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Hello. Just a quick warning, this one starts out really slowly. I felt it was necessary to build up to Anna and Brad’s eventual reunion. Since he has appeared in two previous stories and I’ve not specified them as chapters, it is somewhat up to the reader to decide which one this follows. It can easily follow either ‘Picture This’ or, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long’. If this is the first story of mine you’ve decided to read, no worries; it’ll still make sense. This is something that’s been cooking for a while and I wanted to write it before hockey season ended for Brad’s sake. Does it count that the play-offs are going, even if neither team here is still playing? As always, many warm thanks to my marvelous editor, the handsome and talented stevieraygovan. His suggestions add so much.
“Hey, Brad, the boss wants to see you before lunch.”
The owner of the voice was gone before Brad could look up from the mess of code he was verifying, not that that would necessarily have helped him to identify the speaker. He’d been sent to one of his company’s out-of-state offices on a three-month assignment and still hadn’t learned all the names yet. Glancing at his watch, he realized that lunch was sneaking up on him which meant he needed to see Mr. Carlson right away.
“Great,” he grumbled, rising from his chair. “Who screwed up what, and how serious is it?”
His group of five technicians had at least a dozen projects they were juggling, and three of them were crucial. Somehow, the walk to the boss’s office seemed to take longer when there was trouble brewing.
“Mr. Carlson?” He knocked on the open door. “I was told you wanted to see me.”
“Brad, yes, I do. Will you please come in and have a seat?”
His tone was too cheerful to indicate trouble, so Brad relaxed as he took the seat across the desk. A consultant’s job was always interesting, and since he was internal to begin with, he already knew all the protocols. Carlson likely only wanted to touch base, but he couldn’t afford to be complacent.
“How is the Henderson project coming along?”
“It’s fine, sir.” Surely that wasn’t what he’d been called to the office for since it could have been covered in an e-mail. “I was just reviewing some of Tony’s code for it, and after a little tweaking it’ll be ready well within their timeframe.”
“Excellent, that’s just excellent. I knew you’d be able to get things in order and help us with the clean-up. Your team seems to think highly of you, young man.”
“Thank you, sir. They’re a good group and really know what they’re doing. It’s a pleasure to work with them.”
Mr. Carlson leaned back in his chair, nodding. “I’m pleased to hear you say that, son. I’m sure you know there were a few concerns when we brought you up here, but you’ve more than proved my faith in you.”
Sure he was blushing he started to stand, intending to thank the older man for the chat when Carlson raised his hand, signaling him to remain.
“I did have another reason for talking with you, Brad.”
His confusion must have been apparent because Carlson’s tone became avuncular in his reassurances. “I know we have you here on a long-term assignment, and it’s hard to be away from family for so long.”
He started at that, but the boss continued. “I know you’re a single man, but you’re still in a strange city where you barely know your coworkers. The home office gives us a certain amount of latitude in providing employee incentives.” Opening a desk drawer, Carlson withdrew an envelope, passing it to him. “We maintain a club box at the arena and frequently supply employees and clients with tickets to events. Why don’t you take these and go to the game on Thursday?”
Floored, Brad stammered, “I couldn’t possibly accept these, sir. I –“
“Nonsense. These are mine to do with as I please, and I want you to have them.”
There were six tickets in the envelope.
“Mr. Carlson, am I expected to take my whole team to the game?”
“Did you want to?”
“It would be a good way to thank them for their hard work.”
“It would, and I applaud you for thinking of it. You’ve got something else in mind though, young man. I can see it on your face.”
“Damn,” he thought. “Anna’s always saying how well she can read me. Am I really that easy?” Shaking his head, bemused, he looked at Carlson. “You’re right, sir. As it turns out, my girlfriend is flying in tonight, and I’d like to be able to take her to the game. I don’t think she’s ever seen a hockey game live.”
The sound of laughter filled the office. “Well, son, I happen to know that two of your men out there aren’t hockey fans. Still, if they do want to go and if the rest of your team are able to change their plans and would like to bring another person, let me know and I’ll get you the extra tickets.”
