Eye of the Beholder
by Kim Pritekel
Long, black hair was flipped over an elegant shoulder. Juliet Ross turned her devastatingly blue eyes onto the camera, the look that screamed: Fuck me! with just one look. That look had been what had won her covers on over fifteen thousand magazine covers throughout the nineties, making her the highest paid, and most recognized, model in the world.
“Alright, Juliet, if I can get you to turn a wee to your left, love,” David Sandigo said, still hidden behind the lens.
“First off,” Juliet said dryly, “don’t call me love, and secondly, finish with your fucking pictures, or I’m walking out.”
“Of course, of course,” David hurriedly caught what he was looking for, the gorgeous woman before him turning as she had been asked. His camera clicked non-stop as he tried to get the perfect shot. Juliet Ross’ temper was legendary, and he wanted to finish up before he got another dose of it. David was one of the best, and most sought-after photographers in the world, and had shot Juliet on a number of occasions. Only her stunning beauty had made it worth it.
Juliet knew how to pose, and even knew how to make it look like she was enjoying it, but inside, she was wishing David Sandigo and his fucking camera dead.
“Okay, hold on…” David scurried out from behind the lens and over to Juliet. She was fairly intimidating- well over six foot in the stilettos she was wearing, the dress a devastating blue, low cut with lots of endless leggy perfection. She was breathtaking. Too bad she’s such a fucking bitch. He reached up, ignoring the glaring sapphires aimed into his very soul, and lightly brushed a stand of midnight hair off of Juliet’s shoulder. He looked at the whole picture, holding up his hands. “Perfect.” Scampering back to his camera, he got the final shots he needed, then stood, smiling. “We’re finished. Wonderful, Juliet. Just wonderful.”
The model rolled her eyes, despising platitudes and condescension as she clicked out of the studio, heading out to her waiting limo. She ignored the chauffeurs’ helping hand, instead digging her cell phone out of her purse. She hit the speed dial and placed the small phone to her ear, quickly removing the earring in that lobe.
“Marcus, Juliet. If you ever send me to that fucking moron again, I’ll fire your ass so quickly, your queer little head will spin. Understood?” Not waiting for a response, she slapped the phone shut and tossed it to the leather seat beside her.
Megan Oliver listened intently as her fingers raced across the keyboard, the mechanical voice of every letter she hit, then every completed word she typed, whispered in her ear via the headphones she wore. She stopped typing, reaching her hand out to the precise location she set her notes, the same place every time, allowing her fingers to do the walking as she read over what she’d typed in her brail-producing word processor from the previous day’s interview.
“Okay,” she murmured, re-focusing, hand grazing across the surface of the desk until her fingers found their position on the computer keyboard again and began to type, the voice in her ear once again reading her words to her, voice skipping when she made a mistake, not stopping until she went back and found and corrected it.
Megan was on a roll once more when the shrill ring of her cell phone interrupted her train of thought. “Damn it,” she muttered, reaching up to shove the headphones off her ears, the plastic band hung around the back of her neck. The small phone was exactly where she’d left it- left side of the desk, just down from her coffee cup. “Megan Oliver,” she said, fingers already finding her notes and reading. She was a multi-tasker to the extreme. If she only focused on one thing at a time, her mind would start to wander, and then nothing got done.
“Meg, I need you to come to the office tomorrow,” Bill Carter, her story editor said in lieu of a greeting.
“Hi, Bill, I’m fantastic, how about yourself?”
Bill groaned impatiently. He knew his reporter was trying to make a human out of him, one phone call at a time. “Hello, Meg. How are you? How’s the story coming? Get to my office by eight a.m. tomorrow!”
The blonde grinned, running a hand through short hair. It was so much easier to keep up, and if it looked crazy because she didn’t realize she’d run her hand through it for the eightieth time, no one would be the wiser. After all, the ‘messy look’ was in vogue.
“I’m just wonderful, thanks for asking, the story was going brilliantly until you interrupted me, and fine, I’ll be there.”
“You’re doing so fucking beautifully, finish the fucking story, and you sure as hell better be here!” Bill roared.
Megan chuckled then sighed sadly. “One of these days I’m just positive it’ll work. I’ll get you house trained.”
“Don’t count on it, kid. Do you need me to send someone to get you?” Bill Carter was a prick, he was the first to admit that, but he was damn good at what he did, something else he’d admit. He didn’t like people, in fact, thought most were slow, stupid, and just plain pains in the ass. This would be the reason why he’d been fired from at least fourteen newspapers when he was still trying to get the latest scoop as a pencil-pushing reporter. Finally someone got the message, and he was put behind the scenes to terrorize reporters instead of potential stories. It was only because he was so good at his job that he hadn’t been fired from fourteen more newspapers.
Even so, in all the years -32- he’d been in the print business, and all the talent he’d seen, he liked Megan the best. She had a brilliant mind, a caustic wit, and took no shit from anyone, including, and especially, from Bill Carter. He was pulled out of his reverie by the reporter’s answer to his question.
“No, Bill, thanks. I’ll get my brother to drag his ass out of bed and take me.”
“Alright. See you tomorrow.”
Megan slapped her cell shut and set it where she’d gotten it. She and her brother, Alex, shared both sides of a duplex, which they’d purchased together three years ago. Alex was a chef, and worked nights at one of the most prestigious French restaurants in downtown Denver. He’d be pissed to have to get up so early, but he’d do it.
“Why the hell did Carter feel the need to have you go to the office so damn early?” Alex muttered, eyes burning from the four hours sleep he’d gotten.
“Because that’s when most people start their work days, Alex,” Megan chuckled.
“Why couldn’t he talk to you over the phone? You work from home ninety percent of the time, anyway.”
It had been decided long ago that working from home was by far the more practical way for Megan to work. She could not drive herself back and forth, and Alex didn’t want her out there alone trying to use the public transit system, not since he’d been mugged and nearly beaten to death five years ago, while waiting for a bus.
“Stop your bitching,” Megan said, reaching across the small car to grab her brother’s hand and lightly squeeze, a gesture to let him know how much she appreciated his sacrifices for her. Alex and Megan were two years apart, and the older boy had always been fiercely protective of his little sister, especially after the accident.
Alex pulled into the parking lot and glanced over at the blonde, watching as she gathered her things. He was always amazed at just how well she managed to get around. She grabbed the handles of the case of her tiny word processor, then, as she opened the door of the car, unfolded her stick to its full length, then stepped out of the car.
“Go ahead and go home, Alex. I’ll find a ride back,” she said into the open passenger side.
“Yep. Positive. If there’s a problem, I’ll call.”
“Okay.” He knew better than to ask if she needed his help getting into the large building. Megan was as independent as they came, only asking for help when there was no other way. He’d never admired anyone more, his pride making him smile as he watched the blonde make her way to the building.
Megan felt that if she had to live her life led by a stick or her fingers, at least she was blessed with a steel trap for a memory. She remembered the layout of every place she’d been- granted, if nothing had been changed. The building that her newspaper was based out of was no exception. She didn’t go there often, but managed to find the elevators, felt the button for the fourth floor, then headed into the noisy newsroom, and finally Bill’s office. That certainly wasn’t hard to find, as all she had to do was listen for his bellowing and follow it like a beacon.
She reached a hand out, feeling her way until she felt the edge of the doorframe, and knocked softly.
“Get in here, Oliver!” Bill bellowed, amusing his reporter.
Megan got herself seated, her stick out of the way, and quickly set her processor on her lap, fingers finding the starting keys easily. ‘What’s up, boss?” she said expectantly.
“’What’s up’ is that I’m surrounded by complete idiots!” he roared, taking in the typically casual style of Megan Oliver- jeans,
t-shirt, and hand-combed blonde hair, which fell briefly into brilliant green eyes. He thought it was such a shame that such pretty eyes were all but useless.
“Well,” Megan said, a smirk on her lips. “Aren’t you the one that hired said idiots?”
Bill was speechless for a moment, not sure whether to be angry at the comment, or amused as hell. His deep, robust chuckle answered that question. The newsroom staff was usually grateful when Megan made an appearance, as it seemed to put Bill Carter into a better mood, if even just while she was there. “You know, I really don’t like you, Oliver,” he grunted, though they both knew he was full of shit.
“Well, are you going to tell me why you made me drag my brother’s ass out of bed, or did you just want to chat?” Megan heard her boss take a long drink from something, then he cleared his throat. She poised her fingers above the keys, ready to begin taking notes on what he wanted her to do.
With the limitations Megan had, most of her work was done not only from home, but also by phone. Bill always sent the stories her way that he knew she could do by charming her prey with the sound of her voice, and the friendliness and warmth of her personality. But this assignment, well, he wanted a different angle taken.
“Wait, you want me to what?” Megan asked, looking in the general location of her boss.
“I want you to meet with Juliet Ross. She’s in town for a couple days.”
“Juliet Ross,” Megan repeated, “as in the model?”
“Yup.” Bill leaned back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head. “She was the biggest ticket in the modeling industry for more than ten years, and is still hot to trot. Now she’s some sort of business woman, or some shit. I dunno.”
Megan cocked her head to the side, no idea just how darn cute she was. “Bill, I think you’ve finally lost what’s left of your frontal lobe. Why the hell would you send me, of all people, to do a story on a model?”
Bill grinned. “Because I don’t want some typical school-boy fantasy piece done. I want a different perspective of Ross.”
Megan nodded, fingers clacking away on the keys, the quiet buzz of the paper printing the brail document filling the space.
“I want you to get a story about the woman behind the career, behind the business mind. I don’t give a shit about hot she is, the story isn’t jack-off material-”
“Nice,” Megan muttered.
“It’s about the brains,” Bill continued as if the blonde reporter hadn’t spoken. “If anyone can see beyond the gorgeous blue eyes, it’s you, Meg.”
The reporter was touched, and her fingers paused for a moment on the keyboard, a small smile touching her lips.
“Ross refused to have her number given to anyone, so I told her agent that she could call you personally and set up an appointment.”
“The agent?” Megan asked, fingers once again flying.
“No, Juliet Ross. So, get your ass back home and be expecting a call. She arrives into town today.”
Juliet Ross gathered her carry-on, disembarking from the plane. She walked through busy DIA, ignoring the looks of awe and lust that followed her. Her booted feet clicked on the tile of the elegant airport, refusing to travel in anything more than jeans and a sweater.
She found her way to the baggage claim, easily finding her bright red roller luggage, An hour later, she sat in her rental car, headed to the Brown Palace downtown, where she was looking forward to a long, hot bath. It was October, and though it had been cold back home in New York, Colorado was absolutely frigid.
She aimed cool blue eyes on the man behind the desk of the expensive hotel, waiting for him to finish with her credit card and give her a room key. He finished the transaction and explained where her room was, how to use the key, as well as a bit of history for the historic hotel. Juliet grabbed the keycard from his hand.
“I’ve stayed here before. I know the elevator is over there. I even know there was a multiple murder here in May of 1911.” She smiled sweetly, though it didn’t reach anywhere near her eyes. “I really just want a hot bath and room service. Is that alright with you?”
The man looked at her, blinking several times. He was stunned, but did not want to anger the extraordinary-looking woman. Gathering his professionalism, he nodded and bade the Juliet a good night. Juliet was able to find her room easily enough, the bell boy had already delivered her luggage. She tossed the plastic key card onto the dresser and walked to the window, pulling open the heavy drapes and looking down into the busy city, which looked so small when she compared it to her view from her loft in Manhattan.
She turned from the window, looking at her surroundings once more. She’d stayed in the finest hotels in the world from New York to Paris to Japan. Even so, she had to admit that the Brown Palace Hotel was one of her favorites. It was one of the more quiet places she’d stayed. She also enjoyed Denver. She just wished that her visit this time around was for a more leisurely stay of pleasurable skiing, and not business.
She sighed, heading over to her luggage and beginning to unpack. She carefully hung up the black, Vera Wang dress she’d brought for the occasion. She put those thoughts from her mind and instead finished unpacking, then grabbed her purse. Inside was the business card her agent had given her. On it was the name and phone number of the reporter Juliet was to make an appointment with for the Denver Post. The ex-model sighed heavily. She was so tired of interviews and cameras flashing in her face. Foolishly, she’d thought that once she left the modeling world behind, she’d be finished with it all.
Sitting in one of the luxurious armchairs in the suite, Juliet read the name on the card: Megan Oliver. A woman. At least she wouldn’t have to watch some man gawking at her the entire time. With a heavy sigh, she grabbed the hotel phone and picked up the receiver, dialing the ten digits scribbled beneath the reporter’s name.
Megan made her way through her living room, everything in its place, and to the kitchen. She opened the fridge, feeling the cold against her face, then her fingers as they trailed over the contents, looking for the package of tortillas- second shelf, in the back, to the left. Next she felt for the package of cheddar- sliced for her at the grocer store- and the bowl of covered chicken tenders, left over from last night’s dinner.
Making her way to the counter, she set down all of her treasures, and began to piece together her dinner, the toaster oven already turned on and heating. She prepared her first quesadilla. She cursed lightly under breath when the phone rang. She quickly turned off the toaster oven and made her way to her desk, grabbing the cell.
“Megan Oliver?” she said, finding her chair and lowering herself into it. There was silence for a moment, then she heard a quiet, velvety voice.
“Miss Oliver, this is Juliet Ross. I understand we’re to set up a meeting for an interview for your paper.”
Megan sat back in the chair, lightly bouncing with the spring-back. “Yes, hello, Juliet. Did you make it into town alright?”
“Just fine, thank you.” Juliet was surprised at how young the woman on the other end sounded. Weren’t they at least going to send her a seasoned professional?
“What works best for you?” Megan asked, quickly hitting the button on a small recorder that would record her side of the conversation, thus giving her a record of when and where.
“Well, I’ll be involved in business tomorrow and Thursday, so how about Saturday afternoon, at my hotel?”
“Saturday at the Brown, alright,” Megan said, sure to have the microphone of the recorder close. “How about around three?”
“Three is fine.”
“Fantastic! See you then, Juliet.”
“Goodbye.” Juliet said, cradling the handset. She sighed, running a hand through her hair. “God, I hate interviews, and I hate reporters.”
