Enter The Realm of the Pendragon

Duplicity

Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Word Count: 5,803
Author's Notes: Written for NaNoWriMo 2005
Claire is a lowly administration assistant in a local government office where she keeps very much to herself.
Dante is a young perky gay blond who does something important in marketing but seems to spend most of his time hanging out in a coffee shop with a select group of friends.
They live entirely seperate lives until one day; Dante disappears and only Claire knows where he is. She soon realises that he owes his life to her in more than one way. The question is, which one of them will survive?

Chapter One

Claire sat in her little silver car in the car park and stared at the main entrance to the building. Other cars were pulling up and finding a space, the drivers then making their way into the building ready to start another day at work.

It was a fine bright autumn Monday morning; the sun slated lazily through the remaining golden leaves on the branches of the trees surrounding the car park, tinting them with a soft amber glow. The fallen leaves stirred slightly from a gentle breeze, dancing round the roots and across the concrete. Soft white clouds scudded across a bright blue sky that for once was not covered with a blanket of grey. Claire looked out of the windscreen, wishing that for once it was raining hard because that at least would give her a reason for hiding out in her car.

She pulled down the visor, and stared at the narrow mirror which gave her a good view mainly of her eyes. Flipping it back up in disgust, she turned to the rear-view mirror and by angling her neck this way and that, was able to get a passable look at most of her hair. Wrinkling her nose, she teased a strand here and there, attempting to make herself more presentable. It didn't really make much difference what she did to it, the one thing she really wanted was to have it how it was at 10.30 on Saturday morning before she had gone into the hair salon to have it cut.

A glance at her watch informed her that it was approaching the hour and she sighed heavily. There was really no turning back, there was nothing she could do. Ideally she would have liked to have gone into work wearing a hat, or better yet, a paper bag over her head but that was likely to get her even more attention. It wasn't that she didn't like attention, she preferred to have it for the right reasons.

With a final check of her hair, she grabbed her backpack and opened the car door. A playful gust of wind blew in her ear and down her neck, ruffling her detested hair which sent a shiver down her spine and made her pull up her collar protectively. She locked the car door and pulling her shoulders back in a manner reminiscent of someone being sent to the gallows, she made her way to the imposing glass doors of the entrance.

A quick flick of her wrist sent her ID card swooping over the scanner, opening the doors to let her in. She took a deep breath and entered the foyer, her heart hammering fiercely against her chest. The reception seemed to be unmanned, she must have managed to arrive before the receptionist. Thanking her lucky stars, she completed the compulsory sign in sheet, scribbled her name with a flourish and was just about to turn to go upstairs when a head popped up from behind the desk startling her.

"Oh, good morning, Claire!" the receptionist said cheerily.

"Um, morning," she replied, speaking rather more quickly than normal.

The receptionist didn't notice anything amiss and flashed her a bright smile which Claire returned albeit with a much smaller and less intense version before turning and rushing her way up the stairs to the relative safety of the office. Although it was an extensive first floor room, the department she was part of had only been supplied with a little corner of it; the rest was taken up with an overflow from Finance. She knew that she would be the first person in, her boss was never seen before 10 unless there was a special reason such as a meeting and the only other person in the department usually left it as close to 10 as possible before making an appearance.

Claire hung up her jacket, dumped her backpack in the bottom drawer of her desk and booted up her pc before sinking down into her chair. While she watched the computer going through its start up procedure, she reached up to her ear with one hand to twiddle with a piece of hair there as was her usual practise, only to realise that the strand of hair was a good deal shorter than it used to be and therefore rather un-twiddle-able. With an annoyed sigh, she leaned back in her chair, kicking out her legs under the desk which resulted in her knocking over the bin that the cleaners had very kindly placed there. Scooting her chair back, she was busily engrossed in leaning under the desk and attempting to retrieve the waste receptacle when she heard her name being called. She shot up rather quickly, banging the back of her head on the edge of the desk as she did so and so it was a rather annoyed Claire that greeted her work colleague.

"Ouch! Are you okay?"

"Hi Rhea," Claire replied, rubbing softly at the sore patch on her head. "I'm fine, just moving the bin as usual." She gave a weak grin to her friend before turning her attention to her computer.

"And did the shock make all your hair fall out?"

"What? Oh." Claire self-consciously patted at her hair. "I had it cut."

"I can see that," Rhea responded, swinging herself into her chair and tapping rapidly on her own keyboard. "It looks really nice though. Do you like it?"

