THE MIDNIGHT MOON
Peyton Watts gave her assistant a puzzled look. "A vacation? Alone? To a lesbian hot-spot?" She shook her head. "Don't be ridiculous."
"How long are you going to continue to sulk over her?"
"Sulk? I'm certainly not sulking. It's been eight months since . . . since—" She threw up her hands. "It was my best friend, for God's sake. Have I said that?"
"About a hundred times," Susan murmured.
"She was sleeping with my best friend," Peyton continued. "Right under my nose. Did I tell you that?"
Susan gave her an amused smile. "A hundred times. And as I said before, she wasn't really your best friend."
Peyton lowered her head to her desk and closed her eyes, still able to see them in her bed; Alicia with a stunned expression on her face and Vicky trying to lay the blame on her, as if she had been the one in bed with her best friend. "Oh, God, I am still sulking, aren't I?" She opened her eyes to peek at Susan. "I kinda miss her."
"Oh, Peyton, don't. She was a conniving bitch. I never did like her. I told you that from the very beginning."
Peyton lifted her head and smiled. "No. I was talking about Alicia, not Vicky."
"Well, I did like Alicia, I guess, but I wasn't around her all that much. And you've got to stop thinking of her as your best friend."
"I know." Peyton sat back in her chair and let out a heavy sigh. "God, I hate women."
"Well, you could always join my team," Susan said with a laugh. "I could have Michael set you up."
"I don't hate them that much." She turned to her and smiled. "So you think I need a vacation, huh?"
Susan nodded. "Yes. Tax season is over finally. I know you're exhausted."
Peyton nodded. Yes, she was exhausted. January through April was always hectic in an accounting firm. But this year she'd had no reason to go home each evening and she'd put in nearly obscene hours. She told herself it was her firm and she needed to lead by example, but even she knew she'd taken it to the extreme. It was the house. She should have sold it after Vicky moved out, but it was in the hills of West Austin and close to her office. Even though they'd lived together only five years—five years, three months and a handful of days—Vicky had put her stamp on it. Vicky had the green thumb and kept the flower beds filled with seasonal plants. Vicky was a chef and the kitchen was stocked with every cooking gadget imaginable. Vicky supplied them with delicious meals and frequent dinner parties. That part, she did miss.
Now she hired a landscaping crew to plant her flowers and maintain the lawn. And meals? Oh, she cooked some. But cooking for one was depressing. She usually grabbed something on her way home or, less frequently, had dinner out with friends. Those were the times she missed Alicia the most. They'd known each other several years before Vicky had come into her life. Still, they'd made time for dinner at least once a week. And even though, deep down, she knew it was Vicky's fault, she couldn't bring herself to forgive Alicia. They hadn't spoken since the night she'd caught them in bed, although Alicia had reached out to her—at least in the beginning. Now, eight months had passed and she doubted they could ever get their friendship back. Vicky had moved on too, already living with someone else, an attorney who Peyton had once dated herself.
She shook her head slowly, hating her life at that moment. She'd be thirty-five years old by the end of summer and her personal life was as unsettled as it'd been in her twenties. She looked at Susan and gave her a weak smile. Susan had been working for her ever since Peyton bought the firm from Mr. Neely, eight years now. She knew that Susan was an excellent judge of character and she should have trusted her when it came to Vicky. Susan had told her once she thought Vicky was devious. That, of course, turned out to be true. And now that Vicky was living with someone else, it was brought to her attention that Vicky's past lovers were all professional women, all with nice homes and equally nice incomes. And Peyton had succumbed to her charm as easily as the others apparently.
"So tell me about this beach vacation," she prompted.
Susan reached for Peyton's laptop. "It's on Mustang Island. Port Aransas," she said as she pulled up a browser.
"How do you know about it? You're not gay," Peyton said.
"I heard about it from Jeannie."
"My cousin. She and a group of her friends went down there in March." She spun the laptop toward her, showing her a picture of a brightly colored umbrella stabbed in the sand with two women lying under it. "Right on the beach. It was an old three-story hotel that was closed. They renovated it, then added these cute cabanas and put in two pools," she said, bringing up another picture. "One is clothing optional. I'm sure that's the one you'll hang out at," she said with a laugh.
"Right," Peyton said dryly. The photos did look inviting, though, as beautiful, tan women lounged around the pools. "And it's marketed to lesbians?"
"Yes. Jeannie said they had a great time there. I think you should try it."
Peyton hesitated. "I'm not sure going there alone sounds all that exciting," she said. "There's probably going to be no one there other than couples." She pointed to the advertisement. "Romantic getaway. My getaway would be anything but romantic," she said.