Megan was nervous, as she was whenever she had to do an interview in person. They were rare, and most anxious events for her. She worried about tripping over something, or looking stupid to her interviewee. She felt so out of control, and resented that feeling, as she’d finally been able to find and maintain some sort of control over her own life and destiny. She’s managed to find a balance between the seeing world, and her own. She’d built a successful career with her mind and talent, all from the safety of her own home, where the darkness didn’t matter.
Blowing out a long breath, she heard the honking outside, and knew it was whomever Bill had sent to get her and take her to the hotel. Bill had insisted, since she’d be in new territory, and he didn’t want to see her get hurt. Reluctantly- though her reluctance was far more from pride than practicality- she’d agreed.
Juliet had woken early, as was her habit, heading down to the hotel gym and running five miles on the treadmill. She much preferred to actually run the route, sometimes along the beach when at her villa in Italy, or in Central Park when at her loft in New York. Today, for the sake of a busy schedule, she decided the gym would be best.
After a breakfast of fruit, yogurt and water, she made her way back to her room, showered and left to run a few errands. It had been a trying couple of days, and she had managed to mostly push it all down and to the corners of her mind, leaving only distant echoes reminding her.
The day went fast, and three o’clock was quickly approaching. Juliet took another shower, dressing casually in faded jeans and a well-fitting long-sleeved button-up shirt, the collar open wide to reveal a tantalizing bit of cleavage. She sprayed on some perfume, added just enough eye makeup to make her famous blue eyes pop. She was ready.
At three o’clock on the nose, there was a knock at the hotel room door. Juliet took one more look in the mirror. Satisfied that she looked alright, she headed toward the door and pulled it open. Standing before her was a young man, who didn’t look any older than 19 years old, and a petit blonde woman. The young man held a camera in his hands, as well as the blonde’s hand was casually clasped around his forearm. Did she bring her boyfriend along for the interview? Juliet smiled graciously.
“Welcome.” She stepped back, ignoring the leer of the young man, instead focusing her eyes on the blonde. Her hair was short, the bangs messy and nearly brushing into her green eyes, which had a strangely vacant stare to them. “Make yourselves at home,” the ex-model said, noticing that the woman’s head turned toward the sound of her voice, but eyes really didn’t move. You have got to be joking, she thought to herself, watching as the young man led the blonde over to one of the armchairs, where Juliet had room service set up coffee for two.
Settled, Megan took a deep breath, and set up her word processor. She took several deep breaths, then placed a smile on her face, hoping to god Juliet Ross was somewhere nearby so she didn’t look a total idiot. “Hi, Juliet, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Megan Oliver.” She held out her hand expectantly. Within a moment, a soft, warm one clasped it.
“Juliet Ross.” The brunette sat in the chair opposite the reporter, annoyed that the editors of the Post would send her a goddamn blind reporter! Was her story not taken seriously?
“This is Jamie Carr. Sorry I had to bring him along, but well,” Megan shrugged with a winning smile. “I kinda need some pictures for his article.”
Juliet’s smile didn’t reach her eyes, but then realized it didn’t matter. It didn’t appear Megan Oliver could see it, anyway. Instead, she nodded acknowledgement at the young photographer, who was still staring wide-eyed. Surreptitiously, blue eyes glanced down to see if he was supporting a woody. Her relief was audible when she saw he wasn’t.
“Alright, Juliet, shall be get started?” Megan asked, fingers already poised above the keyboard. It was extremely disconcerting for her, as she had no idea how this woman was reacting to her or the situation. She had thus far been fairly quiet, which made Megan’s job extremely difficult. She was an excellent judge of character, but is had to be through voice and words.
“Yes. Let’s do. However, I would appreciate it if your photographer would wipe his chin. I don’t appreciate being leered at.”
Juliet’s words were so soft and calm that it took a moment for their meaning to infiltrate Megan’s brain. She was stunned into a silent stupor for a moment. She reached out, feeling the material of Jamie’s jean-clad leg. Realizing what it was, she smacked it. Hard. She heard the satisfying yelp of surprise and pain from her co-worker, then turned back around. “Better?” she asked.
The brunette stared, shocked. She cleared her throat so she wouldn’t laugh at young Jamie’s deep flush. “What would you like to know?” she asked, ignoring Megan’s mostly rhetorical question. She glanced at the coffee pot and two mugs. “Would you care for some coffee, Miss Oliver?”
“Megan, and sure. Two cubes if you’ve got ‘em, or two spoonfuls if you don’t.”
Nodding, Juliet went about to make the coffee as requested, setting the mug in front of the blonde woman, momentarily wondering if she should have put it in a specific spot.
“Eleven o’clock, Meg,” Jamie murmured, the blonde nodding at the directive, gracefully taking the mug in her fingers, and bringing it to her lips.
Juliet watched, mildly intrigued. She made her own cup, glancing over at the photographer. “Do you need me to order a third cup?”
“Nah. I’m going to go hunt down a Coke.” He turned to Megan. “Need anything before I go, Meg?”
The blonde shook her head. “Nope.” Alone, Megan turned toward where the ex-model’s voice had been coming from. “Here’s what I’m planning, Juliet. I did my homework, and I know hundreds, if not thousands, of bits have been done on you and your modeling career. I know that you were first discovered while sitting in a Laundromat when you were 15, and shot to instant stardom from there. That’s wonderful, and congratulations, but I don’t really care.”
Juliet listened, startled by Megan’s intelligence, and candid words. She sat back in her chair, enjoying her coffee, and surprisingly, the blonde’s soothing voice. She mused that the reporter should read books to children at a bookstore or library.
“I want to do a story about the woman behind all the glamour and fame. I want to get to the core of who you are, Juliet. What makes you tick? What’s your favorite color and cereal? Do you prefer tampons or pads?” Megan stopped, trying to figure out what the sound was she’d just heard. A small grin quirked her lips as she realized the woman sitting across from her had just spewed what was probably hot coffee, down her shirt.
Juliet coughed a couple more times, quickly grabbing a napkin to clean up the mess. “Excuse me?” she managed, setting the mug down. “Miss Oliver, I agreed to a simple interview today, not some biographical expose.”
“I understand that, Juliet, but wouldn’t you rather the public know you for who you truly are? I mean,” Megan grinned, her voice filled with the passion of a woman who loved her work. “you don’t exactly have the greatest of personal reputations. But with this, we can change-”
Juliet felt immediate anger fill her. Her jaw clenched, eyes narrowing. “I don’t really appreciate your angle, Miss Oliver, and I think this interview is officially over.”
“Why?” Megan wasn’t only shocked, but angry, too. “Don’t you want to show the true Juliet Ross to your fans? Don’t you want to show the world that you’re, apparently, not only beautiful, but also intelligent? Ambitious? And generous?”
Juliet stopped at the last word, turning back to look at the still-seated reporter. “I’d like for you to leave now, Miss Oliver.” She felt her protective shell sliding effectively into place, which made her a dangerous individual: with the shell in place, she felt nothing, and certainly not the consequences of her words.
“I don’t appreciate your newspaper sending me an invasive reporter whom, quite honestly, I’m very much in doubt of her abilities. She shows up with some sort of typewriter, for god’s sake!” She eyed the reporter’s little machine, a piece of paper already oozing from it, after the reporter’s quick clicks across the keyboard. Somewhere inside she heard a voice telling her to stop, to just ask the blonde to leave and let it go. Too bad she didn’t listen to that voice very often. “And how dare they send me someone who can’t even see her subject!” Juliet felt her stomach roil as the blood drained from Megan Oliver’s face. She turned away from the reporter, unable to look at her anymore. “I’ll find your friend so he can help you out.”
“I don’t need his help,” Megan muttered, shoving the chair back and feeling around with quick, angry movements. She could not believe she’d just been dismissed. She felt her little machine, and frantically felt around until she felt it’s case, set on one the floor at the foot of the table. She felt vulnerable and nearly frightened as she tried to maneuver in the unknown territory that was the hotel room. She managed to get her case in hand, and felt around for the camera Jamie had with him.
“He took it with him,” Juliet said. She was torn as she watched the blonde stumble away from the table. She called out in warning, but it was too late as Megan’s foot caught on the leg of the chair Jamie had abandoned, and she fell, hard. “Are you okay?” Juliet asked, hurrying to the stunned reporter’s side.
“I’m fine!” Megan hissed, embarrassment and painful humiliation stinging behind her useless eyes. She had hurt her knee in the fall, but her pride was the most damaged of all. She shirked away from hands, which tried to help her, only to hit the wall with her shoulder. A soft knocking near her alerted her that the door was just to her left. She frantically felt for the lever-like handle, yanking the door open.
“Hey,” Jamie said with a waiting grin, figuring it would be the brunette letting him in. He was shocked to not only see Megan at the door, but a Megan who was valiantly trying not to cry.
“Let’s go, Jamie,” Megan said, voice hard as she bit down her tears.
The man was confused and directed a questioning gaze toward the tall women inside the room, but her back was to him. “Okay.”
She turned back toward the room, voice low and hard. “The world may think you’re some sort of visual goddess, but I have to tell you, Miss Ross, you’re the ugliest person I’ve ever met.”
Jamie glanced over at his passenger several times, chewing on his bottom lip as he fought the urge to speak. Megan hadn’t said a word, barely breathed it seemed, since they’d left the hotel. She sat, head bowed, fingers playing in the strap of the case for her little machine. He took the quickest route he could to get to her house, finally pulling up to the curb.
“Hey, Meg?” he said, turning slightly in the seat, unbuckling Megan’s seatbelt so she’d know they were at her house. “You okay?”
The blonde nodded, gathering her things, and carefully feeling through her key ring until she felt the key with the rubber tab on it. The smooth one was for her front door. The rubber tab with the bumps on it was for her desk. “Tell Bill I’ll call him later.”
“Okay.” Jamie watched to make sure Megan got into her house okay, constantly in awe of her abilities, despite her loss of sight. He’d thought to ask her out a few times, but felt in his gut she’d never accept. As far as he knew, she never dated anyone. He figured she was probably too proud. Man, she was filled with the stuff.
With a sad sigh, Jamie put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb, not looking forward to battling the traffic on the way back to the office.
Megan managed to hold the tears back until she stepped over the threshold of her sanctuary. The door closed behind her, her back against it. She buried her face in her hands, allowing the humiliation to come in racking sobs. Very rarely did she ever allow her blindness to get the best of her. She’d fought a steady battle to live as normal a life as she possibly could, only stumbling very rarely. Never had she known the humiliation she’d known today.
She slid to the floor, knees pulled up to her chest. She had completely lost control today, making her unaware of her surroundings, and allowing fear to rule over good, common sense and patience. Her knee still hurt, and she realized she had a painful rug burn on one of her palms. As well. How the hell had she allowed that to happen? How had she allowed Juliet Ross to get her so angry?
Megan quickly tried to dry her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket as she heard quick footfalls pound down the stairs.
“I’m fine, Canada.” Megan tried to smile to back her words, slowly getting to her feet. She felt a gentle touch to her tear-stained cheek.
“Honey, what happened?” The girlfriend of Megan’s brother, and the blonde’s housekeeper, turned concerned brown eyes on the younger woman.
“Nothing. It’s stupid,” Megan waved it off, then headed for the kitchen. She was craving hot chocolate. Canada followed, tossing her used wad of paper towel, and putting away the bottle of 409 she’d brought down from her cleaning upstairs. She’d been cleaning Megan’s house twice a week for the past year and a half, ever since she’d moved in with Alex. Canada liked the extra money, and it helped Megan.
“Well, it upset you, so I’d say it’s not all that stupid, Meg.”
Megan pulled a kitchen out from the table and plopped heavily into it. Canada sat across from her, taking her hand in both of her own. “What happened? I thought you were interviewing Cindy Crawford, or something.”
Megan smiled, though it was weak. “Juliet Ross. I…” her voice trailed off, not sure if she really wanted to share. She was embarrassed enough as it was. She felt her tears coming back, her humiliation complete as she felt Canada wrap her arms around the blonde’s shoulders.
Canada had no idea what had happened, but just held on, trying to give the blonde loving support in silence. After a long moment, Megan got herself calmed down, and gently pushed away from the redhead, needing to be alone. She gave the other woman a small smile.
“I’ll be okay, now. Thanks.” She needed to lick her wounds.
“Okay. Everything’s done, and you know if you need anything…” Canada let her words hang, knowing Megan knew. She kissed the top of Megan’s head, and left her alone, heading home, next door.
Juliet sipped from her cup of coffee, the TV on in the suite’s sitting room, where she was curled up on the couch, but she didn’t notice. Channel 9 News went on without her. Her mind was on the small blonde. The situation with the reporter had gotten entirely out of hand, and very quickly. Juliet’s heart went out to the blind woman, but at the same time, how dare she try and pry? How dare she ask such pointed questions and actually expect an answer.
Juliet cleared her mind of all the excuses she tried to convince herself of. The reporter’s parting words echoed in her head: The world may think you’re some sort of visual goddess, but I have to tell you, Miss Ross, you’re the ugliest person I’ve ever met. The ex-model couldn’t think of words that had hit her harder. They had reached inside, slicing her like a scalpel. They had rocked the shell Juliet had put up. Hell, they’d shattered it, leaving the pieces scattered around the brunette’s feet. But why? They should mean nothing to Juliet, simply the harmless words of a complete stranger.
She thought back to many years ago, during her childhood years spent throughout the Midwest, and in the tiny, nearly non-existent town of Aguilar, Colorado. Visions of a young girl crying at night, praying to god to make her ugly, make him stop wanting her. She remembered once looking at her mirror image, the jagged edges of a broken juice glass in her hand. She’d stood there for the better part of an hour, trying to garner the courage to cut her face, leave it scarred and forever killing perfection. She hadn’t been able to do it.
Juliet wiped at a tear, which stung the corner of her eye. She was stunned, unable to remember the last time she had cried. Clearing her throat, she shut off her mind, closing the door on her thoughts with an echoing clang of prison bars.
“No, Bill. Absolutely not,” Megan said into the small cell phone
“Come on, Meg. You’re a tougher cookie than this-”
“And she’s a bitch,” the reporter growled. “I will not sit down with her again. I will not call her. I will not allow her to call me. It’s over.”
“Well, now, wait a minute,” Bill sighed, running a sandpaper-like hand over his face. “Jamie told me something pretty major must have happened in that hotel room. You wanna share?”