Claire considered the question. "I think so. I mean, it's what I wanted. It's just - "

" - very different."

"Yeah."

Rhea nodded. "It's bound to take some getting used to. I mean, your hair was halfway down your back and look it at now! It must be all of an inch long."

Claire flushed a little uncomfortably. "It's longer than that, Rhea. I know it's short and I know it's a lot different to how it was, but I've wanted my hair like this for ages. You know the only reason I ever grew my hair long was for Simon, he asked me to and I thought it would please him. Now I'm not with him any more, there was really no need to keep my hair long so I decided to get it all cut off and do what I wanted for once."

Rhea grinned. "I'm glad to hear you say that, I really am. It's been nearly a year since you and Simon split up, I'm surprised your hair lasted this long."

"Well, I didn't mind it so much after a while," Claire admitted. Neither girl said anything more, but they both knew that part of the reason was that Claire had harboured a little hope that she and Simon would get back together. Now that he'd gone back with the girl he was dating before her, there seemed to be little chance of that happening.

"So. Coffee?"

"Please." Claire passed over her coffee mug and Rhea walked round the office to where the little kitchen area was. Claire watched her go and then breathed a long sigh of relief as soon as she was out of sight.

They'd been working together for quite some time and had hit it off from the word go. Claire was naturally open and friendly with a tendency towards shyness if she was feeling uncomfortable or out of her depth. Rhea didn't know the meaning of the word and slowly but surely had given Claire a little of the confidence she desperately needed. They were just as happy chatting about everything and nothing as they were working in a companionable silence.

Claire was busy checking her e-mails and wondering what the day would have in store for her when a shadow fell over her computer monitor. She swivelled round, expecting to see Rhea standing there with a mug of coffee but to her surprise it was Julia. She dumped a pile of notebooks next to Claire's keyboard without really looking at her.

"Morning, Claire. There's some notes in here from the meetings I went to last week. I'm not exactly sure where they are but I'm sure you can find them, you're quite adept at that. If you can type them up and e-mail them to me as usual. There's also two letters in this top notepad, if you can type it out and e-mail me a copy to check over before you send it out. It needs to go to David, Mike and Liz, Paula in HR and a copy to file."

Claire quickly grabbed her to do list and jotted down the names. "Okay. Anything else?"

Within seconds of entering the office, Julia was immediately her brusque business-like self. Claire and Rhea found it hard to imagine her any other way and had once spent the good part of a quiet afternoon trying to picture their strict boss on holiday. Considering that Julia never wore anything apart from navy blue skirt suits on her generous frame, it was rather like trying to imagine a prison warden in a bathing suit. Rhea had insisted that Julia was some kind of managerial robot controlled by a team of scientists in Milton Keynes but Claire felt sure that there had to be a side of Julia that was nice and not quite so blunt.

Julia finally looked down at her. "No, I think that's it." She did a double take. "My goodness, what happened to your hair?"

Claire put her hand up to the short blonde spikes that now covered her head, feeling self-conscious once again. "Oh, I got it cut on Saturday," she replied quietly.

"It's very short," her boss informed her in her typical no-nonsense manner.

Claire swallowed hard. "I like it," she said with a little bit of defiance. "I've wanted it like this for ages, I just never got round to doing it."

Julia studied her thoughtfully. "Well, I have to say I much preferred it the way it was. It's rather severe and a little too masculine for my liking." Claire blinked in amazement before glancing up at the tightly controlled French twist that Julia always wore her dark brown hair in and was at a loss for a response. "Anyway, I will be out of the office all day today, if you need me, I'm on my mobile. If anyone calls, take a message. I'll try and phone about lunchtime for them."

"Yes, Julia."

"See you tomorrow."

"Bye," Claire mumbled, still a little shocked from Julia's response.

No sooner had the door closed behind the boss's ample frame than Rhea arrived with coffee.

"Oh, was that Julia? Did I miss her? What a shame."

Claire took the proffered coffee. "You avoided her on purpose, didn't you? I bet you've spent the past ten minutes skulking round the corner waiting till she'd gone."

"Claire, I do not skulk," Rhea corrected her with a prim air. "And if you must know, I got side-tracked in the kitchen."

Claire looked at her friend and rolled her eyes in mock despair. "Who was it this time?"

Rhea sipped at her coffee, her dark eyes smiling over the brim of her mug at the girl sitting opposite her. She said nothing. Claire turned back to her computer.

