When You're Near MebyStormyNite©
"Cause you're so cute." Krista stuck her tongue out before she turned on her heel and left, knowing full well that Jessie would be right behind as she called over her shoulder. "Besides you're the office manager."
"The operative word being office." It was useless. Her friend wasn't listening anyway so she followed Krista out the door, but not before picking up the card and taking it with her.
They walked down the long hallway to the shop area. Krista leaned up against the metal railing at the top of the four-foot high stairs and crossed her arms. "Here she is."
The three shop workers waited patiently for Jessie to say something. She took a long moment to look each one of them in the eyes before she spoke. "Okay, here I am. Who's first?"
They all started to speak at once.
"See." Krista offered a smug smile. "I told ya."
When one hand came up, the three jabbering men stopped in mid-sentence. "Why don't you go first, Pete?"
"Arnie needed the part and I told 'em if he got here first, it was his. First come, first served." He shot his two arguing buddies a satisfied grin and folded his arms.
Jessie rubbed her temple when the two men on either side of Pete started to quarrel again. "Pete?" Having got his attention again, she asked. "Where was the part?"
He didn't want to answer that question, so he scratched under his ear and looked up to an unidentified spot on the ceiling.
"In the reserve bin?" Jessie asked.
"First come, first serve." Pete reminded her, but refused to look her in the eye.
"Joe? How long does it take to make another part just like it?"
For some reason, Joe stood silent as if the question Jessie asked was foreign to him.
The blonde cocked her head slightly. "This is a machine shop. We make parts for our customers, right?"
"Uh huh. That we do." Joe finally answered and then smiled, slightly embarrassed for staring at her.
"So how long to make another one?"
"Couple of hours." Joe hated being asked questions, but somehow didn't mind it so much from the pretty blonde. He was the kind of guy that liked to work with his hands and be left alone. He had only joined in the argument with Pete and Willie after he heard that Jessie had been called to settle it.
Jessie turned to Krista. "When's the guy from Stockard's suppose to be here?"
Krista shrugged. "Couple of hours."
Tapping the card against her lips, Jessie pretended to weigh both answers for effect. "Let's see. Two hours to make one. Two hours before the guy gets here to pick it up. Do ya think it's possible if we got on it right now, it would be done in time?"
"What about the paperwork?" Willie insisted the matter get settled. "Just cause Arnie is Pete's bowling buddy don't mean he gets..." Willie glared at Pete. "First come, first serve."
"He's one of our best customers." Pete countered.
"Yes, he is." Jessie agreed before addressing their best machine specialist. "What do you say, Joe? Can you get it done in time?"
"Sure, miss." Joe grinned. "I'll do my best."
Jessie smiled at him and winked. "I know you will."
"Alright gentlemen, back to work." Krista said then assured Willie. "I'll fix the paperwork and get you a new copy of the order." Krista followed Jessie back though the door to the office area.
Pete nudged Willie, but teased Joe. "I think she's sweet on ya, Joe."
After forgetting about the recent paperwork argument, Willie joined in on the fun. "It's Joe that's sweet on her."
The tall, lanky man shook his head and walked away eager to complete the job the pretty blonde requested of him.
Krista walked up to the receptionist's desk and sat on the edge. "She saved the day, Diane."
The sixty-five year old Diane chuckled. "The boys at it again?"
"Not really." Jessie glared hard at her friend. "Just a mix up." The blonde strolled over to her friend and tapped her on the arm. "One the personnel director is supposed to take care of."
Polishing her fingernails on her sleeve for effect, Krista shot Diane an impish grin before she looked at Jessie. "I did. I got you."
"Very funny. I've gotta get back to work now." But Jessie stood there, seemingly distracted as she fiddled with the small card in her hands.
Krista had seen her friend toying with the card all morning, but had yet found the time to talk with Jessie about it. "Diane? Can you cover for me?" The ash blonde woman nodded toward the very distracted Jessie.
"Sure, but if you go to lunch bring back something for me. Anything will be better than what I brought today." Diane picked up the ringing phone as Krista maneuvered Jessie back to her office.
"I don't need an escort." Jessie complained. But her friend wouldn't leave her alone and when they entered her office, Krista plopped down in the chair directly in front of her desk and propped her feet on the edge.
"So what gives with you today?"
Letting out a deep breath, Jessie sank in her seat behind the desk. "Nothing. Listen, I've got lots of work to do, okay?"
