Disclaimer: All recognizable The Bold Type characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners including, but not limited to Freeform. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this fan fiction story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No financial gain is associated with the publishing of this story. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's note: At this rate I may never get anything done again. I've been on a writing spree of late. I hope you all are enjoying these pieces. There may be a few typos in the last third of this piece. I got tired of looking at it. I can't decide if I'll remain on this site or move to AO3. Anybody? I've never posted there. -dkc
Take Me Home Tonight
"Do you have a second?" Jane stood in the doorway of Jacqueline's office with a printout in her hand, presumably an article Jane needed feedback on.
"Yes, of course. Come in. "
Walking around her chair and reaching a hand out for the paper Jane was holding, the poised editor nearly lost her balance as she leaned back against the desk.
"Where did you get this?" she stammered.
"Does it matter?" Jane lowered her voice despite there being nobody in the office and absolutely nothing she could say that would adequately describe what was on the page Jacqueline now held.
"I can explain."
"You don't owe me an explanation."
Jane hadn't brought this to her boss's attention to shame her or press her way into details that were frankly none of her business. She was doing this to protect her.
"Jane..." the voice speaking that name was small, scared and ashamed. "Can you please tell me where you got this picture? Has anyone else seen it? I need to know."
Taking a seat, the brunette was pale. She didn't realize how intensely Jacqueline would react to seeing the picture. She wanted to protect her, which is why she was here in the first place, but she now felt that need even more desperately.
"The bar isn't far from my house. Mark, he's a friend, and I trust him," she looked up attempting to be reassuring or something else she was ill equipped to be in this moment. "He knows I work for Scarlet. He is discreet and he won't do anything with this."
She put the paper on the corner of the desk and ran her fingers through her hair.
"If he printed you a copy of this, who is to say he hasn't done the same with anyone else or saved the image or, Jesus, sold the image?"
"Okay, stop—" Jane stood up and took Jacqueline's hands. "Listen to me."
The writer now felt terrible about what she had done. She wanted what was best for Jacqueline. Maybe this wasn't as big a deal as she was making it. Maybe it could have gone without acknowledgement.
"He doesn't just know I work for Scarlet. He knows I work for you, that I respect you, that I like you. He printed the image off for my eyes only. He wanted me to take it seriously. They keep footage for 48 hours and only then to catch their bartenders letting underage drinking slide. He said it was Wednesday night. You came in by yourself, drank, danced, eventually got cut off and left with someone. I assume she is that someone."
Jane gestured to the paper and noticed how adamant Jacqueline was to avoid eye contact now that her Wednesday night antics had surfaced.
She wished the evidence of that night, the photographic proof, would vanish from sight. She hated that an employee had seen it, but she hated most that it was Jane who had seen it. Her mind went back to the bits of that night she remembered. The woman was thin, attractive and had a shade of dark hair that the black and white photograph couldn't do justice. It was brown with occasional flecks of red depending on the lighting. Truthfully, it resembled Jane's auburn hair color or maybe she had wished it so. Jacqueline had no idea how much alcohol she had consumed, but it was enough that she woke in a foreign bed the next morning, requiring she cancel her first meeting Thursday to give her additional recovery time. She hadn't had a hangover that punishing since college.
"I don't know what to say," she whispered as her eyes finally made contact with Jane's again. "I'm sorry I put you in this position. I suppose it goes without saying that it won't happen again."
While Jacqueline was entirely sincere, contrite even, the sadness seeped into her voice and the other woman couldn't ignore it.
"Come here?" she asked.
Jacqueline followed to the couch.
"You do not owe me an explanation and you certainly don't need to apologize. I brought this to you not as a problem to fix but one to watch out for in the future. Whoever she is—" she was cut off quickly.
"She's nobody," was said through clenched teeth.
There was a certain relief Jane felt at hearing that this woman, this quite attractive woman whose shirt was being pulled down to expose voluptuous breasts and cleavage that was being tongued by one Jacqueline Carlyle, was no one of consequence. Niggling thoughts crept in and she found herself wondering why this woman? Why that bar? What was really going on with Jacqueline?
Once again grasping a hand in hers, Jane took a deep breath and said what she had intended to say when she walked through the door.
"Be careful. Not everyone is Mark. Anybody in that bar could have snapped a picture of you and sold it to the New York Post or Daily News. I don't need to tell you this. TMZ keeps their website stocked with this kind of stuff. Grainy footage of the editor-in-chief of Scarlet doing...that...would be click bait for any outlet."
Jane had blushed at the mention of the act in question. The black and white image would be seared into her memory for eternity.
"Ugh," Jacqueline groaned and leaned back against the armrest. "Of course a millennial would have to remind me. It was wildly irresponsible."
And there lies the strangest bit about this—Jacqueline was nothing if not responsible. Jane couldn't get a feel for what this incident had truly been about.
"I will never mention this," Jane dutifully promised. "Not even to you."
Her eyes on the ceiling, her head leaning against the back of the couch, the blonde seemed to be weighing her words carefully before vocalizing what was spinning through her mind.
"Jane? I..." she didn't finish the thought she had started and it was obvious that what she ended up saying was not in the realm of what she intended when she said Jane's name. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me. I did nothing. I walked into a bar, that's it. So unless you want to owe me the drink that took me in there that night, I think we're good," Jane smirked.
"You didn't have to bring this to me. You could have saved yourself the awkwardness and the worry. I know you. You've been worried about this for at least a day and went over and over in your head what you were going to say," the writer rolled her eyes at how predictable she was and then smiled when she saw that the fear had left Jacqueline's features.
"I have been worried. Not about the picture and whether it would get out. I've been worried about you. Unless there are two of you, the woman there," she nodded in the direction of the picture on the desk, unable to control the rising color in her cheeks, "isn't at all the Jacqueline I know."
"No, she's not," the older woman sighed.
Realizing she was still holding her boss's hand, Jane let go reluctantly.
"I can be a good listener," Jane offered in lieu of physical touch.
Jacqueline ran a hand through her hair while pulling her legs up under her. That she was getting comfortable suggested she was ready to talk about it. However, she didn't quite know how to say any of it aloud, especially to Jane.
