By KE Murphy

Copyright © 2007 Kathleen E. Murphy


As the elevator doors closed, his body came closer to her, backing her into the control panel and blocking out the view of everyone – everything – else. Those blue eyes were so intense, you couldn't escape them, even if you wanted to. And she didn't.

His hands cupped her face and his fingers wound in the hair at her nape, giving him control of her. His head leaned down, getting closer…

His kisses were like opium; making you oblivious to all but what you felt in its power. And wow- she felt. She felt a lot.

Vaguely she thought she heard a bell, or a buzzer, or some very large mosquito terrorizing the hotel. But it didn't matter. Even the faint laughter didn't matter. Because he was kissing her – still, and his arms were tight around her and nothing on earth could have made her pull away.

Except the six armed guards standing there, guns pointed straight at them, as the elevator doors opened.

She was a nice, suburban married woman with three children and three dogs and didn't have so much as a parking ticket. And this man – she looked up into laughing blue eyes, so glad he thinks this is funny - this man is not her husband. What had made her think this was such a good idea…

Chapter One

"Mom, I think you should take this."

Josey looked up as Kaitlyn walked out of the closet. Her teenaged daughter was carrying a black leather bustier that Kaitlyn wasn't even supposed to know her mother owned – let alone wore.

"That's um, that's – I'm not going to need a … one of those, at a comic book convention."

"Sure you are," Ryan added, as the nosey twelve year old walked in the door to her bedroom. "There's gonna be parties and stuff at night, right? It said so on the website."

Josey rolled her eyes. That was it, no more children on the internet until they were old enough not to butt into their mother's business.

"That's for the people attending the convention, I'm there to work, remember?"

"Mr. Connolly won't care if you party after hours," Kaitlyn reasoned. "You sit, you do your spiel to the peons, you sell lots of D&D manuals and dice and those pad thingies and then –" she gave a flourish with her hand and produced the black leather bustier, "at night you party! And hey –isn't that studly guy you drool over that plays Captain Tornado or whatever gonna be there?" She smiled broadly, waved the bustier around and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Josey had the grace to blush. There was no way that was ever going to happen. She was too old, for one thing. Well, okay, he was two years older than her but he didn't look his age. And okay, most people thought she was about ten years younger that she actually was but that was partly because…

"I'm too fat!" she said out loud, justifying her future inaction.

Kaitlyn looked her up and down. "Mom, you have one of these and it fits you. You can't be that fat. Besides, when you wear this, the only thing that Steven guy's going to be looking at is your… well…" and she looked pointedly at Josey's abundant bosom.

Josey wrapped her arms around herself and wished she had had the foresight to wear a looser t-shirt today.

Taking control of the situation, she stood, took the hanger from her daughter and put the bustier back in the closet.

"Now out, both of you," she said, glaring at her children, "I have to finish packing and I have to be at the airport in two hours."

Calmly and methodically, without the help of her children, Josey packed all of the things she might possibly need for this convention. After all, she'd done about eight of these in the two years she'd worked for Connelly. She knew exactly what she needed. As always, the suitcase was just a little too small so she called Cal, her husband, to come zip it shut while she sat on it.

She sat, he zipped, she looked confused. "What's wrong, babe?"

"No… no," she said distractedly. "It's just… remember that thing you said, if I ever got the opportunity, that it would be okay, just this once…"

He knew exactly what she was talking about. She said she'd never do it and he really didn't think she had the courage – or the confidence. Maybe if she did it, she'd get some of the confidence she lacked.

He unzipped the suitcase and slid her off, patting her fanny as he headed her toward the closet. "Get what you need."

She looked terribly frightened and unsure. "It's not like I'm really even going to meet-"

He interrupted her. "Get what you need. You never know, right?"

She looked uncertain but disappeared into the closet. He knew she loved him and only him. She knew he loved only her. They'd lived for each other since they were teenagers and now they had just hit forty and she was still the insecure girl she'd been back then. She had confidence around him, she had confidence in the situations she faced everyday. Hell, she was practically the Dragon Lady of the PTA.

But she didn't see her own worth, still, after all this time, didn't see her beauty. And she got more beautiful every year. She'd filled out since their teenaged days, they both had. But she'd gotten the curves every woman wished they had while he'd just gotten… slightly lumpy. But she didn't see it. She still thought he was a fine figure of a man; she even thought other woman were after him – if that wasn't a joke. And she saw her own curves as fat and when men stared, she said it was because she was fat and ugly.

Maybe, just maybe, if she could get, in her words "the most beautiful man ever" to even look her way, give her a smile, it might help. If he did anything else… and he just might, you never know with those showbiz people, if he did anything more, he wouldn't hold it against her. He'd cheer. Maybe then she'd see; maybe then she'd get it. Maybe.

She came back out with a pair of black jeans, the tight ones with the pink butterfly on the butt, he noticed. And that black leather bustier he'd dragged her into the leather store at the mall to buy, her insisting the whole time that they'd never have one that would fit her. But they did, and he'd bought it. Perfect choice for this mission.

He took them from her and asked, "Hair stuff? Makeup?"

"Already got it," she said, shaking her head as he placed the garments inside.

She sat once again, he zipped once again. He helped her slide off the suitcase once more and took the suitcase in one hand and her hand in his other and led the way down the stairs and out the door to the minivan, calling goodbye to the kids as they went.

He put the suitcase in the back and opened the door for her, but before he let her get in, he turned her toward him and kissed her. "I love you, babe. No matter what you do, I will always love you. I think, this weekend, you should let whatever happens, happen. If it does, if it doesn't, you'll still be wonderful and I'll still love you. But," and here he winked, "It always helps to get friendly with security. Even better, the head of security. Will get you into some places you wouldn't normally and get you out of sticky spots. Just a word of advice."

"And how do you know this?" she asked, trying not to laugh.

He zipped his fingers across his lips and helped her into the car while she laughed.

Chapter Two

The convention was loud and bright – and BIG. She'd never been to a comic convention this big before. There weren't just comic artists and publishers, but anything even vaguely related to the medium was represented. So not just stars of shows like Steven Foster's comic turned television series – The Tempest – were here, but actors from the original Star Journeys television show, and most of the spin-offs, plus some other comic, sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies.

There were people selling not only comics and other fantasy and role-playing books, like herself, but there was a couple at the end of her aisle selling whips and bondage equipment! There were a few authors of sci-fi books here signing autographs, including a new author she had begun reading who was writing a series of books about a five-hundred year old ghost who solves crimes. She had to find a chance to get over to his aisle and get his autograph while she was here.

She and Jim had set up the booth and the newbies, Jane and David, were stocking it. They had all night, there was no hurry. The con didn't officially start until tomorrow at one. She had a few minutes so she wandered into the lobby of the hotel to see if anyone had decided to opt for the early-registration.

She couldn't believe how packed this place was! It seemed as if everyone, all of the estimated 35,000 people, had decided to get the jump on registration. If these were just some of the early registrants, and there would be at least this many more one or two day attendees…

She pulled out her phone and called Connelly, explaining the situation and telling him to ship her some more stock – overnight - before he caught his plane tomorrow.

One more crisis averted.

With everyone piling in the front door, she decided to head for the other door, hoping to get some fresh air and a little quiet to call Cal and the kids.

Cars, some of them limousines, were pulling up out here too and she hoped this area wouldn't get swamped as well. She dialed the number, it rang… and Steven Foster stepped out of the back door of a navy-blue minivan.

"Hello?" she heard her youngest son say. "Hello?"

She just stared. She did manage to keep her jaw from hanging open. He stepped up to the door, looked her way and gave her a wink, saying, "Evenin', darlin'."

"Dad," came a loud voice over the telephone's receiver, "it's Mom's number but there's no one there."

Steven smiled and gave a little laugh. "I think your son wants ta talk to ya." And then he stepped through the door and was gone.

It was only then she remembered the cell phone in her hand and she hastily raised it to her ear.

"Here – I'm here. I'm…" she watched Steven Foster's back disappear into an elevator. "… so very here."

Cal chuckled. "So, my guess is that Hunk-o-rama has arrived."


He laughed again. "Unless it was someone else calling you 'darlin'." He kept laughing.

Wretched man.

"I – I – I, uh… hmm, well…"

"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Cal said, still chuckling. "Are you having a good time so far? The newbie twins giving you any problems?"

"They aren't twins," she said automatically, very happy to find that her brain did indeed still work. "They just look kind of similar – except for the one being a boy and one being a girl thing."

"So everything's going well?"

In an instant, she forgot all about Steven Foster. This man she'd married, even just his voice could soothe her. In the craziness of this place, Cal's concern and his voice kept her grounded. Made her feel, even with so few words, so very loved. She'd remember to say her prayers tonight and thank God for sending him to her.

"Yes, it's going fine. I miss you, I miss you so much."

She didn't normally miss him, she didn't normally have time. Wham, bam, thank you, Griselda and it was over and she was heading home. But home seemed so far away right now for some reason.

"I love you too, babe. More than you know. But I want you to have some fun this weekend, okay? Just, let your hair down. Go with the flow. Loosen up for once and stop being afraid of all the strange people and just let it happen, all right? And don't forget about security."

The conversation went on for a few more minutes, Cal having to go and make the boys take their showers.

She hung up smiling. Looking around, there was a man smoking across the drive from her, wearing a dark uniform with the word 'Sheriff' on a patch above his name tag.

