"Law Offices of Carl Levitt, this is Laura, how can we help you today?"
Laura's singsongy telephone voice was driving Morgan mad, but she nodded approvingly at the temp. It was either this or a monotone that was certain to push desperate clients to desperate measures.
The younger woman's smug smile melted into a scowl and then a wicked grin as she thrust the phone at Morgan. "It's for you. Some guy named Jeremy. Is it a personal call? I thought they weren't allowed."
Morgan took the phone from her without replying. "Jeremy! I'm glad you called, I was getting worried. Can you make it Saturday night?"
"What? Saturday? I'm working Saturday, Morgan! Told you that last Saturday."
"Oh, that's great, I'm so glad! Well, thanks for calling and letting me know."
"Ooh, is this a code? I won't forget to feed Fluffy! The duck farts at midnight!"
Morgan couldn't help her laughter. "I've gotta go, I'll call you later."
"Did you really quit? Who's the Mother Goose reject answering the phone? And what's this Cassidy tells me about Disneyland? Why don't you tell me anything?"
"You're always working!" she protested. "Gotta go! I'll talk to you later."
She hung up and was proceeding to teach Laura how to put together a new client file when her cell phone beeped a text message alert. She smiled when she heard the sound; she'd known there was no way Jeremy was going to let her get away with that. Her friends were the only thing keeping her sane. Laura's very presence made her twitch. Carl had taken to staying in his office with the door shut.
It was clear he couldn't stand the temp, but he hadn't sent her back to the staffing agency. Morgan wasn't sure why, but she could venture a guess. It was probably a combination of things -- desperation at Morgan's sudden departure, stubbornness because she'd told him Laura was a bad choice, and the hope that if he stayed with the disaster that was Laura long enough, Morgan would relent and stay on.
Of course, she realized that last part might be wishful thinking. Everyone wants to be wanted, she thought.
The main door opened, and Tyrone Baker lumbered in. The man was huge, nearly as wide as he was tall, and he was tall enough for his head to brush the top of the doorjamb. It was all muscle. Every visible inch of his skin was scarred and marked and tattooed, and there was a knife scar from his left earlobe to the bridge of his nose. Another scar of indeterminate origin took up half of his enormous right forearm. He stopped in front of the receptionist's desk, peering at Laura as if she were some sort of exotic delicacy.
The arrogant smirk Morgan had thought was permanently frozen onto Laura's face faltered, and then completely disappeared. She inched closer to Morgan, who nearly laughed as she picked up the phone and buzzed Carl's office.
"Mr. Baker is here," she told him, and then she added, "If it's all right with you, I'm going to leave now, for the appointment I told you about the other day. I'll be back in a few hours."
"You're leaving Laura out there with Tyrone?" he said, quietly amused.
"She's a capable individual; she can handle it," Morgan said smoothly, choosing to ignore Laura's wide, panicked eyes.
"Okay, please let Tyrone know I'll be out in a few moments."
She hung up the phone and turned to Tyrone. "He'll be right out, Mr. Baker. Please have a seat. I have to leave -- there's some business I have to take care of, but I'm sure Laura here will be more than happy to help you with anything you need."
He nodded wordlessly and took a seat in one of the visitor's chairs. It creaked and groaned under his bulk.
"Where are you going?" Laura hissed.
"I have something I need to take care of -- I believe I mentioned it yesterday or the day before. I'll be back in several hours."
"You can't go!" Laura grabbed Morgan's arm, her long fingernails digging painfully into the flesh.
"Excuse me? Let go of my arm, please."
Laura threw a panicked look towards Tyrone, who had his head bowed as he contemplated the ground at his feet. "What about him?" she whispered, almost inaudibly.
"I'm sorry, what?" Morgan said, her voice dripping with concern as she thoroughly enjoyed the other woman's discomfiture.
Laura jerked her head towards the client once more. Morgan smiled and mouthed, "You'll be fine." Picking up her purse, she left the office and managed to make it halfway down the hall before she had to lean against the wall and laugh until she was gasping for breath.