"My divorce has been hard," she uttered. "That's not an excuse, mind you, simply a fact. Everybody knows what's happening. I know more about my net worth due to the New York Times than from my own broker. There's no scandal to be had, but the press won't stop trying to spin it that way. It's a drastic change to a life we had been comfortable in for twenty years."
This was the most Jacqueline had said about her divorce to anyone associated with Scarlet. When she informed the board that she had filed the papers, she left any comment on the matter to her personal lawyer and had refused to elaborate. It was hers to keep from meddling eyes. Despite their friendly and regular conversations, Jane hadn't expected to be told anything about the dissolution of this woman's marriage. What she heard was gossip or rumor and she avoided both the best she could.
"I can't imagine," Jane said.
"I don't want you to have the impression that what happened last week is the new normal in my life. It absolutely is not. You're right when you say that isn't who I am," her blue eyes had a shine from tears yet to be shed.
"There is nothing that could be shown to me that would change the impression I have of you, Jacqueline. Nothing."
A tear slipped past eyelashes and marred a flawless cheek. Without thinking, Jane reached over and wiped it away. When Jacqueline's eyelids fluttered shut and her head leaned into the touch, Jane's mind spun in every direction looking for data. Was this loneliness? Was it the lack of human touch in her life, the woman at the bar notwithstanding? Was Jane part of the reason?
"I feel like a fool," she hummed as her eyes opened and she watched Jane's hand pull back slowly.
"We all do foolish things," Jane answered.
"Most of us don't do them in a place with a camera or if we do our employee doesn't have to be the one to bring them to our attention," she said, Jane cringing at being merely an employee again for all intents and purposes. Jacqueline noticed and moved to remedy it. "But it was you. Of everyone at Scarlet, you're among the few who wouldn't use this against me. Your loyalty to me, albeit misguided considering, is heartening."
Jane was about to speak when Kat materialized at the door. Jacqueline's eyes darted to the desk in hopes that the image was face down, it was. Kat didn't pick up on any weirdness, fortunately.
"Sorry to interrupt," she smiled. "Jane we need to meet Sutton in midtown in fifteen minutes."
"Go," Jacqueline insisted, offering a smile that indicated she was okay. "There is a world outside this building, girls."
Jane stood and assessed her boss before deciding that if they left it here and the topic never came up again, they could both live with that. Their eyes connected for a moment and Jane knew everything was okay.
"Bye, Jacqueline," Kat said as the two friends moved to the door.
Stopping long enough to say what she refused to leave the building without saying, Jane whispered: "There is nothing misguided about my loyalty to you."
Before they made it to the elevator bay Jane and Kat could hear the telltale sound of a paper shredder being used in the office they had just vacated.
The day that the Carlyle divorce was finalized, the tabloids had it and ran it as if it were sensational in some way. People got divorced every day. There was nothing scandalous about this divorce, either. Doing her best to ignore it, Jacqueline conducted business as if it were any other Tuesday. She knew what was being said outside the walls of her office but in that room she was in charge and she was respected.
Perhaps as distraction, the editor went full steam ahead and the workday turned punishing.
Sitting in the conference room after hours when the majority of the staff had gleefully escaped, Jacqueline nursed a glass of amber liquid. She had proofs scattered all over the vast table and her iPad was propped up to allow her to skim recipes, something she did when she needed to find balance. She would hit the treadmill hard later.
"Hey," came a familiar voice from the open doorway.
"Jane! Come in," Jacqueline was genuinely happy to see the writer.
Gesturing to the alcohol on the sideboard, the boss shuffled a few papers as Jane poured herself a drink. The blonde was barefoot. She had never seen her barefoot and she looked stunning. Jane took a moment to mull over her budding awareness. Shouldn't Jacqueline be wrecked? Shouldn't she be exhausted? How did she always look better than the models gracing Scarlet's cover?
"Holing up in the office with alcohol is an interesting tactic," Jane quipped.
"If you ever get divorced, god forbid, you will think of me the night it's official and wonder why you ever doubted my brilliant approach," Jacqueline smiled.
"Well, if I ever get divorced, I hope there is a whole lot more alcohol. Seriously, how are you doing? I get if you want to ignore it or whatever. But I can't not ask."
"And with a double negative," the boss pinched her mouth together to avoid looking smug.
Taking a seat in a chair across from where the woman was standing, Jane found her line of sight fixed not on blue eyes but on two globes with an equal draw. She looked up slowly, afraid to get caught and yet intrigued by the possibility. This was new.
A slightly tweaked eyebrow met her when her eyes found their appropriate target. That eyebrow seemed to be simultaneously asking a question while also daring Jane to drop it.
"Jacqueline..." Jane sighed unsure of whether she was making clear that she was dropping it.
"I am doing as well as can be expected. I threw myself into work today. I've only had one of these," she shook her glass, "and now you're here."
How she measured up to the other two things, Jane wasn't sure, but she would be whatever Jacqueline needed her to be right now. She has always been willing.
"I don't believe the issue is in having more than one drink, I believe it is in where you choose to have multiple drinks," Jane's eyes betrayed her. She had thought she could say this without thinking of the risqué image that had been appearing behind her eyelids every night since she'd seen it. She was wrong.
"You're blushing, my dear," Jacqueline teased and it actually helped Jane relax.
She stood up and walked to the window looking out over the dark but always bustling city.
"I really wasn't going to mention it again," she said with her back turned. "Sorry."
"When you have that kind of information about a person, it's hard not to use it," she said. "Or forget it."
"I have not had the amount of alcohol necessary for this conversation," Jane swallowed down the entirety of her drink and poured another. The lilt in the way Jacqueline said 'forget' got to her. She lifted her small body up on the edge of the conference table and watched her feet.
Jacqueline looked at every inch of those legs. Jane's legs, however short, were constantly on display. Short skirts, even skimpier shorts and rompers showed off more of her legs, giving the appearance of legs for days. She had well-toned calves from the high heels she used to stand a bit taller in a field where dominance mattered. And her gluteal muscles were pleasingly firm from the running she did.