She hadn't smoked in years, but – what the hell, it couldn't hurt. And if one of the newbies got in trouble, it would be handy to know the sheriff, right?

Taking a few steps forward, she asked, "Can I bum a cigarette? I promise I'll get you another pack in exchange."

He smiled. He knew how it felt when you got the craving, so he pulled out his pack and said, "No need, Sugar. I can spare a few."

She took one and he struck his Zippo, holding the flame for her until she got hers lit. She decided it was in her best interest not to get indignant over the 'Sugar'.

"Thanks, haven't had one of these in years. But this place is just crazy."

He smiled. "Don't I know it. I'm head of security for this mess."

"Really?" she said, as if that surprised her. "It seems a big, important man such as yourself would have more important things to do than watch a bunch of teenagers run around for four days."

'And how lame was that?' she thought to herself.

But he didn't seem to notice. "This is a pretty big deal. All those celebrities out in the open. Can't let anything happen to their well-paid behinds, can we?"

Josey looked in the direction of the elevator where she'd last seen Steven Foster.

The sheriff smiled. "Yeah, like that pretty boy Foster who took a liking to you. Gotta make sure some teeny-bopper doesn't get her claws in him." He stopped and thought for a moment. "Do they still call them teeny-boppers?" He shook his head. "I'm too old for this shit."

He looked about fifty-five, only fourteen years older than herself. "Don't worry, sheriff, I'm old enough to know what you mean."

"Oh," he said, as if suddenly realising something, and holding out his hand, "Name's Tom Jascowski. Nice ta meet ya."

Shaking his hand, she returned the courtesy. "Josey – well, Josephine – LeCompte." It was pronounced LeCount.

"You sure don't look like a Frenchie."

True. The modern impression of a French woman was a petite, dark haired waif with big, sad eyes. Josey was none of those things. Except for the big eyes. Whenever she wore eye makeup, thereby drawing attention to them, Cal would joke that they looked like 'anime' eyes.

"That's because I'm not," she told Tom, "My hub is. I'm German-English-Irish."

Taking in her tall stature and filled in frame, not to mention that auburn hair, he could see it. Shame she was married. Not that he wasn't, but his wife wasn't here, so…

"Say, you want to get a drink later? After you're settled into your room?"

"Oh, I'm settled. I'm a vendor, with Flights of Fantasy. But I have to go back and check on the newbies, make sure they're setting everything up right."

She saw the disappointed look in his eyes. Cal's words echoed in her mind.

'It always helps to get friendly with security. Even better, the head of security. Will get you into some places you wouldn't normally and get you out of sticky spots.'

"How about after?" she found herself saying, while inwardly groaning at her own stupidity. If she had a drink with this guy, he was going to think she was slutty.

He pulled out a card and then turned it over and wrote two numbers on the back. 'The top one's my cell," he said, handing it to her. "The other one's my home number," at her wide eyes he smiled and said, "I'm married too, don't worry. Just wanted you to have it in case anything… unpleasant… comes up this weekend. Never know when it might help to have the longest arm of the law on your side. You or yours have any problems, just show them that card. And use your one phone call to call me."

She smiled and waved goodbye, promising to call as soon as she was free.

'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,' she thought to herself as she made her way back to the vendors room. 'What the heck have I just done?'

Chapter Three

Jane and David were doing all right, but they'd stacked the blue manuals next the red manuals and doing that was like starting gang warfare. People who followed the newer guidelines in the blue manuals did not get on well with the folks who liked the more traditional red manuals and never the twain shall meet. Not if they wanted to keep the booth in one piece.

She grabbed a rag and actually wiped down the spines where they'd touched the other coloured book and the newbies looked at her like she'd lost it. Grabbing two more rags and handing one to each of them, she ordered them to wipe down the others as well. 'They'll know," she assured them. "Don't ask me *how** they'll know, but they'll know. Wipe."

It only took about an hour, making it now ten-thirty. Still early enough to call the sheriff – Tom – for that drink. Darn it.

She pulled out her cell but before she could dial, he was there.

"Just keepin' an eye on your young'ens. They look pretty raw. They ever done this before?"

She shook her head. "No, but they learn fast. And they're not that young, they just seem like babies because I'm so old."

"Oh, Sugar," Tom said cordially – or maybe flirtaciously – "You can't be more than five or six years older than they are."

She grinned, this guy was bad at lying. "You're very kind, but I have a daughter almost their age. I'm forty-one."

He did his impersonation of a person suitably shocked and she smiled at the effort. "Come on," she said, taking his arm, "Where can a girl get a stiff drink around here?"

He led her to the Ginger Bar, and she offered to pay for the first round of drinks. She really wanted to pay for the first round of drinks, needed to. She didn't want this to seem like a date.

He assured her it was no problem and asked her what she wanted. She said she'd have a kamikaze, straight up, twist of lemon.

He went to the bar and the busy bartender moved right to him. He gave her the order and she fixed them in a flash and handed them to him. She didn't charge him and he didn't ask what the total was.

"Are we running a tab?" Josey asked and he laughed. "Sugar, you've never spent much time in the company of law enforcement, I see. At least, not down here in the southland. We don't pay. It's the folks way of thanking us for the job we do for them."

*'Or the cops' way of extorting from the people they're supposed to protect equally'** she thought but knew better than to say.

"This your first time at Comic Universe Convention?" by asked, by way of breaking the ice.

She took a sip of her drink and nodded.

"Yeah. Done eight others but none of them were like this. This is a zoo. And it hasn't even started yet." She laughed. "Just make sure your guys are around to keep the more violent idiots at bay and we'll be fine. In addition to Jane and David, I have Jim here with me, vice president of production, and tomorrow John Connelly is flying in, he owns the company."

"Sent you in early to do the dirty work and he steps in after the horse has been scrubbed down, is that right?"

She shrugged. "That's my job; its what he pays me for."

Tom winked. "Well, don't you worry, Sugar, I've already told my boys keep an eye out on your booth. Told them there were raw hands still green behind the ears and they should make sure no one took advantage of them. Don't you worry."

She took another sip of her drink and smiled to herself; Cal was right, sometimes its who ya know.

Tom started to ask something but a hand landed on his shoulder and he quickly, with his honed reflexes she supposed, turned his head before breaking into a broad grin.

"Harry!" he exclaimed and motioned for the man to take the empty seat.

"How ya doin', ya old coot!" Harry said with a grin and that's when Josey finally really looked at him. Sitting at the table was Harold Karslow, first something or other from Star Journeys. Not that she'd ever been a big fan but her father had watched it religiously back in the late sixties and early seventies when it had been on.

"Harry," Tom said, turning to Josey, "I'm very pleased to introduce you to Mrs. Josephine LeCompte, and yes I said Mrs, so keep your willy in yer pants. She's here with her company selling D&D books and equipment.

"Josey, this is Mr. Harry Karslow, known reprobate and frequent guest at CUC, mostly because he lives here in Montgomery. He gets all those others from his loser of a show to show up every year," Tom teased.

"Well I could get more to show up if the security wasn't so shitty," Harry teased back.

These two seemed like old friends.

"Believe it or not, Harry and I used to play poker together in college."

That explained it.

Tom went to get Harry a drink and Harry started talking with Josey, telling her what to expect at the con, how many usually attended and how rowdy they usually got.

But all Josey could focus on was that not only was HARRY KARSLOW sitting here talking to her like a normal person, but he was, well, a normal person. He didn't seem to expect her to know who he was and every person that came and asked for an autograph got one, without his even pausing in his conversation with her.

Everyone was very polite, only one person coming up at a time, asking politely and having pen and paper ready.

"I'm not supposed to do this," he confided after one very pretty nymphet had walked away. "Con policy states that autographs can only be given at the autograph booth, so that they get their cut of the take. But hey, they're nice enough to come out after all these years, who am I to complain? I'm just happy I managed to do something that people still remember."

Talk turned to college years and cons past and after about an hour, Josey graciously excused herself. Tom took her hand before letting her walk away.

"You get some sleep, Sugar, you look exhausted and you're gonna need it for opening day. Don't worry, my boys will be there. No worries, okay? How's about I pick you up at ten for breakfast?"

She couldn't help it, it came out before her common sense had time to stop it, "You get food for free too?"

He smiled and winked and said, "You'll find out tomorrow at ten."

"Sure. Why not."

*A girl has to eat, right?**

She waved goodbye and wandered toward the front door – her room was in the other hotel hosting the con, across the street. It wasn't until she was pushing the button for the seventeenth floor in her own hotel that she realized she hadn't told Tom her hotel or room number. Oh well, he probably had ways of finding out.

The elevator was going at a lethargic pace. She never had liked small spaces, and this – seemingly, to her - *tiny** steel elevator was getting on her nerves. Next year, if they came back next year, she was making Connelly spring for the more elegant hotel where the vendors room was. Mainly because it had glass elevators. That had to be better. She'd have to remember to go up and down in one just once to see if it made her feel less claustrophobic.

The elevator dinged and she got out and dragged herself down to 1723, the room she shared with Jane. As much as she wanted to take a shower, she really didn't have the energy. She didn't even have the energy to undress. She did manage to pick up the phone and set an eight o'clock wake up call before falling into one of the two empty beds.

On the way down, her eyes caught sight of the clock; it was one fifty-six. Oh goody. Six whole hours sleep.

