Consequences Ch. 02byLiquidFyre©
(This story brings back a character from Consequences, Dana, the child of Ann and Cole. Dana is biracial but identifies much more with being black than anything else. Her father didn't know of her existence until recently and while not bitter towards all white men, she has issues with him and they way he treated her mother. For a better explanation, you should read Consequences.)
Zane stood at the podium looking over the crowd and grimaced. He hated getting up in front of the group this way. He knew the assembled employees were expecting the worst, after all, their vice president always left him with the dirty work: no raises this year, we're closing another office, cut the expenses. He scanned the crowd one last time and caught sight of someone new.
Dana Randolph sat in her seat waiting impatiently for the meeting to begin. She would much rather have been back at her desk getting familiar with the organization and reviewing the project files left behind by her predecessor than sitting in another boring meeting, in a room with no windows and apparently no ventilation system.
The assembled employees seemed antsy and even though the meeting was about to start, people continued their conversations, talking about anything but business issues.
Zane's eyes were back on the new face. It wasn't often that you saw a person of color. Or was it African-American? Black? Hell, it wasn't often that you saw someone who wasn't white in the crowd.
As the meeting bore on, Dana found herself doodling in her organizer. Five more minutes to go and she'd be free and able to run to the restroom. She was so involved in her doodling that she almost missed the announcement.
"And we'd like to introduce the newest member of the management team. Dana Randolph. Dana comes to us having spent the last 2 years as a Human Resources consultant. She has a dual masters' degree in Human Resources Management and International Business. Dana, stand up so everyone can see you."
Dana rolled her eyes slightly before plastering a smile on her face. Jim Beason knew she didn't like group introductions. They'd talked it about when he called out of the blue and offered her the job, the same way they'd talked about it during those long weekend-MBA courses at Boston College.
It always amused and to some degree disheartened her to think of how many people assumed that you got anywhere in business by doing good work, versus who you knew. She certainly did excellent work, but having gone to graduate school with Jim and having made connections, was the reason that she got her foot in the door.
She stood and smiled at everyone before taking her seat again.
Zane caught the little roll of the eyes and watched as she stood and then sat down. She was gorgeous in a not very New Hampshire way. Coppery skin with wiry hair pulled back into some kind of puff, a thick frame with enough curves to remind a man that she was in fact a woman and not a little girl dressed up in her mother's clothes.
Melanie Gray was perched on the edge of Dana's desk, a carefully placed side-split showing off her thigh to everyone who passed by the doorway. Zane's eyes drifted down her leg, enjoying the trip and only moved when Melanie shifted on the desk. He raised his eyes to find Melanie and Dana looking at him: Melanie with a sexy grin and Dana with an arched eyebrow and a vacant smile.
"Zane, come in and meet Dana."
Zane walked into the room, taking note of the absence of any personal photos on her desk.
Dana looked up at the man standing in front of her desk. She supposed he was good looking, if you liked your men 6 feet tall and 250 lbs with blond hair. It was obvious that Melanie liked what she was looking at. She stood smoothing her hands down her skirt-covered thighs and smiled coyly at him.
Dana didn't like her men that way. She preferred them dipped in chocolate or caramel, with easy swaggers and full lips. When she'd moved to New Hampshire, she'd expected that any dating would be done among the few other black people in the state. She had no intention of crossing a line that two others in her family had already crossed. Sure black men could be dogs too, but at least she'd know it was because he was a dog and not because of her skin color.
Zane smiled down into Melanie's face and swept his glance over to Dana. She was ignoring both of them and typing rapidly. He blinked several times and looked back at Melanie, who was still gazing up at him. He cleared his throat and checked his watch. When Dana finally looked their way, he could see the snicker in her gray eyes.
So...tall, white and handsome didn't like being ignored. She smiled to herself and stood, extending her hand across the desk towards him.
"Zane, was it?"
Zane was slightly flustered. He was used to women throwing themselves at him. He was one of the few less-than-elderly men at the company and one of the few unmarried. Even now Melanie was gazing at him as though she'd like to take him right there on Dana's desk. He stepped to the side, putting some space between the two of them and reached for Dana's hand, engulfing it.