"Oh well, if you don't want to tell me, that's okay." She studied her screen briefly before starting to type the reply to an e-mail. She knew Rhea all too well and that before long she'd be bursting to tell Claire all about her latest male conquest. That was Rhea all over.

Claire didn't mind listening to Rhea's recounting of her many male admirers and the things she got up to, but sometimes it gave her a slight pang in her chest when she compared it to her own conquest-free life. Living vicariously through her friend was all well and good but once or twice she wished whole-heartedly that the tables were turned and she was the one spinning the tale while Rhea listened eagerly to what she had to divulge. It wasn't going to happen. Claire hadn't been out with anyone since Simon and he'd been the first serious boyfriend she'd ever had. Actually, he'd be the only boyfriend she'd ever had. Claire pushed such thoughts to the back of her mind and inadvertently hammered the keys a tiny bit harder than was strictly necessary.

"Claire?"

"Mm?"

"Has that keyboard done something to you?"

She looked down at it in surprise. "No, why?"

"You seemed to be trying to thump it into submission."

"Oh, I was writing an e-mail to HR," she explained rapidly, a reasoning Rhea understood all too clearly.

"So, my conquest in the kitchen?" she said casually, fooling neither of them.

"Oh yes," Claire said, turning away from the computer to face Rhea's desk which was directly in front of her own.

Rhea put down her coffee mug and leaned forward conspiratorially.

She told Claire that she had been leaning against the worktop, minding her own business and waiting for the kettle to boil when someone walked in. She made it sound very casual and not at all planned, but the mental picture in Claire's head was of Rhea standing in such a way as to attract any male who walked in. That was Rhea, she liked the attention she got from men and with her curvy figure, shiny black curls and dark eyes, she got plenty of it. She didn't need to go out of her way to seek it either, they seemed to hone in on her like wasps to jam. The object of her attraction today was none other than Blake.

Every office or workplace tends to have a Blake. The man that all women want and that all men want to be like. With down-to-earth good looks, naturally self-confident and able to put anyone at ease, he is also impossible to hate, no matter how jealous he might make you. It was only a matter of time before he met Rhea and Claire was surprised he hadn't come across her already.

"And, what happened?"

Rhea smiled with mock coyness. "We just talked. I asked him how his day was going, he asked me how I liked my coffee, you know."

"So you flirted. When are you going out with him?"

She frowned slightly. "We're not. He just made his coffee and then - left." She looked at Claire in surprise. Could it be that she was losing her touch? Claire thought personally that it was more likely that Blake had already heard all about her and didn't want to be another notch on her bedpost but she assured Rhea that maybe it was as simple as her not being his type. The concept of her not being any man's type was a foreign one, but it mollified her for the time being.

Claire turned her attention to the pile of notebooks that Julia had left with a slight sigh. Thankfully she had a system in place so that she knew at a glance which minutes she had already typed up so she was able to quickly find the outstanding ones. She wriggled in her chair to get comfortable, opened up her usual template in Word and began to type.

It was an hour or two later when she realised she was thirsty and automatically reached out to her coffee mug only to find that it had been drained some time ago.

"Yes, please," Rhea said, not taking her eyes away from her monitor where she was engrossed in moving figures from one column of a spreadsheet to another. Claire chuckled, picked up her mug and Rhea's and made her way to the kitchen.

She was waiting leaning against the worktop waiting for the kettle to boil and rubbing at a hangnail when she heard someone else enter the kitchen. Glancing over, she found herself standing only a few feet away from Blake himself. Studying him from under her eyelashes as he got ready to brew up, she found her eyes lingering longer than was strictly necessary on his backside, especially when he bent down to get the milk out of the fridge. She quickly tore her eyes away when he stood up again, hoping that he hadn't noticed her staring.

"Are you new here?"

She looked up, momentarily startled that someone - that he - was talking to her. "Excuse me?"

"I asked if you were new here. I don't remember seeing you before."

"Oh, no, I'm not new. I'm Claire, Julia's PA."

He bent down a little to look at her more closely, making her giggle nervously. "Claire? Are you sure? You don't look like Claire."

"No, I'm sure, it's really me."

"You look different. I was sure it was a new member of staff." She was surprised that he even knew who she was. He was Blake for goodness sake, yet here he was talking to her as if they were old friends. It made her feel warm inside.

Blushing slightly, she put her hand up to her hair. "Oh, I got a haircut," she admitted.

He pretended to peruse her thoughtfully. "Is that what it is? Well, if you're sure, then I suppose you must be Claire."