"Oh God, that was priceless!"
A woman heading down the hall stared warily at her, and Morgan did her best to pull herself together.
The best part was that Tyrone Baker was one of the nicest clients Laura would probably meet. He'd had a hard youth -- gangs, absentee father, the whole sorry shebang. He'd found God in prison and had completely reformed his ways. He was polite and generally friendly, though he rarely spoke unless spoken to.
Tyrone wasn't exactly a teddy bear, but he wasn't the maniacal homicidal rapist Morgan was sure Laura thought he was.
Laura's expression was enough to keep a smile on Morgan's face for the entire trip to the Casting Center. Then the nerves set in. She was actually more nervous about this than she'd expected to be. She didn't have a lot of experience with interviews. She'd only ever gone through the process once, when she'd interviewed for several positions and had landed the job with Carl. That had gone well, but she had a feeling this was going to be very different.
"Any place that calls its interviews auditions probably isn't gonna have run of the mill interviewing techniques."
She realized she was talking to herself again, and she forced herself to stop. She took a few deep, calming breaths to steady herself, and she happened to glance into the car next to her as she did so. The girl sitting in the driver's seat was probably seventeen or eighteen, and she was taking calming breaths of her own.
They tentatively smiled at each other, and then the girl jumped as if startled. She lifted her cell phone to her ear, and Morgan took the opportunity to climb out of her car. She smoothed down her skirt and, clutching the leather portfolio that held her résumé and other paperwork, headed for the building.
Morgan was terrified that she was going to be the oldest one in there, that everyone was going to be the same age as the girl in the car. Not that twenty five was old, but to teenagers -- kids like Holly -- it could be ancient. Maybe the interviewers were looking for kids.
She really wanted this job. She hadn't known how much she wanted it until she realized how much she was worried about not getting it. She didn't need it -- there were plenty of other jobs she could go find, and even if she had no luck for a while, she'd be okay -- but she really wanted it.
The reception area was full of people looking just as nervous as she felt. Women and men, mostly young, clean cut high school or college kids. There were a few people who looked to be in their mid to late twenties, but there was a woman in her late forties or early fifties, and a man about the same age, maybe a little bit older. There were about thirty people in all.
At the desk, she was greeted by a polished, smiling young man named David. He signed her in, carefully checked her identification, and bade her to have a seat. She found one next to a frightened looking young guy in his early twenties. He smiled shakily at her, and she smiled back.
"This is less of an audition and more of a cattle call," he muttered, and she chuckled.
"Definitely more people than I expected," she said, and he nodded. "I'm Morgan."
"Ian. The nametags make that part easier, don't they? Haven't had to ask anyone who works here what their name is."
She nodded. An unobtrusive door -- it was flush with the wall, and painted to blend in with the design on the wall around it -- opened, and a smartly dressed woman stuck her head out and called five names. Ian was one of them. He jumped up, gave her another nervous smile, and entered the room. Morgan noted that the girl that had been sitting in the car next to her had also been called in.
The wait stretched on, and Morgan tried not to fidget. She compromised by arranging and rearranging the papers in her portfolio. Another group was called in to another interview room, and she listened in vain for her name.
Finally, two or three groups later, she was called. She filed into the room with three other women and an older guy, and she paused next to one of the chairs arranged in a circle. There was no desk. The room was decorated warmly, with a window that looked out over the parking lot. Everything was rounded and smooth; there were no sharp angles in any of the décor. It looked more like a room for group therapy than one for a job interview.
At the interviewer's -- Kimberly's -- gesture, they all took a seat. She smiled at them all, making eye contact with each person, Morgan noted critically, and then she said, "Let's begin, shall we?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Hey! Why didn't you call me back? Or text me?" Jeremy sounded annoyed and slightly worried, and Morgan smiled at his concern.
"I did call you back! There was no answer! Nothing but that monotone message you have on there -- and you really need to change that."
"Hello, voice mail is a valid option. Just because you don't like my message doesn't mean you can get out of leaving me one. How can I complain about your message like you complain about mine if you don't leave me one to complain about?"
