Compromising Positions

By: Tawny Taylor

Chapter 1

Ever since Fate Doherty was old enough to know monsters didn’t live under her bed and Santa was her dad in disguise, she’d believed her parents had made a huge mistake in naming her Fate. She suspected by doing so, they’d angered some ancient god and placed her at one end of a giant rope in a heavenly tug-of-war. Every time things appeared to be going her way, the gods would give the rope a mighty tug, and Fate would be left neck deep in an enormous mud pit. The only way she knew to combat the whims of fate was to stifle any impulsive streak, welcome routine and concentrate on a sure, practical attitude.

And this morning, that belief was upheld…in spades.

Everything started out normal enough. She choked down a diet bar while dressing for work and subjected her naturally-curly red hair to the abuse of a scrunchy. Then as usual, she dashed to her ugly, but mechanically sound 1989 Ford Escort with ten minutes left on the clock and made the twenty-minute drive to work in record time—thirty minutes.

But once she stepped into work at Love Lines, Detroit’s second largest dating service, the normalcy of the day abruptly ended.

The minute she entered the glass and brick building, her assistant, Michael, pounced upon her like an Armani-clad jungle cat. “Fate, will you please tell Angela her life is not over?” He was the best admin assistant she’d ever had, well worth the bloated salary he was paid. But this morning, she questioned his otherwise keen sense of judgment. The office resembled an upset beehive. People who normally would have remained safely tucked away in their glass-walled offices scurried around like headless barnyard fowl.

Bewildered, Fate managed a grunt and a “Huh?” but got no further.

Her boss, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Andrew Thomas, popped his head out of his office on the balcony above and said, “Doherty, my office. In five.” He disappeared like a mole in Fate’s favorite carnival game—the one where you slam feral-eyed heads with a mallet. She wondered where the next rodent would pop out.

Julie, the receptionist, yanked on her arm and said, “Good luck, Fate. If you’re still around later, I’d like to ask you a favor.”

“What’s wrong, Julie?”

“Fate! Five’s up. Need to talk, pronto!” Thomas said.

Ignoring him, she studied Julie’s pain-stricken expression. “What the hell is going on?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“What did you want then?”

“Well, I was wondering…I know I’m only a receptionist, and…well…” She stopped, her face white. “I wanted to know if you’d take me in the marketing department.”

Her question took Fate off-guard, making her even more curious about the hubbub around her. “Ah, okay. But I thought you were happy where you are. You ready for a change?”

“You could say that.”

“Julie, you’re an excellent employee. I’ll see what I can do.” She still sensed the girl’s distress. “Are you sure you can’t tell me more? Has something happened?”

“I wish I could, but I think Mr. Thomas should be the one to tell you.”

Still standing in front of Julie’s chrome throne, Fate searched the faces of each person dashing through the lobby.

Something big had happened.

She tamped down her curiosity and focused on Julie’s duress. “You’re not all right. Tell me what’s the matter.”

Julie made her way back to her seat behind the counter. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. You’d better go talk to Mr. Thomas.”

“Guess so, he isn’t usually…” She stopped herself. What was up with him? He didn’t bark at people like a—a boss. “…so demanding,” she finished. Tossing Julie what she hoped would be perceived as an encouraging smile, she walked across the lobby toward the stairs.

When she reached Thomas’s office on the second floor, it was empty. Missed him. Must be in a meeting. With eyes dropped to the lobby below, she turned around. Would anyone tell her what was going on? She looked for Michael, but he wasn’t at his desk.

Deciding she’d check back with Thomas later, she headed for her office. As her gaze slid from Michael’s desk to the door, she noticed her office light was on, and the door was slightly ajar. Before she pushed it open, a shadow passed across the frosted glass wall. Someone was in there.

Of course, Thomas. He must have been tired of waiting.

Pushing the door open, she said, “Sorry, I was held up downstairs. An emergency…” She froze as she realized too late the occupant of her office was not Mr. Thomas.

“Hi ya, Doherty,” said the visitor sitting in her chair with his loafer-clad feet propped upon her desktop as though he owned the place. He wore a smirk on a cocky face she wished she could forget, and his smoke-hued eyes danced with mirth.

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