Chapter Four

She heard the wake-up call and made herself get up, even though she really, really, really didn't want to.

She peeked her one open eye at Jane's bed and it looked as if it had been slept in, but Jane was nowhere in sight. What she wouldn't give to have the resilience of a nineteen year old.

Dragging her butt into the bathroom, the instant hot water as soon as she turned on the shower made her feel more alive. Stepping in, she let her body soak up the heat for a while before reaching for Jane's shampoo, she'd left hers on the counter when she unpacked yesterday. And two steps out of the shower was just too far to have to go right now.

Washing her hair helped enormously and brushing her teeth did the rest. She felt almost human. If only she had some food…

That's when she remembered her breakfast date with Tom. Oh, great. Well, at least it would be food and Tom was very nice company even if she did get the feeling he wanted more from her than just conversation. She'd just have to make it very clear, if it came up, that she was very happily married and did not cheat on her husband.

*'Then why is there a black leather bustier hanging in the closet'?** she asked herself, *'For decoration? I don't think so.'**

"It's not like I'm ever going to get the chance," she reasoned, out loud, to herself as she decided on her dress for the day in one of the intricately embroidered robes Connelly had made for these conventions. Today she thought she'd like to play the Ice Queen, in icy blue and silver. She dried and styled her hair, pulling it up into a braided bun and leaving a few curly tendrils hanging. Then she applied her makeup, a very fair base on face and neck followed by light pink on her cheeks and blue and silver on her eyes, lips and at her temple.

Who knew when she was studying marketing in college that one day she'd have to take costuming classes to help her with her job?

As she carefully adjusted the robe on her shoulders, she heard a knock at the door and she checked the clock. Exactly ten. At least he was punctual.

She opened the door and lost her breath. It wasn't Tom. She didn't know who it was. But blond hair and bright blue eyes and shoulders to kill for were standing there smiling at her.

Whatever he was selling, she'd take a dozen. Maybe two.


That broke the spell. She hated being called 'ma'am' as if she were someone's grandmother. Spell broken, she looked at him again. Same beautiful face, same blue eyes, same shoulders – oh, wait, a badge. She'd missed that the first time.

"Yes?" she answered, as if she hadn't just been caught staring.

"Sheriff Jascowski asked that I bring you down to his office, or the one he has here at the con anyway. He was busy writing up some paperwork on a couple of pickpockets and didn't want you to think he'd stood you up."

She laughed. "You make it sound like a date."

The officer wisely did not answer.


It took a few minutes to straighten out, but Tom assigned someone to take the two teenaged pickpockets back to his real office and call their parents. Then he put another man in charge while he took Josey to breakfast.

Breakfast was a buffet at a restaurant in the hotel, a nice big area that overlooked the lobby and you could see everyone coming and going. They had her favourite breakfast food – fruit – and they even got her some cream of wheat, as the buffet only stocked oatmeal. She didn't normally like to fill herself up at breakfast, but she'd need the energy the cream of wheat provided once the vendor room opened up and the selling started.

They talked about some of the problems he and his officers usually encountered; the pickpockets, the drunks, the people trying to get a little too close to "the talent".

"The talent?" she asked.

"The actors, the more famous writers and comic artists. Most of the talent can walk around and no one has any idea who they are, but then there are those like your friend Steven Foster who need a little more protection from their fans."

Josey blushed. "He's not my friend, I don't even know the man!"

Tom nodded. "Yeah, but I saw the way he looked at you. You could be friends if you wanted to be." Just saying it made him surly.

Josey was hurt down to her toes. "Tom, really, there's no need to say things that aren't true. You're setting a girl – not me, of course, I'm old enough to know better – but another girl, you could be setting her up for a fall. You say things like that to pretty girls, they can handle it. But us plain ones, we – not me – but others – could take you seriously." She put her napkin on the table and stood.

"If you'll excuse me, I have to go to work now." She stopped at the desk and paid for her meal, then hurried down to the vendors room.

Everything was as it should be except for David who hadn't arrived yet. Josey called his cell phone while Jane ran up to see if he was at any of the hotel's eateries.

He didn't answer his phone and everyone was in a panic about what to do. Josey had forgotten about her own personal security squad but less than ten minutes later, David was escorted in – in tow of a burly sheriff's deputy.

"Thank you, officer," Josey said graciously, then turned to give David a stern talking to about being on the job when he was suppose to be on the job. "Everyone will have free time. It's not like you'll miss anything. If there's something happening at a certain time, write it on the schedule, but only one person can have off at a time. And everyone, and that means you, has to be here one half hour before the doors open in case anything needs to be done. What time is it now?"

David looked at his watch. "Twelve o'clock."

She hadn't expected that answer. They'd spent so much time looking for David that…

The roar came as they opened both sets of double doors.

"It's showtime."


Chapter Five

It was a madhouse, but a fun, incredibly wonderful madhouse. Connelly showed up around two and was pleased to note that security was so good they seemed to have their own personal security guard. Josey didn't comment.

She took a few minutes when it was slow around four to go see that author she liked. She asked him about writing professionally; that had always been a dream of hers. He told her to keep at it if she really wanted it; he'd had many manuscripts rejected before he came up with Robert, his crime-solving ghost, and that was now opening doors for other projects for him. He told her to have family and friends read her work, and publishing on the internet was another good idea; it gave you feedback and let you know how others saw your writing.

He asked about her costume and she explained about Flights of Fantasy. He said he was a D&D player from way back and he'd try to get over to her booth. "I'm a red manual guy," he told her with a smile and she winked and whispered, "So am I, but don't tell the customers that. We're not supposed to take sides." She thanked him for the autograph and hugged her new book to her chest as she made her way back to her booth.

She was happy, she was content. She'd met and had, albeit a small one, but still a conversation, with her current favourite author. She had a copy of his new book in her hands and, if she managed to stay awake tonight, she was going to get a start on it.

She let the newbies have off first for dinner, then Jim, who looked dead on his feet. She wasn't surprised when, as soon as Jim came back from dinner, Tom was there holding a bouquet of daisies.

"Miss Josey, I'm very sorry about this morning, will you forgive me and allow me to take you to dinner?"

She couldn't help but laugh.

Taking the daisies and shushing the newbies, Josey took his arm and let him guide her through the maze of booths and out into the hotel.

"What would you like for dinner?" he asked, when it was finally quiet enough to speak in normal tones.

"Oh, nothing fancy. I'm a sandwich gal myself. Poor Cal always says that good food is wasted on me, I'd rather have an egg salad sandwich."

"I can do sandwiches," he told her with a smile and led her through a bar and down a corridor that led to another corridor that led to a food court in a mall.

"I didn't even know this was here."

"One of the perks of being a local. The regulars know its here and most of the others will find it by tomorrow, but tonight, its still pretty quiet."

He led her to a small delicatessen that had wonderful looking sandwiches in plastic boxes in the front case.

She chose chicken salad and cole slaw and a bottled water. Tom got roast beef and potato salad and coffee.

They found a table that was away from the other patrons and sat down to a leisurely dinner. Josey pulled another chair over and put her feet up on, a big "aah" escaping her lips as she did. Tom chuckled.

"Long day?"

"No, I'm fine, really. I love this atmosphere – everyone's full of energy and enthusiasm and everyone's so happy. And not one person's called me 'Mom' all day." She laughed. "I love my job, I really do. But sometimes its nice just to be able to put your feet up, ya know?"

Tom pulled a chair over and put his feet up as well. "Aah. You're right, I should do this more often."

She laughed and then they ate their respective dinners, very comfortable in each other's presence. Josey spent so much time around younger people, especially at these conventions, that it was nice to spend a little time with someone closer to her own age. Well, older than her, really, but an adult all the same.

They chatted off and on but for the most part, they ate and enjoyed the few minutes of calm.

"You heading to any of the parties tonight?" he asked on the way back.

"No, I always chill the first night of a con, regroup and regain my energy. Maybe tomorrow."

"You let me know if you want to get out. As head of security, I know where all the good parties are. You're lucky. There aren't as many parties across the way, at your hotel, as there are here." They were in the lobby now and he pointed up where you could see all the way to the top floor. He pointed to the glass elevators. "Best parties are on the top floor, they can afford the good booze. But you need a key for one of those rooms to get up there." He pulled what looked like a credit card out of his pocket. "Or one of these." He winked and she smiled.

"Good to know. I've been meaning to try one of those elevators. I'm a bit claustrophobic-"

"And you're in the hotel with the death-o-laters?" he asked.

At her shocked expression, he explained. "Sorry, they're safe, I promise. It's just that two of them are really small. Use the two in the front, not the ones by the back entrance; they're twice the size. Much better if you're claustrophobic."

"Thanks." She'd be sure to remember that.

"You got a minute?"

She nodded and he led her over to the glass elevators.

"Next time, book your room over here." The doors opened and she walked into – the lobby. At least, it seemed like it. A big glass encased room that, as they made their ascent, looked out over the whole lobby. It didn't feel the least bit claustrophobic in here.

"Wow, this is great." They went all the way to the top floor and she saw a few actors she recognized going into what must be their rooms. The elevator went back down and at the bottom, she said goodnight to Tom and went back to work at her booth.

After two more hours, it was time to close up and, as the guards escorted everyone out, they pulled out the canvases that covered their displays. They would restock in the morning, tonight they were all tired.