"Uh huh." Krista grinned, but didn't budge. "You gonna tell me about that card."
Jessie was unconsciously tapping it lightly against the accounting book. "What card?"
Staring at the card in her friend's hand, Krista took another tactic. "Then tell me about the girl."
"What girl?" Jessie sounded defensive.
"You know. The girl last night at Belle's." When Jessie frowned at her friend, she continued. "Cute brunette at the bar... green eyes."
"With golden flecks right around the..." It came out before Jessie had even realized she was speaking.
"That'd be the one." Krista grinned, happy she was on to what was distracting her friend. "I noticed you two playing handsies."
"You can leave anytime." Jessie started to put the card down, but it refused to leave her fingers, so she slipped her hand down on her lap away from Krista's dark prying eyes.
Krista was never one to hold back what she thought when it came to her best friend. "I think you like her."
That comment produced another hard glare being thrown at Krista. "Not going there again." Jessie considered the subject closed, but her eyes glanced down at the name on the card.
Krista noticed where Jessie was looking and teased her. "You're gonna burn a hole in it."
Suddenly, the blonde leaned forward over her desk in a mock attempt to slap at her friend, but Jessie soon realized that was the wrong move. "Ouch." She grabbed her back again, rubbing it.
"Still hurtin', huh?" Krista moved around the desk in order to try and help her friend. "Uncle Jack said you were lifting those cases when he told you not to."
Jessie welcomed her friend's hand trying to relieve some of the pain near her lower back as she leaned forward over the desk. "That's from the game yesterday."
When the blonde reached around again to massage her back, Krista took the opportunity to grab the card Jessie left on top of her desk. "What do we have here?"
Jessie reached for the card, but she pulled her muscle again. The blonde rolled her eyes as her friend read the card.
"Have hands, will travel."
"It doesn't say that."
"Ashley Moore. Massage therapist." Krista chuckled. "What do you think she means by 'Moore'?"
"That's her last name."
"Oh, and there's a number at the bottom along with the address." Krista flipped it over. "Looky here on the back."
Jessie groaned. She knew what was coming.
"Must be her cell phone number. Or her digits." Krista teased her friend. "Did you make a note of it for yourself?"
"Give it to me!"
"Hey. Maybe that's what the 'more' stands for. She can give it to ya." Krista knew she had pushed her ailing friend too far when a sad look came over Jessie's usually bright blue eyes. "Here."
"Thank you." A sullen Jessie took the card and fondly held it in her hands as a faraway look crossed her face.
Krista sat on the edge of Jessie's desk and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I know." She studied her friend for a long moment. "That was a long time ago, Jessie. And I know..."
"As you said it was a long time ago." Jessie wanted nothing better than to drop the long unspoken subject.
"Still hurts though." Krista sucked in a deep breath before reaching down and lifting Jessie's chin up. Their eyes met in quiet understanding. "You have to let go of it once and for all." When Jessie started to look away, Krista's hand held her friend's face in place. "I know you never forget your first love but..." She sighed. "...Jessie, she made her decision."
Jessie jerked her head away. "And it didn't include me."
Feeling sad for her friend, Krista agreed. "I know. But you did the right thing by moving here. At least physically you got away. Emotionally though, I don't think you ever left."
"I won't go there again." Jessie said staunchly. It hurt too much. Her blue eyes turned even sadder. Nine years is a long time to hold on to a lost love.
"Then what are you going to do?" When Jessie chanced a glance at her friend in question, Krista continued. "Ashley Moore."
"I don't have to do..." The look in Krista's eyes made her stop so Jessie shrugged. "I could always use another friend. After all, you're such a good example of how wonderful friends can be." The blonde sarcastically teased her best friend.
Krista jumped up off the desk. "Then friends it is. Not that she could take my place. Who could?" The smug ash blonde walked to the door and turned. "Call her."
"Why? I'm sure we'll run into each other again. She was with Morgan and her girlfriend. And Morgan's a regular at Belle's, so I'm sure she'll come..."
Krista cut her friend off. "Back?" When Jessie just stared at her, Krista pointed at her own back.
"Oh! My back." Nodding, Jessie agreed. "I could use a good massage." Remembering Ashley's words, Jessie smiled. She did promise I wouldn't regret it.
Pointing to the phone, Krista winked.
Jessie waited till her friend had left before grabbing the telephone and punching in the digits from the card. "I wonder."