"I wasn't suggesting this to you because it would be romantic. I was thinking it'd be a great place for you to go and recharge and get away from Austin for a week."
But still, she hesitated. While it looked fun and all of the women in the pictures were smiling and happy, it wasn't really her kind of scene. She'd never been a beach lover and she had her own pool at her house. It would seem to be a waste to go down to Port Aransas just to sit by a pool. Of course, the cabanas looked inviting and the palm trees made it all appear as if it was a tropical paradise. She supposed sitting in the sun, relaxing with a fruity drink would be refreshing.
Peyton stared at the scene, trying to picture herself there. "What the hell. I guess I do need to get away."
Logan Weaver knocked twice on the office door before opening it and peeking her head inside. Emma was on the phone and waved her in with a nod and a smile. Logan went to the window that overlooked the pool, her gaze traveling over the handful of women who were either splashing in the water or lounging in the sun. Sitting nearest the window on a chase lounge pulled away from the others was a pretty blond, her eyes covered by sunglasses but her deep, red bikini offering a glimpse of a tantalizing body.
"She came in this morning," Emma said as she joined her at the window. "She was very reserved. Not your type at all."
"You told me I couldn't hit on your guests," Logan reminded her.
"I did, didn't I." Emma came closer and pulled her into a hug. "You're early, sis. Where's Jay and Drew?"
"They had a project come up," she said. "They can't make it."
"That's too bad. I was looking forward to seeing them again." She tossed her a set of keys. "But I guess that frees up the suite then. I had someone ask about it yesterday."
Logan looked at the key, noting the number. It was the single room she normally stayed in when she came alone. "That's fine. I may not stay the whole week anyway. Ted's been complaining about his lack of fishing days and threatening retirement again."
Emma smiled. "And how is your father?"
"He's good," she said. "You talk to Mom lately?"
"Last week. She and Dad were heading to Florida for their annual trip." Emma eyed her. "You really should call her more often."
"I know. Time gets away, though. You were always the better daughter," she said.
"Step-daughter," Emma corrected.
Logan smiled affectionately at her, this woman who'd been in her life for as long as she could remember. Logan was five when her mother remarried and they moved in with Emma and Dave. Emma's own mother had died in an automobile accident a few years earlier. Emma was only a year older and they'd fallen into a fast friendship, one that had endured through the years, even in high school when they both discovered they were gay . . . and both wanted to hang out with Missy Graham, the cute tennis player.
Their adult lives took them different places, though. While her mother and Dave were happily married, Logan's father, Ted, was quite the opposite. Taking over his father's painting business in Austin, he'd nearly run it into the ground. What with him having no formal training and a lackadaisical work ethic, the business was barely hanging on. Responsibility wasn't in her father's vocabulary. She'd found he would rather take a day off and head to the lake with a fishing pole and a cooler of beer than finish painting projects. So after graduating with a degree in marketing, Logan spurned the high-paying job that couldn't hold her interest and decided to "hang out" with her father for a year or so to see if she could put her education to work.
That was seven years ago. The small business her grandfather had started—painting houses—had thrived and developed into one of the most respected professional painting firms in Austin. Having secured contracts with several of the big builders in town, she'd grown their business from three workers—herself, Ted and Juan—to four teams. They now employed nearly thirty people and even though she ran the business part of things, she still enjoyed going out with a team from time to time and wielding a paint brush. She also still liked hanging out with her father at the lake with a cooler of beer.
"Are you still contemplating a new position with Water's Edge?" Logan asked, referring to the company that owned the Rainbow Island Resort.
"I don't know. I love it here. It's close to Mom and Dad. It's close to you," Emma said. "I don't really want to relocate."
"I'd prefer you stay here too," Logan said. "The perks for me are great."
Emma laughed. "Yes, you are quite spoiled, aren't you? Your mother seems to think I should take it, though."
"Because it would be at the corporate level and more money," Emma said. "The last time I had dinner with them, she insinuated I was wasting my skills by managing the resort."
"Yeah. Just like I'm wasting mine by running a painting firm. In her eyes, you're only in a successful career if you're at a desk with a computer, in some damn cubicle."
Emma laughed as her gaze went out to the pool. "Yeah. I much prefer this cubicle." She sat down behind her desk again. "I'm fairly certain I'll turn them down." She paused. "I've met someone."
Logan grinned. "Really? That's great. When do I get to meet her?"
"We'll have dinner one night this week. She lives in Corpus," Emma said. Her phone rang and she glanced at it. "I guess I should get to work. Come by my place tonight. We'll do an early birthday for you. I'll order seafood," she offered as she picked up the phone.
Logan nodded and waved goodbye, her gaze venturing out the window and landing on an enticing pair of tan legs. She decided to ignore Emma's rule about her hitting on the guests. This woman, she just had to meet.