They made their way back to their hotel rooms together, and Jim and David went into theirs as Josey and Jane let themselves into their own room.

Jane seemed to have a ton of energy still and sat talking as Josey got undressed and showered. By the time she was done brushing her teeth, Jane had fallen sideways on the bed, fast asleep. Josey smiled and grabbed a blanket to cover her up, before getting into her own bed and picking up her autographed book. She was asleep before Robert made his first dirty joke.

Chapter Six

She awoke to the phone ringing. She looked, it was seven thirty. She picked up the phone, no one was there. That's when she realized it was her cell phone. Reaching for her purse, she grabbed the phone and pushed the button. "Hello, hello?"

"Take off your wedding ring."

"What? Cal?"

"Morning, babe. I forgot to tell you to take off your wedding ring. Most guys will not look twice at a woman with a ring on her finger."

"Are you mad?"

Cal laughed, "No, really. Take off your ring. You want to have a fair shot at this, right?"

"Cal, there is no way Steven Foster is ever going to look twice at me. If he even looks a first time."

"He looked the other night, I heard him talking to you."

"And he thought I was an imbecile. Besides, I can't seem to get rid of my sheriff shaped shadow."


"What is you. You told me to make nice with the security, so I made nice. Now I think we might be engaged, I'm not sure about the laws in Alabama."

Cal laughed again. "Josey, you could charm a dead man. Get within ten feet of Steven Foster and I promise you, he will be putty in your hands."

"You only say that because you love me."

"True, but I want you to love you. You need someone you find worthy to find you worthy. Take off your ring, go out tonight and party. Get yourself in his vicinity. You'll get there, you'll see."

Josey looked at her wedding band on her hand and then with a grimace, took it off and put it in her wallet.

"You are an awful, deceitful man and I love you madly. Now let me get ready for work."

"Sure thing. Have fun, babe." She started to hang up then heard "OH! AND BUY CONDOMS!"

She hung up laughing.

Saturday went much the same as Friday had, only she was dressed today as the Queen of Hearts in a black sheath dress with sequined red hearts around the bottom and square neckline. Jane had worn her Maid Marion costume while David had opted for Robin Hood. Hmm, was that just a coincidence? She'd have to keep an eye on those two. Jim was regal in his knight's tunic, looking very much like a knight on a quest to save every endangered damsel in the land.

One thing about her job, it was fun. She didn't see much of Tom, he was very busy and only stopped round to say he couldn't take her dinner because he was busy. He offered to have Deputy Gerhardt take her to dinner; that was the one that had picked her up for breakfast yesterday morning. Much as the thought of that oh-so-pretty man taking her *anywhere** was giving her butterflies, she said she'd take a raincheck.

He made her promise to come find him before she went partying tonight so he could tell her where the good parties were. She promised.

They closed up the booth at eight; tonight the vendors closed early because of all the concerts and things happening.

"Do you want to come to the Foster concert with me?"

The name struck her. "The what?"

"Steven Foster, the hottie that plays The Tempest. He has his own band. They're playing here tonight."

Well, if she couldn't meet him, at least she could watch him play.

"Sure, I'll come. What time?"

"Ten. Let's hurry up and change and maybe we can grab a bite to eat first."

"Okay, lead the way, Fair Marion."

Once up in their room, Josey pulled her hair down and Jane convinced her to leave it down. She always wore it up, even at work, but it looked so pretty down around her shoulders. As Josey was brushing it out, Jane walked in carrying the black leather bustier and black jeans.

"Of course," Josey sighed. "Who called you? Cal or Kaitlyn?"

"Both actually. Kaitlyn yesterday and Cal today. I also bought us both some condoms because Cal made me promise to. I already put yours in your purse."

Josey laughed, this was getting ridiculous.

"Hey, be glad you have a husband who understands that sometimes things happen. He said he didn't expect you to need them, but if you got drunk or something, he wanted you to be prepared."

"That's my Cal, ever the Boy scout."

They got dressed and she was blown away by how sexy Jane looked in her red mini-dress. Normally Jane was such a – well, plain Jane. But with her dress and hair and makeup done, she looked fabulous.

Jane harassed Josey until she did the full makeup deal, doing the "anime eyes" and bright lips and everything.

Jane seemed just as impressed as Josey had been. "We're wasting ourselves working for Connelly. Shame hooking's illegal. Let's go."

They took off, both laughing.

They didn't have time for anything to eat and Josey was starving. She grabbed a Tootsie Roll pop off a box on a table and popped it in her mouth as they stood in line, hoping to absorb a bit of the sugar rush.

It was like she was on a stage. Every where she looked, men were looking at her, staring at her mouth as she sucked on the lollipop. They'd look and then, when they caught her looking, they'd look away. It was kind of funny. One guy, in a costume with a trench coat, came over to her.

"What are you doing tonight?"

Josey looked at the long line she was standing in. "Um, obviously I'm going to a concert right now." Was this guy an idiot? Okay, he was cute, but he was an idiot.

"What about after?"

She shrugged. "I won't know until after."

"If I'm here waiting for you, will you come with me?"

She was blushing now. This – okay, idiot – but very cute guy about half her age was trying to pick her up. He was even willing to wait until after the concert.

She smiled, but was non-committal. "Maybe."

"Hey, Josey!"

She looked up to where she'd been called and saw Nina, another vendor she often saw at shows, waving to her. Only Nina was in a wheelchair. What had happened?

She excused herself from Jane, who seemed to have made quick friends with several girls her own age standing in line with them. She went over to see Nina, Idiot following.

Nina nodded toward Idiot. "This is a new look for you."

Josey tried to laugh but it didn't quite come out. "Yeah, well. What happened to you?"

"Fell down some damn steps this morning. But there was no way I'm missing Steven Foster. And I seem to have lost Hannah, who was pushing me. Some Goth hunk came up and swept her away but just then I saw you, so hey, all's well.

"Help me find out if there's a handicapped entrance to this thing, will ya?"

"As a matter of fact. You've picked the right girl for the job. Hey, Tom!"

Sheriff Tom was, at that moment, nearing the doors to the auditorium. He heard her and came over with a big smile, obviously admiring not only the bustier, but what was – and wasn't – in it.

"I've been waiting all day for you to realize you need me," he said, laughing.

"Tom, this is my friend, Nina and as you can see, she has a small problem."

"No problem at all. Come this way, ladies."

He led them to another officer and introduced Josey, saying they were to do everything in their power to do whatever Miss Josey and her friend wanted.

Nina looked at Josey, duly impressed.

The officer led them down the way a bit and in through another door. There was a costume contest going on in the auditorium the concert was to be in, but from their viewpoint, they could see behind the curtain behind the stage, where another stage was set up and Steven Foster and his band were setting up.

"You can wait here until time for the concert and we'll get you set up for that then, all right?"

They both nodded. "Anything else I can do for you ladies?" the officer asked before he left.

Nina joked, "I don't know about you, but I could use a drink. Got a Toasted Almond on that uniform anywhere, officer?"

"I'll get it," Josey started to say, but the officer held out a hand. "We're full service to any of Tom's friends, ma'am. I'll take care of it."

About two minutes later, a girl came in with three Toasted Almond drinks and promised to keep them coming. It wasn't until then that Josey noticed that Idiot had followed them in.

"Girl," Nina exclaimed, sipping her drink, "What did you do with that man and is Cal gonna kill you for it?"

Josey just shrugged. "Cal said make nice to security so I made nice to security."

She left it open as to exactly how nice she had made.

While the others watched the costume contest, the three of them watched Steven Foster's band. Or well, the others may have watched Steven Foster's band, Josey watched Steven Foster.

He was… wow. Beautiful, perfect. And the character he played on his show was the epitome of the perfect man. In his superhero disguise he was brave and fearless and didn't take any crap from the bad guys. In his everyday outfit as a regular person, he was good and kind and sweet to his true love and always emptied the trash when it was full. You couldn't ask for more from a man.

Steven Foster, however, was not The Tempest. He was just a man, like any other, who seemed a little nervous as he went over the song list with his band.

In that moment, Josey stopped looking at him as "Steven Foster – actor" and saw a seemingly sweet guy who was just as nervous as everyone else here, probably more so, because he had to go up in front of them all and sing. She'd never heard the band, didn't know if they were any good, but right then and there she told herself that she'd cheer like mad even if they sucked.

Luckily, they didn't suck.

The costume contest was over and the other stage had been put in place. Some bitch monster had come out and yelled at everyone that they weren't to take pictures and they weren't to crowd the stage.

The band came on and the first thing Steven Foster said was, "You paid money to come here and hear us and take our picture – do it! This is a concert, what are you doing way back there?" making everyone charge the stage. Nina had a spot right up front and could still see everything just fine, including the man himself who looked her way and gave her a sly wink several times.

The concert was loud and rocking and everyone who was there went away with a smile.

The erstwhile Hannah appeared immediately after and took charge of Nina once again, leaving Josey alone … with Idiot.

"So…" she said. He just smiled.

"Let's get this show on the road, shall we?" she offered, hoping to run into something that would take his attention away from her. They wandered for a while running into her friends, or his, learning about different parties around the hotels.

When they ran into Tom, Josey looked at him like a Godsend. "Tom! Oh, I'm so glad I found you. I'd like you to meet…" and that's when she realized she didn't know Idiot's name.

"Kevin, nice to meet ya." Idiot said, holding out a hand.