"Whatever," she said with a laugh, shaking her head as she tried to puzzle out the Jeremy logic. "I'll be sure to leave an entire message in words of one syllable next time."
"I'll hold you to that. So where were you?"
"Interview," she said concisely, wanting to drag it out as much as she possibly could; she hadn't had fun news to share with her friends in quite a long time. She was pretty sure he'd be able to hear the smile in her voice no matter how brusque she tried to be -- she couldn't seem to get it off her face.
"For Disneyland? Was Cass messing with me?"
Morgan laughed. "Was she messing with you again, you mean? It is her favorite hobby. No, this time she was being truthful with you, unusual as that may be. It was for Disneyland." She paused.
She laughed again. "You're talking to Disneyland's newest cast member. Well, maybe not newest since they did hire some people afterwards. One of the newest, let's just say."
"Really? Congratulations! That's so cool! So you can get us into the park for free now?"
"Jeremy! Nice to know where your interest lies!"
"I'm kidding! Well, sorta. Can you?"
"Bummer. So what are you gonna do there?"
"I don't know yet -- attractions, that much I know. But orientation is this weekend, and they tell me then." The smile had morphed into a strange, bubbly giggle just behind her voice, but she couldn't seem to get rid of it any more than she'd been able to ditch the smile.
"Does Cass know?"
"No, I haven't talked to her yet. I think she was in proposal meetings all day."
"Well, I'm off tonight -- "
"Wow! Mark this day on the calendar!" she teased.
"Shut up," he growled playfully. "I've worked twelve days in a row, it's about time I got a night off. Damn managers with their damn maternity leaves."
"How dare they reproduce!" she said, laughing.
"You said it! And all at once, too. Must be something in the water."
"You better watch out, you'll catch next."
He snorted. "Right. Lemme see if Cass can meet up with us. You up for a drink?"
"Oh, God, yes. With my new job -- how exciting is that? -- and the damn temp at work!"
"She sounds cringeworthy," Jeremy said with a laugh.
"You have no idea."
"Okay, let me call Cass and I'll call you right back."
"Call me at home!" She was pulling into the driveway.
Jeremy hung up, and she headed inside to shower and change.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An hour later, the three of them were gathered around a table in their favorite haunt. It was a TGIFriday's they'd been meeting in since before they were old enough to drink, and it was one of the only restaurants Morgan still felt comfortable in. None of them drank much, but they liked to get together for a drink now and then -- it was a little more special than their standard Saturday evening movie nights, which were a tradition that was not taken lightly.
They were attracting their fair share of attention from the other patrons and some of the staff. Morgan was flushed and happy as she told her friends about the last few days. Jeremy nursed his drink and observed the other diners through ice blue eyes, his clothes pristine and his hair impeccably styled to look just slightly tousled. Occasionally, he'd gift someone with a crookedly mischievous half smile, flirting from afar. Cassidy, blonde and petite, watched him fondly as she listened to Morgan, either oblivious or uncaring of the appreciative looks she was receiving.
"It was weird," Morgan was saying.
"Weird how?" Cass took a sip of her drink.
"It wasn't a standard one on one interview -- they called it a group audition, and there were five of us. It was like... baptism by fire, like they were pitting us against each other to see how we interacted with other people."
"Well, that makes sense," Jeremy broke in, his ears and mind on the conversation even if his gaze kept roving. "That job is all about working with people."
"Yeah, but it increased the pressure like you wouldn't believe. Not only did I have to worry about my answers, I had to worry about theirs too."
"What kind of questions did they ask?"
Morgan finished off her drink and tried to signal the bartender. "Pretty much what you'd expect. How we interact with people, what kind of stressful customer service situations we've been in, and the kicker -- why we want to work at the park." She smiled smugly, remembering the impressed look on Kimberly's face. "I nailed that one."
They both leaned forward, and she nearly laughed at their intrigued expressions.
"Well? Spill!" Jeremy ordered.
