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Authors: Noelle Adams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction

One Night With Her Best Friend

BOOK: One Night With Her Best Friend
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One
Night with her Best Friend

 

Noelle
Adams

 

 

This book is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2012
by Noelle Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

 

 

 

Contents

One

Two

Three

Four

 

 
One

 

Kate Carlson crossed
another item off her list, leaving only two more tasks to complete.

She
turned back to her keyboard and typed quickly, mentally gauging how long it
would take to get through her list and then finish getting ready for her date
that evening.

She’d
showered earlier but had then made the mistake of checking her email one last
time—only to find her boss had sent nine emails in a row about an unexpected meeting
he needed organized for Monday.

It
would have been nice to have a heads-up about the meeting before Friday
evening, but she’d immediately made a list of things to do in preparation. She
was the administrative assistant of one of the Senior Vice-Presidents of a
multi-national cooperation. She’d had much worse time-crunches than this.

Her
wet hair hung around her shoulders, dampening the little satin robe she’d
thrown on after her shower and dripping onto the back of her desk chair. She
wouldn’t be able to concentrate on drying her hair and doing her makeup,
though, until she’d taken care of the meeting arrangements.

She
wasn’t alarmed when the front door of her apartment opened without warning and
a man strolled in. She didn’t even turn from her computer.

She
heard Aaron in her kitchen, opening the refrigerator and then popping the cap of
a bottle of his favorite beer, which she always stocked for him.

As
he came into the living area, she hit send on an email and immediately pulled
up a new message window.

“I
thought he was picking you up at seven-thirty,” Aaron said, coming to peer over
her shoulder. He’d changed after work and now wore a pair of beat-up khakis and
his favorite green shirt.

“He
is. What’s your point?”

“Your
hair is still wet.”

She
muttered a curse as she typed, rereading this message twice before she sent it
to make sure it was free of typos. It was going to the office grammar-queen.

“Crisis
on the forty-second floor?” Aaron always referred to her office by the floor
number—the executive floor of the corporate headquarters of her company.

“Just
an unexpected meeting to arrange.”

“Can’t
you do it tomorrow morning?”

“I
could. But I don’t like things hanging over me, waiting to be done.”

“Yes,
after fourteen years, I’m aware of that.”

“After
fourteen years, I would think you’d get tired of mocking me because I happen to
be well organized.”

Aaron’s
smile was distinctive. It started with his head tilted downward so she couldn’t
fully see his expression. Then he would lift his head and meet her eyes. The
slow revelation of that smile was like the sun breaking from clouds—warm, startling,
sometimes blinding.

 He
gave her his downward grin now, his hazel eyes affectionate when he lifted them
to meet hers. His thick brown hair was a rumpled mess, as it always was at the
end of the day. “I’m not sure ‘well-organized’ fully captures the extent of
your type-A-ness.”

She
had the sudden urge to stick her tongue out at the man who’d been her best
friend since they were both fifteen, but she managed to resist the childish
impulse. “I just like things to stay neat and in order. What’s wrong with
that?”

“Nothing.
You can make lists and cross them off to your heart’s content.” He nodded
toward the notepad on the desk beside her. The lined paper was an irregular
size—long and narrow, the perfect shape for making lists. Aaron had given her
one of those notepads as a joke in their senior year of high school, and she’d
loved it so much he’d kept buying them for her.

After
a pause, he added in a different tone, “It’s just that, despite what you think,
your lists don’t really keep the world in order.”

“Well,
they help. And what do you mean, despite what I think?”

“Don’t
worry about it.”

She
knew that casually dismissive tone well. “I
will
worry about it. Don’t
bring it up at all if you’re not going to explain it. What do you mean?”

“I
mean that you live like the whole world will collapse if it’s not listed,
scheduled, and planned in advance according to an organized agenda, and that’s
not actually true.”

She
kept typing, but now she wasn’t really seeing the words on the screen. “I don’t
think I’m really like that.”

“Don’t
you?”

Aaron
wasn’t a superficial man, but he was naturally casual and laidback. He only
brought up serious topics like this when he thought they were really important.

Kate’s
belly twisted uncomfortably as she made herself think through his words. Her
hands were now frozen on the keyboard.

“You
know why I try to stay organized,” she said at last. “When my dad was around,
things were a mess. They were…they were awful.”

“I
know.”

Kate’s
dad had been a gambler by nature. He probably still was, although she hadn’t
heard from him in years. Instead of slots or poker, his game of choice was
high-risk business investments. She’s spent the first fifteen years of her life
moving every year as her father chased one failing venture after another.
They’d lived from hand-to-mouth in ever-changing apartments, and Kate had never
known what to expect from one day to the next.

Sometimes
he had come home with expensive toys and pretty dresses wrapped in fancy gift
wrapping.

Sometimes
he had come home and looted her bedroom for anything he might be able to pawn.