Tom didn't shake it. He was too busy telling Josey how much he liked her outfit and her hair and he even pulled out a camera and took a picture and had Idiot take one of Tom and Josey together. "Yeah, so," Tom finally said, "let me take you upstairs, there's a great one going on thirty-two."

"That's the top floor," Idiot injected. "You can't get up there without a – oh," as Tom pulled out his card.

As they got into the elevator, Tom said, "You'll lose him soon enough. I'm getting you in with Harry."

She couldn't ask what he meant without Idiot overhearing, so she just stayed mum. Harry was nice. It would be good to spend a little while away from the craziness with an old buddy of Tom's. Okay, so he was also an actor on one of the most famous shows ever, but still.

The elevator took them straight to the top and Tom pointed to the left. "3240, at the end." He held Josey's arm and whispered to her. "And stay in the party 'til someone comes to get you."

She nodded, and headed out, preparing for her adventure.

Chapter Seven

The party was loud and crowded and Idiot was quickly swallowed up by the crowd, where a sweet faced urchin who was staggering on her feet staggered right into him and started a conversation. Josey hoped they'd be very happy together.

She found the bartender and got a double shot of tequila, hoping to quickly get mellow enough so that she didn't feel completely out-of-place. She'd settle for slightly out-of-place. Another shot might do it, so she had one.

The noise wasn't quite so irritating now and if she squinted, some of these people even looked older than her daughter. She really needed to go – now.

She turned to the door in time to see three very large body-builder types walk in. They were conspicuous in their black t-shirts and black suit coats. She watched them walk around the party, two of them stopping a different times to speak to someone and then quickly move on.

Now wasn't that curious?

She was approaching the door as they were and the third one stopped and spoke to her.

"You've been cordially invited to the party in suite H21. If you would be so kind as to come with me…"

He left it hanging. Well, Tom had said someone would come for her, this must be it. She followed Thick Neck down the hall and noticed that two twenty-something bleached blonde bimbos with fake breasts were following the other two Thick Necks. Odd, but who was she to complain?

They were led down to a room with a guy on a stool outside the door and when he saw them all coming, he opened the door for them. How about that, a party with a butler. Nifty.

She walked in to a *much** larger room than the previous one and there was a party going on here as well, but the lights weren't dim and the music wasn't too loud and the bartender was a man in a neat black vest and not a college kid with a naked girl on his t-shirt. So much more her style, but she was afraid Bambi and Thumper might feel outclassed. Then again, who was she to talk, wearing a black leather bustier?

She started across the room when she heard "Josephine" called and there was Harry, smiling at her from what looked to be a very comfortable couch. Just what she needed.

She made her way through the people, not really looking at them, just happy to see a friendly face.

Harry welcomed her and invited her to sit, then snapped his fingers and a girl came right away and took Josey's drink order. She asked for some ice water, after the heat of the other party, she just wanted to cool down.

A waitress? Such a change from the other party. That's when she looked around and noticed that most of the people milling around the room were those on the "Guest of Honor" list for the con. All the actors and writers and other VIPs at the convention.

She laughed, looking at the other occupants, all young, attractive women with too much makeup and fawning smiles.

"I think I just got mistaken for a floozy."

"What?" Harry asked, laughing too.

"Tom told me to wait for someone to come for me, but I think now that he meant one of his deputies. I got brought by one of the thick-necked guys in the suits picking up – um-" she wanted to put this tastefully-

"Floozies?" Harry interrupted, with a smile. "You can say it, that's what they are."

Josey shook her head. "What are they – exactly?"

"Some cons do this for the VIPs," he informed her. "Host a party for the talent who don't feel comfortable going out with the other con attendees. Or those, like myself, too old for that anymore. Most of them will bring in some kind of – they call it companionship. Basically young woman who, well, fawn and gush and make a guy feel like a complete idiot."

"Oh, goody. So happy to be among such a dignified crowd."

"Don't worry about it, and hey, in that top – wow! No wonder they picked you."

Josey blushed and pulled at her top, trying to get it to cover more of her breasts. "Don't remind me." She was trying to get adjusted but sitting in this top was just not a comfortable thing. "Do you mind if I stand?" she asked, as she did it, but before he could answer a loud group came crashing through the door.

The waitress was there with her drink and Josie took it and sipped it gratefully. She held the icy cold cup up to her neck and felt the wonderful relief it gave her from the heat.

Harry had stood too and she saw him looking at something behind her. Before she got a chance to turn, though, Harry was saying, "Steven, I'd like you to meet my friend Josephine. Josephine, this is Steven Foster."

And there he was. All six foot of him. Wavy brown hair and blue eyes and- yeah – all of him. Steven Foster. Guess she lost that bet about not even meeting him, didn't she?

"Josephine, what a lovely name. Can I get you a drink?"

He turned quickly and called over an order of orange juice to the bar and she let out the breath she'd been holding.

"So, Harry," Steven was saying, "how come I have the show still on the air and you get all the beautiful women? Happens every time," he confided to Josephine. "I can't seem to cut a break when this boy is around."

He wanted to be cute, she could be cute too.

"You have a show on the air?" she asked him. His eyes got wide, shocked, then he held his hand over his heart.

"You've never heard of me? I think I'm in love. I'm sorry, Harry, but you're going to have to do without Miss Josephine for the rest of your life; I'm stealing her away from you." With that, he put his arm around her neck and led her away. "Call me Stevie, all my fiancées do, or they would if I'd ever had any. It's what my mom calls me and when she meets my fiancée, its bound to get out so you may as well start calling me that now."

Chapter Eight

He really was VERY charming. Completely irresistible in fact.

He got his orange juice and led her to a quiet corner where he asked what she did with her time, since she didn't watch television.

"I work, some of us do that you know. We don't have time for gallivanting about and partying all day."

He laughed, so did she. God, he was beautiful when he laughed. She thought some of the shine would be lost without the makeup and the lights, but there was a light in his eyes that said that this man loved life – and that was probably the sexiest characteristic a man could have. He lost nothing in the grim light of the real world.

"I work, I work. Okay, yes, I wear a red cape and tights but that doesn't make it any less meaningful than yours," he said, laughing at himself. "What is it you do?"

She giggled. "Oh, something very worthy. I sell D&D equipment."

"Dungeons and Dragons?" he asked, she nodded. "God, I haven't played that in years, used to play continuously in college. Did more of that than study, I think." He laughed.

He laughed so easily, she thought. The smallest things made him smile.

"You play?" he asked and she nodded again. "Wish I could – no, no time here, unfortunately. Although, I get up enough players for a game, I know who to come to."

A song came on they both liked and that brought up the topic of music. They had very similar tastes although his fondness for Bob Dylan was lost on her and they argued about that for a time until she conceded that yes, he was an excellent songwriter but his voice made her nauseous.

The party was getting more crowded the later it got and they stood and moved near the window so that they could still hear each other over all the talking.

From music they moved on to movies and to books and they had the same taste in books as well, he'd even read the series with the ghost who solved crimes and was delighted to find out that the author was here signing books.

With every sentence the crowd got noisier and they moved closer and closer in order to hear each other.

They moved on to what books they'd read and loved over the years and again, their tastes were amazingly similar. The more they talked, the more she felt she could have known him, grown up with him and been friends, good friends. And the way he looked at her, maybe more than that. They didn't want to stop, they just kept talking, kept getting to know each other, kept finding more things in common, kept getting closer.

Until there was no more conversation. He was going to kiss her, she could feel it; he was staring at her mouth and her mind screamed that this couldn't be happening, there was no way –

But it was. It was suddenly silent. She felt dizzy and she discovered that it was because as he kissed her, he was spinning her around, leaning her back against the wall, pressing up against her.


The feel of him, the part that wanted her, pressed up against her like that brought her back to reality. The fluffy cloud feeling disappeared and she opened her eyes and she was back at the party and yes – Steven – Stevie – was pressing her up against a wall and kissing her like he wasn't ever going to stop.

His lips moved to her neck and she whispered, "All the people-" in his ear.

"Oh, right-" he said, turning his head to look at them as if he too had forgotten they were there. "Come on." He took her hand and led her to the door but was brought up short by a middle-aged balding man standing with his back to the door and saying, "Where the hell do you think you're going?"

Stevie turned and looked at her as if he thought this man was mad. She was beginning to think the same thing.

"Dwight, do you not see this lovely lady attached to my hand? Well, if you'll get out of the way, I'd like her to be attached to other parts as well so –" he tried to move past Dwight, but Dwight wasn't moving.

"Steven, you have a seven o'clock interview in the morning. I am not letting you disappear with some-" he looked her up and down and Josey felt distinctly dirty after that look, "Strange woman to who knows where for God knows how long. No."

She felt the tenseness in Stevie's hand and thought maybe she should just back out now, she didn't want to cause a fight. But he held tight to her hand and she felt kind of proud that he had chosen her over what was obviously his manager or something – even if his decision was fueled only by lust.

How about that – Steven Foster was lusting after her! She smiled, but luckily no one noticed.

"She's not gonna hurt me, for fuck's sake! What is wrong with you?"

Dwight held fast and she felt Stevie tense, felt as if he was about to do something monumentally stupid and she didn't want to be the cause of that. Instead, she opened the door to the bathroom that was to her right and fled inside, pulling Stevie in behind her.

"Better than nothing," she said and kissed him, feeling the coiled muscles in him loosen as he relaxed and kissed her back.