Morgan remembered her answer, and suddenly, she wasn't quite sure she wanted to share the whole thing. It had just kind of streamed out of her at the time. She decided to see if she could sidestep telling them. "You remember what Mr. Halter called me."
"Morgan Huston, queen of BS," Cassidy laughed.
"Yep, just put those skills to work," she bluffed, but she couldn't hold eye contact with either one of them. When she finally looked up, it was to see them both staring expectantly at her.
"Tell," Cass demanded.
Morgan shrugged. "The other people basically said they wanted to work there because they'd heard it was a good place to work or because they'd always wanted to work there." She paused, but one glance into their earnest faces and she knew she had to tell the truth. She loved these two more than she loved anyone else left in her life, and they deserved to hear her real answer, not something blithe made up on the spot.
"I said that I'd always wanted to work there -- same as everyone else -- but that I remember my dad... I remember him taking me and Jason when we were little, and how magical and safe and perfect the whole place seemed, and I want to help make that magic for other little kids."
Jeremy and Cassidy were both silent for a moment, watching her, and she shrugged again. "Anyway..."
"Less BS in that answer than you're taking credit for," Cass said quietly, her green eyes full of sympathy and shared grief.
"Maybe," Morgan admitted. "Anyway, it worked." She tried to grin wickedly, and it was sincere enough to make her friends laugh.
Their server brought them another round of drinks just as a runner brought out their dinner.
"To new jobs!" Cassidy said, raising her glass.
"And new friends," Jeremy added with a considering look at the server. He winked at Jeremy before moving away, and Cassidy groaned good-naturedly, smacking her friend playfully on the arm as they all settled in to eat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Morgan smiled, singing along to the radio as she drove down her street. The two and a half drinks she'd had were not nearly enough to get her drunk, but she was pleasantly relaxed. That plus the exhilaration of her new job had her in a very good mood.
There was a very hot guy in Adam's driveway, working on a motorcycle.
Morgan blinked in surprise and tried not to wreck as she stared. She carefully took a second look, peering into the pool of light emanating from the open garage. He was crouched down by the bike, so she couldn't tell how tall he was, but he was lean and tanned, with dark brown hair, cut short and invitingly rumpled. He was wearing loose black pants and a sleeveless white undershirt -- what her brother had called a wifebeater, to her mother's dismay. The mystery mechanic was intent on his work and didn't notice her staring, which was definitely a good thing.
She pulled into her garage and took stock of herself. She looked okay -- she had miraculously managed not to feed her shirt at dinner, which was rare. She didn't think she was too intoxicated to introduce herself, but if she were tipsy enough to make an idiot of herself, would she know? Probably not, she decided.
"Better wait ‘til tomorrow." Sticking her head out the garage door, Morgan got a perfect rear view of him crouched down, so she paused admiringly for a moment. He was obviously Adam's friend -- there was no accounting for taste, she decided -- and her new neighbor, so she should have plenty of time to ogle him later.
She grabbed her purse and her new hire package, which she'd taken to show her friends. Just looking at the brightly colored portfolio made her laugh in delight. She could deal with bitchy Laura and sulky Carl because she only had to do it for one more week.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He was out again the next evening, still tinkering. Morgan strode down to the end of her driveway to get her mail, and he looked up and smiled. She almost stumbled; he was even better looking up close, and he had the most amazing smile she'd ever seen. It made his serious, somber-looking face light up -- she'd always read about that happening, but she'd never actually seen it. Getting herself under control, she smiled back.
"Nice bike," she said, with a nod towards it. She knew nothing about motorcycles, but even she could tell it wasn't a dirt bike. It had, as her father would have said, potential.
He shrugged, still smiling. "Not yet, but it will be. Thanks."
"I'm Morgan Huston. I live next door. You probably figured that out since my car's in the garage, hmm?"
He laughed. "Dean Russo. Nice to meet you." He looked at his grease covered hand and grimaced. "I'll shake your hand later."
"It's a deal," she said with a grin. "So you know Adam from school? High school?"