The kettle boiled at that moment and he politely let her use it first. She quickly poured the water into the two mugs and stirred them, wondering what to say next. What did you say to someone that you hardly knew and happened to meet by chance in the office kitchen? See you later was hardly appropriate, she'd barely seen him before.

She picked up the mugs and Blake stepped over to open the door for her.

"Enjoy your coffee."

"Thanks, you too," she smiled and walked back to her desk, scarcely able to believe what had just happened. Wait till she told Rhea! She stepped round the corner only to be confronted by two empty desks. Her face fell slightly as she put Rhea's coffee on her desk, wondering where she'd gone to. She couldn't be far away, she'd probably just gone to the ladies, in which case she wouldn't be long and Claire would be able to tell her her news when she got back. She revelled in the thought that she had something to tell but was rudely woken out of her reverie by the phone ringing. She was completely engrossed in trying to organise a meeting time between the caller and Julia when Rhea returned, by which time any thought of the incident in the kitchen had gone clear out of her mind.

"What on earth is that?" a loud male voice queried as Claire was stirring boiling water into the packet of noodle soup she'd brought for her dinner.

"It's soup," she replied, looking over her shoulder to see Blake standing there.

He pulled a face. "I hope it tastes better than it looks." He picked up the packet and read it. "Only 137 calories? Don't tell me you're on a diet or watching what you eat. Why do women insist on doing that even when there is absolutely nothing wrong with them?"

"Oh no, I just eat them because they're quick and tasty, and because I can eat them at my desk while I work," she explained.

He nodded in approval. "You sound like me, I hardly ever leave my desk all day, eat my lunch there and everything."

Claire put her rubbish in the bin while Blake filled up the kettle and set it boiling again. As she did so, she wondered if the comment about women being on diets when they had no need to be was aimed at her at all. Did he actually think that she was fine as she was? Part of her really hoped that he did.

"I used to go for a walk round town just to get out of the office," she told him, "but I found that resulted in spending money so it's much cheaper to stay chained to my desk. Not as healthy for me as such, but certainly helps my bank balance stay in shape!" He laughed and she grinned at him, enjoying the thought that she'd had that effect on him. "Well, best go enjoy this while it's hot," she said, picking up her mug of soup and bidding him a cheery farewell as she left the kitchen. Once outside however, she blinked in amazement at the person she'd momentarily become and hurried back to her desk. For the second time that day, Rhea was not there. Her coat wasn't hanging from its usual hook, so it seemed that she'd gone out for dinner while Claire was busy chatting with Blake in the kitchen.

"Typical," Claire muttered under her breath. "The one time I really have something good to tell Rhea and she's gone!"

"Hi Claire, how's it going?" A short stocky figure perched on the edge of her desk in the exact manner he usually did and which always annoyed her.

"Hi Sam. I'm up to my eyeballs as usual," she replied, indicating the pile of notebooks in front of her.

"Julia is such a slave driver," he stated, pushing his glasses back up on his nose, even though they slide down again a few seconds later.

"Yeah," she agreed. It was always the same. Every day at 1.00pm, Sam would appear by her side and talk to her about nothing of great importance. It didn't matter what she did, whether she really was up to her eyes in work or not, he would never take a hint and leave. He was rather a dull person, he never had anything interesting to say, or at least what he considered interesting was not the sort of thing that anyone else did. Day in and day out, he wore the same white shirt and the same tie in a truly vile shade of green. He would constantly adjust his glasses while speaking in a low monotone that made it difficult to hear. Claire got the feeling that most of the people in the office considered him an annoyance but he couldn't see it.

Sometimes she felt slightly sorry for him, thinking how horrible it must be to be so universally disliked but she wasn't overly sure he realised what people thought of him. On such occasions, she would spend a couple of minutes talking to him, until she could stand it no longer and she would make some excuse - usually that she was in desperate need of the toilet - and would make her escape. At first she'd worried that he might think she had some latent bladder problem that only manifested itself when he was around, but before long, she didn't care about anything but getting away. This afternoon, she was rescued by the insistent ringing of the phone and Sam finally left her alone. As it turned out, it was only Rhea wondering if she'd left her mobile on her desk - she had - but Claire was glad all the same.

By three o'clock, Claire's head was aching from trying to read Julia's impossibly small and totally illegible handwriting.

"Oh, I need a break," she announced, pushing her chair back from her desk in a very determined manner.

Rhea glanced over and smiled sweetly at her. "Brilliant timing," she said, "I'll have a cup of tea."