Chapter Nine

She felt like a teenager, necking in some secluded spot, stealing away to anywhere just to be alone. It was a wonderful feeling.

Stevie could make her forget this was a bathroom, forget this was some meaningless one night stand. His kisses felt real. He put his body and soul into each and every one of them and she couldn't help being swept away.

When his hands moved on her body, she didn't feel fat, she felt voluptuous. When her curves filled his hands and he moaned in delight, she felt like a pin-up girl, curvy in all the right places.

"Touch me," he begged and it was only then that she realised she hadn't been. It all still seemed too unreal to her until now. But this wasn't Steven Foster, Hollywood actor. This was a very sweet and charming man named Stevie who she had spent the evening getting to know and now he wanted her and she wanted him just as much. Not the star, the man.

She pressed her palms to his chest and felt the hardness beneath. Very much a man. They struggled a bit, her trying to get him out of his t-shirt while he tried to unhook the back of her bustier at the same time, but they managed it. His mouth on her skin was hot, and she felt it burn a path on her skin. Down her neck to her chest and then he was down on his knees in front of her, his mouth sucking her breast as his hands fumbled with her jeans.

He got her out of them, finally – it seemed to take forever to them – and then he stood and reached for the button on his own jeans and he was out of them in a flash. She didn't know what was going to happen then; really didn't know, her mind had gone completely blank about what happened next. He took her hand and started to move backward, her forward, before his eyes changed and he muttered, "Fuck!" through his teeth.

"I didn't know you were going to happen," he explained, "I didn't bring-"

But she smiled, oh wonderful heaven, she had – thank you, Jane. She grabbed her small purse which she'd dropped on the sink. Just a change purse really, but big enough to hold-

"I have them," she said, smiling, and pulled out a long band of connected Trojans.

"Don't know if I can live up to that," he joked, "But we'll give it a shot, all right?"

She giggled and handed him one. He sat on the lid of the commode and as she thought that this was the least romantic spot in the world for this, he pulled her to straddle his lap and down and - -


Or not. Seemed like the perfect spot just now.

He held her back, keeping her balanced. This wasn't easy, she wasn't as young as she'd once been. But then, she didn't think this would be easy no matter how old she was. He helped, and she almost toppled over once, making them both laugh, but the way he felt inside her, the look in his eyes. She kept thinking she should say something, shouldn't there be sweet nothings whispered in ears about now?

But no. This was perfect exactly as it was. Here in his lap, here in his arms, here in his eyes. God, those eyes could look at you and scorch you with their intensity.

"Come on now," he urged, "I'm about to-"

"Me – too" she got out, before it happened and the world went bright with colour and her insides grabbed him and didn't want to let him go. It had been so long since she'd made love with a condom, she forgot how it felt. She felt him stiffen and surge, but she didn't get that rush of warmth run through her like it normally did with – not going to think about that now.

He was rubbing her back, petting her hair and she felt so very good. She let her body go limp and put her head on his shoulder.

"And a handy convenient shower, isn't that nice?"

He helped her stand and he turned on the water. This had to be surreal: standing naked in a bathroom with this man who wasn't her husband, about to take a shower in a strange hotel room.

"Like it hot, cold, or in between?" he asked.

"All of the above, but in between right now, I think."

He smiled, "We are so alike." He pulled her in for another kiss and suddenly this wasn't so awkward.

He stepped in, pulling her in after him. It wasn't until he'd put her head under the water and grabbed the shampoo that she remembered she'd been wearing makeup and shouldn't she try to preserve it?

But it was too late, she supposed. They were both sweaty form their… exertions, and she had felt sweat running down her face even as she watched it run down his so it looked like he was going to see her au natural.

He washed her hair and it felt nice, very gentle hands. He let her wash his, and it felt nice too, all those curls winding around her fingers as she did it. They washed each other and, as debauched as that event could have been, it wasn't. They both felt so boneless right now; they didn't have the energy yet for another round.

Was there going to be another round? She didn't know. Maybe he'd try to lose her now, isn't that what guys usually did after they'd gotten – that?

They dried off, each getting the other's hard to reach spots and she couldn't resist giving a quick kiss to that part of him that had given her so much pleasure. It had felt so much bigger than that inside of her. She felt herself start to smile but tried to hold it back, it must not have worked.

He leaned in and kissed her trying-not-to-smile lips. "Don't you know it not polite to think mean thoughts about a man's size after he's just made love to you?"

"I said no such thing."

"No, but you were thinking so loudly I couldn't help but hear."

She giggled, he chuckled. Then they stopped and kissed again. Leaning her back against the door, he wiped a drop of water making his way down her face from her wet hair.

"You're beautiful. Did you know that?" he asked. It was very quiet, very sincere.

She felt her throat catch and she thought she was going to cry. No one had ever said – not like that.

As was usual for her, a sarcastic comment came to her lips but she stopped herself. Now was not the time.

"Thank you," she said instead. "I kinda like the way you look too." She touched the spot next to his eyes where just a few small lines were starting to show. "For some reason, the more you talk to me, the more beautiful you get. You didn't look-" she searched for a word, "Real, at first."

"That wasn't," he admitted, "Sorry for that. Just the same old act I give every time. But now-"

"Yeah," she said, understanding. She hoped he wasn't good enough of an actor to have been able to carry a performance all the way through tonight.

Chapter Ten

They dressed and as he rehooked the back of her bustier, he said, "I feel like a party, wanna go to a party?"

"We're at a party," she reminded him.

"This isn't a party. Come on."

He opened the door and pulled her through.

"Who wants to go to a party?" he yelled into the sedate crowd.

"Oh man!" one of the other actors called back, "I've been waiting to get the fuck outta here! I'm in."

Several others joined as well and Dwight, who was no longer by the door, wouldn't have been able to stop them all anyway.

They ran for the elevators, and piled in when it arrived, filling it to what must be beyond capacity, but she didn't care.

Stevie had her in his arms, kissing her. They got into it and he backed her up, right into the control panel of the elevator and the 'Push for alarm' button.

Security down below looked up at the glass elevator, saw it full of the VIPs they were here to protect and came running.

Which led to being held at gunpoint by six armed sheriff's deputies.

Right before she completely panicked, she remembered.

"Tom said I should call him if there was a problem."

"Oh," they said knowingly, "you're Tom's new girl."

Stevie looked at her and she hastened to explain, "No, well, I mean, yes, but – its not like that. We – you see," she said to Stevie, "We went for drinks – he watches my newbies so they don't get in trouble. It's innocent, really."

Stevie smiled and pulled her tight, looking toward the men with the guns. "It's all right boys, you can tell Tom she's in good hands. I'll take her from here."

They snickered, as did the other occupants of the elevator car.

Great, now the whole world thought she was some big slut and she hadn't done more than… *oh, yeah**. Maybe she was a bit slutty. Stevie could bring that out in a girl.

Security re-holstered their guns and let them go, but a couple followed behind. They figured it was better to be close than let anything else happen.

They went to several parties. They found a Star Journeys party where they drank some strange blue concoction that was supposed to be the native drink of some alien species from that show. She was pretty sure it was about eighty percent pure turpentine.

They found a party full of people in Victorian costume in the other hotel and at first were told they couldn't come in if they weren't dressed appropriately and they started to leave but then Stevie and some of the other actors were recognized and they were ushered in as if they were long lost cousins.

They found another party inhabited by many, many people not in costume, most of them drunk and they went in and weren't recognised at all. This upset quite a few of the more accomplished actors and rather than have them sulk, Stevie led them away, promising another, better party.

As they tried to decide whether to stay here or try back at the first hotel, the deputy let them know that it was almost five o'clock. Seeing as how most of them had autograph or Q&A sessions early in the morning – or rather, in a few hours – they decided to call it a night.

Josey was about to say good night as well, but Stevie held on tight.

"No, please, don't leave me yet. Where's your room?"

"There's a girl in my room. A co-worker and a very impressionable young girl. We're not going there."

He sighed but understood. He led her back to his hotel but Dwight was roaming the hallway outside his room.

He led her back downstairs and found the room used by the hotel to hold luggage. It was empty. Perfect.

He pulled her in after him and she thought she'd never get tired of his kisses. Yes, she had to work tomorrow – today. Yes, she was going to look tired and all the makeup in the world probably wasn't going to help.

But it didn't matter, not right now. Right now this wonderful man wanted her. Wanted just to hold her and kiss her and be with her. Time got away from them. They'd sat down on the floor, her in his lap, talking again. She told him she was here working and who she worked for. She told him about the other cons she'd been to and how she'd never seen anything like this one before.

He told her about going to cons because he loved meeting the fans. He told about being a big sci-fi freak when he was a kid and going to cons like this one. He told about having met Harry when he was eleven and how thrilled he'd been. This was his way of keeping the tradition alive. Not that he was anywhere near as big as Harry, he said, but he did what he could.

She didn't have the heart to tell him he was bigger. Maybe not in the long term, she didn't know if his show would stand the test of time the way Harry's had. But he was THE big name at this show, he was the headliner, even if he didn't know it or didn't realise the impact he had. She kept up the illusion that she didn't know who he was.

And she didn't. Oh, she was beginning to. But *Steven Foster** isn't a real person, he doesn't exist. He wasn't a real, flesh and blood man who still went home to visit his mom once a month. That was a name in the TV Guide, that's all.