Jane attempted to mirror the look that had been on the other woman's face when she had caught her admiring her breasts. She couldn't pull off the Jacqueline Carlyle eyebrow stare, though.
"Indian cuisine? Not Cambodian? Sticking to the Asian continent, I see," Jane changed the topic, pointing to the recipes on the iPad. "May I?"
"It's relaxing," Jacqueline explained, but she didn't let that natural curiosity slide. "Is there something you'd like to ask, Jane?"
"You are a fascinating woman."
That's all she said.
"I don't believe that was a question," Jacqueline wasn't giving in. If she didn't allow the writer to ask her questions now, they might never be answered.
"Was it the first time?" she gave in to her interest.
"I know you aren't asking me if it was the first woman I have been involved with. Was it the first time I got plastered and made a fool of myself in public? Yes. Did it have to do with the pressures of this job and heartache of my divorce? Partially."
Jacqueline held eye contact. She refused to hide from this. Not with Jane. A deep honesty had developed between the two of them over the past few months and she did not take it for granted. She did not want Jane to believe she took this for granted.
"To my mind it was improbable that it was a habit," Jane stood and refilled her boss's glass. "Why that bar?"
There it was. Jacqueline couldn't answer the question without making this whole situation exponentially worse. Jane detected this.
"It's none of my business."
"I want to have this conversation, but not today. Today is not the day. Don't let me get away with never having it, though."
Jane smiled. She appreciated how her boss faced things head on.
"Andrew? Can you see if Jane has a moment?" Jacqueline popped her head out of the office and disappeared right back inside.
"Sure, I'll just track her down at any of the dozen places she might be that aren't her desk," he muttered under his breath.
He spotted her in Oliver's space talking to Sutton. Those girls can't possibly ever get anything done, he thought.
"Jacqueline would like to see you in her office."
The assistant rolled his eyes and walked away. Sutton and Jane looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
"Jacqueline?" Jane knocked softly and entered.
"Are you busy tonight?"
"Umm? No," she was thrown off.
"Good. Do you cook?" the boss had her even more than off balance than was the norm when she walked into this office.
"I bake. I wouldn't necessarily say I cook."
"Do you like Indian—" Jacqueline was done with beating around the bush. "Oh, to hell with it, would you like to come over this evening to cook dinner with me? Or you can drink and I will do the cooking."
"Uh-kay. What time?"
"Let's say 8. I can send you my car or text you the address in the event you don't remember it," the boss had shifted her focus entirely to whatever on her screen required completion.
Jane walked out of the office with a completely perplexed look on her face. Catching Sutton's eye she shrugged once again.
23 E 77th #48
Leave it to Jacqueline to not throw Jane a bone. The text gave the loft's address, as arranged. And now Jane sat at her kitchen table trying to wrap her head around this.
"Want to grab dinner?" Sutton asked, sitting down next to her clearly distracted best friend.
"I can't. I have plans."
"Tiny Jane, do tell," the peppy blonde put her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her entwined fingers.
"Jacqueline…" she stopped. What to say about this? And should she?
"You're going to dinner with the boss?" Sutton raised an eyebrow.
"Umm, no. We're making dinner. Or I guess she's making dinner. I don't know."
The brunette dropped her head to the table, resting her forehead there.
"The boss is making you dinner?!"
"Could you please stop saying 'the boss'?" Jane groaned.
"Did I miss something? Is this why she called you into her office today?" Sutton had a backlog of questions that was growing.
"No and yes. I don't know."
Jane's distress was palpable. Sutton placed a hand on her shoulder and ceased her barrage of questions. This was unusual, yes, but the more she thought about it the less out of left field it truly was.
"You like her," the blonde remarked. "And that's… its okay, right? You can handle dinner with Jacqueline."
Taking a deep breath, Jane accepted this.
"I'll be here when you get home. Tonight or in the morning," she poked.
"Gah!" Jane squealed. "Shut up!"
Jane swatted at Sutton and they both laughed.
Jane got down on her knees and gave Frieda attention. Having a dog answer the door certainly cut down on the nervous energy the guest was carrying. She was nowhere as worried as when she had come to this loft the first time. This time she knew where she was and largely why she was here. Did she, though? There was something distinctly mysterious about this.
"Jane," Jacqueline came from the kitchen, radiant. "I see you have been officially welcomed."
"I have. You look lovely."
The blonde was in tight black jeans and a cashmere sweater. Like she had been the night before in the conference room, she was barefoot. Perfectly polished red toenails caught Jane's eye. She forced herself to look back up without dragging her gaze the entire length of her boss's legs. It took considerable self-control.
"Beer?" Jacqueline herself had a hint of pink in her cheeks.
Jane followed behind into the open concept kitchen and took the offered beer. Jacqueline popped the cap off with a bottle opener as Jane held the drink. Whatever was happening felt good, easy.
"Have a seat," she gestured to her iPad on the island, "those are the dishes I settled on. You're welcome to change the music."
Sliding the iPad toward her, Jane focused on the recipes to avoid watching Jacqueline at the stove. She heard a light voice wafting through the loft's speaker system that she couldn't immediately identify. Pushing the Apple Music button, the mysterious voice was made obvious. Jane smiled at the thought that her boss listened to Sophie B. Hawkins while barefoot in her home.
"What?" Jacqueline self-consciously asked.
"I like your taste in music."
Raising an eyebrow, doubting Jane, she received a smile in response.
"You are far too young to know Sophie," she shook her head.
"You are far too smart to think age matters with music or much else."
The blonde turned back to the stove, her mind latching on to the 'much else' while chastising herself for being so easily rattled.
"What can I do to help?" Jane asked.
Jacqueline rummaged through the fridge, piling several bags of produce onto the island, grabbed a cutting board and a knife. Putting it all in front of Jane, she laughed at how big the girl's eyes got.
"Get started and I'll join you as soon as I am done putting this curry on."
Cooking with someone you know in only one other setting is enlightening. It shouldn't have surprised the writer that her boss would like the control of following a recipe or that there was artistry in the way the food was created. The woman moved smoothly as she worked, dancing from task to task.