“Nope. Sure don’t. Just know that she’s a bitch and deserves every single bit of the bad press she gets.”
Bill listened to his feisty little reporter going on and on about every single one of Juliet Ross’ bad attributes, but he stopped listening, nearly dropping the phone when an angel strolled into his office at the pointing finger of one of his editors. “Gotta go, Meg.” Bill dropped the receiver into the cradle, sitting back in his chair as he watched Juliet Ross settle into one of the scarred chairs across the desk from him. The woman was beyond elegance, dressed in a skirt suit, which hugged her perfect body, and her thick, black hair falling in waves over her shoulders and down her back. But her eyes…
Bill cleared his throat, sitting up in his chair, resting clasped hands on his cluttered desk. “Can I help you?” he asked, deciding to play dumb. See where it got him. He ignored the constant ringing of his phone, knowing full well it was Megan, demanding an explanation for why she’d just been hung up on.
“Mr. Carter, my name is Juliet Ross. I’m partially responsible for a disastrous interview with one of your reporters yesterday.”
Bill was intrigued. He grabbed a pencil, absently twirling it between meaty fingers as he silently encouraged the woman to continue.
“I’d like to speak with Megan Oliver, and try the interview again.”
“Why’s that?” Bill asked. “From what I understand from my most-pissed reporter, you made it clear under no certain terms that she wasn’t welcome.” He studied her, waiting for a response. When he didn’t get one, he continued. “I was speaking to Meg earlier, and she made it clear under no certain terms that you can, and I quote,” he said, holding up two fingers to markate the words, “’go rot in hell with a pike stuck up your ass’, unquote.”
Juliet looked away, chewing on her lower lip as she tried to hide the small smile that threatened. “Miss Oliver somehow managed to touch a very… sensitive nerve.”
“Is that so?” Bill poured himself a cup of coffee from the small maker in the corner. He raised the carafe, but his guest declined. “If Megan does the article,” he glanced at the statuesque beauty over his shoulder, “and that’s a very big if, she’s going to want to take it from the same angle she told you about.” He took his seat again, sipping from the mug. “I imagine that same nerve will be exposed, Miss Ross.” He was just toying with her, now, and they both knew it.
“I understand that, Mr. Carter. I feel it’s the only way I can make it right with Miss Oliver. I… I wasn’t fair.” Juliet felt like a schoolgirl, sitting in the principal’s office, having to redeem herself for a schoolyard shoving. She really wasn’t sure what had possessed her to come to the editor’s office, and in fact had been the last thing on her mind that morning. She awoken, packed, and was going to head out to a bookstore and buy something for her flight back to New York, but instead found herself navigating midday traffic to get to the newspaper offices.
Bill Carter studied the stunning woman sitting across from him for a long minute, pencil still twirling between his fingers. Finally he nodded, meeting her cool, calm blue eyes. “I’ll see what I can do. How much longer will you be in town?”
“I’m in no hurry to leave.” You what?!
The editor nodded again. “Alright. I’ll be in touch. Uh, that is, I’ll need a number.”
“I’m in room 412 at the hotel.”
Megan felt like she was going to be sick. She still was torn between being incredibly angry with Bill Carter, and feeling eternally grateful that she had another shot. She was a stubborn woman, and though she’d been badly hurt and humiliated, she would not be beat.
She did, however, set some new ground rules for this match. Juliet Ross was coming to her. She would not be left in the dark again. Carter had readily agreed, and, to Megan’s surprise, so had Juliet Ross, whom was due at the blonde’s home any minute.
Megan had Canada go over the place with a fine-toothed comb, making sure nothing was out of place, and the place sparkled. One problem that Megan had faced within herself since the accident was she felt a constant need to prove herself, prove that she was still a viable, capable human being. She was smart and productive, and didn’t need anyone’s help. A very difficult game to pull off sometimes, considering there were times when she had no choice but to ask for assistance, but it was a daily battle within herself, nonetheless, which she didn’t really like to admit, but deep down, knew it to be true.
After what had happened in that hotel room three days ago, Megan was determined to prove to Juliet that she was not only a damn good reporter, but she was more than able live her life, have a nice home, and would not be torn down by the careless words of others.
It had been decided -to Jamie’s extreme disappointment- that a photographer would not be present during the interview, rather instead Juliet would head back down to headquarters for a few shots to be taken, or file shots would be used. Megan wanted Juliet on her turf, on her terms, and alone.
Megan’s acute hearing picked up the sound of a car pulling to the curb outside her duplex. A door slammed, and heels clicked on the sidewalk. The reporter blew out a breath, wiping sweating palms on the thighs of her jeans. She made her way to the couch, making sure the carafe of coffee was still hot, two mugs placed out, along with cream and sugar.
Her heart leapt as her home was filled with a loud buzzing- someone was at the door. Megan made her way quickly to it, able to move fluidly through her home, which made her feel good, almost normal.
Juliet was beyond nervous as she waited for the door to be answered. She had been impressed with the well-kept little duplex. Granted, the yard was barren, grass yellow and brittle. A large tree stood sentinel in the middle. The house was in good condition, clean paint, no oil spots in the drive. It was nice.
The door opened, and Megan stood on the other side, a polite smile curling her lips. “Hello, Miss Oliver,” she said, returning the smile, which she realized was stupid.
“Miss Ross.” Megan stood back. “Come in.”
Juliet stepped across the threshold, sighing silently as she was engulfed in warmth. The living room, where she was now, a little on the small side, but very nice. Not too much for decoration adorned the walls or flat surfaces, but Juliet figured that made sense, as it wasn’t likely Megan would be able to enjoy them. The furniture was well-kept and soft-looking leather. A fire crackled in the gas-controlled fireplace. She noticed there was an ample supply of smoke detectors all around.
“Can I take your coat? If you have one,” Megan said, a little sheepish.
“Oh, yes. Thank you.” The ex-model shrugged out of her leather trench, impressed as she watched the blonde make her way over to the coat closet near the door, hanging the coat within a few moments, then returning to the couch.
“Please have a seat. There’s coffee if you’d like it.” Megan wasn’t sure how to feel or what to think. She was, however, grateful for the perfume Juliet wore- the same as at the hotel- as she was able to easily detect her whereabouts.
“Thank you. It’s really cold out there,” Juliet said lamely, taking one of the mugs and filling it with the brew. “Would you like some?”
She filled the other mug, then set it over on Megan’s side of the coffee table, sure to let it clink slightly, so the blonde would know where it had been set. Juliet sat back in the over-sized chair, studying the reporter as she sipped her coffee. She realized Megan Oliver really was a very pretty woman. Today her blonde hair was just as messy and casual as it had been on their first meeting, and Juliet realized it hadn’t been windblown after all, as she’d thought at the hotel. It was just simply Megan’s style. She envied the reporter’s jeans and casual button-up, the sleeves rolled to her elbows. Somewhat muscular forearms were revealed, along with small, but strong-looking hands. The nails were kept short, but those hands looked like they were capable of many things.
Blue eyes flickered to Megan’s face, noting she wore not a bit of makeup, her complexion naturally clear and fresh. There was a glow about her, actually, that spoke of a woman who was filled with life and curiosity. Even in her sightless green eyes, the wonder of it all was vibrant.
Megan got herself settled, coffee prepared just how she liked it. She grabbed her little machine and set it on her thighs as she curled her feet up under her on the couch. “Well. I guess we should begin.”
“Before we do,” Juliet said, setting her mug on the table. “I really want to say…” her voice trailed off, not sure how to begin, or how to apologize. That wasn’t exactly something she did… ever. “I. I was a complete asshole last time, Miss Oliver, and I’m very sorry. You didn’t deserve that. I don’t often allow my own demons to pop up, but I did that day.”
Megan was silent for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. And I’d really like it if you’d call me Megan. I hear ‘Miss Oliver’ and I thin of a creepy seventh grade teacher I had once.”
Juliet smiled briefly. She wasn’t sure if her apology had been accepted or not, but decided to move on. She’d said what she wanted to say, now she had to fulfill her part of the bargain and give the reporter her scoop.
“You still with me?” Megan asked, hearing nothing but silence at the other end of the table.
“Yes. I’m sorry.” Juliet smiled. “I’m usually not a big talker.”
“Well,” Megan grinned. “best get over that around me. Either that or I’ll just have to put bells on you to keep track of you.” Megan’s smile grew somewhat at the soft laughter she heard. She began to calm, feeling a bit more comfortable. Juliet’s apology had been appreciated, but the sting of that afternoon hadn’t been removed completely. Even so, Juliet Ross’ soft words had surprised her. When Bill had dropped this assignment in her lap, she had done all her homework, listening as the computer voice droned on and on with all the various internet sites about the ex-model, her reputation as Number One Bitch cemented and unchallenged.
“So,” Juliet sighed, grabbing up her coffee cup again, cupping it between her still-chilled hands. “What would you like to know?”
“Alright. Let’s start with a bit of your history.” Megan sat, fingers poised above her keyboard. “Where did you grow up, and what’s your favorite memory of childhood?”
Juliet was quiet for a long time, the reporter glancing up expectantly. The brunette tried to bring voice to answer, but was having a very difficult time. As much as she loathed interviews and reporters, she would do anything for the superficial, stupid questions she was used to: Who’s your favorite designer? Paris or Milan? She felt her palms beginning to sweat, so rubbed them on her six hundred dollar skirt.
Clearing her throat, Juliet spoke. “Sorry. This is very hard for me.”
“I’m just starting with some simple questions, Juliet,” Megan said softly.
The ex-model smiled. “There is nothing simple about your questions, Miss Oliver. I mean, Megan. Sorry.” She cleared her throat again, taking a long drink from her coffee. “Would you mind if I poured myself another cup?” she asked, gesturing toward the carafe. Of course, Megan couldn’t see the gesture, which made Juliet roll her eyes. She’d get it, eventually.
“Please, help yourself.” Megan listened, hearing every sound as her guest poured the coffee, adding a bit of milk, and no sugar. She heard the spoon tink against the side of the ceramic mug, then soft air blown across the surface, and finally a tentative sip. If she concentrated hard enough, she could almost get mental images of such tasks, though drawn from distant memory. “I’m sorry?” she realized she’d missed what Juliet had said.
“I asked what happened to your eyes. If you were born blind,” Juliet said, once again studying the reporter. She saw the surprise of the question quickly melt into pain. She considered taking the question back, but decided to see if Megan would tell her- she really wanted to know.
Megan quickly recovered from the question, and put a lopsided grin on her face. “If I tell you, will you promise to answer anything?”
“Oh, uh, I don’t know about that…” Juliet backpedaled. Damn.
“How about this. A little quid pro quo. For every question of mine you answer, I’ll answer one for you about my eyes. Okay?”
“Alright,” Juliet said slowly. “I suppose that means I’ll have to start with your first question, yes?”
“You’ve got it.” Megan refilled her own cup. She could feel Juliet’s gaze on her as she did. She said nothing, as she was used to being stared at as she performed mundane tasks. No doubt the seeing world waited for her to do something stupid, waiting for their chance to run in and try to take the task away from her, believing they were helping, when in fact, they were simply taking a little more of her life away from her.
“I was born in a tiny town in Missouri, but we didn’t stay there very long. We moved around a lot, ending up here in Colorado.” Juliet paused, waiting for the blonde’s fingers to quit flying over the keys of her machine, seemingly blank paper sprouting from the end. It wasn’t until the light caught it that the brunette realized it was brail. Clever little machine.
“Where in Colorado?”
“Oh, that had to be rough. Not much to do there.”
Juliet’s smile was very tight. “Nope.”
“Alright, and favorite childhood memory?” Megan asked, fingers ready to record the answer.
The ex-model shook her head. “Nope. I get to ask you one, now.”
Megan sat back against the couch, a soft, resigned sigh escaping. “Alright.”
“Were you born blind?” Juliet asked softly.
The reporter shook her head. “No. Favorite childhood memory?”
“Let me think.” Juliet sipped her coffee, mind whirling back to consider. A slow smile spread across her lips as an image of her mother popped into her head. “There was this one time, I was little, maybe 6 or 7. We had very little money, and I was craving something sweet. My mother grabbed my hand and pulled me into our tiny little kitchen. She grabbed a package of tortillas from the fridge, and then a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. I remember sitting back, watching in awe as she took a spoonful of both, mixing them vigorously in a bowl. It looked like baby poop or something,” Juliet smiled at Megan’s quiet chuckle, the little click clack of her fingers on the keys in the background. “She spread her concoction over the surface of the tortilla and then rolled it up, like a burrito. ‘Here, eat this,’ she said. I was dubious, to be sure.”
“That’s really good,” Megan said, sipping from her coffee.
“You’ve had peanut butter and jelly smeared on a tortilla?” Juliet asked, stunned.
“Yeah,” the blonde grinned. “It was my after school snack.”
Juliet smiled full out, the smile that magazines had called “blinding in its brilliance”. The ex-model was almost sorry it was wasted on the reporter. “That’s interesting.” Again, she waited for the reporter to quit her quick typing. “How were you blinded?”
The smile slid off Megan’s face. She took a final sip of her coffee then settled the warm mug against her thighs, hands cupped around it. “When I was 14, I was in a car accident. I was driving with my grandmother, from my father’s side, and we were behind a lumber truck. The ties came loose, and before my grandmother could get us far enough away, one of the legs slammed through our windshield. We were in my grandfather’s ancient old Comet, so the glass shattered. Shards flew into my eyes.” She swallowed reflexively.
Juliet was quiet for long moments, not sure what to say. She felt like crying, unable to imagine the loss, especially at such a late age. “I’m not sure what to say, Megan,” she finally said softly.
“You don’t have to say anything. Just please,” the blonde said with a forced smile. “Don’t say you’re sorry.”
Juliet nodded with a smile. She understood that kind of pride. “Alright, I won’t. I will, however say, I admire your courage and obvious ability to live a normal life. I commend you.”
Megan ducked her head, feeling suddenly, and uncharacteristically, very shy. “Thank you,” she finally managed.
The brunette felt the need for quite the change in subject. “Okay,” she said brightly, “What’s next?”
Immensely grateful for the reprieve, Megan grabbed her previously typed up notes, allowing her fingers to do the walking as she searched for a question. Deciding on one, she raised her head once more. “Why are you here? What brought you to Colorado. To my knowledge, you’ve never been seen here.”