"Yes, Zane. It's nice to meet you Dana."
Dana pulled her hand form his grasp and settled back into her chair. "If the two of you will excuse me."
Zane could tell that what she really wanted to say was, "Get the hell out of my office." He smiled and nodded, waiting for Melanie to leave the office first.
Melanie stepped through the doorway and stuck her head back inside, colliding with Zane's chest.
"I'll give you a call about brunch, Dana."
Dana nodded and her phone rang, cutting off whatever Zane was about to say.
Over the next few weeks Zane saw Dana in various meetings or in the hallway coming back from lunch, but he never got a chance to talk to her.
Dana continued working as Zane wandered into her office once again.
"Zane, I'm not having lunch with you."
Dana felt bad turning down his invitation. Actually his fourth invitation, but she didn't want to be part of the office rumor mill. Word was out that Zane and Melanie had gone out on a few dates and had even slept together and while she and Melanie were by no means friends, Dana had no intention of becoming embroiled in office drama.
Zane stared at Dana, willing her to meet his eyes.
Dana sighed and looked up at him. She'd found out that his eyes were stunningly blue. She looked away and gestured to the seat in front of her. He slumped into the seat, looking like a beaten puppy. His shirt was wrinkled, the sleeves rolled up just enough to show a smattering of dark blond hair at his wrists and forearms and his tie was askew. He folded one leg over the other and she was startled to see that his belt and socks matched. Most of the men she worked with, wore pants that were too short, or their shoes were run down or they had perpetual stains on their shirts and they were afraid to do more than wear a seasonal tie to the office.
"Why do we need to have lunch together Zane?"
"I want to go over the Jacobsen stuff with you."
Jacobsen was the pain the ass client that had the company bending over backwards in their attempts to please him.
"Why can't we go over it here?"
"I just thought it would be nice to get out of the building, get to know each other."
"You know me as well as you need to Zane."
They'd had the exact same conversation three times prior, in the three days prior. Same request, same responses. A light teasing banter underlying the disappointment she saw on his face each time.
"Why won't you have lunch with me?"
This was new addition to the program. She raised her head from the report that she'd been reviewing and looked at him. He'd gotten a haircut recently, spiky tendrils pointed up at the ceiling, making him look young and hip.
Dana took off the glasses she'd been wearing and put them on her desk. She pinched the bridge of her nose, feeling the start of a headache.
"A better question is why you want to have lunch with me, Zane."
"I want to get to know you better." He cast his winning smile at her, a cleft appearing in his chin and she had sudden thoughts of tasting it.
Deciding to put an end to the teasing she looked down at her report. "You mean you want what you can't have. It would be a notch on your bedpost to fuck the new woman in the office and a black one to boot."
She didn't have to look up at him to know that she'd shocked him.
"Is that what you think this is about, Dana? Because I'm white I can't have a genuine interest in you?" His defense was weak, in part because she had shocked him and because what she had said was true. He wasn't used to women not falling for him. And as much as he might not want to admit it, he was curious about what it would be like to be with someone black. Would she be any different from the other women? Did she taste different, sound different, move differently? Would she do different things?
When Dana didn't respond, he left her office in silence.
A month later Zane stood in line with two other company employees, waiting to go through the security checkpoint at Logan airport in Boston. They were all headed to a conference in Austin, Texas.
In the next row over, Dana stood watching her colleagues. Zane had stopped popping into her office to chat and he didn't ask her out to lunch again.
Zane felt someone watching him and turned to scan the crowd. There she was. He'd taken to privately calling her "princess" and he nodded his head at her as their eyes met. She returned his silent greeting and moved forward in her line.
Zane didn't see much of Dana during the convention, as they had different tracks they followed. He caught glimpses of her here and there, standing in a group of other Black attendees, smiling up at black guy who was trying hard to make a play for her.
On the last morning of the convention, he spotted her sitting alone having breakfast and headed over to her table. Zane picked up the local paper that Dana had set beside her plate and looked at the item she had circled, an ad for a service that provided aesthetic services. She'd circled the ad for a Brazilian wax and he flinched involuntarily.