Claire groaned at her friend's cheek but took the proffered cup anyway. She picked up her own mug and pulled a face upon seeing the remains of her noodle soup congealed in the bottom.

"Yes ma'am, one cup of tea straight away ma'am," she bobbed her head in a very poor imitation of a maid and Rhea stuck her tongue out in response. "Ooh, the cheek I 'ave to put up with, you've never seen the like," Claire's mock accent wavered somewhere between Cockney and Scouse, making Rhea raise an eyebrow in amusement and sending Claire off to the kitchen before she could comment.

"Well! Fancy seeing you here!" A familiar voice rang out and Claire smiled to herself. "We really should stop meeting like this."

"People will start to talk," she responded.

"Indeed they will, the good-for-nothing gossips that they are." He declined to mention that as soon as he saw her entering the kitchen, he had snatched up his mug and gone to make a brew with the sole purpose of talking to her.

Claire smiled up at him shyly. Even though she had spoken to him on and off throughout the day, she still couldn't believe that he was here talking to her now and, by the looks of it, enjoying doing so.

"Have you had a good day?" she asked, wanting to talk to him but at a loss for anything better to say.

"Same as usual really," he replied, running a hand through his hair, "Busy waiting for other people to get back to me before I can do what I need to."

She nodded. "I know that feeling. It's worse when you can't get in touch with the people you're waiting for as well, you start to feel like they're avoiding you on purpose! Though that could just be me."

He grinned. "I doubt very much that it's just you." She flushed a little and ducked her head, being momentarily unable to meet his eyes. "So how has your day been?"

"Busy. Lots of typing, lots of trying to make out indecipherable notes, pretty much the same as usual."

"Roll on 5 o'clock, eh?"

"Definitely!" she agreed vehemently. He nodded and then there was silence. There was really no need for either of them to stay in the kitchen any longer but neither of them wanted to leave. "I'd best take Rhea her tea, she'll be dying of thirst if I keep her waiting much longer."

"Rhea, the girl with the dark curly hair and the cleavage?"

Claire giggled, that was certainly the best description she'd heard of her friend. "That's the one."

"Right. Yes. I've heard of her."

She raised an eyebrow in amusement feeling sure she knew exactly what he had heard but declining to comment further. "Hope the last couple of hours isn't too stressful for you," she said, picking up the two mugs and giving a cheery goodbye. Back at their little corner of the office, Rhea was on the phone, to Julia by the sounds of it. Claire put Rhea's tea down on the coaster and returned to her own desk. She wasn't too bothered that she didn't have chance to tell Rhea of the goings on in the kitchen this time, she was content to savour it on her own for a little while, like something precious that could possibly be tarnished when viewed by others. She didn't think that Blake was being anything other than his usual charming self when encountering her in the kitchen, despite what she really wanted to believe. She was sure that any intention she might read into his actions where purely wishful thinking but she wanted to enjoy them before letting Rhea burst her bubble.

The sound of movement gradually broke into Claire's consciousness and she noticed that people in the top half of the office were starting to pack away for the day. She glanced at the clock on her computer and realised that it was five to five.

"Wow, it's practically home time already," she said in surprise. The last two hours had flown by, she had been working so hard. Rhea checked her watch and agreed that she hadn't expected it to be that time either. Claire rapidly typed the last few sentences of the e-mail she was working on, attached the relevant document and after a quick once-over to ensure it was all correct, hit the send button and leant back with a sigh of relief. She pulled over her to do list and checked it off. She'd actually managed to clear the tasks that Julia had set her that morning and so was feeling rather pleased that she had accomplished so much, despite feeling so totally overwhelmed at first.

Rhea echoed Claire's sigh of satisfaction and began to close down her computer. Claire did her usual brisk last minute tidy of her desk while her own pc was going though its shut down procedure. She liked to be greeted with a tidy desk when she came in in the morning, it made her feel less harassed first thing. Rhea didn't tend to bother and always found it amusing watching Claire go through her end of day routine.

"All shipshape and Bristol fashion?" she queried with a grin, taking Claire's duffle coat from off the peg and handing it over.

"You may laugh," Claire retorted, "but who do you come to in the morning when you can't find a pen and you need one desperately?

"I swear the cleaners steal my pens, it's the only explanation."

"Of course, Rhea. They do it just to spite you." Claire swung her bag onto her back and lead the way out of the office.