Juliet studied her Prada shoes for a moment, watching as her foot lazily swung to and fro, one skirt-clad knee crossed over the other. She realized now how foolish it was to dress as she was. She certainly didn’t have to impress anyone here. At least not visually. “How many people have you told about your accident?” she finally asked.
Megan was taken aback by the apparent non-sequitur. “Only those who are brave enough to ask.”
“My father died,” Juliet said softly. “I came back for his funeral.”
Megan was stunned, her fingers abandoning their task. “I’m so sorry, Juliet.” The reporter heard the soft snort from across the table.
“Don’t be. He doesn’t deserve your sympathy, and frankly, I don’t really wan it.” She could see as soon as the words left her mouth that Megan had taken that wrong. She leaned across the coffee table, briefly touching one of the blonde’s hands. Megan started at the unexpected contact. “What I mean was, Gabriel Ross was a bastard, and the day he died the world became a better place.”
Megan sat quietly, contemplating the unexpected peek into Juliet’s soul. “How many people have you told about your father?” she asked, turning the ex-model’s own words against her.
Juliet smiled. “Only those who are brave enough to ask.”
Megan sat back in her chair, a goodly amount of her article already outlined and a first draft written. She pulled the headphones from her ears, tossing the headset to the desk before her. It was late, the clock in the corner chiming nine-thirty. She thought back over her day. Juliet Ross had seemed almost like a different person. Hell, she seemed like a person.
Eventually things had turned into more of a give and take conversation, rather than a newspaper interview. Megan was almost loathe to put what seemed like a personal confidence, into an article, but she’d promised that she would allow Juliet to read it before she sent it in to Bill Carter- a first for the reporter.
She thought about some of the things she’d learned about Juliet Ross, things that she was sure the model had never told anyone else, journalist or otherwise. Juliet had hinted, though never came straight out with it, that she had run from her father when she’d been discovered at 15, never looking back. By the tight, guarded sound of her voice, Megan had a chill finger her spine at just what drove the young girl away.
Megan had told her about her own childhood, growing up in Boulder, with two loving parents, and her older brother, Alex, who had accidentally come over too soon. Megan knew damn well that Juliet’s car was parked outside her house, and also knew that Alex was worried about her, but she had no doubt he just wanted a look at Juliet Ross.
Juliet pulled her long hair out from under the neckline of the sweater she’d just pulled over her head. She stood from the bed, finding her panties and jeans, quickly tugging them on.
“I really wish one of these times you’d actually stay, Juliet,” Francis said, holding her head up in the palm of her hand. The sheet was half-hazardly pulled up over small, bared breasts.
“We can’t and you know it,” the brunette said, running her hands through her hair. She glanced down at the beautiful woman, her long, the scent of her long, fiery hair still in Juliet’s memory. Francis LaDeux was a rising superstar on the model horizon, and she and Juliet had fallen into bed after their first meeting, more than nine months ago. There had been whispers about Juliet’s sexuality for nearly ten years, none of which had been substantiated –or denied- but Francis was a new kid on the block, and her standing couldn’t handle such a revelation.
“Well, I guess it was good to see you.” The younger woman pushed herself up to her knees and crawled, panther-like to the edge of the mattress, where she reached out and grabbed the front of Juliet’s sweater. She pulled the brunette to her and kissed her with a hunger forged from youth and cocaine.
That was always one part of the industry that Juliet hated. She had dabbled in drug use in the early days, but soon found she was far more successful if she kept a clear head, and hadn’t touched the stuff since. All Francis was to her was a good fuck, so she said nothing about the redhead’s indulgences.
“I have to go,” she said, finally pulling away. “I’ll call you later.” With that, she made her way out of the loft and to the busy streets of a Manhattan evening, glad to be headed home. She’d only been back for a week, but had immediately taken Francis’ call to meet. They’d shared an entire day of carnal bliss, but now Juliet wanted to be alone.
During the short taxi ride to her own loft, Juliet thought about her trip back home. No, not back home. There was nothing that said home to her about Colorado. It had simply been one of many places she’d lived, and it had been where he choose to die. Either way, she thought back to the time she’d spent with Megan Oliver, who had been truly a fascinating character. She’d enjoyed talking to the blonde. Megan had emailed her two days ago, promising the first draft of the article by end of week. Juliet was curious to see what Megan would come up with. She had to admit, she was nervous, too. She’d told the petit reporter about many thing in her life, if even just in fragments, that no one else knew. She just hoped that Megan would be respectful. But then again, maybe it was time to reveal some things about herself. At least to face them on a personal level.
One of the things that had amazed Juliet the most about Megan was that never once had the blonde asked the ex-model what she looked like. She didn’t ask for a description, hair color, eye color, nothing. Granted, perhaps someone else had already filled Megan in on the details, but Juliet didn’t think so.
In some ways that was strange to her, and she almost wanted to feel insulted. But then, on the other side of that very strange coin, she felt refreshed and light. She didn’t have to put on airs for Megan. In fact, it seemed as if the little blonde could smell that a mile away, and undoubtedly would call her on it.
Juliet grinned at the thought, paying the driver as she hurried up to her building, more than ready to settle in for the night. She allowed her thoughts to continue as she stepped into the spacious loft, flicking lights on as she went. Huge windows lined two of the brick walls of the corner space, situated on the fifteenth floor. The loft was open with expensive wood floors. The only privacy was the bathroom, which was in its own bricked-in room, a large, sliding metal door finishing it off.
As coffee brewed, Juliet pulled off her clothes, which still smelled of her and Francis’ combined perfumes, and sex, tossing them in the hamper. She padded naked to the bathroom, running herself a bath in the huge, oval Jacuzzi tub. She wondered, not for the first time, how old Megan was. Was she anywhere near Juliet’s own 35 years? She figured the blonde maybe in her late 20s. Thirty at best.
Mug of coffee in hand, Juliet slipped into the steaming water, groaning loudly as the heat suffused her body, relaxing sore muscles from the rather enthusiastic sex she’d participated in. Settled, she sipped from her coffee, closing her eyes and sighing. It felt wonderful.
Blue eyes opened, but only at half-mass as Juliet’s thought continued to cartwheel. There were no pictures on the walls in the living room of the reporter’s home. She had seen nothing to indicate that blonde had anyone in her life, other than the brother who’s attempt at subtly was a laugh at best. The brunette smiled at the memory. It had been slightly disconcerting to look between the two siblings, seeing his eyes wander along Juliet’s body, eyes filled with a poorly concealed lust while Megan’s face and eyes revealed nothing more than friendly curiosity.
“That’s a stupid comparison,” she chided herself, rolling her eyes as she drank from her mug again, warming her insides even as the hot bath warmed chilled skin.
Even so, it was strange that Juliet couldn’t even pick up a sexual vibe from the blonde at all, in any way. As though Megan weren’t even a sexual creature. Very disconcerting, indeed.
Juliet’s thought were interrupted by the sound of the phone. She set her mug on the wide ledge surrounding the tub and turned in the bath to pick up the handset hanging on the wall nearby. The brunette was a sucker for hot baths, and had missed far too many important calls that way. She’d had the phone installed two years ago.
“Hi. It’s Megan Oliver,” the friendly voice said on the other end of the line.
Juliet smiled. “Yes, our fair reporter. I was just thinking about you,” Juliet said, getting comfortable in the water again. She smiled at the surprise she heard in the blonde’s voice.
“You were, huh?”
“Sure was. I was just lying in here, completely immersed in hot water, wondering why a beautiful woman like yourself had nothing lying around the house- no pictures, no coat or shirt left from a sleepover, or any signs at all that someone else was sharing your life with you.”
Megan was stunned, she sat in her chair, mouth hanging open. “Why were you thinking that?” she asked at last.
“Don’t know, really. Just one of those strange, random things that pass through your mind, you know?” Juliet was enjoying Megan’s reaction. She had obviously thrown the little reporter off.
“Oh, uh, yeah. I guess.” Megan shook herself out of her shock and decided to play back. “So, was there a question embedded in your hinting, or just random thoughts?”
Juliet grinned. “Oh, they were just merely random thoughts. However, if you choose to take the bait and find an embedded question, and then choose to answer it, I certainly wouldn’t mind.” She sipped her coffee, thoroughly amused.
“Okay, just so I have this straight- don’t like assumptions, you know- you’re wanting to know if I have anyone in my life, and if I’m messy enough to allow their shit to just lie around my house and clutter it up. Right?” Megan smiled at the outright laughter that remark caused. She loved the smooth velvety sound of it. Juliet had a nice voice. It was extremely pleasant to listen to.
“In a nutshell,” the brunette said, still grinning.
“Well, I can’t have shit lying around, I’d fall and kill myself on it, and no. There is no on special in my life.” This used to be a very touchy subject for Megan, as she had never dated, never had anyone in her life. The trust factor just wasn’t there, and she didn’t leave her own home long enough, typically, to meet anyone and build the needed trust.
“Hmm,” Juliet said, hearing a bit of sadness in the blonde’s voice. “Shame. I figured one of two things with you: either you’d have ‘em beating at the door and lined up around the block, or you’d scare the hell out of them. Men just don’t know how to deal with an intelligent, opinionated, feisty woman.” Juliet smiled at her own words, as she knew the incredible truth behind them. She also didn’t want to assume with Megan, after all, the blonde had said herself she hated assumptions.
Megan chuckled, though it was rather hollow. She honestly wouldn’t know. “Not the case, I’m sorry. No one beating down my door. This, of course, would require that I actually open my door.”
Juliet drew her brows, confused. “What do you mean?”
Megan leaned back in the desk chair, rocking gently with it. She had to admit, she rather enjoyed talking to Juliet on the phone. She felt it somehow put them on equal footing. Neither had to be seeing on the phone. “Let’s just say I don’t get out much.”
“Well, you should come visit me in New York. We’d smell the smells, see the sights…” Juliet cut herself off, a hand going to her mouth. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Idiot.
Megan smiled, trying to put that smile in her voice. “Hey, don’t worry about it. We could still smell the smells, right?” She was relieved to hear the soft chuckle on the other end of the line.
“Right. Well, Miss Megan, how can I help you tonight?”
“Miss Megan, huh? Well, I guess it’s a start, considering you feel the need to call me Miss Oliver.” She smiled at Juliet’s chuckle. “I called to tell you that I sent you the article tonight. I have to say, this is extremely unorthodox for me, and my editor would have my ass if he knew.”
“Then, I guess it’s best he doesn’t know, isn’t it?”
“I’m glad we understand each other.” Megan said matter-of-factly. She was growing to enjoy the chuckles from the ex-model. “I have to admit I’m a little nervous for you to read this. I mean, after our first disastrous meeting, I dunno…”
“I was a total bitch, Megan. I’m sorry.” Juliet’s voice had dropped to a soft murmur. She was surprised at just how much she meant those words. It was rare anyone got a first apology from her, let alone a sincere second.
“Hey, we’re past it. Right?” Megan asked, slowly easing herself away from the desk and chair, and making her way into the kitchen. She was cold, and decided she wanted a cup of hot cocoa. She could hear faint splashing on the other end of the line. “What are you doing over there? Dishes?”
Juliet snorted, watching as the water cascaded down her raised arm. “Dishes? Do you really think I do dishes?”
“Doesn’t everyone?” Megan’s bemused face would’ve been amusing.
“I’m soaking in a huge tub filled with hot water,” Juliet said in lieu of an answer.
Megan felt herself grow warm for a moment, but wasn’t sure why. Then she felt embarrassed, as though she were interrupting something personal. “Listen, why don’t I let you go so you can finish your bath? Give me a call after you’ve read the article, and we can discuss it then, okay?”
Juliet’s brows drew. “What? Why? You’re not interrupting anything, Megan. It’s not like you’re sitting here on the toilet seat, watching me soak with goggled eyes.”
Megan grinned, amused at the imagery that conjured up. “No, I’m not. But, I don’t want to interrupt your relaxing.”
“You’re not. You’re keeping me company.” She sipped from her cooling coffee, wrinkling her nose at the taste. She despised cool, or even cold coffee. “I have a question for you.”
“Then I probably have an answer for you.”
“Why didn’t you ask me what I looked like?”
Megan stopped, hand in mid-reach for the cabinet which held her coffee mugs. “What?”
“Why didn’t you ask me what I look like. I was just really surprised.”
Megan continued preparing her hot chocolate. “So, you expected me to ask you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well,” Megan grinned, “maybe that’s why I didn’t ask. I don’t like to be too predicable, you know.”
“Do you miss it?”
Juliet’s voice was so soft, so filled with compassion that it made Megan stop for a moment, hand resting on the counter, her mug of hot water warming in the microwave. “I don’t know if ‘miss it’ is the right way to say it. I’ve now been blind for exactly half of my life. I remember things, images, some colors. But truly, I’ve had to learn to accept things as they are.”
“You’re truly admirable, Megan. You know, and I hope I don’t upset you by saying this, but one of the first things I noticed about you was your eyes. They’re some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.”
Megan smiled, feeling shy again. She absently whacked the packet of instant hot cocoa against the counter. “I don’t even remember what color they are.”
“Green. Beautiful, clear, color-of-new-grass green.” Juliet closed her eyes, bringing up an image of the color for just a moment.
“Oh,” the reporter said, again shy. “What color are yours?”
“Blue. People say they’re sky blue. So, I guess you get to be the grass, and I’ll be the sky overhead.”
Megan thought for a moment, allowing her thoughts to dreg out every memory she could think of, trying to picture the sky. “I think I’ve got it. Remember that. And I think it’s beautiful.”
“Damn, Meg, this is really good,” Alex complimented, shoveling another mouthful of the soup into his mouth.
“So I hear,” the blonde smirked, listening to the extremely unpleasant noises of her brother’s loud burp.
Canada rolled her eyes. “Christ, Alex. No manners.”
He grinned, wiping his mouth, then turned back to his sister. “So, what did Carter think of your article?”
“I uh, haven’t given it to him, yet.” Megan brought a mouthful of thick, potato soup to her mouth, savoring the mixture of flavors of potatoes, cheese and bacon in her mouth.
“What? Why? You’re usually right on top of that stuff. Juliet Ross was here, what, over a week ago? I’ve never known it to take you more than an hour or two to finish a story.” Alex took a drink from his beer, studying his sister. She seemed almost… shy. “Meg?”
