Petra queried, “Mercedes, what’s up between you and Jim? And don’t you dare say nothing!”
Mercedes looked cornered and refused to meet the eyes of her companions. “We once worked together, is all! I was just surprised to see him, nothing more!”
Lara grinned and stated, “Honey, if that is someone you worked with “is all,” I think that work had a lot of horizontal activity involved. You look totally smitten. If we hadn’t all been there, one of you would have ripped off the other’s clothes when your fingers brushed as you handed him his drink.”
Petra chuckled and then teased, “Wow, I missed that part. Mercedes, tell us all the details. I think he is a nice looking male, and I could understand you being surprised. If he was a male I liked, I would have wanted to dress up special and perhaps add some makeup before he arrived.”
Mercedes turned and glanced into the mirror behind her, horrified at what she might see.
Lara and Petra giggled like crazy, and Lara reassured Mercedes. “You look beautiful as always. Your hair never looks bad. Your outfit is flattering to your figure, darn you. And you look fresh-faced with a hint of blush. Of course that blush starts at your neck and rises to your ears.’
Both girls laughed, nearly out of control, until Mercedes finally broke her stern look and laughed too.
“I hope I wasn’t that obvious to everyone.”
Lara commented, “Guys are so thick about stuff like that, so I doubt it. Who is he really, and why haven’t you told us about him before he showed up here?”
Mercedes looked back and forth at the two women she had grown fond of and respected. She needed friends to help her with this. Perhaps that was what had been missing when she’d made her choices and walked away. For a woman that trusted nothing, this was a huge leap of faith to trust these women.
Mercedes confided, “I worked with Jim, and we had some investigative assignments together. He was like the lead, and we worked in a team of four. After several assignments, one thing led to another. We started to date, but because of the company rules we needed to hide it. I was brought up to always play by the rules, so this was very different for me. I loved him or I could never have even dated the man. I think he was falling in love with me, too.
“I worried all the time. It was just a matter of time before we’d get caught, and to be honest, I knew he was very focused on his career. He has always been good at investigations and getting to the root cause or source of the problem. He also did assignments alone which made me worry until he returned. My worrying started to hamper my ability to perform my job. In some jobs, like mine, that could have gotten me or one of my team killed. I knew there was nothing he or I could do to change the rules, so I resigned.”
Petra remarked, “You and he talked about it, and he got mad so you went to work for Julie?”
Mercedes blushed again and looked really guilty. She quickly worked on a few more dishes as she wondered if she had gone too far in this conversation and made a huge mistake.
Finally, Lara, unable to wait, demanded, “Spill it, honey. Come on, it’s just us girls. You must finish the story. What did you do?”
Mercedes’ eyes brimmed with tears as she finally related, “I, uh, went to our boss and resigned. I told him the reason and apologized for breaking the rules. He seemed almost like a dad to me as he patted my hand and said he understood. He said not to worry and promised he would give me a reference and send Jim on an extended single-man assignment while I relocated myself.
“He wrote up a great reference. Julie liked it, and I told her part of the reason why I had left, but not all of it.”
Petra asked, “Have you thought about him, or were you glad to get him out of your life?”
“Oh, I’ve thought about him every day. I hug my cat when I am home, and even the purring reminds me of him. He used to love that cat. Not many men do, you know?”
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