A knock on the door came and a voice said, "Mr. Foster, Mrs. LeCompte"

He raised an eyebrow at her and mouthed "Mrs", she shrugged.

"We're decent," he answered, loud enough for the man to hear through the door.

It opened enough for a face to appear. "Mr. Banson sent me to find you, sir. You have a seven o'clock meeting. It's six thirty."

He sighed rather heavily, obviously acting, then smiled. "Time to face the asshole. Don't get me wrong, he's a great manager, opened up a lot of avenues for me. But sometimes he acts like he owns me. Like tonight."

"Isn't that what he gets paid for?" she asked.

"Yeah, but – I'm gonna put it in his next contract that he gets no say when you're around." She smiled, flattered, but really hoped he was kidding.

He dragged her back upstairs where Dwight informed them that he had no time to change and he'd have to say goodnight to "the girl". Now that was really flattering.

"Dwight, this is Josephine. Josephine, this is the asshole. Dwight, I'm fine, she didn't even give me a hickey." He turned to her and frowned, then stage whispered to her, "Have to work on that later."

Back at Dwight, he said, "Josephine's gonna be around me for the con, Dwight, get used to it now an' don't give her a hard time again. I'm not marryin' the girl, I'm spendin' time with her for a few days."

Dwight started to object, but Stevie cut him off. "Leave it. That's final. Josephine needs me, she gets me, you hear me?"

Dwight nodded. Stevie glared at him and he walked a few feet away.

"Night, Sweet. Or morning. Whatever. Have a good day, don't work too hard."

She smiled, "I'd say the same thing to you, but Dwight might yell at me."

They kissed, a very sweet, closed mouth peck.

"Find me later?" he asked. She nodded and left.

Chapter Eleven

She made it back to her room just in time for Jane's travel clock to go off. She jumped into the bathroom.

She washed her face and brushed her teeth and gave her hair a quick comb through, but nothing was going to help it. She'd decide what costume she was going to wear and then decide what to do with it.

She walked out and said good morning to Jane, as if she'd just gotten up.

"Hey! Did you have a good time last night? I saw you go off with Nina, did you have a good time? Carol told me she fell yesterday, I'm glad she was able to still make it to the concert."

It didn't occur to Josey to set Jane straight on where she'd been, so instead she asked, "What are you wearing today, I can't decide."

Jane smiled a broad smile back at her. "Actually, you're dressed perfectly."

"No, really, I need to change." She didn't want to say she'd been wearing these clothes all night. "When I got up, they were the first thing I saw, so I put them on, but-"

"We have the morning off – I got us each a photo op to get pictures taken with your dreamboat!"

Josey was stunned – and confused. "Morning off?"

"Yup, Connelly himself is working the booth, I talked to him yesterday. He even sprang for the pictures, can you believe it? Took this wad of cash out of his pocket when I said I wanted to do it for you and said we should have a good time, on him!"

"What's – what's a, what did you call it, 'photo op'?"

"Its where you get your picture taken by a professional photographer with the star of your choice – in this case, your" she fluttered her eyelashes, "honey-man, Steven Foster! Couldn't you just die?"

There was word for it.

"You have no idea."

"Come on, let's run down and get breakfast and then get in line or we're going to be waiting forever." Jane was rushing through getting dressed. "Oh, wait, your hair. Come here."

She pulled Josey into the bathroom and sat her on the toilet. Josey worked very hard not to blush, telling herself over and over that Jane didn't know what had happened. And never would.

Jane grabbed a brush and some small clips and began gathering Josey's long hair into pieces, pulling it back from her face and twirling it around, then fastening it with a clip. It made a nice, casual style that was maybe a little young for her, but still looked presentable.

"You look great," Jane gave a final assessment and ran a brush through her short, curly locks that needed almost no care at all.

Josey had no choice but to leave, still in the same clothes she'd been in all night. They ate a quick breakfast of granola bars and juice at a food stand and then made their way to the other hotel and the room where the 'photo op's were to take place. There was already a line of women and Josey felt humiliated just standing here. All of these women, all wanting to get close to Stevie – no, to Steven Foster – for just a moment. Jane had told her that this had cost Connelly fifty bucks a pop. Apparently they were willing to pay dearly for the chance just to rub shoulders with him.

She wasn't going to live through this. If she could have thought of a good, believable reason to leave, she would have. And she tried.

When the man himself, still in the same clothes he'd been wearing last night – this morning, at least they'd look a pair – came into the room, most of the women clapped and cheered, a few whistled.

Really, really humiliating.

She made sure her back was to him at all times, for some reason, she didn't want him knowing she was there until the last moment. Maybe fear he'd say something to her. Or worse, fear he wouldn't.

He sounded cheerful with all of them; not that she could hear the words, she wasn't that close, but the tone was cheerful.

They got to the front of the line and she forced Jane to go first. If Jane went second, she'd be forced to stand there watching Josey with him and that would be… unbearable.

Finally the photographer called next and Josey turned, he was turned toward Jane, helping her pick her purse up off the floor. When he turned back, Josey had her hand out and that's what he saw first.

"Hello, Mr. Foster," she said, shaking his hand as if meeting him for the first time. "I'm Josephine LeCompte, it's nice to meet you."

He looked at her, eyes dancing and her stomach did flipflops.

"If that's the way you want to play this," he whispered, very very low, then in a normal voice, he answered her. "Hello, Josephine. Same here. Call me Steven, please." And then, whispering again, "But my mother's not gonna like it."

She couldn't help but let out a broad grin and so did he. The photographer cleared his throat, trying to get them past all the byplay. He put his arm around her shoulder, and whispered, "You little liar," with a laugh, just before the picture was taken. That was going to be some picture, she thought, with him laughing and her looking embarrassed.

"My friend bought the tickets, I didn't know," she told him truthfully.

He believed her; she could see it in his eyes. "Until later, Josephine," he whispered, letting her go.

Chapter Twelve

They ran back to their room and changed, she into her wood nymph ensemble, all browns and greens and amber sequins. The boots at least, were very comfortable and her feet wouldn't be dying when she was done for the day. Jane dressed as a princess, in a pale lavender dress that complimented her skin and hair so nicely. If there was something going on between her and David, she would know it as soon as he saw her in this.

They were busy when the girls arrived, but Jim assured her it hadn't been this way the whole morning. They almost sold out of blue manuals, but Connelly had some more in his room and went to get them. At a lull in the crowd, Josey got a chance to watch the interaction between Jane and David. Definite sparkage. If they weren't doing anything yet, they would be soon.

Around three she took her break and found she wasn't very hungry. She saw a sign in the lobby saying that Steven Foster's Q&A was at three in the Cronenberg Room so she headed that way and stepped inside the door, just to see how it was going. It didn't take long for him to notice her, what with the sequins and all. He winked but thankfully made no obvious gestures.

A bunch of besotted women asking stupid questions, just as she thought. Then one woman stepped up and asked, "Which Fett? Boba or Jenga?"

He smiled, delighted with the unique question. And from their conversation last night, she knew the answer to this.

Suddenly his smile got brighter and then he looked down at the table and then back up seductively at the questioner through his lashes. "Boba Fett fans make better lovers, isn't that right?" But for the 'isn't that right' part he had looked straight at her. And kept her eyes, meaning that everyone in her vicinity saw the deep crimson blush that covered her whole body.

He laughed and winked again, and then asked for the next question. He was shameless. It really did make him all that more appealing, damn him.

She snuck out as soon as she could after that, not ready to chance any more embarrassment. As she walked back to the vendors room, she couldn't help but smile. He probably did this at every convention, she thought. Picked one girl and had her keep him company for the weekend. She wasn't special. She really hoped in her heart that was true. Steven – Stevie – was, for all the show, a very kind and loving man. He deserved to be happy, find one person to make him happy, like she had.

Cal really was the one man in the world for her, she really believed that. But something told her that what she was doing this weekend was right. Not lasting, not permanent, definitely not repeatable, but right. She'd been meant to have this time with Stevie and maybe, she hoped, he'd been meant to have this time with her. At the end of the con, they'd go their separate ways, each having gained something small from the experience.

What the thing was, she didn't know. But the way he looked at her, the way he'd told her she was beautiful when they got out of the shower last night – maybe that was her small thing. Cal was wonderful, and perfect, but not overly complimentary. He just didn't say things like that. And it was – wonderful, beyond price – to have that, if only for this one short time.

She ran into Tom on the way back and he apologised for not being able to take her to breakfast this morning. She told him it was fine, that she'd had breakfast with Jane. If his deputies had told him about last night, he didn't say. He told her he'd stop by later to ask about dinner and let her go.

It was slow for a while and then picked up again around dinnertime. No one got a dinner break and, as it was now almost eight thirty, they decided to skip it since they were finished at nine tonight anyway.

As they began packing up, a small crowd of people came through the door and headed down the front aisle, about three over from where they were. They stood on chairs, trying to see what was going on, but it was no use. After about ten minutes, the crowd moved on and headed their way.

She should have known, Stevie, followed by a crowd of hangers-on. He stopped at her booth but never once looked her way. Jane waited on him, ringing up his purchases, practically drooling the whole time. He explained to Jane that he'd come by to get the autograph of an author he liked – a friend had told him the author was here – still not looking her way. Since he was in the neighborhood, he thought he'd browse her - and he put as much innuendo as he could into this next word, goods.