“I really don’t have to answer to you, Alex,” she finally said, her embarrassment making her edgy.
“Yeah, I know, but. What’s up?” Whether Megan liked it or not, she had the most expressive face of anyone Alex knew. He could see a slight flush rising in her cheeks.
“Juliet asked me to send her the article before it was turned in. So I did. I’m waiting for her final okay.”
“Her what? Megan, what the hell?” Alex knew his sister’s boss would kill her if he knew. “You always say no when people ask you. Lord knows you’ve told me about enough of ‘em.”
Canada put a hand to her boyfriend’s thigh, getting his attention. When she had it, she shook her head, silently telling him to stop. She could see from the younger woman’s blush that something was up. Alex looked like he was about to protest, but the redhead squeezed painfully on his leg, which was the most ticklish place on his body. His knee hit the bottom of the table with a loud thud, which nearly made Megan jump out of her chair.
“Sorry,” Alex muttered, glaring at Canada.
“Thanks, Canada,” Megan murmured. She didn’t want to talk about it. Wasn’t sure what to say, if she did. She and Juliet had spoken on the phone three nights ago, and had taken the conversation to the wee hours of the morning. It had been one of the best conversations she’d ever had, but wasn’t ready to share it with anyone, yet. Not even Alex.
Suddenly Megan’s cell phone began to ring. Alex was up and running, grabbing the small phone for his sister. He saw the letters JR on the display screen, along with an unfamiliar phone number. “Who’s JR?” he asked, passing the phone to Megan, who snatched it out of his hand.
“Juliet Ross, you idiot,” Canada whispered. Her boyfriend’s stunned expression made her giggle. “Help me clean this up,” she said, rising and taking Alex with her to allow the blonde some privacy.
“Hello?” Megan said, leaning back in the hard, wooden kitchen chair.
“You are brilliant,” Juliet said, making sure her smile could be heard in her voice. “I just finished your article. My heart is beating a little faster, knowing that some of my skeletons are going to be peeking out, but I think it’s good. I definitely think you’ve achieved your goal to dig beneath what most know about me.”
Megan’s grin nearly split her face in two. “Really? You liked it?”
“Loved it. It’s by far the best article that’s ever been done about me. Thank you for giving me the chance to read this ahead of time. I’m sorry it took me so long. I had intended to read it the morning after we talked, but I hat o catch a quick flight to Venice. I just got back this afternoon, and finally got a chance to read it. You’re an extremely talented writer, Megan Oliver.”
Megan chuckled. “I think you’ve used just about every possible combination of my name you can.”
Juliet laughed. “I think I have. Listen, when does this print?”
“I’ll send it to my editor tonight, and likely it’ll hit either tomorrow’s paper, or the next day.” Megan could hear the table swiftly being cleared, and was glad. She hated doing dishes.
“Good. Perfect. I’ll be there, then to get my own, personal copy.” Juliet shut down her computer, literally having finished the last word of the article moments before dialing the reporter’s number. She was tired and horribly jetlagged, but somehow, the soft, friendly voice of Megan helped. She headed for the bathroom to run herself a bath.
“What? What do you mean?” Megan sat forward in her chair, resting her elbows on the tabletop. The napkin, which she still had tucked into her hand, was removed as the rest of the dishes were taken from the table.
“I’m coming back to Denver tomorrow. I’d like to not only get my hands on a copy of the story, but also take you to dinner to properly thank you for your efforts and talent.”
Megan suddenly felt herself become flustered, her cheeks infusing with color. “Oh. Uh, well, that’s really not necessary, Juliet. I mean, I was just doing my job-”
“Bullshit. You had to put up with me, and somehow in that tedious job, you managed to come up with a brilliant piece of writing. That deserves a reward.”
Canada was washing the last pan, her boyfriend standing patiently by, waiting to dry and put away. “You really need to help her install a dishwasher,” the redhead grumbled, scrubbing.
“So, why were you glaring at me?” Alex asked, swinging the dish towel around like some stripper in a club ready to do her routine.
Canada grinned down at her soapy hands. “She has a crush on Juliet Ross, Alex. I swear to god, men are so completely blind.”
“A crush?” Alex asked, brows drawn. “I don’t think so!”
“Think what you want. It’s true.” Alex dunked the pan into the rinsing water, then into Alex’s hands. She drained the water and cleaned out the sink, leaving her sometimes rather dense boyfriend to contemplate her words.
“Why do you think she has a crush?” he asked, glancing out into the small dining area, making sure his sister was still there, and not listening to Canada’s madness.
“Were you not looking at her?” the redhead asked, drying the sink and counter. “She looked about like you before you finally got the nerve to ask me out.”
“Christ, even I’d like her,” Bill Carter muttered, scrolling through the article that Megan had just emailed him. He was already mentally figuring for space in that day’s edition. He’d already picked out what pictures he wanted to use of the famous woman, but was now reconsidering.
He wanted something less stately, less from her days as a runway model. He wanted something that spoke more of her personality. Though Bill Carter would never admit this to his reporter, he felt the article was her best work, yet, and one of the best bits of writing he’d read in a long time.
The editor couldn’t help but wonder what had caused such inspiration, especially considering the subject matter, and the disaster of their first meeting.
Megan was excited, but nervous. She had talked Juliet into staying with her for her time in Denver. She had no desire to go visit the model at another hotel room, and chance an encore performance of sailor with sea legs. She couldn’t bear the humiliation again. It would be bad enough to go to the dinner Juliet insisted on taking Megan to.
Mean’s thought were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. She unlocked and opened the door, immediately smelling Juliet’s perfume. She smiled. “Hello, and welcome once again to my humble abode.”
Juliet stepped inside, anxious to get out of the frigid October air. It was a week before Halloween, and winter had come early. “Thank you,” she said, setting her small bag on the floor. She’d brought enough clothing to stay for two days, her flight leaving evening, day after tomorrow. She looked at her hostess and new friend. She felt the need to give Megan a hug in greeting, but didn’t want to startle the blonde. “Okay, prepare, I’m moving in for a hug.”
Megan chuckled, but was glad for the warning. She absolutely hated it when people touched her. It always nearly made her heart jump out of her chest. She felt a soft touch on her shoulder, allowing her to know from which direction Juliet was coming from. Before she could ponder that, she found herself immersed in the beautiful scent that would be forever associated with Juliet Ross. One by one, her heightened senses described the scene for her: the softness of silk against her cheek: the warmth of skin seeping through: strength in long arms that held her eight: the steady beat of the heart beneath her head: the safety and security that surrounded her, making her sigh softly.
Juliet was surprised to feel how petit Megan’s frame really was. As she held her, the brunette felt almost… protective, of the smaller woman. She closed her eyes as she surreptitiously inhaled the blonde’s scent- the smell of the herbal shampoo she used, the smell of her skin, and light musk from some sort of perfume or body powder.
After a moment, they parted, both feeling slightly uncomfortable for just a moment before it passed, and genuine affection to be together again took over.
“Come on. I’ll take you to your room.” Megan headed toward the stairs, Juliet following closely behind. “Sorry no room service here, but if you need or want anything, either ask, or simply feel free to help yourself.”
“I can handle that,” Juliet said. She watched the blonde carefully, fascinated as Megan made her way through her house as though she were like any other seeing person. The brunette realized that the sacrifice of not staying at her favorite hotel was well worth it, seeing the blonde so comfortable and capable. The only indication of the truth was when Megan’s hand reached out, fingertips lightly trailing the wall as they neared an open doorway. Juliet wondered if perhaps this room wasn’t used all that often.
“Canada promised me that you have everything you need- towels, clean bedding, extra blankets, whatever,” Megan said softly, standing just outside the doorway to the spare bedroom, which she was relieved smelled clean and fresh.
“Well, tell Canada that I’m grateful,” Juliet said, stepping inside and setting her bag just inside the door. The room was small, only filled with the necessities- bed, dresser, closet, and a small bath tucked into the corner.
“This room only has a shower, so if you’re craving a bath, you can either use the bathroom in my room, or the one downstairs. You’re welcome to either.” Megan stayed out in the hall, feeling a bit uncomfortable about entering the room Juliet was to sleep in. She felt the woman walk back over to her, her senses enveloped in the perfumed scent again.
“A shower is perfectly fine. Baths are only good for soaking or for multiple enjoyment.”
Megan stopped for a moment, her brain stuttering over Juliet’s words. When finally their meaning sunk in, she felt her face become suffused with warmth. The soft chuckle next to her confirmed that she was, indeed, blushing. Her lack of experience with sex and intimacy made the reporter more than a little uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, Megan,” Juliet said, a maddening grin still on her lips. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
“No, it’s okay,” Megan said, waving Juliet’s apology away, praying that her face had returned to normal. “Are you hungry? I can make us something while you settle in, if you want. If you need to shower, or whatever.”
“That sounds great. I’ll see you downstairs in a few.”
Megan nodded with a grin. “Okay.”
After a nice, leisurely dinner, the two sat on Megan’s couch, a glass of wine in each of their hands. “So, you say not very often. How much is not very often?” Juliet asked, swirling the red liquid in her glass.
“I drink maybe twice a year.” She sipped from her glass before continuing. “I just find life more interesting sober.”
Juliet chuckled. “Well, you wouldn’t like my life, then. No, I’m not a fall down drunk, but back in the days when I was still modeling, there was so much pressure to be perfect physically, and keep up with a ridiculous schedule. It was insane. I did whatever I could to be what the industry needed me to be. That was almost ten years ago, as I did my last show in 2001. It’s gotten even worse, now. These girls are puking their guts up, eating next to nothing, and dying from malnutrition. Makes me sick.”
Megan could hear the bitterness in her friend’s voice. Her brows drew. “Why did you stay in it?”
“Two reasons: money, and I had nowhere else to go.”
Megan turned on the couch, tucking her bare feet up under her, facing the direction of Juliet’s voice. The ex-model sat just a couple feet away, sipping her wine. “What happened to you? As a kid. Why did you leave home at 15? That’s just a baby.”
Juliet studied the blonde for a moment, absently reaching over and grabbing the bottle of wine where it had been set on the coffee table. She filled her nearly empty glass, and topped off Megan’s, softly telling the blonde what she was doing so as not to startle her.
“If I’m going to tell you this, I need to be a wee bit buzzed, and this needs to be solely off the record.”
“Of course,” Megan said, somewhat defensively. “I have no intentions of doing a story on anything we’ve said tonight, Juliet. Or from now on, for that matter. My job is done. And as for your needing to be buzzed, well, I guess I best drink up, too.” She took a drink from her glass for emphasis.
With a heavy sigh, Juliet began her tale. “My mother died when I was about 10. I was never told how. Just one day, she wasn’t there anymore, and I was told that she’d gone to that big ol’ light in the sky. I was stuck with my father. See, he liked pretty girls, especially ones with bright, blue eyes. So he used to tell me,” she said dryly, sipping from her glass. She heard the soft gasp of realization from her friend, but continued. “He decided to bring some of his friends along for the ride. I had enough. I ran away at age 13, coming and going off and on. I used to stay in this women’s shelter down near the Greyhound Bus depot, off of 19th.”
Megan absorbed all that she’d been told, absently running the tip of her finger round and round the lip of the delicate wine glass in her hands. “That’s why you give so much money to the shelters, isn’t it?”
Juliet stared at her, stunned. “How did you know about that?”
The reporter grinned. “I have my sources. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
Juliet stared down into her own glass for a moment. “Can I tell you something?” she asked, voice small.
“That’s always been my dream. To open up a shelter for women and runaways. To be able to keep them clothed and fed, help them find jobs or even start classes. Finish high school. Whatever.”
Megan was stunned, and deeply moved. She carefully placed her glass on the coffee table, then reached out, her fingertips coming into contact with Juliet’s thigh. Knowing where the other woman was, she slowly scooted over until her knees were nearly pressed up against the brunette’s thigh. She felt the need to be close to Juliet, for what she sensed were secrets that had never been spoken about before. Placing a gentle hand on the ex-model’s knee, she spoke. “So why don’t you?”
Juliet studied the close proximity of their bodies, able to feel the ample body heat coming from Megan. Her gaze traced the delicate, yet very strong lines of Megan’s hand that rested on her knee. “Are you curious?” she asked instead of answering.
Thrown from the very sudden change in subject, Megan’s brows drew. “About?”
“What I look like?”
Megan thought about it for a moment, then realized that yes, she was. Her nod spoke for her. She started just a moment as her hand was taken in a larger, soft one. The two hands left Juliet’s knee, and Megan’s hand was placed on the side of the ex-model’s face, then left to roam at will.
The reporter allowed everything to fall away, focusing all her attention on her sense of touch. She could feel the soft smoothness beneath her palm, and allowed it to soak in for a moment before moving on. Using her fingertips, she began up near Juliet’s hairline, feeling the smooth expanse of a forehead. She brought her other hand up to join in the exploration. Together, two sets of fingers ran slowly down temples, then across finely arched brows, dark as night to her unseeing eyes. Her thumbs ran over silk eyelids, then felt the strong, chiseled features of Juliet’s cheekbones. The ex-model’s nose was straight, not too large, not too small. Perfection.
“Your skin is so soft,” Megan whispered, in awe as her fingers continued, finding a strong jaw, defined and proud. Both hands cupped Juliet’s face as twin thumbs found her mouth, one tracing the shape. Megan gasped slightly as she felt a tiny kiss pressed against the pad, followed by a smile. She returned the smile, tracing the shape with her fingers. “Beautiful lips,” she whispered.
Juliet could feel her heart racing. Though she knew this was the only way for the blonde to truly ‘see’ her, it felt so completely intimate to her. Megan’s touch was so light, so filled with wonder and awe, but not an awe of the beauty the world had spoken of, but the awe of exploring new territory, of being allowed to share with another human being. The awe of touch.
“Do you like what you see?” Juliet asked softly, enjoying the small laugh that she was rewarded with.
Megan nodded. “Yes. I can understand why the world thinks you’re beautiful. But,” she aid, her hand carefully traveling down until he rested on the ex-model’s upper chest, above her heart. “This is why I think you’re beautiful.”
Juliet was speechless, shocked, and deeply touched. She covered Megan’s hand with her own, then brought the blonde’s to her lips, kissing her knuckles gently. “Thank you,” she said, not sure what else to say.