She glared at him around the mouthful of eggs and snatched her paper back.
He smiled and helped himself to the fruit on her plate, ignoring her scowl. A shadow fell over the table and Zane looked up to find the man that she'd been smiling at the day before standing at the table.
Dana looked between Brian and Zane and inwardly smirked as Zane made his excuses and left the table. That should send a message loud and clear that she didn't have time for him.
Dana avoided Zane as much as she could while still getting her work done. She emailed or left voice mail messages when he was out of the office. She kept her office door closed and always had her phone headset on, pretending to be on the phone. For his part, Zane gave her space.
They were assigned to go recruit at colleges in the region and during the staff meeting when it was announced, Melanie blurted out "Good, someone who'll be able to speak to the black students." Into the silence she giggled, waving her fingers to cover up her faux pas. Jim started to speak but Dana cut him off abruptly.
"And why wouldn't you be able to speak to the black students, Melanie?"
Melanie was oblivious to the current in the room and just giggled again. "You know, you can speak their language."
Dana looked directly into Melanie's eyes, and as with every other time she'd ever spoken very clearly, properly and with dangerous enunciation asked, "What language would that be Melanie?"
Jim Beason stood, drawing everyone's attention and dismissed the meeting, keeping Melanie behind.
Zane walked down the hallway behind Dana watching her rounded bottom move enticingly in her fitted skirt, the seam running up the back of her stockings mesmerizing him.
Dana turned into her office and called out to Zane.
He stopped in the doorway of her office and looked at her expectantly. There had been no further lunch requests, no flirting or quick glances. Just business.
"How have you been, Zane?" Dana missed their camaraderie.
"I'm well, Dana, and you?" He didn't wait for her to answer before he started speaking again. "We had a pretty good response from the recruiting drive; I'll drop off the resumes for you to take a look at."
"Zane, sit down."
He sighed and sat stiffly in the chair facing her desk, his forearms on his thighs. "What's up, Dana?"
She took a good look at him, noting the tension in his body. "So, we can't be friends because I wouldn't go out with you?"
"Dana, you didn't give us a chance to be friends. You assumed that I was just interested in getting you into bed."
Dana cut him off, "Zane, what other reason could you have for wanting to get to know me?"
"Dana, listen, if you want to be the angry black woman, holding herself apart from everyone else, go right ahead. I don't need to sit around and watch you do it."
Zane left Dana's office without looking back.
Summer morphed into fall and before she knew it, it was time to fly back to Memphis for her sister's wedding. At the last minute she chickened out of calling Brian, the man from the convention, and asking him to go with her. Her mother threatened to disown her if she showed up alone, with her usual attitude.
Swallowing her pride she called the only other person she could think of.
Turning over in bed, Zane tugged the pillow tightly over his head, ignoring the incessant ringing of the phone. The ringing stopped and then started up again and he opened his eyes and glared at the clock. It was 8 am, on a Saturday morning.
"Hello" For a moment Dana was speechless. His voice was deep, groggy and incredibly sexy.
Zane was about to put the phone down when he heard Dana's voice. "Zane."
"How'd you get my number?"
She was taken aback by the question and forced out, "I looked it up online."
"Oh. What's up, Dana?"
"I have a huge favor to ask of you."
In the ensuing silence he could hear his old-fashioned alarm clock tick off the seconds.
"I uh, need a date to my sister's wedding in Memphis. My mother has forbidden me to come to the wedding without one. I'll pay for your airfare and hotel."
Zane was silent for a moment. "Why aren't you asking that guy you hooked up with at the conference?"
"We didn't "hook-up," Zane. And I only saw him once."
Zane grunted, rolling over onto his back, and staring up at the ceiling.
"Listen I understand if you don't want to go."
"I didn't say I wouldn't go, Dana, it's just a surprise. When is the wedding?"
"In three weeks, on a Saturday afternoon. We'd fly home Sunday."
"And we'd go just as friends, right?"
He could hear the frown in her voice as she responded. "Yes."
"Fine, I'll go. Anything to help a friend out."