Josey had to laugh, Jane looked like she was about to faint. David asked for his autograph. He kindly obliged, even offered to sign one for everyone at Flights of Fantasy. He asked for paper and pen and wrote his name on one after the other, handing them to David and he passed them on. Hers he handed to her himself, still not looking at her. He handed back the pen and notebook and moved on, going right to the doors and leaving, his entourage close behind.

She looked at her autograph which she hadn't noticed was folded in half before.

*Dinner in one hour, suite H19. I hope you're hungry. Wear that outfit, I'm famished – for you.**

Her eyes got wide and she folded it back up quickly and stuck it inside her purse. She hurried them through closing up the booth for the night, not even noticing that her heart beat faster and she seemed to feel like she was walking on air.

Tom came by at closing time, offering to take her to dinner, but saying he understood if she had other plans. Apparently he had heard then. She said she was sorry, but she did have plans. She would, however, need help getting up to the thirty-second floor in about half an hour, she didn't have a keycard and she'd been invited up. Would he be available for that?

She closed the booth and ran to a ladies room to freshen up. She met him by the elevators and he didn't say a word, but made her wait until they could take an elevator that had no other passengers.

On the way up, he asked her if she knew what she was doing. She assured him she did and thanked him, genuinely for his concern. She knew he had wanted it to be him she was spending time with tonight and the thought that there were two men here actually vying for her attention made her stop.

When had that happened? When had she gone from mousy little nobody to someone men thought about – lusted over? It was a heady experience for her. She stood on tiptoe to kiss Tom's cheek when she got off, wishing him good night and thanking him – for everything. Tomorrow was the last day, she'd be headed home on a three o'clock plane. She didn't know if she'd see him again.

She knocked on the door of H19 with just a little nervousness. She was a big girl, she'd live through this. And have a lifetime of wonderful memories because of it.

The door was opened by a room service person, on his way out. He let her in and she walked into a big, empty room. It was a fabulous room, though, all white and gold, complete with white baby grand piano. Fresh flowers in big vases, in arrangements like you only saw in magazines.

Stevie walked in from another room, pulling on a white shirt and starting to button it but he stopped when he saw her.

"That's some outfit," he said, staring at her.

Looking at him standing there, black slacks, crisp white shirt unbuttoned over a tanned and muscled chest, it took her a moment to realise he was talking about her.

"Just a costume," she said, walking over to him. It had occurred to her several times today that there were women all over this place who would give anything they owned to be able to see him this way.

But the man they wanted to see wasn't here. This wasn't a famous actor standing here, waiting for her. This was a man looking unsure of her reactions, just like she'd been unsure of his reaction this morning at the photoshoot. Why did people seem to forget this was just flesh and blood and human emotion they were dealing with when they saw him? She didn't think she'd ever be able to forget again. Her crush was gone. She had crushed on a man who didn't exist. She'd much rather this man, who was standing there hoping she'd want to be with him for a few more hours.

"You promised me dinner and I'm starving," she said, taking his hand and then giving him a kiss.

He looked her over from top to bottom and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Later," she promised. "Food now, nakedness later."

He gave in. "I haven't had time to eat either, but then I'm not really allowed to eat."

She looked a question at him and he informed her, "It's in my contract that I have to stay under a hundred and sixty five pounds. I gain, I lose the contract, so I don't eat much."

"Let's see what we can do about working off any of the calories you put on, all right?"

He laughed and pulled her close. "You really are one of a kind, aren't you? Can I take you home with me?" He didn't sound serious but she nipped it in the bud anyway.

"No you may not but you may borrow me until tomorrow morning; I turn back into a pumpkin at dawn. Now feed me, dammit, I get cranky when I'm hungry."

He mocked saluted and went to the table where the guy had set out the food. "We have," he lifted a lid, "looks like pasta and vegetables in some kind of sauce." He lifted another lid, "Some kind of fish in some kind of sauce," another lid, "Some bread, no sauce thank goodness," another lid, "You like caviar?"

She didn't, too salty, and made a face, shaking her head. He chuckled. "Me either, but I didn't know if you'd expect me to be all high-class gourmet and shit so I ordered all kinds of stuff. Let's see what we have for dessert, I ordered something chocolate, I think." He lifted the last lid. "Brownies, in some kind of sauce, of course. What do you want first?"

She couldn't help it, his pronouncement that he'd tried to be 'high-class gourmet and shit' for her had sent tingles right to her belly.

She ran and jumped into his arms, sending him falling back into a chair. "Oh good," he said, when they broke for air, "That's what I wanted first too."

It took no time at all to get him out of his clothes, after all, his shirt wasn't even buttoned yet. She sank to her knees in front of him and at the first swipe of her tongue, his eyes rolled back in his head. "Oh, God, it has been so-o-o-o-o long-"

He broke off when she swallowed him whole. Apparently it had been a while for him because it didn't seem long at all and he was telling her to move because he was going to come. She didn't move and his hands fisted in her hair as she swallowed around him.

His body went limp and she knelt up and rested her head on his stomach as he recovered.

"That was –"

She waited.

"Wait, I'll think of a word – "

She smiled.

"Nope, brain's empty. I'll have to finish that thought later."

She giggled.

"Tell you what," he said, standing and helping her stand too. "I'm in the mood for something sweet, so why don't we take this," he grabbed the plate of brownies, "And go in here," he led her into the bedroom, "And you," he helped her out of her costume and when she was nude he laid her in the middle of the bed and put the plate down next to her, "You eat your sweet and I'll eat mine." He spread her legs and lay down between them. She laughed and picked up a brownie.

She ate and so did he. This had to be the most decadent experience of her life.

He asked for some of the sauce, which turned out to be raspberry, which he said was his favourite. He smeared her with the sauce and then licked it off of her, every drop.

After she was boneless, they went back out and ate the pasta and the salmon. They'd built up quite an appetite.

Chapter 13

They didn't stay up all night again. After they ate, they talked some more, which led to a long, slow session of making love in the bedroom.

It was so different from what she was used to, always being rushed because they were tired or had to get up early. They took their time – they savoured.

Savoring was her new favourite thing, next to Stevie.

But savouring was something she could keep and Stevie wasn't. She'd have to let him go. She didn't let herself think about what she'd be going home to or what he would be, she didn't think about anything beyond what was happening at that moment.

When they fell asleep, they were tangled in the blankets, him still softening inside her, neither one of them wanting to break the connection.

They awoke as the sun was almost finished rising and he said Dwight would be coming for him soon. He rolled her onto her back and slid inside again – one last time.

If she lives to be four hundred years old, she'll never forget that exact shade of blue.

Dwight did knock, just as they were cuddling and slipping back into sleep. Dwight had his own key and used it, but Stevie called out for him not to come in the bedroom, he'd be out soon.

He ran his fingers through the slight golden highlights in her hair, smiling as if he didn't want to be smiling right now, but knew he had to. He kissed her again, slow, then rose and dressed.

They didn't say goodbye.

When they'd left the suite, she rose and washed and dressed, telling herself there was nothing to cry about.

She let herself into her own room, back at her hotel and blessedly, Jane was absent. She showered and changed, wearing normal clothes that morning. The booth was only open for a few hours and then the con would be done and they would all be going home, back to their real lives.

She was late getting to work and had slight circles under her eyes that no amount of makeup could hide. No one said anything. They had a slight rush and then almost as if by magic, around noon, almost everyone was gone.

Had he left? She didn't know, they hadn't discussed anything past the moment they were in. They packed up what was left of the stock, there wasn't much. Jim was arranging for it to be shipped back to the factory. Connelly and David dismantled the booth and everyone told her she should go, as hers was the first flight out.

She dragged her feet up to reception and asked where she could find her luggage. They'd been holding it in their storage room, they said and she had a small flutter in her stomach until she remembered that they'd been in the luggage room of his hotel, not hers.

She didn't see him as she headed for the shuttle, nor did she expect to; but she didn't see Tom either and she'd been hoping to get one more chance to say goodbye.

The shuttle was full and she had to sit next to an overexcited woman who kept going on and on about everything she'd done and everyone she'd met. Josey was quiet, not even answering the woman's questions, but that didn't, unfortunately, put her off at all.

She got to her gate relatively easily, and only had to wait a few minutes before they started boarding.

She was walking through it all in a fog, remembering. Letting go. Cherishing.

She'd had something special, for one brief moment in time.

She got off the plane, not really even thinking about what she was doing. She got to the luggage carousel and stood waiting, as the huge machine starting turning, spitting out battered pieces of other people's luggage.


She turned, it was Cal, looking happy to see her, but he seemed to have sensed her mood and sounded – careful.

She turned, and all was as it should be. She was plain Josey LeCompte and this sweet man was her husband and she had three wonderful children and three happy but slightly overweight dogs at home waiting for her and this is where she belonged.

He waited until he'd gotten her suitcase, then on the walk to the car asked, "Did you?" not even having to elaborate.

Her brain and her mouth seemed to be functioning independently of each other as her brain was flooded with memories and her mouth kept opening and shutting with no actual sound coming out.

But the blush said it all.

"Maybe now you'll understand what the rest of us have seen all along."

Josey realised, in that moment, that it took another man finding her desirable for her to wise up and see that the perfect man already did. For that, she would be forever grateful to Stevie. She kissed her husband, and they went home.

And they lived happily ever after.

The End