[chapter nine]

(Wednesday, St. Louis)

"They loved you. I knew they would." Fiona said happily, jumping into the passenger seat of the rental car and smoothing down her clothes.

"Of course." Junior said with a grin, as he slid behind the wheel and ran a hand through his hair. "Who wouldn't?"

Fiona stuck her tongue out at him, then flipped open her cell phone. "I'm just going to call and see if we can get on a later flight, since we're so late. Man, that wind is fierce out there!"

"Okay, which exit is it again?" Junior asked.

Fiona pointed as she spoke to an airport attendant. "Hi, I wanted to book two seats to Charlotte on the next available flight…what?…when?…what about…is the airstrip still open?…mm-hm…yes, thank you for your help." Fiona hung up her phone slowly.

"What's wrong, Fi?" Junior asked, pulling onto the highway.

"I can't believe this. Apparently, due to these high winds, they have grounded all flights out of the airport - private or commercial. Shit." Fiona said. "I mean, it looked sorta cloudy and I knew it was windy, but come on…grounded everything??"

"Do we have a Plan B?" Junior asked. "It's already later than we planned."

"I know. That's why I wanted to call - to see if we could get a later flight. Dammit." Fiona cursed again. "She said hours, possibly until tomorrow. We could just…"

"Crash at a hotel tonight, and go back early tomorrow." Junior finished for her, already signaling to leave the crowded highway.

"I think we're going to have to." Fiona said, resigned. "I'm really sorry, J."

"It's not your fault. Don't worry about it." Junior said easily. "Where should we go? Does it matter?"

"Whatever looks good to you." Fiona said. "I'm going to call DEI and give them the scoop - and I better call Shannon or he'll have a conniption fit. Thank goodness for an open expense account, at least."

(20 minutes later)

"Well, at least I travel with a toothbrush." Fiona grinned as she walked out of her bathroom to find Junior idly flipping through channels. "And thank goodness for free clothes." She added, plucking at the Budweiser polo shirt and terry shorts she now wore. Junior grinned and displayed his own Budweiser tee shirt and terry shorts.

"Man, there is nothing on. Can we get a movie?" Junior asked. "I'll even pay for it."

"As long as it's not gory or gross." Fiona consented. "Scoot over." She said, playfully shoving him across the bed so she could lie down next to him. Junior slid over and she settled onto the bed next to him. He could smell toothpaste and her perfume, and for the first time, saw her legs in something other than suit pants. He liked how they looked…

Shaking his head roughly, he handed her the remote. "You pick, m'lady."

"Hrm." Fiona said. "Ocean's 11?"

"Sure." Junior said, squishing further into the pillows. "Can we crack open the mini-bar too? I'm dying for some junk food." They giggled as they rummaged through the mini-bar, like two kids who were doing something they shouldn't. They agreed to split a Snickers and a bag of chips, and were crunching away as the movie began. Fiona snapped off the bedside light and lay down again. She silently admired Junior's muscular legs, and the smell of his cologne - Drakkar, her favorite. 'Sponsorship is a beautiful thing', she grinned to herself.

An hour and a half later, Junior was watching Fiona, the movie all but forgotten. She had fallen asleep soon after the movie started, and she looked so peaceful, and beautiful. He brushed a lock of hair from her face, and she smiled vaguely in her sleep. He wished he could wrap his arms around her, kiss her…

But he wouldn't be that guy. Most people might think he was a cad, but he wasn't. He would never put Fiona is a position like that - she had a boyfriend. And they worked together. And he respected her. It just wasn't right.

But damn, she looked so cute, all curled up.

Gently, he shifted over on the bed until they were lying close together - only a few inches separated them. Fiona shifted in her sleep, and her arm reached out and lay across his waist. Mumbling softly, she snuggled her body closer to his. Instinctively, he closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her.

Just sleeping. They just fell asleep. It just happened to be in the same room.

Junior couldn't help but smile as she buried her head in his chest, and sighed. He inhaled deeply, and before he knew it, he was asleep as well.

(Dawn, the following morning)

Fiona opened her eyes slowly, disoriented. She felt a man next to her - must be Shannon. Opening her eyes a little wider, she jumped slightly as she saw the peaceful face of Junior before her. Swallowing, she remembered the night before - no flight, minibar, movie…they must have fallen asleep together.

Just sleeping. No biggie.

Junior had one of her arms under his, and she knew she couldn't move without disturbing him. Wincing slightly, she tried to extricate herself, but to no avail. Resigned, she settled back into the pillows, hoping to get a few more minutes of sleep. Then she would really have to wake them up. Based on past performance, Junior would never wake up on his own.

Just a few more minutes…

(30 minutes later)

"Hi." Junior said softly.

"Hi." Fiona said, blushing. "I guess I fell asleep, huh?"

"I guess I did too." Junior said, reddening slightly at the white lie.

"Well, it happens." Fiona responded. She gently removed her arm from Junior's waist, and he hastily followed suit, unwinding his arms from around her. "Sorry about that."

"No big deal." Junior answered. "I'm sorry too, though."

"This is really…awkward. I'm sorry, J." Fiona laughed. "Give me a minute, and I'll find a way to get us home."

"Yeah, it's really hell waking up with a beautiful woman in my arms. Best sleep I've had in months." Junior muttered, stretching and standing up.

Fiona looked up at him, his eyes closed as he muscles stretched and his back popped with his movements. He had no idea how these comments affected her. Shannon hadn't said anything that kind or sweet or romantic in months, and yet this man she had only known for weeks…he was so beautiful, and sleepy, and kind…

God, how could she have been so stupid? Falling asleep with her…employer, or employee, or whatever. Even if all they did was sleep…my god, what would Shannon do if he found out? What would Jade do…

Fiona shook her head to disperse these thoughts and reached for the phone to call the airline. It was going to be an uncomfortable couple of days…

"Fi, really. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have fallen asleep too. Let's just pretend it didn't happen, okay. Really - just two friends who fell asleep. Don't go getting all crazy on me." Junior pleaded gently.

"I'm not going crazy. I'm just…let me call the airline." Fiona stumbled.

(That afternoon)

Fiona grabbed her purse from the floor by her feet, and went to open the passenger door of Junior's car. They had arrived in Charlotte a short time earlier, and he had driven them home in near silence, broken only by the music playing softly on the radio. Both she and Junior were tiptoeing around each other - as though they had done something wrong, or been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Irrational, but neither could shake the feeling. Fiona just kept hearing his voice in her mind…

"Thanks for the ride, Junior. I'm going to clean up, and then I'll see you at the shop later, right?" Fiona said.

"Sure, no problem. I'll see you later." Junior replied carefully.

Fiona stepped most of the way out of the car, then turned towards him again. "Was what you said true?" She asked softly.

"Was what true?" Junior questioned.

"Was that the best sleep you've had in months?" Fiona asked, wincing at the sound of her voice asking him.

"Yes." He whispered, looking directly into her eyes. She closed her own eyes, then scrambled out of the car. "Fi…"

"I'll see you later. Thanks again." Fiona said hastily, shutting the door before he could say any more. She practically ran to the front door, and her hands shook as she tried to open the lock.

Why was this happening to her?

chapter ten