Dean nodded, reaching around the bike to adjust something. His shirt slid to the side, revealing a long line of toned, muscled flank. Morgan's eyes focused on it until she realized she was staring, and then she tore her gaze away. He suddenly shifted, straightening again, and she was grateful she hadn't been a few seconds slower. "Sorry, I wanted to get that before it fell off. It still might, knowing this piece of junk."
She laughed. "I'm sorry, I'm keeping you from your work. I'll just -- "
"No, it's no problem," he said quickly, setting down the wrench he held.
Morgan hesitated, thrilled that a guy as good looking as Dean didn't seem to want her to go as far away as she could as fast as possible.
"It's really nice to meet someone around the same age," he added, and her heart sank.
That explains it, she thought in disappointment.
"The only people I've met are older ladies," he added. "They all come to visit Adam, and for some reason, they bring him food."
Dean looked puzzled, and she chuckled. He shrugged as he got to his feet, saying, "Well, he says the visits have been more frequent than usual lately."
I'll bet, Morgan thought as she glanced up at him. They all want to stare at you! He was tall -- she was usually at eye level with men, especially when she was wearing heels, but he stood a good half a head taller than her.
Sneaking a peek into the open garage to make sure Adam wasn't around, she told Dean in a low tone, "They feel sorry for him. It's been hard since -- " She stopped, realizing she had no idea how much Dean knew about his new housemate. She wasn't about to out him if Dean didn't know. "Since his last roommate moved out," she finished, hoping it sounded smoother to him than it had to her.
Dean eyed her, and she had the feeling he was studying her -- assessing her. She was suddenly struck by the realization that she knew nothing about him either. For all she knew, flirting with him was as useless an endeavor as flirting with Adam -- or Jeremy. But it was fun, and he was still pleasant to look at. And he seemed very nice.
"Don't worry," he told her after a pause. "I know. About Paul and Scott and Juan and all the rest who came before. Adam and I haven't talked much since high school, but he's always been honest with me." He laughed a little. "He was honest with me about himself before he was honest with anyone else. It doesn't bother me."
She smiled. Well, that answers that question -- not gay. Single is a whole ‘nother matter. "Good. I'm glad. That it doesn't bother you, I mean. Because if it did bother you, that would bother me."
His answering smile was hesitant, and Morgan wondered if she'd said too much. She realized, though, that she'd told him the truth. It would have bothered her. She nodded once more.
"Well, it was nice to meet you, Dean. Good luck with your bike. I'd better get going. Got a lot to do, and I have a pretty early morning tomorrow."
She laughed excitedly, and she was mortified to hear how much like a giggle it sounded. She calmed herself, as much as she could. "Orientation. For a new job."
"Well, it sounds like you're being oriented for an exciting job."
Morgan nodded, but she was suddenly unsure if she wanted to tell him. Getting the job she'd realized she wanted so badly was thrilling, and she was very glad to be getting out of Carl's office and into something fun, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to tell this very cute, very nice guy all about it. Somehow it seemed... adolescent all of a sudden. But she had started talking about it, and she didn't want to be evasive now. Some girls could pull of being cryptic and mysterious -- she knew she just seemed abrasive and off-putting when she tried it.
"I, um, I've got a new job. At... at Disneyland."
He smiled, and she flushed with embarrassment.
"I know it's not -- I mean, it doesn't sound -- " Her face burned even hotter as she heard herself stammering.
"It sounds like fun, actually. Much more fun than my job."
Morgan glanced suspiciously at him, but his smile was honest, not patronizing. His smile crinkled up the corners of his eyes -- deep, dark, beautiful brown eyes, she noticed, wide and friendly and sparkling, and her own lips twitched in reply.
"I hope so. Guess I'll find out tomorrow. What do you do? Adam said your company just transferred you?"
It was his turn to look down. He fidgeted with his tools, arranging and rearranging them. "I sell block. It's really not exciting."
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "Block?"
"Block. Concrete masonry block. For buildings, or walls. Like that." He waved an arm at the small garden wall separating her yard from Adam's.