When she heard the telephone ringing, Ashley ran back into the house from the front porch. She had been distracted all morning and nothing seemed to be going right that day. Just as she picked up the phone, Makayla bounced in front of her, almost causing her to trip. "Hey!"
"Ashley?" Jessie wondered if she had dialed the correct number.
The brunette woman swore when she heard her own name that her heart skipped a beat. "Hey." She said in a softer tone as she sank down on the floor next to Makayla. "Sorry about that. My dog nearly knocked me over."
Ashley smiled. "I am now."
"This is Jessie Stone. You said to call."
"Yeah. How's your back? Still giving you problems?"
"That's what I called about." Jessie stared at the card remembering the kind and innocent eyes of the massage therapist. "I was wondering if you could work me in."
Excited, Ashley said. "I can take you right now."
The blonde's eyes widened and Jessie gulped. "You can?"
It was then that Ashley realized the subtle sexual undertones in what she said. "I mean. You could come now... if you wanted." When the older woman didn't say anything for a moment, Ashley moaned. "Oh God, I'm sorry. I meant..."
"It's okay." Jessie smiled at the massage therapist's innocent words that precariously offered more. God, Krista. Now you've got me thinking that way. "No."
"Oh." Ashley was disappointed. "I thought you called to make an appointment."
"I did." Jessie hurried her words. "It's just that I've got a lot of work to get done this afternoon. Would tomorrow morning be okay?"
"When?" Ashley wasn't normally an early riser, but she would happily greet the morning sunrise if it meant seeing Jessie again.
"Say around ten maybe."
"I'll be here." Ashley grinned.
"See you then."
"Bye." When she heard Jessie hang up the telephone, Ashley looked at Makayla's questioning eyes. "We're just friends." Her dog didn't buy that and neither did the pounding of her heart.
For her part, Jessie was struggling with a heart that had been cloistered far too long. When she ran a finger over the raised purple letters on the card, a single heartbeat pounded loudly, demanding to come out.
Jessie down shifted into second as she turned the corner on her way to Ashley's house early Saturday morning. She was running late since she had changed several times before deciding on wearing a pair of khaki shorts and one of her old purple and white jerseys. When she pulled the car to a complete stop in front of the massage therapist's apartment, the blonde chanced a quick look in the mirror. Seeing her hair in a bit of disarray since she left the top down on her BMW Z-3 convertible two-seater, Jessie ran her fingers through her long hair and wondered if she should have pulled it back in a ponytail. The barking dog on the front porch caused her to drag her eyes away from the mirror. "Too late to do anything about it now."
Ashley saw the sports car stop in front of her apartment and waited patiently until Makayla demanded to be let out of the door. The brunette used that as her opportunity to walk out on the porch. When the blonde got out of her car, Ashley waved. "Hi."
"Hey." Jessie called back as she walked around the car and briefly studied the barking black dog.
Seeing the bit of hesitation in Jessie's approach, Ashley yelled. "Come on up. She's a good dog." But Ashley hooked a finger under Makayla's collar just in case.
In a determined stride, Jessie walked confidently up the sidewalk. When she was just five feet shy of the first step, Makayla slipped away from Ashley's hold and jumped down the two steps toward Jessie. The large dog bounced up on the blonde. "Whoa there!" Holding the dog that was now standing on her hind feet, Jessie smiled under Makayla's wet welcome.
Ashley hurried down the steps and tried to disengage her dog from the blonde. "Sorry. She likes you."
The black Lab got in one more lick before the brunette was able to pull her off of Jessie. "It's a good thing for me then." The blonde dabbed at her wet cheek before crouching down and petting Makayla. "What's her name?"
"Makayla Rose." Ashley marveled at how well the two of them were getting along so quickly. Dogs had a good sense about people and obviously Makayla immediately liked the blonde.
Jessie played with the happy dog, but spoke to Ashley. "We had several dogs when I was growing up. Mostly Shelties though."
"They're good dogs, too." Ashley silently studied the blonde as she gave Makayla the attention she was craving. Jessie's long hair ran about three inches past her shoulders. She was definitely a blonde. Ashley noted her hair was sprinkled with many different shades of blonde. The brunette watched Jessie tuck a strand of hair around her ear in order to avoid her dog's wet tongue. "Come on, Makayla. You're getting her all wet."