"They do! Just like they keep putting your rubbish bin under your desk for you to whack your knee on every morning," Rhea insisted as she followed her.

"It's an interesting theory," Claire began to say before she was cut off.

"Night, Claire."

"Oh, night, Blake."

"Rhea." He nodded his head in her direction before hurrying off along the corridor and down the stairs to catch his bus.

Rhea stopped dead in the middle of the corridor causing one of the men from Finance to nearly collide with her. He stormed off giving her filthy looks and muttering about the youth of today having no manners but she paid him no attention. Claire had gone on a couple of steps before realising she was walking on her own and turned back to see her friend standing there looking completely gobsmacked.

"Night, Claire?" she asked.

"Erm, yeah."

"Blake O'Connell said goodnight to you?"

Claire nodded. "Apparently so."

"All I got was a brusque 'Rhea' but you get a nice friendly 'Night, Claire'. I didn't even realise he knew your name." She looked quite disgruntled and Claire tried to soothe her.

"Neither did I to be honest, I was most surprised this morning when I found out that he knew who I was."

"This morning?"

"Yes, when I was talking to him in ... the... kitchen. Um. Yeah." She looked away momentarily, then turned back to her friend, chewing her lip anxiously.

"You were talking to Blake in the kitchen this morning?" Rhea asked quietly, walking slowly up to Claire.

"Yes. And at dinner time. And later on at three o'clock."

"Why didn't you tell me?!" she squealed, thumping her friend playfully on the arm.

"I tried! I never got a chance! Every time I got back you either weren't there or you were on the phone or something! Then when you returned I was busy and so I forgot."

Rhea decided to overlook the heinous crime of actually managing to forget to tell of the several conversations she'd had with Blake O'Connell, slipped her arm through Claire's and pulled her along the corridor to the stairs. "Tell me everything! Every word he said, every word you said, every nuance, the lot!"

"Nuance?"

"Nuance. Subtleties of speech, body language or facial expressions can reveal a lot."

"I guess you'd know," Claire shrugged.

"Yes, I do. So tell me!"

"There's really not that much to tell." She frowned, trying to recall what had been said. "We just talked, you know, about general stuff. Work, and people, and - soup." She caught the baffled look and explained briefly. "He came in while I was making my dinner and asked what I was having, that was all."

They joined the queue of people at reception waiting to sign out. "You know, this is promising."

"How so?"

"He obviously likes you!" Rhea was practically bouncing with excitement. Claire blushed in embarrassment and hissed at her friend to keep her voice down, glancing behind them at an older lady who was far too busy rummaging in her bag for her car keys than listening to what the two young women had to say.

Rhea rolled her eyes. Claire got to the front of the queue, scribbled her name with a flourish and stepped back to allow Rhea to do the same. They pushed the door open and stepped out into the car park, now lit by several flood lamps dotted around.

"Where are you parked?"

"Over there." Claire pointed out her little silver car.

"I'm way over there," Rhea waved her hand in the opposite direction, indicating a vast area that stretched from five to fifty feet away.

"Serves you right for strolling in at the last minute."

"Well, anyway, Claire. It's your new haircut has made all the difference, it's obvious that it was what was needed to attract the attention of someone like Blake. He wants someone young and fashionable and daring, you know. That haircut is a start. Next we'll need to get you into some better clothes, show a bit of leg or chest and you'll have him eating out of the palm of your hand."

Claire looked down at her sensible black shoes and the lower half of her grey trousers that were visible under her knee-length navy blue duffle coat. "What's wrong with my clothes?"

"Nothing, but now you've got Blake interested, you want to hook him and reel him in." Claire wasn't so sure she wanted to do either. "Look, trust me, okay?" Rhea's mobile phone beeped and she swore at it. "Damn, I have to dash. Just remember what I said, and I can help you in the morning if you need it. See you tomorrow!" She clamped the phone to her ear and hurried off in the direction of her car. Claire watched her go before making her own way to her vehicle.

She climbed into the driver's seat and sat there, trying to digest what had just happened. Rhea thought that Blake was interested in her. It was what Claire had been hoping for but didn't want to think too much about because she felt sure she was putting two and two together and coming up with about a million and three. Now it seemed that Rhea thought the same way. Claire smiled to herself. It was a nice feeling, thinking that someone was attracted to you and not one that Claire felt that often. She didn't allow herself to in case she ended up being disappointed as had happened so many times in the past. Pulling on her seat belt and fastening it into place, she couldn't help hoping that this time it would be different.

Chapter Two.

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