"Oh. Okay." She thought for a moment. "I don't think I've ever known anyone who sells block. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever really thought about where block comes from."
He laughed. "Neither did I, until I started selling it. I worked out of our plant in Escondido -- I grew up in Oceanside -- and one of our salesmen from the Anaheim plant just retired, so I volunteered. It was time to move away from home."
Before she could answer, Adam came out of the garage, a cell phone in his hand. "Dean? Your phone's ringing. Again. Hi, Morgan."
Dean sighed, wiping his hands on his pants. "Speaking of the job... duty calls. I left it inside for a reason, Adam!"
"Oh." Adam looked abashed as Dean took the phone from him.
"It was really nice to meet you, Morgan. I should take this," he said, already raising the shrilly beeping phone to his ear.
"Nice to meet you too! I'm sure I'll talk to you soon. Hey, Adam," she said belatedly.
"You staying for dinner?" Adam asked. He lowered his voice as Dean answered the phone and walked a short distance away. "He's great, isn't he? I told you you'd like him."
"I do. He seems like a great guy. And no, I can't stay for dinner, but thanks for asking. I have orientation at eight o'clock tomorrow."
"In the morning? On a Saturday?" Adam looked horrified.
She smiled. "Yep. It's not that early. Training's at 4:30 next weekend. And yes, that is 4:30 am."
His eyes got huge. "Where the hell are you working?"
"Disneyland. They do training before the park opens, I guess."
"You are not working at Disneyland," Adam argued, a skeptical look on his face.
"I am! Got hired yesterday."
He laughed. "Good for you. I know how much you love that place. What are you doing there?"
"I don't know yet. They tell me at the end of orientation, so I guess I'll find out this Sunday."
"No, that is not what they ordered -- no -- no! Dammit, I think I left the PO on my desk. He's full of crap! Call them back and get his cell phone number and I'll call him. Yes, right now!"
Adam and Morgan both glanced at Dean. He looked extremely annoyed, stiffly standing with his arms folded over his chest, phone jammed between shoulder and ear. His face was dark and dangerous, and tension radiated from him.
Adam sighed. "He's always on that damn phone, they never leave him alone."
Morgan sent a sympathetic look Dean's way. "Poor guy. Listen, I'd better go. Tell Dean I said bye, and that it was nice to meet him, okay?"
Adam smirked. "I bet it was nice to meet him."
Morgan rolled her eyes. "Bye, Adam." With one last glance at Dean, who was again arguing into his phone and gesturing vehemently with one arm, she headed back up the driveway and into her house.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Ohhh," Morgan groaned, resting her head on the back of the couch.
"Tough day?" Diego asked from the loveseat he was sharing with Cassidy. The two of them were curled cozily together, and Morgan studied them, trying to hide her envy. Cassidy was small and blonde, and had always been described as cute, and Diego was much taller and broader, with dark hair and eyes and rich café au lait skin. They were a striking couple.
And happy, Morgan thought wistfully. That's the important part.
They were in between movies. It was only the three of them this Saturday; the group fluctuated in size from two to eight, or even ten. One time they'd had fourteen. They took turns hosting, and it was a tradition that they only cancelled in dire emergencies. It was the only way their group of friends could be sure to keep in contact with each other, considering their very busy and very different work schedules.
"It was just long. It was all class, you know? Lots of rules and vocab and team building exercises. Typical new job stuff."
"Sounds boring as hell," Cassidy observed, popping a piece of candy into her mouth.
"It really was," Morgan grinned. "But tomorrow should definitely be better. We get to go out into the park, and then we get our assignments."
"What do you want to do?" Diego asked. He was mystified by the concept of actually working at Disneyland.
Morgan shrugged. "Dunno. Haven't decided. And it's not as if I get to pick. They tell me where to work, and off I go. Hiho, Hiho, y'know?" she laughed, and Cassidy rolled her eyes. "I'm hoping for anything but Fantasyland, which is where I hear a lot of the new cast members get assigned."