Megan felt a shiver run down her spine at the soft kiss to her hand. It felt like the skin of her knuckles was on fire.
“So, why don’t you have a significant other?” Juliet asked, slowly releasing Megan’s hand, which fell back into the blonde’s lap. “You’re too adorable to be single.”
Megan blushed again, her head dropping. She felt the material of her jeans under her fingers, and began to trace the seams to keep her hands from fidgeting. “I… It’s stupid.”
Dark brows drew. “I don’t understand.”
Megan sighed. She knew that after what Juliet had told her, she at least owed the woman an explanation of her own. “I’ve never dated anyone, Juliet.” The heard the surprised gasp from the other woman, and nearly got up to leave the room. It was such a sore subject with her. “When I lost my sight, it was just too much. It takes a great deal of trust to let someone into my physical world. You know?” She shrugged, not sure if Juliet understood or not, as the ex-model had remained silent. “I guess I just haven’t met anyone I wanted to allow into it. To that degree, anyway. Hell,” she laughed ruefully. “I have very few friends, even.”
“For that same reason?” Juliet asked. At the blonde’s nod, she reached up, cupping a soft cheek. Megan tried to pull away, but the brunette kept her hold. “Shh,” she comforted. “I’m not going to hurt you, Megan. I promise.” She ran her fingers through the softness that was Megan’s hair. “I love your hair,” she said softly. “it’s just so free. Kind of like you.”
Megan wasn’t able to keep her eyes open, closing on instinct at the amazing feeling of Juliet’s touch. A small smile graced her lips. “Is that your nice way of saying it’s crazy and messy?”
Juliet smiled, shaking her head, then realizing her gesture couldn’t be seen. “No. It’s just… free. And so damn soft. It’s like silk.” She brought her other hand up, allowing the golden strands to fall through her spread fingers. “I could do this all night.”
“Okay,” Megan murmured, nearly put into a trance from the feel.
Juliet studied the blonde’s face. “You’re not touched very often, are you?”
Megan couldn’t respond, suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable. Her head fell again, trying valiantly to hold back the emotion stinging the backs of her eyes.
“Hey, Juliet said, bringing her hand down to hitch two fingers underneath Megan’s chin, raising the beautiful face to meet her own. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Come here.” She scooted herself back until she could lay back, head resting on a throw pillow. She grabbed Megan in an iron grip as the blonde tried to move away. “Come.” She pulled Megan down until the blonde’s body rested atop her own, a blonde head tucked under her chin.
Megan froze, stiff for a moment as she tried to get her bearings. Sending out little feelings, she realized she was lying atop Juliet, the strong, steady heartbeat of the other woman beneath her head. She felt two strong arms wrap around her, one hand burying itself in her hair, the other resting on the reporter’s lower back. Her body was singing with this new, unusual stimuli, but pushed it down, just trying to relax her body enough to enjoy the feel of warmth spreading pleasantly through her body.
‘This okay?” Juliet asked softly, hand stilling in Megan’s hair just long enough to feel the blonde’s nod, then she resumed her gentle caressing. “Physical touch is a wonderful thing, Megan. No one should live without it.”
Megan’s eyes closed on instinct, only a murmured agreement as response to Juliet’s comment. “Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked after awhile, realizing she’d never returned the question during their first phone call.
Juliet grinned. “Hardly. I don’t think there’s a man out there that could handle me.”
Megan chuckled. “This is true.”
“I don’t have a girlfriend, either.”
Megan stopped for a moment, considering Juliet’s words. “Do you normally have girlfriends?”
“Girlfriends, no, female sexual partners, yes.”
Megan raised her head, staring off in the general area that would be Juliet’s throat. “The world doesn’t know you’re gay, do they?”
“Nope,” the ex-model said, brushing blonde bangs out of Megan’s eyes. She studied Megan’s face, eyes drifting down to soft lips.
“You’re staring at me, aren’t you?” the reporter asked.
“Yep,” Juliet admitted, surprised that Megan could feel her eyes on her.
“Why?” the blonde asked, head slightly cocked to the side.
Juliet studied her for a moment longer, bringing her fingers up, gently tracing them across the temping lips, feather-light touches, before her hand fell away. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re gorgeous.” She smiled at the look of surprise on the blonde’s face, then the bashful look that followed. Megan tried to turn away, but was held in gentle hands. “Have you ever been kissed, Megan?” Juliet asked softly. For some reason, she felt an almost desperate need to show this woman what intimacy could be.
This time, Megan did pull away. She felt shy and embarrassed, old hurts coming back to haunt her. She could feel Juliet’s eyes still on her, then a warm hand on her back. “I… it’s…” Megan stopped, unable to convey clear thought through the myriad of emotions that clambered for her attention inside her mind and memory. Finally she settled for, “We’re very different, Juliet.”
“In what way?” Juliet asked, panic beginning to settle over her as she worried her innocent question, and not-so innocent motives behind it, had been figured out. “I was just speaking in general,” she lied, feeling guilty. “I’m not going to attack you-”
“No!” Megan said quickly. Her heart began to pound, her own panic setting in. She quickly turned back toward the other woman. She had the fear that she would disappoint the beautiful woman beside here, or push her away, which would be an entirely good, and entirely bad thing all at the same time. “I didn’t mean because you’re gay, or because… woman… ugh!” She buried her face in her hands, feeling like an in adequate child. As usual. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Juliet’s heart softened, and she sat up, moving to sit next to Megan, an arm curling around her shoulders. “Hey,” she said, trying to use her voice to sooth as much as she would a tender glance. “What’s got you so upset, huh? Is it me? Did I do something?”
Megan shook her head. She wanted to seep into the leather of the couch beneath her as tears started to flow. She tried to wipe them away, but her hand was taken in the warmth of Juliet’s.
“Don’t cry, baby,” Juliet whispered, brushing away the tears with her fingertips. “Tell me what’s wrong. Can I get you something? More wine, maybe?”
Megan got herself calmed down once more, taking several deep breaths. “I think more wine is the last thing I need. It’s already making me ridiculously emotionally.” She grinned sheepishly. “But I could use some water.”
“Okay. Hold tight. I’ll be right back and we’ll talk, okay?” At Megan’s nod, Juliet quickly headed for the kitchen, and collected two bottles of cold water from the fridge, and then sat next to the blonde again, who looked a bit better than she had when the brunette had left the room. “Here.” She handed one bottle over and watched as Megan quickly drained half of it. “Talk to me.”
Megan brought a trembling hand to her own face, surprised at how hot the skin was. She hated to blush, but it seemed to happen constantly when Juliet was around. It made her feel like an idiotic teenaged boy. “I’ve never been kissed, never kissed, never made love.” She stopped, listening for Juliet’s reaction, but heard nothing. She only felt the comforting hand that had come to rest on her shoulder. “I told you why- the trust issues. But even so,” she sighed, long and heavy. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” she muttered, head dropping. “I feel, I don’t know. Unworthy, maybe? No, that’s not the right word. Inadequate, for sure, but I guess I feel like the wall flower who sits back and just isn’t noticed.”
Juliet was stunned. This beautiful, intelligent, vivacious woman felt like a wall flower? How was that possible? No words would come to her, so she did the only thing that felt right. Resting two fingers under Megan’s chin, she brought the reporter’s face around toward her, and leaned in, placing a gentle kiss on her lips, able to taste the saltiness from her recent tears.
Megan started, wanting to pull away, but she was held firm by the hand on her shoulder. Relaxing, she allowed herself to feel and experience. Enjoy. The softness came back to her lips, their press a bit more firm. It was such an alien feeling, as not only had Megan never experienced it before, she hadn’t seen a kiss since a television show she’d watched the week before the accident. She tried to bring up the image in her mind, but it was fuzzy at best. Deciding to allow sensation to see for her, she closed her eyes, a tentative hand resting on Juliet’s knee.
Juliet had kissed a lot of women, been kissed by even more, but none had made her feel like she felt at that moment. She brought a hand up, resting it gently on Megan’s cheek, her thumb rubbing gently over the soft skin to help calm the reporter. She moved her lips against Megan’s sensually, slowly teaching her as well as trying not to frighten her.
Megan felt overwhelmed by sensation as her heart accelerated even more, a fine sheen of sweat breaking out over her skin. Her stomach roiled as nervous waves of arousal flowed through her. She gasped softly when the barest touch of a wet tongue flicked across her top lip.
“Shh,” Juliet whispered against Megan’s lips. “Relax.”
The reporter did, her fingers unconsciously squeezing Juliet’s leg rhythmically, echoing the pulsing between her legs. She allowed her lips to part, accepting Juliet inside. The stroking of the ex-model’s tongue inside her mouth was exquisite.
“Breathe,” Juliet whispered, her fingers lightly caressing the side of Megan’s face, about to pull away if the blonde’s heart didn’t slow somewhat. She smiled as the breath was pushed out, a second breath quickly sucked back in. “And for the record,” Juliet said in between soft kisses, “you are anything but a wall flower.”
Megan grinned, her arousal shooting up a notch as that wonderful tongue returned, exploring her mouth, caressing her own. She felt the hand that had been resting on her shoulder move up into her hair, tangling in the thickness and cupping the back of her head, bringing Megan in even closer, deepening the kiss.
Juliet could feel herself growing incredibly wet as Megan responded to her kiss, any hint of nervousness dissipating with every flick of the brunette’s tongue. She knew she needed to stop, end this before she couldn’t stop. Slowly, she brought the kiss to an end, tugging playfully on the blonde’s lower lip before pulling away. They were both breathing heavily, Megan’s face incredibly flushed, her full lips still moist from their kiss. Juliet had never seen anything so sexy in all her life.
Taking several deep breaths to get her voice back to normal, Juliet spoke. “You have now been officially, and thoroughly kissed, Megan,” she said, the backs of her fingers brushing over the warmed skin of Megan’s cheek.
Megan nodded, her heart still pounding. “I think I have.” She tried desperately to sift through all the emotions running through her, deciding on just exactly how she felt after that wonderful, but all too brief experience. “I… you’re really good at that.”
Juliet smiled, brushing a few strands of hair back from Megan’s face. “It’s easy to be good at something when you enjoy it so much.”
“You, uh, you do this often, then?” Megan asked, reaching for her bottle of water and taking a healthy swig.
Juliet was quiet for a moment, trying to think of how to answer that question. The easy answer was yes, but somehow she didn’t feel that would be a good answer for Megan. She didn’t want the blonde to think that she was simply another notch for the ex-model. She wasn’t. She couldn’t be. Looking over at the reporter, she saw the expectant look on her face. “I’ve kissed a lot of women, yes. I’ve had a lot of lovers, though most of that was back in the day. I mean, when you’re being dragged from country to country, state to state so your designer can show you off, it got really lonely.”
“Juliet, you don’t have to explain or justify. You’re a beautiful woman. I mean,” Megan shrugged. “Who wouldn’t want to kiss you. Or… well, yeah.”
Juliet smiled at the new blush that was creeping up Megan’s cheeks. It amazed her how such a wonderful, intelligent, very put together woman could be so adorably vulnerable at the same time.
“I’m not justifying, Megan. Well,” she sighed, sipping from her own water. “Maybe I am. I just don’t want you to think that what we just shared was meaningless to me. It wasn’t another mark for my ego.”
Megan nodded, but looked down, as that was pretty much exactly what she was thinking. “It meant a lot to me, too, Juliet, and I enjoyed it. Even so, you don’t owe me anything.”
“Sure I do.” Juliet gently grasped the blonde’s chin between thumb and forefinger, getting Megan’s full attention. “I still owe you that dinner I promised you.”
Megan had made arrangements for their dinner at Alex’s restaurant. It was a beautiful place, elegantly appointed with its wait staff in tuxedo. The women were seated, Juliet being extremely gracious and solicitous, gently guiding the blonde around unseen obstacles until they were seated.
Megan listened on in shock as Juliet conversed with their waiter, her fluent French rolling off her tongue in sensual waves. Megan had never been affected by merely the sound of someone’s voice before. But as Juliet spoke, the language which was beautiful on its own, sounded more like a lover’s caress than simple communication.
Later, their dinners had arrived, been eaten and plates taken away. Megan sat with a hand wrapped around her glass of wine, the slight heat of what Juliet explained was a lit candle at the center of their table, warming that hand. She had listened as Juliet had told her some stories from her days in the modeling world, and couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to put themselves through that.
“Didn’t you ever feel like a head of cattle, put on the auction block?” she asked, brows drawn.
Juliet laughed then sipped from her wine. “Pretty accurate description, actually. For a while I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the attention, the money, traveling. But after awhile, as I got older and figured who I really was, and not who Gucci wanted me to be, I began to truly detest it. That’s why I retired, even though my manager insisted that I still had several good years left in me. Much like that head of cattle you mentioned. When I can be compared to a breed mare, I knew it was time to say goodbye.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Not in the least.” Juliet smiled when a familiar-looking man walked up to their table, dressed in chef whites. “Alex, right?” she asked. She was amused by the smile that brought.
“Hello. I just wanted to stop by and say hello to you two lovely ladies, and make sure everything was to your liking.” He directed his comments to Juliet, even as he placed a hand on his sister’s shoulder. Megan covered his hand with her own.
“It’s was fantastic, Alex. You boys outdid yourselves back there,” Megan said, her voice happy and content. She felt the squeeze of affection.
“Thanks, sis. Miss Ross?” he said, brows raised.
Juliet raised her glass in silent salute. “Le dîner était merveilleux. Il a goûté divin. Perfection.” She grinned at the man’s blush, much like his sister’s.
“Thank you.” He leaned down and kissed Megan’s cheek. “Catch you later, sis. Ladies, enjoy the rest of your night.” With a final smile, Alex weaved his way back through the restaurant toward the kitchen.
“So, how many languages do you speak, anyway?” Megan asked, finishing her wine and setting the glass aside.
“Four. Je parle français. Parlo italiano. Ich spreche Deutsches. And, Ik spreek het Nederlands.”
“Okay, now you’re just showing off,” Megan grinned, truly stunned.
Juliet leaned forward in her seat, dropping her voice to a level that reached inside and touched Megan in some very interesting places. “Are you impressed yet?”
Megan’s grin was infectious, and absolutely adorable. “Are your Trying to impress me?” Or are you trying to flirt with me?