Peyton sipped her drink, a blue frozen concoction that was sweet and refreshing. She sighed contentedly as she watched two women frolicking in the pool. For the first time in months, she was actually relaxing.
She'd even done what Susan had suggested—turn off her phone. Well, not exactly. She couldn't bring herself to actually turn it off, but she did leave it in her room. There could be an emergency, she reasoned. But really, she wasn't worried about the office. She employed two accountants and Susan. She trusted all of them explicitly but especially Susan. She knew Susan would keep things running smoothly in her absence. She planned to check in with them occasionally, that was all. Other than that, she would try her best to put the office from her mind. She was here to relax and recharge, as Susan had said. She intended to do just that.
"You're going to burn if you're not careful."
Peyton had been so lost in thought she hadn't heard the woman approach. She turned her head, finding an attractive young woman watching her with a lazy smile. She held up a bottle of lotion.
"Sunscreen," the woman said. "I highly recommend this brand." Another smile. "And I'll even volunteer my services if you can't reach everything. You know, your back, for instance."
While being shocked by the woman's boldness, Peyton smiled nonetheless. It had been far too many years since someone this young and attractive had flirted with her. Even so, she wasn't really tempted to play along.
"I'm fine. Thank you, though," she said politely. She turned away, hoping the woman would leave.
"I know it's not quite June yet, but you can't be too careful. I'm Logan, by the way."
Peyton turned back to her, trying to estimate her age. Late twenties, she guessed. She had an infectious smile and a hair style that was just short and messy enough to leave you wanting to brush it away from her face. She was glad her sunglasses hid her expression; she was shocked by her thoughts.
"Peyton," she said.
To her surprise, the woman pulled a lounge chair close and plopped down, still holding the lotion. Peyton noted that the woman was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and wondered if there was a swim suit on beneath her clothes. Everyone else in the pool area was dressed appropriately.
"Peyton. I like it. Are you here for the week?"
Peyton blew out her breath. "While I'm flattered by your attention, I'm really not interested," she said bluntly, hoping the woman would get the hint.
But the woman tilted her head, looking bemused. "Interested in what? The lotion?"
Now feeling completely embarrassed, she turned away. Great. She couldn't even discern flirting from normal conversation. She really needed to get out more.
"So? The week?" The woman—Logan—asked again. "I'm supposed to be here until Saturday," she volunteered.
Peyton wondered how rude it would be if she simply told the woman to leave, that she wanted to be alone. She shoved her sunglasses on top of her head, intending to do just that. But one look into eyes that were too light to be considered brown, too dark to be considered hazel simply stole her breath away. In fact, she couldn't even remember what she'd been about to say. The words that fell out certainly weren't it.
"How old are you?"
Logan laughed. "For future reference, that's not a great opening line."
Peyton dropped her sunglasses back over her eyes, hoping to hide her embarrassment. "Forget I asked," she mumbled.
"It's okay. I actually have a birthday this week. Thirty."
"Oh? You said that pretty easily. Most women cringe at the thought of turning thirty and try to hold on to twenty-nine as long as possible."
"No, I'm good. Age doesn't mean anything really. It's just a number," she said easily. "I'm comfortable with who I am and where I am in life." She tilted her head again. "I'm going to guess you're . . . oh, I don't know . . . forty."
Peyton actually gasped. "Forty? Forty?" God, did she look forty?
Logan laughed. "Just kidding. I see age does mean something to you."
Peyton smiled, playing along with her. "Yes. And for future reference, that's not a great opening line." She lightly cleared her throat, feeling the need to share her age for fear Logan really did think she was forty. "I'm thirty-four. Birthday in about a month."
"Well, when you and I celebrate my birthday later this week, we'll include a toast for you too."
Peyton raised her eyebrows. "You think we'll celebrate together? Are you always this forward?"
"Only with women whose legs look like yours."
Peyton blushed freely now, feeling a bit out of her element. Such unabashed attention—she was not used to it. She was trying to think of a polite way to ask the woman to leave her in peace when someone called Logan's name.
It was Emma, the woman who had checked her in earlier. Logan turned to Peyton, giving her an apologetic smile.
"I guess my room's ready. Enjoy your sunning." Logan gave her a cute smile and gently slipped the lotion between her thighs. Peyton was shocked by the thrill she got from such a simple, yet brazen act. "I'll see you later," Logan said with a wink.
Peyton watched her walk away, tall and confident, and was stunned to realize her eyes were glued to not only a pair of long legs but a very nice butt. She pulled her gaze away, quickly snatching up her drink and sucking a generous amount through the straw.
Yes, she really needed to get out more.