Compromising Positions

By: Tawny Taylor

The waiter stepped in before Tracy could respond and took her order. Once he was beyond earshot, Tracy rested her elbows on the table and leaned closer. “What is it?”

“Love Lines was bought out.”

“Wow! When? You didn’t know?”

“Nope. I stepped into chaos this morning and feel like I’m on a wild carnival ride—the Tilt-A-Whirl. I had no idea. No one did, that is, except for the brass, but obviously they didn’t tell anyone.”

Tracy fell back against her chair. “Wow. I know I keep saying that, but I’m at a loss. Sorry, Fate. Did you get fired?”

“Not yet. But—here’s the worst part—they teamed me up with Gabe Ryan to design the new company’s image and marketing strategy. We’re sharing an office. It’s been four hours, and I swear I’m going to hurt him by the end of the day if he doesn’t shut his mouth!”

“The one you’ve been waging war against? Ryan from The Date Doctor?”

“The one and only. Oh, and have I ever told you we dated briefly in college? I broke it off because he was such an immature ass, and I swear he hasn’t matured a day since then.”

“Immature ass?”

“The man thought fine food came in paper wrappers, treated a beer keg with more reverence than me, and couldn’t hold back an ejaculation for more than a minute.”

Tracy’s eyes glimmered as the waiter stepped in to serve their drinks and salads. Her lip quivered.

Fate could swear her friend was about to laugh. “Is something funny?”

Piercing a cherry tomato with her fork, Tracy avoided her gaze. “Funny? No. Absolutely not.” She held a cupped hand over her mouth, but Fate couldn’t miss the mirth in her eyes.

“Then why are you laughing?”

As Fate’s last word slipped from her mouth, Tracy burst into an uncharacteristic belly laugh. “Oh, Fate, I’m so sorry. I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at the whole scenario.”

Suddenly lacking an appetite, Fate glanced down at her tossed salad. The food held the appeal of bricks. “What’s so funny about that? Tracy had always possessed a slightly warped sense of humor, but never had she laughed at something so serious. “I didn’t laugh when your ex-boyfriend showed up on your doorstep in nothing but a leather g-string and brandishing a whip.”

“That wasn’t funny, it was downright scary, considering the boy had gained two hundred pounds. Sorry, Fate. Love ya like a sis, but I have to tell you, this is funny. Really funny.”

“No it’s not. It’s just your warped sense of humor.”

“Look, you’ve spent the last three years battling Ryan—correction, more like six years—he’s been like a fly buzzing in your ear, a mischievous sprite tossing roadblocks in your way at every turn. And now he’s working with you.”

“Yeah, and he’s still throwing roadblocks at me, but now he doesn’t have to throw as hard.”

“Oh, come on, Fate. He’s been the sole reason you’ve worked so hard the past three years. Admit it, you’re a competition junkie.”

“Am not!”

“Look at you, you can’t even deny it with credibility. Give it up; I think you still like the guy.”

Whoa, was she on the wrong planet! Like him? Gabe Ryan? Obnoxious, immature, annoying… The vision of his mirth-filled face flashed through her mind. His eyes, which should be cold considering their steel color, were always filled with life. And his mouth was always pursed into a playful smirk, sending little creases from the corners of his eyes. And his body…shit, that body. Wide in the shoulders, narrow in the hips. Thick arms and legs, every muscle sculpted to perfection, thanks to countless hours spent in the gym or who knew what perversions.

Nope. Nothing to like there.

Even though his physical qualities wouldn’t turn off any red-blooded woman, his personality would. He went out of his way to annoy people, treated women like objects, and was manipulative and sarcastic. Sure, she couldn’t deny he was as full of life as his eyes, playful and easygoing, intelligent. Creative. But the bad outweighed the good by one hundred-fold. “How could I like him? He’s been nothing but a thorn in my side since I met him?”

Tracy stared at her, her smile still broad as the waiter set their sandwiches before them. After he left, she challenged, “Why don’t you tell me? It’s all over your face, Fate. You can’t lie.”

“No way, you’ve got the wrong message. That’s nausea all over my face. How can you even consider it?” She shoved her plate away. Maybe she’d eat later, or yield to the temptation to dump it on Gabe.

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