“That’s extremely generous, sir. Thank you. I’m sure the guys will appreciate it, too.” Brad stood, shook the boss’s hand and left the office with a smile.
It didn’t take long for him to determine kartal escort the code he’d been studying before his chat with the boss was clean and ready for input so he decided to head to lunch. In his first week, one of the accountants had told him about a great Vietnamese place a few blocks away. Thinking that a bowl of pho was what he wanted, he made his way out of the office.
For the short walk, his mind was filled with thoughts of Anna. He’d told Carlson she was on her way, which was probably a mistake. Not that the older man would object; it was just that after more than a month apart, his thoughts tended to involve her soft and slender body being very naked.
By the time he reached the restaurant, he felt calm enough to sit down and eat. He was looking forward to his redheaded lover’s arrival and wondered if she would really want to see much of the city. She had meetings with a couple gallery directors lined up, so that would keep her busy during the day on both Thursday and Friday, but he was unsure how much sight-seeing they would have time for over the weekend. If he was honest with himself, he knew damn well that he’d be perfectly happy never leaving the comfort of the suite he was in as long as she was there.
After lunch, he returned to the office feeling better about things with work. For the rest of the afternoon things went smoothly, allowing him to finally think about taking his team aside to let them know about the tickets Mr. Carlson had given him. Knowing he had six tickets and wanted to use one for Anna, he had no idea how things would fall out for the remaining four.
With one hour remaining in the workday, Brad sat down with the five members of his team. They spent twenty minutes catching up on their various projects when the announcement was made. “Well, guys, Carlson’s really pleased with the way things are going. He wants to thank us by giving us tickets to the box for Thursday’s game.”
He was amused by the discussion that followed his news. Carlson had told him that two of the men, Stan and George, were not hockey fans and weren’t interested in going. Tony also declined, stating he had recently taken a client to a game in the company box, but he’d be happy to meet up afterward since he already had tickets for the same night.
For some reason, Brad decided against mentioning his intention to bring Anna to the game. Instead, he handed a pair of tickets each to Joe and Mark, telling them that he was looking forward to seeing them at the game. They agreed to meet with Tony after the game at a bar which was a couple blocks from the arena. With only a few more pieces of business to take care of, it wasn’t long before he was back at his desk, locking things down and heading home.
Since he was on a three-month assignment, the company had set him up in one of those “home away from home” deals. It was nice enough; he had a kitchenette and living area with a separate bedroom, but it wasn’t home, and Anna had talked him into putting in a real garden that year, pointing out that it would be a great way for him to be sure she’d spend more time at his house. Planting a few tomatoes and some mint was fun, it just wasn’t a lot. Sure, he’d never really felt like spending the time to do anything more than that, and he actually liked mowing the huge lawn. However, if it was going to keep her around, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.
Thinking about her plans for their garden and how they were going to have to be put on hold brought her back to his mind. She should be landing soon, he thought with a smile. Just as he was imagining the feel of her silky hair in his hands, his phone rang.
“Do you have any idea how much I miss you, baby?” purred the voice at the other end of the line.
“If you miss me half as much as I miss you, tonight should be a lot of fun,” he chuckled. The thought of holding her soft body next to his had become nearly overwhelming in the last few days.
“Yeah, there might be a problem with that plan.”
He could hear the regret in her tone and knew it was bad news.
“What’s happened, Anna?”
She sighed, explaining that the storms which had swept through the area the night before had canceled and delayed flights left and right. By immediately volunteering for a flight leaving the next day, allowing the airline to move panicked travelers, she had been granted a seat in business class and a $250 voucher toward a future trip.
“I want so much to be there tonight, Brad, but the way things are at the airport right now, I wouldn’t get in until some ungodly hour of the morning, and I can’t do that to you. Plus, there’s all the stress of traveling like that, so you know I’d be grumpy and tired for two days afterward.” Her disappointment was clear, even over the phone.
She was met with silence.
“Babe, are you still there? Are you going to be okay with this?” she asked gently.
“Anna, I’m sorry,” he sighed regretfully. He couldn’t kurtköy escort help but think about how much she had changed his life; how much better he felt as a man, as a person, with her. “I know this isn’t anyone’s fault, I’m just… I really miss you. Hell, I really need you, and I was hoping to be able to spend the night…. God, I just need you here, hon.”