When Ashley said that, Jessie looked up and as their eyes met, they both smiled. The blonde sucked in a breath before standing. A sharp pain in her back muscle produced a grimace on the blonde's face that Ashley immediately noticed.
"Come on. I need to get you on your back... now!" Ashley turned around immediately, slightly embarrassed by her words. God, everything I say to her has some kind of... I'm not gonna think about that right now. I'm a professional. So.... act professional. But her mind flooded with images of Jessie's long sexy legs. God, help me.
Jessie followed obediently, with Makayla wagging her tail as she trotted along. "Yes, ma'am."
After Ashley got over her initial embarrassment, she turned to Jessie, "I meant to ask you beforehand on the phone, but are you wanting a full body massage, or just work on your back?"
After much deliberation, Jessie finally answered. "Just my back... for today, at least. It's really bothering me." With a nod, Ashley accepted the answer.
When they walked into the massage therapist's workroom, Ashley turned to Jessie, after picking up a large white towel. She started to open her mouth, but caught herself first. Think before you speak. "Usually, most of my customers get..." The brunette looked away from Jessie's intensely blue eyes before continuing. "...undressed. It works better that way."
The blonde stepped closer and took the towel from Ashley's hand. Their fingers brushed past each other. "I kinda figured that." That's when Jessie ventured into dangerous territory when she asked. "You do know I pulled the muscle in my back?" Ashley nodded so the blonde continued. "Well, when you said... I should get on my back, I was just wondering..."
"I just meant." Ashley rolled her eyes, now embarrassed for the second time. "Oh, I don't know what I meant."
Seeing the brunette's face turn red, Jessie smiled. "I'm just teasing ya."
Ashley immediately squinted her eyes and shot the blonde a mock glare. Pointing to the small changing room, the massage therapist demanded. "Go!"
Not only did Jessie jump at the command so did Makayla and both of them ended up in the changing room.
Ashley laughed when she saw her dog enter the room with Jessie. She took a brief moment to shake off her distracting thoughts before preparing what she would need for the massage. The brunette placed a long clean towel over the massage table and then decided at the last minute to light two vanilla candles. She grabbed for the bottle of oil, but it slipped out of her hand. As Ashley leaned over she called to Jessie. "You 'bout ready?"
Coming directly from behind her, Jessie's voice startled Ashley. "Oh!" The brunette turned around. "You're fast."
The blonde shrugged. "Doesn't take long to pull off a jersey."
Ashley could tell Jessie wasn't wearing a bra under the towel. The thought of the purple and white softball jersey with the number 21 on the front and back covering bare skin brought a smile to Ashley's face. No bra, huh?
Sensing something devious running through the brunette's mind, Jessie asked. "What's that smile for?"
Awakened from her mind's sexual detour; Ashley dismissed the blonde's question. "Never you mind. Now, on the table."
"Hold on. First, I wanna know about that." Jessie grinned.
Scrunching her eyebrows together, Ashley asked. "About what?"
Holding onto the top of the towel she had wrapped around her, Jessie used her other hand to turn Ashley. Slightly lifting the back of the brunette's shirt, Jessie pointed at the massage therapist's lower back. "That."
"Oh, that. It's a tiger." Ashley readily answered. It was when Jessie stooped down that the brunette sucked in a deep breath. "It gives me courage." Exactly what I need now with her so close to my... professional. I'm a professional. Just keep telling yourself that.
Jessie studied it for a long time. "I like it."
"Okay. Enough of that." Ashley turned around and waited until the blonde stood. "I think you're avoiding getting on that table. What's the matter? Don't you trust me?"
Immediately, Jessie thought of what her best friend had said when she was holding the massage therapist's card. Have hands, will travel. "You tell me?"
Ashley cocked her head. "There's only one way to find out."
"Okay, okay." Jessie climbed on the table, lying on her stomach. "I didn't know if you wanted me to take off my shorts, too."
That thought produced a question in the brunette's mind. Since she wasn't wearing a bra, I wonder if she isn't wearing... The brunette shut her eyes briefly and barely whispered. "Professional."
"Excuse me?" Jessie twisted around to look at the younger woman.
The massage therapist was too flustered to talk so she gently slid the towel away, revealing Jessie's bare back. Ashley gulped. The smooth, silky skin deliciously covered the nicely shaped back. Her eyes roamed over the blonde's upper torso like a well-seasoned traveler. She wiggled her fingers in anticipation.