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Eating Out

By J.T. Marie

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.

Copyright 2017 J.T. Marie

ISBN 9781634864312

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.

WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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Eating Out

By J.T. Marie

The last person I expect to see when I arrive at the Marshall Ad Agency for a job interview is my old high school sweetheart.

It’s been a good eight years since graduation and the last magical summer we shared before heading off to different colleges…and different lives. Since then, I haven’t thought of Meredith Marshall in forever, or so it seems.

So I’m more than a little surprised when she steps into the lobby to collect me for my interview. “Lara Bennett,” she purrs, smiling. It’s that same seductive smile I fell for all those years ago. She extends a hand to shake mine. “I was hoping it was you.”

I rise from my seat and take her hand in both of mine. “Oh my God, Meredith!” Screw the handshake; I pull her into a quick hug. For one breathless minute, I tingle all over as she presses her body against mine, awakening memories I thought long buried. Into her hair, I murmur, “It’s so good to see you again. How have you been?”

“Oh, you know.” She steps back and takes a good look at me. “Mmm, honey. You still look good.”

Of course I do—I’m here for a job interview, after all. I’m wearing a black on green A-line dress that ends a good two inches above my knees. It’s sleeveless, with a plunging neckline and princess seams. My hair is freshly trimmed into a boyish pixie cut and dyed a deep auburn, every strand perfectly in place above flawless makeup I spent too long on this morning. I look fierce, and I know it.

With a laugh, I tell her, “You don’t look all that bad yourself.”

It’s the truth. The blond curls she used to tease back in the day have been brushed out and straightened, tamed into a sleek, chin-length bob. Thin black lines circle her gray-green eyes; no more girly blue eyeshadow for her. Her lips are every bit as plump and kissable as I remember. She looks so grown up now in a light blue pants suit that screams professional.

Lord, how I loved the girl this woman used to be!

Though we haven’t seen each other in years, it feels as if no time at all has passed. Part of me wants to lean in close to claim a quick kiss. Or slip an arm through hers and take a stroll around the block, catching up on gossip and giggling like school girls all over again. Suddenly I’m sixteen and invincible, heady in love and hungry to show her just how much.

But I have to remind myself we aren’t girlfriends anymore. Hell, we don’t even know each other now. We no longer talk throughout the day, or exchange notes in the hall between classes, or cling so tightly to each other whenever we’re alone. And we’re not alone, I remind myself, glancing over at the receptionist behind the desk, who studiously ignores us. You’re here for a job, remember that. Keep this professional.

“So what is it do you do here?” I ask, keeping one hand on her arm as if afraid to let her go.

Meredith flashes me that sexy smile again. “Oh, I don’t know…I’m sort of the boss.”

I gasp. “You’re that Marshall! I didn’t even think!”

“You mean you applied for the job without researching the company?” Meredith shakes her head, teasing. “Really, hon. In this day and age. You didn’t even Google it?”

“I looked it up,” I assure her. “I mean, I know what it is you guys do here. I just didn’t realize you were the one whose name was on the door.”

She gives me an indulgent look, then threads her arm through mine. “Yeah, yeah. What do you say we go back to my office and chat? I’m sure we’re distracting Nicholas here.”

The young man behind the reception desk grins without looking up from his computer. “No, ma’am. I’m in the zone.”

Meredith rolls her eyes. “Which is code for he’s playing around on Facebook instead of working.”

“Actually, I’m on Twitter,” he says. “Don’t worry, it’s the company account.”

“That’s what he wants me to think,” Meredith tells me in a stage whisper. I laugh as she steers me past the desk and back the way she came. “Hold my calls, will you? Lara and I have some catching up to do.”

* * * *

I first met Meredith when we were both in the fifth grade, though we didn’t become friends then. At the time her mother was in the military and stationed at Fort Lee. But they only lived in Clarksville for a year before they relocated to Hopewell when her father got a job at the ethanol plant. Four years later, her mother retired from the army and they bought a home, moving back to Clarksville for the schools.

Then Meredith was in my ninth grade homeroom. I got one look at her soft spiral curls and fell, hard. Before the teacher could take roll and lock us into a seating arrangement we’d have to stick to all year, I switched to the desk on Meredith’s right. As I slipped into the chair, she gave me a hesitant smile and I took that as all the encouragement I needed to strike up a conversation.

“Hey. I like your hair.”

One hand strayed self-consciously to run through her long curls. “Thanks. I’m—”

“Meredith, yeah.” I smiled back. “You were in my fifth grade class.”

She laughed. “You remember?”

“You’re the only Meredith I’ve ever met,” I told her. “It isn’t exactly a common name.”

“No, I guess not.” Her smile grew shy. “I’m sorry I don’t remember you.”

“Lara.” I leaned over and opened her notebook to scribble my phone number on the inside cover. I already knew I liked her. “What’s your schedule look like?”

That first year we shared three classes; by fall break, we shared lockers, too. We became fast friends, and soon everyone knew that wherever one of us was, the other wasn’t far behind. We’d have sleepovers every weekend, at her house or mine, and spent every waking moment together that we could. By spring break we were dating, though we didn’t tell anyone. We couldn’t, not back then. But sometimes I wondered if my mother didn’t suspect something. We were that close.

Meredith was my first kiss, under the bleachers at the homecoming football game our freshman year. Our team was down forty-five points in the final quarter and there was no way we’d be able to save face, but the running back was streaking across the field and the stands roared with encouragement, and it looked like we might close the gap a bit before the final whistle blew. Excitement crackled in the air around us, and before I could stop myself, before I could even think, I grabbed Meredith by the shoulder and turned her towards me. My lips grazed over hers, a glancing blow that sent a shock jolting through me.

The next thing I knew, her hands fisted in my shirt and she reeled me in, her mouth hungry on my own. Her tongue licked over my lips before parting them to delve inside. She tasted both sweet and salty at the same time, like the kettle corn popcorn we’d been sharing. In that moment my heart stopped, my knees wobbled, and I forgot how to breathe.

I was in love.

She was my first in every way, and I hers. It was love, I knew, and naively I thought it’d last forever. But after graduation, she went to ECU and I went to GMU, and the five hour drive between our schools proved to be too much. Oh, we tried to talk every night, but soon it grew harder to keep up with each other. We used to spend every waking hour together, or so it seemed; we shared the same experiences, laughed at the same things. But apart, too many things happened every day, too much to explain over the phone, and when we made it home for breaks, it was too much trouble to catch up.

Then she spent a summer abroad, in France or Spain, I don’t remember which. And I got an internship in DC that kept me from coming home quite as often as I had before. Time had come between us, all the days we’d spent one without the other wedged us apart. There was never a conscious decision to go our separate ways, or at least, none I can recall. We just grew apart, and we found it harder and harder to come together again. Eventually the phone stopped ringing, cards and letters signed in Meredith’s flowery script stopped appearing in my mailbox, and just like that, we were done.

I’m not saying I never thought of her. I did. Sometimes I lay awake at night after a hectic day in the newspaper office where I landed my first job and I wondered where Meredith might be at that exact same moment. Thinking of me, too? Wondering how I was? I had her old dorm room phone number and address, but times had changed, cell phones and email replaced landlines and handwritten letters, and I didn’t know how to get in touch with her anymore. Worse, I didn’t know if I even wanted to.

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