When a spoon was held out for Jane to taste, she warmed not from the spices of curry but from the careful way Jacqueline held the spoon out to her, a hand underneath to avoid dripping and her eyes seeking approval. Jane wondered if that's what her own eyes looked like each time she stood before the editor hoping for praise about whatever she had written.
"God, Jacqueline, this is to die for," Jane hummed. Much to the blonde's apparent pleasure, she licked her lip after the spoon was pulled away. It was this exchange more than any other in the last few days that revealed to Jane why she was here. Yes, they were colleagues. Yes, they were friends. They were also sailing into the unknown and it felt right.
They had finished dinner and moved their conversation to the nearby couch. The two women had relaxed and were truly enjoying the night together. The food was delicious, the beer the perfect compliment. The conversation was stimulating. And the entire night had felt electric in a way Jane certainly wasn't prepared for when she arrived.
"Where are James and Connor tonight?" Jane asked while patting Frieda who had planted herself at the writer's feet.
"Lacrosse tournament in Connecticut."
It occurred to Jane that her boss had likely been at the office late last night to avoid being home alone. Perhaps that added to why she asked Jane over tonight.
"Jacqueline, why am I here?" Jane was frank. "Don't get me wrong, this has been very nice."
The editor was actually surprised she hadn't been asked this much sooner. Despite having anticipated the question for much of the evening, she was without a sensible answer.
"You know you don't owe me anything, right?" Jane added.
"You are the keeper of my secrets," she looked at Jane over the coffee mug she held near her mouth. "And I do owe you. But no, that isn't why you're here."
"Secret. Singular. One that is not important in the bigger scheme of things and certainly not significant in our personal or professional relationship."
Jacqueline seemed to be contemplating their personal and professional relationship at length.
"Why then?" Jane finally said.
"I wanted to thank you for yesterday," she began to explain. "You were under no obligation to spend your evening at the office, but you did, with your boss. You kept me company. You have no idea, Jane..."
Placing a gentle hand on the woman's knee, Jane thought back to the night before. It had been relaxed, enjoyable. They talked well into the night. She relished Jacqueline's company and she found her enthralling. They worked on proofs together, drank and seamlessly moved from discussing work to everything under the sun.
"You're right, I can't imagine. I can't imagine what you have been going through. You literally had all eyes on you yesterday and you maintained poise and professionalism. If I did even the smallest thing to make yesterday bearable, I would do it a hundred times over."
"I don't know what I ever did to deserve your loyalty and concern, Jane, but I hope I continue to live up to it," Jacqueline's hand had covered Jane's for a brief moment before returning to her cup of tea.
Jane returned home after midnight and was glad to find Sutton sound asleep on the couch. Conjuring up words to describe her night with Jacqueline would have been impossible.
Despite her exhaustion, the brunette lay in bed reliving the feeling of Jacqueline's hand over her own as they sat on the couch. For as many times as they had touched, Jane knew it had never felt quite like that.
"You told me not to let you off the hook, but I told you I wouldn't bring it up," Jane spoke hesitantly.
"Mmhmm, we did," the blonde took her glasses from her face, placing them on her desk as she looked up at the brown-eyed woman across from her. "But you have questions."
Rolling her eyes, Jane stood from her chair and began rocking onto the balls of her feet.
"You've asked me a handful of times if I had questions. You know me well enough to know my curiosity is a curse. However, your life is none of my business. So you see, I am between a rock and a hard place. If I ask, I'm prying. If I don't push, you're off the hook and you didn't want that."
Waiting for Jane to be done, Jacqueline's eyes colored with amusement. Jane began pacing the length of the editor-in-chief's desk, blue eyes following her every movement.
"Jane?" Jacqueline stood, placing her palms down on her desk, insisting on eye contact before continuing. "Why don't we get out of here? I am happy to have this conversation with you outside of this building."
Stopping, the writer weighed the seriousness in tone with the lightness in stare. Realizing she would finally get answers to the highly personal questions she had been contemplating since she walked into a bar after work and walked out with a photograph that she had contemplated many a late, late night particularly, Jane decided.
"My apartment?" Jane volunteered.
Grabbing her things, the blonde was game.
"Is it too early to drink?" Jane wondered as they got out of the black town car and walked through the door of her apartment. "I can't remember the last time I was home before dark."
"Why don't we order delivery and have a drink while we wait?" Jacqueline contributed.
"Menus are in the top drawer," she motioned to the cupboard while taking her shoes off and finding a tie for her hair.
The feeling of domesticity took hold of Jane for the second time in a week. She liked this. As she listened to the familiar, smooth voice calling in their order there were butterflies low in Jane's stomach. The butterflies weren't necessarily new, the intensity was.
Off the phone and settled on the couch, Jacqueline slipped off her heels and pulled her legs up. Jane had learned this was her boss's go-to position. The reliability of it was calming. It was as if that one movement could calm a kaleidoscope of butterflies.
"You have a charming apartment," she spoke. "Sutton lives here, too?"
Jane followed Jacqueline's eyes as they took in the space.
"Sutton is a bit of a nomad. She spends time with Kat and with...friends. This is hers, too, yes. We like the neighborhood. It's affordable and a great part of the city."
Taking a look at the brunette, Jacqueline could feel the nervous energy radiating off of her. Their interactions of late hadn't left Jane as nervous. Was she suddenly back to being anxious because they were in her apartment? It would certainly be understandable to feel nerves at your boss seeing your home. However, Jacqueline felt they were beyond the employee/boss dynamic once and for all. Maybe it wasn't possible for them to ever not have that dynamic alone.
"Ask me your first question," Jacqueline insisted. Jane felt as if her mind was being read. The mention of the neighborhood brought with it the reminder that in a bar a few blocks from here the polished Ms. Carlyle let loose and got quite intimate with a stranger.
"Why that bar?" Jane fidgeted.
Releasing a breath, the blonde was finally prepared to face the music.
"I knew this was your neighborhood," she admitted, taking a moment to judge Jane's level of comprehension. "I didn't know that was your bar."
"I don't have a bar," Jane feigned defensiveness.
"Maybe I hoped you did."
Snapping her head to face Jacqueline head on, she was like a fish out of water as her mouth opened and closed without so much as a single-syllable escaping. The wine had breathed, she poured generous amounts into both glasses, gulping down half her glass.
