Magnetic, page 1
By Robin Alexander
© 2012 BY ROBIN ALEXANDER
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
ISBN 13: 978-1-935216-44-5
First edition: 2012
This ebook Is Published By
Walker, LA USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR: TARA YOUNG
COVER DESIGN BY: TIGER GRAPHICS
While on a business trip Layne Stone learns that she has been dumped by her partner of six years. Hurt, angry—a little tipsy she takes solace in the arms of a stranger. The brief encounter made going home to New Orleans and starting a new life a bit less daunting for Layne.
Stacy Mayeaux was unaccustomed to waking up alone in a hotel room. Normally, she was the one that crept out before the light of morning crept in. But the woman who’d left an indelible mark upon her soul simply walked away without so much as a phone number or a kiss goodbye.
Neither woman thought they’d ever cross paths, but irony proves them wrong. Layne and Stacy meet face-to-face once again in the most unfortunate of circumstances and the pull between them is simply Magnetic.
For the sweetest of Roses
As always, my sincere thanks to Tara and my editorial team. And to Becky for her support and encouragement.
I took some time to let my temper cool since your departure Friday. I wanted you to know that the conclusion I’ve come to was not made out of anger, but I think we both know our relationship isn’t what it should be. I’ll be gone by the time you return home. I’m not going to quibble over what belongs to whom, so I’ll be taking only what I know belongs to me.
Layne Stone crumpled the email that she’d printed as if holding the hard copy would make the unexpected message seem more tangible somehow. They had fought before Layne’s business trip. It was true that the relationship was failing. But to receive a one-paragraph email stating that the six years they’d spent together was over was in Layne’s opinion a coldhearted bitch slap.
“At least she didn’t send it in a text,” she said numbly as she gazed out over Detroit from the balcony of her hotel room. She looked at the light coming from windows of the surrounding buildings and the cars below, wondering about the lives around her. Did anyone feel as numb as she did at that moment? A loud knock came from inside her room. Layne looked down at her watch and sighed. For the next couple of hours, she’d have to put on her happy face and mingle with her associates and clients. In the morning, she’d return to New Orleans and start all over.
“Well…” Alana Mayeaux said, drawing out the word as she stood with one hand on her hip. Her deep green dress hugged her shapely form and revealed more cleavage than one would normally deem appropriate for a business cocktail party. Pearly white teeth appeared as dark red lips parted in a smile. “Conservative as usual, but you make a suit pop with that figure of yours. If you’d show a little leg, I might have some competition.” Alana stepped into the room and closed the door. “So don’t. Leave the roving eyes to us single gals.”
Layne didn’t bother to say that she was now in that category. Instead she stepped in front of the mirror and ran a hand through her shoulder-length blond hair, unwilling to give it any more attention. Alana moved beside her and applied more lipstick.
“Do us both a favor and stay away from Corbin Malone tonight.” Layne stared at Alana’s reflection. “Clients are off-limits, though I know you’ve bent that rule more than a few times.”
Alana toyed with a dark brown strand of hair that had escaped from her updo and grinned impishly. “His wife will be with him, so I’ll have to find other playmates.”
Alana’s attraction to married men was a bone of contention between her and Layne. As male attention went, Alana had the lion’s share. She never suffered from a lack of “playmates,” as she put it, but married men were more of a challenge, and Alana loved the thrill of pursuit, and more importantly, someone who couldn’t afford to get too attached.
“My cousin will be joining us tonight. I’ll introduce you and maybe y’all can talk shop. She’s one of your teammates. Single and very good-looking,” Alana said with a wink. “Too bad you’re already spoken for. The Mayeaux women have a reputation for being amazing between the sheets.”
Layne rolled her eyes. “Two Mayeauxs under the same roof, God help us all.”
“Yes.” Alana beamed with unabashed pride as she took Layne’s arm. “You look particularly dour this evening. Are you homesick?”
Layne switched on a lamp as they headed for the door. “I’m tired and very sick of smiling. I’m looking forward to being home in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt with a big tub of ice cream.”
“Tomorrow evening, you will be,” Alana said as they stepped into the hallway. “But tonight, I suggest drinking heavily. The smiles tend to come more easily that way.”
On the elevator ride down to the ballroom, Layne and Alana were joined by two men Layne had met at the offices of Cline & Barry, an accounting program design firm that had recently become one of her clients. Layne could not remember their names, but Alana—who had a penchant for remembering the names of everyone from the president to the mail clerks they associated with—certainly did. Layne assumed that was the reason Alana was so favored by their boss David Calloway and why he was so willing to overlook her sexual escapades that had landed them in the hot seat on a few occasions. Layne also figured that David had been in Alana’s “hot seat” at least once, which caused him to turn a blind eye to some of her more flamboyant dalliances.