"Cast members," Diego said with a snicker.
"Hey, gotta use the vocab," Morgan shot back, tossing a piece of popcorn at her friend. "Tomorrowland would be cool. Or Haunted Mansion. Or Pirates."
Diego nodded, shifting so that he pushed Cassidy off of him. "Sorry, babe. Bathroom," he told her when she protested. Heading out of the room, he added, "Pick the next movie already."
Morgan took advantage of the break to retrieve beverages from the kitchen for the three of them. Faint movement in the front yard caught her attention, and she crept into the living room to take a closer look. After a moment, she raced back into the kitchen and beckoned to Cassidy. Giggling like schoolgirls, they crouched on the sofa and peered through the sheer curtains into Adam's yard. Dean's yard, too, now, I guess, Morgan thought. He certainly seems to think so.
"Can he see us?" Cass whispered, and Morgan shook her head.
"Nope. We can see out, they can't see in. Why do you think Mom bought these curtains?" she said with a laugh.
"Shh," Cassidy warned, but she raised her head a little higher, reassured by Morgan's words. She watched appraisingly as Dean worked with the hedge clippers, his arm muscles flexing and tensing, his face serious as he concentrated on the job. He had headphones on, but he was not reacting to the music at all. Morgan knew she would have been moving to the beat -- unconsciously and embarrassingly.
"Well?" Morgan finally asked.
Cassidy shrugged. "He's okay, I guess."
"Cass! He's gorgeous!"
"If you like that sort. He's not my type."
Morgan stared at her and then stared out the window. Dean was tall and lean, with broad, linebacker's shoulders tapering to a trim waist. His arms were muscular but not scarily so, his chest well-defined but not overworked. He raised an arm to swipe at his brow, and she caught a glimpse of his hand -- large and strong looking, with long, nimble, artist’s fingers. Dean was definitely her type, and she couldn't see how he couldn't be everybody's type. The man looked good enough to eat.
She thought of Diego. He was broader -- bigger -- hard and muscled and solid. His features were blunt, a little squarer than Dean's. She considered him handsome enough, but definitely not the kind of guy to make her pulse race. He sure seemed to make Cass happy, though, and she guessed that was all that mattered.
"I guess," she said skeptically, before realizing Cassidy was struggling not to laugh. She smacked Cass with a couch pillow. "Brat! Stop teasing me!"
"You're so easy to tease! He is nice to look at, that's for sure."
Both women jumped. Cassidy turned halfway on the sofa, peering over her shoulder. "You are, my gorgeous hubby," she said with a winning smile.
"Right," Diego snorted. "Who are we spying on?" He wriggled his way onto the couch between them, staring out the window. "Oh, Morgan's new eye candy!"
He looked at Morgan with an eyebrow raised. "He's gardening?"
"He's not gardening! He's trimming the hedges! Someone has to; they haven't been trimmed on Adam's side of the wall since Paul moved out."
"He's gardening. He's gay."
"Diego!" Cass admonished, just as Morgan said, "He is not! You mow the lawn -- how is that any different?"
"He's gardening, and he lives with Adam. I rest my case. The prosecution needs no further evidence."
"They're friends from high school! He's not gay. He knows Adam's gay, and he told me it doesn't bother him! Would he have -- "
"Of course it doesn't, because he is too." Diego was smirking.
"All right, children. Let's go watch a movie now. Maybe I can find a cartoon for you," Cassidy said as she headed back towards the den. "You know, Mor, there is one way to know for sure. You have to sleep with him."
"Cass!" Morgan felt her face flushing.
"You know you wanna."
"Well, yeah. Look at him!" she exclaimed, doing just that one last time before she followed Diego back through the kitchen.
"Once doesn't prove anything," Diego added. "You have to bed him, hmm... half a dozen times should do it."