"This is going to sound certifiable. Once I tell you, it will remain attached to your perception of me just as that damn photograph has. And don't tell me that it won't. You can't know that. Don't deny the image isn't there."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that? Maybe I won't find it crazy at all."
Jacqueline leaned forward; behaving as if the quieter she spoke and the longer she dragged this out the less likely it was she was making a horrendous decision.
"Please tell me. Not doing so will only keep me wondering," Jane wasn't dropping this. Not now. She may not have been able to let her boss off the hook before. Now that she herself seemed to be some part of what happened that night in the bar for Jacqueline, she definitely couldn't let it go.
"It has been a rough month," Jacqueline looked at her nails, adjusting her gold wrist cuff. "I made decisions I am not proud of. As I'm sure you have experienced, I got in my head and I went down roads I wouldn't have otherwise."
"Jacqueline, I have no idea what you're talking about. You're going to have to start from the beginning and be as clear as possible, as open as you feel you can."
"I wanted to see you!" the blonde blurted out.
Taking a deep breath, noting the fear in the older woman's eyes, Jane took a moment to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Her stomach was doing somersaults. The very notion that Jacqueline wanted to see her that night and ended up in a bar nearby was as confusing as it was exhilarating.
"You could have called," Jane smirked, earning an eye roll from Jacqueline.
"You're a smartass."
With a nice ass, Jacqueline thought.
"Want to tell me what happened that night?" Jane's features had softened, as had her voice. She was sympathetic and wanting to understand.
"I went home and had a glass of wine that night. You were…" she closed her eyes briefly. "You were at the juice bar with—"
Jane stopped her from having to say the words. She clearly remembered that night. It hadn't occurred to her before that Jacqueline's drunken night at the bar was the same night that she ran into Ryan in the atrium of Steinem Publishing. It had been awhile since she had seen him and he asked her to join him for coffee. Maybe she hadn't put the two and two together because in the moment she fought to block her contradictory feelings.
"Pinstripe. He kissed me. And you were walking through the lobby with your phone to your ear. You were wearing that black top with the zipper down the front. I caught your eye as I was pulling away."
Jacqueline's breath caught when she realized how much Jane noticed. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Jane remembered that black top. Jacqueline had never forgotten the way Jane had checked her out during a meeting in her office the day she wore it for the first time.
"It hit me in ways I wasn't expecting. The wine didn't take the edge off. I kept imagining you—" she stopped herself, shaking her head.
Sliding toward Jacqueline on the couch, Jane took her hand, looking at their skin against one another's. A short month ago, she would have found it inconceivable that the editor-in-chief would give thought to Jane's intimacy with another. A short month ago she also wouldn't have gone to bed at night thinking about that same editor-in-chief's face buried between a woman's breasts and that was her new normal.
"You came looking for me and ended up in that bar."
Nodding as she processed this, Jane looked up and saw that wild fear again reflected in icy blue eyes.
"It takes effort to not be a smartass, you know?" Jane smiled. "But you really could have called."
Jane wanted to say something more. Humor was her default mechanism to protect herself from whatever might disappoint or wound.
"And when you got to that bar, what happened?" she braced herself.
"I realized I was being ridiculous. Of course there are men in your life. I even like Ryan. Whatever I read on your face when I saw you that night couldn't possibly have meant what I thought. I drank. It took the edge off. My mind put away everything with the divorce. I forgot about Scarlet for a while. But you, you I couldn't put in a box. So I drank more. And that woman… She bought be a drink. We danced. My inhibitions went out the window. I wanted to feel everything and nothing. It was a terrible night."
Jacqueline was ashamed, her mind clearly replaying parts of that night Jane wasn't now nor would ever be privy to.
"Do me a favor?" Jane's voice broke the silence.
Nodding her willingness, she would have done whatever was asked.
"Stop being ashamed of this. Stop thinking that what you feel is one-sided," Jane now held Jacqueline's hands in both of her own. "It isn't one-sided. You didn't misread my face when I pulled back from him."
"My marriage had ended and I was more bothered by watching you kiss him. It was unnerving."
"So unnerving you were driven into a stranger's bed?" Jane liked having the power to make the leggy blonde squirm and squirm she did.
"How did you—" Jacqueline stopped herself and grimaced before hiding her face in her hands. "You didn't. You were guessing."
"And I hit the nail on the head."
Refilling her glass of wine, Jane poured Jacqueline a glass all the while she avoided eye contact. Even when she handed a glass to Jane she looked everywhere but at the young woman.
"Annnd... how was it?" Jane gripped her glass as she said it, fearing for a split second that she might break it.
"You did not just ask me how my drunken one-night stand was!" Jacqueline was now bright red.
"Well, from the looks of it you were enjoying yourself at the bar. Would you rather I make an assumption?"
Taking a long, slow drink of her wine, Jacqueline finally made eye contact, stared over her glass and refused to look away. She watched the features she had come to know so well darken. Jane wasn't trying to provoke her. There was a part of her that did want to know what came of that moment she was given a glimpse of. She had begun thinking about what Jacqueline was like under the covers. That part of her had grown day by day since the photograph entered her life.
"Jane..." there was a rasp to the older woman's voice that hadn't been there before.
"One more question," the brunette waited for the slight nod and her own hammering heartbeat to calm before she asked: "What would have happened had you found me instead of ending up in that bar?"
Letting out a shaky breath, she gingerly placed her wine glass on the coffee table and leaned closer to the girl.
"My concern with your perception of me notwithstanding?" Jacqueline asked with trepidation, reading Jane's jaw muscle twitching as permission. "I wouldn't have been screwing a stranger."
Jane choked. She hadn't expected the usually cautious woman to be so forthright. There was no misinterpreting what was being said. And there was no clouded judgment from alcohol to blame.
"I—" she coughed. "Like I said, you could have called."
The tension was relieved by Jacqueline's chuckle and, to both of their credit, they didn't turn and run from the unspoken.