Twice,
he had come home and announced they were moving. They’d packed and left town
before dawn.

It
wasn’t until her mother had finally left her father and gotten a job here in
Chicago that Kate had known what a stable, secure existence even felt like.

“I
learned it from my mom. I know she was a little anal about schedules and
planning and everything, but she had her reasons for it.”

“I
know she did.”

Kate
shot a suspicious look at Aaron, but his face was sober. “So why bring it up
then?”

“Just
because I understand the reasons doesn’t mean living by a pre-planned agenda is
the best way to be happy.”

“It’s
the only way that works for me. You don’t know what it was like for Mom and me
before. You only knew me once we got settled.”

“I
know it was bad for you, and I know why you can’t stand to feel unsettled now.
But—”

She
interrupted.  “You might think you know, but you don’t really
know
. You did
see what happened when we tried to give Dad another chance, though. I
thought…we thought he had changed, but it was a stupid mistake. He gambled away
all of Mom’s savings. We almost lost the house. You were there. You saw what
happened.”

“I
know, and I’m not pretending it wasn’t really hard for you. But that doesn’t
mean everything unplanned or unexpected is bad. Occasionally life happens in a
good way that isn’t in our plans.”

She
shrugged off his words and the tight feeling in her gut. Eventually, she’d have
to think about what he said—she couldn’t just ignore Aaron, not when he was
taking this so seriously. She couldn’t think about it right now, though.

It
would upset her, and she had too much to do.

She
hit send on the email she’d been trying to write during the conversation and
then crossed off the last two items on her list.

Nothing
pleased her more than the sight of a list completely accomplished. She tried to
summon her normal satisfaction but couldn’t quite manage it. “Maybe being
unplanned works for you, but it’s just not me. People can be different. I’ve
done all right so far the way I am.”

She
had
done all right. She had a good life and a great job. A lot of people
wondered why she’d decided to become an administrative assistant after she
graduated with a double major in Business Administration and Public Relations—instead
of becoming a corporate mogul herself. She had exactly the kind of job she
enjoyed, however, and she’d never felt there was anything inferior or
unfulfilling about her position.

She
liked keeping her boss in order. She liked handling correspondence and making
arrangements. She liked being the gatekeeper and maintaining the office. She
was good at it—so good that she’d had a number of other job offers in the last
few years. To keep her from moving on, her boss kept offering her more money.

She
had absolutely no complaints about her career. Or her boyfriend, whose date she
was now running late for.

When
she glanced back up at Aaron, who was still lurking above her and eyeing her in
concern, she noticed something. “You’ve got another hole.”

He
frowned, obviously not following her words. When she nodded toward the sleeve
of his old shirt, he set down his beer on the corner of her desk so he could
peer at it.

There
was a hole in the fabric at his right elbow.

“Damn,”
he muttered. “How did that happen?”

She
wasn’t surprised he hadn’t noticed. When he was wrapped up in grading or
research, he didn’t notice trivial details like attire. Or eating. Or answering
his phone.

She
stood up to inspect the damage. “It happened because this shirt is ancient and
should have been thrown away years ago.”

“Don’t
start again. I’m not going to throw it away.”

In
their senior year of college, the professor Aaron was working for had given him
the opportunity to teach one day in an introductory anthropology class. Aaron
had tried to play it cool, but Kate had known how pleased he was with himself
for being given the opportunity few undergraduates had. At that point, he had
already known what career he wanted to pursue. Kate had given him the green
dress shirt in congratulations, joking about it being his “professor shirt.”

All
these years later, he still hadn’t given the shirt up, even though it was on
its last legs. A couple of years ago, at Kate’s insistence, he’d at least
retired it from his work-clothes rotation.

“Can
you fix it?”

Kate
shook her head and studied the sleeve more carefully, so close to him she could
smell the soap he used.  “I don’t know. You really just need to dump the old
thing.”

“I’m
not going to throw it away. If you can’t fix it, I’ll wear it with the hole.”

She
sighed, giving up since she knew he was more stubborn than she was—at least on
this subject. “I can probably put a patch on it. Take it off.”

Aaron
blinked.

“Take
it off,” she repeated. “The shirt.”

She
laughed at his evident surprise. “I’m not asking you to strip for my
delectation. Just take off the shirt and leave it here. I’ll work on it
tomorrow.”

“You
should be so lucky as to have me strip for you.” Despite his dry tone, he’d
started to unbutton the shirt. He wore a t-shirt underneath.

She
laughed even more at the imagined visual of Aaron as an exotic dancer as she
accepted the shirt he handed her. It was still warm from his body, and she
checked out the hole again, making sure it wasn’t too far gone to mend.

“Is
it all right?” he asked.

When
her eyes returned to his face, she saw the amusement had left his expression
and he now looked genuinely concerned.

BOOK: One Night With Her Best Friend
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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