Layne followed behind Alana as she took both men by the arms when they exited the elevator. Soft jazz and conversation drifted from the ballroom, and Layne released a quiet sigh before relaxing the tension that had accumulated in her jaw. David Calloway met her at the door as she walked in.
“Fashionably late as usual,” he said dryly.
“It wasn’t intentional. I received an email that required my attention,” Layne explained as she accepted a glass of champagne from one of the tuxedoed servers and looked out over the room.
“Late arrival means late departure.” David stuffed a hand into his trousers pocket and took a sip of his cocktail. “Mingle, dance, and pretend that you adore them all. Tomorrow, you can wear that frown, but tonight, at least try to look like you want to be here.”
Layne downed half her drink, then shot him one of her best fake smiles. “Will this do?”
“For now,” David said coolly. “But you and I need to talk when we get back.” He walked away without saying more.
Before six that evening when Layne had received the email from Olivia, David’s comment might’ve rattled her. But as the cold champagne tickled the back of her throat, she found that she really didn’t care, nor would she stay late. Mingle she would, and when the liquor that flowed freely began to loosen the inhibitions of the partygoers, she’d escape.
“Ms. Stone, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for the sweeping changes y
Layne laughed along with the woman whom she knew as the no-nonsense HR manager who at first had seemed unwelcoming of Calloway and Associates’ intervention into her territory. Cline & Barry had a solid reputation for the programs they designed, but the customer service had garnered negative reviews and was beginning to affect the bottom line. Layne and her team were called in by the bigwigs at the corporate office to retrain their employees and restructure policy. Within six months, the company made a turnaround and reclaimed its place in a competitive market. This visit to Detroit was the final evaluation and the party a celebration of success that David hoped would catch the attention of prospective clients.
“I believe in giving credit when credit is due,” Amanda said with a sparkle in her eye. “Morale has improved, turnover has virtually diminished, and my job is infinitely easier. So thank you.”
Layne smiled genuinely. “Music to my ears. You have my direct line, so if you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
“Thanks again,” Amanda said with a slight nod and moved into the crowd.
Layne watched her go and caught sight of another woman she didn’t know. It was the hair that drew her attention first—deep brown, almost black and wild with waves that barely met her shoulders. Her dark eyes appraised other women brazenly, and she didn’t fit in with the carefully coiffed who surrounded her. The neat tailored suit didn’t seem to match the owner who looked more like she spent her days on the beach with her toes in the sand. When the dark gaze swept her way, Layne looked away, knowing that she’d been caught doing her own appraisal.
In Layne’s opinion, women gave away their sexuality by the way they regarded one another. Straight women tended to look at one another as adversaries while others were drawn by clothes or shoes. But a lesbian, like the one she’d been watching, was not discreet, and her eyes telegraphed brazen appreciation that had nothing to do with apparel.
Across the room, Layne found Alana and watched as she moved closer to Corbin when his wife joined a group of women nearby. Alana would flirt shamelessly with him under his spouse’s nose. And by the way Corbin was covertly smiling back, Layne wondered if Alana hadn’t already caught him in her snare.
“You wish you could be anywhere but here.”
Layne turned and faced the woman she’d been watching moments before. “Is it that obvious?”
The stranger nodded and grabbed a glass of champagne as a server went by. She handed it to Layne with a smile. “Yours is almost empty.”
“Stacy, and you are?”
Layne watched as Stacy’s gaze swept over her, then met her eye with a look that said she’d found what she was searching for. It’d been a long time since Layne had been the recipient of a stare that revealed undisguised desire, and on this night, she welcomed it and would follow anywhere it led. “Chloe.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Stacy said as she put out her hand.
Layne took it and felt Stacy’s fingers close firmly around her hand, squeezing gently, the clasp lasting longer than the usual customary embrace. Stacy let her fingers slide down the back of Layne’s before she let her go. “So tell me where you’d rather be.”
Layne didn’t know who she was talking to and was hesitant to be blatantly honest with her answer. “It’s been a long week but a productive one. I’m just tired.”
Stacy smiled slightly as she sipped her drink. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“You tell me where I’d rather be.”
“In front of a roaring fire tucked away in a cabin somewhere high in the mountains.”
“That’s good,” Layne said seductively, “but I think you can do better.” She smiled when one of Stacy’s brows arched for a millisecond.
“You have lovely eyes, such a deep blue they remind me of the water in the Caribbean. So obviously, my next answer would be a beach somewhere, maybe in a hammock sipping a rum-filled drink.”
Layne laughed. “Oh, that’s a line. Do you usually find success with it?”