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Juliet waved down their waiter, signaling for the check. The young man bowed in acknowledgement of her request, and scurried off to complete the task. “Do you like music, Megan?”
“Love it. Why?”
Juliet knew that taking Megan to the symphony was a gamble, but it had obviously paid off. She figured it was better than an opera or musical theater, as this way, there was absolutely nothing the blonde needed to see, anyway, but could simply enjoy the entertainment with her ears, like everyone else in the large theater.
The box seats they now sat in were perfect. If Megan could see, she would be looking down on the large, highly polished stage, filled with men and women dressed in black and white with tails, producing the beautiful music that filtered through the air. Currently they were playing a Beethoven favorite, and Juliet sat back, resting her head back against the seat and closing her eyes. She tried to imagine what this must be like for Megan.
The darkness behind her closed lids was undoubtedly nothing like what Megan experienced every day of her life, which was sure to be a complete blackness. Suddenly it made her very sad, almost making her want to cry. She opened her eyes and looked over at the beautiful woman sitting next to her, who was so involved in the music that it made Juliet’s heart hurt. How fair was it that such a fate had befallen Megan? What penance was she paying? What had she done in a past life that a 14 year old kid deserved to have one of the greatest gifts taken from her- sight?
Yet, as she watched, she saw a strength come from the reporter that left Juliet in awe. Reaching over, she took one of Megan’s hands, which had been resting in her own lap, smiling when the blonde allowed their fingers to entwine. Juliet once again rested her head against the back of her seat and closed her eyes.
The night time was Megan’s time. It was a time when the seeing became the blind, and Megan’s world of darkness dominated. She made swift progress through the darkened, quiet house. She was unable to sleep, the events of the night with Juliet at dinner and then at the symphony, as well as the previous night’s events rattled around in her head. Her body’s responses just to the memories were keeping sleep at bay. It was a bit disconcerting, and Megan needed to think.
Megan had never felt so alive in all her life as when Juliet had touched her and kissed her. What she couldn’t figure out, however, was if the intense sensations had been because of the physical, intimate touch, or because of the woman behind them. Or a little of both. Juliet’s expert touch had made her feel, physically, which was something that didn’t often happen. Megan lived by her heart, plowing through life on a wave of emotion that dictated what she wrote and how she wrote it, as well as her relationships with those around her. The physicality of life, however, was something she ignored. Her body had betrayed her once, and she wasn’t about to allow it to do so again.
“Damn,” she whispered, headed toward the kitchen.
“Are you okay?” Juliet’s soft voice came out of the darkness, nearly giving Megan a heart attack. “God, I’m sorry!” the brunette exclaimed, placing her hands on the blonde’s shoulders, trying to still her. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“What are you doing up?” Megan asked, her fright making her voice far more harsh than she intended.
Juliet was taken aback. “I had a phone call to make to a business partner in Australia. I had to make the call late because of the time difference, and didn’t want to wake you upstairs.”
Megan took several deep breaths, nodding understanding at the explanation. “I’m sorry. I just thought I was alone down here.”
“I can leave-”
“No! No.” Megan hated how desperate she felt and sounded around Juliet all too often. She reached up, placing her hand over one of those that still rested on her shoulders. She took the hand in both of hers, feeling the differences from her own hand. Juliet’s fingers were long and slender. It felt like a graceful hand. The skin was soft to the touch. She couldn’t help but wonder what Juliet’s hands would feel like on her body.
Juliet was watching Megan carefully, the soft light from the kitchen illuminating the blonde’s face. “Not sure what you’re thinking about, but it must be good. You’re quite flushed,” she said softly.
Megan smiled, a little sheepish. “I was just wondering what your hands would feel like on my skin.”
Juliet was just as surprised by Megan’s words as the reporter apparently was, herself. The brunette could feel her heart pounding, her sex throbbing, at those simple words. Though it was something she’d love to find out herself, she didn’t feel right about it. “Megan,” she finally said. “I think that would be something better to find out from someone you love. Your first time is a very special thing-”
“It was just a quick thought. Nothing more.”
Juliet found herself standing alone in the kitchen, her hand very cold after losing Megan’s touch. She sighed. “Shit.”
Megan threw herself in her bed, feeling completely stupid and never so foolish in her life. She pulled the covers up close to her chin, wanting to bury herself a live. Of course Juliet wouldn’t want her. Why would she? She could have any woman in the world, literally, so why would she be interested in a simple woman from Colorado, who was blind, and unable to appreciate all the beauty Juliet had.
She truly was an idiot. Megan did her best to try and keep her tears back. There was no reason to cry, as it wouldn’t do any good, anyway. She just wasn’t meant for the physical aspects of love. Not for the first time, Megan cursed the driver of that truck who had ruined her life fourteen years ago.
Juliet sat in one of the kitchen chairs, staring at her cell phone for a long time. Her mind was reeling from the fact that she’d just hurt Megan, and for what? Yes, she’d truly been trying to do the valiant thing, as she knew it would be Megan’s first time. Juliet had never made love out of love before, and had always wished for that. She didn’t want Megan’s first time to be just for the sake of a good fuck.
She ran a hand through her hair, realizing it was the same hand that Megan had been holding, touching. She could still feel her fingers tingling from the gentle touches. She looked at that hand, imagining it cupping one of the blonde’s breasts, feeling the weight and fullness. Next she imagined her mouth joining that hand. Tasting Megan’s flesh. She craved the sound of Megan’s pleasure.
“Shit,” she said again, knowing full well that she wanted nothing more than to go upstairs and be with Megan. She glanced into the dark living room, just able to make out the stairs. “What am I doing?” she asked herself. Megan was a grown woman, and Juliet knew damn well it had been difficult for the reporter to voice her thoughts earlier.
Megan was doing her best to get back to sleep, but was awoken again when she heard Juliet coming upstairs. The blonde’s acute hearing picked up every soft step of bare feet in the carpet, a hand sliding on the banister. She was surprised when the footsteps didn’t stop at the guest bedroom, but instead continued on into her own.
Juliet took it slow, not wanting to trip on anything in the darkened bedroom. Her eyes adjusted enough to make out the bed and the figure lying in it. She stopped just next to it, quickly pulling her tank top over her head and then pushing the flannel shorts down long legs. Naked, she walked the scant few feet over to the bed and pushing the blankets back, revealing Megan lying on her back, pajama-clad body still and seemingly stiff with tension.
Megan didn’t know what to think. She had heard the rustling sounds of clothing being removed, but couldn’t wrap her mind around what Juliet was doing. She lay there silently, the night chill beginning to kiss her bare arms. Within moments, she felt her guest move into the bed with her, body heat enveloping her. She gasped when she realized that Juliet was, in fact, naked.
Juliet rested on her side, naked flesh pressed up against Megan’s side. She leaned over and gently cupped the blonde’s cheek, bringing their lips together. Megan was stiff, slightly pushing against her shoulder.
“Wait,” Megan said. “You don’t need to feel sorry for me.”
Juliet smiled against the hot skin of Megan’s neck. “I’m not here out of pity, baby,” she whispered, smiling again at the shiver that sent through the other woman’s body. “I’m here because I want to be. I was stupid to reject such a gift of perfection and beauty.” She kissed a wet trail up the side of Megan’s neck. “It just took me a minute to realize it.”
A soft sigh escaped Megan’s lips, her head instinctually tilting, giving Juliet more access to her neck. Her stomach was roiling, her palms suddenly becoming sweaty as she realized what was happening.
“If you want me to stop, you say the word,” Juliet said, slowly moving her body until she lay atop the reporter. Megan’s soft whimper was all the encouragement she needed. She felt tentative hands rest on her naked back. Juliet’s lips found Megan’s again, kissing her slowly- a kiss meant to arouse and seduce. The fingers of one hand found the buttons along the front of Megan’s short-sleeved pajama top. Her lips followed the progress as more and more of Megan’s flesh was revealed. “God, you are so perfect, Megan,” Juliet whispered. “Steals my breath away.”
Megan couldn’t speak. Hell, she could barely think, as the cool night air brushed against her exposed breasts, the nipples instantly hardening from a potent mixture of cool air and deep arousal. She gasped as suddenly one of her breasts was cupped in a warm hand. Her head fell to the side, eyes closing as her mouth opened with a soft moan.
Juliet studied the flesh before her. Despite the hundreds of women she’d worked with, seen naked, and then those she’d taken to bed, the ex-model honestly couldn’t remember one that was as beautiful as the woman lying beneath her. She told Megan as much, smiling at the flush the compliments brought about. She helped the blonde to a sitting position, Juliet effectively straddling her lap. The shirt was removed and tossed into the darkness.
Megan felt soft palms cup her cheeks, then even softer lips on her own. “I want you, Megan,” she whispered, burying her hands in the blonde hair as she deepened the kiss.
Megan moaned as she felt Juliet’s breasts against her own. The feeling of skin on skin was far more exquisite than she could ever have imagined it would be, no matter how many fantasies she’d had over the years. She felt herself falling back to the mattress, Juliet with her. Her heart was pounding even harder, though not so much from nervousness now, as pure desire.
Soon, both lie naked, Juliet slowly exploring Megan’s body with hands, mouth and tongue, softly murmuring words of passion and encouragement as she went. Megan was lost in a world of sensation, overwhelmed with the pleasure that flowed through every fiber of her body and soul.
Juliet moved to Megan’s mouth, kissing her deeply. “I want to hear you come,” she whispered against the blonde’s mouth.
Juliet smiled, lightly growling her pleasure as she moved back down Megan’s body, settling herself between her spread thighs.
“What are you doing?” Megan asked, heart pounding as she fought the urge to lift her hips in silent invitation. She could feel Juliet’s body heat against her own engorged sex, and craved contact with it.
“Shh,” Juliet murmured, placing a trail of light kisses along Megan’s inner thigh. “Trust me.”
Megan gasped, losing her battle for control as her hips raised to meet Juliet’s tongue as it made a second swipe. “Oh god, Juliet. Yes…”
Juliet hummed in pleasure as she feasted, taking her time to make sure she covered every inch of Megan’s sex. The reporter whimpered, her head falling to the side as her body’s responses took over. She reached down, burying her hands into Juliet’s hair, pressing the ex-model’s face further into her need.
“Come for me, baby,” Juliet whispered before concentrating the full force of her mouth onto Megan’s engorged clit.
Megan felt her body explode, a loud, guttural cry escaping as her hips thrust into Juliet’s face, thighs clamping around her head. Juliet held on, continuing to lick and suckle until Megan begged her to stop, just after succumbing to a second orgasm.
Pleased with herself, Juliet crawled back up Megan’s body, cradling the smaller woman against her and rocking her as the blonde’s body continued to convulse. “Shh, it’s okay. I’m here.”
Megan was lost, her mind and body flying through space before she began to land, feeling soft kisses raining down on her face and neck. She brought her arms up around Juliet’s neck, holding her close and searching for her lips. Juliet kissed her, losing herself in it. She felt as though she were falling, and only Megan could catch her. The thought frightened her, and she began to pull away.
“Where are you going?” Megan asked, reaching for the taller woman, wrapping her legs around a slim waist.
Juliet held herself up on her hands, looking down at Megan’s beautiful, innocent face. She studied the blonde’s features, the trusting eyes, the flush of her skin. Juliet relaxed, pressing her body closer into Megan’s. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, threatening to escape her chest, captured by Megan.
“I love the way you feel,” she whispered, pressing her hips into Megan. The reporter gasped, pressing up into Juliet. “I love the way you feel, the way you taste and sound.” She leaned down and kissed her, continuing the movement of her hips. Slowly Megan unwrapped her legs from around Juliet, spreading her legs. “You feel so good, baby.”
“So do you. Please don’t stop.” Megan was amazed that she felt her body responding again, ready for more. A hot wave of pleasure rushed through her, settling between her thighs. She felt new wetness coating the insides of her thighs, mixing with Juliet’s own desire.
“Megan?” Juliet gasped.
“I want you inside me.” Juliet grabbed one of Megan’s hands, bringing it down between their bodies. She helped the blonde find her way with two fingers, inside her wet heat. Juliet groaned, pressing down, allowing herself to be filled. She changed position until she was straddling Megan, moving her hips as Megan thrust up into her.
Megan felt like she could come again, just from the sounds of Juliet’s pleasure, and from the feel of being inside her. “Oh my god, this is so amazing.”
“Don’t stop, baby. God, yes!”
Juliet felt her breath leave her body as her climax hit her almost painfully hard, leaving her trembling and crying out. She reached down, pressing Megan’s hand hard into her, grinding her clit against her knuckles. Another orgasm ripped through her, leaving her feeling weak and sated.
Megan wrapped her arms around Juliet’s shoulders as the taller woman fall against her, listening to the heavy breaths in her ear as Juliet tried to get herself back under control. Megan gasped as she felt fingers between her thighs. She could feel Juliet’s smile against her neck.
“I know you weren’t finished,” the ex-model whispered, her fingers pressing down on Megan’s clit. Two quick swipes across it, and Megan was thrown into a third orgasm.
The night was wearing on, the moon high in the sky. Juliet could hear Megan’s soft breaths, could feel her naked skin against her own. She lazily ran her fingers through the thick, blonde hair, unable to fall asleep. They’d made love off and on for the past three hours until Megan had finally crashed into a deep, soundless sleep. Juliet envied that. Her mind was still whirling from the emotions that had passed through her during their time together. She hadn’t expected to feel the way she did. Hadn’t expected Megan to reach inside of her and touch something so deep that Juliet hadn’t even been aware it existed.
Now what? She wasn’t comfortable with the feeling, and short of walking out of Megan’s life, wasn’t sure how to get rid of it. She glanced down at the sleeping woman in her arms, trying valiantly to distance herself from the feelings inside. She tried to disconnect herself, never a problem in the past. She’d always been able to turn her emotions on and off, never taking anything with her that she didn’t want. She didn’t want this.
Slowly and carefully, Juliet untangled herself from Megan, making sure the blonde was covered and comfortable before she gathered her clothing from the floor, and headed toward the guest bedroom to pack.
The snow was falling in earnest, the weather man’s prediction of a white Christmas proven correct. Megan didn’t care. Normally she’d be out playing in it, along with her brother and his soon-to-be fiancé. He had gotten Canada a ring, and would be giving it to her that night as the three of them opened gifts.
