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Authors: Fiona Zedde

Bliss

BLISS
BLISS

Fiona Zedde

BLISS
Chapter 1

liss Sinclair walked in from the rain, brushing sparkling
(raindrops from the sleeve of her gray suit. She stopped
and shook herself like a cat. More droplets scattered, flying
from her large haloing Afro to the carpet that lined the main
lobby of the Volk Publishing building. People walked around
her, some watching her display with something like amusement. Others were too focused on the clock, already beginning to chime nine A.M., to pay her any attention. She
shrugged again, to better settle the jacket on her back and
shoulders, and headed for the bank of elevators at the rear of
the lobby. The gray carpet muffled the sound of her footsteps
as she stepped into the chrome elevator and pressed the button for the twenty-third floor.

Just as the door began to close, a woman slid quickly between them. She brought with her the light, mossy scent of
Chanel No. 19 and nodded briefly at Sinclair before staring
ahead at the mirrored wall of the elevator.

Despite her coolness, the woman immediately drew
Sinclair's attention. She was a clever mixture of elements.
Her hair was tamed Africa, thick and permed to tumble to
her shoulders in shiny waves that framed her square-jawed,
Anglo-Saxon face. Freckles sprinkled like brown sugar over
her nose and cheeks. As Sinclair watched, a hint of a smile
pulled at the woman's full mouth. She was beautiful, Sinclair decided. And her creamy milk and coffee skin looked delicious in silk.

"Hello." The woman's voice was a velvety southern drawl.

Sinclair slid her gaze to the elevator doors, embarrassed to
be caught staring. "Hi."

The woman took Sinclair's reply as an invitation and
looked fully at her travel companion, her mouth still curled
in that almost-smile. "Do you work here?" she asked.

Realizing that the woman wasn't offended by her blatant
ogling, Sinclair relaxed. "Yes, on the twenty-third floor."

"You must do some pretty expensive work for Volk to be
that high up in the building."

"Not really, just a little accounting." Sinclair turned to
look at the woman. "What are you doing here?"

A real smile captured her mouth. "I don't look like I work
here?"

Sinclair figured that honesty was best in this case. "Not
really."

"Then I must be a writer. Coming to meet with my editor."

"Ah. What have you written for us?"

"A couple of books. Essays."

"Hmm." Sinclair sized the woman up again. She didn't seem
at all like the intellectual type. Rather like one of those hardedged businesswomen, in her tailored silk pantsuit. "I don't
read much nonfiction, although I've been meaning to start."

"That's funny that you say that. I could never really get
into fiction." The woman's mouth twitched. "I'm Regina, by
the way."

"Sinclair."

Regina nodded just as the elevator door slid open. "I guess
I'll see you around."

"Sure." Sinclair watched the woman walk toward an unfamiliar cloister of offices. She blinked when the gunmetal
gray doors closed, cutting off her view of the silk-clad backside gliding down the hallway.

"Baby got back." Sinclair coughed when she realized she'd said that out loud. Still, she chuckled to herself as she stepped
out of the elevator and down the carpeted hall to her office.
Shelly Romero, her secretary, was already at her desk when
Sinclair walked in. Shelly looked like a child who'd come in
for "bring your daughter to work" day and just stayed. Dark
hair in two ponytails, glitter eye shadow from the kids' section and barely business attire. She was a liberal arts college
graduate still safely ensconced in her twenties and with ambitions of being a published poet. That ambition was what
drew her to Volk Publishing three years ago and the belief
that as long as she had some link with the publishing house
she had a chance of having her first book published by them.
As far as Sinclair knew, Shelly was still unpublished.

"Good morning, Shelly."

"Don't you look cheerful this morning?" Shelly grinned
and handed over a large stack of mail. "Did you get lucky?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" A smile shadowed Sinclair's
mouth.

"Only if it involved at least one other woman. Otherwise
save it for the boys in the break room."

Sinclair rolled her eyes then stepped away as Shelly's
phone rang and the secretary turned to answer it. Ever since
she had "accidentally" walked into a lesbian bar uptown and
ran into the younger woman over a year ago, they'd become
more than open with each other. Shelly was the closest thing
she had to a friend in this city. In her office she put her briefcase and purse away, humming a light tune under her breath.
When she found herself tapping her feet to the same song as
she opened the mail, Sinclair laughed softly, wondering at her
sudden good mood. An image of the woman in the elevator
immediately came to her. So what? Regina was an attractive
woman. It wasn't like anything was likely to happen between
them. Though a girl could dream ...

That night, Sinclair's boyfriend, Yuen, coaxed her out for
a book release party, an event that she had offhandedly men tioned to him weeks ago and where his favorite author was
launching her latest book. When they walked into the hotel
ballroom it was chaos of flashbulbs, megawatt smiles, towering displays of food, and free-flowing alcohol.

"This is great," he whispered, tilting his head to kiss her
cheek. "If I'd known you were this well connected I'd have
asked you out years ago." His thick black hair fell over his
eyes. He seemed nothing like the thirty-five-yearold lawyer
he was. His full lips were more prone to smile than not, and
his slim youthful body could have easily belonged to a teenaged
underwear model. There were days when Sinclair wondered
what he was doing with her.

She lightly pinched his wrist. "It wasn't that big a deal.
Everybody in the office gets an invitation."

When they walked through a mirrored archway, Sinclair
gave her hair a discreet fluff and threaded her arm through
Yuen's. Today, like most days, she wore her hair in a large
Afro to rival Angela Davis's. The makeup she'd brushed on
thankfully didn't look out of place. It was just enough to emphasize her full mouth and wide, slightly tilted eyes. Yuen
once said that she looked like a hungry fox, beautiful but inclined to bite a hand off and swallow it whole if someone
was stupid enough to try and get too close. It didn't help that
there was a reddish cast to her skin. Sinclair acknowledged
that she looked a bit too thin, but could think of no immediate
remedy for the situation. Sometimes she just didn't feel like
eating.

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