"That would have been a fun conversation," the older woman had left her arm on the back of the couch after having leaned in; she was pleased when Jane tilted her head back, her hair brushing that arm as she, too, chuckled. "'Hello, Jane? In the event you're not in bed with the nice young man I couldn't take my eyes off of you kissing earlier, can I come over, get totally sloshed, make a complete fool of myself and end up in your bed?'"
"I would have loved to watch you tie yourself into knots trying to get that out," Jane grinned.
"You love to torture me."
Murmuring in the affirmative, the brunette seemed to disappear into her thoughts for a moment.
"Where'd you go, Sloan?" Jacqueline watched her with fascination.
"Mmm... I was thinking I should get Mark a gift for forcing this conversation out of you and I."
"It has been a long time coming, hasn't it?"
The knock on the door startled them. Jane got up reluctantly. Delivery brought in and divided on to plates, the natural ease with which the two women had been conversing in recent days returned. When they were done eating they cleaned up side-by-side. They were having a great time in each other's company once again. The laughing came readily and the casual way they had always touched one another signaled that both nothing and everything had changed. They were still on Jane's couch an hour and a half later, cozy and buzzed, when the pinging of a text message alerted them to Sutton's pending arrival.
"I'll get out of here, I don't want to cause any weirdness," Jacqueline stood. "Thank you for another lovely evening, Jane."
"You've really got to stop thanking me," she answered as they moved toward the entry. Neither of them wanted to say goodnight.
The striking smile that had left Jane tongue tied on more than one occasion caused an entirely different physical reaction this time. Jacqueline knew. She'd been having that affect on men and women her entire adult life.
"Jane?" she whispered.
She wouldn't get to say whatever she had planned as a hand grasped the back of her neck and pulled her down into a searing kiss. She felt more than heard the whimper that she released as the kiss came to an all too fast end. Being kissed by Jane made Jacqueline want nothing else.
"Goodnight, J—" Jane breathed.
The blonde grabbed a taxi with a broad grin on her face.
"Walk with me, Jane."
Jane happily abandoned what she was working on to follow Jacqueline through the maze of desks and staffers to the elevators. She had no idea where they were going. She hadn't spoken to her boss since arriving at work that morning.
"I can't stand you," Jacqueline huffed the second the elevator doors closed with only the two of them inside.
"Excuse me?" Jane was totally puzzled and naturally defensive.
"You kissed me."
"Yes?" she furrowed her brow.
"It's all I can think about, Jane," Jacqueline complained.
This was definitely not how Jane expected the day to play out. However, she took delight in knowing that their kiss was as present in Jacqueline's mind as it was in her own.
"I see," she had a smug grin on her face.
"Stop it!" Jacqueline was now giving Jane a look that turned the writer's insides to mush.
The elevator dinged and they exited on the top floor. Jane had no idea why they were there. That would become obvious when they walked through the door to the stairwell. Jacqueline pulled Jane to her, a hand pressed to the small of her back and another to the tendrils of hair on the back of her neck. The boss demanded a kiss and it was granted. Then the unforeseen happened—Jacqueline ceded control. She allowed Jane to lead the way. Much like that moment in her apartment's entry, Jane became the instigator. She pushed the blonde against the stairway wall and held her there when the kiss was broken. Breathing in and out, they took a moment to catalog the various ways their bodies fit together, curve into valley, rough edge softened by its opposite.
"Would you like to go to dinner tonight?" Jacqueline breathed against Jane's cheek.
"Go out?" the brunette smirked. "Like a date?"
Laughing at the absurdity of the dialog, Jacqueline felt like a teenager. Jane made her feel young.
There was no hesitation. When Jacqueline Carlyle asks you to dinner you go.
"I'm going to take the stairs," Jacqueline explained as they separated. "And not because I need to get my steps in."
Oh, Jane was smug. She looked at the flush on Jacqueline's neck and chest, finding the knowledge that she could have this influence surreal.
"Enjoy your cool down," she smirked.
"I can't stand you," Jacqueline repeated what she had lead with when they stepped onto the elevator making Jane laugh.
"Keep telling yourself that, Carlyle."
"Andrew, please see if Jane has a minute," the editor-in-chief demanded rather than asked.
Andrew has mastered the eye roll when it came to the three best friends. He found them equally annoying unless he needed them.
He found her with the other two in the fashion closet.
"Jacqueline would like to see you," he said and turned on his heel.
"Wuh oh," Sutton wiggled her eyebrows.
"Shut up!" Jane hissed as she walked out the door with a smile on her face.
"That girl is smitten!" Kat had been filled in on as much as Jane had been willing to tell. She was now as intrigued as Sutton by this turn of events. Their baby bird was leaving the nest.
Sutton nodded and grinned.
"Yes?" Jane knocked and entered without the usual summoning.
"I need an opinion."
Jacqueline stood and came around the desk, leaning against it with her arms folded as she motioned for Jane to sit.
"Mine?" she didn't understand.
"I've been approached by Vanity Fair for a profile. The usual stuff, but the reporter wants to dive a little deeper," Jacqueline described.
"Okay? What does that mean?" she wondered why her view mattered.
"She wants me to talk about the divorce, the boys."
"Oh," Jane had a concerned look.
"I want to do it. Wouldn't it be nice to see a strong woman talk about her marriage ending in a neutral way with no animosity or blame-laying?"
Despite her continued confusion as to why Jacqueline wanted her opinion, Jane thought about what this piece had the potential to be. It wasn't out of the question that it could serve to shut down her doubters.
"Women of your caliber don't lose in their personal life because of the success in their professional life. It's a tired trope. You did nothing wrong. From what I can tell, neither did Ian. People fall in and out of love. They can part on good terms, raise children together, be friends and support each other. I think that's an important story to tell."
"But?" The blonde took a seat next to Jane.
"Jacqueline, you are an immensely private person. In every profile of you I've read, you mention your boys as the light of your life, but you don't continue. That night on your couch you told me you had one husband, two kids, one dog and you take a statin for your cholesterol. But the rest didn't need to be told because you run the magazine."
Jacqueline was once again impressed with Jane's memory and flattered that the writer had read about her. She mentally cringed at what had brought Jane to her home that night—Jane had said they were Jacqueline's "writer monkeys" and yet they knew nothing about their boss.
