[chapter eight]

Disclaimer: If you've heard of them, I don't own them. Everything else is mine, so no stealing, pretty please. ;-)

**

Dale,

You may be shy, but I think you're grossly overcompensating. What do you have to be shy about? You're handsome, you're talented, you're rich, famous, in demand, and universally loved by about 60 zillion people. Shy? Why?

Sincerely,

Alana

PS Go find some online porn and stop hassling me.

PPS Some pasties and g string. And a whip.

Alana shrieked to herself as she wrote that, mentally banging her head against the wall. Why the hell was she cyberflirting with King Chauvinist, she berated herself. She quickly deleted her original PPS and tried again.

But nothing came to mind.

She wanted this man to find her clever and funny. Attractive is nice, but attractive wasn't the ultimate goal. That was the first problem with controlling men…they went for looks, not substance…

The hell with it, Alana relented after a long moment.

PPS A nurse's uniform with really high heels. And a whip.

It was the best she could do.

**

Alana—

I don't know why. I'm a fuck up.

--Dale

PS Did you really mean that stuff? You know, handsome, talented, loved?

PPS I feel kinda sick. Nurse?

**

Dale,

You're not a fuck up. You just need some help in the girl department. Being shy isn't catastrophic, and it certainly can be overcome. You don't have anything to worry about, unless you really feel, deep down, all those things you spewed about men always being in charge. If that's the case, there's not really any hope of you finding an equal partnership of someone worthy of you.

Sincerely,

Alana

PS Yes.

PPS Turn your head and cough. ;-)
**

Dale snickered at her PPS, even though the rest of her email stung him a bit.

Did he really feel that way, or was he just programmed? He'd been surrounded by controlling men his whole life, maybe he just didn't know any different…

He'd always been lousy at keeping a girlfriend…maybe now was the time to find out why…

Swallowing a swig of his soda and big dose of his pride, he hit reply.

Alana—

Can you help me?

--Dale

PS Done swallowed my pride writin' that…I got nothing funny left to say.

**

Dale,

I'd be happy to. Give me a call at the office on Monday.

Sincerely,

Alana

PS Maybe you think you did, but I think you're being pretty brave. Really.

**

Dale's hands shook slightly as he picked up the telephone receiver and glanced at Alana's card lying next to him. Before he could talk himself out of it, he dialed the number and waited for it to connect, his knee bouncing nervously.

"Alana Bickley's office." A perky voice greeted Dale as the call finally connected.

"Uh, yeah, hi." He stammered. "I need to talk to…uh, is Alana there?"

"Who's calling, please?"

Dale swallowed nervously. "Uh. Dale."

"One moment."

Dale bit his lip and waited for Alana's voice, pissed off at himself for being so nervous…

And so shy. I mean, damn, it's only a phone call, he thought angrily to himself. Maybe if she weren't so strong and intimidating, and knew what was going on inside his…

"Hi Dale. This is Alana." Dale's breath blew out at the sound of her husky voice. "How are you?"

"Been better." He admitted honestly. "Uh. Thanks for your emails and stuff."

Dale could almost hear her smile through the phone. "Thank you – it's been an entertaining few days."

"Yeah."

"Mm-hm."

Dale rolled his eyes at himself and cleared his throat. "So, uh, I meant what I said. About help. I need it."

"Okay." Alana said, her voice smooth and calming. "I can either recommend several great therapists in your area, or I can…"

"No."

"No?" Alana questioned.

"I don't wanna talk to anyone else. I wanna talk to you." Dale said stubbornly.

"Dale, I'm in and out so much for the next few weeks, I just…"

"I'll wait." Dale interrupted. "It was hard enough tellin' this shit, I mean, uh, stuff to you that I don't wanna have to tell anyone else. I'll wait."

Dale could hear Alana sigh slightly and the rustling of papers. He held his breath, waiting for her reply, silently urging her to say yes, to not make him plead…

"I'm going to be out on tour for another week and a half." She said after a long pause. "If I can make some calls and rearrange a few things, I should be able to come out there for a couple of weeks, at the most. Presumably you want me to come to North Carolina?"

Dale nodded, though she couldn't see him. "Yeah, if that'd be okay."

"Let me make a few calls, see what I can do, and then I'll call you back. We can arrange exact dates, my fee, and my lodgings at that time. Will that work?"

"Uh, yeah. Sure. You know, whatever." Dale stammered. "I got a jet and all, now, so I can…you know…"

"Of course you do." Alana said with an edge of sarcasm, though Dale thought he could hear that smile of hers again. "I'll call you by tomorrow evening. What's your number?"

After giving her his number, Dale muttered an embarrassed thank you and then hung up, suddenly feeling like he'd either sold his soul or arranged for a hooker.

He wasn't sure which.

chapter nine