“Believe me, I had a few ideas of my own.”
“Do you know what time you’ll get in tomorrow?” he wondered, trying to shake off some of his disappointment.
“Let me check.” The clicks on her laptop keyboard were audible over the phone, and he smiled, thinking of what her graceful fingers were capable of doing to his body. “Brad? I should be landing at about 12:30.”
“Do you — “
“Need you to pick me up?” she finished the question for him. “As much as I love the idea, I can take a shuttle from the airport,” she said quickly. “If you leave my name at the front desk, I can drop my stuff in your suite and then head out to see Tom at the Blake Gallery.”
“You’ve got a meeting tomorrow? I thought that was Thursday.”
“No.” She smiled so warmly, he could feel it over the distance. “Blake was always for tomorrow. Fortunately, he was able to move things around to accommodate my change of plans. I’ve got a meeting Friday afternoon with the director at The Life Gallery which is going to be more exploratory.”
“What do you mean by that?” he wondered.
“It’s going to be more like an interview. I’ll put some samples together on Thursday and have that ready,” she explained. “Their show will be in a couple months and, from what I understand, is being called ‘On the Street,’ or something along those lines.”
“Ah.” It was kind of a silly thing to say, but he felt a response was needed. “Which show is going on at Blake?”
She was excited about the show; it was clearly evident in her voice. “This one is showing religious architecture. I’ve got some great shots in it too.”
“Sexy lady, all your pictures are great,” he proudly told her. Taking a calming breath, he asked, “Are you sure you don’t need a ride?”
“You’re sweet to offer, and I love you for it. I don’t want to take you away from your job, knowing how busy you are right now. Besides, I don’t think it’ll take that long, so I’ll just meet you at the hotel afterward.”
“Shit. Babe, you know I’d be more than happy to take the afternoon off to be with you.”
She giggled, loving the way he could take a simple word like ‘shit,’ and give it a couple extra syllables. “I know, sweetie, and I’m dying to see you, too. If you think about how long it’ll take me to get to the gallery and have my meeting, it would be silly. Besides, I’ll probably be back to the hotel about the same time you get in from work.”
His sigh allowed her to feel his desire, his need for her, over the miles. “I know you’re right, Anna. It’s just like I said before, I really miss you, and I was looking forward to holding you tonight.”
“I love the idea of spending the night in your arms.” Her want was pure in that simple thought. “Please, can we do that every night I’m there?”
They talked a little more about his day, and he remembered something. “Babe, do you have anything going for Thursday night?”
“There’s nothing showing on my calendar. What do you have in mind?”
“Mr. Carlson’s really happy with the way things are going with my guys, so he gave us some tickets to the company’s Club Box for the game on Thursday.”
“That’s fantastic! What game are you talking about?” Anna was a baseball fan, and all she could think was that it was going to be a very cold night.
Chuckling at her mild confusion, he reminded her it was also still hockey season. “I don’t really follow this team, and I don’t remember who they’re playing, but the goalie here, Mike Thomas, is my favorite player, and I’m pretty excited about going. Heck, that’s probably why I didn’t really pay attention to the tickets; I’m that thrilled about being in the box.”
“Do you think they’ll let me bring my camera?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I can find out for you.”
It was her turn to laugh. “No, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. I don’t need to have my camera with me all the time.”
He asked what she’d been doing, and she told him about getting things ready for the trip. Their shared disappointment at having to delay her arrival was still obvious, so he reminded her that they’d have plenty of time to enjoy their reunion. Eventually they had to end the call as neither was getting any closer to eating and both knew they would need their strength the next day.
After hanging up, Brad looked around his little suite, noticing once again how empty it was. Sure the designer tried to make it seem homey, but without Anna’s warm laughter or soft touch it could never have that level of comfort. He looked through the refrigerator, hoping for something to attract his attention and take his mind off his disappointment.