"Maybe it's time."
Jane had a gentle smile and in a different situation, she would have taken the woman's hand in her own, brushing her thumb against the soft skin. It was almost painful to refrain.
"Maybe it is," Jane murmured. "What's worrying you?"
Jacqueline smiled at how well the writer knew her. Maybe her facial expressions weren't as guarded as she thought.
"What if it encourages the press to break down the wall I've put up around my personal life?" she fidgeted in a very un-Jacqueline way.
"You're worried they'll see something in…us?" Jane felt cherished and returned her understanding.
"I'm not hiding this, Jane, please don't think that. Perhaps I want, no, need to take it slow and I don't want it picked apart in the office or, god forbid, in the press."
Jane moved to touch Jacqueline and immediately thought better of it. This frustrated her, which served to reinforce the point the editor was making. If Jane were to reach out in a comforting way, the eyes in the bullpen would pick that action apart. Jacqueline winked in gratitude for the thought.
"I will hide this. I will protect this. I will do everything I can to protect you. All you have to do is ask," Jane spoke fervently. "You asked for my opinion and I'm going to give it: I think you should do the profile. I think it would be good for you to talk about the changes in your life. I think it might endear you to some who doubt you. You're right; women need to know that other women divorce and their lives don't fall apart. They need to stop seeing ambition blamed. And Jacqueline, I don't say this flippantly, you need to put to bed whatever sliver of belief you have in the back your mind that you failed. That couldn't be further from the truth."
"God, you amaze me," Jacqueline's breath had been taken and a tear had slipped out the corner of her eye. "Wise for your years."
"It's likely less wisdom and more the fact that I care about you."
"Thank you," the blonde whispered.
They stood from their chairs and fought the urge to wrap each other in a hug.
"Would you rather put off going out?" Jane would have understood.
"Umm…" Jacqueline seemed to be blushing.
"Are you blushing?" Jane teased.
"I actually arranged something fairly private, if that's okay."
"I'm up for anything."
"Anything, huh?" Jacqueline winked as Jane reached the door.
"I can't stand you."
Jane could hear the magical laugh as she closed the door.
A simultaneous squeal came from Kat and Sutton as Jane exited her bedroom. She looked fabulous in an emerald dress that stopped well short of her knees.
"If Jacqueline doesn't want in your pants after seeing that dress, she better step aside because I'd hit that," Sutton deadpanned.
Rolling her eyes, Jane's stomach did flips at the thought of Jacqueline wanting that. It had only been two weeks since the photograph of the editor's face buried in another woman's breasts had come to her attention. And Jane certainly didn't have much to offer in that department.
"Can you help me pick jewelry?" she asked the fashion savant.
Hopping up from the couch and running to her own jewelry box, Sutton knew exactly what would complement that dress. She returned with a gold pendant that would rest in the bare space of the deep v. The earrings she chose were a nice touch.
"You look hot!" Kat contributed googly eyes.
Bowing to her friend, Jane laughed.
"I feel ridiculous!"
"Ridiculous giddy or ridiculous crazy?" Kat asked.
Turning serious, Jane seemed to be emotional. This brought both girls to her, sandwiching her in hug.
"What's up, Tiny Jane?" Sutton kissed the side of her head.
"What if it's the only time? What if she thinks better of it?" a tear fell.
Kat caught the tear and pressed a kiss to the spot where it had grazed her cheek.
"You underestimate Jacqueline," she spoke with conviction.
A knock came at the door. Thanking her friends with individual hugs, she took a deep breath and grabbed her clutch.
"You got this, Janie!" she heard as she opened the door to find Jacqueline's driver waiting for her.
She had been surprised to not find her boss in the car, but was informed that they would be meeting her at their destination.
Deep breaths, Jane repeated in her head. It was just Jacqueline.
Jane was very confused when they pulled up outside the now infamous bar. The 'closed for a private party' sign hung on the door. For a Thursday night this seemed quite unusual. Thursdays were usually a busy night for her friend Mark's bar. The driver opened her door, holding a hand out to help her step out and then walked her to the door he unlocked with a key. Now she was really confused.
She stepped into the bar, her eyes taking a moment to adjust to the dim lighting after being outside in the dropping sun. The scene before her took her breath away. A candlelit table sat in the middle of the bar, Jacqueline standing in a stunning black suit with silk black shirt and gold stilettos.
"You look incredible," Jane croaked as she approached the woman.
"You don't look so bad yourself."
Jacqueline kissed her chastely.
"This is quite the surprise."
They sat, both nervous and showing it.
A waiter came out of the kitchen with a bottle of wine and a basket of bread.
"Ms. Carlyle, Ms. Sloan," he nodded, pouring them healthy amounts of wine.
"He is far more attractive than Mark," Jane gawked as he retreated to the kitchen.
"That does it for you?" Jacqueline relaxed into the levity this was bringing to the situation.
Raising an eyebrow and giving the blonde a pointed look, Jane spoke, "I think you know exactly what does it for me."
Slowly sipping her wine without breaking the eye contact established over the glass, Jacqueline made the butterflies in Jane's stomach multiply.
"You have a way of leaving me speechless."
"You have a way of making me ramble incoherently," Jane laughed.
"You seem to be doing fine so far."
"Give me time."
They managed to fall into a light-hearted conversation, enjoying the wine, the ambiance, the soft music and eventually the food. The casual banter they had come to expect was in fine form. Jacqueline laughed more than Jane had ever heard her. A hand had settled over the blonde's, having reached across the table with confidence.
The familiar five or six notes of a song floated through the bar causing Jane to smile. Sophie B. Hawkins strikes again.
"Dance with me," she stood, holding out her hand.
Jacqueline stood, also smiling. She liked confident Jane. She also liked ceding her professionally dominant side to this confident, small woman.
It wasn't the easiest song to dance to, but they made "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" work for them. Jacqueline could feel Jane's heartbeat pick up at the line: Open up, I wanna gonna come inside/I wanna fill you up, I wanna make you cry. She also could practically hear Jane's eyes roll at "Feelin' like a schoolboy/Too shy and too young, ohh." Jacqueline's hand lowered to Jane's ass as reassurance that she found her exceptionally attractive.