"Shut up, the movie's starting," Morgan told him, pushing herself as far down as she possibly could in the couch cushions. Just the thought of sleeping with Dean -- let alone multiple times -- made her feel like her hair was about to catch fire.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Morgan waved from her car to Dean, who was shooting hoops in Adam's -- his -- driveway, into Paul's old basket. Adam constantly complained about the hoop and called it an eyesore, but he'd never taken it down, just like he'd never removed any of the other visible, tangible memories of his departed lover.
Pulling into her garage, she got out of the car, concentrating on gathering all her things. She jumped a little in surprise when she realized Dean was leaning against the jamb of the garage door, the basketball tucked under his arm.
"Hey," she said with a smile. He looked good, even though he was slightly rumpled from exercise -- possibly even better, she mused.
Dean smiled back, wiping one arm across his forehead. "Hey. Sorry, did I startle you?"
"No, it's okay, really. Just surprised. But a good surprise." Shut up now, Morgan...
Dean ducked his head, grinning. He looked up at her again. "Just came to see how it went this weekend. The orientation, I mean."
"Pretty good! Didn't get Fantasyland, which is what I was dreading, so that's good." She laughed. "This poor guy -- he was probably barely eighteen -- he opened the envelope with his assignment, and he groaned, and all his friends were saying, ‘What? What'd you get?' He dropped his head into his hands, and he mumbled, ‘I got Small World.' They all made sympathetic noises and patted him on the back. It was funny. And I'm so glad not to be him, you have no idea."
Dean grinned. "That is funny. Poor guy -- that song drove me crazy even when I was little -- I can't imagine hearing it day after day after day!"
"No kidding. Time to find a different job, really fast!"
"So, what'd you get?"
Morgan beamed. "Space Mountain! I have no idea why they gave it to me, except maybe I'm a few years older than most of the new attractions people, and they don't want it to look like it's being completely run by a bunch of kids. But I'm not complaining!"
"That's great!" He looked genuinely happy for her, and it only made her good mood grow. "Sounds like a lot of fun -- Space Mountain was always my favorite ride as a kid, but I haven't been to Disneyland in years."
Her smile faltered a little. "Me either. It's been... at least four years."
The last time she had gone to the park for fun -- before this whole crazy job thing -- she and Rob had been a happy couple, and she'd still had a family. It was amazing to think so much had changed for her in such a short amount of time.
She surfaced from the brief lapse into memory to find Dean studying her face. He didn't say anything, and after a moment, she grew self-conscious.
"You okay? You look -- " He stopped and bit his lip, evidently having second thoughts about what he'd been about to say.
"What? I look what?" She looked down at herself in alarm.
"No, no! It's nothing -- see? That's it -- You look a little tired, but I didn't want to say that because I don't want you to think you look bad, because you don't. At all. You just look... a little tired. And..."
He trailed off with a sigh, and Morgan tried to hide her smile as she realized he was blushing.
"I am tired," she told him. "It's been a long, busy weekend. But I'm a little concerned it's that obvious."
"It's not! I'm sorry," he said apologetically. "I should just keep my mouth shut."
She smiled, unconsciously laying a hand on Dean's arm. "It's sweet of you to be concerned," she told him. Her hand continued to rest on his arm, and they both looked at it, as if simultaneously registering the touch. She reluctantly removed it, bringing her hand up to brush her bangs away from her face.
"You probably think I'd be a horrible salesman, right?" he asked sheepishly. "But I guess it's hard to get flustered about block."
Morgan laughed, but she thought, He's flustered? About me? "Oh, I don't know, you sounded pretty flustered the other night."
He rolled his eyes. "Just an idiotic customer. I have several of them."
"Every guest is your Number One Guest," she intoned, remembering something they'd repeatedly drummed into her head during orientation.
"You obviously haven't met some of my customers," Dean said with a snort. He peered up at the darkening sky. "I should let you go -- I just wanted to come over and see how your orientation went. You seemed so excited about it on Friday."
She flushed. "Thanks. That was nice of you."
His smile widened, and Morgan's face got warmer.
"Any time," he said, before turning and heading back towards Adam's -- his -- house.
Morgan watched him go with a smile on her face.
On to Chapter 3