Zane and Dana checked into the hotel Friday night and headed down to meet her family. He left it up to Dana to answer any questions about them, but did make sure to announce that they were just friends, which earned him a glare from Dana and her father and a broad smile from her sister, Samantha.
Dana watched her sister and Randy take their vows, just the two of them standing with the minister. They'd chosen not to have attendants and had written their own vows. Despite herself, Dana choked up at the obvious love shared between the two.
At the reception Zane watched lazily as Dana shared a dance with her father, holding herself stiffly in his arms, refusing to even speak. Her mother, Ann, made the rounds, thanking family and friends for joining them and he walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder, and she allowed him to lead her onto the dance floor.
"What are your intentions towards my daughter, Zane?"
He smiled at the question and answered honestly. "I have no intentions whatsoever towards Dana. She's not willing to allow anyone to get close enough to her to have any intentions."
Ann sighed and nodded sadly. "That's because of her father and me."
Cole dropped Dana back off at her table and she watched her mother and Zane dance through two songs. Her mother reached up and kissed him on the cheek before gliding back to her own table, as Zane returned to sit beside Dana.
"What was that all about?"
"Nothing, I just thought I'd dance with your mother."
"Yeah, but what was the kiss all about?"
"Your mother is a charming woman, Dana. She was being gracious."
Just then, "Too Hot" by Cool and the Gang started and Zane stood, holding out his hand to her. "Let's Dance, Dana."
Dana stepped into the circle of his arms, her head fitting just under his chin. He inhaled whatever spicy scent she wore, her soft hair tickling his face. They swayed together, his hands drifting down to settle above the curve of her hips, pulling her into his body.
"Thank you for coming with me, Zane. I appreciate it."
He tucked a loose tendril of her hair behind her ear, looking down into her eyes and smiled. "You're welcome, Dana."
Upon return to New Hampshire, life settled into a quick routine, with Zane stopping in to chat with her during the day, but never again asking her out.
In February, the management group headed to Florida to meet with the auditors from the corporate home office. A week of sunshine and no snow had them all giddy with excitement.
Dana sat waiting to board the plane when she spotted Zane and Melanie strolling towards her. He was carrying Melanie's bag and his own and he dropped them both on the ground unceremoniously, before sitting on the other side of Dana, away from Melanie. When Melanie headed for the restroom, Dana put her book down and looked over at him.
Zane sighed. "Melanie and I aren't lovers, Dana."
"That's not the word around the office."
"Screw the office. "I've never done anything with Melanie. She might have wanted us to, but I'm smart enough not to get involved in something like that."
Dana sat upright. "Wait, you wanted to get me into bed."
"Maybe. Of course I might just have wanted to be friends with you."
Dana harrumphed and started reading again.
Zane took a look at the cover of her book and nodded. "Gaiman, he's one of my favorite authors."
Keeping silent, Dana looked over at him and nodded.
"Have you read Smoke and Mirrors? I've been meaning to pick that one up."
Dana reached into her carryon case and pulled the book out, handing it to him. "You can borrow it, but don't break the spine. And don't forget to give it back to me."
He grinned at her and tucked the book away. "Did you ever get that waxing done, Dana?"
She frowned at him and was about to respond when she noticed Melanie headed their way. Zane laughed at the look on her face and whispered to her.
"I'm more than willing to shave you, as often as you want. You don't have to put yourself through that torture, Princess. But, I'm not a fan of the hairless look, so I'd leave Dana's mouth was left hanging open as the gate agent began calling for general boarding and Zane stood up grabbing his bag.
A week of meetings, combined with dinner meetings, left little time for much else, though Dana did manage to slip in and have the waxing done, all the while imagining how much more pleasurable it would have been to have it tended to tenderly. By Zane no less.
Dana settled into her first class seat on the red-eye flight back to Boston. She placed her book into the empty seat next to her and raised the armrest separating the seats, stretching out. She tugged the oversized blanket around her shoulders.
Her comfort didn't last long as she felt guilty enjoying the luxury of first class with an empty seat next to her. She spoke to the flight attendant and three minutes later a startled Zane dropped into the seat next to her.