As the last fifteen seconds of the song brought disappointment, the song having ended far too soon for their liking, Jacqueline leaned in, whispering words that caused a warmth to trail down Jane's spine straight to that triangle where her thighs met.
"You are the woman I wanted to go home with that night and, if you're willing, I'd really like that tonight."
Jane attempted to stifle her shakiness, kissing Jacqueline as her way of accepting. They managed to control themselves for another half hour of dancing before getting into the town car.
While the younger woman momentarily panicked at her lack of experience in this situation, she would have found it settling to know that in her own mind Jacqueline was considering her flaws and whether Jane would find her attractive and adequate. A reassuring hand took the blonde's and they shared a look that reminded each other of how much they wanted this.
The privacy partition hadn't even gone up before they were all over each other. One of Jacqueline's heels wedged between the door and the seat. Jane's long hair was everywhere, constantly needing to be pushed out of their mouths.
Jane climbed atop the older woman, hiking up her skirt to allow straddling.
When a flat tongue ran from collarbone to just under Jacqueline's chin, she half laughed, half groaned. Jane pulled back to see her boss embarrassed about something.
"What?" Jane's voice was thick and impatient.
"I remembered something, it's nothing."
"mmhmm…" the brunette didn't agree. "Spill."
"I, uh, licked her," Jacqueline shook her head in shame. "In the cab. Pulled her bra down and licked her boob the way you licked my throat. With the cabbie watching."
Jacqueline was humiliated so Jane didn't tease. "Lucky bitch," she purred before resuming their kissing.
Leaving their clothes on was a frustration, but a temporary one.
Once in the elevator at the blonde's, her button down was being opened. The lace bra beneath was wet from an enthusiastic mouth. As the doors were opening into the loft, Jane had pulled the lace down and was sucking.
"Jesus!" Jacqueline cried as Jane's teeth connected with the now hardened nipple.
Jane thought this would terrify her and that was not the case at all. She was unbelievably turned on. She had never felt such thirst.
Confidently pushing the jacket and shirt off of the object of her desire, she stepped back to admire the juxtaposition of tan skin against black pants and lace. She gestured to the blonde's shoes. They were kicked off and she stepped forward again. Like this they were the same height. She loved it. She wondered if this were the scenario at the office if she wouldn't turn into a bumbling idiot when asked for a pitch.
"Jac…" she whimpered when lips clamped on her neck before biting her pulse point.
They weren't going to make it to Jacqueline's bed.
Pushed up against the wall, Jane desperately tried to keep her balance in her heels as her skirt was pushed up and a knee came between her legs. As a firm thigh made contact with her sex she squeaked.
"You're really wet."
Jane knew her wetness had ruined her panties. She became self-conscious when she considered if she had dripped onto black pants. Her arousal had been growing since their first dance. She nearly came in the car.
"In," Jane grunted.
Smiling at the younger woman's bossiness, Jacqueline replaced her thigh with a deft hand. She didn't dither, she didn't tease. Her finger slid smoothly in; she met no resistance. Watching Jane's eyes close and her face contort, a rhythm was established and the blonde was increasingly eager. She wanted to take Jane to the summit.
"Holy fuck!" Jane cried as another finger joined.
Panting and ready, the girl gripped a bare shoulder, her nails biting skin, and tangled in blonde hair. As she felt the build that would result in her uncoiling, she tugged on the hair between her fingers. The yelp of the woman inside her sent her exploding then collapsing. A strong arm wrapped around her low back to hold her up. The hand stayed in place until walls stopped trembling and relaxed.
"Oh, god, Jane," Jacqueline whirred.
The feeling of pulling out after causing pleasure was strangely intoxicating.
"Can we lay down?"
Chuckling, her hand was held and she was pulled in the direction of what she could only assume was a bedroom. She silently thanked the universe for Jacqueline's decision to forego the couch. Jane wanted to be in bed with this beautiful, multifaceted woman. When she recovered or at least could feel her legs entirely she was going to give as good as she got.
When they reached the bedroom the first thing the blonde did was unzip the emerald dress. Doing away with it, she hungered for the body on full display. For a moment the woman stood before her in heels, a bra and very wet panties. She wouldn't be allowed to feed her hunger because small hands were undoing her pants and forcing them down her long legs.
"I'm going to lay down and you are going to climb atop my…mouth."
Jane's authority was obeyed. Doing exactly as she was told save for having slipped her lace panties off first, Jacqueline writhed when her core came in contact with a warm, wanting mouth.
"Somebody didn't come home last night," Sutton announced to Kat as they reached the top of the stairs and took their coffee from the social media director.
"Is that so?" Kat wiggled her shoulders and smiled.
"You guys have to stop," Jane shushed them.
"Oh, honey, we haven't even started."
"I had a very nice night," the girl didn't elaborate.
"Nice? Sounds like it was better than nice if you didn't make it home…" Kat loved to prod the tiny brunette.
They approached the elevators and saw the back of a familiar blonde. Dressed in very tight black jeans, a sheer, paneled shirt and impossibly high heels, Jacqueline was dazzling. Jane's eyes noted how great her curves looked in those pants and Sutton noticed her noticing, earning her an elbow in the ribs. The huff of air she released caught Jacqueline's attention. Turning around, she took the brunette's breath when she saw how low the shirt was unbuttoned.
"Good morning, girls," she beamed. "Did you have a good evening?"
Kat choked on her coffee.
"I did," Sutton smiled broadly. "How was your evening?"
Jane gritted her teeth as all three girls waited with baited breath for their boss's answer.
"Yes, my evening was quite nice."
She smiled before turning back to the opening elevator doors. All four women stepped into the elevator.
Kat mouthed 'nice' at Jane, noting how they both had used such a poor descriptor for their night together. Rolling her eyes, the writer stepped almost imperceptibly toward the blonde. She brushed her wrist against the ubiquitous bangle there. Her pinky came in contact with Jacqueline's and for a brief moment their small fingers hooked.
"Have a productive day, ladies," the editor-in-chief said as she stepped out of the elevator, her head turning in Jane's direction long enough to wink.