[chapter five]

"You aren't going to believe this!" Fiona yelled as she slammed the front door. Shannon and Maggie, who were encamped on the sofa with a bottle of wine already open, jumped at her voice.

"What's up?" Shannon asked, pouring Fiona a glass as she threw down her bag and removed her heels.

"I got a promotion today!" Fiona burst out, throwing herself onto the sofa. "I'm Junior's lead publicist now - Jade removed himself from the job, and gave it to me! I've been pinching myself all day!"

"Oh my god! That's fantastic!" Maggie screamed, hugging Fiona to her. "That's so wonderful! Check you out, master of all that is DEI Publicity!"

"Congratulations, darling." Shannon said, with considerably less exuberance.

"Gosh, hon, don't sound so thrilled for me." Fiona chided, slightly upset.

"It's just…that Junior seems like such a punk. You won't have to deal with him much, will you?" Shannon asked.

"Hon, I'm his publicist - we'll be spending every waking minute together some days!" Fiona laughed. "We'll be sick of each other in a week!"

"Does this mean more travel, more track time?" Maggie asked, squeezing her arm supportively.

"Absolutely. I know I'm going to be gone a ton, but I'm so excited! I can't wait! Wait til I tell Alex, Mike and Jon, they're going to flip out!" Fiona said, bouncing up and down on the sofa.

"Gone a ton, huh?" Shannon said coolly. "How charming."

"Shannon! Shut up - this is what Fi has been wanting for years. Stop being a wet blanket and help us celebrate!" Maggie demanded. "You are dating the head of Junior's publicity - everyone in America will know her in a few weeks!"

"Oh god, I hadn't thought of that." Fiona said, settling down. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea…" Shannon visibly brightened at her words, though Fi and Maggie didn't see. "What if I suck? Everyone will know who to blame."

"Junior is a publicity event just by walking out the door in the morning. You just have to make sure he's on time and prepared. How hard can it be?" Maggie grinned. "Besides, you'll get to see his cute tush in a firesuit every weekend." She winked.

"Maybe I should hook you two up." Fiona grinned. "Then we could hang at the tracks together." Both girls laughed. "Shay? You okay?" Fiona asked.

"Of course. I'm just so surprised. I'm so proud of you, darling." Shannon got up and kissed the top of Fiona's head as he walked towards the kitchen. "You'll be fantastic."

"Thanks, hon." Fiona said, practically glowing. "Unfortunately, this week is going to be crazy - Junior already has some events in the bullpen, and I need to get up to speed on a lot of it. I won't be around much, and I go to New Hampshire this weekend. Sorry for the short notice - I guess I can't go to your picnic Saturday, Mags." Fiona said apologetically.

"S'okay. I'll take Shannon and we'll mourn your absence." Maggie said, laughing. "My god, I can't believe it!"

"Neither can I, Mags. Neither can I." Fiona said with a smile.


(3 days later)

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I said so."

"Oh come on, don't play that." Junior grinned as Fiona flashed him a self-satisfied smile.

"I can just see the headlines now. 'Junior Breaks His Ass in Rodeo Incident - Publicist Take Responsibility.' No." Fiona said, punctuating the headline with her hands in the air.

"There's no guarantee I'd break my ass…" Junior wheedled.

"No." Fiona grinned.

"Alright, no. What else?" Junior was in Fiona's office, balancing a chair on the back legs with his arms folded behind his head, wearing his traditional shirt and jeans. Fiona, wearing a suit and seated primly behind her desk, couldn't have been a bigger contrast to him.

"People Magazine and their affiliates would like a quick interview type story with you. I pitched them an idea, and they seemed to like it. And it means you won't have to leave town or meet a new journalist." Fiona said.

"Cool. What's the idea?" Junior asked.

"Sort of a 20 Questions with Junior thing - I'm coming up with a list of questions to ask you that hopefully no other journalist has ever asked - off the wall stuff. But fresh and different, and able to be cut up into smaller sections as necessary, or used for blurbs. It's good marketing, and keeps your name solid throughout the publication." Fiona answered.

"Sounds like a good idea. What sort of questions?" Junior asked, eyeing her nervously.

"Something other than boxers or briefs, I swear." Fiona grinned.

"Deal." Junior said. "When do they need it?"

"I'm hoping to sit down with you tonight or tomorrow morning to punch it out. Before you leave for the track tomorrow night."

"We leave." Junior stressed. "You get to come play with us, remember?"

"I remember. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous." Fiona confessed.

"We'll be fine. Trust me." Junior said as Fiona's cell phone rang. "You get more calls than I do, I swear." He grinned.

Fiona stuck her tongue out as she answered her phone. "Hi hon. No, I'm…well, I really can't. I have a ton of things…they need me, hon. Tomorrow at 6. I still have to pack, I really can't…hon, I'm sorry. Please try to understand…I'm sorry. I'll see you tonight. Okay. Bye."

Fiona sighed as she hung up the phone. "Everything okay?" Junior asked gently.

Since Fiona had taken over as Junior's publicist, she and the driver had been inseparable. Working lunches, arguments about appearances, scheduling and late dinners eaten on the garage floor - they had spent almost every minute together. Getting to know each other, finding their rhythm, and trying to pick up where Jade had left off. Fiona was grateful to Jade - he had a schedule worked out well in advance, and slipping into his shoes had been easy so far. True, Fiona was worried about her "trial by fire" at the track, but so far, she and Junior had gotten on spectacularly. The first day conversation was cautious, professional, and polite. But three days later, they were already teasing each other and finishing each other's sentences. Fiona was relieved they got along so well, but dismayed at how this charming Southern gent had already won her over. She couldn't help teasing him just to see him blush, or harassing him about obsession with video games. He retaliated by calling her an old married woman (due to Shannon's unending phone calls) and teasing her about all the guys watching her in the garage.

"Ugh…no. Shannon wanted me to…never mind. You don't want to hear this." Fiona cut herself off.

"He's not diggin' on your new hours or job responsibilities, huh?" Junior concluded.

Fiona sighed. "He's been weird around me for a while now, but this week has been the icing on the cake. We never used to fight, but now we are fighting about stupid things. Anyway, it's not important."

"If you ever need to talk…" Junior said sincerely.

"Thanks." Fiona smiled, then looked back down at her notes. Junior's stomach did a slow flip flop - whenever she smiled at him that way, he couldn't help…

He sighed slightly. He knew their relationship was professional and he was so grateful to all the hard work Fiona was putting in, but he couldn't help being attracted to her. To her throaty laugh, her easy smile, and her dedication to doing everything right - he liked everything about her. But he was behaving himself - even though he did have a crush on her. A little one.

"Shoot. I have to call the Nabisco offices before they close. We can either do the 20 questions tonight before you take off, or on the plane tomorrow. Shoot - do I fly with you or the crew or the staff?" Fiona asked herself absently.

"You fly with me. Jade always did." Junior answered. "But let's do it tonight, if that's okay. Should I grab some Chinese food or something?"

"That would be great. Thanks, J." Fiona said, thumbing through her planner. Junior smiled. She had taken to calling him J. He liked it - my god, he was acting like a schoolboy, excited because a girl gave him a nickname. Vowing to cut it out, he stood up and thrust his hands into his pockets. "Can you give me about an hour?" She asked.

"Not a problem. See you then." Junior replied, letting himself out quietly.

chapter six