. I thought, maybe, we were going to be friends and then this morning . . . but, I . . . thank you for your help. I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. It won’t happen again.” Dropping her eyes, she started for the front door.
“Holly, wait.” Slapping her forehead in a doomed kind of way, Teddy rubbed it hard as she walked over to the blonde. Where’s Rolando when I need him?
“What?” Staring at her feet, Holly looked up when she saw Teddy’s shoes come into view.
Weighed down by her emotions and shot through the heart with a guilty arrow from the look in Holly’s eyes, Teddy took a deep breath. “Look, Holly.” She started and had to stop to take another breath. “I’m not crazy and I don’t have multiple personalities. I’m just tired is all. I didn’t get much sleep last night and it can make me cranky sometimes.” Laying her hands on Holly’s shoulders, she looked into sea green and smiled. “I’m sorry if I made you feel unwelcome because I really wasn’t trying to. I don’t get a lot of practice with this guest thing, ya know? I haven’t really lived here before and maybe I might have been feeling a little touchy about having somebody in the house with me my first night back, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you personally.”
Holly nodded as her worries were put to rest with gentle urging and honesty in blue eyes. “Okay.” Smiling faintly, she chuckled. “Since you put it like that.”
“Good.” Patting one shoulder, Teddy’s smile grew as she turned her guest towards the front door. “Now get out.” She laughed and gave Holly a gentle shove. “We’ve got things to do, places to go and people to annoy.”
“Alright. Alright.” Sighing as she opened the front door, Holly stepped out onto the front deck. “I guess the party is over. Back to the grindstone.”
“That’s right.” Teddy snapped as she bent down to pick up her things. The backpack going over one shoulder, she picked up her briefcase and stood up. “We’re burning daylight, as Max likes to say.”
“Not yet, we’re not.” Holly replied as she stepped out a little further to look around at the dark sky overhead. “The sun isn’t even up yet.”
“Yes, it is.” Flipping off the lights before she closed the front door behind her, she pointed to her far left and the eastern horizon. “It came up about an hour ago.”
Glancing over her shoulder at Teddy, Holly then followed the direction she was indicating with her eyes. Staring out at a pitch black sea that she could barely see at all, she walked a short distance towards the end of the house. No sun in sight, she caught a faint orange glimpse between the clouds, then saw it disappear. Her shoulder’s slumping, she walked the rest of the way to the end of the deck. “I missed it? I missed my sunrise?”
Shadowing the blonde, Teddy could feel Holly’s disappointment seeping into her. “No.” She said softly. “You didn’t miss it, Holly. It never happened. I waited out here, looking for it so I could wake you up, but the clouds never broke clear.” Lowering her eyes from the sky, she studied Holly’s profile in the dark and place a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you your sunrise, but it’ll come up again.”
Disappointed, yet hopeful, Holly raised her eyes to meet Teddy’s. “You wouldn’t consider selling me the lot next door, would you? I don’t have any pets and I’d be a really, really quiet neighbor.”
“Sorry, Holly. Can’t do that. Zoning restrictions.” Smiling and shaking her head, Teddy used one hand to turn Holly around. “But I tell ya what I will do.” She said as she guided her boss away from the railing, towards the other end of the house and the stair case. “How about I give ya an open invitation to come back and see your sunrise as many times as you want?” Saying the words she had so recently vowed not to, she made matters worse by doing what she said she wouldn’t. Taking Holly’s hand in hers she gave it a squeeze and a slow shake back and forth. “If you think you’ve got what it takes to stand the company, that is?”
“You don’t scare me, Teddy Cooper.” Holly smiled brightly. “I’m on to that tough girl image you’ve got going on. It may give everybody else the cold sweats, but it doesn’t fool me for a second.”
Teddy spun around at that, to walk backwards. “Uh huh.” She said and pulled on Holly’s arm. Stopping as Holly came to her, she stood up straight to stare intently down into surprised green eyes. “Are you so sure about that?” An edgy tone in her voice, she waited for Holly to recoil away from her and felt a flush of heat when, instead of backing up, Holly moved her hand to slowly lace their fingers together.
Surprised, but undaunted, Holly met the stare with an intensity all her own. “I’m sure.”
The bluff gone horribly wrong, Teddy suddenly found herself snared in a trap of her own making. Nowhere to run. No way to run, now that she had left the door wide open, she stood rooted to the spot, held fast by the magnet of Holly’s body heat that prickled her skin. Eyes so green, so deep, so intense staring at her and lips so close, so soft, so tempting, she could feel them touching her’s. Nearly winded by the closeness, she parted her lips slowly to inhale a series of short, hot breaths before swallowing her desires in a moistureless gulp. “Holly.” She said, her voice far below the volume of her own heart beating. “You’re standing on my foot.” A statement spoken in truth, it served its dual purpose when Teddy was released from her bonds to breathe again.
Perhaps too guileless to see the inferno before her. Perhaps too innocent to see the ploy for what it was. Perhaps to embarassed by her own willingness to be a part of it, Holly broke the exchange to look down at her feet. Her foot on top of one of Teddy’s, she stepped back. “Sorry.” She said and continued to retreat until she was forced to let go Teddy’s hand. “Did I hurt you?”
“No.” She said softly and rubbed her thumb across the finger tips that had been held by Holly’s hand. “You ready to go?”
Smoothly, easily, Holly’s eyes rose again. “Are you sure I didn’t hurt you?”
“Tough girls got tough feet.” Falling back into step, Teddy smiled. “Come on.” Beckoning with her hand, she turned in what seemed to her, slow motion as if having to turn away at all was a physical chore that dragged on forever.
One step behind, Holly followed Teddy down the steps. Another moment for the record books gone in an instant, they seemed to be getting stronger, though their meaning was still lost on the blonde with the sweating palms.
be continued - Part 3
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