“Are you sure you won’t come out?” Alex asked, bundled up to look like Randy from A Christmas Story.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Megan had been sitting in front of the window, lost in her own thoughts, for most of the afternoon. Alex was worried, as she hadn’t been herself for the past couple months. Her normally light, fun personality had been somber and aloof.
Alex walked over to his sister, kneeling down next to the chair she sat in. “Meg, what’s going on?” he asked softly, placing a hand on her arm. “How can I help you?”
“There’s nothing you can do, Alex. I’m fine, really.” She smiled down in his general direction, but the smile was obviously forced.
“This has been going on for too long. If you don’t want to tell me what happened, then tell Canada. Something is obviously terribly wrong.” He paused, looking into her lifeless eyes. “Is it something with your eyes? Are they hurting again?”
Megan shook her head, afraid that if she spoke, her voice would crack and then she would have no choice but to explain.
Alex sighed in resignation. He knew not to push his sister, or he’d push her further into herself. “Alright. I’m beginning to sweat in all this stuff, so I’m going to head out. If you change your mind, me and Canada are just out front.”
“Okay. Have fun.”
Megan waited until she heard her front door slam shut before she allowed herself to cry. She couldn’t help but think back to the morning she’d woken up alone. No goodbyes. No explanations. Nothing. She felt used, and horribly abused. Somehow, along the way of making love with Juliet, she’d given far more to her than just her virginity. Since Juliet had left her life, she felt empty somehow. She felt as though part of her had left that night, when Juliet had walked out the door.
She’d contemplated calling Juliet more than once, but had never done it. She felt foolish enough, as the ex-model had made it painfully clear that their incredible night together had meant nothing. Juliet got what she wanted, and had disappeared into the darkness. At first she’d put on a brave face, chalking it up to an experience that was wonderful, but obviously not meant to last. Then somehow that just didn’t sit right with her. She wasn’t able to just let it go. She wanted Juliet body, mind and soul.
Megan reached up, burying her face in her hands, unaware that she was being watched by two very concerned people.
“What part of ‘fuck off’ don’t you understand?” Juliet growled, leaning forward dangerously over her desk, eyes locked with her terrified assistant.
“I’m sorry, Juliet. I’ll let her know.” James Crabs, the newest in a long line of PA’s, scurried out of the ex-model’s office.
Juliet flopped back into her chair, turning it so she was looking out over Manhattan. She felt her blood pressure rising through the roof, as per usual. She grabbed her bottle of water and tossed back two pills that her doctor had given her to help combat the extraordinary amounts of stomach acid she produced.
Glancing over at the phone, Juliet tapped her fingernails against the arm of her expensive leather desk chair. Chewing on her bottom lip proved useless in helping her to make a decision. She reached out a hand, ran a finger over the smooth plastic of the hand piece, then snatched it away again.
“Shit,” she muttered with a heavy sigh. “What did I do?”
So many times she’d wanted to call. To reconnect to the only woman who had ever made her feel, had ever brought her peace, and who had ever made her truly regret her actions. Was it too late? Surely Megan hated her. It had been months. The holidays had come and gone, Juliet’s most detested holiday just around the corner. If you had to have a national holiday to be good to your lover then mayhap a lover wasn’t deserved.
“Fucking Valentine’s Day.”
With another heavy sigh, she reached for the phone again.
Megan sat in the car next to Canada, listening to her boss’ voice drone on and on in the recording she’d made of their meeting earlier that day. She locked away his instructions in the file cabinet in her head, to be pulled out later and acted on. He had several new stories he needed her to start on for the new year. She was glad, as it would keep her busy. She needed to stay busy.
“Megan, are you expecting anything?”
Megan was jarred from her work by the unexpected sound of Canada’s voice. “Huh?”
“There’s a delivery guy parked outside your place.”
“What kind of delivery guy?”
“Looks like a flower guy.”
Canada parked the car in Megan’s driveway, quickly climbing out. A heavily-bearded man stepped out of the van, a huge bouquet of flowers in his arms.
“Hey there,” Canada greeted, walking over to him.
“Hi. Are you Megan?” he asked.
“Nope, but she is.” Canada indicated Megan with a nod of her head. The blonde joined Canada at the curb.
“These are for you, Ma’am,” the delivery man said, holding out a clipboard to Megan.
“Here, let me get that. She’s blind,” Canada explained, quickly signing for the delivery. She was handed the flowers, the delivery man tipping his hat as he headed back to his van.
“What is it?” Megan asked, reaching for the bundle. “Flowers.”
“There’s a card, too.”
Canada pulled the small envelope from the plastic prongs of the holder, tearing it open and pulling out the card. “’Megan – I was wrong. Please forgive me. Juliet.’”
Megan froze at the sound of the ex-model’s name. She walked away from Canada, headed toward her front door.
“Do you know this woman?” Canada asked, re-reading the card as she followed Megan.
“Yes, but I don’t want to.” Megan managed to get the front door unlocked and pushed it open with a trembling hand. She could hear Canada behind her, and wished her friend would just go away. She wanted to be alone.
Canada headed straight for the kitchen, digging through the cabinets until she found a vase. “These are really gorgeous, Megan. They smell incredible.”
“Take them home, Canada. I don’t want them,” Megan said, stepping up beside her soon-to-be sister-in-law.
“Okay,” Canada said, hand on hip. “Right now you tell me who Juliet is, and why you don’t want these flowers, or don’t want to know her. Who is it?”
Megan stalled for time by getting herself a bottle of water out of the fridge, handing Canada one, as well. She didn’t notice when the other woman set the bottle aside, ready to hear finally what was up with her fiancé’s sister.
“She’s a woman I made a mistake with last fall.”
Canada’s mind traveled back, and she gasped. “You’re not talking about Juliet Ross, are you?” Megan turned away, taking a long swig of her water. “Oh my god! You are talking about her, aren’t you?”
Canada blew out a breath as she twisted off the top of her own water bottle. “So, what was the mistake you made? These roses are red, so I’d say you two must know each other pretty well.”
“I slept with her.” Megan cringed as she heard Canada spit out the drink she’d just taken. “I know. Shocking, right?”
“Holy shit, Megan!” Canada cleaned up her mess, putting her water down. She walked over to the smaller woman, stunned by the admission. “Why was it a mistake?”
“Because it meant nothing to her. She couldn’t even bother to stick around. I woke up and she was gone. Haven’t heard from her since.” Megan finished off her water, trying to keep the bitterness at bay.
“Why did she take off?” Canada glanced at the flowers, neatly arranged and sitting on the kitchen table.
Megan shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. She hasn’t exactly filled me in.”
“I’d say she feels bad. She knows she made a mistake.”
“Too little, too late, Canada. I want nothing to do with her.”
“Please go, Canada. I’m sorry, I just really want to be alone right now.” Megan couldn’t turn to Canada, knowing she’d just hurt her feelings.
Canada was stung, but said nothing more. She gave the blonde a quick hug, then headed out the door, closing it softly behind her.
The mid-February night was cold, the sound of snow falling filling Megan’s ears. She lay in bed, her fingers running over the silky petals of one of the roses she’d received two days ago. She thought about Juliet – hadn’t been able to think about much of anything else since. She brought the petal to her nose, inhaling the fragrant scent. For a moment she swore she could smell Juliet’s unique scent.
“Why did you have to come back into my life?” she whispered to the empty room. “Why? What do you want from me?”
Megan didn’t want to admit it, but the gesture had not only surprised her, but somehow touched her as well. She was shocked to find out that the card had been not only sent with the printed words, but was also done in brail. She reached over to the side table next to her bed, feeling around until she felt the bumpy paper, taking it between her fingers, and running a thumb over the brail message.
Juliet tapped well-manicured nails impatiently on the mirrored wall behind her, her gaze locked on the falling numbers of the elevator readout. She ignored the stares she felt on her body by her fellow passengers, her mind firmly set on the lunch date she was heading out for. Finally the car stopped at the lobby, and with a ding, the doors slid open.
The six people that had joined Juliet quickly dispersed, though many slowed at the spectacle taking place near the large, glass and brass doors that led out into Manhattan.
“Let go of me!” a woman’s voice screamed, the source buried behind a wall of security guards.
Juliet stopped when she noticed what looked to be a carry-on bag on the floor, the contents slightly strewn about on the marble floor. One of the security guards, in their struggle with the woman, kicked a pen that had fallen out across the floor. The ex-model picked up the pen, dark brows drawing in concern.
“Damn it, I said let go of me!” Megan was feeling panic overtaking her sense. Her heart was pounding painfully in her chest, her ears ringing from the surge of blood through her body. She could hear the men’s voices, but could no longer discern what they were saying. She could feel the crush of people around her, feel their body heat, smell their breath. She was terrified. She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes, the wetness on her cheeks.
“Hey!” Juliet said, pushing through the crowd of uniformed men. “What the hell’s going on here?” she felt her heart begin to flutter. Something familiar…
One of the security guards stepped aside, recognizing Juliet Ross’ voice. “Ma’am,” he panted, out of breath from his struggles. He reached up to tip his hat at her when he realized it was gone. Must have been knocked off during the fuss. “This lady was trying to get through to your office. Her name wasn’t on your list, and you’ve said no one-”
“Get the hell out of my way.” Impatient, Juliet shoved past two more guards until she was at the source of the fight. Her breath caught when she saw Megan huddled near one of the sets of doors, tears staining her face, and wide, sightless eyes filled with panic. “Megan,” she breathed, relief and fear all swirling through her at once, making her feel lightheaded.
“Miss Ross-” one of the guards began, a hand on the tall woman’s shoulder.
Juliet whirled on him. “Get the hell away from me! Can’t you see she’s terrified?”
The guard winced, taking several steps back. He’d seen that bitch’s temper in action before. “Ma’am, she wouldn’t leave. She just kept roaming-”
“She’s blind, you fucking idiot!” Juliet raged. It was then that she noticed the crowd of gawking onlookers standing around the lobby of the posh building. Putting a protective arm around Megan’s shoulders, she turned to them. “Have you all had your fill? Free show? Get the hell out of here!” The crowds quickly moved on, muttered conversation following. Juliet ignored it, turning back to the terrified blonde. “Megan? Honey?” Megan stared off into space, seemingly in a catatonic stupor. “Megan?”
Through the haze of Megan’s terror, she heard the voice of a guiding light echoing through her head. The feel of gentle fingers trailing down her cheek. She blinked a few times, reality coming back to her.
Juliet watched Megan’s face intently, actually able to see as the blonde pulled herself from the safe place she’d gone to hide. Green eyes blinked once, twice, then Megan took a long breath. “Sweetheart?”
“Juliet?” Megan whispered, reaching a hand up, deft fingers quickly tracing the taller woman’s features. She smiled when she realized it wasn’t a dream, but Juliet that held her.
‘Yes.” Juliet nearly cried as relief filled her. She quickly took Megan into a tight hug, burying her face in the fragrant hair. “What are you doing here? Why didn’t you call me? I would have come to you.”
Megan allowed herself to get lost in the embrace, eyes closing as warmth filled her. “I wanted to surprise you. I had to see you.”
Juliet held on tighter, placing a kiss on top of the blonde head. “I never thought I’d see you again,” she whispered, throat thick with emotion, which surprised her even more than seeing the blonde. She was amazed as she felt her world righted. Her temper drained from her body, leaving only a feeling of peace and contentment behind. That was something she hadn’t expected, and had never felt before. “Come on. Let’s head upstairs to my office.”
Juliet gathered the spilled contents of Megan’s bag, carrying the small carry-on as she led the blonde toward the bank of elevators, and finally up to her offices.
“Hold all my calls, and cancel my twelve-thirty,” she said to her assistant, closing the solid office door behind them. Once alone, Juliet took Megan in a tight hug once more, relishing in the feel of Megan’s body against her own.
Megan was getting further and further lost in the feel of the taller woman. She had come to New York – without telling her brother or Canada – with the intent of talking to Juliet. She wanted to know why the ex-model of walked out without so much as a goodbye. Why had she sent the flowers months later? As she felt Juliet against her, none of that seemed to matter, though she knew they would have to have a serious discussion about everything. At that moment, all that mattered was being in Juliet’s arms.
Juliet pulled back just far enough to be able to lean down and capture Megan’s lips. The blonde was immediately responsive, the kiss quickly deepening. Megan held on, her heat about to pound out of her chest.
Finally needing to breathe, Juliet pulled away, resting her forehead against Megan’s. “I missed you so much, Megan. I never thought it could be possible to miss someone in your life, when they’d barely been in it.” Placing a kiss on the blonde’s forehead, she took her by the hand and led her over to the leather couch in the sitting area of her office. She looked at Megan, studying her face, taking in every detail. Shaking her head in wonder, she said, “How do you bring me such calm? I don’t understand it.”
Megan shook her own head. “I don’t know. I couldn’t stay away, I’m sorry. I got your flowers. I had to see you, Juliet. I had to understand. Will you tell me? Why?”
Juliet sighed heavily, not sure where to begin, or how to explain her weakness. “I’m sorry I left like I did. It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, which for me is saying a lot.” She smiled mirthlessly. “You touched me.” She took hold of Megan’s hand, placing it over her heart. “Here. It scared me to death.”
“So you left?” Megan asked softly, turning her hand so she could curl her fingers around those that had covered her hand, holding it in place.
Juliet nodded. “Yes. So I left.” She kissed Megan’s palm. “The problem was, I couldn’t forget about you, and amazingly I got even bitchier.”
Megan’s smile was sad. “There’s no reason to be bitchy, Juliet.”
“You make me want to be nice.” They both chuckled at that, but Megan quickly sobered.
“You make me feel strong, Juliet. Like I can do things I never thought were meant for me. Like traveling halfway across the country to see you.”
Juliet leaned down, placing what was meant to be a quick kiss on Megan’s lips, but Megan buried a hand in Juliet’s hair, holding her in place as the kiss deepened. Juliet could feel her body coming alive for the first time since she’d left Megan’s bed months before.
“We have a lot to talk about,” Juliet murmured against Megan’s lips, “but I’d really love it if you’d come home with me right now.”
Without a word, Megan nodded. “Okay. But I do want to talk. I want this to work, Juliet.”
“Me, too. It will.”