Tired maltepe escort of being alone, he didn’t want to be in the room anymore. Grabbing his coat and key, he decided to take a walk in the hopes that the cool night air would clear his mind. After about half an hour, he realized he wasn’t sure where he was, not having paid any attention to where he was going. He knew he wasn’t far from the lake since the wind was stronger there, but that didn’t mean much when the shoreline was almost as long as the city limits. There was a diner across the street so he headed over, thinking he could get a quick bite to eat and gain his bearings in order to return to the hotel.
“I wonder what Anna’s doing.”
He knew he was in for a long night.
Hanging up the phone, Anna felt like crying. Brad’s assignment was only half over and they were both already miserable about having to be apart. Not for the first time, she wondered if she shouldn’t have gone with him anyway. She knew it was for the best that she had stayed behind; they had started talking about moving in together, so there were still some relationship issues being worked out, and he was going to be busy with the job. There was also her belief that it would have made him look less professional if she had accompanied him. Besides, she had enough going on with her photography, planning the garden and… well, there had to be something else she was doing.
With a heavy sigh, she decided to stop second-guessing herself and cranked up some of her dance music instead, hoping that some serious sweat therapy would clear her mind. She might even feel like eating later.
She knew she was in for a long night.
Wednesday morning began with a truly obnoxious ringing. He fumbled around on the bedside table, cursing the invention of the mobile phone, telephones in general and alarm clocks in particular. “What is it?” he grumpily demanded, having opened his cell phone.
“Good morning, handsome.”
Her voice was better than a shower and a pot of coffee at that moment. Suddenly awake, he smiled and sat up in bed. “Anna, where are you?”
“I’m on my way to the airport. I hope you slept better than I did, and I hope you don’t have anything planned for us tonight.”
“Does that mean you have plans?” he smiled even more, thinking appreciatively of her creativity.
She laughed at the eagerness in his still sleepy voice. “Nothing I’m going to talk about right now. Even if I was alone in the car, I wouldn’t tell you what I’m thinking since I was hoping to surprise you with some of it.”
“It’s just the cab driver, babe. It isn’t like you’re ever going to see him again.”
He heard a deep voice in the background which sounded vaguely familiar. “Okay, I’m not awake yet. You’re going to have to fill in the blanks.”
“Andy says to tell you good morning and, if I have this right, ‘to get your ass moving.’ He also says he isn’t going into specifics on that, but you should have a good idea what he means.”
She sat back in the car, listening to the brothers’ laughter. Her own brother had been a menace to everyone around him, and the day he left had been the happiest of her life. The affection between Brad and Andy made her jealous sometimes. She had been too busy running from her brother for any amount of good feelings. Andy made up for that by warmly accepting her into his younger brother’s life.
“Babe, tell that joker I said to mind his own business. Then you should tell him I owe him for taking you to the airport.”
“I will. Do you want me to bring you anything?”
“You’re all I want from home. Once you’re here, I’ll be fine.”
Sniffling a bit, she told him, “That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
“I’ve missed you, Anna, more than I can really say.” His simple honesty carried over the line and touched her heart.
He heard the sound of his brother’s voice again and then her gentle tones over the phone, saying, “We’re almost at the airport now, so I should let you start getting ready for your day. I didn’t call too early, did I?”
“No, you didn’t call too early,” he said. “Don’t you know how much I like waking up to your voice?”
“You are really racking up the goodwill points here,” she sighed happily. “I hope you have a good day at work, Brad. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Safe flight to you, and I’ll call you if I leave any later than five.”
Turning the phone off, he smiled and threw the covers back. It was going to be a very good day.
At the very least, it was going to be a very busy day. Upon his arrival at the office, his entire team and all the receptionists noticed his smile. Word spread like wildfire, and even though official word on the reason behind the smile wasn’t coming out, he still took a lot of teasing for it.
The Henderson project was nearing completion. He spent most of the morning combing it over with Tony until both men were satisfied that it more than met the client’s needs.
Some of the guys asked if he wanted to join them for lunch. Agreeing, he checked his watch and realized with a start that Anna’s flight was due at any minute.
“Hey, what’s the weather doing?” he asked.
“Clear as a bell,” Tony replied. “It’s a little cold, but what else is new?”
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