Stacy shrugged. “Sometimes, it gets my foot in the door, so to speak.”
“Third time’s the charm, as they say. You have one more shot.” Layne lowered her voice to get that foot in the door. “So tell me where I’d rather be.”
Stacy moved in closer, her breath fell against Layne’s ear as she whispered, “Upstairs, with me.”
“You disappeared last night,” Alana said accusingly as she sank down into the seat next to Layne. “If I didn’t know better, I’d assume you met a playmate of your own.”
“Was David looking for me?”
“Not that I noticed.” Alana watched as the flight attendant closed the door to the plane and sighed. “Get this can in the air. I need a bloody Mary stat. I should’ve boarded sooner, but I was pleasantly detained.” She looked back at Layne, then glared at the travel pillow around her neck. “Are you going to sleep the whole flight?”
“Yes, I am. As soon as I’m allowed, I’m going to recline this seat.”
“Good, lend me your iPod so I don’t have to listen to that whiny brat in coach.”
Layne reached into her bag and handed Alana the player. “Please tell me it wasn’t Corbin who detained you.”
“Okay, I won’t,” she said with a smile. “So where were you?”
Layne yawned. “In bed.” She closed her eyes, hoping to make it obvious that she had nothing else to discuss because she was still reeling from her own behavior the previous evening. She’d never had a one-night stand. Even in her briefest sexual encounters, she had at least known her lover’s last name, what she did for a living, and where she lived. All she knew of the woman she’d shared her body with the night before was her first name and that she had more energy than a nuclear bomb.
She began examining all the motivations for her rash conduct. Olivia had knocked her for a loop. Layne had known that the relationship was on the rocks. For the last couple of months, she’d been preparing herself for the conversation she knew they had to have. But Olivia had beaten her to it—and very impersonally. Layne thought after six years she deserved more than that, but the bottom line was, they had become very impersonal. Olivia had shown more passion than Layne had seen in years when they’d fought ridiculously over who had spilled wine on the living room rug and had stained it the day before Layne left for Detroit.
Passion had been lacking in their relationship for a long time, Layne surmised, but then if she were honest with herself, Olivia had never been passionate about her. Lovemaking, when it did occur, left Layne wanting, and early on, she’d expressed that and had been rebuffed. But Olivia was successful, a bright young attorney with a promising career ahead of her. They shared common goals, they’d both wanted the expensive apartment in the middle of the city, the clothes, and the cars, and had attained it all. And for that, Layne had made concessions.
She’d been raised by a working-class father and a stay-at-home mother. Her two older brothers along with her father waited at the table each night for Layne and her mother to serve them dinner. When Layne expressed anger at the inequality, her mother had explained that it was “the woman’s lot in life to serve the man.” Unlike Cynthia Stone, her only daughter refused to accept that line of thinking, and those words had pushed her to get an education without her parents’ assistance.
Those words had haunted her in every job she’d taken and motivated her to reach higher. They were a blessing and a curse. In her career, they had driven her to the top of the corporate ladder, but they had also made her materialistic, and she’d wasted six years with a woman who was as bad if not worse than she was. Layne had money and things, but she’d not found that one s
During the previous evening, she’d poured every ounce of passion that had been pent up for six years into a complete stranger and was met with equal fervor. For a few hours, she felt desired and devoured; it felt good physically and mentally. Stacy would never know that she’d given Layne the strength to go home and not mourn something she never really had.
“…so I’ll be taking only what I know belongs to me,” Layne quoted Olivia snidely as she dropped her bags in the middle of the living room floor. They clanged loudly in the hollowness of the room. The furniture was gone, the walls bare except for the hooks where paintings they’d bought together had once hung. Layne’s books had been dumped onto the floor with no regard when the oak bookcase had been removed. The wine-stained rug had been rolled up and left behind; that did belong solely to Olivia.
Layne looked into the kitchen and noticed that the only thing left on the counter was the coffeemaker that she’d refused to part with, even though Olivia had bought one that she swore brewed the perfect cup of coffee. Layne smiled ruefully at the coffeemaker. It was the first top-of-the-line thing she’d ever purchased, and until it exploded or completely gave up the ghost, she’d always use it over anything newer. She turned and went down the hall to her office that had been completely untouched. Next to hers, Olivia’s was bare.
Layne inhaled deeply as she walked into the bedroom. The doors to her closet remained closed. Olivia’s was open and empty, and so was the room. The king-sized bed they’d bought together along with the bedside tables were gone. “Shit,” Layne said as she leaned against the doorjamb and closed her eyes. She heard footsteps coming up the hall behind her and didn’t flinch when a gentle hand rested on her shoulder.
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